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November 11, 2015

Sony 18-105mm G Lens vs 16-70mm ZA Lens?

Sony 18-105mm G Lens vs 16-70mm ZA Lens?

I get this question all the time, so I figured I would write a quick article explaining the differences between the Sony PZ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G Lens vs Sony Vario-Tessar T* 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens. Both lenses are designed for the smaller sensor APS-C E-Mount cameras like the Sony A6000 and A5100 for example. These lenses will also work, in crop factor mode, on the full frame E-Mount cameras like the A7r Mark II which also happens to have the Super 35mm Mode video option. Super 35mm Mode is basically killer video quality, but it uses only the crop factor size area of the sensor, therefore a crop factor lens is a great option for this feature in particular as it relates to the A7r Mark II.

Both of these lenses offer versatility, but one is about $400 more than the other and has a Zeiss badge on it 😉  The other has a killer powerzoom feature, significantly more range, and costs hundreds less. So this is why so many of you are perplexed at which lens to get. Which is better and why? What gives??

I will try my best to show the strengths and weaknesses of both lenses, so you can make an informed decision on your own based on all the information provided.

 

Price:

Both of these lenses are on the higher end of pricing with the Zeiss tipping the scales at $998 US vs the more modest $598 US for the Sony G lens. Neither are exactly cheap, but the Sony G lens offers more coverage and is less money. Let me explain…

Zoom Range:

So for starters the 18-105mm f/4 OSS G lens has 35mm more zoom than the 16-70mm lens. This means a significant reach advantage as far as telephoto photography is concerned. With the crop factor in play this works out to an effective 27-135mm (18-105mm) vs 24-105mm (16-70mm).

Sony A6000 w/ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G Lens @ 105mm, F/5, 1/200sec, ISO 250

Sony A6000 w/ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G Lens @ 105mm, F/5, 1/200sec, ISO 250

Sony a5000 w/ 16-70mm f/4 oss Zeiss lens @ f/5, 70mm, 1/200sec, ISO 100, Jpeg

Sony a5000 w/ 16-70mm f/4 oss Zeiss lens @ f/5, 70mm, 1/200sec, ISO 100, Jpeg

On the wider side we have the extra 2mm from the Zeiss lens (16mm vs 18mm), that does help a lot in the real world when shooting in tight conditions wanting that wide angle view. 2mm does not sound like much, but it is a lot in my opinion on the wide end. 2mm would not do so much on the telephoto end in comparison though.

Sony A6000 w/ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G Lens @ 18mm, f/5.6, 1/60sec, ISO 1600, Hand-held

Sony A6000 w/ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G Lens @ 18mm, f/5.6, 1/60sec, ISO 1600, Hand-held

Sony a5000 w/ 16-70mm f/4 oss Zeiss lens @ f/9, 16mm, 1/80sec, ISO 100, Jpeg

Sony a5000 w/ 16-70mm f/4 oss Zeiss lens @ f/9, 16mm, 1/80sec, ISO 100, Jpeg

Clearly we have something significant to talk about as far as focal range differences go. It really depends on your wants/ needs.

 

Physical differences:

The 18-105mm g lens is all self contained, meaning when you zoom the lens does not extend. It’s all internal and therefore physically larger than the 16-70mm lens as you will see below:

Approx. 3.07 x 4.33″ (78 x 110 mm)

Weight = 1.25lbs

Sony A6000 w/ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G Lens (selp18105g)

Sony A6000 w/ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G Lens (selp18105g)

Approx. 2.62 x 2.95″ (66.6 x 75 mm) – not extended

Weight = 1.15lbs

Sony Nex-6 w/ 16-70mm f/4 OSS Zeiss Lens @ 16mm

Sony Nex-6 w/ 16-70mm f/4 OSS Zeiss Lens @ 16mm

When fully extended the Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 OSS Lens is actually longer than the Sony PZ 18-105mm OSS G Lens which is worth noting. The Zeiss lens extends outward as you zoom, but the Sony G lens does not as mentioned above. Here she is mounted to my Nex-6 @ 70mm and you can see just how much the lens grows in size. When packed away in the camera bag, it is smaller though which is important to many wanting the smallest form factor possible when stowed away.

Sony Nex-6 w/ 16-70mm f/4 OSS Zeiss Lens @ 70mm

Sony Nex-6 w/ 16-70mm f/4 OSS Zeiss Lens @ 70mm

Weight wise, the lenses are very close, but the 18-105mm lens is a tad heavier in the end…

 

Optical Quality:

Here is where the Zeiss starts to show it’s real strengths over the Sony G lens. The Sony PZ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G Lens suffers from some significant lens distortion. This is the compromise Sony decided to make when creating a lens with this much range in a relatively small self contained form factor. If shooting Raw quality you will notice the distortion on straight lines mostly and more towards the corners. Sharpness is very good on the 18-105mm lens although it does soften a bit in the corners for sure. Overall a great lens for the money I would say considering the range and features included.

Both lenses have a constant f/4 aperture throughout the zoom range.

Sony A6000 w/ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G Lens @ 105mm, F/4, 1/200sec, ISO 100

Sony A6000 w/ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G Lens @ 105mm, F/4, 1/200sec, ISO 100

The 16-70mm f/4 OSS ZA lens does not suffer from the same distortion and is remarkable sharp corner to corner based on my testing. The contrast and background out of focus areas also look better on Zeiss lens and you can see the “look” for yourself in the tons of sample photos I have in both reviews linked below.

Sonynex-6 w/ 16-70mm f/4 OSS Zeiss Lens @ 70mm, f/4, 1/200sec, ISO 100

Sonynex-6 w/ 16-70mm f/4 OSS Zeiss Lens @ 70mm, f/4, 1/200sec, ISO 100

 

Other Factors like Video:

The PZ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G lens offers a powerzoom feature that really makes this lens ideal for video use. In that regard, this lens is way better than the Zeiss for smooth zooming while recording video. This is the best feature of the 18-105mm lens in my opinion, and would heavily influence my decision making. If I was strictly only interested in photography, then the 16-70mm Zeiss lens would be my first choice. If I liked to record video, then I would go with the 18-105mm G lens for the killer powerzoom feature and overall good quality plus lower cost.

 

Full Lens Reviews:

I have tons of sample photos and video in the full lens reviews kinked below, so be sure to check them out if you want to see what each lens can do in the real world and lab more clearly. You will be able to see the optical quality differences for example by viewing the lab test photos in particular.

– Sony PZ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G lens Review >>

– Sony Vario-Tessar T* 16-70mm f/4 OSS ZA Lens Review >>

 

Closing remarks

Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens

Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens

If you are a photographer looking for the best quality and versatility, then the 16-70mm f/4 OSS ZA Lens is the one for you in my opinion. If you like to shoot in RAW quality and process your photos in house, then again I would recommend the Zeiss for much better optical distortion control and overall optical quality. The colors are noticeable more rich, the contrast has more punch, and the sharpness is better. The “look” is also better in my opinion, but hard to actually measure that with a number…

If you are a jpeg shooter and allow the camera to process the photos for you, then the Sony 18-105mm f/4 OSS G lens is a great choice. The Camera will correct for the lens distortion when shooting in Jpeg mode or when recording video. Therefore the distortion is not to much of a factor if that is your situation. I shoot RAW quality most of the time and the distortion would bother me most likely for example.

Video wise, I would highly recommend the 18-105mm lens, because the powerzoom is amazing and the output quality is very good. The on camera lens correction works really well. Clearly it does have an effect on quality though, and the trained eye will be able to see these differences. The 18-105mm lens also costs significantly less than the Zeiss, so be sure to look over all the factors when making your decision.

That is about it for this article, but please feel free to ask questions if you have them or just share your thoughts on the matter if you like 😉 I tried to cover all the things that matter as concisely as possible. Hopefully I achieved my goal, and please let me know in the comments below what you guys think!

It feels great writing articles again, so thank you very much again for all the support as I dealt with hackers and many other issues the past few months.

Good day,

Jay

Purchase Links: 

Sony PZ 18-105mm f/4 OSS G lens for $598 US @ BHPhoto | Amazon

Sony Vario-Tessar T* 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens for ~$998 US @ BHPhoto | Amazon

 

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Thanks,
Jay

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About the Author

Jay
Hello, I'm the owner and operator of SonyAlphaLab.com. Please check out the About page for a full background on myself and the Lab ;) Google+ | Twitter | RSS-feed | Email Updates!!




25 Comments


  1. tinplater

    I don’t really get this…many reviews complain about bad copies of the Zeiss 16-70, thought perhaps early production as some samples are OK?
    However at one half the price, 50% more zoom range, non extension during zooming, same aperture, same OSS, I can’t really see why to take the risk on the inferior optical quality of the Zeiss? As to being a JPEG shooter vs RAW, why not shoot in both formats and then apply correction in post of the RAW images you choose as a result of JPEG screening?


    • I agree. I tested 6 zeiss 16-70 (a dissaster) one sony 18-105 (quite good but heavy and big) and a fantastic sigma 60mm.

      SEL1670Z SN1824346 right side defocus
      SEL1670Z SN1826373 works quite well sides regular but decent (It is a friend of mine).
      SEL1670Z SN1829773 all side defocus, speacially right side
      SEL1670Z SN1838006 all side defocus (really bad all sides)
      SEL1670Z SN1840551 left side a disaster.
      SEL1670Z SN1841066 all side defocus, speacially right side


      • Jay

        That is just insane if true Francisco, and why would you try so many if the first two sucked? My copy was a Gem clearly!

        Thanks,
        Jay


    • Jay

      Hi Tim,

      The copy I had was fantastic, but clearly their are bad copies going around. And according to Francisco, a ton of them! The Zeiss is not supposed to be inferior, and if it was the reviews on BH and Amazon would be horrible. Bad lenses can make a real stink of an impression on people and the word travels. The Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 OSS Lens I reviewed was a bad copy and the review says so. It does happen for sure, but you should not assume the lens will be bad, because a few out of several thousands might have an issue. Those are just my thoughts on the matter and I can totally understand your points. I thought I made mine very clear in the article.

      I find folks that own the 18-105mm f/4 OSS G lens often feel insulted that I recommend the Zeiss as better optical quality and what not. It’s nothing personal and just the way I see it as it relates to the testing I’ve done.

      Also, shooting Raw and jpeg is a very good idea and I do that a lot these days when testing cameras 😉

      Jay


  2. Adrian

    Great review jay thanks, i have the zeiss 16-70mm and i absolutely love it, out of all of my lenses this is my favourite lens even over the sigma prime lenses, which are sharp, i still prefer the 16-70mm zeiss, if you keep looking on places like amazon the price can really drop at times, i got mine for under £400 from amazon. For photography i would highly recommend as a all round great lens 🙂


  3. Bharath Talluri

    Thank you. Just ordered it at B&H.


  4. Fred Swims

    re: on camera lens correction. I understand …The Camera will correct for the lens distortion when shooting in Jpeg mode or when recording video….
    If I shoot in RAW quality are filters available that correct for the lens distortion?


    • Jay

      No filters can correct for this, but you can use Lightroom or Capture One lens profiles to fix the distortion just like the camera does to the jpeg files.


      • Chris P

        DxO rates the 18-105 as having a sharpness score of 9MP, and the 16-70 @ 8MP, so this doesnt seem to back up your results. I know there is variation in lenses and testing but for $400 less and a lot more reach, the PZ certainly seems like the better value.

        Also, you make a big deal about the lens distortion, but lenses are now designed with this level distortion built in because its so easy to correct it and doing so allows a much, MUCH wider range in a relatively small form factor. The camera does it internally for JPEGs and XAVCS, and Lightroom does it with RAWs automatically, I dont have to select anything.

        For me, lens distortion, chromatic aberration, and any other 100% correctable artifacts such as rolling shutter are total non-issues.


      • Jay

        Thanks for the comments and sharing your point of view Chris 😉 I can tell you correcting the lens distortion in post does have a noticeable consequence to image quality. It does have it’s huge benefits though as you and I have said. Smaller size and wider range, etc… SO, 100% correctable is not a valid statement is all Im saying. Some flaws are 100% correctable, but others are more like 75% fixable. Corner sharpness suffers for sure with the distortion and lens correction on camera and/or in post. Bottom line the lens is a great option and I really liked using it, but the optical quality regardless of what DXO mark says, is not everything. That is just sharpness and doe snot account for the look the lens produces. Zeiss has better micro contrast and color in my opinion, and this can’t really be measured… I have no alternative reason to say the Ziess is better, I’m just reporting my honest opinion based on extensive user experience and real world/ lab testing.

        Jay


  5. thomas ahrndt

    I am waiting for a new apc a6000 and I have ben waiting since may 2015 because of all rumors ! Now I wonder if there Will be a new Sony and for how long time do I have to wait.


    • Jay

      I have no idea what Sony will do honestly. They constantly surprise and the rumors are constantly wrong…. I would imagine with the A6000 popularity, Sony would continue with a new model, but when is the question. Perhaps a better A7000 type unit will come out for the semi-pro users instead? Or will a A6100 come out with slight upgrades? I really don’t know sorry…

      Jay


  6. Dustin

    Hi John.

    What lense would you recomend for video shooting on a 6000/6300 if budget was no issue? Quality is my main concern, zoom range (if any) is secondary to me.

    Thanks for the great YouTube content btw.


  7. I don’t understand, what do you mean by “Video wise, I would highly recommend the 18-105mm lens, because the powerzoom” Is it a Parfocal lens? Does it zoom electronically at constant speed?


    • Jay

      Yes and yes. The powerzoom is very smooth and variable speed if needed, making it way easier to zoom for video. It’s electronically powered with an internal zoom motor.

      Jay


  8. Eric

    When it comes to sharpness in a wide range of focal lengths is 16-70 better than the 18-105?


  9. Fabian wiramihardja

    You havent said anything on AF performannce on these 2 lenses…they both support pdaf hybrid AF am i right?



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