This is my review of the Sony GM 24-70mm f2.8. This is actually one of Sony’s oldest GM lenses now, but is one of the newer additions to my kit. In this review am going to talk all about it, including the good, the bad and ultimately if I think it’s worth it for you to buy it so many years after it was released. this is the first version of the Sony GM 24-70 f2.8, I have been using it as my main lens for my professional and personal photos and video since the start of this year. In this video will be reviewing this lens thoroughly, focusing on its performance on the newer cameras put out by sony like the a7siii, a7iii and even a6600.
I will speak briefly first about the basics of the lens itself. A 24-70 zoom lens is the quintessential standard zoom lens, it covers a wide 24mm to an almost telephoto zoom of 70mm all at a fast aperture of f2.8. This lens is designed to be as multi-purpose as possible without giving up on any of the speed or sharpness you would get if you were to use a prime lens instead. For this reason is often the main lens professional photographers choose in many situations because how multipurpose it is without any major compromise on quality. This comes at a price though, it’s expensive, rather larger and also quite heavy.
On that note, I’ll start talking about its build, because it is rather chonky, coming in at a weight of 886g, which is just under 2lb. With this substantial size though feels incredibly robust. The lens is fully weather sealed, featuring a rear gasket as expected and robust internal sealing which in my experience so far is certainly the case and I’ve noticed no issues with oil dust or moisture. It is externally zooming, though most 24-70 lenses are, and the zooming ring is firm and has a locking mechanism to prevent lens creep when the lens is stowed. There is a manual/auto focus toggle on the side of the lens along with a programable button that I usually use to autofocus. On newer GM lenses sony has included more programable buttons however this lens just has the one.
Overall the built is very rugged and feels nice in the hand however it does feel miss-matched when paired with the slender sony cameras. It’s not like its hard to use, quite the opposite, it handles very well, just when coming from other lenses, like the tamron 28-75 or Sony’s new GM prime lenses, this lens is notably large and feels outdated in Sony’s lineup.Another thing that makes it stand out from other sony lenses is its front element, its a substantial 82mm, unlike any other standard sony lenses that usually are 77mm or smaller. This is a frustration of mine with the lens as if you are like myself and have circular filters for your other lenses, there is a good chance this lens is just larger than all the others in your kit and will require its own solutions for polarization or filtration.
The biggest question I had about this lens was how the larger built impacted it’s image quality, and if its large because of old design or because its not cutting any corners. I’m happy to say the image quality is top notch, its crisp and pleasing and I’ll dive into each component of it. Fundamentally the lens is quite sharp, at f2.8 its sharpest in the middle of the frame and has some very mild softening at the edges that is pretty consistent all the way from 24 up to 70mm, however once it’s stop down to f4 or f5.6 it hits a point where even on a high resolution sensor I can’t notice any issues in the slightest.
Distortion, Vignette, & chromatic aberration
A pretty obvious issue with a versatile design like this is going to be vignette and distortion, however, as far as zoom lens go this lens actually handles pretty well. At 24 there is some easily corrected distortion, but even at f2.8 the vignette is terribly significant, and I don’t find myself correcting it even most of the time.This lens is one of sony’s first lenses to feature that now standard nano AR coating they use, and even though they have come out with a new version of it, they really did a solid job with their first try. The lens has excellent flare resistance, and even in situations where this is some flaring, there is no profound loss in contrast across the frame which makes for a nice sense of character to the lens with out a loss of detail. With that said though, for a lens that marketed as being the bees knees for flare control, its not perfect and could use some improvement to from an update with the new tech Sony has. The chromatic aberration with this lens is also quite easily handled and it’s not going to be affecting you final outcome in photos or video, even in difficult lighting environments.
Minimum Focal distance & Bokeh
The minimum focusing distance with this lens is nothing to write home about at 38cm, though it can still achieve a reproduction ratio of roughly 1/4 or 0.24 to be precise. The nice thing is this is a pretty sweet spot for any sort of food or product photography which means that this is an excellent choice some more versatile high turnover commercial workflows, which is exactly what this focal length is perfect for.At that minimum focusing distance as well if you’re opening up to F2.8 the bokeh is extremely nice, it’s actually the main reason I opted to buy this lens. It has 9 rounded aperture blades and a design really optimized to get smooth out of focused areas, and it delivers. I find the falloff is consistent and results in a smooth transition between focus and out of focus areas without a level of distraction that I’ve experienced with previous zoom lenses in this range.
With that all said though there is clear onion ringing with my lens that isn’t uncommon for a zoom lens however again because of the level of quality that Sony themselves brag about with this lens, it’s notably not absolutely perfect, but I do rather like the look of photos from this lens so I’m not going to count it as a fault but just something that I’d be remiss not to mention. Overall though I find the look up photos on this lens to be more in line with my style of photography and I found that the profile photos that I got from this lens to be rather uniquely please in without a lot of editing to do. I do find also that it pairs nicely with the Sony G master 70- 200 F 2.8 which is its telephoto counterpart and is the main lens that I use for my professional work.
Auto-focus performance and Manually focusing.
The autofocus performance with this lens has held up really well too, especially even on the newer Sony cameras where tracking in real-time AF has become standard, the Direct Drive SSM AF system in this lens may not be as flashy as the quad linear ones they’re putting in their new lenses, I’ve had no issues at all with its performance in demanding situations.
The manual focus performance on this lens is going to be kind of hit or miss. I’ll start off with the good things, it has a very well dampened focus ring that’s positioned well, however it is focused by wire, so there’s no true mechanical action happening while you’re focusing, but it is at least a linear response meaning you can have consistent focus pulls. The main issue I have with it is the actual sensitivity or rotational distance to focus with the ring is rather short, so it requires quite a bit of finesse, which if you are used to Sony lens, is par for the course. Focus breathing is surprisingly minimal as well, and I have only really noticed it in extreme situations such as racking focus from a meter away to Infinity, so its not going to be distracting the majority of the time in your videos
Price, Value, and Competition:
The last topic to discuss is this lenses price and this is where it becomes obvious that this lens is it going to be the right lens for everybody. It currently costs 1800 USD or 2500 CND, which is certainly not a bargain and then when you compare it to the competition and the fact that this lens is potentially going to be replaced by an updated version from Sony themselves, it becomes a complicated lens to recommend.
Before I dive into my conclusions on its value I’m going to briefly discuss various lenses to compare to, and there certainly is no shortage. There are various options from Sony themselves such as the G 24-105 f4, Zeiss 24-70 f4, or the kit lenses. For the sake of being concise I’m not going to be comparing this lens to any of the F4 options as I feel they fall into a different category have lenses, this lens is is not designed to be value lightweight lens and if you’re looking at a lens for landscapes or being portable the F4 options are going to win every time but if you’re looking at a lens that can perform better in low light or have better overall image quality the G master is going to a better option.
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
Where it gets more complicated is when you start comparing this lens to its direct competition, and I’ll start off with the lens I actually sold to buy this one which is the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8. It comes in at 880 USD or 1150 CND, which off the bat, is less than half the price. I can say with confidence I have a lot of experience with the Tamron and I grew to have a very love hate relationship with it which ultimately led to my separation from it, but I’ll keep it simple by just breaking it up into some pros and cons between these two lenses.
Fundamentally the Tamron doesn’t give up much in terms of image quality and has a very respectable autofocus speed which is on par I found in day to day use in practical scenarios. The biggest difference is with regards to the focal lengths, 28mm is notable different than 24, so the Sony does provide wider compositions which makes a big difference for interiors or landscapes which is often what I like using a midrange zoom for.Where the more nuanced differences come in is with regards to maybe a tad particular. I found the build on the Tamron to be robust but the zoom in was not dampened as well as I would have liked and this small focus ring was very difficult to manually adjust in video because of where it was positioned. the real nail in the coffin though for the Tamron for myself was that I didn’t like it out of focus areas, I was finding myself frustrated with the way it rendered bokeh in high contrast environments and I found I just couldn’t use it alongside my other lenses because I found it’s profile to be distractingly unique so I often just used it in the studio where that wasn’t an issue and I sold it because of that reason.
Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8
The next lens I’d like to compare it to is the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 which is 900 USD or 1300 CND. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to physically use this lens yet due to the fact that it is still relatively new and it’s barely available to try out even in store because of the pandemic. in concept though it’s a very similar lens to the Tamron, covering a common focal range but along with that comes somewhat comparable image quality as well as similar bokeh. The real downsides to this lens is that it isn’t fully weather sealed and doesn’t have necessarily the best image quality wide open compared to the G master. For its price and its extremely small form factor these are going to be acceptable sacrifices to make for some people.
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8
Lastly there’s the lens that I actually would recommend considering rather than the the G master is this Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 Art. It costs 1100 USD or 1400 CND which is again, as seems to be the theme, nearly half the price as the GM. Where this lens really stands out though is the fact that it is a proper 24 to 70mm lens and features a more complex optical formula, with nearly identical image quality, arguably smoother bokeh because of its 11 rounded aperture blades and overall superb performance. You might ask yourself then why on earth would I buy the G master when this lens is on the market, and that’s a really good question because I have a hard time rationalizing my own decision to get the Sony.
Really what it comes down to is the key differences between these lenses, which are rather minor. The is the Sigma does have a stepping motor inside it, which has an marginally slower auto focus response, however in practice I suspect this wouldn’t come into play in 99% of situations. The Sigma also has an overall rather worse build quality comparatively to the Sony, though it is fully weather sealed, it is mainly made out of plastic and the controls on the side of the lens feel almost tacked on as an afterthought rather than being integrated into the design of the lens. The last difference is more of a stylistic choice than anything, in that is their flair performance because they both do very well in high contrast environments, the Sony may have a slight edge over the Sigma. Otherwise really the lenses are functionally extremely similar and honestly unless you have a lineup of Sony lenses like I do already and you wanted to have a lens that matches them, the Sigma is more likely to be the better option.
So now it comes time for my final thoughts on the Sony G master. This is a remarkably interesting lens that I have thoroughly enjoyed using. With some lenses it’s hard to differentiate the marketing hype from their actual performance, and if you look online on forums and videos about this lens I find there’s no real consensus on it and I’m not sure if that’s a result of inconsistent quality control or just the Internet being a very polarizing environment for opinions.
The branding from Sony for this lens is that it can replace your prime lenses and I think that’s actually a really good way to describe this lens because it physically is the same weight as multiple prime lenses and that’s real downfall for myself is just the fact that it’s so heavy. With that bulk though it is not compromising on its quality and it’s performed incredibly well in all the situations that I’ve put it in, especially for video work which is what I find myself using this lens for more and more as weight is less of an issue in those situations because the heavier my camera is the steadier my shots are going to be.
The last consideration though with this lens is the fact that there’s a good chance in the near future it’s likely that Sony is going to replace this lens with either an updated version of it or an entirely new design whether that be an f2 variant like Canon has put out or a different beast entirely, and that leads to the question of whether this lens is going to age as well. It’s difficult to speculate on anything, but what I can say is that based on my experience with this lens so far I think it’s going to be a rather good option to consider even after it’s outdated, it nails all the fundamentals that you’d expect from a extremely high performing lens with a surprisingly large amount of character to it’s shots which I’m not sure is entirely intended in its design as Sony leans heavily often towards optically perfect lenses rather than having visually distinct unique profiles.