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Sony SEL1670Z Vario-Tessar T E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS
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- Carl Zeiss mid-range zoom lens. Compatible with E-mount Full Frame cameras and E-mount APS-C cameras
- Minimum Focus Distance : 1.15 ft (0.35 m), Maximum Magnification ratio : 0.23x, Focal Length : 16-70 mm
- High lens technology in a compact body
- Optical Steady Shot image stabilization. Zeiss T anti-reflective coating
- When using a flash, always remove the lens hood and shoot at least 1 m (3.3 feet) away from your subject
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Outstanding contrast and resolution throughout the image area at all zoom settings are the hallmark of this high-performance Carl Zeiss mid-range zoom lens
From the Manufacturer
Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS Lens
The latest advances in optical design technology have made it possible to deliver prized Carl Zeiss contrast and clarity in a high-performance mid-range zoom. Four aspherical elements combine with one ED glass element to bring you breathtaking rendering.
When changing your aperture to defocus the background, the light sources appear blurred. This ‘bokeh’ effect of the blurred background can be enhanced with circular aperture blades used in this lens. Conventional aperture blades have flat sides creating unappealing polygonal shaped defocussed points of light. α lenses overcome this problem through a unique design that keeps the aperture almost perfectly circular from its wide-open setting to when it is closed by 2 stops. Smoother, more natural defocusing can be obtained as a result.
ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass
As focal lengths get longer, lenses built with conventional optical glass have difficulties with chromatic aberration, and as a result images suffer from lower contrast, lower color quality, and lower resolution. ED glass dramatically reduces chromatic aberration at telephoto ranges, and provides superior contrast across the entire image, even at large aperture settings. Super ED glass provides enhanced compensation for chromatic aberration.
Aspherical lens elements
Aspherical lens design dramatically reduces spherical aberration while also reducing lens size and weight. Spherical aberration is a slight misalignment of the light rays projected on the image plane. This is caused by differences in refraction at different points on conventional spherical lenses which degrade image quality in large-aperture lenses. Specially shaped “aspherical” elements near the diaphragm restore alignment of light rays at the image plane, maintaining high sharpness and contrast even at maximum aperture and can also be used at other points in the optical path to reduce distortion. Well-designed aspherical elements can reduce the total number of elements required in the lens, thus reducing overall size and weight. Advanced Aspherical (AA) elements are an evolved variant, featuring an extremely high thickness ratio between the center and periphery. AA elements are exceedingly difficult to produce, relying on the most advanced molding technology to consistently and precisely achieve the required shape and surface accuracy, resulting in significantly improved image accuracy and quality.
Carl Zeiss T* (T-star) coating
Coated optics were pioneered by Carl Zeiss - and this superb lens features the Carl Zeiss T* (T-Star) coating that virtually eliminates lens flare, internal reflection and light scattering that can otherwise occur at glass-to-air surfaces. The T* coating contributes to outstanding image quality, with high contrast and uniformly excellent resolution right out to the image edges. Not simply applied to any lens - the T* symbol only appears on multi-element lenses in which the required performance has been achieved throughout the entire optical path, therefore guaranteeing the highest quality.
Lens-based optical image stabilization
Gyro sensors built into the lens detect even the slightest movement, and the stabilization lens is precisely shifted to counteract any image blur that might occur. The use of precision, quiet linear motors and technology inherited from high-end Sony professional camcorders results in exceptionally quiet, effective image stabilization that contributes to high-quality movies as well as stills.
Only the middle groups of the optical system move to achieve focus, so the overall length of the lens does not change. Other important benefits include fast autofocusing and a short minimum focusing distance. Also, the filter thread at the front of the lens does not rotate, which is convenient if you’re using a polarizing filter.
2013 Sony Electronics Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Sony is not responsible for typographical and photographic errors. Features and specifications are subject to change without notice. All rights reserved. Sony, the Sony logo, Alpha, (a) and Super SteadyShot are trademarks of Sony. All other trademarks are trademarks of their respective owners.
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Additionally, I purchased a Sony G 18-105mm for comparison and for those that are debating between the 18-105mm and the 16-70mm take my advice and spend the extra coin and spring for the Zeiss (save some coin and find a used one on eBay that has been tested to be a good copy). The G 18-105mm is a decent lens if and only if you plan to shoot mostly video due to it's power zoom, however, it's not at all much of an upgrade over the 16-50mm kit lens. The barrel distortion is out of control, it's heavy AF and it's presence with the 72mm front element makes it a full frame sized lens on a camera body that was designed to be compact. IMHO the size and weight of the G 18-105mm defeats the purpose of the Sony a6XXX camera system. The color rendition, contrast, sharpness, size and weight of the Zeiss makes it the hands down winner as an everyday kit lens replacement.
How to test your copy for decentering:
1. Download a test chart.
2. Print out 4 copies and tape them in the corners (see pictures).
3. Use a tripod and position your camera/lens so that at 16mm the test chart reaches each corner of the viewfinder.
4. Shoot in RAW at the highest quality.
5. Turn off steady shot!
5. Set your camera to manual and set your aperture to f4, ISO 100 and shutter speed to whatever you need given your lighting situation to get your EV value (exposure comp) to 0.0
6. Use a remote or shutter timer to avoid and hand shake.
7. Snap your photos and use Capture One to evaluate the corners of your photo to verify that there is no blur (you'll be able to see if it is decentered).
The first picture is an example of a bad decentered copy taken at 16mm f4 and the second one is an example of a good copy from eBay. Not sure how much you'll be able to see with any real detail on Amazon but if you were to zoom into the corners on the first photo the upper and lower right hand corners the numbers are blurred. The third photo is just a final test shot to illustrate the lenses abilities although slightly under exposed I think it is a decent representation (23mm, f4, 0.5s, ISO100, Tripod mounted, no edits just straight export from RAW to JPEG). I did comparison shots between the 16-70mm and the Zeiss 24mm prime of this picture at f4 and I looked everywhere for loss of color and detail and the 24mm prime at f4 barely edged out the 16-70mm with ever so slightly better corner detail.
After a firmware update (NEX6 1.02), focus is lightning fast. Construction is top notch, it definitely has a high quality feel, and the zoom is silky smooth. This will definitely be my go-to lens from now on.
Most of the complaints I’ve read have focused on the decentered issue with this lens in having an imbalance between corner and even center sharpness and softness. I have to say, that testing the lens for the short time I had with it, there did seem to be some issues with some corners being softer than others but for me it wasn’t horrible and the center sharpness was superb and more comparable to a good prime than I expected. Center sharpness was good to great through most of the range and apertures and while the corners were not consistent with each other or themselves at different ranges and apertures, they were decent.
The only zoom lenses I own are the kit 16-50 and the 18-105 f4 so I can really only compare the lens to these two lenses without going into comparing this to a prime. It was far and away better than the kit lens as expected in terms of the constant aperture, the focal range, and image quality in general. I also expected it to be slightly better in image quality than the 18-105 but felt the image was a good bit better than I expected making it a pleasant surprise. I really like the 18-105 but the Zeiss 16-70 was far more compact, slightly wider although losing distance, and the image quality seemed to noticeably surpass it.
It sounds great so why did I return it? While I believe my copy was maybe slightly decentered, the image quality was still good so it came down to two issues I had with the lens. The first somewhat minor issue was the zoom ring. It was smooth until about the 50mm mark where it almost gets stuck making for very bad zooming if you’re using this for video. This might change with some breaking in but from my experience with Zeiss lenses, their rings are buttery smooth and this was disappointing to say the least.
My second major issue the straw that broke the “cameras” back was what looks to be a large dust particle inside the lens. I have added pictures to show it. I know dust isn’t necessarily an issue inside the lens and I know that eventually even the best of lenses will get dust inside due to the nature of their design but for my new $1000 Zeiss lens that already has a sticky zoom ring and slightly decentered issue, I couldn’t justify keeping a brand new lens with a large piece of dust in it brand new. I have purchased a number of lenses on Amazon and none of my Zeiss or Sony lenses have ever got to me with a large piece of dust clearly inside the lens.
In the end I want to like this lens for all the good that it has. The compact size for the focal range and fixed aperture not to mention good image quality for a zoom is really one of a kind for native E-mount glass. Add to that image stabilization, T* coating, and Zeiss colors and contrast and you have a truly amazing lens….on paper. In reality it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped and I’m not sure if there is something inherently flawed in the design or if this could be the amazing lens people want it to be if it just had good quality control. For now because of the potential it has and the image quality I have seen, I am comfortable giving this 3 stars.
I’ve heard good copies of this lens exist and if that is true, I can still recommend taking the gamble to see if you get one. The price is high which is going to make me hold off on taking the gamble again right now, but unless Sony releases something similar to this soon I think I’ll probably end up taking the plunge again eventually. This could be the ultimate travel lens for Sony E-mount cameras but if you don’t want to take the gamble and don’t mind a bigger lens with slightly inferior image quality, the Sony 18-105 F4 PZ lens might be a better option at a fraction of the cost.
(Pictures - 1.)16-70 on A6500 2.)Zeiss 24 f1.8 on left 16-70 f4 on right 3.) Dust inside brad new lens)