Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA (Sony SEL35F28Z) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)
Monday, 03 February 2014 21:57

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published February 2014


It is interesting how things changed during the last years. There was a time when it (progress in photographic technology) all happened on the DSLR side but lately the mirrorless systems are the leaders in innovation. Sony is certainly an aggressive player here and it doesn't come as a surprise that they were the first to release a full format mirrorless system. They are still in the ramp up phase so the system doesn't really offer many options. In its lens universe, there are less than a handful of available native lenses as of the time of this review. For our first test, we picked the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/28 ZA for a ride on the A7R. Over time we'll also review all the others, of course - the FE 24-70mm f/4 OSS is already sitting on my desk ...

Some may wonder about the meaning of "Sonnar" in the name. Sonnar is derived from the German word "Sonne" (sun) and is used for fast lenses. That being said - just from its specs it isn't an overly exciting lens - it is a moderate wide-angle with a relatively uninspiring max. aperture for a prime lens. The suggested retail price of 800US$/EUR may come as a shocker but Zeiss lenses were never budget items to start with.

The Sonnar is a tiny being with a marginal weight. Some may miss the feeling of "substance" but the build quality is actually excellent ... it would have been difficult to mess up such a comparatively simple lens anyway. The outer barrel, the mount as well as the focus ring are made of metal whereas the inner frame for the optics is made of plastics. Everything is tightly assembled with no wobbling. The focus ring operates smoothly and it's even slightly dampened. The lens also features a weather sealing. The supplied (plastic) lens hood is pretty interesting. It isn't overly deep but functions like a mask where the borders of the hood have an inward-facing design (see below).

The Sony A7R is not a speed machine regarding its AF performance so it's hard to judge the qualities of the lens in this respect. When ignoring the AF hunting caused by the camera, the focus changes seem to be quite quick - there aren't many moving parts anyway and the internal focusing mechanism also helps. AF operations are also essentially noiseless. Typical for E-mount lenses, focusing works "by-wire". The implementation is really good and allows very fine grained focusing.

Optical construction7 elements in 5 groups inc. 3x aspherical elements
Number of aperture blades7 (circular)
min. focus distance0.35m (1:8.3)
Filter size49mm
Hoodsupplied, compact-style, bayonet mount
Other featuresWeather Sealing