Landscapes, weddings, architecture, real estate, photojournalism – all are great reasons to have a wide angle zoom in your kit. Now the big question becomes, "Which one?" For Sony shooters, the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM and FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS will likely be at the top of the wide angle zoom considerations list.
Before we dig deeper into this comparison, regular site visitors may notice that text below sounds a lot like our Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM vs. Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens comparison. Well, there's a good reason for that – the 16-35mm lenses listed above share many of the same benefits and drawbacks as their 24-70mm counterparts when compared against one another. Therefore, much of the content of the 24-70mm comparison applies equally to the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM and Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS lenses.
So, without further ado, let's take a look at these two 16-35mm lenses to see which one proves to be the best investment for your needs.
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM and Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Shared Primary Features
Primary Advantages of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Primary Advantages of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens
Other Differences: Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM vs. Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS
Image Quality Differences: Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM vs. Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS
The FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens is slightly sharper in the center at 16mm and 20mm f/4 and the FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS lens is slightly sharper in the corners. The f/2.8 lens center of the frame advantage grows slightly at 24mm and more than slightly at 28mm. At 35mm f/4, the f/2.8 lens turns in a far better performance. These differences are minimalized at f/5.6, but the f/2.8 remains a much better choice at 35mm.
As one would expect, the f/2.8 lens shows less vignetting at f/4. By f/8, the differences are minor. The f/2.8 lens has more barrel distortion at 16mm, but less pincushion distortion in some of the mid focal length comparisons.
Who should opt for the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM?
There are many drawbacks to an f/2.8 constant max aperture lens compared to an f/4 constant max aperture lens, including increased size, weight and cost. However, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM's twice-as-wide max aperture will allow you to freeze motion in half as much light at the same ISO setting compared to the FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS. If you're a wedding/event photographer, or prefer not to pack a tripod for nighttime cityscape/street photography adventures, the increased size/weight/cost associated with the f/2.8 lens will prove more than worthwhile.
Who should opt for the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS?
If you don't often need to capture moving subjects in low-light situations, and can tolerate higher ISO use when the need arises, then the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS offers many of the benefits of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM at less than half the price. For static subjects, when combined with Sony alpha-series cameras' IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization), the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA's Optical SteadyShot should provide even more effective stabilization compared to a lens without built-in IS.
As you can see by the product pictures and specs listed above, the size and weight differences between these lenses are not insignificant. Photographers who will benefit from the FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS's smaller size/lighter weight include anyone carrying their gear for long periods of time (for backpacking, vacations, long events, etc.) and those wanting to pack more gear in a similar amount of space.
With many full frame Sony a-series cameras having built-in sensor stabilization, one of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens's major benefits – optical stabilization – is diminished. However, it does have a few advantages remaining over the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM that will make it desirable for many photographers – smaller size, lighter weight and a much lower cost. In addition to the 1-stop wider max aperture, most photographers will prefer the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM's image quality over the f/4 lens. For those photographing moving subjects and/or utilizing the entire focal length range on a regular basis, such as wedding/event photographers, will find the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM to be a worthy investment. Otherwise, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS is available for significantly less.