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Sony 24-70mm f2.8 GM (First Impressions)

Sony 24-70mm f2.8 GM (First Impressions)

After some months of drooling over this lens, I bit the bullet and ordered it. At first, I was a bit reluctant. I mean, I had owned and gave up the Canon 24-70mm F2.8 II which was really good, but every reviewer online was still raving this thing as an insane performer. So I took it out the box and tried it out on a personal shoot. First impressions? WTF.

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(Shots above taken with A7RII, Batis 85, f8, 1/160, Speedlight frame left with MagMod Grid)

Actually, it’s a bit funny that I purchased this lens, because I’ve always been a huge prime shooter. 21/24/35/50 are usually my favorite prime focal lengths, and whenever I shoot, I see the frame in my mind in those focal lengths. However, there were two things that motivated me to get this lens. One, I needed the versatility of the zoom for the upcoming wedding season. Having sold all my Canon gear, I was left without a 24-70. I’ve normally shoot weddings with exclusively primes, but live events and certain hectic weddings may sometimes really call for a 24-70. Another thing, I had just came back from a month long trip to Asia. I’ve brought mostly primes, except my 16-35. This was a one of my biggest trip in a while, and my first one out of the country doing photography. I learned quite a bit. Oh, this isn’t a gear review. Just a first impression blog I wanted to get out because I love this thing already.

Shooting methods here in the States isn’t the same when you travel -mostly because you are not familiar with your surroundings. At times, I didn’t feel it was smart to change lenses, either due to safety concerns, or environmental concerns (dust, sand, etc…). I’ve definitely missed a lot of shots because I didn’t have the versatility of the zoom, but I don’t think I ever lost capturing the essence of the moment with only the prime I had on. Anyway, enough rambling on, I bit the purchase and received the lens on a Friday evening, just in time to crash Paul’s music video shoot and shoot some BTS.

Shout outs to Drew for letting me crash. His track was HOT. If you got a second, peep his instagram: @drewmantia

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Paul invited me to the Fox’s Den on Montrose in Chicago, IL for a music video he was shooting for Drewmantia. I came late -as usual, and when I entered, the place was pretty much pitch black. Paul had some curtains and dim cinematic lighting going on, so this was pretty much a perfect “worst-case” scenario test for the 24-70 GM to see how it would handle a variety of situations. The environment I was shooting in was sometimes really bright (when Paul lit the scene with his LED lights), or really, REALLY dim (when he removed the LED lights), and there was a play with different color lighting.

I thought it was perfect, because I could test the responsiveness and accuracy of the auto-focus in a low light situation, as well as check for color rendition and saturation.

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First thing I immediately noticed, is that the bokeh is insane. You know that whole “this has so many more aperture blades for pleasing bokeh” marketing BS that Sony is putting out? Well.. I stand corrected, it’s not marketing BS. The whole DXO sharpness test raving blah blah BS? Well.. I stand corrected, this thing is SHARP. Even though I’m shooting at f2.8 with the 24-70 GM, it really produces the aesthetics of a prime lens. Now it’s a huge thing for me to say that. I LOVE primes. I think this will stick on my camera most of the time though now, if weight isn’t a concern. Oh, I forgot to mention -this thing is heavy.

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This is the first shot I took with this lens. I remember when I took it when I was there, then zoomed in on my A7R2 on the rear LCD. I was blown away. I’m a HUGE color freak. This thing renders colors very well.

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Another thing I noticed, is that I really dig the flaring of this lens. I had a UV filter on it which is why it’s flaring kind of intensely, but I really dig it. I kept it on.

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This shot was caught in motion. You can tell it’s not tack sharp, because the auto focus couldn’t exactly keep up. TBH, I still like the image, not all images have to be perfectly sharp and in focus. The auto focus is fast, even in low light, although it’s still not as fast as a DSLR + IR focus assist setup.

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At 24mm @ f2.8, close up, this thing can produce great out of focus areas.

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Another thing I noticed, is that this lens is a lot stronger at the telephoto range, than the Canon 24-70 F2.8 II counterpart, which was better more in the wide focal range lengths (24-35mm). I really like this about the GM, because I usually really like to shoot wide. Because this lens performs amazing at 70mm, I found myself shooting more telephoto than I normally have been in the past few years. I love the compression that you get for portraits.

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Coupled with the dynamic range and low light performance of the A7RII with some added noise reduction in LR, you wouldn’t ever be able to tell this was shot at high ISO. The GM is great because it still captures great color saturation at high ISOs.

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I’m a bokeh junkie, I’ll admit. The bokeh on the GM is gorgeous.

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I dig the flaring and color rendition of this lens so much. Coupled with some VSCO filters, it’s bringing back my mojo that I’ve lost over the cold, cold winter season.

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Who says flaring is always bad?

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Overall, I’m impressed with the performance of this lens. It’s definitely a keeper. Only con is the weight and size. I would say handling wise, it’s similar in bulk as the Zeiss 35mm f1.4 FE although it has a bit more weight. But to be honest, it handles very well on the A7RII. I would say if it was 5 ounces heavier, I would complain about the weight distribution. I’ve also tried added the battery grip to see if it would have a better feel, well unfortunately it doesn’t. It feels better without the grip because it’s a different type of handling design, where the shooter is mostly gripping the weight at the lens, and not the body. If you are a serious shooter and have the budget ready for this lens, I would say it’s a no brainier if you need the versatility of a zoom. You could honestly probably sell all your primes and use this as your main workhorse, and maybe keep a med/telephoto prime for portraits (50-85mm). Right now, I’m lugging the 24-70GM and 55/1.8 as my daily.

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