Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Review

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens
Verdict

Meeting Sony marketing's "Designed to rival the primes" claim was a big ask of Sony's engineers, but they delivered excellence with this lens. The widest member of the trinity of professional-grade essential RF f/2.8 zoom lenses, the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II is a requisite lens in a serious amateur or pro kit. This lens is a best choice for landscape and architecture photography, and the wide f/2.8 aperture extends utility into motion in low-light scenarios.

Pros
  • Extremely Useful ultra-wide to wide zoom range
  • Outstanding landscape lens
  • Impressive image quality
  • Wide aperture
  • Professional grade
  • Fast and quiet Quad XD Linear AF
  • 0.32x maximum magnification
  • Parfocal-like
  • Aperture ring, focus hold buttons
  • Compact, lightweight
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Strong lateral CA
  • Strong color blur at 16mm
In-Depth Review

Camera manufacturers typically offer high-end f/2.8 zoom lenses covering wide angles, the general-purpose range, and a telephoto focal length range. These three lenses tend to be the most sought-after and popular models in the lineup, and with the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens, Sony completed version II updates to their flagship f/2.8 GM zoom lens trio.

Smaller and lighter are concepts we all appreciate, and with the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens, Sony claims the title to the world's smallest, lightest full-frame AF wide-angle zoom lens.

That claim may sound familiar — the not-long-prior-introduced Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens holds the world's smallest and lightest 24-70mm standard zoom AF lens title, and the Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens was introduced as the world's lightest 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.

While smaller and lighter are welcomed traits, the version II updates offer far more, including high-performance AF and impressive optical quality.

"Designed to rival the primes, this zoom's optics have been revamped to provide even greater resolution, clarity, and bokeh quality." [Sony]

The bottom line is that you want the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens in your kit.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Top View

Focal Length Range

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When starting a kit, most will first select a general-purpose lens (seriously consider the trio member Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens), and one of the next-most-needed lenses is typically a wide-angle zoom lens. This lens's 16-35mm focal length range ideally covers that need.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Behind the Waterfalls Sample Picture

The 107° angle of view provided by a 16mm focal length is ultra-wide, and all of the narrower angles of view down to 63°, just modestly wide, are included. To explore what this focal length range looks like, we head to RB Rickett's Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park.

16-35mm Focal Length Range Example

16mm | 20mm | 24mm | 28mm | 35mm

One of the most popular uses for this range is, as illustrated above, landscape photography. That example was captured with the predecessor lens, but the other samples included here were captured with the version II lens.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Log in Waterfall Sample Picture

I'll take any excuse I can find to get out for this purpose, and this focal length range is perfect for parks and most other beautiful places.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Triple Waterfalls Sample Picture

Ultra-wide images feature lots of background in the frame. Thus, especially careful attention must be paid to composition making use of the ultra-wide angles of view. I generally find excellent ultra-wide compositions more challenging to create than normal or telephoto compositions, but when the right scene is found, ultra-wide results are especially rewarding.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Triangle Falls Sample Picture

One capability of a wide-angle focal length is to make a foreground object, ideally something interesting or attractive, appear large in relation to a distant, yet in-focus, and equally-attractive background.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Multiple Waterfalls Sample Picture

Start looking for a beautiful bunch of flowers in front of a large mountain range (perhaps with a lake between them) to utilize these concepts.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Split Waterfalls Sample Picture

While a close-up wide-angle perspective can look great in a landscape scene, it is generally to be avoided when a person is the primary subject. What you do not (usually) want appearing large in the foreground of your ultra-wide composition is a person's nose. We don't typically look at people from really close distances (that other person will become uncomfortable with us being in their personal space), and when we look at photos of people captured from these distances, certain body parts (usually the nose) start to look humorously large. Unique portrait perspectives can be fun, but this technique should not be overused as it gets old quickly – and your subjects may not appreciate it. Get the telephoto lens out for your tightly framed portraits.

Still, this lens is a great choice for photographing people. Simply move back and include your human subject in a larger scene, environmental portraiture. The only moderately wide 35mm focal length is a great choice for full-body portraits, and this focal length range also nicely handles small up to large groups.

The 16-35mm focal length range is a great option for wide work at a wedding, at family and other events as well as for photojournalism and sports photography needs (especially with the f/2.8 aperture available to stop subject motion in low light and to aid in blurring the background).

Many of those uses happen in a location/venue that also needs to be photographed. This focal length range works well for architecture, interior, and real estate photography.

Real estate use helps us circle back to the landscape capabilities of this focal length range, and the landscape after dark, nightscape, is a frequent use of 16-35mm. Also, count cityscapes on this lens's great uses list.

Going underwater? The 16-35mm FLR is a great choice for aquatic adventures utilizing an underwater housing, allowing close-distance framing of your subject while minimizing the image degradation caused by water clarity issues.

Use this lens to shoot inside of a vehicle or other large product, and in far more situations than I am prepared to list right now.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Rocks and Waterfall Sample Picture

For those with primary needs dictating wider angles of view, a 16-35mm lens could even be a good choice for a primary general-purpose lens, and that is especially the case for 1.5x APS-C format cameras where this lens provides a normal general-purpose 24-52.5mm full-frame angle of view equivalent.

This lens is optimized for video recording, with this focal length range meeting the needs for a large range of such uses.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Front View

Max Aperture

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While many wide-angle lens needs require a narrow aperture, there are significant advantages to having a wide aperture available. At review time, f/2.8 is the widest aperture available in a full-frame zoom lens covering the 16-35mm angles of view.

The f/2.8 aperture is one stop wider than available in the also common f/4 wide-angle zoom lenses. While "one" may seem a small advantage, the 2x difference in light transmission is huge.

Compared to an f/4 lens, an f/2.8 max-aperture lens can stop action in half as much light using the same ISO setting. Alternatively, a 1-stop lower ISO setting can be used in the same light level, and the 1-stop difference in noise can be significant at high ISO settings. Photographing indoor sports, low light events, and the night sky are scenarios where this lens's aperture can be game-changing.

Wider apertures require wider lens elements, which increase weight, size, and price. This lens sets new lows in the first two respects.

Another advantage held by wide apertures is their ability to strongly blur the background. Wide-angle lenses are not the most adept at creating strong background blurs, but the f/2.8 aperture is better at this than f/4.

These examples illustrate the maximum blur this lens can create:

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Maximum Blur Example

16mm | 24mm | 35mm

At 16mm, even with the lens focused at the minimum focus distance, distant background details remain recognizable. At 35mm, the blur is magnified and able to show more subject isolation.

Zoom lens max apertures are sometimes stated as a range, indicating that the max aperture narrows as the focal length increases. A positive feature of this lens is that the max aperture is fixed, with f/2.8 always available. Manually-set wide-open exposures can be retained and counted on throughout the entire zoom range. Of course, one wonders if an aperture wider than f/2.8 could have been provided at the wide end.

Manual aperture rings have migrated to Sony full-frame zoom lenses, and the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens features one, enabling a manually selected aperture. With the ring in the A (Auto) position, the camera controls the aperture setting, and all other settings electronically force the aperture to the chosen opening. A 2-position switch on the bottom right side of the lens toggles the aperture ring between 1/3 stop clicks and smooth, quiet, non-clicked adjustments, ideal for video recording.

Aside from a slightly more complicated design, I find inadvertent aperture changes, especially while mounting a lens, the primary disadvantage of an aperture ring (especially when photographing in the dark). In previous reviews, I mentioned that a lock for the ring would eliminate that problem, and this lens gets that iris lock switch. Perfect.

Sony impressively integrated the two ring switches into the lens body, remaining functional while staying out of the way.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Side View with Hood

Image Stabilization

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The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens does not feature image stabilization. Omitting the optical stabilization system reduces the size, weight, complexity, and cost. However, image stabilization is a useful feature.

Sony addresses that omission with Steady Shot IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) in their Alpha cameras. In addition to reducing camera shake, the stabilized imaging sensor provides a still viewfinder image, enabling careful composition. Furthermore, sensor-based AF takes advantage of the stabilized view for improved accuracy.

With no IS switch on the lens, the camera menu must be used to enable or disable IBIS or check the current settings. This extra step is a slight impediment to working quickly, such as when switching from tripod-mounted to handholding.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Angle View

Image Quality

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This lens's predecessor was optically a good performer, and Sony gave us solid optical upgrades in the first two version II f/2.8 GM zoom lenses. Thus, optimism was high for the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens's optical performance, and the enhanced resolution test chart results coming out of the lab look excellent.

In the center of the frame, this lens is razor-sharp wide open, and only the 24mm and 28mm results show the slightest sharpness improvement at f/3.2.

Often, primary subjects are not placed in the center of a composition. In the periphery of the image circle, where light rays are refracted to a stronger angle than in the center, lenses typically show decreased sharpness (contrast and resolution). Fortunately, this one shows only a slight, gradual decline from the center to the corner.

Especially with the peripheral shading getting out of the way, the results at f/4 show a nice improvement from the already good f/2.8 performance. The f/5.6 test chart results show little improvement over the f/4 results, and no improvement is needed.

The resolution chart is merciless on image quality, so let's take the testing outdoors, next looking at a series of center-of-the-frame 100% resolution crop examples.

The following images were captured in RAW format using a Sony Alpha 1 and processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method. The sharpening amount was set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

16mm: f/2.8 | f/2.8 | f/2.8 | f/2.8
24mm: f/2.8 | f/2.8 | f/2.8 | f/2.8
35mm: f/2.8 | f/2.8 | f/2.8 | f/2.8

The f/2.8 results were so sharp that it seemed meaningless to include the f/4 results.

Next, we'll look at a series of comparisons showing 100% resolution extreme top left corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture these images.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

16mm: 2.8 | 4.0 | 5.6 | 8.0  2.8 | 4.0 | 5.6 | 8.0
24mm: 2.8 | 4.0 | 5.6 | 8.0  2.8 | 4.0 | 5.6 | 8.0
35mm: 2.8 | 4.0 | 5.6 | 8.0  2.8 | 4.0 | 5.6 | 8.0

Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, show a lens's weakest performance.

Even for ultra-wide-angle focal lengths, it is unusual for the outdoor results to vary from the test chart results, and the 16mm outdoor performance mirrors what the lab produced. However, the longer focus distance tests at 24mm and 35mm show stronger corner degradation at f/2.8, with stopping down having a greater (positive) impact on sharpness. The f/2.8 results are comparatively good, but the 24mm f/5.6 and 35mm f/8 results are outstanding.

Corner sharpness does not always matter, but it sometimes does, including when photographing landscapes and architecture. However, when photographing these subjects, f/8 or f/11 is likely dialed in for sufficient depth of field, and this lens works extremely well for these purposes at these apertures. Out-of-focus corners are often desired when shooting at wide apertures, and typical wide-aspect ratio videos also avoid using corners.

This lens does not exhibit focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA). Many modern lenses automatically correct for focus shift, though focus breathing can create slight angle of view changes.

A lens is expected to show peripheral shading at the widest aperture settings when used on a camera that utilizes its entire image circle. This lens's f/2.8 shading ranges from a relatively strong just-over 3 stops at 16mm to a minor just-over 1.5 stops at 35mm.

Nearly universally true is that stopping down from a wide-open aperture substantially reduces peripheral shading. In this case, 1-stop at f/4 reduces the range to 2.5 stops at 16mm to just over 1 stop at 35mm, and 2-stops at f/5.6 reduces the range to 2 to 1. Stopping down further produces greatly diminishing return, with little improvement seen at f/8.

APS-C format cameras using lenses that project a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the about 3/4 of a stop of corner shading showing at f/2.8 will seldom be visible, primarily showing in images with a solid color (such as a blue sky) in the corners.

One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing, with increased noise in the brightened areas the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern shown in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.

Lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration) refers to the unequal magnification of all colors in the spectrum. Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii), with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better to avoid this aberration in the first place.

Color misalignment can be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples. The images below are 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of Sony a1 frames showing diagonal black and white lines.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

16mm | 20mm | 24mm | 28mm | 35mm

Only black and white colors should be present in these images, with the additional colors indicating the presence of lateral CA. While there is some color separation showing here, the amount of separation, at worst, is mild for a zoom lens.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. More simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration, along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation, with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

The examples below look at the defocused specular highlights' fringing colors in the foreground vs. the background. The lens has introduced any fringing color differences from the neutrally colored subjects.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

16mm | 24mm | 35mm

Minor color separation is showing at 16mm, and even less shows in the longer focal length test results.

Bright light reflecting off lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes interesting, usually destructive visual artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare and ghosting effects in an image are variable, dependent on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings. Additionally, flare and ghosting can impact AF performance.

This lens features Sony's Nano AR coating II to suppress flare and ghosting, and despite the relatively high element count, this lens produced few flare effects even at narrow apertures in our standard sun in the corner of the frame flare test.

Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Unfortunately, removal is sometimes challenging, and in some cases, flare effects can destroy image quality. Thus, high flare resistance is a welcomed trait of this lens.

Two lens aberrations are particularly evident in images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light that can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). The coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either sagittal (radiating from the center of the image) or meridional (tangential, perpendicular to sagittal). This aberration can produce stars appearing to have wings. Remember that Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The images below are 100% crops taken from the top-left corner of Sony a1 images captured at the widest available aperture.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Coma Example

16mm | 24mm | 35mm

The 16mm results look great (a great choice for Milky Way and other night sky photography), while the 24mm and 35mm stars show modest stretching.

This lens features optical correction of geometric distortion. Modest bulge-in-the-middle barrel distortion shows at the wide end. The distortion transitions to a negligible amount around 20mm and then to modest pincushion distortion at the long end.

As seen earlier in the review, it is easy to illustrate the strongest blur a lens can create, and due to their low magnification, wide-angle lenses are inherently disadvantaged in this regard. Due to the infinite number of variables present among available scenes, assessing the blur quality, bokeh, is considerably more challenging. Here are some f/11 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Bokeh Example

16mm | 24mm | 35mm
16mm | 24mm | 35mm

Except for the second 35mm result, these images are 100% crops. The first set of examples shows defocused highlights filled rather smoothly and shaped relatively round. The second set of examples shows an outdoor scene looking normal and nice.

Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round. That is the shape we're looking at here.

These are upper-left quadrant results.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

16mm | 20mm | 24mm | 28mm | 35mm

At the wide end of the focal length range, the corner shapes show moderately strong truncation. As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting diminishes, making the corner shapes rounder.

An 11-blade count diaphragm will create 22-point sunstars (diffraction spikes) from point light sources captured with a narrow aperture. Generally, the more a lens diaphragm is stopped down, the larger and better shaped the sunstars tend to be. Wide aperture lenses tend to have an advantage in this regard, and this lens can produce beautiful stars, as illustrated below.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Sunstar Effect Example

The example above was captured at f/16.

The design of this lens is illustrated below.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Design

This features a complex optical design that includes one Super ED (extra-low dispersion) and two ED elements suppressing chromatic aberrations and color fringing, and five aspherical elements, including three extreme aspherical elements (XA), minimizing spherical aberrations, distortion, and 'onion ring' bokeh.

Overall, the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens is optically excellent and worthy of a place in the most advanced kits.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens on Tripod

Focusing

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Quad XD Linear motors power the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II's AF systems to faster speeds, higher precision, and reduced audibility.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens AF Motor

This lens is practically silent while it internally focuses fast.

Remember that (at least some) cameras, including the Sony Alpha 1, defocus the image slightly before final focusing in AF-S mode, even if the subject was initially in focus. This behavior adds significantly to the focus lock time. However, this lens focuses fast enough to significantly reduce the AF-S lock time issue.

As usual, AF slows under low light conditions, but this lens continues to lock focus in relatively dark scenarios.

Non-cinema lenses usually require refocusing after a focal length change, but this review lens exhibits unusually parfocal-like behavior. Subjects focused on at 35mm remain in sharp focus throughout the focal length range, as illustrated in the 100% crops below.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Parfocal Example

35mm | 28mm | 24mm | 20mm | 16mm

These examples provide another look at the impressive wide-open image quality this lens produces.

A pair of customizable AF hold buttons are provided. With the camera set to continuous focus mode, press an AF hold button to lock focus at the currently selected focus distance, permitting a focus and recompose technique. These buttons also act as custom buttons, programmable to other functions via the camera's menu.

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported via Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) AF mode with the shutter release half-pressed or the AF-ON button pressed. This lens has an AF/MF switch, allowing this frequently used camera setting to be changed without accessing the menu system.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Extended Side View with Hood

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens has a rubber-ribbed focus ring ideally positioned forward of the zoom ring. This ring is substantial in size and being raised slightly from the lens barrel behind it makes it especially easy to find.

The focus ring turns smoothly, has a modest amount of resistance with no play, and the 140° of MF rotation adjusts focusing at an ideal rate, allowing precise manual focusing even at close distances. This is a linear response MF ring, with marks able to be established and repeatedly hit.

Overall, this lens provides a high-quality manual focus experience.

It is normal for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other. This effect is focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus (without movement to camouflage the effect), and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus.

This lens produces a relatively small change in subject size through a full-extent (worst-case) focus distance adjustment.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Focus Magnification Example

16mm: Far | Close   24mm: Far | Close   35mm: Far | Close

This lens supports the Breathing Compensation function available in select cine-line and Alpha cameras.

This lens has a minimum focus distance of 8.7" (221mm), and at 35mm, it generates a high 0.32x maximum magnification spec.

ModelMin Focus Distance "(mm)Max Magnification
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens11.0(280)0.21x
Sigma 16-28mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens9.8(250)0.18x
Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Lens11.0(280)0.14x
Sony FE 12-24mm F4 G Lens11.0(280)0.14x
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens8.7(221)0.32x
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens11.0(280)0.19x
Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens11.0(280)0.23x
Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G Lens11.8(300)0.39x
Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens8.3(210)0.32x
Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens7.5(190)0.19x

At 16mm, a subject measuring approximately 7.8 x 5.2" (198 x 132mm) fills a full-frame imaging sensor at this lens's minimum MF distance. At 35mm, a 4.3 x 2.8" (109 x 73mm) subject does the same.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Focus Magnification Example

The USPS love stamps shared above have an image area that measures 1.05 x 0.77" (26.67 x 19.558mm), and the overall individual stamp size is 1.19 x 0.91" (30.226 x 23.114mm).

At 16mm minimum focus distance, the center-of-the-frame f/2.8 image quality is sharp, though the sharpness declines modestly in the periphery. The entire frame becomes a bit softer at 35mm minimum focus distance than at 16mm, including the corners.

At 16mm minimum focus distance, the short 2.6" (66mm) working distance (sans hood) requires lighting considerations to avoid lens shadows in the composition. The 35mm minimum focus distance provides only slightly more working distance, 3.25" (83mm).

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mount a short extension tube behind this lens to significantly decrease and increase those respective numbers. As of review time, Sony does not publish extension tube specs or manufacture these items, but third-party Sony-compatible extension tubes are available.

This lens is not compatible with Sony teleconverters.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Angle View with Hood

Design & Features

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The "GM" in the moniker reflects the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens's membership in the G (Grand) Master lens series, representing Sony's best-available lenses. These lenses feature professional-grade build quality, ready for the rigors of daily use.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Product Images

MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated   Compare »

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens features a hybrid metal and engineering plastic construction for high durability, high precision, and light weight. This lens extends modestly (0.31", 8mm) as the focal length is decreased to 16mm.

The zoom ring is adequately sized and conveniently located. Raised slightly, it is easy to find. This ring turns smoothly with a short rotation making adjustments quickly.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Extended Side View

There are three switches, all previously mentioned. The two iris switches are positioned out of the way near the lens mount, while the AF/MF switch is conveniently positioned for frequent use. Though flush mounted, the AF/MF switch has an adequate raised area for use, including with gloves.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Mount

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens features "Dust and moisture resistant for robust reliability." [Sony] All seams are sealed, the buttons and switches have silicone rubber gaskets, and a rubber ring seals the lens mount.

The front lens element is fluorine coating to avoid dirt and moisture adhesion and greatly facilitate cleaning.

The FE 16-35mm version I lens's size and weight were normal for the class, but the version II lens drops those numbers below all the direct alternatives, garnering a record. The smaller and lighter Sigma 16-28mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens and Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens share a significant portion of the zoom range, requiring a narrowly defined record claim.

This is a comfortable lens to use and carry. For those carrying for significant periods, the smaller size and lighter weight alone will be worth the update from the version I lens.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens29.7(840)3.5 x 5.0(88.5 x 126.8)822019
Sigma 16-28mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens15.9(450)3.0 x 4.0(77.2 x 100.6)722022
Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Lens29.9(847)3.8 x 5.4(97.6 x 137.0)2020
Sony FE 12-24mm F4 G Lens19.9(565)3.4 x 4.6(87.0 x 117.4)2017
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens19.3(547)3.5 x 4.4(87.8 x 111.5)822023
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens24.0(680)3.5 x 4.8(88.5 x 121.6)822017
Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens12.5(353)3.2 x 3.5(80.5 x 88.1)722022
Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G Lens17.2(488)3.1 x 3.9(78.7 x 99.0)722023
Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens24.5(695)3.5 x 4.7(87.8 x 119.9)822022
Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens14.8(420)2.9 x 3.9(73.0 x 99.0)672019

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

Here is a visual comparison:

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens
Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens

The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens to other lenses.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Front View on Camera

The 82mm filters compatible with this lens are relatively large and expensive. However, this size is common for lenses of this caliber, making sharing of effects filters possible.

A standard-thickness circular polarizer filter will increase peripheral shading. Thus, a slim model such as the Breakthrough Photography X4 is recommended.

The Sony ALC-SH177 lens hood is included in the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens box. I highly recommend using lens hoods for the physical protection and flare avoidance they offer (reversed orientation does not count).

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Extended Top View with Hood

This hood is smaller and lighter than the predecessor's ALC-SH149 hood — 3.84 x 1.06" vs. 4.22 x 1.23" (97.5 x 26.8mm vs. 107.1 x 31.3mm) and 0.7 vs. 1.1 oz (20.5 vs. 30.0g). Lens hoods take a bite out of storage, including camera backpacks, so smaller is better if protection is not sacrificed, and the narrower design seems to retain the angle of incidence protection needed.

The petal shaped plastic hood has a matte interior for effective reflection avoidance.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Case

Sony also provides a nice zippered, padded case with a shoulder strap.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Cap

Price, Value, Wrap Up

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It is a member of the flagship G Master series, and the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens is accordingly relatively expensive. For those intending to use this lens frequently or for important shoots, it is easily worth the price.

As an "FE" lens, the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including full-frame and APS-C sensor format models. Sony provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens was online retail sourced.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Side View

Alternatives

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The "II" indicates there is a predecessor lens, and the predecessor lens is always the low-hanging fruit for a comparison choice, and in this case, that lens is the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens. While the version I lens is only 6 years older, the II's improvements are substantial.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Compared to 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens

In the image quality comparison, the II proves itself sharper than the I at f/2.8, especially at the long end.

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens vs. FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens comparison shows the new lens to be about 20% lighter and 10% smaller, with the smaller hood creating a considerably smaller overall footprint. The II's Quad XD Linear AF system is faster, quieter, and more precise than the I's SSM system, and the II has a 0.32x Maximum Magnification spec vs. 0.19x. At review time, the version I lens was priced $300.00 less than the II. Get the II.

Crossing platforms, we have the Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens to compare.

In the image quality comparison, the Sony lens edges out the Canon lens in some of the f/2.8 sharpness comparisons. The Sony lens has considerably less peripheral shading, shows modestly fewer flare effects, and has slightly less geometric distortion in some comparisons.

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens vs. Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens comparison shows the Sony lens considerably smaller and lighter — 19.3 vs. 29.7 oz (547 vs. 840g). The Sony lens has two additional aperture blades, 11 vs. 9 and 0.32x Maximum Magnification vs. 0.21x. The Canon lens has optical IS and a noticeably wider focal length available. The Sony lens has a modestly lower list price, but the Canon lens's discounted selling price was lower at review time. Most photographers will opt for the lens that matches their primary camera brand.

Use the site's tools to create additional comparisons.

Summary

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Like its predecessor, the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens fills a critical position in serious and professional photography kits based on the Sony E-mount cameras.

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens Top View with Hood

"G Master series lenses take imaging and expression to previously unattainable levels with a stunning blend of extremely high resolution and softly dissolving background bokeh" [Sony]

This fast, silent, and precision-focusing lens delivers excellent image quality from a compact, lightweight, well-constructed package. You want the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II Lens in the trio anchoring your kit.

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