First Impressions: Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master FE (Sony E Mount, Full Mount)

Today, Sony is announcing the last addition to their f2.8 trinity: the Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master FE lens. The new Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master FE lens is designed to be every bit as professional as the 70-200mm f2.8 and 24-70mm f2.8 lens offerings. In regards to the design, Sony talks a lot about how much engineering went into it in regards to corner to corner sharpness in addition to distortion. When it launches later this year, it’s going to be $2,199 in stores at the end of August.

Tech Specs

From the press release:

The new FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM wide-angle zoom joins the acclaimed FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM and FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS to round out Sony’s lineup of F2.8 large aperture zoom lenses. Equipped with a variety of Sony’s most advanced lens technologies, it is the first wide-angle G Master model, making it ideal for an extensive variety of shooting situations – landscapes, architecture, close up portraits, sports, action and much more. It is also exceptionally lightweight and compact, maximizing portability and usability.

The new lens features exceptional corner-to-corner sharpness, with an optical design that includes five aspherical elements, two of which are Sony’s original XA (extreme aspherical) elements that reduce aberration and delivers the ultimate resolution throughout the entire zoom and aperture range.   The front XA element on the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM is the largest XA element ever produced, ensuring optimum quality. Additionally, two ED (Extra-low-Dispersion) glass elements keep chromatic aberration to a minimum while maximizing resolution, and Sony’s original Nano AR coating suppresses internal reflections to ensure excellent image contrast and clarity.

The lens features a near circular aperture shape at all settings, and the combination of the aforementioned XA element with its 11 blade aperture design produces images with sharply focused subjects and beautifully defocused backgrounds or “bokeh”. It also has two DDSSMs (Direct Drive SSM) that compose a floating focusing system and ensure that AF acquisition is speedy and quiet, making it an ideal choice for shooting still images as well as movies.

The FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM is also dust and moisture resistant1, has a fluorine coating on the front lens that helps to both prevent dust or grease marks and remove them easily if they do become a trouble. There is also a customizable focus hold button and a hood release button.

Ergonomics

If you look at the Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master FE lens, you can see that it looks a whole lot like many other Sony lenses. The Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master FE lens has an 82mm front filter thread and doesn’t really need a filter to complete the weather sealing.

Look at the top of the lens and what you’ll spot is some of the branding. The design of the lens is characterized mostly by the two rings: one is for focusing and the other is obviously for zooming in and out. The lens externally zooms but not a crazy amount.

Head over to the side of the lens and you’ll see the single switch on the lens for AF/MF. Then there is the AF hold button.

Build Quality

The Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master FE lens is designed to incorporate dust and moisture resistance–and so Sony is very specifically saying that it isn’t weather sealed. But in the hands, the lens feels very nice. It’s incredibly a lot like the Canon 16-35mm f2.8 III lens. During the time we spent with it, we only really tested it in the dust and the lens kept working.

Ease of Use

I got a chance to use the lens with the Sony a7r II and the Sony a9. During my time, I felt that no one should really have a problem with this lens. Afterall, it’s an autofocus lens and all you’re doing is simply mounting the lens onto the camera, pointing, autofocusing and shooting. But otherwise if you’re thinking about landscape photography, then the zone focusing on the lens isn’t effective.

Autofocus

Speaking of autofocus, on both the Sony a7r II and the Sony a9, I felt that the Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master FE lens focuses incredibly fast. We tested the lens with skaters in addition to a number of other things. It continued to focus pretty much without fail most of the time. Even with heavy backlighting the lens was accurate. But to be fair, this is a wide angle lens and it’s very tough to miss anything.

With both cameras, the focusing is always fast but it’s more straightforward with the Sony a9 due to the direct focusing abilities via the joystick.

Image Quality

Here are our first sample images. Technically speaking, I love the quality. However, I honestly want more lens flare from the Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master FE lens.

The engineers asked me about my thoughts on the quality and honestly when it comes to the technicalities there’s really nothing to worry about or complain about at this point unless you’re really trying to look at your images at 100%. And honestly, that’s completely worthless these days.

First Impressions

So far, I’m really liking the Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master FE lens. Though if I really have to be honest, I’m not sure why Sony didn’t try to make a 14-24mm f2.8 considering how good they are at lens making. But at the moment of publishing this post, I’ve only had a few hours of time to play with the Sony 16-35mm f2.8 G Master FE lens.