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The Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f4 FE vs the Nikon 24mm f/2.8 AI

These are obviously quite different lenses. Starting production in 1977 the Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 AI has 9 elements in 9 groups that can focus to 0.3 meters (11.8 inches) and weighs 9.5oz. Today you can buy the optically identical AI-S version new for $530 The Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 FE started production in 2014, it has 12 elements in 10 groups and focuses down to 0.4 meters (15.7 inches) and weighs 15oz. $1,200 new.

It's no surprise that the prime lens is much smaller. My copy has obviously seen a lot of use.

First a look at infinity in full sunlight. Shot with the Sony A7 on a tripod with high enough shutter speeds to rule out movement (1/800-1/6400). Focus was done in the center wide open with no adjustments for focus shift. White balance set to sunlight, and automatic chromatic abberation correction was applied to the Nikon lens as Sony does the same in camera even to raw images from the 24-70 FE.  Mouse over images for the swap.

Our test scene, at f4. The Sony Zeiss is a touch wider, but this vanishes when the distortion profile is applied. It has considerably more vignetting and distortion. Even at 1000px wide I see soft corners on the Nikon.

In the center I don't see anything to sweat about.

While the Sony Zeiss 24-70mm FE has a poor reputation for corner performance, it's smoking the Nikon prime here.

At f/5.6 the vignetting is present but less pronounced on the Sony Zeiss.

Centers at 5.6

Corners at 5.6

Center crops at f/8

Centers at f/11

Corners at f/11

The Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f4 FE has similar performance at 28mm: Sharp in the center and good in the corners at f/4. Then it just doesn't improve while stopping down. The Nikon 24mm f/2.8 AI certainly shows it's age wide open, yet is clearly better in the corners, but sightly worse in the center at f/11. What it loses in the center is a little contrast, easy enough to fix in post processing.  This just goes to confirm what is pretty much common knowledge, the Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f4 FE was not built for landscape shooting. Having shot three weddings with it, I can attest to its prowess for event work.

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