Since the introduction of the Sony A7-series cameras, many people asked for well performing f/2.8 zooms. Although it negates the approach of the small bodies, Sony listened to their customers and developed the no-compromise GM(aster) lens lineup. The Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM is the first lens of this new series in our hands. In this review I will check the performance of my own copy which I have used for the last three months.
Specifications / Version History
As a Sony shooter, you currently have three native options when it comes to standard zoom lenses:
- Sony FE 3.5-5,6/28-70 OSS
- Sony Zeiss FE 4/24-70 ZA OSS
- Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM
All three options are aimed at different groups. The Sony FE 3.5-5.6/28-70 is a kit lens and performs decent in the center but the corners are much softer wide open and not better stopped down. It is okay as a kit lens and also usable for the documentation of the daily life, but I wouldn’t recommend it for serious photography. The performance of the Sony/Zeiss FE 4/24-70 is a mixed bag, especially at the ends of the zoom range and doesn’t justify the price tag in our opinion.
The Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM is the latest addition to Sony’s standard lens lineup and costs $2199 MSRP. This is almost twice the price of the FE 4/24-70 ZA OSS and almost five times the price of the FE 3.5-5,6/28-70 OSS. In contrast to the other two FE standard zoom lenses, the Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM doesn’t feature OSS so you are limited to you camera’s stabilizer. I think that’s a tribute to the ultimate image quality approach because the lens can be manufactured with tighter tolerances. We’ve seen that also in the Fuji XF 2.8/16-50mm lens in the past.
The Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM has the following specifications:
- Diameter: 87,6 mm
- Field of view: 84° to 34° (diagonally)
- Length: 136 mm
- Weight: 886 g
- Filter Diameter: 82 mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 9 (rounded)
- Elements/Groups: 18/13
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.38 m
- Maximum Magnification: 1:4
- Mount: Sony FE
You may also have a look at Sony’s official page.
You can get one for $2.198 at Amazon.com (affiliate link)
or 2.199€ at Amazon.de (affiliate link).
Handling / Build Quality
The first opening of the box put a smile on my face, because Sony puts a nice and practical lens pouch into it. It has a practical two-zipper mechanism and a belt loop. The latter is a very handy feature in combination with my Mindshift Gear Rotation belt bag. I put the big Sony 2.8/24-70 GM or its equally large brother, the Sony 1.4/85 GM into that lens pouch to save some space for my other equipment in the belt bag.
The lens itself is built to highest professional standards and I personally prefer this construction over a full metal lens. This might sound weird, because Sony uses plastic and rubber extensively, but the lens is very scratch resistant (in contrast to the Zeiss FE lenses) and light (for its tremendous size) because of that.
The lens hood is quite big and is made of plastic, but feels quite stury for a plastic hood. I really like that Sony has a switch in the lens hood to lock it in position. When I think of the wobbly Loxia 2.8/21 hood, I am very happy about that.
It takes about 90° turning the zoom ring from 24 to 70 mm:
Apart from the pretty stiff zoom ring and the well dampened focus ring, the lens has three external controls:
- The zoom lock switch locks the lens in the 24mm position. I was expecting zoom creeping because of this switch but the lens remains in the adjusted focal lengths in every situation.
- The focus hold button is a practical addition that I would like to see in any upcoming lens from Sony. It can be configurated individually in the main menu of the camera. I use the Eye AF on this button.
- The lens features an AF/MF switch
One thing that I was asking myself before buying this lens is if this lens makes any sense in terms of balancing on the A7 bodies. In practical use, these doubts didn’t come true in most of the situations because I always have a hand on the lens and use a L-bracket most of the time. What bothers me more is that the camera with the lens attached doesn’t fit into every of my bags anymore. You should also keep in mind that you catch as much attention as the average DSLR shooter with the Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM.
The weight of this lens relativises when you keep in mind that usually replaces three primes in your bag. The only downside is, that the cumulated weight of these three lenses is pulling on the neck all the time.
The lens focuses very fast, reliable and silent. The AF performance is in line with the FE 1.8/55 or the 2.0/28 and better than the 1.4/85 GM.
In the shot below, the hungry deer walked pretty fast into the direction of my wife who had some fodder. The AF nailed the shot in the way I wanted, even with the A7II and in this slightly dim conditions. I am happy with the performance, the shot below would have been a chance hit with manual focus (at least with my skills).
This lens has got a linear transmission/coupling of the focusing ring. This comes closer to a manual lens than many other E-mount lenses and I like this development a lot. Manual focusing is reliable, predictable and feels very direct. A turn of around 110 degree changes the focus from the minimum focusing distance to infinity.
The only downside of the linear (pretty short) transmission is, that focusing at 2.8/70mm around the infinity mark can be a bit fiddly. The slightest turn of the focus ring causes a significant change and it seems to work stepwise.
Of course, this is still a focus-by-wire lens. Therefore, the lens has no hard infinity stops and not a distance scale on the lens.
At 24mm, the lens shows the moderate amount of Vignetting of 1.3 EV (Loxia 2.8/21: 2.5 EV). At all other focal lengths, the Vignetting wide open is very low. There could be some correction baked into the RAW image but from what I can see, the performance is very good.
- f/2.8: Excellent sharpness in the center, decent sharpness in the corner but some degradation of sharpness in the midframe.
- f/4 & f/5.6 : midframe improves
- f/8: Image is sharp across the frame
- f/2.8: Excellent sharpness in the center, and very good sharpness across the frame with slightly lower contrast in the corners and midframe
- f/5.6 : Image is excellent across the frame and doesn’t improve any further50mm:
- f/2.8: Excellent sharpness in the center and in the midframe, good corner sharpness
- f/4: corners get slightly sharper
- f/5.6 : Image is excellent across the frame and doesn’t improve any further
- f/2.8: Very good sharpness in the center and in the midframe, corners are a bit softer
- f/4: corners sharpen up significantly, center and midframe are excellent
- f/8 : Sharpness across the frame peaks, corners are very good now.
The sharpness of this lens is stunning, especially when it’s taken into account, that this is a zoom lens. At least from 24-50mm, this lens can keep up with many of the best prime lenses and it’s the sharpest native 35mm option in the system for landscape photography. Even at its weakest spot, the 70mm setting, the performance is not bad. The center is already very sharp wide open and the FE 2.8/24-70 sharpens up across the whole frame when the lens gets stopped down.
The sample below shows the performance of the Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM at the minumum focusing distance. At f/2.8, sharpness is visibly lower than at f/5.6. At this aperture, the sharpness looks decent.
This is definetly the achilles heel of the lens. With the sun in the frame, there can be a high amount of ghosts in some constellations and at every focal lenghts. Many Zeiss prime lenses (e.g. the Loxia 2.8/21 or the 2/50) perform better in this regard.
Veiling flare can also appear with the sun in the frame. Very bright light sources in the background can cause a general reduction of macro contrast in critical situations.
The distortion performance is very typical for a 24-70mm lens. The Sony 2.8/24-70 GM shows pronounced barrel distortion at the short end which turns into pincushion distortion in the middle of the zoom range and stays like this until the end of the zoom range.
At 24mm, the lens shows a significant amount of barrel distortion with a mustache sub-frequency. This reminds me of the Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21.
At 35mm, the 2.8/24-70 GM shows a slight amount of pincushion distortion.
The same as 35mm, slightly increased pincushion distortion.
Looks almost the same as at 50mm.
Highlights are very round and clean at every focal length. The bokeh is very calm. Not only at the long end but equally at wider angles, especially compared to most classic wide angle lenses.
If you look closely at the illuminated highlights in the sample below, the shape of the bokeh balls remains almost round until the edge of the frame, even at 24mm.
A closer look at the bokeh balls shows, despite the marketing claims you might still find (onion ring) structures in the light discs. But it seems to be indeed less pronounced compared to the competition.
In certain situations the light discs may also show a visible border, which is hard to notice at normal viewing distances.
At medium distances, The bokeh get’s a little more structured with a complicated background like in the sample below. The bokeh is still pleasant to my taste. Even if it’s one of the fastest full frame zoom lenses, the f/2.8 limits the subject isolation a little compared to faster prime lenses.
The Sony 2.8/24-70 GM has 9 rounded aperture blades and therefore an 18 stroke sun star . Therefore I didn’t expect a good performance in this category. At large apertures, this turns out to be true. The sun stars are not very well defined until f/8. At f/11, the sun stars are surprisingly nice. They have well defined edges and pretty long strokes. They are better than I was expecting, but its obvious that they are not as beautiful as the Loxia/ZM/VM 10 stroke sun stars.
The correction of longitudinal chromatic aberrations is nothing short of phenomenal. I can’t see even a trace of LoCA in any of my images, this lens has APO-Qualities in this regard.
The correction of lateral CA is very good, at least from what I can see in Lightroom. There seems to be some correction baked in the RAW but I can barely see any of them in the RAW-image in Lightroom. The only focal length where they are slightly visible in the 1:1-magnification are 24mm, but I’m not sure if its really worth mentioning. Like shown in the sample below but even the correction tool doesn’t change a lot.
Sony A7II | Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM | 24mm f/11 | CA 100% crop before/after extreme corner
In absence of a fast ultrawide lens, a 2.8/24-70 can be used for occasional astrophotography. A decent coma performance is necessary for this though.
The corner crops at 24mm look very clean already at f/2.8 in terms of coma, a good result. In the real life situation below, I don’t see significant amounts of coma at all.
I’ve double checked the result at home and can find a very small amount of coma without any astigmatism. If you want to see a sample of heavy coma wide open, check out the Contax 2.0/28 review.
At 70mm, there is a small trace of coma wide open and a bit of astigmatism at all apertures that I have looked on. Nevertheless, I think the result is pretty good here too.
Sony FE 24-70mm 4.0 ZA OSS: Much cheaper, decently built and with optical stabilization. Nevertheless, its optical performance is visibly inferior in comparison to the Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM.
Canon EF 24-70 2.8 L II*: This lens has hit the market some years ago and can be currently bought for a cheaper price. I have never used it, but it is also a superb and very sharp performer. Compared to the Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM, it has worse bokeh and not the full native functionality.
Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 3.4/35-70 MM T*: This is a legendary legacy zoom lens and regarded as one of the best performing zoom lenses ever. I own this lens and like it a lot. At 50 and 70mm, it can keep up with the GM but at 35mm , the GM is clearly sharper in the corners. Nevertheless, this lens is smaller, lighter and has a very handy macro feature at 35mm.
I actually rubbed my eyes in disbelief when Sony came up with another lens line when there were already three different lens lines only from Sony itself. I have hoped that they have created something really special to justify this questionable decision.
Is this the case with the Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM? If you look at the table above, the answer is clearly yes. This zoom lens can keep up optically with many of the best prime lenses in every regard except of speed and flare resistance. Furthermore, it is built to highest standards, offers pleasing handling, focusing and flexibility. The lens is very expensive but the price of the lens is adequate in relation to its performance and to the prices of its competitors.
Who should buy this lens? First of all the obvious people like wedding and press photographers, lens changing haters and portrait photographers. These people would have probably bought this lens anyways, but the stunning sharpness across the frame and the ability to compose an image precisely makes this lens an attractive choice for many landscape photographers. Last but not least, portrait photographers will appreciate the decent bokeh and the great central sharpness at every aperture. To sum this up – I recommend this lens for everyone who can spend this much in a standard zoom lens and who can justify its undeniable space in his bag.
Personally, I have always been a prime guy until my little son saw the first light of day. I have lost many shots of him in the first few months because my Loxia 2.8/21 was glued to my camera – even in the situations when I have needed a standard lens. I have built my kit around the Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM and it is my mostly used lens now.
You can get one for $2.198 at Amazon.com (affiliate link)
or 2.199€ at Amazon.de (affiliate link).
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48 thoughts on “Review: Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM”
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the GM with a prime lens.
It’s actually not very sharp at all, even in the center. The fact that it shows visible improvement stopping down to f5.6 and even f8 is really quite disappointing when compared with any decent prime.
with that setup I bet most of the difference is due to user error
It’s such a rarity to see you guys review a big, expensive AF lens! Should we expect reviews such as 85/1.4 GM or 85 Batis?
Yes, the 85 GM will be reviewed in the first or second quarter of 2017. I’ve already shot more than 500 images with it and a few of my favorite images of 2016 have been taken with that lens.
Greatly look forward to that!
Thanks for the thorough review – I know this is a lot of work.
Would you consider using dcraw for some of the test shots, especially vignetting (which looks unrealistically low here)? Since you also test many older MF lenses, this would remove some of the uncertainty whether better results are due to the optics or to automatic corrections. Would not help against in-camera RAW corrections, but I hope that Sony does not do that.
Hi Chris, I have considered to do that and will probably do this in the future. Maybe I will update this review then but for now I am very busy with my little child but wanted to keep up the review work. Therefore, I didn’t want to change my methods. I think, that the LR-Results are representative for what most users will experience, but it will be interesting for sure what the manufacturer is hiding from the user.
About the vignetting – I can imagine, that the results are exactly or almost the truth. My only other lens, that has got perfectly round bokeh balls even in the outer edges is the Sony 2.8/135 STF and this lens is free of vignetting.
Have you considered the Sigma ART 24-105mm?
I have been getting great results on my A7S, and also on my FS7 using a Metabones Speedbooster.
Some how this lens seems to slip under the radar.
The Sigma ART 85mm is a noteworthy prime as well.
Hi Tony, if I am getting an AF lens, I want the full native compatibility and the fastest AF possible. Unfortunately, no adapter solution has made me as happy as the native lenses so far. Personally, I have chosen Sony/Zeiss FE lenses for my AF work and prefer manual lenses for adapted solutions. When there will be better third party lenses that will focus equally reliable and fast, I will definitely try them out.
The Art 85mm is noteworthy but the same applies to that lens. The GM 85 produces so beautiful and sharp images, that I am not keen to use a bigger lens that is probably not significantly better.
Can confirm about the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 3.4/35-70 MM T.
One of the best zoom lenses ever made in a small body.
Did some resolution tests and it’s clearly sharper in the corners than my Canon EF 24-70 2.8 L II on the A7r2.
Use it regularly for my landscapes combined with the Mirex TS adapter.
But the it’s only 35mm wide and the front rotates when you focus, rather a problem when using graduated filters but it works.
It’s not weather sealed what could be a problem in dusty environments (like for example Iceland).
Would will like to test a Sony as well in order to check the performance against my Zeiss and Canon.
I am going to test my Contax 3.4/35-70 for sure. I really like the output and a sharpness comparison to the FE 2.8/24-70 GM would be interesting as was well although a lot of work.
Yeah, would be nice, an old guy against a new kid 🙂
That the best may win !
Sorry for the work….
Very nice review, also good to read that there are a few weaknesses. Do you consider the flare resistance worse than the FE16-35 issues?
I am tempted to get rid of the following primes within this focal range and replace it with the 24-70 2.8:
Sony Zeiss E 24/1.8 (only cropped but still amazing quality)
Sony UW Adapter 21/2.8
Sony 28-70 Kit Lens
Sony 24-240 3.5-6.5 (never used it mouch but with two kids it was absolutely helpful not to need to change lenses but I never liked the quality from 35mm upwards, found it worse than the kit lense – logical given the much wider range)
Would leave me w/o a really long focal range but it is used much less often than I originally thought and the worries when something looks “muddy” is bigger than losing a tele shot.. Still owning the Symyang 135/2.0 though..
The FE 4/16-35 doesn’t have flawless flare performance either but i think that it’s still a bit better than the FE 2.8/24-70 GM in this regard.
Nevertheless, I’d take a 24-70mm lens in your situation, I know how the compromise between family and landscape photography feels like and 35mm is just too short in some situations.
I think that the 2.8/24-70 can easily replace all of the lenses if you can live without the 21mm of the converter and with the loss of the compactness of the 2/28. I’d maybe think of something like the Canon EF 4/70-200 L or the Contax 4/80-200 for occasional tele applications if needed.
I can vouch for the Contax 80-200. Sharp were it matters in such a zoom, at 200 that is. Probably sharper than the Contax 180-200 primes too, except for the Aposonnar (if you could find it and afford it). Not bad at the short end but not up to Zeiss Contax prime levels.
A bit too sensitive to veiling flare at the long end, but then many Zeiss Contax are.
Not that heavy, and it takes 55mm filters but it is very long making it a bit awkward to fit in my bag.
I think your review really hits the mark. I have had this lens since the day of it’s release here in the UK and had never been a fan of zoom lenses. It has become my most used lens on the A7rII with great versatility, IQ and build quality
Thank you, David! We’ve talked at FM about this lens and I have hesitated to buy it first although you have recommended it. I’ve made the mistake and got disappointed once more by a badly decentered FE1.4/35 before I have pulled the trigger on the FE 2.8/24-70 GM.
This is, as usual a great review! Thanks for your great effort!
I looking forward to see more reviews from you an your colleague! Maybe as metioned somewhere above earlier: 85mm GM – maybe with a comparison to the 85 Batis ?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the Batis 1.8/85 anymore. I sold it to fund my 1.4/85 GM. Main reason to switch was the Bokeh, which was underwhelming in some situations. Other things like focus shift and distortion bothered me too.
But I will do a GM 1.4/85 review soon, I have already many sample images.
I used the 24-70/2.8 ZA on A mount as my primary weapon of choice long ago. My back is happy that these times are over 😉
Btw: I switched to primes when my son was born and never experienced anything regret. I wouldn’t point a giant lens into his little face. Though, MF lenses and kids can be a fiddly situation. But I have two AF primes for him. And for MF: practice, practice, practice. I even managed to catch him with a 200 mm wide open riding downhill with his bike. And that was a much more rewarding achievement personally then any auto AF 😀
I know what you mean, I still shoot images of him with primes (AF+MF) very often. The GM 2.8/24-70 is one lens out of currently ~20 (many review candidates still in line, more than time to review them), and I try to use many of them and not to let them collect too much dust. But I really prefer the flexibility when I want to take e.g. landscape images when I am traveling with my family. Then, I always want to be ready to shoot pictures of him or my wife in the next moment.
Really. I personally find the Bokeh of the Batis is quite respectably. I love the clinically look paired with the razor share images rendered by the A7rII …
I liked the clinical look as well as the crazy high contrast and the color intensity. Nevertheless, I’m probably too often in these critical situations, where the Bokeh get’s just too swirly for my taste. Even the GM get’s a little swirl then, but the Batis performs far worse in these situations. There are also situations in which the bokeh of the Batis shines, no question at all.
Hallo Jannik. Deine Expertise mit Herzblut las ich mit großem Interesse. Deine Hingabe zur Photographie bewundere ich und erfüllt mit Stolz. LG Papa
Das freut mich, vielen Dank fürs reinschauen 🙂
Very nice review. I already own the lens. My question is different and I suppose it is silly and the answer depends on many things. Anyway, here goes.
For travel, given all the factors you described, do you think you’d take the 24-70 2.8GM or a lighter alternative. I have a good copy of the 28-70 and a good copy of the Sony 16-35. I tend to shoot landscapes and architectural images more than anything else. My inclination after shooting with this lens is that for travel I’d be happier with the 16-35 and 55 1.8 in my bag when traveling and carrying my gear on my shoulder all day. But I’m an older guy that probably tolerates a day with a heavy bag less well than a younger fit guy might. Comment please…..
I’ve used the 4/16-35 and 1.8/55 extensively as a travel combination and I tend to shoot mostly with the 4/16-35 due to comfort, flexibility and getting everything in frame although I like my images with the 1.8/55 usually more. Therefore, the combination of a wide angle zoom with a standard prime doesn’t really work that good for me.
I use the 2.8/24-70 in line with the Batis 2.8/18. This combination is just around 350g heavier than the other combination but rewards with much better IQ and f/2.8 at every point. The 28-70 was a really underwhelming lens to my taste.
Great review! I own the same lens and really have no complaints about the picture quality of this lens. However, I do encounter one flaw with the lens and I don’t know if you have experience with it. I recently took the lens to Europe and the temperature is around -1C to -5C. I noticed that when exposed to cold weather (especially wind), the aperature of the lens locks up and auto focus fails, I would have to warm it up in my jacket before taking it out to shoot again, and it would freeze after a while and I have to repeat the same thing over.
now I know the manual for the lens says the normal working temp for this lens should be above 0 C, but I never have problem with the other lens that I brought (the 4/16-35). Don’t know if you have experience the same thing.
No, I didn’t have the problem so far. As you can see in the sample images, I took the camera out in temperatures below zero and didn’t encounter any issues.
In my opinion, a professional weather sealed lens should work flawless in these conditions.
I rented and used this lens before but it is somewhat disappointing due to its IQ. Yeah it’s too expansive for its quality.
Thanks for the great review. I own a Sony A7ii. Would it be wasting if i use it with this lens Sony FE 24-70 GM? Thx
No, not at all. I have loved it on that camera
many thanks for your review!
Have you observed any focus breathing with the g-master 24-70 (= plane of focus moving on stopping down. Not to be mistaken for focal length breathing = reduced focal length at shorter distances)? As I like to do night photography, where focussing at f8 or f11 is really not that easy, for me it is very desirable to be able to use a lens at wide open apertures for focusing.
Is there any comparison with the Sony A Zeiss Vario Sonnar 24-70 you know?
Hi Uwe, I didn’t notice focus shift, I’d give it a try. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the ZA 2.8/24-70, but I know that it’s edge performance on the short end is significantly worse.
If you should replace the FE 2.8/24-70 GM for other one fix lens (for portrait, bokeh and landscape), what would be your choice:
1. FE 1.8/55 ZA
2. FE 1.8/85
3. FE 2.8/90 Macro G OSS
In my opinion, all three lenses are too long to replace a standard zoom. I prefer a 35-40mm lens as a single prime.
That is also the reason why I’d choose the FE 1.8/55 ZA from that list to replace the 24-70 GM.
I am thinking on getting this lens as a general purpose lens for my Sony A7II.
Could you guys tell me how long is it when attached to the Sony A7II? I am afraid my backpack will be too short (although my Canon 7D with 24-70 2.8 mk1 with hood lens) fit there no problem.
Hi Philip! Thanks for the many reviews! here on this website! Really love your work. I own the A7 mark i for a while now and I have a bunch of vintage lenses. While they preform fine My images don’t look as sharp in LR than on the A7′ screen. I’m thinking off buying the 24-70 2.8 GM and sell a few older primes for sharper images. I have searched the internet but I can’t seem to find how the lens preforms on the A7 mark i. Have you used it on your mark i or not? If yes, was it worth the investment and could the weak mount take the weight of the 24-70 GM?
Thanks for your reply! It will definitly solve my many sleepless nights about which lens to buy ;)!
This review was done by Jannik on the a7II but it will perform the same on the a7.
If it is worth the investment depends on how much use you will get out of it, I can’t assess that for you.
I never full understood the mount issue, the weight of lenses used seems to be a factor but not the only one. So you can get issues and I guess the chance is a little higher with this lens than lighter primes.
The GM 2.8/24-70 is a very fine lens but I think it’s main selling point is that it covers a very wide range of applications with very good image quality. I don’t think I would buy it to get sharper images. There are cheaper and lighter ways to get there.
Hi, Jannik. Great review. I have this lens with the a7r4 along with the FE 2/28. I’d like to get a faster lens for portraits. I’m considering the 1.8/85 and the 1.8/35. What do you think would best compliment my gear? Thanks so much for this site!
Not Jannik but I think I would go for the 1.8/85 though both lenses won‘t give you a lot more freedom.