Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Review

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens

Completion of this review awaits the arrival of the lens, currently scheduled to ship in June. Expectations and information, including from a Sony product briefing, are shared below.

Let me introduce you to Sony's 67th E-mount lens, 47th full-frame E-mount option, and 16th member of the G Master line-up, the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens. As clearly delineated by the II, this lens is the successor to the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM Lens, with the version I lens, at least at review time, remaining in the line-up at an attractively lower price.

Version II products always bring improvements, and one of this lens's most significant improvements is an 18% reduction in volume, 11% reduction in length, and 22% lighter weight, dropping 6.8 oz (193 g). World records are always fun, and those reductions give the FE 24-70 II title to the world's smallest and lightest 24-70mm standard zoom AF lens.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM I vs. II Lens

The new features do not stop with size and weight reduction and include improved image quality and a higher-performing AF system.

The extreme utility of a 24-70mm F2.8 lens makes it a most-used lens in the stills and video kit, and the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens promises to be the best Sony-mount option available.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Top View

Focal Length Range

The focal length range is the first aspect to consider for zoom lens selection. Focal length drives subject distance choices, which determine perspective.

Covering wide-angle through normal and on to short telephoto angles of view, the 24-70mm focal length range comfortably covers the needed range for a general-purpose lens. This focal length range is ideal for a standard do-everything lens.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Landscape Sample Picture

A 24-70mm lens is essential for most landscape and cityscape photography kits. At the 24mm end, this lens provides a very wide angle of view, showing a strong perspective and creating a sense of presence in an image. Still, 24mm is not so wide as to create compositional challenges.

By the 70mm end, smaller portions of a scene can be isolated, and distant mountains appear larger in proportion to closer elements.

A 24-70mm lens is often a requirement in a wedding photographer's kit, and an f/2.8 version of this lens often becomes the most-used lens in the kit. Capture environmental portraits that include the venue at 24mm and use 70mm for head and shoulder portraits that retain a pleasing perspective.

This lens will work well for photographing various events, from parents capturing informal birthday parties at home to photojournalists covering formal galas at large venues.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Architecture Sample Picture

While architecture photographers are typically looking for linear-distortion-free lenses to keep their buildings and walls straight and zoom lenses nearly always have some distortion at most focal lengths, this lens has ideal angles of view for such work. Using the lowest distortion focal length (expected to be around 28-30mm) takes care of the distortion problem, as does removal during post-processing.

Sports photographers getting close to their subjects (such as basketball shot from over or under the net) or wanting to capture a wider/environmental view of their events appreciate this focal length range. 24-70mm nicely complements a 70-200mm lens for sports uses.

Product photography is on its capabilities list especially with this lens's high maximum magnification spec. With an f/2.8 aperture, the milky way and night sky are viable subjects.

I'm barely digging into the list of uses for this lens, but hopefully, your list is started.

Here is a focal length range illustration borrowed from a different lens review.

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens Focal Length Range Example

24mm | 35mm | 50mm | 70mm
24mm | 35mm | 50mm | 70mm

See the entire room at 24mm or only a couple of booths at 70mm — from a distance facilitating easy verbal communication. Make the mountain a backdrop, or make it large in the frame.

This lens has an ideal focal length range for videography needs, and many other Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens features complement this use.

APS-C imaging sensor format cameras utilize a smaller portion of the image circle, framing a scene more tightly. The Sony field of view crop factor is 1.5x, with the 24-70mm range providing a 36-105mm full-frame angle of view equivalent. This angle of view range has greater value for portraiture while foregoing some of the best landscape angles.

Max Aperture

The lower the aperture number, the wider the opening, and the more light the lens can allow to reach the imaging sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (full stop examples: f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0) increases or decreases the amount of light by a factor of 2x (a substantial amount).

The additional light provided by wider aperture lenses permits freezing action and handholding the camera in lower light levels and allows lower (less noisy) ISO settings. In addition, increasing the aperture opening provides a shallower DOF (Depth of Field) that creates a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur (at equivalent focal lengths). Often critical is the improved low light AF performance availed by a wide-aperture lens.

A narrow aperture's advantages are related to (often significantly) reduced lens element size and include smaller overall size, lighter weight, and lower cost. Right, everyone loves those factors.

Because the aperture is measured as a ratio of lens opening to focal length, the focal length must be considered when assessing how wide a lens's aperture can open. At 600mm, f/4 is a massive opening. In a 24-70mm zoom lens, f/2.8 is very wide, with only the Canon RF 28-70mm F2 L USM Zoom Lens surpassing this opening throughout this focal length range — though this lens does not reach out to 24mm. Among the prime lenses covering the available focal lengths, few do not open to at least f/2.8, and some open to f/1.4 or f/1.2.

Again, f/2.8 is very wide for a zoom lens. While this lens is expensive (comparable to the Canon alternative), it side-steps the negative size and weight aspects often associated with the wide aperture.

When recording video, only 1/60 second shutter speeds (twice the framerate) are typically needed (assuming you're not capturing high framerate slow-motion video), and wide apertures are not often required for 1/60 second rates in normally encountered ambient lighting. Note that the new aperture drive unit featured in this lens contributes to quieter operation, another positive aspect for video capture.

Most will appreciate this lens's constant max aperture, enabling f/2.8 throughout the focal length range.

24mm does not create a strong background blur, though this lens's close minimum focus distance will aid in that respect. At 70mm, the f/2.8 aperture provides a nice blur strength, especially when focused close with a distant background.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Maximum Blur Example

Manual aperture rings have migrated to Sony FE full-frame zoom lenses. As usual for Sony FE GM and G prime lenses, the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Zoom Lens, like the Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Zoom Lens, features an aperture ring, permitting a manually selected aperture. With the ring in the A (Auto) position, the camera controls the aperture setting. All other settings electronically force the aperture to the chosen opening. A 2-position switch on the bottom right side of the lens toggles the aperture ring between 1/3 stop clicks and smooth, quiet, non-clicked adjustments, ideal for video recording.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Aperture Ring

Aside from a slightly more complicated design, I find inadvertent aperture changes the primary disadvantage of an aperture ring (especially when photographing in the dark). In previous reviews, I mentioned that a lock for the ring would eliminate that issue, and this lens gets an iris lock switch. Perfect.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Side View with Hood

Image Stabilization

The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens does not feature image stabilization. Omitting the optical stabilization system reduces the size, weight, complexity, and cost. However, image stabilization is a very useful feature.

Sony addresses that omission with Steady Shot IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) in their Alpha cameras. In addition to reducing camera shake, the stabilized imaging sensor provides a still viewfinder image, enabling careful composition. Sensor-based AF takes advantage of the stabilized view for improved accuracy.

With no IS switch on the lens, the camera menu must be used to enable or disable IBIS, or to check the current settings. This extra step is a slight impediment to working quickly, going from tripod mounted to handholding, for example.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens

Image Quality

During a media call with Sony, the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens's image quality was indicated to be superior to the version I lens.

Looking at the MTF charts, I see the II's 24mm f/2.8 center of the image circle performance slightly improved, with this lens's tangential and radial values staying closer to each other in the corners — approx. 70 and 70 vs. 50 and 85 for the 30 line pairs/mm that most magnify the difference). The better tangential and radial line alignment likely indicates reduced astigmatism.

At 24mm f/8, the two lenses are more similar, but the version II lens's T line flattens toward the right side (approx. 75 vs. 55), suggesting improved corner performance.

A greater differential is found at 70mm f/2.8, where the version I lens shows more need for improvement. Expect the version II lens to produce sharper results. At 70mm f/8, the version II lens should show slightly improved mid-frame performance and perhaps slightly more extreme corner astigmatism than the version I lens.

Here is the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM I vs. II Lens MTF chart comparison. Note that the II's charts were resized to match the I's charts, and very slight dimension differences may be present.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens MTF Chart Comparison

MTF (Modulation Transfer Function) describes how well a lens can reproduce fine details, measured as the degree of contrast achieved between finely spaced lines.

Bright light reflecting off lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes interesting, usually destructive visual artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare effects in an image are variable, dependent on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings. Additionally, flare and ghosting can impact AF performance.

Sony utilizes Nano AR Coating II to combat flare and promises stellar performance against flare and ghosting from this lens.

The design of this lens is illustrated below.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Design

[1] Extreme aspherical lens (XA) lens [2] Aspherical lens [3] Super ED glass [4] ED (extra-low dispersion) glass

The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens's optical design features a best-of-the-best set of elements. Three aspherical lens elements minimize aberrations. Two XA (Extreme Aspherical) lens elements, manufactured to 0.01-micron surface precision, control distance-related aberration variations and suppress onion ring bokeh. Two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) and two Super ED glass lens elements suppress chromatic aberration.

Focusing

Quad XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors drive AF for the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens. Dual XD motors are assigned to each of the front and rear floating focus groups, driving fast but smooth and quiet AF optimized for video needs.

"Tenacious, reliable AF can smoothly track subjects while shooting high frame rate photos or movies." [Sony]

This lens offers high tracking performance even at 30 fps while zooming, with tracking performance while zooming improved by approximately 2x over the version I lens.

Especially with the wide f/2.8 aperture, expect this lens to focus in very dark environments when adequate subject contrast is available.

Sony's FE lenses consistently focus accurately, the number one requirement of an AF system, so I'd be disappointed to learn otherwise for this lens.

This is an internally focusing lens.

A pair of customizable AF hold buttons are provided. With the camera set to continuous focus mode, press an AF hold button to lock focus at the currently selected focus distance, permitting a focus and recompose technique. These buttons also act as custom buttons, programmable to other functions via the camera's menu.

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported via Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) AF mode with the shutter release half-pressed or the AF-ON button pressed. This lens has an AF/MF switch, allowing this frequently used camera setting to be changed without accessing the menu system.

The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens has a fine-sharp-ribbed rubberized focus ring ideally positioned forward of the zoom ring. This ring is significant in size and raised slightly from the lens barrel behind it, easy to find.

This is a linear response MF ring, with marks able to be established and repeatedly hit.

Overall, expect this lens to provide a quality manual focus experience, with nice rotational resistance and no play.

Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other. This is focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus.

Sony promotes this lens having a minimal change in subject size through a full extent focus distance adjustment.

Unusual for a non-cinema lens is for accurate focus to be maintained throughout the zoom range without re-focusing. Per Sony, this lens is optimized in this regard.

Here are more Sony lens advantages for video:

A focus distance window is not provided, but a focus distance meter shows in the lower portion of the camera's electronic viewfinder during manual focusing.

This lens has a 24mm minimum focus distance of 8.3" (210mm), and the spec distance lengthens slightly to 11.8" (300mm) by 70mm, where it produces a 0.32x maximum magnification spec. While that maximum magnification number is remarkably high, it aligns with the closest current Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron lens alternatives.

ModelMFDMM
Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens8.3"(210mm)0.30x
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E AF-S VR Lens15.0"(380mm)0.28x
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens7.1"(180mm)0.34x
Sigma 28-70mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens7.5"(190mm)0.22x
Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens8.3"(210mm)0.32x
Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM Lens15.0"(380mm)0.24x
Sony FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS Lens15.7"(400mm)0.20x
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS Lens15.0"(380mm)0.31x
Sony FE 28-60mm F4-5.6 Lens11.8"(300mm)0.16x
Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS Lens11.8"(300mm)0.19x
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III VXD G2 Lens7.1"(180mm)0.37x

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mount an extension tube behind this lens to significantly decrease and increase those respective numbers. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function normally. As of review time, Sony does not publish extension tube specs or manufacture these items, but third-party Sony-compatible extension tubes are available.

This lens is not compatible with Sony teleconverters.

Build Quality & Features

The "GM" in the moniker reflects the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens's membership in the Grand Master lens series, representing Sony's best-available lenses. These lenses feature professional-grade build quality, ready for the rigors of daily use.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Side View

The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens features a hybrid metal and engineering plastic construction for high durability, high precision, and light weight. This lens extends modestly as the focal length is increased to 70mm.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Smooth Tight Switch

A new feature found on this lens is a two-position Zoom Smoothness switch, offering the choice of Smooth or Tight zoom ring resistance/torque settings.

The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens features "An updated dust and moisture-resistant design provides extra reliability for outdoor use in challenging conditions." [Sony]

All seams are sealed, the buttons and switches have silicone rubber gaskets, and a rubber ring seals the lens mount.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Weather Sealing

The front lens element is fluorine coating to avoid dirt and moisture adhesion and greatly facilitate cleaning.

The FE 24-70mm version I lens's size and weight were not out of line for the class, but the version II lens drops considerable size and weight, falling under all of the direct alternatives, garnering the record. The Sigma 28-70mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens and Tamron 28-75mm Di III VXD G2 Lens, sharing most of the zoom range, are smaller and lighter, requiring a narrowly defined claimed record.

For those carrying this lens for significant periods, the smaller size and lighter weight alone will be worth the update from the version I lens.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens31.8(900)3.5 x 4.9(88.5 x 125.7)822019
Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens28.4(805)3.5 x 5.0(89.0 x 126.0)822019
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens29.5(835)3.5 x 4.8(87.8 x 122.9)822019
Sigma 28-70mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens16.6(470)2.8 x 4.0(72.2 x 101.5)672021
Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens24.5(695)3.5 x 4.7(87.8 x 119.9)822022
Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM Lens31.3(886)3.4 x 5.4(87.6 x 136.0)822016
Sony FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS Lens15.2(430)2.9 x 3.7(73.0 x 94.5)672014
Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS Lens23.4(663)3.3 x 4.5(83.4 x 113.3)772017
Sony FE 28-60mm F4-5.6 Lens5.9(167)2.6 x 1.8(66.6 x 45.0)40.52020
Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS Lens10.4(295)2.9 x 3.3(72.5 x 83.0)552013
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III VXD G2 Lens19.1(540)3.0 x 4.6(75.8 x 117.6)672021

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

Sony notes that this lens's overall balance remains constant for gimbal or drone-mounted movie recording.

All of the major brand 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses have 82mm filter threads. Surely there is a good reason for that, but I find this is a favorable design aspect. While 82mm filters are not small, light, or inexpensive, many lenses in the kit share this size and most of those that do not have 82mm threads can be adapted to 82mm via step-up filter adapter rings. I generally have a circular polarizer filter along for each lens, but with multiple densities often desired for neutral density filters, I usually carry only an 82mm set along with step-up rings.

A standard thickness circular polarizer filter may increase peripheral shading from this lens at the wider focal lengths. Therefore, a slim model such as the Breakthrough Photography X4 is highly recommended.

Tthe Sony ALC-SH168 Lens Hood ships with the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens. A new feature for this lens class is this hood's operable window, facilitating circular polarizer and variable ND filter adjustment.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II ALC-SH168 Lens Hood

The ALC-SH168's petal shape is optimized to block as much light outside the utilized image circle as possible. As zoom lens hoods must be tuned for the wide end of the zoom range, less than optimal protection is afforded at the long end. Still, this hood offers reasonable front element protection from dust, water, fingers, limbs, etc., and from flare-inducing bright light.

The petal shape also looks cool, and an advantage of this hood shape is easier installation alignment (align the small petal to the top), though a round-shaped hood enables the lens to better stand on its hood. The interior is flocked for reduced internal reflections.

The ALC-SH168's semi-rigid plastic build absorbs some impact, adding a layer of physical protection to the camera and lens.

Sony provides a soft case in the box.

Price, Value, Wrap Up

The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens is Sony's best professional-grade general-purpose zoom lens to date, and unsurprisingly, it is relatively expensive. Perhaps more surprising is that the version II lens costs only modestly more than the version I's list price.

The Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens will see a high percentage of camera-mounted time and will be used to capture a significant share of images. The lens is often the limiting factor for image quality. Selecting the highest quality general-purpose lens available makes perfect sense, even if it is expensive, as it will affect the greatest percentage of images. While the price tag will be a barrier for some, serious photographers will not hesitate to spend this much for their most-used lens.

As an "FE" lens, the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including full-frame and APS-C sensor format models. Sony provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The to be reviewed Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens was ordered online-retail.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens Angle View

Summary

Assured is that the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens will be an outstanding general-purpose lens choice for everyone owning a Sony Alpha camera.

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Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens
Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens
Bryan Carnathan
by Bryan Carnathan
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