Sony 28-70 vs Sony 24-70 GM II - Is There a $1900 Difference?

Introduction

The Sony 28-70 is the cheapest full-frame zoom lens for Sony E mount cameras. It’s often an add-on to a camera body, or available on it’s own.

If you want a midrange zoom lens, is it better to go with the cheapest and just work around it’s limitations? Or should you go for the best of the best Sony 24-70 G-Master mark II, right out of the gate and never have to worry about a zoom lens ever again?

Let’s go over the differences of these lenses, and I’ll tell you what I think, as well as some possible alternatives at the end.

This video is sponsored by Audiio, but more about them later.

Price, Weight & Dimensions

Getting into the biggest difference, right off the bat. The price. The Sony 28-70 retails for $400 brand new, while the Sony 24-70 GM II costs $2300. The G-master is almost 6 times the price of the kit lens. It’s also heavier, weighing 1.5lbs, while the Sony 28-70 weighs .6 lbs.

The G-master is a half inch wider and taller as well. That translates into a huge difference in filter sizes. The G-master has an 82mm front filter thread, while the kit lens has a 55mm thread.

If you use ND, CPL, or diffusion filters, the 82mm filters are much more expensive than the 55mm filters. Something to keep in mind.

Build Quality & Features

When it comes to build quality and features, this is also where you can see the differences right away. Picking up the Sony 28-70, it doesn’t feel like a poorly built lens, but it feels very plastic-ey and doesn't have many features. You get a zoom ring, focus ring, and thats it. This lens has optical steady shot, but not physical switch to turn it on or off. It’s also dust and moisture-sealed, though, which is not something I would expect for a lens at this price point.

The Sony 24-70 GM II has just about every feature a Sony lens can have. 2 custom buttons, an af/mf switch, iris ring that can be clicked or declicked, iris lock, and an option to adjust the tension of the zoom ring. The rubberized grips are bigger, is also dust and moisture-sealed, and uses 4 XD linear motors for fast and accurate focusing.

Zoom Extension

When it comes to zooming these lenses, the G-master’s barrel extends when zooming into 70mm, while the Sony 28-70 is a little different. While it’s not an internally zooming lens, the front of the lens extends at 24mm, is flush with the lens body around 40mm, and extends back out again to 70mm.

Autofocus & Focusing Speed

I tested the autofocus of both of these lenses on my Sony FX3.

It’s no surprise that the Sony 24-70 GM II’s autofocus is more accurate from edge to edge in the frame and is also more accurate in low light situations. The Sony 28-70 still does a very good job when the subject is in the center of the frame in good lighting conditions, but struggles when the subject is around the edges of the frame, or in low light.

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Thank you Audiio for sponsoring this article, and let’s get into sharpness and image quality.

Sharpness & Image Quality

For sharpness and image quality, you can see the difference between the kit lens and a G-Master when comparing the edges of the frame at different aperture ranges and throughout the zoom range. The G-master is extremely sharp, even at f/2.8, throughout the entire frame and the zoom range. The image quality is almost like shooting on a set of 2.8 primes. I suspect this also helps the focusing towards the edges of the frame to remain accurate. This could be why the autofocus tracking sticks to your subjects so well on the Sony 24-70 GM II.

The Sony 28-70 has lots of edge distortion at 28mm - so this can explain why we could have different autofocus results, even with the same camera body. The lens’s edges are so soft until f/10, so I suspect the camera is struggling to keep the autofocus targets clear, so it loses track of them more easily. This could also contribute to the focusing in low light as well.

The Sony 24-70 GM II being clear throughout the frame can help the body focus more accurately. The XD Liner motors of the Sony 24-70 GM II are helping the accuracy as well.

Aperture

It’s also worth noting that the apertures of these lenses are very different. One of the reasons for the size difference between these lenses is that the G-master is a constant f/2.8, and the Sony 28-70 varies from f/3.5 to 5.6.

Here is a list of all apertures at the different focal lengths for the kit lens.

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The bokeh difference between 3.5 and 2.8 may not seem like a big difference, but you’ll notice the difference in low light more than ideal lighting conditions.

The bigger difference is at the tighter end as the Sony 24-70 GM II is still at f/2.8 while the Sony 28-70 can only open up to 5.6. That is a huge difference, and you may not be able to get usable handheld shots from 50 to 70mm if the lighting isn’t great, depending on your camera and the look you're going for.

Minimum Focusing Distance

Another difference is the minimum focusing distance, the Sony 28-70 has a minimum focusing distance of just under 1 foot, or 30 cm. The Sony 24-70 GM II can focus 8.3 in or 21 cm.

These values are from the sensor, so to better illustrate this, the 28-70 can focus 9 inches away from the front of the lens, while the G-Master can focus 3.6 inches away from the front of the lens.

While neither of these are macro lenses, using these lenses side by side really shows off how much easier it is to shoot closer photos with the Sony 24-70 GM II. As it should, given it’s price.

Focus Breathing

Regarding lens breathing, the Sony 28-70 is not compatible with Sony’s in-camera lens breathing compensation, while the Sony 24-70 GM II is. With this enabled, you won't notice any breathing on the G-Master. The 28-70 does have some focus breathing when going from minimum to infinity, but at this price point, focus breathing may not be something you’re concerned about.

Stabilization

When it comes to stabilization, the Sony 28-70 does have optical steady shot built into the lens - in my handheld shots with my FX3, I haven't been able to tell the difference in stabilization between these two lenses when using active or standard stabilization - but if you have a camera body without in-body stabilization, this could help you out to have the stabilization in the lens. There are no toggles to turn on or off the oss like on the 24-105, you’ll have to do this in your camera’s menus.

Quick note, if you forget to turn off all stabilization in your menu, you’ll be using the internal OSS for the Sony 28-70 and not be eligible to use catalyst browse to stabilize your footage in post. So one thing to note if you’re using catalyst browse, make sure to turn this off in the menu.

Bokeh

For the bokeh between these lenses, this is where we can see the difference between f/3.5 and f/2.8, and the difference in quality of the glass and coatings. The Sony 24-70 GM II has round bokeh in the center with minimal distortion towards the edges. The bokeh in the center has minimal to no texture, while there is some slight texture if we are pixel-peeping at the edges.

Comparing the same shot to the Sony 28-70, at the same distance but at the minimum aperture of f/3.5, we can see the bokeh overall has more texture and distortion, as well as being smaller overall. The difference between the two is pretty apparent when comparing them side by side, but again the G-Master is considerably more expensive - so it’s no surprise that it performs that much better here.

Conclusion: So whats the difference between a kit lens and a G Master lens?

If you’re in the market for your first full-frame mid-range Sony zoom lens, is it worth it to buy the budget zoom, or save up for the Sony 24-70 GM II? That really depends on how you’re using it. If you’re shooting weddings or have clients that are paying you to shoot for them, the constant f/2.8 aperture, better bokeh, build quality, and autofocus - especially in low light, is going to be a huge win.

If you’re a hobbiest, and you’re looking to get your first lens to walk around and take general photos or videos, the Sony 28-70 is a fantastic entry point, at a great price. You may even be able to find these used for a great deal. This lens is fantastic for learning, and if you’re a beginner, check out my 50mm 1.8 video after this one.

Just keep in mind the camera is only as good as the glass in front of it, and if you’re charging clients - it does pay to have a nice mid-range zoom lens in your kit.

If you want a lens that's a step up from the Sony 28-70, but not quite as expensive as the Sony 24-70 GM II, check out this video about the Tamron 28-75 G2.

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About Keith Knittel

I'm a designer from Cleveland, Ohio and love to shoot photos & videos. I made my first website in 2004 to show friends photos & videos (before YouTube/Flickr/Instagram were things) and have been shooting and designing ever since! I have a deep passion for making and helping others create.

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