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Hands-on with the Sony 24-70mm F2.8 GM II

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Introduction

The 24-70mm F2.8 GM II is the second generation standard zoom in Sony’s ‘G Master’ lens series and part of what many photographers consider to be the ‘holy trinity’ of zoom lenses. It’s also the 67th lens in the company’s mirrorless E-mount series. Sony says it designed this lens for both photo and video applications, particularly with hybrid content creators in mind, and we’ll see evidence of that as we take a closer look.

In addition to improved optical performance, what’s most notable about the new lens may be its size. Sony claims it’s the smallest and lightest F2.8 standard zoom lens on the market (meaning 24-70mm F2.8 zooms). It’s 22% lighter than its predecessor, 14% lighter than Nikon’s Nikkor Z 24–70mm F2.8 lens, 16% lighter than Sigma’s 24–70mm F2.8 DG DN lens and 23% lighter than Canon’s RF 24–70mm F2.8 L IS USM lens.

Let’s take a closer look at Sony’s newest lens and see what it offers.

Compared to the original 24-70mm F2.8 GM

We’ll start by comparing it to the original 24-70mm F2.8 GM, which Sony introduced back in 2016. A glance is all you need to see that the new lens is visibly smaller than its predecessor, but let’s talk numbers.

With a weight of 695g (24.6 oz.), the new lens is 22% lighter than the original model, which weighs in at 886g. It shares the same maximum diameter of 88mm (3.5 in.), but with a length of 120mm (4.7 in.), it’s 16mm shorter than the original. Overall, its volume has been reduced by 18%, and it’s certainly enough to notice.

The new model also includes two customizable focus hold buttons.

Sony tells us it will continue to sell the original 24-70mm F2.8 GM but that it will be repositioned in its lens lineup – meaning at a lower price point than the new one.

Optical design

To make the lens this small, Sony started with a new optical design consisting of 20 elements in 15 groups. It includes five aspherical elements, two high-precision XA (extreme aspherical) elements, two ED (extra-low dispersion) elements, and two Super ED glass elements. The ED elements help suppress chromatic aberrations, while the aspherical elements help suppress spherical aberrations, distortion, and other aberrations that lead to off-center sharpness issues or distance-related variations in image quality.

Although the lens focuses internally, the barrel does extend as you zoom in and out. However, the lens’ center of gravity is closer to the mount for improved balance and handling. You can also see one of the customizable focus hold buttons and the AF/MF switch in the image above.

Optical design

In addition to all those fancy lens elements, the 24-70mm F2.8 GM II uses Sony’s Nano AR Coating II to reduce flare and ghosting. It also includes an 11-bladed aperture, compared to 9 blades on its predecessor, which should help it deliver consistently round bokeh. The minimum aperture is F22.

Close-up performance is improved, with a minimum focus distance of 0.21m (8.3 in. at 24mm and 0.30m (12 in.) at 70mm. The lens has a maximum magnification of 0.32x at 70mm, up from 0.24x on the original model.

Want to judge image quality for yourself? Check out our initial sample gallery, where you can download Raw images shot with the lens.

Autofocus and lens breathing

The new lens also sees significant improvements to its autofocus system. Instead of the single DD supersonic motor found in the original model, the Mark II version uses four XD linear motors and a floating focus mechanism for more precision and faster speed. These motors also deliver quieter autofocus operation for video applications. Sony claims the new design can provide reliable autofocus tracking at 30 fps, matching the performance of its fastest bodies, and can even do so while zooming.

The lens is also designed to exhibit minimal focus breathing, an essential feature for video shooters. Our team over at DPReview TV tested this and posted the results. It also supports the breathing compensation function included on the latest Sony bodies, such as the a7 IV. Since the lens exhibits only minimal optical breathing, using the breathing compensation function should only result in a minor focal length crop.

Aperture ring

A new feature on the 24-70mm F2.8 GM II is the addition of a physical aperture ring. It offers both clicked and click-less operation, a feature that some video shooters will welcome.

The top of the lens is where you’ll also find the second customizable focus hold button (partially cut off in this photo).

Iris lock

A closer look at the side of the lens reveals a new iris lock switch.

Weather Sealing

The 24-70mm F2.8 GM II is dust and moisture resistant. Its buttons and switches have rubber gaskets, and there’s a rubber ring to seal the lens mount. The front lens element includes a fluorine coating to repel water or other contaminants and facilitate easier cleaning.

In this image of the lens, you can also see the switch for de-clicking the aperture ring.

Zoom smoothness switch

Another useful new feature is a zoom smoothness switch, which can be set to smooth or tight. Based on our experience so far, you’ll probably leave it on the smooth setting for most general operations. Still, the tight setting can be helpful in situations when you want to avoid zoom creep, such as shooting while pointed downward or when mounted on a gimbal for video shooting.

The focus ring (top) offers a linear response, though, in our initial testing, it feels a bit loose for our liking. The zoom ring is located at the bottom of this photo.

Lens hood

A matching hood is included with the lens, which should be expected at this price point. One nice touch: there’s an opening to allow for control of a circular polarizer, a feature very much appreciated by this writer.

Speaking of filters, the lens includes an 82mm filter thread, the same as its predecessor.

Availability and pricing

The Sony 24-70mm F2.8 GM II is expected to be available in June. It will retail for $2300 in the US and $3000 in Canada.

Want to learn more about this lens? Watch our review on DPReview TV, and stay tuned here for additional articles and sample images.


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