Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM SEL1635GM

 
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16-35mm $2,198
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Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Review -- Hands-On

by Jaron Schneider | 05/17/2017

Though a Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 was already available to Sony E-mount users, Sony spoke about their newest f/2.8 full-frame wide-angle lens with great pride. The optic that was missing to fill out their "holy trinity" of G-Master zooms is here, and it doesn't disappoint. With what appears to be excellent sharpness, great aberration and flare control, superb autofocus accuracy and speed topped off with a solid body design, the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 looks like it is exactly what Sony fans have been waiting patiently for.

Autofocus

Thanks to two direct drive SSM actuators and a floating focus control system, the autofocus acquisition is spectacularly fast, even on cameras not typically associated with extreme autofocus speed like the A7R II. I was shocked at how quickly I was able to turn the camera on, put the viewfinder to my eye, and fire a shot, and then be rewarded with a perfectly sharp image. This happened multiple times in test shooting while I was managing two cameras in an action-oriented situation. At the time I was rather taken aback at how this was happening, as it was not an experience I expected based on shooting with the A7R II in the past. Something about this lens' autofocusing system puts it several steps beyond what I considered normal.

If the picture I pained about this lens' capabilities on the slower-shooting A7R II whet your palate, then you should have a pretty solid picture of how well the lens performed on the A9. As expected, it was phenomenal. Outside of my user error on a couple occasions, the lens never missed focus or failed to acquire a target.

In high-contrast or backlit situations, the lens performed better than expected. Focusing was quick and accurate with nearly no exceptions.

Image Quality

Sony equipped the FE 16-35mm with two extra low dispersion glass elements to minimize chromatic aberration and also employed their Nano AR coating to suppress internal reflections. What results is a lens that fights flare and chroma extremely well. In my images, I did not see nearly any flare at all, and only a few images with what appears to be a bit of chromatic aberration. However, I looked that a few images a friend of mine took and those exhibited more egregious levels of flare (though not much or any chroma). So while the lens does do a very good job minimizing flare, you can still manage to find some in your shots depending on the angle of your light source.

As far as sharpness is concerned, the Sony 16-35mm is pretty darn good. At nearly any aperture including wide open and at any focal length, subjects are consistently crisp and sharp. Thanks to an eleven-bladed diaphragm, the bokeh is really beautiful and the separation you can achieve contrasted with the sharpness is stellar.

Distortion is well controlled, and the promised corner-to-corner sharpness is there. It really is hard to find anything to complain about with this lens, as images taken with it just look amazing.

Overall

I was very impressed with the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 despite the limited time I had with it. On both the Sony A7R II and the A9 it focused extremely quickly and with pinpoint accuracy while delivering extremely sharp photos with beautiful bokeh. This is most certainly a lens to be excited about when it releases later this year.

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Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Overview

(From Sony lens literature) Explore the world in creative new ways with superb G Master performance in a 16-35mm F2.8 wide-angle zoom. No matter what zoom setting or focus distance you shoot at this lens not only delivers consistently superb resolution from corner to corner, but also produces stunning background bokeh that can add depth and artistic impact to your images when required. A compact, lightweight design makes the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM a great choice for active shooting.

  • Superb resolution at all settings
  • Extraordinarily smooth background bokeh
  • Lightweight, compact and mobile
  • Precise, quiet autofocus
  • Professional control and reliability

Capture the world in spectacular detail

Exacting G Master design standards have resulted in a wide-angle zoom that delivers outstanding corner-to-corner resolution throughout its zoom and focus ranges. Two original XA (extreme aspherical) elements with extremely high surface precision are included, one of which is the largest ever produced. The XA elements work with three aspherical elements to minimize aberrations that commonly plagues wide-angle zooms. Two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements are also used to stop chromatic aberration. A floating mechanism driven by two DDSSM (Direct Drive SSM) actuators maintains outstanding resolution throughout the lens's zoom range, from infinity to close focus. Sony's own Nano AR coating boosts performance even further by suppressing internal reflections and maintaining clarity even in difficult outdoor lighting conditions. Capture your world with stunning sharpness, detail, and realism.

Controlled, beautiful bokeh adds expressive depth

The ability to produce background bokeh with a large-aperture lens is not unusual, but the smooth beauty of the bokeh from this lens is truly impressive. The XA elements and ED glass elements used not only deliver class-leading sharpness and clarity, but they add up to consistently smooth, creamy bokeh as well. An 11-blade aperture mechanism contributes too. Wide angles, an F2.8 maximum aperture, and G Master optics can elevate your art to unprecedented heights.

Compact and reliable

Class-leading size and weight reductions result in a lens that is mobile and manageable, while lens and body sealing enhances reliability for outdoor shooting.* A fluorine coating on the front element helps to prevent dirt and fingerprints from sticking, and makes it easier to wipe dirt and fingerprints away if they do become attached to the lens surface. This is a lens that can be used with confidence in a variety of challenging outdoor conditions.

*Not guaranteed to be 100% dust and moisture proof.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM SEL1635GM User Reviews

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