Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Review

August 30, 2017 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM is a new premium wide-angle zoom lens for the Sony full-frame FE-mount cameras (A9/A7/A7R II/A7S). It has five aspherical elements, two of which are Sony’s XA (extreme aspherical) elements that reduce aberration and deliver ultimate resolution, and two ED (extra-low dispersion) elements. The lens is dust- and moisture-resistant and has a minimum focusing distance of 28cm with a maximum magnification of 0.19x. It has a near-circular 11 blade diaphragm which creates a very attractive blur to the out-of-focus areas of the image, while an internal focusing mechanism means the lens barrel doesn’t move. There's a Nano AR coating to help minimise flare and a fluorine coating to prevent dust and grease marks. The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens is available for around £2300 / $2200 in the UK and the US, respectively.

Ease of Use

Weighing in at 680 grams, the metal-bodied Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM feels extremely well-constructed. It's overall size and weight makes it feel quite well-balanced on the Sony A7R II body that we tested it with, as shown in the photos below. Note that the length of the lens does increase slightly by 2cm when you set the focal length to 16mm (the reverse of the older FE 16-35mm F4 lens).

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMThe Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens mounted on a Sony A7R II

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMThe Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens mounted on a Sony A7R II, set at 35mm

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMThe Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens mounted on a Sony A7R II, set at 16mm

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMThe Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens mounted on a Sony A7R II, set at 35mm

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMThe Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens mounted on a Sony A7R II, set at 16mm

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM has a sealed dust and moisture resistant design. It does not feature built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation.

The wide and ridged zoom ring and the narrower manual focus ring are the main external controls of note. Manual focusing is possible via the textured focus ring when set on the specific camera body. The lens utilizes two DDSSMs (Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave Motors) to produce quiet and smooth focusing, making it well-suited to shooting both stills and video.

There is also a customisable focus hold button and a lens hood release button.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMThe Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens alongside the Sony A7R II

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMSide of the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMSide of the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMSide of the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMSide of the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens has quite a wide focus ring. There are no hard stops at either end of the range, making it a little more difficult to set focus at infinity. Polariser users should be pleased that the 82mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM zoom is a quiet and quick performer on the Sony A7R II that we tested it with, taking about 0.15 seconds to lock onto the subject.

We didn't experience much "hunting", either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing almost all of the time, and it's also a quiet performer making it ideal for movie shooting.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMFront of the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMRear of the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens has a metal lens mount. It accepts 82mm filters via plastic threads and is commendably supplied with both a soft case and a fairly good quality plastic petal-shaped lens hood.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMThe Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens in-hand

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMThe Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens with the ALC-SH149 lens hood fitted

Focal Range

At the 16mm focal length the angle of view is 83 degrees.

 Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMField of view at 16mm

At the 35mm focal length the angle of view is 44 degrees.

 Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMField of view at 35mm

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as blue or purple fringes along contrasty edges, were almost completely absent from our test shots. The examples below show the worst-case scenario.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED

Light Fall-off and Distortion

With the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens set to its maximum aperture of f/2.8, there is some obvious light fall-off in the corners, requiring you to stop down by at least 3 f-stops to completely prevent it. There's some barrel distortion evident at 16mm, and at 35mm there's just a little pin-cushioning too.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMLight fall-off at 16mm

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMLight fall-off at 35mm

Macro

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM isn't claimed to be a macro lens, offering a minimum focusing distance of 28cm at 16mm, with a maximum magnification of 0.19x. The following example demonstrates how close you can get to your subject at 35mm, in this case a Compact Flash memory card.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GMClose-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. In the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM lens, Sony employed an iris diaphragm with 11 rounded aperture blades, which has resulted in very appealing bokeh in our view. We do realise, however, that bokeh evaluation is subjective, so we've included several 100% crops for your perusal.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM
   
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.