Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II review: wide-angle wonder

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One of the champion wide-angle zoom lenses conscionable got adjacent better. Landscape and question photographers volition emotion the size, weight, edge-to-edge detail, and minimal aberrations of the caller Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens. Thanks to the improved close-up ability, wedding photographers and filmmakers tin sprout the reception, archetypal dance, and close-up details each with 1 lens. Yes, it is an costly lens, arsenic each specified premium zoom lenses are. However, the 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens volition surely spell to the apical of the privation database for galore Sony users acknowledgment to its improvements implicit its predecessor.


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    Excellent edge-to-edge representation quality

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    New aperture ring, with clickless function

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    Smaller and lighter than its predecessor


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    Premium price

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    Improvements whitethorn not warrant an upgrade for existing users

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Two-minute review

The 16-35mm focal magnitude zoom, oregon its equivalent, is 1 of the astir fashionable lenses successful immoderate manufacturer's line-up. Offering the 16mm presumption fashionable amongst scenery photographers, it is besides versatile for thoroughfare photography oregon adjacent immoderate portraits astatine the 35mm end. This is without mentioning its usage for video, wherever it is the zoom lens galore videographers whitethorn arsenic good glue to their camera. 

The 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens is the 4th 16-35mm lens successful Sony's full-frame E mount, pursuing connected from the archetypal Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS, which was released astir a twelvemonth aft the motorboat of the archetypal Sony Alpha 7 and 7R cameras. Sony followed this with the f/2.8 G Master mentation of the lens, which was announced successful 2017. That lens is the 1 you volition find successful galore Sony user's camera bags, with it being 1 of the astir fashionable lenses successful the Sony line-up. Then, past year, Sony announced a caller f/4 version, the FE PZ 16-35mm f/4 G lens.

With the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 GM lenses some present connected their 2nd generation, it was lone a substance of clip earlier 16-35mm f/2.8 received a akin upgrade; but what precisely is new?

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens outdoors connected  a rock

(Image credit: Future)

The astir evident starting constituent is the size and value of the lens. It is comparatively tiny for an f/2.8 lens. Sony quotes it arsenic the smallest and lightest f/2.8 zoom lens successful their FE line-up. The caller lens is 121.6 mm long, 10.1mm shorter than the erstwhile version. Thanks to the simplification successful length, owed to the antithetic optical construction, it weighs successful astatine 547g, immoderate 133g lighter, which marks a 20% simplification successful weight. That sounds similar a insignificant woody successful implicit terms, but erstwhile hiking, each spot of value saved tin wage dividends. 

It is worthy noting the filter thread size of the caller lens is 82mm, which is the aforesaid arsenic its predecessor and the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens G Master II lens. 

It has a person absorption region of 22cm compared to the erstwhile lens, which had 28cm. This results successful a maximum magnification quality of 0.32x compared to 0.19x. This is utile for videographers shooting close-ups oregon merchandise shots without changing to different lens.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens outdoors connected  a rock

(Image credit: Future)

All this magic has been achieved with an optical statement designed wholly in-house by Sony. In the past fewer years, it is awesome however exotic lens elements person recovered themselves successful the bulk alternatively than the minority.

The caller FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens consists of 15 elements successful 12 groups. Of these lenses, determination are 3x XA (Extreme Aspherical) lenses, 1 ED ASPH (Extra Low Dispersion Aspherical) lens, 2x ED (Extra Low Dispersion) lenses, and 1x Super ED lens. Each of these lenses plays a portion successful ensuring that that lens controls curvilinear distortion, chromatic aberration, ghosting, and flare amended than the 2017 lens. And acknowledgment to immoderate of these elements floating, the lens besides features interior focusing.

Speaking of focusing, absorption breathing is said to person been reduced. In immoderate Sony cameras, specified arsenic the FX3, you tin compensate for the absorption breathing erstwhile shooting video electronically.

The lens features each the hallmarks of the existent procreation of Sony G Master lenses. One important caller summation is the aperture ring, which includes a 'clickless' power to let creaseless aperture changes erstwhile shooting video. There is besides an 'Iris Lock' power to forestall accidental changes successful the aperture oregon distant from the 'A' settings.

Closeup of Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens outdoors connected  a rock

(Image credit: Future)

Around the lens tube are customized buttons that by default are absorption buttons, but they tin beryllium utilized for immoderate fig of features successful the camera menu. As good arsenic for focusing, I recovered them adjuvant successful switching betwixt full-frame and APS-C harvest mode, which tin beryllium particularly useful erstwhile shooting video, and the lens seems similar a earthy spot to adhd this arsenic a customized button. It is besides adjuvant for things similar turning Zebra patterning connected and off. 

The lens has a earthy familiarity and volition beryllium nary astonishment to Sony shooters regarding its physique and handling. 

I can't accidental that I noticed the value of the lens - that would lone beryllium seen with a side-by-side comparison, but it feels compact for a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. I was acrophobic astir however it would enactment connected the arsenic compact assemblage of the A7C II, which is the smallest and lightest full-frame interchangeable-lens integer camera with an optical in-body representation stabilization mechanism. In practice, the tiny zoom lens paired good with the camera, making an fantabulous question zoom operation portion offering maine an f/2.8 aperture to sprout successful debased light, instrumentality shallow depth-of-field shots, and adjacent the unusual close-up image.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II terms and merchandise date

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens costs $2,300 /£2,400 / AU$3,700 and volition beryllium disposable from September 2023. At launch, the lens is $100 / £100 / AU$200 much than its predecessor, which fixed ostentation and a wide summation successful the terms of immoderate tech, isn't excessively bad, however, successful 2023, this archetypal procreation exemplary costs $2,200 / £2,000 / AU$2,700 caller and could driblet further, which poses an absorbing dilemma depending connected the region, for those who don't already ain a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens and are looking to get one. 

If the F4 aperture is capable for you, determination are 2 different cheaper Sony FE options; the aging VARIO-TESSAR T* FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS, which has a utilized terms of astir $750 / £500, oregon the much caller FE PZ 16-35mm f/4 G lens. This compact f/4 lens is fantabulous for video and question and costs $1,200 / £839 / AU£1,599. While the representation prime whitethorn not lucifer this caller f/2.8 lens, it again offers bully worth for those who don't request the f/2.8 aperture, and the PZ (Power Zoom) means it tin nutrient creaseless zoom shots erstwhile shooting video. 

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens distortion examples

Before I tally done immoderate of the representation prime findings, it is worthy pointing retired that astatine the clip of testing, I could not look astatine the earthy images, truthful immoderate commentary connected the representation prime is based connected looking astatine HEIC consecutive retired of the camera. 

I tested for chromatic aberration by turning disconnected Chromatic Aberration correction successful the Sony A7C Mark II and shooting up done the branches of trees against a agleam but overcast sky. At 16mm f/2.8, nary important chromatic aberration is disposable successful the corners erstwhile looking astatine 33-million-pixel images astatine 100%. Only erstwhile I viewed them connected my Macbook astatine 400% could I spot the faintest hint of chromatic aberration, astir 1 pixel successful size astir high-contrast edges. The colour of the aberration is not precise saturated, and it is amongst the champion show successful this respect that I person seen from a wide-angle zoom lens. Turning Chromatic Aberration correction successful the camera settings, and nary chromatic aberration was disposable astatine 100%, and looking astatine 400%, you can't spot immoderate either, though determination is simply a hint that immoderate removal has occurred. This is pixel peeping to the extreme, and successful reality, chromatic aberration isn't an issue.

Screenshot of magnified presumption    of histrion   leaves, displaying immoderate  chromatic aberration of the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens astatine  maximum aperture

Magnified presumption of histrion leaves, displaying immoderate chromatic aberration of the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens astatine maximum aperture (Image credit: Future)

Brick partition  changeable  astatine  the wide   focal magnitude   and maximum aperture of Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens to amusement   immoderate  vignetting oregon  tube  distortion

Brick partition changeable astatine the wide focal magnitude and maximum aperture of Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens to amusement immoderate vignetting oregon tube distortion (Image credit: Future)

Shooting astatine the 35mm focal magnitude and f/2.8, I couldn't spot immoderate chromatic aberration. Turning the correction connected made nary existent difference, arsenic determination wasn't immoderate determination to statesman with. 

It is simply a akin communicative with vignetting. With vignetting correction turned off, you tin spot it erstwhile shooting a azygous aboveground astatine f/2.4-f/4, but by f/5.6, it isn't noticeable. Switch connected the in-camera correction, and it has gone. Again, successful 2023, erstwhile we each person entree to representation editing software, vignetting isn't a concern.

Curvilinear distortion is disposable with the correction turned off, with tube distortion astatine 16mm and a flimsy pincushion astatine 35mm. The in-camera correction fundamentally takes attraction of some of these, and again, determination is nary crushed not to sprout with these lens corrections turned on. Given the lens design's complexity, the mean curvilinear distortion level is impressive. We'll person to hold and spot what the earthy files look similar with the illustration applied, but erstwhile again, the optical plan is bully capable that the integer correction makes airy enactment of the task. 

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II illustration images

Sample representation  taken with the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II of flowers, adjacent  up, showing improved minimum absorption   distance

(Image credit: Future)

The sharpness of the lens is fantabulous successful the halfway of the frame, whether you are astatine 16mm oregon 35mm. In shots I made of foliage; images look their sharpest betwixt f/5.6 and f/11. There is simply a flimsy driblet astatine f/16, arsenic determination is astatine f/2.8, but the world is that this is erstwhile again lone noticeable done utmost pixel peeping and for those with photograph lens charts. In practice, the lone clip determination is simply a perceivable driblet is erstwhile shooting astatine f/22, but adjacent this, I would usage astatine a pinch, particularly with immoderate of the sharpening bundle tools present connected the market. Images are afloat of defined item that is crisp.

Of course, it is successful the corners astatine 16mm wherever you would expect to spot immoderate softness, but the HEIC files are impressively crisp and elaborate astatine the corners. Yes, astatine the precise corner, they deficiency the wound successful explanation successful the center, but idiosyncratic blades of writer and adjacent soil tin beryllium made retired successful immoderate of the images I took. It is excellent. Sadly, I didn't person the archetypal 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master to marque a nonstop comparison, but having utilized that lens, my instinct is that this lens is perceivably better.

Shooting immoderate close-up shots of flowers showed conscionable however adjacent you tin get with the lens. Despite having specified a wide tract of view, the extent of tract is remarkably shallow, truthful portion bokeh looks creaseless and large astatine f/2.8, you whitethorn beryllium champion opening up a small to f/4 oregon f/5.6 erstwhile wanting to marque definite things similar flowers are wholly successful focus. 

The exotic lens elements and second-generation Nano AR coating did a large occupation keeping lens flare and ghosting nether control. Shooting into a mounting sun, the 11 rounded aperture blades of the lens produced a beauteous 22-point prima prima (see below), portion the flare was good controlled and produced precisely what you would expect it to. Besides this utmost situation, I didn't announcement immoderate different cases wherever I had an unwanted flare successful the image, and the petal-shaped lens hood did its job, preventing airy from coming successful astatine crisp angles. 

Sample representation  taken with the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II of sunstars, astatine  f/11 aperture

(Image credit: Future)

When it came to focusing, the biggest compliment I tin springiness is that it conscionable worked. With a wide-angle zoom, the lens doesn't person arsenic overmuch enactment to bash shifting elements backmost and distant arsenic it would accidental with thing similar a 100-400mm lens, and the extent of tract isn't arsenic shallow as, say, shooting with an 85mm f/1.4 lens. The effect is that the lens could support up with immoderate I asked of it, whether shooting photos oregon video. I utilized the continuous AF of the A7C II for overmuch of the trial and utilized tracking to fastener connected to what I wanted successful focus, past reframed the creation arsenic I wanted. Limited to 10fps shooting with the A7C II, the lens had nary contented keeping Eye-AF connected my lad arsenic helium ran around. I besides changeable immoderate vlogging-style video footage, and erstwhile again, the absorption stayed locked onto my face. Sony claims that the lens tin support up with focusing astatine 4k 120fps. There isn't overmuch much to accidental different than I could spot it to get the shot.

Should I bargain the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens?

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens outdoors connected  a rock

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You are a nonrecreational wedding lensman oregon filmmaker
The wide-angle zoom volition let you to instrumentality each those radical shots successful a choky space, with immoderate large overhead shots lasting connected a chair. At the aforesaid time, you tin instrumentality close-up shots of each those costly wedding details.

Size and value substance to you
There whitethorn beryllium a flimsy value redeeming successful existent presumption implicit the erstwhile lens, but that each adds up successful your camera bag. If you person the archetypal procreation 16-35mm f/2.8 lens and question oregon hike, past it whitethorn beryllium worthy the upgrade implicit the beingness of the lens.

Image prime is everything
The erstwhile 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master lens was excellent, and this 2nd iteration is adjacent better. This is the wide-angle zoom for those that request the champion item possible. 

Don't bargain it if...

You don't request to sprout astatine f/2.8
At astir 30% of the terms of the caller 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, you tin acquisition the FE PZ 16-35mm f/4 G lens. The smaller maximum aperture means the f/4 lens is smaller and lighter. It whitethorn not person the low-light show and shallower extent of field; but if you sprout astatine f/8, you whitethorn beryllium arsenic good served by the cheaper lens.

You're a thoroughfare photographer
It's communal with zoom lenses that radical volition sprout astatine either utmost of the lens. If you sprout thoroughfare photographs and won't usage the 16mm focal magnitude that often, you whitethorn beryllium overmuch amended off, financially and successful presumption of representation quality, getting the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 G Master lens.

You request a wide-angle zoom
While the 20-70mm is wider than astir modular zooms, it’s not arsenic wide arsenic a wide-angle zoom. So, if you’re connected a fund see the Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS and if you person a larger fund and would similar Sony’s champion wide-angle zoom, the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM is for you.

How I tested the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens

I tested the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II lens connected a Sony A7C Mark II camera. I tried the lens successful respective antithetic situations portion connected holiday, utilizing it arsenic a question oregon scenery photographer. This gave maine real-life acquisition of utilizing the lens.

Alongside looking intimately astatine the item successful these images, I photographed a ceramic partition astatine minimum and maximum focal lengths, with in-camera distortion corrected turned connected and off, to cheque for curvilinear distortion. I utilized this aforesaid trial to cheque for vignetting successful the corners of the framework and photographed looking up astatine histrion branches to cheque for chromatic aberration. 

During the real-world investigating of the lens, I utilized a assortment of antithetic aperture settings and focusing methods to spot however the lens performed.

First reviewed September 2023

Richard Sibley

Richard Sibley is simply a lensman and writer passionate astir question and scenery photography. With implicit 15 years of acquisition penning and reviewing successful the photograph industry, helium was formerly Deputy Editor astatine Amateur Photographer mag and has had his words and images published successful galore different magazines and websites. Richard combines his emotion for photography with a heavy involvement successful exertion and gadgets. Beyond his nonrecreational pursuits, Richard embraces fatherhood and finds solace successful gardening, acold plunges, agelong walks, and listening to podcasts. He is an aspiring minimalist, though the changeless lure of caller gadgets importantly challenges this ideal. 

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