Sony's Next Best Lens? The Sony 16-35mm F/2.8 GM II Review

Over 5 years since its release, the 16-35mm F2.8 remained one of the most popular zoom lenses for Sony use. Now the Mark II version is here with corner-to-corner sharpness, a lighter design than ever before, and extra fast autofocus to capture every shot.

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Introducing the latest and freshest Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM II lens. This beauty is not just another lens; it’s the crown jewel of Sony's G Master Series. Imagine having the versatility to capture everything from wide landscapes to cozy interiors and all sorts of videos. The missing piece completes the MK II 'Trinity', making it the smallest and lightest. And it’s not just about size and weight; the design of this lens ensures sharp, beautifully lit captures and oh-so-pleasing bokeh across its entire zoom range. Plus, its advanced optical design means reduced aberrations, corner-to-corner sharpness, and speedy autofocus. To top it all off, it’s robust, dust and moisture-resistant, making it the go-to choice for pros and enthusiasts craving performance and artistic flexibility. We were honored to be among the first creators to get our hands on the lands for a week's worth of field tests, and we’re highly impressed. Check out our video highlighting more of the lens, including Sony’s newest A7C II and A7C R cameras (read our review on those here), linked above. Let’s dive in.

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How Does It Compare To Its Predecessor?

As a seasoned photographer, I've seen and tested many camera lenses on the market, from Canon to Fujifilm to Sony. However, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM II lens stands out from the crowd and is a highly impressive upgrade from its ultra-wide predecessor.

First, the 74th Sony E-mount lens and the 51st full-frame release already speak volumes about its pedigree. It shares unprecedented performance from a standard zoom lens that covers the ultra-wide range. Comprising 15 elements in 12 groups, it is the smallest and lightest in its class, surpassing its predecessor by 20% lighter and 10% smaller. Additionally, there are four major areas of enhancement: resolution at the corners, chromatic aberration, flare and ghosting, and close-up macros.

The superior optical design and the latest floating focus mechanism enable close-up shooting as close as .22m across the entire zoom range, resulting in even more delectable bokeh. Furthermore, it has minimal focus breathing and supports the breathing compensation function of compatible bodies. And for the cherry on top, it supports blackout-free 30FPS and AF tracking while zooming.

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Who Is It For?

It’s a dream come true for photographers and filmmakers who crave versatility, performance, and artistic freedom. Whether you're capturing the grandeur of landscapes, interiors' intricacies, or videos' dynamism, this lens has got you covered. The improvements in corner resolution and chromatic aberration make it ideal for those who refuse to compromise on image quality. The reduced flare and ghosting make it a top pick for shooting in challenging light conditions. The close-up macro capabilities and delicious bokeh make it a favorite for portrait photographers and filmmakers. In short, it’s the lens for creatives who demand the best and are ready to push the boundaries of their art.

In conclusion, while many camera lenses are available on the market, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM II lens is in a league of its own. It’s not just a lens; it’s a statement of what’s possible when cutting-edge technology meets artistic vision. It’s the lens for those who seek to capture the world in all its glory and are not afraid to venture into the unknown. So, if you’re a photographer or filmmaker seeking the ultimate tool for your craft, this lens is for you.

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Is This Lens Good for Filmmakers?

Filmmakers, vloggers, and YouTubers, this one's for you! The Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM II lens is not just another lens; it's your new best friend in the world of content creation. Sony has always been attentive to the needs of hybrid shooters, and this lens is no exception. Yes, it's on the pricier side, but let me tell you why it's worth every penny.

  • Focus breathing reduction: This lens significantly reduces focus breathing, which is a game-changer for video shooting. Say goodbye to distracting changes in the angle of view when adjusting focus during a shot.
  • Reduced focus shift while zooming: This lens minimizes focus shift during zooming, ensuring consistent focus throughout your shot.
  • Active Mode image stabilization: This feature supports ultra-wide images and movies, ensuring steady and smooth footage even when shooting handheld.
  • No need to readjust the gimbal balance: The lens has a variable overall length, but the center of gravity virtually remains the same. This means you don't have to readjust your gimbal balance during shoots constantly.

The lightweight nature of this lens makes it an ideal travel companion for worldwide shoots and long field days. Imagine being able to capture the entire scene in stunning detail, whether you're vlogging your adventures, shooting a documentary, or creating content for your YouTube channel.

Worth The Price?

Paying a hefty $2,499 for Sony lenses might seem excessive, particularly when Sony consistently releases more affordable options every month and when there are alternative options available from Sigma for FE mounts. However, investing in one's preferred focal lens is undoubtedly worthwhile, and I argue that after a six-year wait for the perfect redo, this lens is the game-changer. It embodies the esteemed quality of Sony, infused with customer feedback, to ensure an optimal mix of the customer's needs and desires. If you're in the market for an ultra-wide-angle lens that is versatile enough to capture almost anything and is also exceptionally lightweight, this choice is a no-brainer.

It is rare for me to consider upgrades as necessary, but this one is as easy as pie. Well done, Sony.

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