Sony / Zeiss FE Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZA ( SEL35F14Z ) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published November 2017

Introduction

It seems as if the Zeiss-Sony relationship has cooled off a little lately- probably because both want to harvest the premium segment. Zeiss appears to gravitate towards their own Zeiss Batis lens lineup now whereas Sony is focusing on Sony G and GM lenses. However, a while ago, the Sony / Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA was one of the first high-speed, pro-grade lenses released for Sony's full format mirrorless system. As you may have guessed already, such a lens isn't cheap at around 1500USD/EUR. However, and this may come as a shock to some, it is a little more affordable than similar offerings from Canon and Nikon. Feels almost like a Sony first in this respect ...

In the Zeiss world, the word "Distagon" relates to a wide-angle lens - derived from DISTAnce (large distance to the subject) and the Greek word GONia (angle). Distagons are so-called retro-focus (inverted tele-) lenses. Traditionally such lenses allow a bigger distance from the rear element to the sensor (required for DSLRs) but this is not the case here.

The build quality of the Zeiss lens is superb. It's a tightly assembled, all-metal construction. A rarely found feature in the Sony lineup is the dedicated aperture ring. Interestingly there's a dedicated switch for choosing between "clicked" or smooth aperture changes. Movie makers will surely appreciate the option here. The focus ring operates silky smooth.

Mirrorless systems are often advertised towards smaller size and lower weight. This isn't really true here (nor for most other Sony FE lenses actually). Compared to e.g. the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 USM L II (DSLR lens), the Sony/Zeiss is just marginally more light-weight but it's actually a bit longer.

Sony uses its Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave Motor (DDSSM) for auto-focusing. The AF speed is Okayish (on the A7R II) and AF operations are noiseless. The focus accuracy is very high. As usual, manual focusing works by-wire. For precision focusing this is a good thing but it feels different compared to a mechanically coupled focusing mechanism.

Specifications
Optical construction12 elements in 8 groups inc. 1x advanced aspherical & 2x aspherical elements
Number of aperture blades9 (circular)
min. focus distance0.3m (1:5.5)
Dimensions78.5x112.0mm
Weight630g
Filter size72mm
Hoodsupplied, petal-style, bayonet mount
Other featuresdust- and moisture-resistant, aperture ring