Lens review

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II

29 August 2023
Maciej Latałło

11. Summary


  • solid, shapely, lightweight, sealed casing,
  • excellent image quality in the frame centre,
  • very good image quality on the edge of the APS-C sensor,
  • good image quality on the edge of full frame,
  • low longitudinal chromatic aberration,
  • negligible lateral chromatic aberration,
  • slight vignetting on the APS-C/DX sensor,
  • properly corrected coma,
  • low astigmatism,
  • silent, flash-quick, accurate autofocus,
  • low focus breathing.


  • performance against bright light should have been better,
  • high vignetting on full frame, especially at the shortest focal length,
  • a bit too high distortion with a tendency for moustache deformations,
  • not especially nice appearance of out-of-focus images,
  • too high price compared to the performance.
My feelings are a bit mixed I admit. How to sum up such a test? On the one hand you deal here with a lens that is difficult to construct and still is able to provide sharp images at all focal lengths and apertures across the frame. What's more, it can correct aberrations that, with such parameters, are really a pain to correct, like both variants of chromatic aberrations, coma, or astigmatism and it does it really well.

At the same time the new model is offered in a smaller, lighter barrel and not at the expense of its build quality, quite the opposite in fact. You deal here with a weather-sealed instrument that is, overall, very well-put-together. Its aperture got more diaphragm blades, its minimum focusing distance is shorter, its autofocus – more efficient. It also gives you better video recording possibilities.

On the other hand you have to remember that you deal here with a very expensive lens, belonging to the top-of-the-range Sony G Master series. Lately Sony has raised the standards really high, getting us used to the fact that their newest launches are outstanding indeed. And here is the problem - compared to these standards the new Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II doesn't shine so brightly.

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I understand that optics specialists concentrated on guaranteeing very good quality across the frame, and they did it at the expense of the centre where the Sony fares weaker than the much cheaper Tamron. Still I don't like it at all. Focusing on small physical dimensions resulted in huge vignetting at the shortest focal length; in order to fight distortion efficiently distinct moustache deformations were allowed, visible not only at 16 mm but also in the 20-24 mm range. If you add to that a not exactly ideal performance against bright light and just decent appearance of out-of-focus circles of light, you have to admit that, for an expensive G Master series, there are too many flaws here.

Overall, we have an impressions that lately Sony management have been following a trend to miniaturize their products, making them as small as possible. As a result we get such devices as the A7CR or the ZV-E1, with a single memory card slot and barrels that heat up too fast, or the ZV-1 / ZV-1 II series that, when it comes to video recording, would make a lot more sense if you put a bigger battery cell inside (and in case of the ZV-1 II also a faster lens) and so on. We really have nothing against making optical instruments smaller and lighter but sometimes we get an impression that Sony sacrifices too much in order to achieve their aim. The Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II seems to be another victim of their approach.