Sony FE Standard Zoom Shootout – Sony 2.8/24-70 GM vs. Sony 4/24-105 G OSS vs. Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD – Part 2: Macro capabilities

Sony A7iii | Tamron 2.8/28-75 | 70mm | f2.8

After analyzing the infinity sharpness of the candidates in Part 1 of this series, we are looking at the opposite direction of the focus ring. For a versatile do-it-all standard zoom lens, the macro capability is an important factor of the overall performance. Details in documentation-, wedding-, product-, nature- or food photography are typical applications for a standard zoom as a pseudo-macro. In photographic history, the macro feature of zoom lenses was often a shameful marketing trick without any serious usefulness. Let’s check out the performance of the of the Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM, Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD and the Sony FE 4/24-105 G OSS.

General Macro Capability

The chart below demonstrates what magnification the three lenses can provide at their extreme focal lengths.

Sony 2.8/24-70 GM: Nothing remarkable, Low magnification at the wide end, higher magnification at the long end.

Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD: Very comparable to the GM at the long end but great magnification at the short end. Having useful magnifications at the short and the tele side offers more creative possibilities. Take a look at the chest of the pilot at 28mm: It is very dark because the lens is so close that it shades the subject.

Sony 4/24-105 G OSS: Low magnification at the short end but good magnification at the long end. This combined with the longer focal length makes this lens the most useful for photography of larger insects like dragonflies or butterflies (or anything else that can run/fly away).

Image Quality

Having a lens with good magnification is worthless if the image quality can’t keep up with the crop of a lower magnification. This is especially true in times of accessible 42+ MP sensors and/or high resolution pixel shift modes in many high end bodies.

I took images of Text (alligned planar to the sensor) and looked at the sharpness of the focused area, the size of the sharp area (no lens was able to render the whole image circle sharp at MFD) and aberrations. Below you see 100% crops of the sharp area:

The table below shows my rating for the test:

SubjectSharpness in the focused spotSize of the sharp areaAberrations
Sony 2.8/24-70 GM, 24mm ,f2.8Very GoodSmallLow
Sony 2.8/24-70 GM 24mm, f5.6ExcellentAverageLow
Sony 2.8/24-70 GM, 70mm, f2.8AverageAverageAverage outside of sharp area
Sony 2.8/24-70 GM 70mm, f5.6Very GoodLargeLow
Tamron 2.8/28-75, 28mm, f2.8Very GoodSmallHigh LaCA and SA outside of sharp area
Tamron 2.8/28-75, 28mm, f5.6ExcellentAverageHigh LaCA outside of sharp area
Tamron 2.8/28-75, 75mm, f2.8GoodAverageLow contrast, LaCA and SA outside of sharp area
Tamron 2.8/28-75, 75mm, f5.6Very GoodLargeLaCA outside of sharp area
Sony 4/24-105, 24mm, f4Very GoodLargeLow
Sony 4/24-105, 24mm, f5.6ExcellentLargeLow
Sony 4/24-105, 105mm, f4AverageSmallLow
Sony 4/24-105, 105mm, f5.6GoodAverageLow

Sony 2.8/24-70 GM: Good image quality at MFD, low aberrations and useful sharpness.

Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD: Very sharp at 28mm but small area of sharpness and aberration plagued peripheral areas.

Sony 4/24-105 G OSS: Low aberrations and useful size of the sharp areas. Sharpness at the long end could be better though wide open.

Bokeh

Macro images almost neccesarily contain unsharp areas, so the quality of the bokeh is very important for the general perception of image quality. Furthermore, bokeh is still very subjective and a personal thing. For me, good bokeh means clean and smooth out of focus areas.

First let’s start with the general image impression. The scene below contains backlight waterdrops and is very demanding (many highlights and high contrast), a kind of worst case scenario. You see that the three lenses render differently, much more than the specs would make you expect. The potential subject isolation (at the same focal length) is of course larger with the f2.8 lenses. Nevertheless, depth of field is so thin at high magnification that this is not neccesarily important. Personally, I like “dreamy” looking images like the one in the header, so I still tend to use f2.8 even near MFD.

If we take a closer look (1:4 magnification is enough), we see more of the characteristics of their respective bokeh:

Sony 2.8/24-70 GM:

wide open: Slight outlining with chromatic aberrations wide open, slight onion ring structures, nice shape until the edges.

stopped down: Rough structures inside of the bokeh balls, outlining is more pronounced.

Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD:

wide open: Overcorrected SA with extremely bright outlining. Trioplan-“Qualities”. Oddly cut bokeh balls and chromatic aberrations towards the edges.

stopped down: Slight onion ring structures and chromatic aberrations towards the edges. Otherwise good bokeh quality.

Sony 4/24-105 G OSS:

wide open: Slight outlining, onion rings and chromatic aberrations. Bokeh balls are slightly distorted towards the edge.

stopped down: Outlining and onion rings are more pronounced.

As a bonus, I added the short end (28mm) of the Tamron 2.8/28-75 wide open and at f5.6. I think that the bokeh wide open is surprisingly good, especially after what we have seen at 75mm. The bokeh balls at the edge are cut off due to mechanical vignetting but the outlining is well controlled and contrast is low. Chromatic aberrations are visible in the outling at the edge. At f5.6, bokeh balls look more distorted as we know it from many wide angle lenses. Chromatic aberrations are also more pronounced. If depth of field allows, I prefer to shoot wide open.

Conclusion

The Tamron 2.8/28-75 looks like a macro specialist under the standard zooms on the paper. Can it live up to that in practical work? Mostly yes! Sharpness is useful at both ends. Macro images at 75mm and f2.8 have a odd characteristic that I dislike a lot. Low contrast of the subject and crazy outlining will be interesting for Trioplan lovers at best, I am not one of them. Stopping down to f5.6 tames the beast and turns this into a good macro option. What makes this lens special is the 28mm macro feature which is a very serious option when it comes to sharpness and rendering.

The Sony FE 4/24-105 G OSS takes the good second place in my personal order as it has the longest focal length and the highest magnification at the long end. It renders acceptably there and can be very useful for nature photography.

The Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM does nothing special for me at macro distances although it keeps image quality and sharpness mostly under control which makes it still useful for documentary work.

If macro is your thing, getting a decent macro lens is a good idea anyway. Nevertheless, having macro capabilities within a twist of a zoom and a focus ring can be a useful addition for almost everybody.

The Sony 2.8/24-70 GM can be bought for $2.198 at Amazon.com (affiliate link), 2.199€ at Amazon.de (affiliate link). Sometimes used copies are available at Ebay.de or Ebay.com (afiliate links).

The Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD can be purchased for $899 at Amazon.com (affiliate link) or 829€ at Amazon.de (affiliate link). Sometimes you can get a used lens or a good deal at Ebay.de or Ebay.com (affiliate links).

The Sony 4/24-105 G OSS can be bought for $1.398 at Amazon.com (affiliate link), 1.398€ at Amazon.de (affiliate link). Sometimes used copies are available at Ebay.de or Ebay.com (afiliate links).

Go back to Part 1: Sharpness (infinity)

Further Reading

Review: Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM

Long Term Review: Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD

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Jannik Peters

I am a passionate photographer from northern Germany and I love landscape, architecture, travel, portrait and family photography. I use manual lenses but I also enjoy the comfort of autofocus lenses, therefore both can be found in my bag.

13 thoughts on “Sony FE Standard Zoom Shootout – Sony 2.8/24-70 GM vs. Sony 4/24-105 G OSS vs. Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD – Part 2: Macro capabilities”

  1. Interestingly in the pilot scene the Tamron at 75mm F2.8 seems to have much softer background than Sony GM, despite the similar magnification ratio! Is it because the Tamron actually has slightly longer actual focal length, or does it focus closer?

    1. Yes, very interesting. Magnification is about the same, this can’t be the reason. Effective aperture may be different although I didn’t notice any stopping down by the aperture itself.

  2. great review, but no big suprises.
    Can bokeh be expected to be worst on the tamron at portrait distances too?
    What about throwing the backround out of focus with 105mm@f4 vs 70/75mm@f2.8?
    That’d be interesting for practical work as from DOF-Simulation i expect comparable bokeh (with more compression at 105mm ofc).

  3. I really love the macro capability of the Tamron. I was generally happy with Sony 55 1.8, but its maximum magnification ratio was not impressive and it was my biggest complain. I think small, light, and high magnification ratio is kind of trademark of Tamron SP series.
    I hoped Tamron would release their version of “MC-11″like adapter, but they decided to develop whole new product, and it was a mega hit. I hope 17-28mm or slower telephoto zoom has same kind of traits of the 28-75.
    Thanks for the review!

    1. I have exactly the same problem. Also I’ve not found anything in the 28-35mm range that really sits well with ithe 55/1.8, so the Tamron is very tempting for when I’m travelling.

  4. Loving this series / review shootout!
    The bokeh in particular is interesting , can’t wait for the next segment + keep up the great work 🙂
    cheers

  5. Thank you for putting all the effort into this, time consuming to say the least. Always enjoy your thoughts and impressions on lenses.

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