Review: Sony 16-55mm F2.8 G (The Best Lens of 2015 in 2019)

The Sony 16-55mm F2.8 G is one of the best options for APS-C cameras, and it should have come out in 2015.

In my eyes, the Sony 16-55mm F2.8 G is a great lens that should have come out many years ago. A utilitarian option for photographers steadfastly committed to the a6000 series of cameras, this lens is small, got great build quality, good image quality for what this is, and it offers convenience. But, in 2019 when this lens was released, Sony should have innovated a lot more. Quite honestly, it shows that even though Sony is an extremely innovative company, in some ways they’re still catching up.

Editor’s Note: Part of this review includes sections from our first impressions post. Our first impressions were done on a Sony press trip for journalists where room and board were fully handled by Sony. The Phoblographer’s Editors are trained to resist all the temptations to give overly positive reviews in the face of the glitz and glam of press trips. And further, we’re working on even stricter policies to ensure 100% transparency.

Pros and Cons

What’s so great about this thing?

Pros

  • Image quality is very good
  • Autofocus speed on Sony’s latest cameras is great
  • Weather sealed
  • Convenient and small every day carry lens
  • It’s great for events

Cons

  • With Sony’s level of innovation, I’m amazed they didn’t give this lens a faster aperture to compete with Sigma’s options.
  • Someone is bound to complain about the lack of image stabilization in the lens. So, I guess we have to.

Gear Used

We tested the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G ($1,298) with the:

  • Sony a6600
  • Profoto B10
  • Vi Vante Lambskin Tiger Strap

Tech Specs

Tech specs taken from the Adorama listing of the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G:

  • Standard zoom with outstanding corner-to-corner G Lens resolution
  • Constant F2.8 max aperture maintains exposure and depth of field
  • Lightweight (494g) 16-55mm (24-82.5 mm full-frame equiv.) zoom lens
  • 2x Advanced Aspherical, 2x Aspherical, 3x Extra-low dispersion lens elements and Nano AR coating.
  • Extreme Dynamic linear motor and 9-blade circular aperture
  • Flourine coating on front element, dust and moistue resistant
  • 13″ (0.33m) min focusing distance for excellent close-up performance
  • Lens Mount: Lens Mount: Sony E Mount
  • Lens Format: Lens Format: APS-C
  • Fixed Mirrorless FL: All Zooms
  • Mirrorless: Zoom: Focal Length: 16-55mm
  • Maximum Aperture: Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
  • Lens Type: Wide Angle to Telephoto Zoom Lens
  • Special Features: Aspherical, Dustproof/Splashproof, Weather Resistant

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

The Sony E 16-55mm f2.8 G lens is compact in size and feels well balanced when mounted onto one of Sony’s crop sensor, mirrorless bodies. You’ll find the focusing ring at the front of the lens, with the zooming ring situated midway up the barrel of the lens.

A customizable Focus Hold button, along with the Autofocus/Manual Focus mode switch, can be found on the side of the lens. This is standard for most Sony lenses.

The inner barrel of the lens extends outward as you zoom in. To that end, note that this isn’t an internally zooming lens.

Looking at the front of the lens, you’ll find the markings for the maximum aperture, focal length, and filter thread, along with the minimum focusing distance surrounding the front element.

Build Quality

During our testing of the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G, we decided to give in to our inner masochist and take it out into the rain. Here in NY, it tends to rain pretty hard, but luckily, the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G survived the showers. Right after we came indoors from the downpour, we went to work using the lens. It performed flawlessly. We’re elated that it continued to perform well. Sony’s weather sealing and durability continue to improve. And it’s admirable that the company keeps trying to improve build quality while keeping their products lightweight.

Ease of Use

The Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G is a straightforward lens to use. You mount it to the camera, point, focus, and shoot. There aren’t a lot of controls on it save for the AF/MF switch and the customizable button on the side of the lens. Of course, there are also rings for manual focus and zoom control. Overall, a photographer can mount it to their camera and shoot in Professional mode (ha) or switch it to manual mode and shoot.

Something Sony should consider is an aperture ring control like they have on some of their higher-end primes. Since the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G is a constant f2.8 aperture throughout the range, it would make sense in real-life use. One dial on the camera can be set to control shutter speed while the other is set for ISO control. Then, when you want to change the aperture, you just use the aperture ring around the lens. That would be a worthy solution since the company still doesn’t give us three good exposure control dials on their APS-C bodies.

Autofocus

We took the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G into the studio to see how well it tracked dancers moving. For this test, we wanted Bridie to get a particular movement going. Combined with the Sony a6600, it tracked her really well.

Then we decided to try the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G on the Sony a6600 for face detection and candid movements. Again, it proved to work very well.

When it comes to the autofocus with the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G, we can’t really find a fault. At f2.8, it’s got the equivalent depth of field of a full-frame camera at f3.5. And with that in mind, almost any camera can sustain effective tracking with this depth of field.

Image Quality

The Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G is by and large a lens that is very standard. By that we mean it does a whole lot well, but nothing that will really make your jaw drop. It offers the user decent bokeh, sharp image quality, standard colors, and an overall good experience for this kind of lens. To be honest, it’s the best of its kind. And for the professional photographer using the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G, that’s all they need.

Bokeh

With the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G, you get a little bit of bokeh. It’s not going to be creamy, but it will totally be hazy. It will also look a million times more organic than the fake, manufactured bokeh your phone offers. Portrait photographers using the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G are honestly going to want a prime lens. However, event photographers using the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G will really appreciate how they can get so much in focus at f2.8 and still effectively single out a subject in their scenes.

Color Rendition

The color rendition from the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G is pretty standard. Again, this is more of a utility lens than anything else. But at the same time, it’s one of the best utility lenses for APS-C cameras out there. To that end, the color isn’t the best that Sony offers, but it’s damned good!

Chromatic Aberration

We didn’t find any. Considering how far technology has come, we shouldn’t have found any to begin with.

Sharpness

Most of the sharpness from the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G comes out when you use a flash. But to be honest, the sharpness here is still very good. It’s far better than any Zoom Fujifilm has made and even better than Canon’s options. However, all of Sony’s FE lenses are still better than the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G when it comes to sharpness.

Extra Image Samples

Editor’s note: most of these images are straight out of the camera. Some have been given edits to simulate what folks would actually do with the images. This makes our review a lot more relatable.

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Built well
  • The utilitarian lens Sony needed a long time ago

Dislikes

  • This lens would have made sense if it were released years ago
  • Why not something more innovative with a faster aperture?

The Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G is by all means a good lens. Photographers who really like the Sony APS-C cameras will really like it. You can shoot so many things with it but where it will really shine is with events. You’ll almost never want to carry another lens with you. But for what it’s worth, I think that Sony should have released this lens many years ago. Fujifilm has had one for years. In 2019, when it was released, the Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G should have been f2 or f1.8. Sigma has made both f2 and f1.8 zoom lenses and so it baffles me why Sony hasn’t. If Sony had just made this lens with a faster aperture, folks would’ve been buying their cameras for this lens alone. But alas, that’s not the case.

The Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G receives four out of five stars. It’s a good lens, but came out years too late. Want one? They’re available from Amazon.