Lens review

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II

29 August 2023
Maciej Latałło

4. Image resolution

Our resolution test (resolution meaning the MTF50 function values) of Sony FE lenses is based on RAW files from the 42.4 Mpix sensor of the Sony A7R II or the Sony A7R III camera. In the case of this kind of detector the decency level we set about 39-41 lpmm and the best fixed focal length lenses have been able to reach a level of 75-80 lpmm. Record-breaking lenses are able to exceed 80 lpmm and so far, our list of these record-breakers features the Sigma C 65 mm f/2 DG DN (82.7 lpmm), the Sony FE 20 mm f/1.8G (83.7 lpmm), and the Sony FE 50 mm f/1.4 GM (90.9 lpmm).

Let's check how the Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II compares – a graph below presents its results in the frame centre at 16, 24, and 35 mm.

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Image resolution

The first thing that sticks out at once is how even the performance is. Already from the f/4.0 aperture particular focal lengths are practically undistinguishable from each other. The second thing, worth noticing, is the performance at the maximum relative aperture – both ends of the focal range fare the best, the middle is the weakest. In all cases, however, the resolution values are high, exceeding 60 lpmm, and it means that even by f/2.8 you can enjoy a very good image quality.

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Maximum results, just brushing against 70 lpmm, are a fly in the ointment here. The Tamron 20-40 mm f/2.8 Di III VXD, a lens significantly cheaper, but also a bit easier to construct and design, could reach 74 lpmm. Still, before we start to tear down the performance of the new Sony lens, let's check how it fares on the edge of the frame. First, let's look at its performance on the edge of the APS-C sensor.

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Image resolution

Really impressive values can be noticed at the shortest focal length - they don't differ much from the resolution we saw in the centre. Already by f/2.8 the lens is able to achieve a very high level of 60 lpmm and on stopping down the aperture the lens reaches almost 65 lpmm. The results at the longer end of the focal spectrum are a bit weaker but still very good, never providing you any reason to complain.

Let's see how the situation changes when you progress to the edge of full frame – an appropriate graph can be seen below.

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Image resolution

No weak spots here. The shortest focal length still performs fantastically well – it's obvious the producers at this point focused on guaranteeing you good sharpness across the frame, and up from the maximum relative aperture as well. Once again, longer focal lengths fare weaker but without any real slip-ups, offering you a steady level of about 50 lpmm up from f/2.8.

In this category the Sony simply outclasses the Tamron 20-40 mm, mentioned earlier. At the most difficult combination of the 16 m focal length and the f/2.8 aperture the Sony's result is almost 59 lpmm, making the new lens distinctly sharper than the Tamron was at its best focal length on stopping down.

The aim of optics constructors in case of this lens is obvious. They didn't want to break any resolution records in the centre, but they optimized the new Sony in such a way that it has no weak points even on the edge of the frame. At the same time they really focused on the shortest focal length that fares really great, no matter whether you look at the centre or at the edge of the frame.

At the end of this chapter, traditionally, we present crops taken from photos of our resolution testing chart which were saved as JPEG files along the RAW files, used for the analysis above.

A7R III, JPEG, 16 mm, f/5.6
Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Image resolution
A7R III, JPEG, 35 mm, f/2.8
Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM II - Image resolution