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

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens

The original widest member of the trinity of professional-grade essential RF f/2.8 zoom lenses, the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM is a useful lens to have in the kit. This lens is a good choice for landscape and architecture photography, and the wide f/2.8 aperture extends utility into motion in low-light scenarios.

  • Extremely Useful ultra-wide to wide zoom range
  • Good landscape lens
  • Great image quality
  • Wide aperture
  • Professional grade
  • Fast and quiet Dual Direct Drive SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) AF
  • focus hold button
  • Moderately priced
  • Strong lateral CA
  • Strong color blur at 16mm
In-Depth Review

Those putting together the ultimate Sony E-mount lens kit are going to want this lens included. The Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens covers a key focal length range in wide aperture with high quality. In this case, the term high quality applies both to the lens's physical attributes and to the image quality delivered by it.

Many are first-attracted to the Alpha MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) system for Sony's high-performing full frame imaging sensors, but lenses are as important as cameras and Sony's lens lineup was initially viewed by many as deficient. Adapting Canon brand lenses for use on Sony cameras was prevalent. The introduction of Sony's flagship Grand Master line (the "GM" in the name) was welcomed by Sony owners and this line is proving attractive to those considering a switch to the Sony camp. The 16-35mm f/2.8 GM is one more reason to stay entirely within the Sony brand.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Top View

Focal Length Range

Back to Top

When starting a kit, most will first select a general purpose lens (Sony system owners should seriously consider the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens) and one of the next-most-needed lenses is typically a wide-angle zoom. This 16-35mm range ideally covers that need.

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.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Focal Length Range Example

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

One of the most popular uses for this range is, as illustrated above, landscape photography. I'll take any excuse I can find to get out for this purpose and this focal length range is perfect for this park and a huge number of other beautiful places.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Landscape Sample Picture

One of the capabilities a wide angle lens has 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. In the 25mm example below, the small foreground waterfalls are close to the lens and the much-larger Oneida Falls is in the distant background. The final wide angle result is that they all appear to be similar in size and another desired aspect is that all details in the frame are in sharp focus (unless intentionally motion-blurred).

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens 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 difficult to create than normal or telephoto compositions, but when the right scene is found, ultra-wide results are especially rewarding.

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.

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.

But, that does not mean that this lens isn't a good choice for photographing people. Simply move back and include your human subject in a larger scene for an environmental portrait. 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 (FLR) is a great option for the 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 also desired to be photographed. This focal length range works well for architecture, interior and real estate photography.

The real estate use helps us circling back to the landscape capabilities of this focal length range and the landscape after dark, more-narrowly described as 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, minimizing the image degradation caused by water clarity issues.

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

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

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Front View

Max Aperture

Back to Top

While many wide-angle lens needs call for a narrow aperture, there are definitely advantages to having a wide aperture available. With the exception of the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens, f/2.8 is the widest aperture currently available in a full frame zoom lens of any focal length.

The f/2.8 aperture is one stop wider than the also-common f/4 lenses have available. The number "one" seems small, but the 2x difference in light it provides is not. 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 difference in noise can be significant at the higher settings. Photographing indoor sports, low light events and the night sky are scenarios where this lens's aperture can be game-changing.

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.

The following images show the maximum background blur this lens can create.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Maximum Blur Example

At 16mm with the lens focused at minimum focus distance, the distant background details remain quite recognizable. On the other hand, at 35mm, the background shows a nice amount of blur.

In a zoom lens, the max aperture will sometimes be 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.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Side View with Hood

Image Stabilization

Back to Top

The Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens is not optically stabilized, but Sony takes care of that issue with Steady Shot or IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization). On a traditional DSLR with an optical viewfinder, IBIS results in an unstabilized view, meaning that stabilization was not helpful for composition or for providing a still subject to the camera's AF system. With EVFs being prevalent in Sony's lineup, the viewfinder and AF-based image are being read from the imaging sensor, which is stabilized. Therefore, the viewfinder image is nicely stabilized.

Mounted on a Sony a7R III with Steady Shot enabled, I was able to handhold this lens with a reasonable sharpness rate at exposures as long as about 1/4 seconds at 16mm. While the keeper rate began dropping at 1/3 second, it remained good and I was still getting a solid percentage of keepers even at impressively-long .8 second exposures. At 35mm, the 16-35 GM produced a decent sharpness rate at 1/5 second with a still-decent keeper rate at 1/3 second. Only intermittent exposures were sharp at longer exposures.

This stablization testing was under ideal circumstances (indoors, concrete floor) and your results will vary dependant on your own skills and the conditions you are shooting in. My experience showed real assistance being provide by IBIS for this lens.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Angle View

Image Quality

Back to Top

Sony's GM lenses have been impressive, especially from an image quality perspective and the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens is no different. This lens's optical design includes five aspherical elements including two XA (extreme aspherical) elements for reducing aberrations and delivering the ultimate resolution. Sony claims that the front XA element on this lens is the "largest XA element ever produced". "Additionally, two ED (Extra-low-Dispersion) glass elements keep chromatic aberration to a minimum while maximizing resolution, and Sony’s original Nano AR coating suppresses internal reflections to ensure excellent image contrast and clarity. " [Sony]

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Optical Design

In the central and mid portions of the frame, this lens is remarkably sharp at f/2.8 over the entire focal length range with a slight drop in sharpness at 35mm being the exception. Throughout this significant portion of the frame, stopping down to f/4 makes little difference and a difference is not needed except perhaps at 35mm and at f/4, the 35mm results are also tack sharp.

Below you will find sets of 100% resolution center-of-the-frame crops captured in uncompressed RAW format using a Sony a7R II. These images were processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method with the sharpening amount set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale with all lens aberration corrections disabled.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

16mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
24mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
35mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0

These results look great.

Rare is for a lens's corner performance to equal the center of the frame performance, where light passes through the optical design with far less refraction ocurring. But, this lens's corners are not far behind the center in terms of sharpness.

At f/2.8, 16mm corners are reasonably sharp and with vignetting clearing at f/4, they are looking great. The 24mm performance is even better. At 35mm, performance is similar to the 16mm results.

Following are two sets of 100% extreme-top-left corner crops for each outdoor-tested focal length. These images were captured and processed identically to the center-of-the-frame results just shared. Note that the Sony a7R II does not provide the ability to focus in the extreme corners, so for these examples, I have chosen scenes that allowed focus inside the corner to place the extreme corner results on the same plane.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

16mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6   f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6
24mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6   f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6
35mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6   f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6

Here, the mid-focal length range results look really nice. The 16mm and 35mm results, especially with the improved contrast seen at f/4, are decent.

Note the slight appearance of algorithmic sharpening being applied, perhaps most notably in the 35mm f/5.6 leaves example. There is a hint of this showing in Capture One and the raw processing increases the effect.

Did you see the leaves move closer to the upper left corner of the frame as the 35mm results are traversed in decreasing aperture opening sequence? The camera did not move. I'll share another 35mm center-of-the-frame 100% crop example that helps explain that characteristic.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Focus Shift Example

The foreground tree bud near the bottom center of the frame is sharpest at f/2.8. As the aperture narrows, the background details become much sharper, but the foreground tree bud is not quite as sharp at f/8 as it is at f/2.8. This trait is focus shift and this lens has some, most notably at 35mm. The movement of the corner details shows the subject size change that occurs with focus distance change. In some close focus distance 35mm testing, I was not able to see this shift taking place.

Some things in life can be counted on and wide aperture vignetting darkening the periphery of a wide angle full frame image is one of those. The 3-stops of shading in 16mm f/2.8 corners is quite noticeable with about .5 stops of reduction seen at each 1-stop-narrower aperture until about 1.6 stops remains at f/8 through the balance of the aperture range. Through 28mm, each marked focal length longer drops the f/2.8 corner shading by about .5 stops with 35mm corners being only slightly brighter than 28mm corners with 1.4 stops of shading vs. 1.6 stops. Stopped-down shading is similarly-reduced with f/4 and narrower corner shading ranging from about 1.2 down to 1 stop in the 24-35mm focal length range.

Overall, and especially at the longer focal lengths, this lens performs well in regards to peripheral shading. Vignetting can be corrected during post processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty. Vignetting can also be simply embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame.

The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). 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 greatest amount as this is where the greatest difference in the magnification of wavelengths exists. Following are worst case extreme corner examples captured with a Sony a7R III.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

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

There should be only black and white colors in these images with the additional colors illustrating lateral CA. This lens shows a modest amount of lateral CA at all marked focal lengths with 35mm having slightly less than the wider lengths. These results are a bit unusual for a zoom lens as the widest and/or longest focal lengths typically show noticeably more lateral CA than the center of the range lengths.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or 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 look for. Axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing while 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 100% resolution crop, center-of-the-frame images below show silver (a neutral color) subjects with the foreground and background becoming blurred. Ideally, the silver would remain silver throughout the image.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

16mm | 24mm | 35mm

In this case, the 24mm results look quite good, the 35mm results show only a hint of color change and the 16mm results show the most color differentiation. Stopping down slowly decreases the color change, but I still see some difference in the 16mm f/8 test image.

An impressive feature of this lens is flare avoidance. Even with the sun in the corner of the frame, only a small amount of flare effects are seen and these are primarily visible at narrow apertures such as f/16.

Coma is generally recognized by sharp contrast towards the center of an image and long, soft contrast transition toward the image periphery. Coma becomes quite visible mid-frame and in the corners of images captured at wide apertures and significantly resolves when the lens is stopped down. Astigmatism is another lens image quality attribute that is apparent in the corners and the pin-point stars in the night sky are a subject that makes these aberrations, along with some others, easily recognizable to me. The following 100% crop examples are from the extreme upper-left corner.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Coma Example

16mm | 24mm | 35mm

The 24mm results are looking good and the other two samples are not bad.

This lens has barrel distortion at the wide end that transitions into negligible distortion and on into pincushion distortion at the long end. That statement can be nearly universally made for zoom lenses and the amount of distortion is usually the differentiator. In this case, the 16mm barrel distortion profile shows a moderately-strong, large bulge in the center with the distortion being reduced in the corners. The crossover point from barrel to pincushion distortion occurs between 20 and 24mm. By 35mm, modest pincushion distortion is present.

Most modern lenses have correction profiles available for the popular image processing software and distortion can be easily removed using these, but geometric distortion correction requires stretching with resolution being reduced or artificially created. Correction is seldom as good as using a distortion-free lens in the first place.

One of the features Sony claims special attention being paid to in their GM lenses is bokeh, referring to the background blur quality. Here are some f/8 examples of out-of-focus specular highlights.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Bokeh Example

16mm | 24mm | 35mm

While it is hard to create a strong blur at ultra-wide focal lengths and the 16mm results appear just fine/average, the 24mm and 35mm results show an especially nice blur quality with the amount of blur also increasing nicely at those focal lengths.

Especially obvious in the bokeh results is the round shape of the out-of-focus specular highlights. This shape is courtesy of this lens's 11-blade circular aperture. Also directly-attributed to the 11-blade count are the 22-pt stars created by point light sources when a narrow aperture is used.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Starburst Effect Example

This lens creates strong, attractive star effects.

Overall, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens is optically a high-performing lens.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Extended Top View with Hood


Back to Top

The 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens's AF system utilizes Sony's Dual Direct Drive SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) system, utilizing a floating focusing system, ideal for shooting both still images and movies. This system is quiet and this lens can focus really fast. Unfortunate in this case is that the speed of focusing is in part determined by the camera. Before focusing on the subject, the Sony a7R III (latest/just-released Sony camera at review time) de-focuses the lens slightly, even if focusing at the same distance with the same subject, for an overall fast focus speed (minus the "really" part). Overall, focus is acquired with good speed and is adequate for most uses. On some cameras, using AF-C (continuous focus) mode eliminates at least most of the initial defocusing issue for a faster focus experience.

Focusing is internal and I'm finding results of this lens to be consistently accurately focused, which is to be expected as 35mm at f/2.8 does not challenge an AF system too hard. In AF-C (Continuous AF) focusing mode capturing action, performance was decent with most images being properly focused. While the lens and AF system appear ready for action photography, it must be noted that the EVF in most of Sony's MILCs is not (the a9 specifically is ready). The viewfinder blackout time is far too long to permit the photographer to adequately track moving subjects and timing the first image in a burst is a good tactic at this point.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens Side View with Hood

Unique to a lens of this type is an AF hold button. While in continuous focus mode, this button can be pressed to lock focus at the currently selected focus distance, permitting a focus and recompose technique. This button also acts as a custom button (C5) and can be programmed to another function using the camera's menu. Note that the owner's manual indicates that "the focus hold button of this lens does not function with some camera models." The manual does not mention which cameras are not compatible, but ... one would expect that latest models to support this feature.

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) AF mode.

This lens's manual focus ring is superbly-designed. This ring is nicely sized and positioned, it is smooth, it is ideally dampened and the 112° of rotation is just right for precise manual focusing at all distances. There is modest change in subject size as focus is adjusted over full extents with the most-notable size change taking place at the 35mm end.

A focus distance window is not provided, but a focus distance meter shows in the lower portion of the camera's electronic viewfinder during manual focusing.

When I saw 0.62x indicated as the maximum magnification ratio spec for this lens on Sony's product page, I did a double take. That proved to be a typo. The Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens gets the class-standard 11.0" (280mm) minimum focus distance (MFD) and the related maximum magnification (MM) spec is a modest 0.19x. While this is a bottom-of-the-class value, this MM is still useful. Note that I included a few f/4 lenses in the comparison below.

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

Magnification from wide angle through standard/normal focal length lenses is generally significantly increased with the use of extension tubes which are basically as their name implies, hollow tubes (with electronic connections) that shift a lens farther from the camera. Doing so allows the lens to focus at closer distances, though at the expense of long distance focusing. Sony does not publish extension tube specs, but mounting an extension tube behind this lens will significantly increase its magnification capabilities.

This lens is not compatible with Sony teleconverters.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Front on Tripod

Build Quality & Features

Back to Top

The Grand Master lens series represents Sony's best-available lenses and this is one of them.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Product Images

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

The FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens gets the current Sony-standard design, including its shape. This lens is relatively narrow at the mount with a substantial diameter increase not far into the lens. Several smaller diameter increases occur until the lens reaches its relatively wide max diameter at the objective end.

Like the focus ring, the zoom ring is smooth and is ideally-located behind the focus ring. Two of the referenced diameter changes occur at the rings, making these easy to find.

As seen in the product images above, this lens extends to its longest at 35mm and retracts fully at 16mm. The maximum extension amount measures 0.53" (13.4mm). Note that the zoom ring rotates in the same direction as Nikon lenses (and Sony lenses of course) and opposite that of Canon lenses. Seeming somewhat illogical to me is that the focus ring rotates in reverse direction of the same competition, opposite of Nikon lenses (and Sony lenses of course) and the same as Canon lenses.

Overall, this lens feels well built with no play in moving parts.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Side View

The Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens has a single switch, selecting between AF and MF. Not all current Sony lenses have this switch and I highly value it,

As common with Sony lenses, the serial number is provided on a thick plastic label under the mount end of the lens. This doesn't seem like the best identification method to me.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Mount

This lens is weather sealed including a mount gasket seal as seen above. The typical Sony owner's manual statement is provided: "This lens is not water-proof, although designed with dust-proofness and splash-proofness in mind. If using in the rain etc., keep water drops away from the lens." While I'm not sure that statement translated precisely, I'd like it to be more reassuring about its usability in foul weather. That said, I used this lens in light rain without an issue.

The front lens element is fluorine-coated, helping it to repel water and making it much easier to clean.

This is a moderate-sized and weighted lens, not dissimilar from the rest of the lenses in this class. It takes a relatively wide barrel to hold the lens elements necessary to provide an f/2.8 aperture and large lens elements add weight. Still, the extra 5.7 oz (62g) over the f/4 version is minimal and carrying this lens for long periods of time is not burdensome.

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 f/2.8 GM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

As with all other Sony lens reviews I've created to date, I need to address the grip on the compatible Sony Alpha cameras. The a7R II, a7R III, a9 and similar models are made to be compact and, while these cameras have a decent grip available, they are apparently designed by engineers with small hands. There is not adequate room for a medium-large-sized hand's fingers to fit between the camera and the lens. At the edge of the first diameter increase, the lens presses quite firmly into the first joint of my middle and ring fingers. Of course, the lens is not soft and the resulting grip is not comfortable. The pressure is lessened if the lens is hanging downward from a loose grip or if I rotate my grip away from the lens, but ... that does not give me the assured grip I desire.

Being visual by nature, we photographers like visual size comparisons. When looking at the following comparison images, remember that the Sony has a shallower lens mount cap that may (for storage) or may not (for use) be important to you.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens
Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens

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

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens to other lenses. I preloaded a perfect Sony kit in that link.

Relatively speaking, the Sony is the smallest option until it is extended where it becomes longer than the others, though it remains slimmer in diameter.

Another interesting comparison is with the sibling Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens

Here we see a design difference especially influenced by a one stop wider aperture.

The Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens accepts standard threaded 82mm front filters (a rear drop-in filter slot is not provided). While 82mm filters are rather large and priced a bit higher than smaller options, just having front filter threads is a big asset for a lens in this class. As the 82mm size has become more common over the years, this size has also become one of the most readily available and it is shareable among a large number of lens models (including the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens I mentioned early in the review). Being rather large also means that this filter can be used on a large number of smaller filter-sized lenses using inexpensive step-up filter adapter rings.

Note that using a standard thickness circular polarizer filter on this lens will increase peripheral shading. A slim model such as the B+W XS-Pro is highly recommended.

The included, semi-rigid, petal-shaped hood is modestly-sized, yet it offers adequate protection from physical impact along with shading some light. The hood has a flocked interior for superior reflection avoidance and a push-button release makes the bayonet mount easy to use. Apparently, the hood can be installed tilted (hint: I discovered this when editing the product images).

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Case

Sony includes a nice zippered, padded nylon lens case in the box. This case has an about-2" (5cm) belt loop sewn onto the back and a shoulder strap is provided.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Cap

The beveled outer rim of the lens cap makes it slightly harder to hold onto than I appreciate, but I do like Sony's shallow mount caps.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Front View on Camera

Price, Value, Compatibility

Back to Top

Premium quality optics typically bear a premium-level price and this lens is normal in this case. Likely no one will buy the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens because it has a low price, but many are going to buy it for its value.

As an "FE" lens, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including both full frame and APS-C sensor format models. Sony provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The reviewed FE 16-35 GM was online-retail acquired.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Top View with Hood


Back to Top

The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens's successor is the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II 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 vs. FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II 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. Initially, the version I lens was priced $300.00 less than the II. Get the II.

Does a narrower aperture work for you? The Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens shares the same focal length with a 1/2 as wide aperture. Those not photographing subjects in motion in low light, including the night sky, may be fine with that aspect.

In the wide-open aperture image quality comparison, the two lenses perform similarly in the center of the frame, and the f/4 lens has a modest sharpness advantage in the corner. Compared using equivalent f/4 apertures, the f/4 lens's sharpness advantages are reduced. Advantaged by the wider aperture, the f/2.8 lens has less peripheral shading at f/4. The two lenses become similar in that regard by f/8. The f/2.8 lens has far less barrel distortion at the wide end but modestly less pincushion distortion at the long end.

The Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens vs. Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens comparison shows the 2x wider aperture directly translated to a 2x weight gain. The volume of the f/2.8 lens is similarly larger, with a larger filter size included — 82mm vs. 72mm. The PZ lens has the namesake power zoom feature, reduced focus breathing, and a higher maximum at the same minimum focus distance — 0.23x vs. 0.19x. The PZ lens has Dual XD Linear AF drive vs. SSM. It also has a fixed length. While the price difference is not quite 2x, the f/2.8 lens price is approaching that amount.

Let's compare the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens next. As seen in the comparison image shared earlier, the f/4 lens is noticeably smaller and it also weighs less, 18.3 vs 24 oz (518g vs. 680g). The Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 vs. f/4 lens image quality comparison shows these two lenses performing rather similarly at f/4 at the wide end. At mid and longer focal lengths, the f/2.8 lens becomes sharper than the f/4 in the center and by 35mm, the f/2.8 lens completely blows away the f/4 lens we tested.

The f/4 has slightly less geometric distortion at the wide end and slightly more at the long end while the f/2.8 has less peripheral shading, especially at wider apertures. The f/4 has in-lens OSS (Optical Steady Shot), but lacks the focus hold and AF/MF switch. The f/2.8 GM lens has 11 aperture blades vs. 7 and the f/4 lens uses smaller filters (72mm vs. 82mm). That the f/4 lens costs substantially less will be hard to overlook for many.

Many lenses can be adapted for use on Sony's E-mount cameras. Because of performance issues with adapted lenses, I recommend staying with Sony's native mount lenses.

But, if an alternative is to be considered, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens is my easy first choice. In the Sony vs. Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 Lens comparison (and mentally adjusting for the camera differences), I see the Canon turning in sharper corners at 16mm and slightly sharper corners at some of the longer focal lengths.

The Sony shows less peripheral shading and slightly less flare effects at the longer focal lengths with narrow apertures while the Canon has a slightly better overall geometric distortion pattern. The Sony is slightly smaller and lighter and has two additional aperture blades (11 vs. 9) while the Canon has a higher maximum magnification (0.25x vs 0.19x) to its advantage. Both lenses have the same list price, but the cost of an adapter may need to be factored in for the Canon.

Two other non-Sony lenses worth considering are the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens and the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens. Use the site's lens comparison tools to see the physical and performance differences between these lenses.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens on Tripod


Back to Top

The Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens fills a critical position in serious and professional photography kits based on the Sony E-mount cameras. The build quality seems solid and the weather-sealed box is checked. The ultra-wide through moderately wide focal lengths are among the most-useful available. The f/2.8 aperture adds to the versatility of these focal lengths and the accurate autofocus system will insure full realization of the high grade imagery this lens delivers. Overall, the FE 16-35 f/2.8 GM lens impresses and is my first choice wide angle zoom for the Sony system.

Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

Can you help right now?

This site and my family depend on your support.
Please share this page!

Share on Facebook! Share on X! Share on Pinterest! Email this page to a friend!

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens
Share on Facebook! Share on X! Share on Pinterest! Email this page to a friend!
Can we stay in touch?Free Newsletter
Bryan Recommends Buying It Here
Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this site Any purchase made after using this link provides support for this siteAny purchase made after using this link provides support for this siteAs an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Any purchase made at WEX Photographic after using this link provides support for this siteAny purchase made at Camera Canada after using this link provides support for this site
Any purchase made at KEH after using this link provides support for this siteAny purchase made at MPB after using this link provides support for this site
Terms of Use, Privacy  |  © 2024 Rectangular Media, LLC  |  Bryan CarnathanPowered by Christ!