Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 ZA DT ( SAL-1680Z ) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha/NEX (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published December 2007


Welcome to the revival of the Sony Alpha lens tests. You may have seen a few preliminary reports here but this is the real start using the Alpha 700 as a base for obtaining the data for the analysis. One of the most interesting lenses of the Alpha system is the the Zeiss 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 ZA DT - probably best described as Sony's "prosumer" grade standard zoom lens. It is a designated "DT" lens so it can only be used on APS-C DSLRs. Its field of view is equivalent to 24-120mm on full format cameras - a very attractive 5x zoom ratio covering moderate ultra-wide to medium tele perspectives. At about 700 US$/€ it is fairly expensive lens but frankly (potential) quality tends to come at a price.

The build quality of the lens is decent although not stellar. The outer shell is made of good quality plastics and the broad, rubberized zoom and focus rings operate smooth but also a little stiff. The focus ring could operate somewhat more accurate though - it isn't really a highlight of the construction. The rubberized control rings feel good with lots of grip but they also collect dust like hell. As you can see below the lens extends significantly based on a mono-cam system. Fortunately the tolerances are pretty tight so there's only marginal wobbling here. In AF mode the focus ring is decoupled from the AF gears so it does not rotate during AF operations. Thanks to an IF (internal focus) design the front element does not rotate so using a polarizer is no problem.

Similar to some of the Nikkors the Zeiss does still rely on the conventional focusing system driven by the camera (via a slotted drive screw). Consequently the AF produces a moderate degree of noise during operations but it is fairly fast. The lens comes with a signed paper certificating that it is within factory specs. This may feel reassuring but my first sample of the lens was not perfect (the exchange process over at sonystyle was flawless though).

Equiv. focal length24-120 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/5.3-f/6.8 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction14 elements in 10 groups inc. 2 glass-molded aspherical elements
Number of aperture blades7 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.35 m (max. magnification ratio 1:4)
Dimensions72 x 83 mm
Weight440 g
Filter size62 mm (non-rotating)
Hoodpetal-shaped, snap-on, supplied
Other features-

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