Lens review

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II

29 August 2023
Maciej Latałło

3. Build quality

The following chart presents a comparison between basic parameters of the new lens, its predecessor, and other ultra wide-angle zooms designed for full frame mirrorless cameras.

As you see, compared to the predecessor, in the new lens the constructors saved as many as 133 grams of weight and over 1 cm of length. It's obvious that Sony, contrary to Canon, decided to move towards miniaturization; in case of Canon you got a lens with a tad wider focal range at the wide angle of view, important in this case, but only at a cost of bigger weight and length. It's worth noticing that, because of such an approach, the Canon lens is two times as heavy a the Tamron 17-28 f/2.8 Di III RXD.

Like in the majority of the latest Sony launches the company also offers a better minimum focusing distance - it decreased from 0.28 to 0.22 of a meter.

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It is interesting that, at the same time, the Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II features one element more than its predecessor. Usually miniaturization and optics quality improvement means a more complex optical system. Here it was simplified, as it has less elements, but there are more special elements among them so there might still be a progress. How will it influence optical properties of the new lens? Next chapters are going to answer this question.

In the photo below the Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II is positioned between the Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar 2/50 and the reflex camera Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG HSM.

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Build quality

The tested lens starts with a metal mount surrounding a contact plate embedded into a 33×22 mm frame made of plastics. A rear element, 27 mm in diameter, is positioned inside and it moves: at 16 mm its casing practically touches the frame and, after passing to 35 mm, it hides inside the barrel about 2 cm deep. That movement reveals an inner tube that is well blackened and matted. Some electronic parts can be noticed but you have to peek really deep inside. Blackening is good but you can hardly speak about the lens being fully sealed.

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Build quality

The proper body of the lens starts with a black ring made of plastics which diameter increases as you move further from the mount. On the ring you can find the name and basic parameters of the lens along with a whte dot, making an alignment with a camera easier, the mount type (E-mount), its serial number, and information about the fact that it was made in Thailand. On the already enlargened part you see two switches. The first of them, IRIS LOCK, blocks the aperture ring either in A position (then aperture is set by the camera body), or in the f/2.8 -f/22 range. The second switch, CLICK ON/OFF, controls the aperture ring mode. You can choose from a clickless mode, making undoubtedly video recording users happy, and a click-stop mode, with the ring moving every 1/3 EV step.

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Build quality

The next ring allows you to change the aperture of the lens. It's 9 mm wide and partially ribbed. It can move every 1/3 EV step or you can declick it – depending on the settings of the CLICK ON/OFF switch, described above. It also can be blocked in the A position – then the aperture is controlled by the camera.

Further on you see a zoom ring, as wide as 22 mm, most of its surface covered by rubber ribs. At the bottom you can find focal lengths marks at 16, 20, 24, 28, and 35 mm. The ring moves smoothly and is properly damped.

A narrow ring, as wide as 17 mm, is the next part of the lens; right behind it you can find two round, programmable Focus Lock buttons, an AF/MF switch, that enables you to choose the focusing mechanism mode, the producer's logo, and the G Master series mark.

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Build quality

A ribbed manual focus ring, 21 mm wide, is the next feature. It's a focus-by-wire construction and its resistance is barely noticed but still it remains within limits of comfort; running through the whole distance range needs a turn through an angle of about 130 degrees and this value depends weakly on the speed of your turning. With such parameters of the lens it's a significant value, allowing you to set the focus very precisely.

The front element is convex. 64 mm in diameter, surrounded by a part of the barrel with the name and basic parameters of the lens along with a non-rotating filter thread, 82 mm in diameter, and a hood mount.

As you pass from 35 mm to 16 mm the whole front system extends on a homogeneous tube made of plastics. After that the length of the whole lens increases by just 8 mm.

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Build quality

When it comes to the optical construction, you deal here with 15 elements positioned in 12 groups. The producers weren't skimpy with special parts and their number is trully impressive. You get one aspherical element, two made of low dispersion ED glass, one made of Super ED glass; apart from that three elements are XA (extreme aspherical) and one is ED aspherical. Inside you can also find a round aperture with 11 blades. The producers also boast of Nano AR Coat II coatings and additional protective layers on outer optical elements.

Buyers get in the box with the lens: both caps, a petal-type hood and a hard case of very good quality.

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Build quality