Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Wide Angle Zoom Lens Review
The Sony 16-35 mm f/2.8 is my favorite lens for the Sony E mount. Truthfully, it comes on all my trips and is the one lens I take if I can only bring one.
I’ve used this lens to photograph everything from rock climbing to weddings and it suits my creative style very well.
The focal length range is very versatile. The lens captures big open landscapes at 16mm and intimate moments at 35mm. I absolutely love the flexibility of the zoom range while also getting a relatively fast aperture of f/2.8.
If you want a very high-quality wide-angle lens for Sony this is my top recommendation. I’ve owned the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 for over 4 years now and am on my second copy after dropping the first one. Oops!
It’s a pretty durable lens and I’ve taken it up mountains and over cliffs, but I guess it’s not “drop in the parking lot” proof!
Let’s dive into the build of this lens.
Table of Contents
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 Specs
- Very sharp
- Lightweight for the focal range
- Rugged and durable
- Versatile focal range
- No Image Stabilization
- Sony E-Mount/Full Frame Lens
- Aperture Range: f/2.8 – f/22
- Minimum Focus Distance: 11.02″ / 28 cm
- Weight: 1.5 lb / 680 g
- Length: 4.8″ / 121 mm
- Diameter: 3.5″ / 88 mm
- Filter size: 82mm
Build & Ergonomics
Being a G-Master lens, the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 is Sony’s premium quality wide-angle zoom.
G-Master lenses are lenses with the “Gold Master” designation. They are designed to focus quickly in keeping pace with Sony’s impressive fast focus technology.
Naturally, being a wide-angle zoom lens means it’s on the larger side, but this lens still feels balanced on the camera. In general, I like my gear to be lightweight and not bulky, which is one of the big reasons I am a Sony shooter.
The zoom ring and focus ring have nice rubber grips. And the lens has a weather-sealed rear mount allowing for worry-free shooting in the elements. I like to be able to take my gear everywhere and not be hesitant to use it, so durability is a big plus.
The lens has an auto/manual focus switch which is nice for video shooters. And it has a focus hold button which I think is nice when programmed for eye AF.
This lens does not have image stabilization but I’m ok with that. The lack of optical stabilization hasn’t been a problem for me since the in-body stabilization is getting so good.
Lenses and the cameras they sit on work together as a team – and the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 is a good teammate to have.
The lens still offers standard front thread-on filters, unlike some other super wide zoom lenses. This is an advantage to me since there are definitely times that I’m using filters and threading them on is convenient.
The Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 lens does extend as you zoom out but only a minor amount. This allows the lens to be a little more compact when zoomed in to 35mm.
Overall, the build and ergonomics of this lens are very satisfactory for the size required of a wide-angle zoom. As I mentioned, I take this lens everywhere and trust it to do the heavy lifting.
But, again, don’t drop it in the parking lot!
Next up is focus performance, which on this lens is excellent. The Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 lens performs well both in low light and when tracking fast action. Win-win.
The AF is silent and very quick. That’s a big bonus when I’m trying to capture a moving target in my adventures on the trails or on a wedding day.
Overall, I’ve never had any issues in shooting everything from mountain biking to weddings. This lens just works when it comes to focusing, which is something I really appreciate.
Not only does it pair well with my creative style but it doesn’t let me down on game day.
When it comes to image quality, the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 lens really shines. It offers fantastic sharpness throughout the zoom and aperture range.
Bokeh is something you won’t get unless you focus on a very close subject. But that’s the nature of a wide-angle lens. Carry this lens along with the Sony 88mm f/1.8 to cover those instances when you want bokeh or compression.
Like all wide-angle lenses, this lens does have some distortion but it’s easily correctable in lightroom or photoshop making this a non-issue.
Chromatic aberration is well controlled and there are really no concerns with image quality. This GM lens lives up to its designation.
The flare with this lens is minimal and only visible when intentionally pointing it directly toward the sun. Some people may enjoy the flare but for the most part, it stays invisible.
Overall, this is the best 16-35mm lens I’ve owned and as my favorite focal length for over a decade, that’s saying something!
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 Sample Images
Here are some sample images which were taken with the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8, using a Sony a7 III (reviewed here).
Alternatives to Sony 16-35mm f/2.8
When it comes to wide-angle zoom lenses, not many alternatives are available. However, I’ll talk through a few to help you with your decision.
Sony makes a 12-24mm f/2.8 but this is a little too wide for my preference.
Sigma also offers a 14-24mm f/2.8 but again, too wide for me.
Tamron offers a 17-28mm which is getting closer but I’ve never liked the reversed zoom/focus rings. However, this lens is good value if you’re on a budget.
You could look at getting two prime lenses in the focal range. Maybe you look at getting a 20mm and a 35mm. You could lose the versatility of the zoom. Or depending on your shooting style and the situations you’re in, maybe you only need the 35mm.
If you’re not worried about low light performance, the Sony 16-35mm f/4 PZ was just released and gets good reviews.
The Sony 14mm f/1.8 is a great ultra-wide angle lens that I reviewed previously for Shotkit, but being a fixed ultra-wide focal length, it’s of limited use.
And lastly, the Sony 16-35mm f/4 ZA is an old but still solid lens. It is also very affordable but sacrifices some sharpness and low light performance.
As with all camera gear, it’s about deciding the value for your specific needs. Since this is one of my most used lenses, I’m not willing to make compromises. But let’s dive into value to help you decide if it’s worth it for you.
Value for Money
Let’s be real, at around US$2,200, the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 is quite expensive. How many shoots do you have to do in your specific genre just to pay for this lens? Remember, you don’t have a business if you don’t have profit.
As almost always, you do get what you pay for and this lens is very high quality.
As we discussed above there are not a lot of alternatives that don’t make sacrifices in one way or another. You’ll have to decide what sacrifices you are or aren’t willing to make.
As a side note, typically lenses will drop in price over time. But the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens has stayed the same price. Sony knows they have the market cornered on this lens and it is holding value.
On the one hand, a good quality lens will hold its value. It may be a high cost of entry but you can always sell and recover most of your cost if you decide you don’t like it, use it enough, or need to cash out for some reason.
If you want the best in quality/performance for this focal length, the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 is it. It’s not an inexpensive lens so you’re not getting a bargain. But you are getting a great lens.
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 Lens Review | Conclusion
Even though it’s my most expensive lens, I’ll be keeping this one around. It’s one of my most used pieces of gear and is worth its weight and price tag.
The Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 comes out with me on almost every photoshoot and has performed exceptionally in a variety of conditions.
I’d estimate that at least half my portfolio of images and the majority of my favorite personal images were taken with this lens.
I continue to enjoy using this lens and highly recommend you check it out if you’re looking for a durable, versatile, high-performance lens.
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