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Gear Reviews

Sony Zeiss FE 24-70mm F/4 ZA OSS | A Kit Lens Upgrade Worth Having?

By Anthony Thurston on March 24th 2015

The standard A7 II kit comes with a pretty good 28-70mm kit lens. It has a variable aperture, but if you know how to work within its limitations, it will be a great performer for you. But there is also a FE 24-70mm F/4 lens on the market, so what should someone getting into the Sony E mount system do?

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This post is meant to be an introduction of sorts to the two lenses, and their physical and handling differences. Optical performance, and such will be covered in a future post that will go into way more detail than this one.

Thoughts on the Sony Zeiss FE 24-70mm F/4 ZA OSS

In terms of size, the Zeiss 24-70mm F/4 ZA OSS is not all that much bigger than the 28-70mm kit lens that comes with the A7 II. It is bigger, but not so much so that you would notice it much.

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It is however, much sexier. While the kit lens is this sort of muddy grey/black color, the Zeiss 24-70mm is a jet black, and just looks great on an A7 body. The kit lens does have a larger zoom ring, and though it does not quite feel as nice turning as the Zeiss does (but that is a personal opinion and your mileage may very).

[REWIND: An Initial Look At The FE 55mm F/1.8]

One major difference between these lenses is the size after zooming. The Kit lens’s front element does not move forward or backwards more than a cm or two throughout the entire range of the lens. The 24-70mm Zeiss on the other hand, has quite an extension on it, which may be a no no for some people.

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Personally, the less a lens extends/retracts during zooming the better. I think it looks cheap when a lens virtually doubles in length with an ugly black tube on the end of it. This Zeiss lens, however, is not cheap, coming in at about $1200.

You can also buy a really decent/good 24-70mm F/2.8 lens for that price in the DSLR realm, making a 24-70mm F/4 lens at the same price quite the proposition. I have not used the lens enough yet to really give much of an opinion on overall value, other than to say that so far, I am very happy with the lens, its build, and how it handles on the A7 II.

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I would also say the same of the Kit lens though, for the most part. If you require the ability to shoot at a constant aperture, then the dilemma is simple. While the kit can only be a constant F/5.6, the Zeiss is a constant F/4, giving you more light.

That said, if you can work with a variable aperture or F/5.6, the kit may be the better choice in terms of saving your wallet for other things. Kit lenses notoriously get a bad rap, but I know people who have done amazing work with just kit lenses, so they are not to be discounted.

I have only had the 24-70mm a few days now, and have not had a chance to shoot much other than my kiddos goofing around. So I will not bore you with those shots, but I will say this, stay tuned for my next post on this comparison; it will have all the sample shots and optical performance thoughts your heart desires.

You can learn more, or pick up either of these lenses right now over on B&H. The Zeiss 24-70mm F/4 ZA OSS will run you about $1,200, while the 28-70mm ‘kit lens’ can be bought separately for around $500.

I guarantee you the Zeiss lens is better optically than the kit lens – I have seen it just in comparing various shots taken from each lens, but is it $700 better? On top of that, is it actually any better in the situation you need it for? Keep an eye out for the next piece of this review, it is sure to be interesting…

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Rafael Steffen

    There is nothing sexy in a Lens.

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  2. Demetrio Filocamo

    I was going to buy it instead of the kit lens, but then I read different reviews and I don’t think it’s worth the price.

    Here the review the finally convinced me not to buy it and to wait for an f/2.8 one:

    http://www.photozone.de/sonyalphaff/867-zeiss2470f4oss

    Except for the mechanical quality they basically destroy it on the optical quality (and you can see the tests)…

    I’ve just bought it and I’m trying to understand if it’s worth switching from the 5D MkII that I love but I don’t do photography for my work and I’d like to lower the overall weight of my stuff while travelling without compromising too much.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Yeah, the MTF results from Photozone do NOT make this lens look like a $1200 Zeiss lens, IMO. Yes, it is decently sharp at 24mm in the dead-center, but IMO an f/4 zoom’s main purpose (for a landscape or serious, similar type of photographer) is to save weight compared to an f/2.8 version, and yet still be professionally sharp, if not flawlessly sharp, when stopped down to f/8 thru f/16. If an f/4 zoom does not offer this, IMO, it fails to be useful for many different folks. Sure, there are plenty of other folks who simply don’t need extreme corner sharpness, and when I shoot weddings I’m definitely one of those people. That’s why I use the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR, a lens which many deem inadequate for serious work, but I find to be extremely sharp “where it counts”.

      The proof will be in the real-world testing, for us at SLR Lounge of course. We do not put much stock in MTF numbers and charts; because what really matters is what do the images actually look like? It is possible that this lens is more than sharp enough for most types of photography.

      The tough consideration, though, is the fact that Canon’s own 24-70 f/4 IS is only 170 g heavier than the Sony, offers significantly more off-center sharpness according to PZ tests, and costs just $799 with a common rebate. So yeah, it’s a tough call.

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  3. Sean Goebel

    It’s now two days in a row that you’ve called a lens “sexy”. It’s a metal tube with glass inside, you’re not supposed to get aroused by it. -__-

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  4. Patrick Shipstad

    I got the 24-70 for my A7II. The build and finish on it is great and the shots look sharp. But I have to agree on the extending lens during zooming and for the price (IMHO) it REALLY should have been a 2.8. AS soon as I get into low light, that F4 is well… you know.

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  5. Jerry Jackson

    I’ve felt like these two lenses are WAY too similar for the FE-mount ever since they were announced given the fact that we’re hurting for a broader selection of native lenses right now. I could understand if the 24-70mm was a constant aperture f/2.8 lens, but that’s not the case. As you said, the 24-70 is better … but $700 better? I wouldn’t hesitate to spend that much extra for a constant f/2.8 aperture on the 24-70mm … not so much at f/4. This article is starting to touch on why I started using the Sony LA-EA4 and A-mount lenses on my E-mount and FE-mount bodies … and why I’m seriously considering just switching to A77II and A99 bodies.

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