Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G Review: A Solution in Search of a Problem

When it comes to general-purpose standard zooms, Sony has you covered. With some classic choices like 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master II and 24-105mm f/4 G or the unique Sony FE 20-70mm f/4, there is something for everyone. However, Sony decided to go even further and add the brand new FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G to its growing collection. The idea is to have a more affordable and compact lens alternative to the expensive 24-70mm GM while still having a fast f/2.8 aperture, albeit with a reduced zoom range. I got my hands on one to try, and here is what I found.

Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G on a camera
The Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 fits very nicely on the new a7C II body.

Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G: How it Handles

One chief advantage of making a lens with a limited focal range is retaining the fast f/2.8 aperture while keeping the lens compact and lightweight. Indeed, the Sony 24-50mm f/2.8 is designed to compliment the adorable a7C II and a7C R at a practically featherweight 440 grams. Despite the lightweight and exclusion from the G Master series, the 24-50mm has a customizable button, a weather-sealed design, and even an aperture ring.

 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G aperture ring
Despite the “G” series moniker, the 24-50mm is a full-featured lens.

The aperture ring can be set to either a clickable rotation for photography or a silent rotation for video work. Even the outer dimensions of the lens are pretty small, giving the lens a 67mm filter and making it easy to travel with or fit into your favorite camera bag. However, this is not a G Master lens; therefore, it lacks some features that the pro lenses would have.

 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G customizable button
You get a customizable button, aperture ring, and weather sealing, but image stabilization is nowhere to be found.

Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G: How it Shoots

There is no built-in image stabilization in this lens and though it has twin linear autofocusing motors they are not the powerful XD type we see in the bigger lenses. That being said, there isn’t a lot of glass to move in this lens, and there isn’t a need for fast focus for the wide-angle work that it is designed to do. The autofocus performance is perfectly acceptable for how the lens is intended to be used.

 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G black and white landscape
The 24-50mm is a handy landscape lens for sure. I don’t know how often I would shoot it wide-open, however.
 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G Flare
I didn’t notice any flare or ghosting when pointing the lens toward the sun.

The Sony 24-50mm does add to its overall versatility by having a decent macro close-up capability. It does its best work at 24mm so the working distance is barely an inch from the front of the lens hood, however, the 1:3 life-size reproduction is respectable, and close-up shots can look quite dramatic with the wide-angle sense of perspective.

 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G close up
The working distance is minimal at 24mm but the magnification is solid.
 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G Loca
There is a distinct green/magenta split of color in the out of focus areas. Loca should only be an issue in shallow depth-of-field pictures.

I wouldn’t classify a 24-50mm wide-angle lens as a shallow depth of tool, but the f/2.8 aperture coupled with a reasonably close subject can provide some measure of soft background defocus. Sony put a round 11-bladed aperture into this lens, but I was taken aback by the polygonal shape of specular highlights. The bokeh has a pronounced soap-bubble effect and can make backgrounds look a little frenetic.

 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G bokeh test
Bokeh is fairly soft but the background can look a little distracting and the transition can look intense.

Good sharpness at f/2.8 will be important if Sony wants this lens to be well-received by event shooters. Luckily the new 24-50mm accomplishes this, mostly. Starting at the 24mm end, the lens is excellent right in the center of the frame even at f/2.8. Stopping down to f/5.6 really doesn’t make a noticeable difference. Where the train comes off the rails a little bit is in the corners. I suspect the 24-50mm has a lot of distortion correction going on a the wide-angle end and this causes the corners to suffer from tell-tale blurring. Stopping down to f/5.6 helps quite a bit, so consider this if your subjects are off-center.

 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G sharpness
This lens is sharp throughout most of its range, even at f/2.8. 

At the 50mm end, sharpness is more consistent with good performance in the center of the image regardless of aperture, and far more usable corners at f/2.8. By f/5.6 the lens is good across the frame and overall I would happily shoot this lens at any aperture available throughout most of its focal range.

Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G portrait
The autofocus is quick and accurate. At 50mm with an f/2.8 aperture the background can be quite smooth.

I also wanted to test the flare characteristics, and fortunately, the sun came out for a few moments to accommodate me. Happily, I discovered that this lens is quite resistant to any loss of contrast or ghosting, even when stopped down. This further cements its usefulness as a landscape lens, or for dramatically stage-lit venues. There was some Loca that surfaced at f/2.8 and it could be tricky to remove in post afterward but this is a lens that will most often have the majority of the image in sharp focus, except when doing close-ups or at 50mm wide-open. Color casts in the out-of-focus areas shouldn’t be too big a deal unless you intend to shoot with a shallow depth of field most of the time.

 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G black and white river
Despite our cold winters, we found some liquid water to photograph.
 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G river valley
Although I mostly did landscapes, I think this lens would shine as an event or street photo lens.

Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G: As a Video Lens

Jordan, the video guy of our PetaPixel YouTube show, loves to shoot in this particular focal range. However, even he might not love using this lens for video work. On the one hand, the smooth manual focus ring and declickable aperture ring are boons to have. What really lets this lens down is the obvious lens breathing. This causes the field of view to zoom in and out drastically, whether at the 24mm or 50mm range. Any focus pulls done with this lens will look poor unless you use the Sony breathing compensation feature found in most of its cameras. This causes a different issue, however, with a heavy crop applied to mask the lens breathing. With this lens starting at 24mm, a heavy crop is not a desirable trait to have at all, where you can largely get away with it on a lens like the Sony FE 20-70mm f/4.

Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G: Who Should Buy It?

This is an odd lens range, and finding a market for it could be a challenge. I think that landscape photographers who desire a compact lens that has good flare characteristics will enjoy this, although I question how useful the f/2.8 aperture will be. I prefer the 20-70mm, with its generous focal range and excellent f/4 aperture. This lens would make for a wonderful travel and street photography lens. Think dark alleyways and smoky interiors where the wide-angle coverage can tell a good story while the f/2.8 aperture compensates for the dim lighting.

Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G penny picture
In low-lit interiors the f/2.8 aperture can come in handy. Dogs rarely stand still.

This is also a wonderful alternative to the expensive 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master for an event photographer on a budget. The focal range can be complimented nicely with an affordable 70-200mm f/4 lens and pass as a pseudo-macro lens for close-ups. If I wanted to use an unobtrusive camera body and couple it with a convenient lens for weddings or journalism, the 24-50mm could fit the bill nicely. Only time will tell if the latest compact zoom from Sony finds a foothold amongst shooters.

 Sony FE 24-50mm f/2.8 G badge
There is a lot to like about the lens but the limited video use and odd focal length might hurt sales.

Are There Alternatives?

I’ve already mentioned lenses like the Sony FE 20-70mm f/4 or 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master, but it is also worth taking a look at the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 G2 or the Sigma 28-70 f/2.8 Contemporary, which are both fairly compact and optically beautiful to boot.

Should You Buy It?

No. Although decent optically and compact, the scope of the Sony 24-50mm f/2.8 is limited. With the new lens priced at $1,100, third-party offerings from Tamron and Sigma will provide more versatile focal lengths and the same amount of light, while only being slightly heavier to carry around.

Update February 21: Added pricing information to the conclusion and added clarity to the conclusion.