Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master – Lens Review

The Sony 24-70 f/2.8 G Master lens is Sony’s premium 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens. I believe the vast majority of photographers, myself included, will be satisfied with it. However, it’s hard to write a Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens review and not consider the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD lens. It offers so much for less than half the price, and the newly announced Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens covers the 4mm gap nicely.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens basics explained

The Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens is a fairly close focusing, wide aperture zoom with alleged sealing for use in rough conditions. At the back of the lens body, you’ll find a silicone (I assume it’s silicone) gasket where the lens mounts to a Sony e-mount mirrorless full-frame or APS-C camera. The gasket isn’t particularly substantial and perhaps the tolerances are good enough for it to mate with the lens mount perfectly but I prefer the gaskets on the Zeiss Loxia and Canon L lenses nonetheless.

Upon picking up the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G master lens, I immediately felt it was more solid than the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS II L lens I had (if you gripped the barrel slightly the focus ring would become harder to move, suggesting the barrel flexed). I could be wrong of course, but that was the impression I got. The lens is quite heavy but not too heavy and balances well if you’re supporting it with your left hand.

The zoom ring is fairly stiff but not too stiff. If you put your ear up to it, in my opinion it doesn’t sound as smooth as some lenses I’ve owned but I’m a stickler for these things–you probably won’t notice or care. The zoom ring has a locking mechanism nearby to prevent the lens extending–this might be useful if you’re using a peak design capture clip or something like that. Personally, I prefer to put my camera in a small bag but I like buttons and switches to press. While the zoom ring has a bit of heft to it, the focus ring is buttery smooth in operation.

The lens barrel is quite wide in diameter and the filter thread is 82mm ~ I’ll speak more about this later.

The grip of the camera body gets very close to the lens body. It doesn’t pinch my finger, and I have really long (but slim) fingers (21cm from wrist to the end of my finger). I think if you were overweight, it might be a problem but I don’t know for sure. When I hold the camera naturally, it’s never been a problem. It’s only when I try make it a problem that it becomes one. If you’re trying out this camera in a store, try not look at your hand but instead just use the camera like you normally would and relax. I know it sounds bizarre but I was paranoid about this being a problem but it hasn’t been one in practical use. That said, 3mm extra clearance would help.

Image quality

The image quality and especially the out of focus areas have been advertised more so with these G Master lenses than I have ever seen before, and rightfully so in my opinion.

The bokeh is incredibly round and smooth at all apertures and it never looks displeasing. Above is a knife handle I was working on. This was held a short distance away from me and it’s quite interesting how well the lens works as a pseudo macro lens. It’s not going to be 1:1 by any stretch, but it was good enough for the wildflowers I encountered in Canada and it’s great for product photography :).

At the wide end the lens is very, very sharp. At 70mm it’s sharper than I imagined it to be (Sony lenses are criticised for their sharpness at this focal length) but if I have a complaint with the image quality, it’s not with the sharpness. I find something about the flaring or contrast simply isn’t as good as the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens. I guess that’s what you get with a prime. In normal lighting conditions, it’s not noticeable and I don’t notice any troubles with micro-contrast either. The lens renders nicely and I like it. In fact, the more I used this lens in Canada, the more I grew to love it. It’s so convenient and of course that’s largely due to the focal length.

The first of these two photographs was taken at 24mm, the second at 30mm.

My experience with the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens

My experience when using the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens in varying conditions, both photographically and geographically, is that it’s a high quality lens and the focal length is extremely versatile. 

After my US Visa was denied a second time, I bought a few things impulsively and this was one of them. This isn’t a lens I ever imagined myself owning a few years ago. The Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master was/is questionably a better lens for my usage (I’d still like one) but I loved having the extra reach, especially while in Canada. The Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master lens itself is lighter. I had to bring a second lens for wider shots in Canada so I brought the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 but I’d have really liked a second zoom. This is where Tamron might have made me re-think things if their lineup was available then but the image quality is noticeable and I do like to have the best, even if I am not the best photographer. For a similar price to the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G master lens, you can get the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD lens and the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD lens.

In total, it was a lot of weight to hike with for close to 20 miles a day–every day. It’s considerably lighter than an equivalent DSLR setup but it’s not lightweight by any means. I feel the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens supplements it beautifully, and the extra reach was useful for wildlife. I have since bought the Sony 12-24mm f/4.0 lens, and this also pairs with the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G master lens incredibly well. For hiking, I’d prefer to have a wide angle with a filter set up.

I planned to use the ultrawide prime during lunch breaks and at night around camp, and the Sony 24-70 f/2.8 G Master lens during the day. In practise, this kind of held true but at night I was pretty exhausted from the hiking. For sunrise and sunset shots, the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 is much better than owning any zoom because it handles flaring so well. For this reason, something else to consider is the Voigtlander 15mm. 15mm, 21mm and 24-70mm is a very versatile landscape setup.

The reality is, hikers will always have to make compromises. If too many lenses are in your backpack, you won’t use them as often as you’d like. If you start hiking 20 or so miles a day, you’ll also make compromises. My photographs are the result of that. At some point, I’d like to travel around Canada again but not hike very much or perhaps hike one day and photograph the next. For days like this, I will be glad of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G master lens because it’s sharper and pretty much better optically than anything else in its range. Yes it’s true the Tamron is great bang for the buck, but make no mistake, you will see the optical differences if you look for them–especially in the out of focus areas and sharpness.

For the hiking I did, I found myself rarely switching lenses, and that’s just with a two lens setup. So a three prime setup equates to two primes not really being used much and one getting a lot of use. This completely depends on your usage of course, but I feel 24-70mm is perhaps the most versatile focal length there is. If you’re ever not sure what to bring, you cannot go wrong with the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G master lens. If you go for short hikes or you use your lenses for work, switching lenses is common practise so perhaps discard some of this :).

Complaints

When I first bought this, it didn’t excite me like the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens, but I’ve grown to love it. I don’t have many complaints. I don’t like lenses as much when they extend depending on where you zoom them, and I much prefer internally focusing lenses; however, this is due to my fear of dust getting inside. I had that happen for a moment and the zoom ring felt almost stuck–it’s a worry.

I have the mindset that if you’ve spent a lot on something, you shouldn’t blindly defend it. In fact, you should hold it to a greater standard than if it was cheap. However, I can’t really criticise it too much. Optically, it’s amazing. It might be worth buying a lens cover to protect it against dust and certainly put a UV filter on the front.

The filter thread diameter is huge

Excluding super telephoto lenses and whatnot, you’ll be hard pressed to find a filter diameter wider than the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G master lens. Filters will generally be more expensive for the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens compared to the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD lens as the Tamron’s filter diameter is 67mm.

To save you the trouble of researching, take a look at the filter diameters below:

Breakthrough Photography X4 10-Stop ND Filter:

  • $159 ~ 52mm
  • $169 ~ 67mm
  • $183 ~ 77mm
  • $189 ~ 82mm
Breakthrough Photography X4 CPL - Schott B270 - Circular Polarizer Filter:

  • $139 ~ 67mm
  • $149 ~ 77mm
  • $159 ~ 82mm

In my opinion, Breakthrough Photography filters are the absolute best, so I will not compare the prices of filters made by other manufacturers. I am not sponsored by this company.

Conclusion

Both the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G master and the 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lenses are better focal lengths as individual lenses compared to the Tamron equivalents. They’re also superior optically. If you want to hike with one lens, that 4mm width from 28-24mm is noticeable. If you want to hike with an ultrawide, that extra 1mm on the wide end and 8mm on the long end, will make a difference. For this reason, I think if you’re interested in buying the Tamron, you should buy it with the intention of getting their wide angle as well–or even the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master lens with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD lens. If, however, you feel 24mm is wide enough for your needs, I would get the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G master lens and not look back.

If you’re a photographer who cares greatly about having the best image quality, you will notice the difference with the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G master lens, but if you don’t mind not having the best, you might want to consider buying the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD lens instead. The Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens is exceptional in terms of image quality at all focal lengths. If not for how it handles flaring, I’d say it’s like a bag of primes.

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