My First Look at the Sony FE 20-70mm f/4 G Zoom Lens

My First Look at the Sony FE 20-70mm f/4 G Zoom Lens

Sony just announced an all-new full-frame lens, the FE 20-70mm F4 G, which combines an ultra-wide focal length with a standard zoom. 

I was lucky enough to have this lens for a couple of weeks before the announcement, and I’ll be honest, I really wasn't super excited about it. While the added 4mm on the wide side of the lens would be nice to have, I didn't really think it was going to be enough to be worth giving up the f/2.8 of something like the Sony FE 24-70mm GM lens. And while this still may hold true in some situations, I did find myself reaching for this lens more often than I thought I would.

While I don't want to turn this into an article where I simply list off the lens specs, I do think it's important to at least list some of the things that make this lens special. And for me, the standout features are the size and weight paired with the speed and accuracy. This zoom lens is not much larger or heavier than my FE 24mm f.1.4 GM. And while there is a sacrifice going to a smaller max aperture, you gain a lot more range, which made this lens extremely useful for situations where I didn't need the f/1.4 — things like studio portraits, outdoor portraits, run-and-gun images of my family, and landscape-style images. 

From here, the performance was a joy to work with. The autofocus was quick and accurate, even when using it to photograph basketball in the low light of a middle school gym. And this performance also makes its way to the video side of things as well, with things like reduced focus breathing and linear motors designed for extra quiet operation for use while filming.

One thing I didn't like about the lens is the barrel extension while zooming, though I understand this is a necessary evil, especially when trying to keep the size and weight down. But it is always nice when a zoom lens has all the functionality wrapped up in a constant-size package.    

Another aspect of this lens that I love is the built-in aperture ring. I'm hoping that this remains the case for all future Sony lenses because it really is a nice feature to have, especially when using multiple lenses. It’s always hard for me to shoot on my Sony FE 85 f/1.8 now because it's the only lens I have that doesn't have an aperture ring. So, it always takes just that bit more mental bandwidth to use.

The last thing I really enjoy is the announced price. Coming in at $1,099.99, this lens comes is less than half the price of the bigger FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM II. Now, you obviously sacrifice the aperture and some of that GM optical goodness, but for the price, it’s still one heck of a deal. 

But, is this lens for you? While I don’t see myself using this to photograph a wedding, you absolutely could, right up until the light got low, but even then, you can always add your own light to compensate. But for me, I see this being an amazing everyday lens, something to give a lot of functionality without a ton of added weight, size, or expense. This would make an amazing upgrade from a kit lens as well as a great lens for landscape images while out backpacking. This would also make for a great studio lens if, like me, you like to incorporate some dirty frames that show more than just the background. 

Lighting from a combination of Elinchrom FIVE and Elinchrom ELB 500TTL against a Jeremy Ellsworth hand-painted Backdrop.

What I Liked

  • Size and weight
  • Quick and accurate AF
  • Ultra-wide focal length added to a standard zoom range
  • Price

Things I Didn't Like

  • f/4 aperture can be limiting for my type of work
  • Barrel extension while zooming

At the end of the day, I think almost any type of shooter could find a valid reason to add the Sony FE 20-70mm f/4 G Zoom Lens to their bag. The added 4mm doesn't seem like a lot, but it really does extend the angle of view quite a bit. And the while the f/4 aperture isn't ideal, it’s also not overly limiting, and I didn't find myself wanting for more when using the lens in situations it was meant to handle.

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2 Comments
Ed die's picture

This is obviously a travel zoom - its an extremely useful zoom range for travel situations, as the usual 24/28 to something zooms are generally not wide enough and require you to carry an additional wide angle lens. Wide apertures are also not very useful when traveling, as usually you want pretty deep depth of field.

I can easily see this as a single camera + single lens solution for lots of types of trips.