Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Hands-on Review: A unique wide-angle zoom designed for hybrid creators
posted Friday, April 22, 2022 at 3:45 PM EDT
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Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Hands-on Review
A few weeks back, Sony unveiled yet another 16-35mm full-frame mirrorless zoom lens, the FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G lens. With two other full-frame 16-35mm lenses already in the E-mount lineup, one might ask, why a third one? What sets this new lens apart from the previous two is primarily its Power Zoom design. Unlike the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens and the FE 16-35mm F4 Zeiss lenses, this new Power Zoom option is designed with both video creators and still photographers in mind. The earlier 16-35mm lenses were more clearly focused on photography, with a traditional mechanically-linked zoom mechanism. With the ever-increasing amount of video content being produces these days, Sony saw fit to create more and more products to address this growing market of hybrid creators -- those visual creators who shoot both stills and video. And this new PZ 16-35mm F4 lens is evidence of that.
Despite the full-frame image circle, the new PZ 16-35mm F4 lens is surprisingly compact and lightweight, weighing in at just 353 grams (12.45 oz). It's also only 88.1mm (3.47 in.) in length with a a maximum diameter of just 80.5mm (3.17 in.). It's quite a bit smaller and lighter than the hefty FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens. And it's also much more affordable, at nearly $1000 less expensive. Yet, despite the cost savings and lightweight design comprised of nearly all engineering plastic, the PZ 16-35mm lens is still dust- and moisture-resistent and feels solid and well-built in the hand.
The Power Zoom mechanism in this particular lens, unlike Sony's other Power Zoom optics, uses their XD Linear Motors to drive the zoom function. The optical layout and the use of XD Linear Motors helps keep the size and weight down, as well as give this lens the same center of gravity no matter which focal length you zoom to. It's also completely internally-zooming. For video shooters who mount their cameras on balance-critical rigs, such as drones or gimbals, having the same center of gravity is a key benefit. However, the lens is not designed solely for video shooters. There is still a manual zoom ring (albeit electronically controlled), a focusing ring and a manual aperture with clicked markings across the aperture range (though these can be declicked for video purposes).
I've recently wrapped up my hands-on review of the lens, and I've come way rather impressed with this new little wide-angle lens -- for the most part. I came at the review from the perspective of a still photographer, and the new Power Zoom mechanism, while great for video shooters, still feels less than ideal for still photographers. It works, of course, but the electronic ring isn't as responsive as a standard, mechanical zoom ring. Also, the lack of any focal length markings on the lens, or any kind of hard or soft stops at either end of the zoom range made usability a little clunky. That all being said, the lightweight design and small size was a big bonus. The lens is surprisingly small and very easy to carry around all day.
Optically, the lens gets high marks in most areas, especially when it comes to center sharpness throughout its zoom range and control of CA. There's some vignetting at times, though I personally don't mind some -- and it's easy to correct for later, if needed. However, the one drawback I found was distortion, which was pretty strong at 16mm when looking at uncorrected RAW files. Corrective profiles and in-camera processing from Sony's cameras do a great job clearing that up, but it's something took watch out for if you capture stills in RAW.
There's a lot more to talk about with this lens, so if you're curious about all of my thougths on the new Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G, head our to my in-depth hands-on review.