The Good. If you're looking for a standard range zoom lens that delivers excellent performance across the board, look no further. As part of Sony's illustrious, if pricey, G Master family, the FE 24-70mm F2.8 not only fills the gap in the collection, it's also secured a high spot in the best standard zoom lens list. It produces extremely sharp images with remarkably stunning detail, thanks in large part to Sony's XA (extreme aspherical) element, and with hardly any distortion, ghosting and aberration. It boasts a fast and precise autofocus, thanks to Sony's Direct Drive SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) focusing system. And it has a lot of versatility so whether you're shooting street scenes, landscapes, and portraits, you'll get a lot of use out of it. But it's also got a few aces up its sleeves that its top competitors might not have including weather sealing so it's dust and moisture resistance as well as a constant aperture of F2.8 throughout its focal range.
The Bad. For all the excellent features it boasts, the FE 24-70mm F2.8 somehow feels a tad forgettable, especially next to some of its G Master brothers and particularly for a glass with $2200 price tag. What we mean is that it doesn't have enough oomph or sex appeal. Then again, you don't need a sexy lens if you just want a standard zoom; you want one with flexibility, functionality and first-rate performance. Additionally, in a perfect world, the bokeh could be better, the lens could be smaller and lighter, and it could be cheaper. However, these aren't essentially "bad." Nitpicking aside, we've got nothing to complain about.
The Bottom Line.
The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM is a top-notch glass that offers outstanding images with crisp details as well as a fast, quiet and accurate autofocus. On top of those, Sony incorporates weather sealing and a constant aperture. If you were to pick one lens to carry around with you, you'll appreciate this one. As far as standard zoom lenses go, it is without a doubt a fantastic option and well worth the price. That is, if you can afford it.
Pick This Up If... honestly, if you've got the cash. The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM has a pro-level price tag matching its pro-level performance that beginners and casual shooters will appreciate. If you don't, go for a cheaper alternative, save some money and eventually upgrade, whether or not you're making money through your photography.
Textured plastic with ribbed rubber rings, which both feel well made and of high quality, make up the external part of the lens. Much like the rest of the GM series, the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM feels very solid, despite not being made of metal, and we wouldn't expect anything less.
While we were a tad disappointed that there's no aperture ring--the rings are for focusing and zooming only--there is a focus hold button, an AF/MF switch, a zoom lock switch and a hood release button, offering more external control. Much like most zoom lenses, there is a zoom range scale next to the zoom ring.
One of the best things about the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM's design is its weather sealing. Sony does not guarantee 100% protection, of course, but it is supposed to be dust and moisture-resistant, making it an ideal travel lens. We never got the opportunity to use it in the rain, but we did take it out to the desert a couple of times and never had an issue with dust.
Additionally, the Nano AR Coating on the front element is as effective as ever in minimizing flare and ghosting. It doesn't completely eliminate them, but it does reduce them drastically.
One thing that people keep complaining about this lens is that it's not exactly the compact and lightweight option you look for in a standard zoom lens for a mirrorless body. At 136 mm and 31.25 oz, it's heavier and longer than the wide-angle 16-35mm F2.8 G Master or the cheaper alternative, Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD.
(27mm, F2.8, 1/640, ISO 100)
Do its weight and length get in the way of its handling and performance? We don't think so. Sure, it might feel bulkier in your hands, but we don't think it's something you have to worry about getting in the way of your workflow. It also feels well balanced when attached to the Sony a7 III.
The textured finish keeps pesky fingerprints away while the ribbed rubber rings, which are essentially for focusing and zooming, have enough resistance so that you can easily turn them purposely and keep accidental turns well at bay. The zoom lock provides added security so that the zoom ring doesn't turn during transport and expose the glass to accidental damage.
Even though you may not much of a manual shooter, the AF/MF button, located within easy reach of your fingertips, comes in very handy in certain situations like shooting the night sky and needing to set your focus to infinity.
SPEED & FOCUS
(65mm, F/3.5, 1/60, ISO 1600)
The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM's autofocus is easily one of the most impressive features about the lens. Combining Sony's Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM) focusing system and the constant maximum aperture of F2.8 throughout its focal range, its focusing is not only smooth and quiet but also super fast, reliable and very accurate, regardless of lighting conditions and shooting modes. That includes low light situations and filming video clips without a tripod.
Pair it with the a7 III's miraculous AF and dependable EyeAF, and you're in autofocus heaven, especially when shooting portraits, action shots, and movies.
(70mm, F2.8, 1/200, ISO 100)
(51mm, F2.8, 1/2500, ISO 100)
(70mm, F2.8, 1/2500, ISO 100)
Unfortunately, the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM falls short, bokeh-wise. While its constant aperture of F2.8 is certainly an advantage when shooting portraits, you might be not satisfied with the bokeh it yields. With just nine aperture blades -- as opposed to 85mm F1.4 GM's 11 -- it doesn't produce the smoothest and perfectly circular bokeh you might expect.
If you're looking for the creamiest, most beautiful bokeh for your portraits, go for the 85mm. Otherwise, the bokeh on this is near perfect and good enough, with the longer end offering better results as you can see in the sample images below.
(24mm, F2.8, 1/640, ISO 100)
(35mm, F2.8, 1/320, ISO 100)
(70mm, F2.8, 1/250, ISO 100)
(64mm, F3.5, 1/2000, ISO 100)
(70mm, F2.8, 1/160, ISO 100)
If you're thinking that you don't want to spend more than $2K on a standard zoom lens, wait and see your sample photos. The image quality this glass delivers makes it a worthy investment and professional grade. It's not just that it yields sharp images.
Thanks to the new XA (extreme aspherical) element, combined with ED elements, it delivers super sharp images from corner to corner and with surprisingly crisp details and great clarity. Some folks have said that it has noticeable softening around the edges, but we've never really noticed that in our images.
Additionally, it has more natural and slightly subdued color rendition; making the images it produces great for post-processing.
(30mm, F2.8, 1/640, ISO 100)
A nifty feature of this lens is the Micro Contrast, which we weren't even aware of until we looked at some of our portrait shots on the computer and noticed that our subjects seemed to pop out more. If you manage to perfect this little feature, you'll be able to do wonders with your portraits. It's a very cool extra.
(25mm, F2.8, 1/1250, ISO 100)
We've found a small amount of color fringing in a couple of our images, but it's very minimal and hardly noticeable--only when you zoom in tight and really look for it.
(70mm, F2.8, 1/640, ISO 100)
(24mm, F2.8, 1/500, ISO 100)
The great news is that it performs better than Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Di III RXD when it comes to distortion, ghosting, and flare. This is why you're paying big bucks for this glass. There's little to no distortion, and because of the Nano AR coating, flare is well controlled, and we haven't encountered any ghosting.
PROS & CONS
(24mm, F2.8, 1/1600, ISO 100)
- Excellent image quality
- Fast, precise and quiet AF
- Nice handling
- Great build
- Constant aperture
- Weather sealing
- Super versatile
- Steep price tag
- Ok bokeh
- Slightly heavy and long
(24mm, F2.8, 1/60, ISO 100)
As a standard zoom lens, the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM is certainly top notch. It doesn't have that charisma of the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 or the Sony 85mm F1.4 GM that you immediately see as soon as you take your first shot. However, that doesn't mean that it doesn't have all the qualities of an excellent lens.
We tested this lens with the Sony a7 III, and we've got zero complaints. At $2200 a pop, you'd expect this to be a stunner. And we're happy to report that it is! It delivers superb images with detailed sharpness, great clarity, and natural color representation. The autofocus is fast, quiet and very accurate. Plus, it has weather sealing and a constant aperture of F2.8.
Like with most lenses we've reviewed, it's got some small flaws, but none that actually affect its performance. It's expensive, yes; however, it's a glass worth considering if you're in the market for a versatile lens that you can really rely on if you can't carry a lot of gear or don't the option of switching lenses.
We've shot street scenes, landscapes, portraits, architecture and other subjects with this lens, and everything came out beautifully. Will we buy it if we don't have the budget? Well, let's just say, we'll certainly consider saving money to get it.