Sony 28-135mm Review – Why This Might Be “The” Cine Zoom Lens For You

bowerYU2A2096_2

I must admit, we’ve been looking forward to the new Sony 28-135mm F/4 zoom lens for quite a while now. Ever since we got our hands on the prototype at IBC we felt this was “the one” lens many have been waiting for (including ourselves).

Now it is here. We reviewed it exclusively and compared it to the Canon 24-105mm F/4. Let’s see if this lens is also “the one” for you.

Facts why this lens is interesting for many?

  • Supports full frame cameras (Like the Sony A7S)
  • Covers a great range on full frame (28-135mm)
  • Manual focus with min/infinity hard stops
  • F/4 all the way through
  • Has an internal zoom motor
  • Declicked (cine) iris
  • Small & lightweight compared to “real” Cine Zooms
  • Parfocal lens (keeps focus when focal length is changed)

YU2A2089Well, all this sounds like a dream come true.
YU2A2079So far filmmakers who wanted a lens for video either had to use an affordable photo lens that lacks many of the features that professionals need, OR use a cine zoom that is usually very heavy and unaffordable.

We’ve never had the best of both worlds, a “broadcast” lens for compact, DSLR stlye cameras, but it looks like the Sony 28-135mm has it all.

Let’s take a closer look.

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Optical Quality

We have an Imatest test chart for resolutions up to 6K here in our office and we compared some of the optical quality factors of the lenses.

All images were taken with a Sony A7S in 4K, recorded to an Atomos Shogun. (As this is the maximum resolution / quality most people will use)
We compared the Sony 28-135mm to the Canon 24-105mm, as the latter is still THE go-to lens for full frame videographers who want to cover a wide zoom range.

In Camera Lens Compensation

Sony’s newest cameras feature in-camera lens compensation to correct for corner shading, chromatic aberrations, and geometric distortion. That’s why the Sony A7S will automatically make any Sony lens look better even when in video mode. Of course no Canon lens with a Metabones adapter will make use of this functionality.
The benefits of in-camera lens compensation will reflect positively on the Sony lens in this test. And this on it’s own is already an argument for the Sony lens.

Winner: Sony

Distortion

Looking at the Sony 28-135mm image it is almost 100% straight at any focal length. Quite impressive. Probably not even an expensive cine lens could compete as the Sony lens makes use of the in-camera lens compensation feature.
Looking at the 24-105mm image in comparison it distorts in and out on zoom. Applying manual lens correction in post we can also get a more straight image from the Canon, but this is usually not an option in video, definitely not when varying focal lengths are involved.
On the Sony at 70mm there is 1 pixel distortion on a horizontal line at the upper edge of the image. On the Canon at 70mm it’s 21 pixels. The performance on the Canon is still good.

Winner: Sony

Brightness Wide Open Issue

People who have used the Canon 24-105mm F/4 lens know that F/4 is not actually F/4. Especially when zooming in the image becomes radically darker. On the Canon at 28mm as well as 70mm we observed that the image had to be brightened up in post by 0.55 stops to retain the correct brightness throughout. The  Sony lens had to be brightened up by 0.2 stops.
The Sony doesn’t have a clean F/4 either, instead it seems to start at F/4.2. However it performs a lot better than the Canon.

Winner: Sony

Chromatic Aberration

Sony-vs-Canon_chromaticWhen comparing colour fringing between the two lenses (at 28mm F/4.0) we see that both lenses perform quite well wide open. Again, probably due to the in-camera lens compensation feature chromatic aberration on the Sony 28-135mm lens is practically invisible. (Crop area from the far left)

Sony-vs-Canon_chromatic_numbersBut even on the Canon performance seems rather good. On the Canon there’s little difference between chromatic aberration on F/4 or F/8 for example and it’s all hardly noticeable shooting 4K at F/4.

The measured Lateral Chromatic Aberration on the whole image goes up to about 0.1 pixels on the image edges for the Sony 28-135mm @28mm and F/4.0 while it goes up to about 0.35 pixels on the Canon 24-105mm @28mm and F/4.0.

Winner: Sony

 Vignetting

We didn’t measure Vignetting in detail. Both lenses have some degree of vignetting, but it is not severe. It is most apparent when fully zoomed in on both lenses and it is more severe on the Canon than on the Sony.

Winner: Sony

Detail

Sony-vs-Canon_detail_70mmBoth lenses create a very sharp image at 4K. There is a certain degree of softness at the edges with a wide open aperture. Both lenses perform a little differently at different focal lengths. (Crop samples from corners)

Sony-vs-Canon_detail_28mm@ 28mm Sony is sharper. Sony quite sharp even at F/4.0. Canon retains some softness at F/8.0
@ 70mm Canon is sharper. Sony retains a lot of softness at the edges even at F/8.0
@ 105mm Canon performs good.
@ 135mm Sony is quite sharp and performs better than Canon @105.

Winner: Both

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Concluding optical the Sony lens wins in (almost) all areas. In terms of looks theSony is a lot cooler (more neutral) than the Canon and appears to have a tad more contrast.

Hands-On

In terms of handling these lenses are quite different.

Sony 28-135mm F/4.0Canon 24-105mm F/4.0
Full FrameYesYes
Hard StopsYesNo
Parfocal LensYesNo
Soft IrisYesNo
Servo ZoomYesNo
Manual ZoomManual Through ServoYes
Zoom ElementsInternal Zoom (good)Lens Extends (bad)
Focus Throwca 140°ca 100°
Near Limit0.4m0.45m
MacroNoNo
Weight1120g670g

Size & Weight

In terms of size & weight the Sony 28-135mm might be a lot less clumsy than other cine zooms, but it’s almost twice as heavy and twice as big as the Canon 24-105mm.

On the Sony A7S I must admit this makes a huge impact. Not the camera, but the lens becomes the centre of attention as it’s much more heavy than the camera itself. While many aspects of the lens make it more ergonomic, this point can be a huge drawback.

Because of it’s weight, you will in many cases be forced to use a rig or tripod to use the lens properly. Shooting from the hand is not so easy (but possible).

Where’s the lens cap?

It seems Sony decided to ship this lens without a lens cap. Instead users are forced to use the clumsy “mattebox” lens shade that comes with it and has a square cover.

YU2A2083The lens comes with a plastic cover protection. But this is paper thin, barely remains on the lens and is definitely not a replacement for a proper lens-cap.

All Electronic / Zoom

YU2A2082The Sony 28-135mm is a hybrid cine / broadcast / compact lens. It is obviously an attempt to merge electronic control with manual control.

YU2A2081We notice when we see that the focus ring is actually the only mechanical part on this lens.
Both the zoom as well as the aperture are controlled by internal servos while the gear rings only serve as controllers. They do a pretty good job at that and at first it’s quite hard to notice.

YU2A2080This servo control has both advantages and disadvantages:

The servo zoom lets you control the camera via a zoom rocker that is built into the lens. This micro zoom rocker has 2-3 zoom speed stages and allows for surprisingly smooth zoom control right on the lens.

On Sony cameras that support an external zoom rocker the lens zoom can be controlled remotely. This is extremely handy and makes this lens work like a traditional broadcast lens. The Sony FS7 handgrip comes with this functionality.

The downside: No possibility to do crash zooms! So you cannot zoom in very quickly, you’re always restricted to the pacing of the servo.
Crash zooming comes in very handy for fast documentary style focusing on parfocal lenses. The Sony 28-135mm is a parfocal lens, meaning it stays in focus when the focal length is changed.

Image Stabiliser

In the video above I compared the optical image stabilisation between the Sony 28-135mm and the Canon 24-105mm. As you can see the Sony performs a little better both at wide angles as well as fully zoomed in. The Canon image stabiliser is good and has a natural feel, but the Sony stabiliser seems more consistent and efficient, especially at wide angles.

Build Quality

The build quality of the Sony 28-135mm can be felt immediately when the lens is taken out of the box. It’s dust and moisture resistant, made of high quality materials and feels very solid. The gear rings are made of strong rubber and thus provide a very good grip for use with your hands.

Some Concerns

YU2A2086On our test lens the lens support bracket wasn’t locked hard enough for larger setups.
In our test we used the Sony A7S with an Atomos Shogun. With minor force the whole setup was rotatable thus not offering enough safety as a lens support bracket for video.

There is no focal length indicator on the lens or in camera, so it is not possible see which focal length you’re on. Only during zoom in zoom servo mode there is a readout on the camera screen.

28-135mm is a great focal length range for a full-frame zoom lens. When used with a super 35mm or APS-C sized sensor like the Sony FS7, then the focal length is not ideal and could be for many too narrow.

[UPDATE]: The front diameter of this lens is 95mm. As it is usually essential on cameras like the Sony A7S to equip the lens with an ND filter this is a problematic undertaking. Most VariND filters max out at a diameter of 82mm.
But there are 2 solution2:
• The Bower 95mm Vari ND.
(found by Matt Allard from newsshooter.com)
The B+W XS-Pro 95mm Vari ND (professiossenial glass)

Some Surprises

The zoom ring rotation direction can be switched in-camera.

YU2A2087The iris ring can be set to step increments, or smooth iris (de-clicked). The iris can be controlled in-camera as well.

The iris ring can be locked down, so it is not changed by accident.

The lens has auto focus as well. It works similarly fast to other Sony photo lenses.
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 Conclusion

The Sony FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS Lens is truly a stunner. It comes with many very useful (if not essential) features for professional shooters and brings broadcast lens functionality into the full frame world at a compact size.

Optically the lens is better than the very popular Canon EF 24-105mm lens in any area. The great build quality, internal zoom, parfocal construction and superb image stabilisation make it a lens of choice for video shooters and justify the price difference. (Canon EF 24-105mm costs half at $1150)

So yes, it delivers all a video lens for full frame should have, but it doesn’t come without downsides you should consider: It is twice as heavy as the Canon 24-105 and it is definitely more clumsy to use. While the servo zoom is beneficial it won’t let you do crash zooms. Also remember this lens only works on Sony cameras, while Canon lenses can be adapted to Sony.

Other small points of concern are the missing front cap and support bracket that can’t be fully locked.

Aside from these minor design flaws the lens offers really a lot of essential benefits that any full frame documentary style shooter will enjoy. Most importantly the focal length of 28-135mm is just ideal for full frame, while it may not be ideal for super 35mm sized sensors.

All in all, if you can live with the weight of the lens, and if you use Sony cameras, then we think this piece of gear is well worth every dollar of the $2,498 investment it requires.

The lens will start shipping next week. If you enjoyed this review, please pre-order it at our partner B&H HERE.

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Faris Dobrača
Guest

Good combination.

Clemens Milan Polywka
Guest

Nice setup!!

David Oesch
Member

Don’t get the review. I am not a Canon Fanboy but the lense is almost as good, much cheaper & lighter than the one from Sony. Why taking the huge lense just because it’s slightly better? There has to be a HUGE difference that I would go for the bigger one.

People who don’t need that much zoom are better of with the TAMRON SP 24-70mm F/2.8 for Canon. An incredibly good lense with much wider aperture. I worked with it once and can only recommend it.

Kent Nichols
Member

So weird that a lens designed for a camera and that retails at 3x the price is better than the Canon. I’m shocked! Shocked!

Dan Taylor
Member

Why is price not mentioned in this comparison? The Canon is a fraction of the cost and nearly as good. Doesn’t make much sense to the frugal filmmaker at all!

Dave Wellner
Member

I have this combo, got the lens yesterday — delighted —

Darren Lafreniere
Guest

You didn’t comment on the servo controlled focus. Were you able to get repeatable focus pulls?

Cinema5D
Guest

Hi Darren, The Focus is not servo controlled as mentioned in the review. Focus pulls are absolutely repeatable.

Tyler
Guest
Tyler

For a proper cine style lens this is remarkably cheap. DSLR filmmakers (myself included) have gotten used to working with photo lenses and their inherent shortcomings when applied to video, so I can see why the immediate benefit doesn’t seem obvious. BUT, having a parfocal lens, with hard stops, with usable smooth zoom control, a nice long focus throw, a versatile focal range and constant f4 is amazing at this price point. I think this will be a huge winner in the full frame video world. The biggest concern to me is not the price (I think Sony has priced… Read more »

Tyler
Guest
Tyler

I meant to say: “…it’s very clumsy withOUT any kind of rig.”

Good review and very helpful tests. One question that I’m hoping someone can answer is how does it perform as a stills lens? Is this AF very responsive in photo mode?

 Simpson Sean
Member
Clemens Milan Polywka
Guest

Wow, this is really a decent lens!

Sven Henig
Member

Thank you for the interesting review. But if you look at a normal EB-Zoom Lens with the powerful motor in the grip, you can image why internal zooming with that lens is much slower and crash zooms are impossible.

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Member

Don’t forget about the supposedly much sharper Sigma ART 24-105mm F4, if you’re taling about new lenses and not the fairly soft, old Canon 24-105.

Rick Sullivan
Member

I’ve just received my Sony 28-135 and am still trying to understand how to utilize the auto iris. I’ve only been able to work iris manually so far. Any early out of the box tips?

Thanks!

Rick

Palmer
Guest
Palmer

“There is no focal length indicator on the lens or in camera”

WTF? That’s unacceptable. And power zoom? How lazy can we get? The added bulk of a motor to drive zoom, plus the speed limitation, makes this a major detraction and not a benefit.

Also: Does this Sony lens have an EF mount? If not, why are we comparing it to one that does?

Johnnie Behiri
Admin

Hi Palmer.

The Sony lens has no EF mount but the Canon 24-105mm together with the Metabones Canon EF to Sony NEX adapter will nicely work on the Sony camera.

Thank you

Johnnie

Tony Robinson
Member

For clarity’s sake, you can NOT turn the servo zoom off at all? So no matter the situation, a crash zoom is simply NOT possible? If so, this seems like a HUGE oversight!

Johnnie Behiri
Admin

Hi Tony.

It is a “fly by wire” lens. You can not turn the servo zoom off.

Thank you

Johnnie

Tony Robinson
Member

Thanks Johnnie.

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[…] Cinema5D (Click here) is among the first to review the new Sony 28-135mm FE lens and writes: […]

David Peterson - "Sound Speeds!"
Member

Sounds like if this this had built in ND filters it would be radically better (or perhaps the A7s mk2 body could get that)

Gianfranco Guccione
Guest

Noooooooooo, well done

 Andrea Daviddi
Member

Thanks for the nice review wöber! Being used to shoot with eng sony cameras I can totally see the benefits of this lens (finally a parfocal lens with servo zoom!).
Too bad for the slow servo though.
Tomorrow I’ll definetly pay a visit to the sony center to check it out :-)

Michael Dubrow
Member

The Formatt-Hitech variable ND filter is a signficnatly higher quality filter than the mediocre Bower mentioned in your review.

https://www.formatt-hitech.com/en/product/30-98~105mm-Multistop-Fader

Leo Murphy
Member

The Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 is still THE zoom lens for event/documentary work for me, as I’m on APS-C and M43: has a decent image quality across the board, even wide open, and is (by incident of its design) PARFOCAL! Still, this looks like a fantastic upgrade for me if I move up to an A7s/FS7 setup.

Kent Pope
Member

Leo, I picked up the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens this week for a shoot with my PXW-FS7. I did some dolly shots in a clinic patient room. I heard great things about this very affordable lens. The Canon 24-105mm and 24-70mm just don’t make sense for me with this camera or any 1.5 crop camera. 24mm isn’t nearly wide enough and f/4 isn’t fast enough. I was very impressed with the sharpness of the sigma and while I didn’t get a chance to put it on a chart before I had to shoot with it, it… Read more »

James Cottingham
Member

Great review. This is without a doubt one of the best lens pairs with an A7S. Grab a VCT-VPR1 remote control (and throw out the crappy tripod it comes with) as the zoom speed is increased. not sure why but it works great. Atomos Shogun, A7S and the 28-135mm lens = Killer Combo. fair enough it’s not cheap, but try and find something else that comes even close in that price bracket with so many features. you won’t regret the purchase :)

Alexander Tardif
Guest
Alexander Tardif

Hi folks, I just got this glass few days ago and only had a few short hours to play with it. Some initial feedback for those who care is below. Take this with a huge grain of salt as I’m a photographer, and just now getting into video, so my initial take is based on the things I’m comfortable with (stills, not video). 1) Optical quality is good, but definitely not amazing. I’ve done side-by-side controlled comparisons with Sony’s only mid-telephoto zoom, the FE 70-200 (which is quite an amazing lens). When you look at the 28-135 on it’s own,… Read more »

Jesse Lim Jia Nian
Member

Seems like a good range for portrait shots! Almost cover both my Zeiss 24-70 and the 70-200G~

Mark Weiss
Member

I use this lens with my FS7. Aside from being too narrow and light hungry, it produces the closest to perfect images I’ve EVER seen.

I wish Sony would release a wider version of this lens. Even at 5 grand, it would still be a bargain.

 Mur Dzhi
Member

Of course you can do crash zooms! All you need to do is switch from servo to manual mode!

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[…] “Optically the lens is better than the very popular Canon EF 24-105mm lens in any area. The great build quality, internal zoom, parfocal construction and superb image stabilisation make it a lens of choice for video shooters and justify the price difference.” – Sebastian Wöber, Cinema5D […]

Javier Rey
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Javier Rey

Thanks a lot Sebastian for a great review. I’m sure this is an spectacular cine lens for sony cameras. I’m wondering how this lens will do with the tiny a6300. Any thoughts? Yes, agree, it would be like breeding elefants and ants :-D, but still, beside the “steric” concerns, how it would do?

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[…] Sony 28-135mm Review – Why This May Be "The" Zoom Lens – Sony 28-135mm Review – Why This Might Be “The” Cine Zoom Lens For You […]

 simeone Ricci
Member
simeone Ricci

This’s a joke??!! You are making a comparision between a 2500 lens and a 600 one?! One is a photo lens the other is a cine lens. The canon is much wider so has more critical sharpeness wide open at the max zoom range. And infact what really counts is that at 70 the canon is much better. that the optimum focal lenght for both lenses For the bucks and for the fact the canon is much wider is a much sharper lens… you are not making a comparision between two fixed lens but between two zoom lenses and of… Read more »

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[…] 165mm  | Diameter: 102mm  | Weight: 1215g  | Filter Thread: 95mm  | Price (August 2017): $2498 Review |  Amazon.com (affiliate […]

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[…] I really like the look im getting from it. It’s sharp from f4 and all the way up. Knocks any affordable lens out that I have tried including the much loved Canon EF 24-105, which it beats in all areas (according to Cinema 5D). […]

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[…] I really like the look im getting from it. It’s sharp from f4 and all the way up. Knocks any affordable lens out that I have tried including the much loved Canon EF 24-105, which it beats in all areas (according to Cinema 5D). […]