First Look: Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master and FE 12-24mm f/4 G Wide-Angle Lenses

First Look: Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master and FE 12-24mm f/4 G Wide-Angle Lenses

A new month brings a new Sony announcement, or at least that’s the way it seems to be going as of late. I’m not complaining. The company has been noticeably scrappy for the past two years in an attempt to take over the interchangeable lens camera market, largely based on releasing innovation after innovation one right after another. Today’s announcement brings a satisfying completion to the “trinity” of G Master full-frame lenses with the FE 16–35mm f/2.8 GM, along with a new ultra-wide-angle G Series lens, the FE 12–24mm f/4 G. I had a chance to shoot with both lenses yesterday, so read on for my initial findings.

FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master Lens

Rounding out the previous FE 24–70mm f/2.8 GM and FE 70–200mm f/2.8 GM lineup, the new Sony FE 16–35mm f/2.8 GM offers the same high standard of quality that the G Master moniker is known for.

The lens extends a tad when zoomed out to the minimum 16mm focal length.

Front filter size is 82mm. The lens hood is shorter and more flared than the very similar looking 24-70mm GM. While the hood features a lock and button release, my copy of the lens didn't lock at all and another lens in our testing group only locked while reversed on the lens.

The lens features five aspherical elements, including two XA extreme aspherical, two extra-low-dispersion elements (ED), and Sony’s Nano AR coating. Combined, these materials result in minimal chromatic aberrations, reduced lens flare and internal reflections, and good contrast, clarity, and sharpness. The front element has a fluorine coating to prevent dust and other contaminants from sticking to the the lens’ frontside. The lens also lengthens slightly as you zoom out closer to 16mm, however does have internal focusing. In my shooting, I found the lens will surely flare when directed in certain angles with the sun in frame, but the artifact is contained well considering. When stopped down f/16 to f/22, the lens produced a nice sunburst effect, however there were prism-like colors between each ray lines. There’s essentially no chromatic aberration to be found and I wasn’t able to spot any internal reflections. Sharpness was on point, and the 16–35mm GM had no trouble with the a7R II’s resolution.

Flaring near the middle bottom.

Sunburst at f/22 and lens flaring.

Sunburst at f/16 and flaring to the right of the sun.

The FE 16–35mm f/2.8 GM has dual Direct Drive SSM autofocusing for quiet and quick internal movements of the elements for sharp focusing. Its 11-bladed aperture in tandem with the lens construction design allows for smooth bokeh without the onion effect occurring in out-of-focus orbs. Shooting off both the Sony a9 and a7R II with this lens, the autofocus speed never cropped up as an issue — although I was largely shooting landscape-style images rather than action. The out-of-focus elements are very smooth and keeps pace set by other G Master releases.

The wide-angle zoom G Master lens is dust and moisture resistant with a generous amount of seals, however waterproof it is not. There’s a focus hold button located on the side that is customizable in the menu settings and an AF/MF toggle switch. This wide-angle lens allows for filters to be mounted with 82mm diameter threading which matches the 24–70mm GM and 70–200mm GM. The overall size of the 16–35mm GM closely resembles the 24–70mm GM, and in fact I even got them confused during the day and mounted the wrong one while switching out lenses. The biggest giveaway is the lens hood, but a marker and tape on the lens cap wouldn’t be a bad idea for owners carrying both.

Weather sealing on the 16-35mm GM.

Dual Direct Drive SSM.

FE 16-35mm GM at 16mm f/2.8.

FE 16-35mm GM at 35mm f/2.8.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens

The second announcement of the day from Sony is the full-frame FE 12–24mm f/4 G ultra-wide-angle lens. Note that this is not a G Master release, and because of that there are expectations that the quality and specifications will not be matched in the same way.

The lens design of the 12–24mm G features four aspherical elements, three ED elements, one Super ED element, and Nano AR coating. These special elements of the lens are responsible for the edge sharpness, resolution, and containing the unwanted artifacts such as chromatic aberrations. Shooting high-contact scenes, I found no noticeable chromatic aberration. The corners of the frame definitely get stretched and lose sharpness, and there’s a medium amount of vignetting. The flaring of the 12–24mm G is more widespread than the 16–35mm GM, and there are quite noticeable ugly internal reflections that occur with the sun in frame.

Flaring near the bottom left corner.

Internal lens reflections in the sky.

The front element of the lens is a bulbous shape which is characteristic of these ultra-wide-angle lenses, and the lens hood is non-removable. There are no filter threads for traditional lens ring filters. On the plus side, the lens does not extend at all while zooming or focusing.

FE 12-24mm G at 12mm f/4.

FE 12-24mm G at 24mm f/4.

Autofocus is handled by a single Direct Drive SSM system and the lens body has a customizable focus hold button and AF/MF mode control switch. Sony says the lens is also dust and moisture resistant, however less so than the 16–35mm GM wide-angle release.

The 16–35mm f/2.8 G Master lens will be available at the end of August and cost $2,198. The 12–24mm f/4 G ultra-wide-angle will be available at the end of July and cost $1,698. Preordering for both lenses start this Friday, May 19.

Ryan Mense's picture

Ryan Mense is a wildlife cameraperson specializing in birds. Alongside gear reviews and news, Ryan heads selection for the Fstoppers Photo of the Day.

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Ugh, why do these lenses have to be so expensive :( And when will Sigma start pumping out some FE Art lenses?

The Sigma 12-24 is $1600 so the Sony is a fat bargain if one believes in the magic of Sony glass.

Been waiting for this 16-35mm since the A7. Better late then never I guess. It just makes me laugh when I realize that they've released 7 camera bodies before they had a wide f/2.8 zoom. I would have thought it would be one of the first things on their production list.

16-35mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4.
Release a set of these 5 lenses and that would probably cater to 90% of photographers.

But somehow we ended up with 5 different ~50mm lenses before we had a really wide lens faster than f/4. Closest thing was that 28mm f/2, but that focal length was so foreign to me.

The only thing that probably kept me from switching to Sony a while back was the cost of their lenses. Kind of been spoiled using the Sigma Art lenses, although those are going up too . . .

"The corners of the frame definitely get stretched and lose sharpness..." I don't see any geometric distortion with the Canon 11-24 lens.