Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 Review
With all the focus on the best Sony lenses for full frame cameras lately, I was really excited to see the release of a lens for the APS-C sensor – the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8.
Prior to this, there wasn’t a great option for a mid range zoom lens with a large maximum aperture.
I think the release of this lens shows Sony’s continued dedication to the APS-C platform. This lens will be perfect for someone wanting an ultra high quality one-lens-one-camera setup for shooting a variety of subjects.
Paired with the Sony a6600 camera, this lens makes a powerful combination. Together they can shoot almost any subject extremely well. There is a ton of quality and a long list of professional features in both this camera and lens.
After using this lens for several weeks with the Sony a6600, I have concluded that it is the best lightweight travel combination on the market. The quality, versatility, and performance is amazing for such a compact combo.
Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 Specs
- focal range
- lightweight/compact design
- image quality
- fast aperture
- extends with zoom
- some distortion at wide focal lengths
- Sony E-Mount/Full Frame Lens
- Aperture Range: f/2.8 – f/22
- Minimum Focus Distance: 0.4m (15.75″)
- Weight: 1.09 lb / 494 g
- Length: 3.94″ / 100 mm
- Diameter: 2.87 ” / 73 mm
- Filter size: 67mm
Build & Ergonomics
The Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 is an amazing powerhouse of a lens packed in a very compact size. I was really happy to see that Sony finally released a f/2.8 mid-range zoom lens for their APS-C cameras.
The Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 fills a gap in the Sony lineup that many people will find extremely useful. For it’s capability, it’s compact and relatively lightweight.
Be aware that this lens extends quite far when zoomed to 55mm (as shown in photo above) but this is acceptable to me given that it has a consistent aperture of f/2.8.
The build feels very solid and firm, especially the zoom and focus rings. In the past, I’ve used APS-C lenses from Sony that felt somewhat fragile or clunky. This is neither of those things!
Other features that I really appreciated on this lens include the manual/autofocus switch and the focus hold button. These features are becoming standard on Sony lens designs and rightfully so.
The AF/MF switch is very useful if you’re shooting static subjects and the focus hold button is extremely useful as a custom button that I most often program to eye auto focus.
Overall, this lens appears very well built and much tougher than previous APS-C lenses I’ve used.
In terms of focusing, this lens performed quite well. It was very quick to grab focus, even when pointed directly toward the setting sun.
When paired with the Sony a6600’s new subject tracking technology, this lens did a great job keeping things sharp! I loved how it worked silently to lock on to the subject even during quick movements.
(Check out my Sony a6600 review for more info on this amazing little camera!)
At f/2.8, this lens was also very effective at focusing in low light. If you want the very best in low light performance from a lens, you’ll probably want a larger aperture like f/1.8, but this lens functioned extremely well when tested in dark scenes.
It is definitely a substantial move forward than its mostly f/4 predecessors like the Sony 18-105mm f/4 or Sony 16-70mm f/4.
The Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 finally gives speeds that felt similar to what we would expect from full frame Sony E-Mount lenses, and is much faster than any previously available options.
Overall, focus performance on the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 is excellent in all but the darkest scenes.
Another extremely satisfying improvement with the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 is image quality. I was very happy to see that the images appeared very sharp at all focal lengths.
This was a welcome improvement over some of the sharpness issues I had experienced in the past with Sony APS-C zoom lenses.
As a G Lens from Sony, I expected top quality and it delivered.
The bokeh at f/2.8 and 55mm was excellent for isolating a subject or creating a beautiful portrait. The bokeh wasn’t as good as you see on a prime lens but I was very satisfied, and it felt like a nice feature to have in such a multi-purpose lens.
One thing to note about the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 is that it will have more distortion that the equivalent full frame lens. Because of the crop factor, you have to utilize a wider focal length to get a similar look.
Shooting at a wider focal length will introduce more distortion and the images will have a slightly different look to them. For a mid-range zoom like the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8, this isn’t really noticeable except for when you’re shooting near 16mm.
As long as you are aware of this difference and plan to use your lens accordingly (i.e. don’t put peoples’ faces near the edge of the frame), it won’t be a problem.
I mainly shoot outdoor locations so distortion isn’t as visible because there are fewer straight lines to level with.
Value for Money
Evaluating the price of this lens is a little tricky. For APS-C cameras, lenses rarely cost more than the camera body. In this case, however, the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 is roughly $100 more than the a6600 (one of the latest Sony APS-C cameras). You can see the latest price here.
You may be wondering if it might be time to step up to the full frame A7III when you look at spending over $1,000 on a single lens for an APS-C camera..
This is a tricky question that only you can answer, but I can say that the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 is without a doubt the top quality zoom lens available for the APS-C format.
It proves that Sony is fully dedicated to their APS-C camera lineup and they won’t be stopping their relentless innovation anytime soon. Although it is a bit pricey, the 16-55mm f/2.8 delivers an amazing focal range and big step up in performance.
If you enjoy the compact size of the Sony APS-C cameras, I’d say the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 is an excellent pairing.
For the focal range it delivers, it is definitely good value. You would have to get several prime lenses to cover the same range, and then you would be spending more money.
You would also lose the simplicity of a one-camera-one-lens setup that is lightweight and compact.
Overall, if you are committed to your APS-C Sony camera, this will be a great lens to purchase.
Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 Review | Conclusion
Now that Sony has released a serious zoom lens for the APS-C lineup, the Sony a6600 becomes a camera worth adding back to my kit.
My main use for the a6600 and Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 would be a compact, do anything camera for travel and adventure shoots where size/weight is extremely important.
Together, this camera and lens make an excellent combination of performance/versatility while keeping size/weight to an absolute minimum.
This combo is very capable of shooting a wide variety of subjects, and because this lens has such excellent image quality, it makes a very viable backup camera for me.
If you’re unsure about spending more on a lens than you spent on a camera body, you should consider the fact that the lens will still be top of the line after a few years, whereas the camera body will likely be outdated.
After all, lens technology progresses slower than camera body technology.
Additionally, high quality lenses tend to hold their value. If you try the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 and don’t like it for some reason, you can always sell it and not lose much money in the process.
Overall, I thoroughly appreciated this lens and think it will be a “go-to” for many APS-C Sony camera users.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.