Sony 24-70 GM II Real World Review
It’s been a while since I’ve done a lens review so I figured it was about time to do one again, as the long awaited update of the 24-70 GM just came out some time ago. Now if you’re used to reading my articles you’ll know that I don’t bother you too much with the technical specs. For that, you’re welcome to read the countless of other articles on the internet. In my article, you’ll find real world usage and lots of photos from my recent trips to countries like Kyrgyzstan and Greenland. Let’s get started.
DISCLAIMER: I am a Sony Alpha ambassador showing my opinions and how I use this lens in the field. You could think my opinions are ‘biased’ but I am always honest in my reviews. This is not a technical review. I am simply showing what I use it for in a real world setting during travels.
The update is kind of what you would expect, and that’s good! Because every new lens Sony releases is lighter, and of better quality. This lens is no exception. If you’re used to the old 24-70 GM, you’ll immediately notice this lens is lighter and much easier to hold. It has a more comfortable grip as it’s also smaller than its predecessor.
Size comparison between the old 24-70 GM and the new 24-70 GM II
When we look at the design a bit more there’s a few things that we immediately see:
The new 24-70 GM II is 16mm shorter than the old version.
Obviously, it’s also lighter with 695 grams vs 886 gram on the old version.
In short: Like you’d expect the lens is ‘much better’ thane old version in terms of design and functions. ssif you use screw in filters.
The zoom on both version extends out.
The new 24-70 GM II has a switch that lets you control the zoom tightness.
The 24-70 GM II has an aperture ring, that can you can set to click/clickless via a switch.
The old one had 1 custom button on the lens. The new one has 2.
Other important things I consider inside are : A faster AF motor, 20 optical elements vs 18, and the minimum focus distance is much shorter on the new one, which makes a big difference. More on that later.
In short: Like you’d expect the lens is ‘much better’ than the old version in terms of design and functions.
In the Field
Interestingly enough the 24-70 focal range is a range that I do not even use that much. While this focal range is best ‘to start out with’ (that’s why kit lenses are around this range), I am a big fan of extreme wide angle lenses like the Sony 12-24 f/2.8 GM, but also long telephoto lenses like the Sony 100-400 GM. I used to use the 24-105 G lens that fit perfectly in between those focal ranges. I was not a huge fan of the old 24-70 GM mainly because of the size and weight.
But I was actually waiting for a replacement. Yes, the 24-105 G is a great lens. It’s very versatile. But on my Sony A7RIV I couldn’t help but notice is was not so sharp as my GM lenses. It becomes more apparent at higher resolutions. So I was waiting for an update, and here it is. And yes, I have to give in on a tiny it of range. 105mm vs 70mm on the long end. But that’s okay for me. I can always crop in the image a little bit on the A7RIV, and with the 70mm I get an aperture of f/2.8, and the weight is similar to that of the 24-105 G lens.
So when Sony released the new version, I immediately took it with me on some trips to see how it performed and if I would be okay to replace my 24-105G with it. And the short answer is ‘Yes’, I now prefer to use this lens simply because it’s sharper. Let’s look at some examples and things I consider important when using this lens in the field.
As you would expect from a lens in this price range the sharpness is great across the frame. Centre sharpness is excellent while corners hold up really well, especially when stopping down. Here are some examples:
A boy herding sheep in Kyrgyzstan:
Shot on A7RIV - 24mm - f/8 - 1/640s - ISO100 - hand held
Crop of the above image with my friend Ibraim checking his phone while the women is keeping an eye on the sheep :)
Here’s an example of using the lens wide open hand held. The advantage of the f/2.8 aperture with the Sony in-body stabilisation works very well with this combination. In this mosque in Kyrgyzstan I didn’t really want to draw too much attention so I didn’t use a tripod and used silent shutter. Even with a shutter speed of 1/40 I was able to take perfectly sharp photos.
Shot on A7RIV - 33mm - f/2.8 - 1/40s - ISO250 - hand held
Crop of the above image, focusing on the lights shows all the little details.
Here’s another example of a portrait of an eagle hunter with his eagle. I do like this composition but I later tried a much closer crop that I also liked. With the 61 megapixels of the A7RIV the crop still has a decent resolution left. And because of the sharpness of the lens, the cropped photo still looks great. This was shot wide open at 70mm:
Shot on A7RIV - 70mm - f/2.8 - 1/1000s - ISO100 - hand held
Crop of the above image. I really like this crop to show the intimacy between the eagle hunter and his eagle. This man was hunting with eagles his whole life and made an entire museum in a yurt showing eagle hunting from the early days and how it evolved. Beautiful to see his real passion for his craft and his love for his eagles.
Here’s another photo of an eagle hunter taken with the lens wide open inside of a yurt.. The light wasn’t easy to work with. This with a higher ISO with wide open aperture:
Shot on A7RIV - 70mm - f/2.8 - 1/50s - ISO 1600 - hand held
I would also like to mention here that the focusing of this lens is super fast. It’s faster than the previous version, and faster than all 3rd party lenses in this range. It also focuses fast in low light while the focus is very silent. I don’t shoot a lot of video, but I think videographers are going to love this lens. In these portraits the eye-af locked perfectly and I used it most of the time.
Bokeh & Close Focus
I wanted to put these 2 points together as they relate. The nice thing about this lens is that the minimum focus distance is MUCH shorter than that of the old version. Almost twice as much actually. I have used the Tamron 28-75 in the past and always enjoyed the short focus distance on that lens and was a bit disappointed about the fact that that was not possible with the 24-70 GM. But now it is. The minimum focus distance on the 24-70 GM II is only 21 cm, which makes it possible to shoot close to macro-like photos, especially with the possibility to crop them in with the high megapixel Sony A7RIV or Sony A1.
Here’s an example of a little Butterly I spotted while I was in Minorca. I was actually shooting seascapes but suddenly saw these soft plants with small butterflies flying around:
Shot on A7RIV - 70mm - f/2.8 - 1/250s - ISO 160 - hand held
Here’s a crop:
Note that this crop still has more than 4000 pixels left on the long end and notice the sharpness. Also, this is a great example of showing how soft the bokeh of this lens is in combination with the sharpness. This is what the Sony GM lenses are known for: Sharpness with soft bokeh. And even if this lens has a super standard 24-70 range, it does it very well.
Here’s another simple example of showing the soft bokeh. Here we are a bit further away from the subject, not at minimum focus distance but still getting a nice falloff into the light: