Sony Vario-Tessar T*FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens review

Sony Vario-Tessar T*FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens review

A wonderful mid-range zoom lens for the Sony full-frame mirrorless camera line!

Disclaimer: I am not a technical reviewer.  I like products that work well and do what they are advertised to do.  While some may be interested in minute details about how many aspherical elements there are (and things like that), I am not and thus I don’t write reviews about that sort of thing.  While I am sure that stuff matters to some folks for good reason, it doesn’t matter to me.  I just want to go out and take good pictures, and I want a lens that will help me accomplish that.  This lens does.

3 exposure HDR, f/11, tripod, ISO 100, 24mm  --  BULL CREEK GREENBELT, AUSTIN, TEXAS

A few basic notes about this lens, before we get started:

  1. FE = full frame coverage for Sony E mount (I use this on the A7II camera)
  2. OSS = Sony’s version of image stabilization (Optical Steady Shot)
  3. Minimum aperture: f/22
  4. Maximum aperture: f/4
  5. Filter thread size: 67mm
  6. Size: 2.9” x 3.7”
  7. Weight: 15 oz.
  8. Dust and moisture-resistant construction
  9. Carl Zeiss anti-reflective coating
  10. Sony part number: SEL-2470Z

3 exposure HDR, f/22, tripod, ISO 100, 54mm  --  BULL CREEK GREENBELT, AUSTIN, TEXAS

3 exposure HDR, f/22, tripod, ISO 100, 70mm  --  Bull Creek Greenbelt, Austin, Texas

Let’s get started!

When I converted to Sony, the first two lenses I purchased to go with it were the wide angle 16-35mm f/4 and the mid-range zoom 24-70mm f/4 (the subject of this review).  [I added the 28mm f/2 at a later date and love it.]  I feel like these are the two lenses you have to have in your arsenal at a bare minimum for travel photography, or at least these two cover the range that I think you pretty much have to be able to cover on a daily basis.    

Sure, there may be times when you need something longer than 70mm, but in my experience I have found that the majority of what I shoot is more than covered by the length of the 24-70mm.  What do I shoot?  Well, pretty much anything that can’t talk back.  ;-)

3 exposure HDR, f/9, handheld, ISO 100, 24mm  --  Austin, Texas

3 exposure HDR, f/9, tripod, ISO 100, 70mm  --  Austin, Texas

What that really means is that my photographic preferences are for landscapes, cityscapes, street scenes, architecture, and some neon signs and graffiti thrown in to keep me honest.  Basically, it’s anything I encounter in my travels that I find interesting, so keep that in mind while reading this.  I like a lens I can travel with consistently, and not be tired at the end of the day because of the size or weight of it.  

But I will say that this lens would also serve you well for portraits.  Having taken family shots with it from time to time, it definitely performs well, though I admit portrait work is not my thing.  But with that f/4 aperture you can get nice bokeh in the background with an eye in focus, or whatever it is you are doing, portrait-wise.  The bokeh on the lens is nice.

So that leads me to the next point, which is that there is another Sony lens for their full-frame cameras with a range of 24-70mm, but it’s their new G Master line and it’s maximum aperture is f/2.8 instead of f/4.  So it can open up a bit more, which can be good for a lot of reasons, and I assume many will make the leap to it, though it’s about $1000 more in cost than this lens.

However, since I tend to shoot most of my stuff well above f/4 anyways, I have opted to stick with this lens, because it’s paid for already and frankly, I don’t need the other one.  I’m sure it’s great (I have 3 Sony lenses and they are all great), but I don’t need it and don’t feel like it will give me anything that I haven’t already covered with this lens.  For what I shoot and how I shoot it, I think this lens will continue to perform great for me for years to come.  I use this lens mostly mounted on a tripod, and use it to capture the cityscapes and landscapes I listed above.  For all my standard work, this lens is perfect.

 So, let me tell you what I like about it, because there’s a lot to like about it.

3 exposure HDR, f/9, tripod, ISO 100, 48mm  --  DUNNOTTAR CASTLE, STONEHAVEN, SCOTLAND

1 - Size, weight, tech specs

While this lens is not feather-light, it’s not overly heavy or difficult to carry around.  Especially considering it’s attached to a mirrorless camera, the entire package is very portable and easy to travel with.

It weighs in at about 15 ounces (or nearly a pound), and is 3.7” long and 2.9” across.  I have taken it out many times as my only lens, carried it attached to the camera, with both in a small over-the-shoulder bag, and it’s not heavy to me.  I won’t say I don’t notice it (which I sometimes felt when I shot Olympus and used the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 because that package was JUST SO SMALL)) but it’s definitely not what I would consider heavy, even after hours of toting it around places.

If you are interested, you can find the full rundown of technical specs on the lens from the Sony site, which is here:

http://www.sony.com/electronics/camera-lenses/sel2470z

Bottom line - this lens is not going to win any contests for smallest or lightest, but that’s ok.  That’s not what it’s for.  It’s solidly built and thus very sturdy, and in my opinion is a reasonable size and weight for this class of lens, and it works great.

3 exposure HDR, f/11, tripod, ISO 100, 36mm  --  Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland

2 - Image quality, sharpness, and clarity

I have included a lot of sample images in this review so you can get a sense of how well the lens has performed for me.  I have shot with it across a broad range of settings, from f/4 and all the way up to f/22, and I have been impressed with it all the way.

In fact, I love to go out and capture photos with this lens.  I am confident that it will deliver great image quality, without any issues, time and time again.  The images are sharp and clear.  I have had no issues with the lens whatsoever.  The photos look great and I am happy with the performance.  In the end, it’s really about the pictures anyways, right?

3 exposure HDR, f/11, tripod, ISO 100, 24mm  --  EPCOT, ORLANDO, FLORIDA

3 - Great range for everyday shooting or as a single travel lens

I absolutely love the range of this lens.  While 24-70 might not sound like a broad range, in everyday use it really is for me (on my previous camera, the Olympus, I mostly shot with the 12-40mm which is an equivalent focal length to this Sony lens).  While I also have a major thing for the 28mm f/2 prime lens, this lens is more versatile for everyday use.  

This has basically become my go-to lens, and for good reason.  It’s wide enough to get a nice landscape, cityscape or architecture shot, but if I come across something I want to get a little closer to, it’s easy enough to zoom in and capture it.  For all-around use, the focal range is just perfect.  It really is ideal as a single travel lens.  While I would miss having my wide angle and that awesome little prime with me, if I had to pick a single lens for a trip, it would make sense to use this one, and I know it would deliver the results for me.

The only caveat for me is that if I were to go out shooting in a city at night WITHOUT a tripod (which I sometimes do) and only took 1 lens, I would choose the 28mm f/2.  This is solely because of the f/2 aperture on the 28mm prime lens.  Being able to open up that wide helps me get clean shots, handheld, in low light.  The downside of that of course is that it is a prime lens, meaning it is 28mm and that’s it.  No zoom or anything.

Apart from that, this 24-70mm is the best all-around option in my opinion.  I’m a big fan, if you can’t tell that just yet.

3 exposure HDR, f/18, handheld, ISO 100, 40mm  --  France Pavilion, EPCOT, ORlando, Florida

4 - Focus

You get a lens to focus on things, right?  That’s pretty simple when you think about it, but that’s what the lens is for.  This one does a great job of focusing - quick and accurate in my experience.  It’s also quiet.  

Note however that I do not shoot a lot of sports or things like that - it’s just not my thing.  So if that IS your thing, you may want to consider looking at the G Master line version that has the aperture of f/2.8 (and another $1000 or so in cost).  That is because with sports, things are moving very fast and that wide aperture will help with quicker, clearer shots.  Now I am not saying this lens won’t perform well for moving subjects, it’s just that I don’t spend any time shooting them, and can’t offer up any insight there.  It just makes sense that the other version will shoot more quickly because of the f/2.8 aperture.

In my experience with this lens, I find it works great in every condition I have been using it.  Even in lower light (on a tripod), I don’t feel like it is hunting around for a focal point or anything like that.  It’s been great so far, and I believe the sample photos illustrate the results from different types of lighting situations.  

This is probably obvious, but there are separate focus and zoom control rings on the lens so you can easily zoom in and out and control focus easily too.  That’s pretty standard but I wanted to point it out just in case.  

3 exposure HDR, f/16, tripod, ISO 100, 54mm  --  Portofino Resort, Orlando, Florida

5 - Build quality

This is a solid lens.  It’s sturdy without being overly heavy.  It doesn’t feel cheap, because it isn’t, and the build quality is obvious.  We have all either had or held cheap lenses, and you know what I am talking about.  This is not like that.  The size and weight give it some substance without being bulky.  It’s hard to explain this stuff, but I would say if you are interested then go try one out at your local camera store.  It’s worth checking out in person anyways, just so you can get a feel for it. Plus, it’s always good to visit a camera store, isn’t it?  :-)  Hold it in your hand, put it on a camera for some test shots, and walk around the store with it.  You’ll like it.   

Single exposure, f/9, handheld, ISO 100, 70mm  --  Lysefjord, Norway

3 exposure HDR, f/13, tripod, ISO 100, 60mm  --  Pulpit Rock, Norway

SUMMARY

So that’s really it folks - a simple and (I hope) straightforward review of the Sony 24-70mm f/4 zoom lens.  It’s a winner in my book, doing exactly what it needs to do and helping me creating images that I am proud of.

I love the lens, it’s been GREAT for me as a general, all-purpose sort of lens and frequent companion on my photo outings.  In fact, it’s really my “go to” lens now.  I shoot it more than any of the other lenses I have, and for good reason.  It performs incredibly well, covers a wide range of shooting situations, and results in clear, sharp photos.  What else can you ask for, really?

It sells for about $1100 online and in stores.

Check it out if you are shopping for something in this focal length, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks!

3 exposure HDR, f/11, tripod, ISO 100, 35mm  --  San Antonio, TX (Mission Espada)

3 exposure HDR, f/9, handheld, ISO 100, 32mm  -- Stonehaven, Scotland