This past month, I tested out two wide-angle lenses from B&H Photo to see which would be the best fit for more interior photography. One of my biggest struggles in our home is having enough space to “fit it all” in the frame. I typically shoot on the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 and often a lot of our home gets left out at the 24mm focal length.

So in partnership with B&H photo, I tested out the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens and the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens. They are both very different lenses, one a zoom lens and the other a prime lens. But both being wide-angle, I wanted to see which lens would best suit my needs for capturing more interior photos.

I personally shoot on the Sony A7 RIII, this has been my body for a few years. Sony’s range of lenses is fantastic — from both design to speed, I’ve not had a single complaint about the lenses I personally use today. Over the years, I have been skeptical of shooting on a wide-angle lens due to the distortion that can happen. But Sony’s tech like their Two Advanced Aspherical elements is meant to greatly reduce distortion.

After a month of testing out both lenses at home, I want to give my review of the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens versus the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens. I’m looking at a few elements and criteria to help make the best decision for a wide-angle lens purchase. I’m sharing the process of how I do this so you can get some insight into how you may make a decision between lenses.


Comparing Two Sony Wide-Angle Lenses For Interior Photography


Spec Comparison

Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G

Lens Type: Prime | Full frame
Focal Length: 20mm
Maximum Aperture: f/1.8
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Lens Mount: Sony E
Focus Type: Autofocus
Image Stabilization: No
Weight: 13.16 oz
Dimensions: 2.89′ x 3.33′
Price: $898

Notes after use:
The lens is compact and super fast. I was shocked by how quickly I could snap images. The sharp aperture made for beautiful bokeh. My one negative is that as a fixed lens, I have to move with it and cannot zoom in and out. There was some distortion for tight shots.

Other uses aside interior: I think I would really only bring this one out for interior photography. Landscape would be challenging give it is a prime lens though it would be crisp.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

Lens Type: Zoom | Full frame
Focal Length: 16 to 35mm
Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Lens Mount: Sony E
Focus Type: Autofocus
Image Stabilization: No
Weight: 1.5 lb
Dimensions: 3.48′ x 4.79′
Price: $2198

Notes after use:
Love how much I could get in at the focal lengths of 16-18mm though there was some distortion happening. Its wide variety of use was wonderful and love that I could stand anywhere in the room and in zoom in/out depending on need. It is certainly a sharp lens.

Other uses aside interior: I definitely could use this lens for landscape given the ability to zoom all the way to 35mm. I know it’s a popular favorite for some travel photographers.


Questions At Hand

The first most important question I wanted to answer was: can this wide-angle lens capture more of my home without severe distortion?

The second, less important question: was there a more general use case for purchasing the new wide-angle lens? Does the price reflect the use-case?

When I think about buying a lens, I want to make sure there is a specific task and try to have other uses for it. For instance, my 24-70mm was first purchased as a zoom lens for travel and now it has become my everyday lens.

I’ve made the mistake in the past of purchasing a very sharp prime lens only to find out that the use case was limited. So I want to avoid this mistake again. Two prime lenses later, I could have purchased the sharper 24-70mm lens for the same price.


Image Comparison

Here is the first round of images I took on both lenses. I kept my tripod in the exact same spot and I wanted to see how much of my dining room I could get into the photo. The other element I’m keeping my eye on is the distortion.

The first image is taken on the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G (ISO 250, f/7.1, 1/15)

Comparing Two Wide-Angle Lenses For At-Home Photography
Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G

Now these are the images taken on the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

At 16mm (ISO 250, f/7.1, 1/13)

Comparing Two Wide-Angle Lenses For At-Home Photography
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM at 16mm

At 18 mm (ISO 250, f/7.1, 1/13)

Comparing Two Wide-Angle Lenses For At-Home Photography
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM at 18mm

At 26mm: (ISO 250, f/7.1, 1/13)

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM at 18mm
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM at 26mm

You can see right away the difference between the two lenses. My first takeaway in comparing the images from both was that on the prime 20mm, I was able to get everything I wanted in the frame with minimal distortion.

The 16-35mm offered something different: the ability to zoom in and out to create different feels for the photos. It’s clear at 16mm that the distortion is visible, however at 18mm it starts to thin out, and (not shown) at 20mm, it was the same as the prime 20mm lens. I could then go on to 26mm which would have its use case if I was shooting something up close.


One More Comparison

I wanted to do two side by side images from the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G and the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM.

Below:
Left image: Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM shot at 16mm
Right image: Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G shot at 20mm

Looking at these two images above, I prefer the 20mm prime lens as there is minimal distortion and it has everything I want in the frame. But what if I adjust the focal point on the 16-35mm zoom lens? Keep on scrolling…

Now see the difference below just by adjusting to 18mm on the 16-35mm lens. There is a bit more in the frame and the distortion is minimized enough for my liking (plus, if I’m sharing on Instagram, I have to consider the image will crop down).

Below:
Left image: Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM shot at 18mm
Right image: Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G shot at 20mm

My takeaway? Though the 20mm lens is really sharp and can get a lot into the frame, the 16-35mm lens can capture what the 20mm lens does.


Overall

Though enticing as the crisp and fast the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens is, I know long-term for my use case and function need, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens. would go the longest mile. It can essentially capture what the 20mm lens does sans the extra aperture (f/2.8 vs f/1.8). However, it comes at a much steeper price, doubled in fact.

Having purchased prime lenses in the past, my frustration with the limitations of the fixed nature has meant that I often leave the lenses in my bag. So knowing myself, my need, and the range of function I’d love to have, I know zoom lenses often suites my photography style. Waiting a bit longer to invest in a more versatile lens is my gut reaction given my past history of purchases.

My one takeaway from 6 years of doing photography and running this business is that all of my photography improvements have happened when I invested in better lenses. It has been a journey and an investment, but each time I upgraded my core lenses, the return has been wonderful.


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