In 2019, Sony released a few lenses to “update” the Sony a6000 lineup (special mention to the Sony 70-350mm F4.5-6.3). One of these lenses was the Sony 16-55mm F2.8, an excellent constant aperture lens that was (and still is) quite expensive, but it really is a case of “you get what you pay for”.
This may just be one the best zoom lens for Sony a6000 series cameras. In this review, we’ll dive into whether or not this incredible lens is worth the price. Let’s dive right in.
Looking for just a quick summary before jumping in?
- Reasonably sized for a zoom lens
- Autofocus is reliable & incredibly fast
- Excellent and aesthetically pleasing build quality
- Easily the best zoom lens for APS-C
Size & Weight: fairly compact given the specs.
The Sony 16-55mm F2.8, despite the rather impressive specs on paper, manages to stay fairly compact. The lens measures a rather reasonable 3.94 inches (100mm), but extends quite a bit when fully zoomed in.
It shows some heftiness at 1.09lbs (494g) which is heavy, but not overly so. Overall, it felt fairly well balanced on a Sony a6000. Definitely large but not terribly so.
Build Quality: premium feel and also completely weather sealed.
Luckily, a lot of that weight is due to the excellent build quality. The Sony 16-55mm F2.8 is weather sealed (yay!) and feels extremely durable. Made out of a mix of polycarbonate and metal, the lens looks and feels great. I’m generally a big fan of the overall G-series lens aesthetic and this one is no exception. From the crisp white text popping against the sleek black, to the lovely iconic “G”, it all just looks fantastic. Even the focus and zoom rings are large and have a nice ribbed texture.
In addition, there’s a very convenient “focus hold” button on the lens itself that can be fully rebound to any other custom button. It may seem minor, but having another custom button changes the way you shoot. Personally, I liked setting it to eye AF.
Image Quality: consistent & tack sharp.
The image quality on the Sony 16-55mm F2.8 is nearly unmatched. Wide open at 16mm and F2.8, centers are sharp as a tack and the corners aren’t far behind. Stopping down just a bit evens out the corners, and stopping down all the way to F8 seems to be the absolute peak, showing near-flawless edge to edge sharpness.
Normally I’d cover different the focal lengths, but sharpness stayed ridiculously sharp and consistent throughout the entire zoom range, even wide open. The only thing to note is that, like all lenses, diffraction tends to set in at about F16, and I’d suggest never shooting at F22 as image quality will fall apart.
Bokeh is also excellent on the Sony 16-55mm F2.8. While it won’t exactly match an F1.4 lens, for example, it can still hold its own at the tighter end and render creamy bokeh with good subject isolation.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
Like many of Sony’s higher end lenses, the Sony 16-55mm F2.8 handled both chromatic aberrations and flaring very well. Shooting into direct sunlight shows some flaring and very mild loss of contrast, but it’s very negligible.
Vignetting was barely an issue, and any bit that did show up was easily fixed by the included lens profile in Lightroom.
The only thing the lens struggles with is distortion. Near the wide end, there is some rather heavy distortion, though it is largely fixed by, again, the included lens profile in Lightroom, or just simply the in-camera JPEG processing. You may run into very slight problems when shooting very straight lines such as architecture.
Autofocus & Other Features
As with other recent Sony lenses, the Sony 16-55mm F2.8 has excellent autofocus performance. It’s quick and reliable, working extremely well with eye AF on my Sony a6000. I’d imagine it’s even better on the newer a6000 series bodies.
The only weird thing about this lens is that it lacks optical image stabilization. At this price point, I’m a bit surprised Sony didn’t include it.
I’m assuming this lens was likely designed with the newer a6xxx bodies in mind, as they include in body image stabilization, thus making lens stabilization irrelevant.
My Final Thoughts
As with most of my reviews, I’d like to offer a few alternatives.
First: the amazing Sigma 18-50mm F2.8. You’ll lose a bit of zoom range and it won’t be quite as sharp, but the Sigma is substantially cheaper and incredibly small. It’s seriously amazing.
Second, the Tamron 17-70mm F2.8. It has a bit more of a versatile focal range, has image stabilization, and is a good bit cheaper. That being said, it lacks the incredible and consistent sharpness that this Sony lens has, not to mention the build quality.
Overall, the Sony 16-55mm F2.8 is just absolutely fantastic. I’m not a fan of zoom lenses usually, but this one manages to combine insane sharpness, reliable autofocus, and excellent build quality all wrapped up in a fairly compact package. That being said, it’s very expensive, but I’d say that yes, this is a classic case of “you get what you pay for”.
This is by far one of the best zoom lens for Sony a6000 series cameras, it’s incredible. If you want to check it out yourself, I’ve included purchase links below. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy the lens!
This lens earned a spot on one of my best lens lists.
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