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Sony Image Stabilization and the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar

Get Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at B&H Photo.

The Sony/Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 arrives any minute now tonight. UPS gives me a frustratingly late delivery schedule as the holidays approach: 6pm to as late as 8pm, which loses me an entire day of usage with new gear, with daylight long gone.

As noted previously, the Sony Alpha A7 II mirrorless camera introduces Olympus E-M1 style 5-axis image stabilization on its full frame sensor, which is a first for a full frame mirrorless camera (and no DSLR has it). And that type of image stabilization is the only image stabilization that works for wild rides (barring speciality gear).

It seems a near certainty that in-body image stabilization will be pushed into the entire A7 lineup (A7s, A7 II has it, A7R or A9 TBD camera). Thus it seems an unwise point in time to buy either the A7s or A7R.

For that matter, a camera lacking sensor image stabilization (SIS) might come to be seen as rather sucky (assuming SIS has no real downsides and can be disabled as desired). Nikon, Canon are you still asleep? It’s low odds, but there is a chance that Sony might move from building electronic gizmos with cool and very useful features like SIS to well designed cameras for serious photographers, and that would be an existential threat to Nikon and Canon, even if the current compromised designs aren’t already.

Which leads me to a curious disconnect: optical image stabilization (OIS) always involves some compromise in image quality, and an ultra-wide zoom is the least needful of OIS.

So why produce an optically stabilized zoom when the camera will be doing it, and probably doing it better for that matter? It suggests that the Sony camera and lens development teams should put their heads together more often.

Or perhaps it’s more basic: the lens might have been designed well before the full-frame sensor stabilization was in the bag. Either way, it seems a shame that a 16-35mm f/4 couldn’t instead use the IS-group lens elements instead to raise optical quality, instead of devoting them to stabilization (the confusion of which to use with a sensor-stabilized camera is not a plus either).

UPDATE: Sony’s marketing information suggests that the 5-axis stabilization is in fact NOT implemented in the sensor; that 2 of the axes are in fact only there if the lens is a Sony OSS lens. If true, this would make the claim rather misleading (just spell it out Sony!). Even the native 35/2.8 and 55/1.8 are not OSS lenses, let alone lenses with adapters.

Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS

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