Review of Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

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Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z). Increase.


  1. In short
  2. Main Specifications
  3. Assembly
  4. Stabilizer
  5. Focusing
  6. Image quality
  7. Sample photos (RAW+)
  8. My personal experience with the lens
  9. Results
  10. User Comments
  11. Add your review or question on the lens

In this review, I will abbreviate the Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* lens (Sony SEL1670Z model) Sony 16-70/4 ZA.

It's important: This lens also exists with a different name written near the front lens – Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T*. There is no difference between the 'Zeiss' and 'Carl Zeiss' versions.

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

In short

Sony 16-70/4 ZA – moderately fast universal zoom lens for mirrorless cropped cameras with bayonet mount Sony E. Unique of its kind. It has high-quality assembly, compact dimensions, fast focusing and a built-in image stabilizer. Optically not bad, but has some obvious shortcomings.

Before the release Sony E 2.8 / 16-55G (in August 2019) Sony 16-70/4 ZA was the best such universal solution in its class for cameras Sony E APS-C.

There are only two lenses produced jointly by Carl Zeiss and Sony (the so-called Sony ZA) for mirrorless cropped cameras Sony E series NEX и Alpha/ILCE: this is the hero of this review and Carl Zeiss Sonnar E 1.8 / 24 ZA T * (Sony SEL24F18Z).

The Sony 16-70/4 ZA is very easy to use and can act as a good standard zoom lens for every day. Sony 16-70/4 ZA can be an excellent replacement for “whale” solutions like Sony 16-50mm f / 3.5-5.6 PZ OSS, Sony 18-50mm f/4-5.6 и Sony 18-55mm f / 3.5-5.6 OSS.

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Main technical characteristics of Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T*:

Review Instance Name Near the front lens Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* Ø55′ + serial number

On body '4/16-70 Sony E-mount Zeiss 0,35m/1,15ft'

On the identification plate 'SEL1670Z Made in Thailand'

Basic properties
  • E (E-mount) – the lens is designed for mirrorless cameras/Sony cameras with an APS-C sensor and E-mount
  • SEL – Sony lens for 'E' mount mirrorless cameras. This lens has a short identifier name 'Sony SEL1670Z'
  • Internal Linear Motor - internal focus motor
  • T* - special coating for optics Carl Zeiss T *
  • ZA (ZEISS Aalpha) – the lens has been tested by Zeiss to all the highest quality standards. The lens was developed by Sony in collaboration with Zeiss.
  • DMF (DDirectly MAnnual Pass Focus) - direct manual focus
  • OSS (Optical Steady Shot) - built-in optical image stabilization
  • Internal focus
  • Electronic focus ring
  • Aspherical elements in the optical circuit
  • Low dispersion elements in the optical circuit
  • Included hood
Front Filter Diameter 55 mm, plastic thread for filters
Focal length 16-70 mm EGF for cameras Sony with APS-C sensor is 24-105 mm
Zoom ratio 4.375 x
Designed by for digital mirrorless cameras Sony NEX / Sony Alpha ILCE and Sony E APS-C film/video cameras/camcorders
Number of aperture blades 7 rounded petals
  • bayonet mount mark (white dot)
  • two marks for attaching the hood (red dots on the trunk and body)
  • focal length values: 16, 24, 35, 50, 70 mm
Diaphragm F / 4 to F / 22 over the entire range of focal lengths
MDF (minimum focusing distance) 0.35 meters, maximum magnification ratio is 1:4.4 (0.23X)
The weight 307 grams, only the lens itself (measured)
Optical design 16 elements in 12 groups, including aspherical and low dispersion elements

16-70The scheme is clickable

Lens hood Bayonet, plastic, supplied, marked Sony ALC-SH127
Manufacturer country Made In THAILAND (made in Thailand)
Period Announced August 27, 2013
Price About $ 850

The set of focal lengths for Sony 16-70/4 ZA in conversion gives EGF 24-105 mm, which is even slightly larger than a similar full-frame lens Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar FE 4/24-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL2470Z).

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)


Sony 16-70/4 ZA is made in Thailand. The lens feels pleasant and reliable to the touch.

Sony 16-70/4 ZA has a metal mount. There is no rubber seal on the bayonet side, the lens is poorly protected from the external environment.

The focusing ring is not very wide, not rubberized, metal, but pleasant to use.

Changing the focal length occurs smoothly, without jerks (although some specimens have micro-jerks and a tight ring movement). The zoom ring is wide, not rubberized, metal. The trunk of the Sony 16-70/4 ZA does not spontaneously change its size under its own weight.

When changing the focal length, the rear lens moves in the middle of the lens body like a pump - it draws in and pushes out air. This can increase the amount of dust that accumulates in the inside of the camera.

The case has a bayonet mount mark and marks for quick installation of the lens hood. The lens uses a plastic hood, which is fixed in special grooves located near the front lens of the lens.

Interesting: The slots for the lens hood are located between the filter and the frame of the housing. The lens hood needs to be inserted into this groove, turned and snapped into place. I see this solution very rarely; it allows you to avoid placing the lens mount blades on the outer part of the body frame and not spoil the overall smooth design. The lens trunk is completely hidden in the lens body. It's a small thing, but nice.

The hood can be installed in the opposite direction for transportation. In this position, access to the focus ring becomes unavailable.

The diameter of the front filter is 55 mm. The lens itself is small, only slightly longer than standard Sony E 3.5-5.6/18-55 OSS (SEL1855) [lenses nearby].

The diaphragm consists of 7 rounded blades that form a hole in the shape of a regular heptagon, the resulting hole is well rounded.

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z) and Sony E 2.8/16-55G (Sony SEL1655G)


Sony 16-70/4 ZA uses built-in image stabilization Sony OS (Optical Steady Shot). The stabilizer can compensate 4 steps by shutter speed. In numerical terms, this means that you can shoot at shutter speeds 16 times slower than required by the lens without a stabilizer. For example, when shooting without stabilizer of stationary objects, at a focal length of 70 mm, it is recommended to shoot at shutter speeds of 1/80 s. and shorter. With the stabilizer turned on, it is theoretically possible to shoot for 1/5 s.

In practice, I was able to make sharp shots of stationary objects with hands at 70 mm only at shutter speeds no longer than 1/10 of a second.

There is no switch on the lens responsible for stabilizer operation. The stabilization function is turned on in the camera menu.

There is practically no noise from the operation of the stabilizer.

In general, the stabilizer confidently holds two or three stages of shutter speed.

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z) and Sony E 2.8/16-55G (Sony SEL1655G)


The lens uses a built-in “linear” focusing motor. During automatic focusing, there is a very slight noise from the focusing motor, similar to the “hum of a transformer.”

Auto focus speed medium closer to high. Focusing speed will vary slightly depending on the camera you are using. First cameras SonyNEX, for which this lens was developed, used automatic contrast focusing, which is sometimes slower than the hybrid focusing methods of subsequent generations Sony Alpha.

While working with the camera Sony α3500 (Sony ILCE-3500) the focusing accuracy was high. In good lighting conditions, there are practically no problems with accuracy, tenacity and refocusing. But in poor lighting, especially in the tele range, the lens can scour for a long time in search of the correct focusing. It is also very difficult to get the lens to focus at close focusing distances for pseudo-macro photography, especially at 70mm focal lengths. Sony a3500 has a primitive autofocus system, everything should be much better on modern Sony cameras.

To manually focus, select the focus mode MF (Manual Focus) or DMF (Direct MF) in the camera menu, after which the focus ring will respond to rotation. When rotated very smoothly, the focus ring rotates approximately 90 degrees (from MDF to infinity). Electronic focus ring reacts more to the speed of its rotation than to a specific angle of rotation, which sometimes creates a tactile inconvenience. During auto focus focus ring remains stationary.

During focusing, the front lens remains stationary, as the lens uses internal focus. Thus, it is possible to use any filters without problems, for example polarizing or gradient.

The minimum focusing distance is 35 centimeters, while you can get a maximum magnification for macro photography of 1: 4.4, which is a good indicator for such a lens.

Other focusing features:

  • Focusing speed is practically independent of the selected focal length.
  • After the lens has lost accurate focusing, refocusing is fast enough.
  • The lens does not have a depth of field scale, focusing distance, and tags for working in the infrared spectrum.
  • Focus shift (shift-focus) was not noticed during operation and testing.
  • The focusing speed depends heavily on the illumination, the selected focusing mode in the camera menu, and the focusing logic of each individual camera.
  • There is no focus mode switch on the case.
  • During manual focusing, the focus distance bar appears on the display of some cameras.
  • When changing the focal length, focusing is lost.
  • Sony 16-70/4 ZA has almost no effect 'Focus Breathing' (changes in viewing angle during focusing) at 16 mm and very small at 70 mm.
Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Image quality

In general, the Sony 16-70/4 ZA is not bad, but the image angles at 16 mm spoil the impression of the lens a little. The remaining optical characteristics are at a fairly comfortable level.


  • good resolution in the center in the range of 16-50 mm frame already at F/4
  • slight drop in resolution by 70 mm in the center of the frame at F/4
  • significant drop in resolution at image corners by 16 mm and F/4
  • sharpness in the corners of the frame becomes acceptable around F/10


  • there is a small barrel distortion at 16 mm, which turns into a small pincushion distortion at 70 mm
  • the nature of distortion is unified, easily corrected in the editor
  • Sony cameras automatically correct distortion


  • strong vignetting at 16mm and F/4
  • vignetting almost disappears at values ​​after f / 8
  • Vignetting decreases slightly with increasing focal length
  • vignetting is easily fixable in the editor


  • the strongest chromatic aberration visible at the edges and corners of the image
  • the amount of chromatic aberration is at the level of other similar lenses
  • chromatic aberration poorly controlled by aperture
  • Sony's native EDIT utility is very good at eliminating chromatic aberrations from source RAW files automatically (function 'Lens Correction' -> 'Chromatic Aberration Correction')


  • lens weak/poorly tolerates strong backlight (example)
  • aperture blades form a regular heptagon on virtually any hidden aperture value
  • in the bokeh you can sometimes find concentric “onion” circles and “wormholes” due to the use of aspherical elements in the optical design (example)
  • on closed apertures very difficult get a pronounced effect of a 14-pointed star

The Sony 16-70/4 ZA has a profile in most popular RAW converters, such as ACR and Lightroom.

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Sample Photos

Camera used Sony α3500 (Sony ILCE-3500) based on the EXMOR APS-C CMOS 20 MP sensor.

Source files in RAW format (Sony '.ARW') can be download or watch via this link (39 photos, 900 MB, Google Drive gallery). Shooting took place in RAW+JPEG mode.

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

My experience

Sony 16-70/4 ZA does not quite live up to the big name “Zeiss Vario-Tessar / Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar”.

Sony 16-70/4 ZA I like it better rather than “professional” Sony 16-55 / 2.8. Sony 16-70/4 ZA - “longer”, smaller, lighter, cheaper and even with a stabilizer. True, it is a pity that the optical properties of the new Sony 16-55 / 2.8 significantly better/higher. For demanding tasks you still have to look at Sony 16-55 / 2.8.

And for the price of the Sony 16-70/4 ZA you can buy a faster one Tamron 17-70mm F / 2.8 Di III-A VC RXD Model B070.

The high price of the Sony 16-70/4 ZA was justified from 2013 to 2019, until there was no worthy replacement for this lens.

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)


Sony 16-70/4 ZA is a very convenient lens for everyday use, but the high price and some failures in optical properties make us look towards other similar solutions, for example, Sony 16-55 / 2.8, Sigma C 18-50 / 2.8 or Tamron 17-70 / 2.8 VC.

10 main advantages:

  1. very convenient set of focal lengths
  2. 1: 4 constant relative aperture over the entire range of focal lengths
  3. light weight, compact size, hood included
  4. Internal type focusing, focusing is very quiet and fast, optimized for photos and videos
  5. the lens trunk remains motionless under its own weight
  6. aspherical and low dispersion elements in the optical scheme
  7. Zeiss quality control
  8. T * coating, which makes the lens high contrast and good color rendering
  9. small MDF, neural bokeh
  10. high sharpness in the center even at wide open aperture

10 main disadvantages:

  1. a strange combination of “Carl Zeiss” and “MADE IN THAILAND”
  2. predecessor for cropped SLR cameras Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar DT 3.5-4.5/16-80 ZA T*(Sony SAL1680Z) had the opportunity to use 80 mm focal length
  3. high price tag of about $800 (for example, a faster-aperture one costs about the same Tamron 17-70mm F / 2.8 Di III-A VC RXD Model B070)
  4. no all-weather protection (not even a rubber bayonet seal)
  5. there is no focus mode switch (for example, Sony 16-55 / 2.8), there is no stabilizer operating mode switch (for example, there is Sony E 4.5-6.3 / 70-350G OSS)
  6. only 7 aperture blades (for example, Sony 16-55 / 2.8 9 petals are used)
  7. no useful tags
  8. chromatic aberration
  9. a large amount of glare when working in strong backlight
  10. subsidence of sharpness in the corners and edges of the image at 16 mm and open aperture

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Material prepared Arkady Shapoval. Training/Consultations | Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Telegram

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Comment on the topic: Review of Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 4/16-70 ZA OSS T* (Sony SEL1670Z)

  • Andrew Lazarev Production

    The best lens in the system in terms of all its characteristics before the Tamron 17-70/2,8 was the SELP18105G.

    An optical stabilizer is cool when the camera’s automation takes its presence into account. And when not, it's only for video.

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