SEL1635GM Review 

Darren Soh

In February 2016, Sony announced the launch of a new range of FE lenses: the G Master. Designed with almost no compromises, the G Master lenses are meant to be the top-performing lenses for Sony FE full-frame cameras.

The first three lenses in the G Master range were the SEL2470GM, SEL70200GM and the SEL85F14GM. Professionals often speak of a “trinity” of zoom lenses that all professional camera brands must offer, the 16–35, 24–70 and 70–200 2.8 fast zooms. With the announcement of the SEL2470GM and the SEL70200GM, we knew it was a matter of time before Sony would announce the SEL1635GM as well.

DS20631 f28

ILCE-7RM2 | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 2,5 sec | f/2,8 | ISO 100

DS20632 f8

ILCE-7RM2 | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 20,0 sec | f/8 | ISO 100

In May 2017, Sony announced the SEL1635GM, and from that day onward, the Sony “trinity” lens lineup was complete.

DS22368

ILCE-7RM3 | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 5,0 sec f/8 | ISO 200

The SEL1635GM is the lightest 16–35 mm f2.8 lens in its class. In fact, it is the same weight as a competitor's 16–35 mm F4 lens but is one full stop brighter. Add the weight of comparable camera bodies and the difference in weight changes from slightly to very noticeable.

DSC0515 SEL1635 2048

ILCE-7RM3 | FE 16-35mm f2.8 GM | 30,0 sec | f/8 | ISO 200

Sony a7R III 657 g
Sony SEL1635GM 680 g
(1337 g)

Canon 5DSR 845 g
Canon 16–35 2.8 III 790 g
(1635 g)

Nikon D850 915 g
Nikon 1635 f4 680 g
(1595 g)

For someone who photographs scenes that contain a lot of detail from one corner of the frame to the other, I can appreciate the sharpness and resolving power of the SEL1635GM above and beyond the non-GM zoom lenses.

DSC5012 SEL1635 2048

ILCE-7RM3 | FE 16-35mm f2.8 GM | 1/800 sec | f/8 | ISO 200

Fine micro-details in the buildings that form a cityscape are all amazingly rendered by this lens.

Sunstars at f11 are also sharp and contrasting, creating a 22-point star from the 11-bladed round aperture on the lens.

Minimal vignetting even wide open at f2.8, almost none at f11.

For a far-field subject, shooting at f2.8 (largest aperture) gives a sharp image even in the corners. Comparatively, the SEL1635Z isn't as sharp in the corners at f4 (largest aperture for the ZA). I own a SEL1635Z, and while it is an excellent lens for its price point, it never sharpens up as well as the SEL1635GM especially in the corners, and even at F11. But because the SEL1635GM is a GM lens, it is nearly twice the price of the SEL1635Z (SGD 3399 vs. SGD 1799)

DSC0437 SEL1635

ILCE-7RM3 | FE 16-35mm f2.8 GM | 3,2 sec | f/8 | ISO 200

Slide 1DSC0017 SEL1635

ILCE-7RM3 | FE 16-35mm f2.8 GM | 1/60 sec | f/5,6 | ISO 3200

Personally, because of the kind of work I do, I very seldom have a need to use the SEL1635GM at f2.8—usually shooting at the most optimal (sharpest) apertures of f8 or f11 instead. However, there sometimes arises the occasion when I need to do some candid or street photography, and the big aperture does come in handy, especially at the 35 mm end.

If you are a working professional who requires an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens with almost no compromises that can go to f2.8, there is no better candidate.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that the 1635GM rivals some prime wide-angle lenses in terms of sharpness and resolution at the same focal lengths and apertures. It is that good.

DS30014

ILCE-7RM2 | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 2,5 sec | f/2,8 | ISO 100

DSC0267 SEL1224 2048

ILCE-7RM2 | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 20,0 sec | f/11 | ISO 200

DS39420

ILCE-7RM2 | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 1/640 sec | f/11 | ISO 200

DSC5574 SEL1635

ILCE-7RM3 | FE 16-35mm f2.8 GM | 30,0 sec | f/8 | ISO 100

SEL1635GM

FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM

SEL1635GM