The Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G is a new zoom lens in the standard range. What is unique about this zoom is its range. This does not run from the usual 24 to 70mm, but from 20 to 70mm. So it has an extra four millimetres of wide angle. At the same time, Sony has managed to make the lens reasonably compact and lightweight. Is this the ideal standard zoom?
TESTRESULTATS Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G:
You can think of the Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G as a 24-70mm standard zoom with an extra 4mm in the wide-angle range.
The last two years have produced a good number of zoom lenses with unusual focal lengths. Yet Sony has surprised us with a lens with a range we haven’t seen before: the Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G. You can think of this lens as a 24-70mm standard zoom with an extra in the wide-angle range.
Great for landscapes, interiors and reportage, but also just as valuable for vloggers and filmmakers. As a landscape photographer, the Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G makes it easier to dispense with carrying an extra wide angle (zoom). For vlogging, you can turn on digital stabilisation and still have enough wide angle left to get yourself in a good shot. The lens is also reasonably light, so using it on a gimbal won’t be a problem. On most gimbals, there will be no need to rebalance after zooming.
Panasonic got ahead of Sony in terms of extra zoom range with the Lumix S 20-60mm F3.5-5.6. The Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G is more attractive in at least two respects: its brightness does not vary, but remains F4 across the entire range, and in telephoto mode it reaches the more usual value of 70mm. Combined with the stop higher brightness, that 70mm is much more useful for portrait photography than the Panasonic’s 60mm F5.6. Looking deeper into the lens, the Sony has a much more complex optical design with 16 lens elements including a 2 AA(advanced aspherical) elements, 1 aspherical element, 1 ED aspherical element and 3 ED elements. The results are accordingly. The Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G also focuses nice and close, so you can also capture small details with ease.
The lens is reasonably short and light. The FE 20-70mm F4 is almost 5mm less thick and 14mm less long than the FE 24-105mm F4 and 175g lighter. Mechanically, the lens also has a lot to offer. Behind the focus ring and zoom ring, the Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G has an aperture ring that can be locked and also made clickless for video. Between the focus ring and zoom ring are programmable AF-lock buttons and an AF-MF switch. The lens is weatherproof, with gaskets around all moving parts.
The optical design has 16 lens elements in 13 groups, including a 2 AA(advanced aspherical) element, 1 aspherical element, 1 ED aspherical element and 3 ED elements. The aperture has 9 blades and the filter size is 72mm. The lens comes with a tulip-shaped lens hood.
The Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G has two linear XD motors and internal focusing for lightning-fast autofocus. This makes the FE20-70mm F4 60% faster than Sony’s ‘old’ Zeiss 24-70mm F4, according to Sony. In practice, the lens feels that way too. Breathing compensation is supported in the latest cameras, but even with that feature off, focus breathing is minimal. That’s fine, because breathing correction causes the effective angle of view to shrink. So if less needs to be corrected, you are left with more wide angle.
Manual focus is nicely linear, so manual focus pulls are doable. The shortest focusing distance 25 centimetres and the maximum magnification ratio you then achieve at 70mm is 0.39x or almost 1:4. That is already almost half-macro and at 70mm you then also have a reasonable working distance to your subject. That hefty magnification ratio makes the lens even more versatile.
The MTF curves of the Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G already show good quality and we see that picture confirmed in the practical tests. Contrast and sharpness are very high and quality is very good even to the corners. The Sony clearly scores better there than the Panasonic. Of course, this is only fair, as the Sony costs more than twice as much. A condition is then that the lens corrections are used. Without them, the lens suffers from considerable distortion and vignetting. So much so that the extreme corners in the 20mm wide-angle mode at full aperture become almost black. This is nothing special. The highly regarded FE 24-105mm F4 G also has these same characteristics. With the lens corrections on, the distortion and hence those dark corners almost completely disappear.
At 28mm, vignetting is already much less even without corrections, and above that it is barely visible even at full aperture. Without corrections, chromatic aberrations are also visible in the extreme corners, but even with the lens corrections on, you will hardly notice any of that. LoCas, longitudinal chromatic aberrations, which you mainly see at full aperture with blur in the foreground and background, are fortunately almost absent. This is important because they are difficult to correct. So you won’t get magenta and green colour blurs in the foreground and background with the Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G.
The lens is fairly insensitive to backlight. In wide-angle mode, you can get sunbursts at F11 and F16. These look reasonable for a zoom lens, but are not very sharp. The bokeh, on the other hand, is nice. You have to put some effort into it, as it is of course ‘only’ an F4 lens, but partly thanks to that short focusing distance of 25 centimetres, you can still make the background run away very nicely soft. Bokeh balls are also quite nice with the Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G, with a small edge, but a fairly calm centre.
Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G
|image angle (diag)|
|sensor format||Small image|
|min. setting distance|
0.3-0.25 m (AF)/ 0.25 m (manual) (0.39x magnification)
|filter diameter||72 mm|
|dimensions (dxl)||99×79 mm|
|bayonet fitting||Sony fE|
|retail price||$ 1098,-|
Conclusion test Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G
The price is hefty for an F4 ‘standard’ zoom, but not illogical given its high image quality, many features and extra wide angle.
The Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G is a very good and very practical zoom that literally sets a new standard. The only thing that might be a bit of a gulp is the price. Which is hefty for an F4 ‘standard’ zoom, but not illogical given the high image quality, many features and especially the extra wide angle. If you have no problem with the price and don’t necessarily need more brightness, then this is indeed an ideal standard zoom.