As the megapixel wars have died down, the new frontier for dedicated digital cameras is multi-functionality; being able to shoot both still images and capture high-quality video at the same time. To further improve the flexibility of its hybrid digital cameras, Sony has designed a new lens it promises is as just as good for still photography as it is for video work.
The new FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G is part of Sony’s G-Series lineup and while it’s the 66th e-mount lens the company has introduced, it’s the first specifically designed by Sony to target content creators who’ve embraced hybrid shooters as a streamlined way to capture the content they share on social media all on one device. With a minimum focusing distance of 11 inches, the lens is useful for product shots or creating highly-clickable unboxing videos, and when paired with a highly capable shooter like the Sony Alpha 1, accurate autofocus can be maintained even when shooting at up to 30 frames per second.
Most of the innovation in the FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G lens facilitates its use for shooting video. Maintaining a constant f4 aperture across its entire zoom range ensures the depth of field doesn’t change as dynamic video is captured, and the use of four linear motors helps ensure that all of the lens element movements, facilitating both zoom and focus functionality, all happen internally within the lens itself. In other words: the lens doesn’t get physically longer or shorter as adjustments are made which ensures the lens’s center of gravity doesn’t change either. That’s important when using the lens on a camera that’s attached to a stabilized gimbal or even a drone, both of which require careful calibration before use and would be thrown off were the lens’ center of gravity to change mid-shot.
The FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G also includes both physical aperture and focus rings on the lens, crucial for filmmakers relying on manual focus pullers to nail the specific dynamics of a moving shot, as well as a variable speed push lever for powered zooms. A gentle press will result in a slow zoom that takes about 30 seconds to move from each extreme, while a hard press will result in a much faster zoom that takes about a second to cover the same distance.
When paired with cameras like the Sony FX3 or the Sony ZV-E10, the lens’ zoom functionality can also be controlled using each device’s own zoom lever at a pre-programmed speed, and when used on cameras like the Sony Alpha 1 or the Sony A7Siii that don’t have a dedicated zoom lever, other camera buttons (like pressing right or left on a control wheel) can instead be programmed to control the zoom. The lens is also compatible with both wireless remotes and Sony’s smartphone apps for those times when a zoom is needed but the camera is out of reach.
An additional pair of linear motors are used to power the lens’ autofocus capabilities, not only for the speed and smoothness of the movements offered but also because they operate nearly silently so that autofocus adjustment noises aren’t recorded along with the audio when capturing video.
Sony has also worked to reduce an effect called focus breathing on the FE PZ 16-35MM F4 G, where focus adjustments can appear to slightly alter the magnification of an image and shift the framing slightly. It’s a minor issue when capturing stills, but more noticeable and problematic when capturing video and attempting to do focus pulls on a subject.
The Sony FE PZ 16-35MM F4 G will officially be available starting in June, later this year (assuming ongoing supply chain issues don’t thwart Sony’s plans) and will sell for around $1,200—but that could also change as we get closer to its expected release.