When the Sony Alpha cameras were first released, many people immediately got the usefulness of the system. Great cameras, but initially not really any workhorse lenses.
By this meaning, native format commonly used focal length primes and zooms with an f/2.8 aperture or wider. It wasn’t long before Sony stepped up to the mark and produced the G-Master (GM) lenses, one of these being the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM.
A 24-70mm lens covers the most commonly used focal lengths and is a lens that is the most likely to stay bolted to your camera. This means getting the options spot on with this lens, otherwise, it’s a case of buying an adapter and diving down the third-party route.
As with any high-quality f/2.8 zoom lens, there’s a good deal of glass housed within the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM, which means better optics, but also a heavy lens. Inside the lens are 18 elements in 13 groups, with a nine-blade rounded aperture.
These elements include an extreme aspherical (XA) element, an extra-low-dispersion(ED) and a super extra-low dispersion element. The front and rear elements also have a Nano AR coating to reduce any ghosting and flaring, along with unwanted reflections.
The aperture range on this lens goes from f/2.8-f/22, which should cover most lighting situations. The high-end features don’t stop there with a direct drive supersonic motor (SSM), which should be fast and quiet enough to appeal to both photographers and videographers.
The outward appearance of the lens follows the modern design of being simple and straightforward. A simple AF/MF switch for swapping from auto to manual focus and a zoom lock switch which locks the lens in place at 24mm, stopping the barrel from extending.
There’s a generous zoom and manual focus ring, which are heavily ridged for easy gripping. Other handy features are a hood release button, which locks the lens hood in place, and a focus lock button.
At the front of the lens is an 82mm filter thread, which is quite sizable for an f/2.8 lens, but also echoes its quality. One other point to mention for this quality of lens is that it has a dust and moisture-sealed design and is basically built like a tank. This is reflected in its overall weight of 886g, which feels initially heavy on the front of a Sony, but is roughly the norm for a DSLR lens.
The Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in Use
With a top-end lens offering from Sony, there were initial high expectations that didn’t disappoint. With the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM wide open at 24mm, sharpness was very impressive, especially in the center with only a touch of edge softness. Overall frame sharpness hit its stride at f/4 and total sharpness by f/8.
The longer end of the focal length, at 70mm is a touch less sharp than wide-open, with the optimum sharpness across the frame coming in at f/5.6. After f/11 diffraction starts to play its part and overall sharpness decreases a little. Overall, there are no complaints with the resolution detail, especially at f/2.8.
As for general lens anomalies, there is evidence of chromatic aberration in the form of purple and green fringing in high contrast areas when the lens is wide open at 24mm. The effect isn’t heavy and can easily be dealt with in software. The same goes for vignetting, which has a 1.5EV light falloff in the corners but starts to disappear by f/5.6.
Barrel distortion is minimal at 24mm and starts to dissipate by 30mm. By 50mm there is a slight pincushion distortion, but this can be easily corrected in-camera or in post-processing. Bokeh quality is also very good when the aperture is wide open and at its most telephoto. Nicely blended together colors and in no way harsh looking, even with complicated backgrounds.
Although the lens doesn’t have built-in stabilization, Sony’s in-camera system, along with the f/2.8 aperture make for good lowlight working. Images remain detailed up to ISO 6400 and even when digital noise starts to creep in, images are still pleasantly sharp.
How Does It Compare?
In the realm of 24-70mm lenses, the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM has stiff competition. As a go-to zoom lens, this means top-end optics, along with a lens that can take the rigors of everyday shooting.
As Canon lenses can be fitted to Sony’s with an adapter, the Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM lens being the newest offering from Canon, is built for the mirrorless format with Canon’s latest optics. It also has the benefit of Canon’s image stabilization and with a similar price point to the Sony, the results are marginal at this level.
Another option is the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art lens, which is considerably less expensive than the Sony, has great optics, but is not built to the same robust levels as the Sony or Canon. However, considering the price point, the Sigma is a great lens for the money.
|Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM||Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM|
|Optics||18 elements/ 13 groups||21 elements/1 5 groups|
There’s no denying that the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM is a great option and there’s nothing like having a seamless workflow between camera and lens. The autofocus system is extremely quick and quiet and never needs to hunt unless in the lowest of light conditions.
Images are rendered supersharp at the widest end of the focal range and while the aperture may need stopping down for the sharpest results, images are still very impressive. Images are slightly soft at the telephoto end at the widest aperture, but stopping down to f/5.6 provides the sharpest results.
The lens may also feel initially heavy, especially on Sony’s lightweight body, but it’s always going to be the case that quality optics have a weight premium. There’s obviously the choice of other third party lenses, but they will never give the peace of mind of a same-brand system.
In total, the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM produces fantastically sharp images and gets the most from the camera’s inherent resolution. You’re going to have to pay for the privilege, but for a seamless workflow between lens and camera, this is as good as it gets for a current Sony offering.