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Review: We take the all-new Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II for a test run

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The latest addition to Sony’s mirrorless lens range is the all-new second-generation FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II.

So, with promises of improved image quality, corner-to-corner sharpness and reduced chromatic aberrations over its predecessor, the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM, how does the new mirrorless lens hold up?

Sony Australia provided this publisher with devices for testing purposes. This did not affect our views of the device, and our review remains independent of the manufacturer.

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Equipped with the powerhouse Sony A7R V I went around Sydney to see how adaptable and powerful the FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II actually is across an array of shooting conditions.

Keep reading to see what I thought of Sony’s latest mirrorless lens camera release.

Sony’s all-new FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II. Credit: Sony Australia

Specifications and features

  • Latest XD Liner motors for quiet and high-precision autofocus functionality
  • Advanced features for movie creators
  • Breathtaking G Master Resolution
  • Fluorine lens coating
  • Light and compact for high mobility, weighing in at 547g (20 per cent smaller than previous model)
  • Optimised for agile shooting
  • Maximum aperture of F2.8
  • Two focus hold buttons
  • Freedom in shooting with dustproof and splash-proof design
  • Minimum shooting distance of 0.22m and maximum shooting magnification of 0.32x
  • Clear image capture with Sony’s Nano AR Coating II
  • Aperture ring that can be clicked on/off with a switch

Light and compact

Compared to its predecessor, the FE 16-35 GM II is much lighter and compact, making it great for mobility. The smaller form factor of the body is a great benefit when travelling, as it fits into kit bags with ease.

The FE 16-35 GM II houses more power in a smaller compact body, making it a great addition for travel, street and landscape photography shooting. Overall, the lens is incredibly well-balanced and feels great to use for long periods of time.

Comparing the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II and Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM. Credit: Sony Australia

In terms of design, the lens is very well built, with a sturdy polycarbonate construction combining dust and moisture resistance, making it a powerful and confident kit addition when shooting in inclement outdoor conditions.

Testing out the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II during a cruise on Sydney Harbour. Credit: Nicholas Gane

Incredibly sharp

I was incredibly impressed by the sharpness of the FE 16-35 GM II. Even images captured at the widest aperture of F2.8 the FE 16-35 GM II delivered outstanding edge-to-edge sharpness. The outstanding sharpness and wide angle of the FE 16-35 GM II make the lens a great option for landscape photographers looking to make their images shine from corner to corner.

Testing sharpness on the new Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II and Sony A7III inside the Sydney Opera House. Credit: Nicholas Gane

Coupled with its outstanding sharpness, the FE 16-35 GM II is a great option for astrophotography. Although not as fast as other wide-angle options on the market such as the Sony FE 20mm F1.8 G, the FE 16-35 GM II delivers tack-sharp starry nights with minimum noise production.

Lowlight testing the new Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II at Barrenjoey lighthouse. Credit: Nicholas Gane

The adaptability of the lens makes it a great choice when it comes to shooting both day and night.

Lowlight testing the new Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II near Observatory Hill in Sydney. Credit: Nicholas Gane

Fast and accurate autofocus

The FE 16-35 GM II had no issues when targeting moving subjects, locking onto desired targets with relative ease and accuracy. Sony has truly mastered the autofocus game, with the FE 16-35 GM II being one of the strongest to date. Throughout testing, the FE 16-35 GM II did not show any significant focus breathing and seamlessly locked onto subjects even when confronted with busy shooting conditions.

Not only does it achieve high-speed performance, the FE 16-35 GM II’s AF system is very smooth and quiet, so it is ideal for both video and stills.

Capturing Hornby Lighthouse in Sydney’s Watsons Bay with the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM II. Credit: Nicholas Gane

The colour reproduction of the FE 16-35 GM II coupled with the Sony A7RV was also very pleasing. The colours delivered were not over saturated and did not require much in terms of post-editing to make images stand out with colour authenticity.

Final thoughts

Although quite pricey Sony’s FE 16-35 GM II delivers on outstanding stills quality and performance.

When it comes to optimised performance and shooting reliability the FE 16-35 GM II is well worth the price tag.

Sony has certainly delivered on its promise of improved image quality and corner-to-corner sharpness, making the FE 16-35 GM II definitely worth the upgrade for professional-level shooting.

Whether you are new to the Sony ecosystem or just looking to upgrade your wide angle, the FE 16-35 GM II will deliver on sharpness, power, and mobility for all your shooting needs.

Note: All test images have undergone post-processing edits.

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