Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM ( SEL1635GM ) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published April 2018


If you want to play a role in the professional (full format) market you have to offer a variety of lenses and at the center of such a system, there's the holy trinity of f/2.8 zoom lenses - a 16-35mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8. That's all old news in the DSLR league but as of the time of this review, Sony provides the only mirrorless system that fulfils this requirement. A while back we reviewed the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM - a quite impressive lens even on a high-resolution camera. This time we'll have a look at its wider cousin - the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. Beyond this f/2.8 option, the Sony FE system is certainly not shy of ultra-wide alternatives. There's the Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G and, if primes are your things, the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8. These are all good if not great lenses thus one interesting question will be whether the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM is really worth the extra money - and we are talking about a market price of around 2200USD or 2500EUR here.

As the name implies the lens is a member of the GM (G Master) class - thus Sony's highest grade lenses. Besides other aspects that also translates to top build quality based on a tightly assembled metal body. The zoom and focus rings operate smoothly. On the downside, the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM does extend slightly during zooming - or to be precise it does retract. The lens has its longest extension at the 16mm setting. Sony is still calling it an IF (internal focus) system because the size doesn't change during focusing - although that's nothing special anymore these days. Given its professional scope, it is, of course, weather-sealed. A fluorine front-element coating on the front element is supposed to repel dust and fluids. A small petal-shaped lens hood is part of the package.

The AF system is based on Sony's usual Direct Drive SSM. In fact, it doesn't have one but two of those units - probably because of the heavy lens groups. The system is silent and provides good albeit not exceedingly fast speed. Manual focusing works, as usual, by wire thus you are driving the AF motor by turning the focus ring. That's works nicely. Other than the usual AF/MF switch, you can also use a (reprogrammable) focus hold button for controlling the AF.

Optical construction16 elements in 13 groups inc. 2xXA, 2x aspherical, 2xED elements
Number of aperture blades11 (circular)
min. focus distance0.28m (1:5.26)
Filter size82mm
Hoodsupplied, petal-shaped, bayonet mount
Other featuresNano AR Coating, Focus-hold button, weather sealing