Sony 16-35mm f/2.8

Full-Frame E-Mount FE GM (2017-)

Sample Images   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specifications   Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations

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Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 FE GM

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM (metal 82mm filter thread, 24.0 oz./679g), 0.9'/0.28m close focus, about $2,198). bigger. I'd get mine at Adorama, at Amazon, at B&H or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to my personally-approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Sony does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used lens. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.

 

June 2017   Sony   Sony Lenses   Zeiss   Nikon   Canon   Fuji   LEICA   All Reviews

How to Use Ultrawide Lenses

Full-Frame Ultrawide Lenses Compared

Zeiss 16-35/4 OSS (2014-)

Canon 16-35/2.8 L III (2016-)

Nikon 16-35/4 VR (2010-)

Nikon 17-35/2.8 ED (1999-)

 

Sample Images

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Compatibility   Specifications   

Performance   Compared

Usage

El Torito

Fountain, 21 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 18mm at f/4 hand-held at 1/15 second at Auto ISO 1,000. bigger or camera-original © file.

 

Lions, El Torito

Lions, 19 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 35mm at f/5 at 1/125 second at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file. The lions are in focus; the tile behind them is not.

 

Introduction

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Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations

Good   Bad   Missing

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This Sony 16-35/2.8 GM is the best 16-35mm lens available for any Sony camera, although the Zeiss 16-35/4 OSS (2014-) is a close second.

You can't buy better at any price: it's ultra sharp at every setting, well-made, has a very handy focus-lock button on the side of the barrel, and focuses super-fast on Sony's cameras, especially the state-of-the-art Sony A9.

If you're serious about your full-frame Sony, this is the most serious wide zoom made by anyone for it.

 

Good

● Ultrasharp at every setting, especially wide-open at f/2.8.

● Fast f/2.8 for low light.

● Very fast and essentially silent autofocus.

● Focus lock button.

● Excellent bokeh.

 

Bad

● $2,200.

 

Missing

● No focus or depth-of-field scales.

● No infra-red focus indices.

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 FE GM

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. bigger.

 

Format

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Compatibility   Specifications   

Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations

This is a full-frame lens and I'm reviewing it as such.

It works great on APS-C cameras and you may make the usual inferences for them.

This full-frame pro ultrawide lens is foolish to use on APS-C because you're paying a huge premium in size and money for this full frame ultrawide, which on APS-C is simply an unstabilized normal zoom with limited range. 56% of its image area is simply wasted with the cropped sensors of APS-C cameras. For APS-C cameras, an APS-C lens is the best idea. This 16-35 offers no image quality advantage on APS-C over an APS-C lens of the same focal length.

 

Compatibility

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Compatibility   Specifications   

Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations

This works on all Sony E-mount cameras, full-frame and crop-sensor. This includes all the NEX, A7, A6xxx and A5xxx series cameras.

It will not work on any Minolta MAXXUM 35mm SLR or any Sony A-mount DSLR. Those use the old A mount which was actually the Minolta MAXXUM mount from 1987.

 

Specifications

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Compatibility   Specifications   

Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations

 

Name

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 FE GM

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. bigger.

Sony calls this the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM:

    FE: Full-frame coverage, E-mount.

    GM: "G Master," which means Sony's best.

 

Optics

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 Lens Construction

Sony 16-35/2.8 construction. "Extreme" Aspherical, Aspherical and ED elements.

16 elements in 13 groups.

3 regular aspherical elements.

2 "Extreme" aspherical element.

2 ED extra low dispersion elements.

"Nano" anti reflection coating.

Fluorine front coating to resist dirt and fingerprints.

Focus is internal.

Zoom is "pumper" style, with the front section extending at 16mm.

 

Diaphragm

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 FE GM

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM (diaphragm not quite visible). bigger.

11 rounded blades.

Stops down to f/22.

 

Focal Length

16 ~ 35mm.

When used on APS-C, it sees the same angles of view as a 24 ~ 53mm lens sees when used on a full-frame camera.

See also Crop Factor.

 

Angle of View

107º ~ 63º diagonal on full-frame.

87° ~ 44° diagonal on APS-C.

 

Autofocus

Floating internal focus with two separate focus groups driven with two Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave Motors (DDSSM)

No external movement as focussed.

One focus lock button.

 

Close Focus

0.92 feet (0.28 meter).

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:4.6 (0.22 ×), actual measured.

(Sony specifies 1:1.6 (0.62 ×), but that's a mistake.)

 

Stabilizer

None; use the one in your camera.

 

Filters

82mm filter thread.

 

Hood

Sony ALC-SH145 hood

Sony ALC-SH149 hood. bigger.

Locking plastic bayonet hood included.

 

Case

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 FE GM

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 case. bigger.

Padded nylon case included.

 

Size

3.48" maximum diameter × 4.79" extension from flange.

88.5 mm maximum diameter × 121.6 mm extension from flange.

 

Weight

23.955 oz. (679.1 g), actual measured weight.

Rated 24.0 oz. (680 g).

 

Announced

19 May 2017.

 

Promised for

31 August 2017.

 

Sony Model Number

SEL1635GM.

 

Included

Lens (SEL1635GM).

ALC-F82S front and ALC-R1EM rear cap.

ALC-SH149 hood.

Case & strap.

 

Price, USA

$2,198, June 2017.

 

Performance

Top   Sample Images   Intro   Format   

Compatibility   Specifications   

Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations

 

Overall   Autofocus   Manual Focus   Breathing

Bokeh   Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff   Filters

Flare & Ghosts   Lateral Color Fringes   Macro

Mechanics   Sharpness   Spherochromatism

Stabilization   Sunstars

 

Overall

Performance          top

This Sony 16-35 2.8 GM is the best 16-35 available for Sony. It's ultra sharp, focuses super fast and has a focus lock button.

 

Autofocus

Performance          top

Autofocus is completely silent unless you hold it to your ear. You can shoot with a silent camera in restricted, sensitive and prohibited areas without being noticed.

Hold the unmarked focus lock button (near the AF/MF slide switch) to lock focus. What's weird is that on my Sony A9 that the camera's busy green AF indicators don't extinguish instantly, but the system seems to work fine.

 

Manual Focus

performance          top

The manual focus ring is merely an encoder to the camera's computer, which in turn may or may not focus the lens based on your input. Set the lens to MF for it to work.

For manual-focus override, set the camera to DMF, which puts the camera in AF-S mode, and overrides it if you turn the focus ring.

 

Focus Breathing

Performance          top

Focus breathing is the image changing size as focused in and out. It's important to cinematographers because it looks funny if the image changes size as focus gets pulled back and forth between actors. If the lens does this, the image "breathes" by growing and contracting slightly as the dialog goes back and forth.

The image from the Sony 16-35/2.8 gets smaller as focussed more closely.

 

Bokeh

Performance          top

Bokeh, the feel or quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to how far out of focus they are, is beautiful. Backgrounds just melt away.

Ryan at El Torito

Ryan at El Torito, 21 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 35mm at f/2.8 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 4,000. bigger or camera-original © file.

 

Rose and Katie, Thai Bite

Rose and Katie, 20 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 35mm at f/2.8 at 1/125 second at Auto ISO 2,000. bigger or camera-original © file.

Here are more samples at headshot distance:

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Bokeh

Davis 6250 weather station, 16 June 2017. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolutions images properly).

 

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Bokeh

Davis 6250 weather station, 16 June 2017. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolutions images properly).

 

Distortion

Performance          top

The Sony 16-35/2.8 GM has about the same distortion as the Canon 16-35/2.8 L III, Nikon 16-35/4 VR and Nikon 17-35/2.8 ED: barrel distortion at 16mm and pincushion distortion at 35mm. No big deal, Sony cameras can be set to correct it all automatically if it bothers you.

If you deactivate the camera's automatic correction, it's easy to correct with Photoshop's lens distortion filter.

These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

Correction factors with uncorrected images on full-frame

at 10' (3 meters)

16mm
+3.00*
20mm
-0.20*
24mm
-2.00
28mm
-2.50
35mm
-3.30

© 2017 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

* Some slight waviness remains after correction.

 

Ergonomics

Performance          top

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 FE GM

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. bigger.

This Sony 16-35/2.8 GM zooms with one moderately strong finger, but is even easier with two. It zooms smoothly and feels like it has metal internal cams.

The front extends as it's zoomed towards 16mm. It's just as easy to zoom even if pointed directly up or down.

There is no zoom creep and zooming is perfectly spaced; it's easy to set precise framing anyplace in the range.

Focus is am electronic encoder, not as good as a real mechanical focus ring because the lens doesn't always respond when you turn it depending on your settings.

 

Falloff

Performance          top

Corner light falloff is invisible with the camera's default "Shading Correction" ON.

 

Filters, use with

performance          top

There's no need for thin filters. A thick rotating 82mm grad or other filter works fine on full frame, but don't try to use more than one filter at a time when set to 16mm.

If you're going to get any vignetting, it's worst at the close-focus distance and at 16mm.

Avoid polarizers at the 16mm setting: they make the sky's natural polarization look weird.

 

Flare & Ghosts

Performance          top

There are no ghosts under anything but the most deliberate conditions. If you do something deliberately silly like pointing the lens at the sun and filling the rest of the frame with black, you'll see some green ghosts:

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 Flare

Flare, 17 June 2017. Sony A9, Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM at 25mm at f/22 at 1/20 at ISO 100. bigger.

You'll never see it in normal use; don't worry about it. Many people want ghosts, and even use software to add them back in to modern lenses like this!

 

Lateral Color Fringes

Performance          top

There are no color fringes as shot on Sony cameras, most of which by default correct for any that may be there.

This is excellent.

 

Macro

Performance          top

Macro performance is very good; it gets very close and stays very sharp, even wide-open at f/2.8:

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Macro Performance

Kienzle Flieger Automat 800/2843, 17 June 2017. Sony A9, Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM at 35mm at close focus distance at f/2.8 at 1/8,000 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file.

 

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Macro Performance

1,200 x 900 pixel crop from above. bigger or camera-original © file.

If this crop is about 12" (30cm) wide on your screen, then the complete image printed at this same extreme magnification would be about 40 x 60" (1 x 1.5 meters). You're seeing the actual texture of the watch face and case.

If this crop is about 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, then the complete image printed at this same extreme magnification would be about 20 x 30" (50 x 75 cm).

This is superb performance; many lenses have to be stopped down to be this sharp at close distance.

 

Mechanical Quality

Performance          top

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 FE GM

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. bigger.

This Sony 16-35 is made pretty well, with both metal and plastic on the outside. Sony claims a sealed dust- and moisture-resistant design.

 

Front Bumper

None.

 

Filter Threads

Metal.

 

Hood Bayonet Mount

Metal.

 

Front Barrel

Metal.

 

Focus Ring

Rubber-covered plastic.

 

Mid Barrel

Section with focus lock button: plastic.

The button is plastic, too.

 

Zoom Ring

Rubber-covered plastic.

 

Rear Barrel

Plastic.

 

Internals

Looks like plastic and metal.

Impressive is the unusually intricate ribbing on the inside rear barrel that should be especially effective in catching stray off-axis light and preventing it from bouncing back onto the image sensor.

 

Moisture Seal at Mount

Not really; there is a gasket, but look carefully and it doesn't make contact with the mount of my A9, so it provides less sealing than you'd expect.

 

Mount

Dull chromed metal.

 

Markings

Painted, except for the zoom ring whose numbers are engraved (or molded) and filled with paint.

 

Date Code

None found.

 

Identity

Plastic ring between filter threads and front element, engraved and filled with paint.

Dark gray paint on bottom rear of barrel:

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 FE GM

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. bigger.

 

Serial Number

A sticker glued to the bottom of the barrel, perfectly OK for a CD player but not acceptable for a piece of gear expected to receive heavy handling in the field on a daily basis.

 

Noises When Shaken

Minor clicking.

 

Made in Thailand

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 made in Thailand

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. bigger.

It's made in Thailand, which is hidden in black letters molded into the black plastic flare guard at the back of the lens. It's only visible on close inspection with the lens off a camera and no rear cap on the lens.

 

Sharpness

Performance          top

It's super-sharp corner-to-corner even wide open. This is superb!

Fine Home with Coffered Ceilings

Fine Home with Coffered Ceilings, 22 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 16mm at f/2.8 at 1/5 at ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file.

Sharp edge-to-edge even wide-open at f/2.8. Bravo!

 

Office Building

Office Building and Eucalypti, 21 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 16mm at f/5.6 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file.

 

Fine Home with Coffered Ceilings

Fine Home with Coffered Ceilings, 22 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 16mm at f/8 at 2 seconds at ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file.

Stooping down gives us more depth-of-field so more is in focus; so long as you have the subject in focus, it's just as sharp at f/2.8.

The only limitations are your skill as a photographer. If you can't get ultrasharp images with this lens, examine your technique.

Here are Sony's MTF charts at 10 cyc/mm and 30 cyc/mm:

Sony 16-35/2.8 MTF
Sony 16-35/2.8 MTF
MTF at 16mm at f/2.8.
MTF at 35mm at f/2.8.

 

Sony 16-35/2.8 MTF
Sony 16-35/2.8 MTF
MTF at 16mm at f/8.
MTF at 35mm at f/8.

 

Spherochromatism

Performance          top

Spherochromatism, also called "color bokeh" by laymen, can cause colored fringes on out-of-focus highlights, usually seen as green fringes on backgrounds and magenta fringes on foregrounds with fast, long lenses shot wide open.

It is an advanced form of chromatic aberration in a different dimension than lateral color. Spherochromatism is most commonly seen in fast lenses of moderate focal length when shooting contrasty items at full aperture. It goes away as stopped down.

I didn't see any, and you can see how clean is the macro image shot at f/2.8.

 

Image Stabilization

Performance          top

This lens has no internal stabilization, but with most Sonys having internal sensor-shift stabilization, I can hand-hold it at a half-second on my Sony A9:

Tacos, El Torito

Tacos, 19 June 2017. Sony A9 with Sony 16-35/2.8 GM at 16mm at f/8 hand-held at 1/2 second at Auto ISO 250. bigger or camera-original © file. Look out; even at f/8 only the center is actually in perfect focus.

The one gotcha to sensor versus optical stabilization is that with ultrawide lenses camera shake can't be compensated as well at the sides as it can be at the center. What looks a like a little jitteryness at the sides is a combination of limited depth of field and the fact that images from ultrawide lenses shift more at the sides than they do at the center for any given angular camera displacement. Regardless of haw many axes of stabilization claimed, for flawless stabilization of an ultrawide we'd need a rubbery sensor that could be shifted more at the sides than the center.

 

Sunstars

Performance          top

Due to its rounded diaphragm blades, this 16-35 makes almost no sunstars on brilliant points of light.

Here's the very best I could do. It's great that its 11 blades can sometimes be coaxed into 22-point stars, but we only get these at f/16 and f/22, and they aren't that sharply pointed (click any to enlarge):

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Sunstars

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Sunstars

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Sunstars

 

Compared

Top   Sample Images   Intro   Format   

Compatibility   Specifications   

Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations

 

See also Full-Frame Ultrawide Lenses Compared.

This Sony 16-35/2.8 GM is as ultrasharp as all the others in the latest round of full-frame ultrawides introduced in recent years. They are all optically superb: sharp corner-to-corner even wide-open, and all have about the same levels of distortion.

 

Versus the Zeiss FE 16-35/4 OSS

The Zeiss 16-35/4 OSS (2014-) is smaller, lighter and less expensive, but one f/stop slower. It's just about as superbly sharp at all apertures everywhere in the frame, and adds optical image stabilization. The Zeiss has metal outsides and a metal filter thread, but mostly plastic insides and isn't as tough as this GM lens whose plastic is on the outside. The Zeiss has no focus-lock button.

The Zeiss is best for shooting things that hold still, while this f/2.8 GM lens is best for where you need the extra speed for news, sports and action. This f/2.8 might be a hair sharper in the corners, but they are both superb.

 

Versus Canon, Nikon and other 16-35mm lenses

While others make spectacular 16-35mm lenses, none of them work well adapted to Sony's cameras.

This is because their AF systems aren't optimized for Sony's newest live systems, and just as importantly these other lenses, while ultra-sharp on their own brands of cameras, look fuzzy at the sides on Sony cameras because their optics haven't been optimized for the virtual curved-fields and rear nodal point positions required for good results on Sony cameras.

This Sony 16-35mm is optimized for Sony, and focuses much faster and is much, much sharper than any other lens adapted to Sony.

 

Usage

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Compatibility   Specifications   

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Usage   Recommendations

 

Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 FE GM

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. bigger.

 

AF | | MF

Leave the top slide switch at AF (autofocus).

Use the MF, Manual Focus position, only if you want to lock-out autofocus.

There's no manual-focus override in AF-C mode; use DMF.

 

Focus Lock Button

This is the unmarked round button under the big "G."

Hold it to lock autofocus.

It can be used for recomposition, or if your target runs behind an obstruction for a moment.

This button would be extremely useful on Canon and Nikon where we often have to recompose since they only have AF sensors in the middle of their frames, but since most Sonys like the Sony A9 have AF sensors that cover the entire frame, we don't need these as much.

 

Recommendations

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Compatibility   Specifications   

Performance   Compared

Usage   Recommendations

Get one! This is the best 16-35 zoom ever made for full-frame Sony cameras, and it's also the biggest and most expensive.

The Zeiss 16-35/4 OSS is as good optically and is smaller and costs less, but it's a stop slower in trade for its optical stabilization. The Zeiss is a good choice for hand-held nature, interiors and landscapes, while this f/2.8 lens is better for physical durability, news, sports and action — or shot on a tripod where stabilization is of no help.

I carry this 16-35/2.8 GM with my Sony A9, 70-200/2.8 GM and other accessories in a Think Tank Retrospective 10 bag, which is the perfect size for holding the 70-200.

If I'm not taking my 70-200/2.8 GM and instead just take my A9 and another medium-sized lens like the 24-70/2.8 GM, the Think Tank Retrospective 5 bag is enough.

 

Protective Filter

The very best protective filter is the 82mm Hoya multicoated HD3 UV which uses hardened glass and repels dirt and fingerprints, and is also multicoated.

For less money, the B+W 82mm 010 is an excellent filter, as is the multicoated version and the basic multicoated Hoya filter and the Hoya Alpha filter, but the Hoya HD3 is the toughest and the best.

Any of these filters protects as well and gives ultrasharp images, but since filters last a lifetime, you may as well get the best since the Hoya HD3 is tougher and stays cleaner than the others since it repels oil and dirt.

 

Where I'd get mine

I'd get mine at Adorama, at Amazon, at B&H or at Crutchfield.

These are very hard to get as of Summer 2017; just order yours and be patient. See also How To Get It.

 

Thank you!

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Sony does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, store demo or used lens. I use the stores I do because they ship from secure remote warehouses where no one gets to touch your new camera before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection.

Thanks for helping me help you!

Ken, Mrs. Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

© Ken Rockwell. All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

 

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15-23 June 2017