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I have been writing camera or camera related reviews on Dooyoo and Ciao for a long time now but I have mainly stuck to reviewing equipment I have tested for my camera club rather than the equipment I use on a daily basis as a professional portrait photographer.
The main reason I have stayed away from reviewing my own pro equipment is simply that I would guess most of the people checking out reviews on consumer sites such as this are looking to get into photography rather than being at the stage where they are ready to buy pro gear but I have had a few messages recently from people that have moved on from their compacts to good DSLR`s and are now keen to know what's out there that can make their photos better still.
Most people start their photography with simple compact cameras as I did many moons ago, they then move on to a starter (budget) DSLR and can immediately notice the difference in image quality even though they are using budget range cameras with simple kit lenses, so can it really get better than this?
Yes it can, it can actually get much better and you can get great results from the most basic of DSLR`s simply by upgrading your lens. I mean the whole point in DSLR`s is that you can change your lenses to suit what you are doing with the camera and although there are lots of upgrades from the basic kit lenses, I am today reviewing a professional type lens that is a million miles away from the standard kit lenses both in quality and sadly in price.
The Zeiss ZA Vario-Sonnar T* 24-70mm f/2.8 SSM, otherwise known as the Sony SAL-2470Z, is a extremely high performance zoom lens designed to fit Sony DSLR`s, this lens will fit the basic A200 right through the range to the very exciting new A900 which I am now using.
This lens is a full frame compatible lens so it suits my full frame A900 but will work equally well with the lower end non full frame DSLR`s from Sony. This lens is designed by carl Zeiss, that is Carl Zeiss the company rather than Carl Zeiss the man as he has not been with us now for some time.
Carl Zeiss (September 11, 1816 - December 3, 1888) was an optician but is most commonly known for the company he formed which today now make lenses for cameras, telescopes, microscopes and still also for eye glasses. The Carl Zeiss camera lenses were known as wide open lenses, this meaning that they had a very large aperture range that allowed them to perform very well in poorer lighting situations.
To explain this to you I will refer you to the part of the name of the lens that incorporates its maximum aperture (f2.8), there are very technical and intricate ways to explain this to you but let me explain it to you in layman`s terms.
If you are in a pitch black, dark room and there is a tiny hole in the ceiling letting in a tiny stream of light then there will be only one tiny spot of the room lit up and if this tiny hole was the size of the opening in your camera lens you would be said to be shooting at a minimum aperture, this could be about f22 of f18 but if that crack in the ceiling opened up to let in a lot more light then translate that to your camera lens and you would be said to be shooting at a maximum aperture this in most standard lenses will be about f5.6 of f4 at best but in this lens it is f2.8 so that is the first thing this lens offers that kit lenses do not, the ability to let in more light and therefore be able to shoot in poorer lit situations.
The aperture can also be used to let in more light even in decent light but this in turn will allow you to shoot at faster shutter speeds and therefore capture moving images with no blur which lesse lenses just could not manage.
So there we have one huge advantage to this lens, you can now add to that the simple things like just getting a much brighter and more colourful tack sharp image, this is again partly down to the amount of light this lens can receive but also down to the high quality glass it incorporates and the time, effort and design that has gone into making these high quality lenses.
Stepping back from how it operates there are other ways you instantly know you are dealing with a much higher quality lens than your kit lens and the first is the weight of this lens. Weighing in at nearly 1kg this lens feels like a solid block of glass and you instantly get the feeling that you are holding something a bit special in your hand, even the solid click it makes as it grabs hold of your DSLR sounds firmer and more convincing than the palsticy click your kit lens gives.
With the weight of this lens you will think it is an all-metal construction but in fact it is not, the lens hood and the inner tube are made of metal but there is a lot of plastic still in the construction of this lens, the difference is the plastic used here is a very high quality variant and not the stuff that the kit lenses are made of.
Many zoom kit lenses are so loose to zoom in and out with that they can drop under the weight of the lens hood if you are pointing the camera down the way this is known as lens creep, you certainly do not have to worry about that type of thing from lenses of this quality, the zoom function feels very tight and very precise and is probably as good as it gets on any zoom lens.
The auto focus on kit lenses is their worst feature, they almost all tend to be noisy and a bit clunky and if they don't get the focus first time they tend to fuss about badly trying again, obviously working as a professional portrait photographer you just cannot have this and you certainly do not get it with this lens.
The SuperSonic auto focus motor in this lens is very similar to the ones used by Canon in their massive 100 - 500mm zoom lenses, it is very, very fast at getting the focus for a shot even in poor lighting and if it doesn't get it first time (which is rare) then it will get it next time in only a fraction of a second and whilst doing all this you will not get the whirring and clunking you get from the budget kit lenses but you will instead get a very quiet buzz that only the photographer themselves will be likely to hear, this is great for the bigger zoom lenses as they are often used for wildlife photography and even the clunk of an auto focus can be enough to scare off animals or birds before you get the chance to photograph them.
There is also a dedicated auto focus to manual focus switch so when you need to focus manually or just want to then you can and there is the function to lock your focus too which can be a great thing in many photography situations.
There is no such thing as a perfect lens and I am not claiming this to be one, there are still some issues with barrel distortions at 24mm but this although detectable is not really a problem and would never be noticed unless the image was very tightly cropped and probably even then it would take a trained eye to spot it but it has to be said that it is there.
The lens is also somewhat prone to flare, this is mostly when outdoors shooting in bright sunlight but I have noticed it in the studio at times if I am using unusual lighting and have kicker lights I can get a little trouble with flare, the lens hood does help this situation but not cure it. I cure it In the studio using something called flags (too much to get into) but outdoors you simply have to shoot at angles that ensure you do not get the problem.
Ok so there you have an insight into one of the pro lenses I use and one that I would highly recommend to any Sony DSLR user that is looking to get into photography at a very serious level.
I guess now you are all wondering what you need to spend to grab yourselves one of these lenses, well let me tell you that you can grab a typical 18 - 70mm Sony kit lens for about £90 but if you want to play with the big boys and get your hands on this Sony SAL-2470Z 24 - 70mm lens then you will be looking at spending £1200 - £1300, which is lightly less than it first cost, I paid just over £1400 for this lens back in 2008 but a year and a half on and I am convinced that it has been worth every penny, I have taken somewhere in the region of 10,000 photos with this lens and you wouldn't know it was more than a month old to look at it or use it.
The lens still looks and operates as it did when it was brand new and of course being a pro and making money from my photography, it has paid for itself over and over again already. I would recommend this lens highly but if all you do is take snaps of the kids or very basic photography then unless you have money to burn you won't really be looking at outlaying this type of cash.
Aperture (Max.) : f/2.8
Aperture (Min.) : f/22 - 29
Aspheric Elements : 2 aspheric
Distance Encoder : Yes
Distance Scale : Yes
Filter Diameter : 77mm
Focal Length : APS: 24 - 70mm (35mm Equivalent: 36 - 105mm)
Lens Groups-Elements : 17 elements, 13 groups
Lens Type : Standard Zoom
Magnification : x 0.25
Minimum Focus Distance : 1' 1.8" (.34m)
Dimensions (Approx.) : 3 1/4 x 4 3/8" (83 x 111mm)
Weight (Approx.) : 2 lb. 1 oz (995 g)
LOOKS - 9/10
BUILD QUALITY - 9/10
OPTICAL QUALITY - 10/10
MECHANICAL QUALITY - 10/10
PERFORMANCE - 9/10
VALUE FOR MONEY - 10/10
OVERALL - 9.5/10
TO SUM UP:
This is a great lens in looks, build quality and performance, the images it produces are at least 5 times better in colour quality and in sharpness than any kit lens. It is not without problems as my review says but neither is any lens and the problems with this one are so miniscule that they are unlikely to even be noticed unless under test conditions.
The flare issue is the biggest problem the lens has but it can easily be got round and a lot of lenses with maximum apertures of f2.8 can get this and some much worse than this lens does. This lens has a top quality build in both its outer and its inner mechanical functions and it is a lens that will probably be doing the same job in ten years time if it is looked after properly.
It is of course a very expensive lens but if you want the very best from your photography then this is the type of money you will be looking at spending and it is in my opinion worth every penny of its large price tag and it will not let you down.
**As is often the case the quick rating guide from Dooyoo doesnt really apply to this item so I have just given full marks to everything**
Thanks for reading