Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II is a reduced zoom for professionals

Sony jumped into mirrorless cameras before the others, so while Canon and Nikon are working on building their first-generation lenses made for mirrorless, Sony has already moved on to second-generation designs and upgrades. Its latest lens, the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II is its newest, and it hits the market just behind the complementary FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM II OSS, a lens we tested last month.

Both are part of the company’s highest-performance lens class, the G Master. The original FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM was one of the first GM lenses released in 2016. We did a favorable review, but in the range since its release Sony has introduced better performing focus motors and improved its optical dexterity design.

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II

The result is a noticeably smaller zoom – at 4.7 by 3.5 inches the Mark II cuts two-thirds of an inch off the barrel, and at 1.5 pounds it’s not much to carry. Among the full-frame competition, Sony went from having the largest 24-70mm F2.8 to the smallest – the GM II is thinner than the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 and the Nikon Z 24-70mm F2.8 .

We haven’t had a chance to try out the FE 24-70mm GM II yet, so I can’t say how much weight reduction matters – that will have to wait for our review. But it’s impossible to ignore the paper benefits of a smaller, lighter lens, especially for photographers working on location. For field use, the zoom is sealed for all-weather operation and includes anti-smudge fluorine and Nano AR Coating II to reduce ghosting caused by internal reflections.

Despite the slimmer frame, Sony promises that the FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II has better optical performance than its predecessor. It uses a more complex formula, with 20 elements arranged in 15 groups, with a mixture of Aspherical, Extreme Aspherical (XA), Extra-low Dispersion (ED) and Super ED elements in between. Sony says the formula delivers better edge-to-edge sharpness, reduces vignetting, and avoids the ugly onion ring bokeh. Autofocus is twice as fast as with the original lens – the focus is driven by dual linear motors, a notable upgrade from the original.

There are some handling improvements as well. The GM II includes a pair of focus-hold buttons, not just one, so you can more easily reach control when holding your camera vertically for portraits. An iris lock is now included in the aperture ring to help prevent inadvertent f-stop changes, and the zoom action has smooth and tight tension settings available. Macro focus is better too – the new 24-70mm locks at 11.8 inches for 1:3.1 magnification.

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Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II, sample image (color glass bottles)

Sample image taken with FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II, courtesy of Sony

Zoom tension is an advantage for video work – filmmakers are better able to do slow, deliberate zoom shots with a little more drag. The optics are also parfocal, which means the point of focus doesn’t change during zooms. It’s a boon for creative shooting and goes hand in hand with linear manual focus response and minimal focal breathing.

Pre-orders for the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II open tomorrow, April 28 at 10am EDT, with an expected delivery date of June 24. The GM II costs $2,299 in the US and $2,999 in Canada. The original edition of the lens won’t go away – Sony will continue to offer it at a reduced, but still undetermined, price.

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