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:
Shot on A7RIV - 70mm - f/2.8 - 1/250s - ISO 160 - hand held
And here is moving a bit forward to get the minimum focus distance that I could achieve. As you can see, the bokeh is very soft and it almost looks like a macro shot.
Shot on A7RIV - 70mm - f/2.8 - 1/50s - ISO 100 - hand held
Let’s continue to talk about the bokeh a little bit more and show another portrait setting. Here’s my friend & captain Daniel in Greenland. I was guiding photo tours for a few weeks there this summer and on this day we had an Indonesian group on board. They offered to cook some super nice Indonesian food. As you can see, captain Daniel was super happy about it :)
Shot on A1 - 70mm - f/2.8 - 1/250s - ISO 400 - hand held
Here’s a good demonstration of the bokeh of this lens with portraits. Its nice and soft while the subject retains a good sharpness.
I also occasionally use ‘foreground bokeh’ in my shots to give extra depth. While in Greenland I photographed quite a lot of sled dogs. As an animal lover, I fell in love with them. Here are some examples of using the foreground plug to get some extra depth:
Shot on A1 - 56mm - f/2.8 - 1/2000s - ISO 200 - hand held
I used the cotton flowers in this shot while using the lens wide open to give a nice foreground blur to the photo. And here’s another example of using this lens super low to the ground, in the grass:
Shot on A1 - 70mm - f/2.8 - 1/400s - ISO 200 - hand held
While I wouldn’t primary use this lens for astrophotography, because of sharpness wide open and low amount of CI and fringing, you could definitely use this lens for shooting the milky way if you want to. Usually I bring my 14mm f/1.8 GM or 24 f/1.4 GM for that, but if you want to keep a light versatile kit the 24-70 GM II definitely works. I was using it in Kyrgyzstan for some astro shots.
Here’s a shot of our tents while sleeping in a remote part of Kyrgyzstan during one of my tours. There’s basically zero light pollution and you can see the milky way with your naked eye. Some people had never seen the milky way with their eyes and were shocked at the visibility. This photo is a stack of 10 photos to get less noise (you can combine these with Starry Landscape Stacker), as I had to use ISO 12800. But as you can see, the stars and detail is great.
Shot on A7RIV - 24mm - f/2.8 - 10s - ISO 12800 - tripod - 10 photos stacked for noise reduction.
For fun, I also shot a close up of the core of the milky way at 70mm. I had to use a shutter speed of just 4 seconds for this, otherwise the stars would trail because of the earth’s rotation. Therefore I needed to use an ISO of 25600. I shot a stack of 20 frames for noise reduction.
Shot on A7RIV - 70mm - f/2.8 - 4s - ISO 25600 - tripod - 20 photos stacked for noise reduction.
You can see the stars are still super sharp at 70mm wide open at f/2.8, also at the edges of the frame.
Sun- and light stars
And now that we are talking about stars anyway, let’s look at some different stars as properties as this lens: The sunstar and the stars when shooting night lights. In my opinion, The sun star looks good. It’s nothing crazy, but the star looks sharp and nice. Totally fine to implement in photos. Here’s an example:
Shot on A7RIV - 32mm - f/14 - 1/400s - ISO 100 - tripod
Crop of the sun star:
And here’s an example of shooting a cityscape with lights. This was shot at f/8. It was raining and a little bit foggy so this might have affected the image a bit, but it’s still a good example of how the stars look around the lights.
Shot on A7RIV - 24mm - f8 - 10s - ISO 100 - tripod
Crop of some lights:
This was at f/8. You’ll get the stars a bit sharper at more narrowed apertures.
So all of the above properties are things I consider important when using a lens. In that regard: The Sony 24-70 GM II does not disappoint. It’s simply good in everything it does. And that’s no surprise really. The lens is an all rounder that performs well for all kinds of genres. Also note that lots of shots in this article are done hand held. The fact is that it just works really well with the Image stabilisation of the Sony Alpha cameras. Even shooting at quite slow shutter speeds. This was especially very useful when I was shooting in Greenland from the boats, where everything was always moving.
If you step into the Sony Mirrorless System, the 24-70 GM II is great to get first, as an all rounder lens. And if you have the old version, is it worth the upgrade? Simply said: If you have the money to spend, yes. This lens is better in every way. It’s lighter, sharper, has more buttons and properties. It’s just better. But that does not mean that the old version is a bad lens.
The Sony 24-70 GM II is a great all rounder lens that does everything well. It’s better than its predecessor in every way: lighter, smaller, sharper, faster AF and more buttons.
Using it with the Sony Alpha cameras feels really nice as a whole package. Good grip, not too heavy and easy to shoot nice hand held shots with.
Good sharpness, also in corners. Centre sharpness at f/2.8 is excellent.
Nice soft bokeh at f/2.8
It has a nice short close focus distance, good for almost macro-like shots.
Filter size of 82mm, which is the same as the old version.
Also decent to shoot astrophotography shots
Nice sunstar (in my opinion).
Best lens in its range, but also the most expensive.
For me, this lens is the perfect lens in its range and it will replace the 24-105G that I used in this range before. Simply because it’s about the same weight, has a f/2.8 aperture and it’s sharper on my A7RIV.
I hope you enjoyed this real world article and that I showed you the versatility of this lens. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments. And I’ll leave you with a bunch of more sample shots!
Thanks again for reading.
Gear used in this article:
A7RIV - 50mm - f/7,1 - 1/1250s - ISO 100 - hand held
A7RIV - 50mm - f/8 - 1/50s - ISO 320 - hand held
A7RIV - 33mm - f/9 - 0,4s - ISO 100 - tripod
A1 - 41mm - f/9 - 1/100s - ISO 200 - hand held
A1 - 24mm - f/8 - 1/60s - ISO 250 - hand held
A1 - 24mm - f/8 - 1/160s - ISO 320 - hand held
A1 - 68mm - f/5,6 - 1/80s - ISO 500 - hand held
A1 - 24mm - f/4 - 1/640s - ISO 800 - hand held
A7RIV - 63mm - f/14 - 1/80s - ISO 200 - tripod
A7RIV - 24mm - f/9 - 2.5s - ISO 125 - tripod
A7RIV - 35mm - f/9 - 0,4s - ISO 100 - tripod
A7RIV - 48mm - f/8 - 1/4s - ISO 100 - tripod