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Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Review

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Review - John Riley reviews the wide-angle Sony FE 12-24mm lens for full-frame Sony E mount cameras.

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Sony SEL1224G 12-24mm f/4-22 Fixed Zoom Camera Lens, Black
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Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Sony Fe 12 24mm F4 Front Oblique View
Sony's new lens is an ultra-wide zoom for full frame E mount cameras, although it can also be used on the APS-C format bodies, where it becomes an equivalent 18-36mm. In either case, this is a powerful and useful range. Let's have a close look and see if the performance does indeed match the potential.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Handling and Features

Sony Fe 12 24mm F4 On A7rii

This is a rectilinear lens, that is, straight lines will be reproduced as straight lines, even at the edges of the frame. As such, 12mm is very wide on 35mm-format. Zooming in to 24mm, a classic wide angle, offers a lens that has huge potential for many subjects from landscape to street photography. Tested on the Sony Alpha A7R II body, it balances well and although quite chunky offers a good ergonomic experience in terms of general handling. Starting at the front of the lens, we have a large plastic clip on lens hood that attaches firmly to the built in petal lens hood. There is no option for attaching filters. The front element is quite bulbous, so the lens hood is quite essential to offer protection from physical damage, as well as helping to reduce flare.

Directly behind the hood is a smooth, electronic manual focus ring and then, as we move towards the camera body, the zoom ring. Both rings operate without changing the physical length of the lens. Finally, there is a focus hold button that can be programmed for various functions and an AF/MF switch. There is nothing else apart from the well machined mount. The lens locks firmly but smoothly into place.

Sony Fe 12 24mm F4 Top View

Construction quality appears to be very high and there is also dust and moisture resistance, almost an essential feature. Although quite chunky, the weight is a reasonable 565g which does not feel out of place with the A7R II body. Focusing is via a silent Direct Drive SSM motor which is fast and accurate. Focusing is down to 0.28m (0.92 feet), a maximum magnification of 0.14x.

Optical construction is 17 elements in 13 groups, utilising Nano AR coating technology. There are 1 Aspherical, 2 Super ED (Extra Low Dispersion) and 3 ED elements. The 7 bladed diaphragm offers a circular aperture, aimed at improving the bokeh, the quality of the out of focus areas in an image. The aperture remains constant throughout the zoom range.

In use the only real operational challenges are in the very nature of such a wide lens. The wider fields of view do demand a good foreground to prevent them being empty and it is always a good idea to get in as close as possible so more distant objects are not too tiny. It is a lens to be bold with, especially at 12mm. When used on an APS-C format camera, although the lens is no longer quite so wide the same still applies, as an 18mm-equivalent is still a very wide lens.

Sony Fe 12 24mm F4 Rear Oblique View

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Performance

Sharpness overall is very impressive, especially in real life images. When looking at the test chart results it is worth bearing in mind that a flat target at close range is not really what the lens is designed for. No doubt field curvature will mean reduced edge figures, but in the real world the results are very satisfactory.

At 12mm, central sharpness is excellent from f/4 through to f/16 and still very good at f/22. The edges show fair sharpness at f/4, becoming good at f/5.6, very good at f/8 and f/11 and then good at f/16. By f/22 the edges are fairly soft.

At 16mm results are excellent centrally from f/4 to f/16 and very good at f/22. The edges are very good at f/4, excellent from f/5.6 to f/11. very good at f/16 and softening by f/22.

21mm offers excellent central sharpness from f/4 to f/16, which remains very good at f/22. The edges are good at f/4 and f/5.6, very good from f/8 to f/16 and again soft at f/22.

At 24mm we have very good sharpness at f/4, becoming excellent from f/5.6 to f/16 and still remaining very good at f/22. The edges are good at f/4 and f/5.6, very good at f/8 and f/11, good at f/16 and soft at f/22.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G MTF Charts

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A7R II using Imatest.


CA (Chromatic Aberration) is highly corrected centrally at all focal lengths, an excellent result. The edges do show some fringing, pretty much the same at all settings, but this can be dealt with in software if required. For most subjects it is not much of a problem.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A7R II using Imatest.


In terms of distortion, as mentioned this is a rectilinear lens and considering the focal length range it is very well corrected. 12mm shows -3.63% barrel distortion, which is quite obvious to the eye, but only really an issue with architectural subjects. It can be corrected using software. By 16mm this has become pincushion distortion, measuring +1.24%. It peaks at +1.77% at 21mm and measure +1.55% at 24mm.

No lens can be all things, and if there is a tangible weakness here it is with flare. Perhaps this is not so surprising with such a wide lens, but when shooting into a light source such as the sun then flare is quite dramatic. There is also a significant drop in contrast in these situations. In most shooting though contrast is excellent and the lens acquits itself very well.

Bokeh is the quality of gradation of the out of focus areas, and is probably not the strongest feature of such a wide lens. It is reasonably smooth, but not exceptional, but then again the sort of subject matter that the lens lends itself to does not necessarily have large out of focus backgrounds. The depth of field of a 12mm lens, for example, is quite extensive.


Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Sample Photos

 

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Aperture range

 

Value For Money

The Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G lens costs £1699. Its most direct competitor would be the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art lens available in Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts, priced at £1399.

If used upon an APS-C format body, which might be considered a waste considering the cost, the direct competitors would be the SMC Pentax-DA 12-24mm f/4 (£799), Sigma 12-24mm f/4-5.6 DG HSM II (£649) and the Nikon 12-24mm f/4 G AF-S IF-ED (£979). Of course, these will not fit the Sony cameras (without an adapter), but the costs are offered as an indication of where the value lies in relation to other marques.

For more options have a look at the Top 15 Best Sony E / FE Mount Lenses

 

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Verdict

The Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G is expensive, but also excellent, which is always a dilemma. Easy to handle, superb central performance, huge potential creatively, there is so much to like about the lens. There is no doubt this is a very worthy choice for, especially, full frame Sony users.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Pros

  • Excellent central sharpness
  • Low central CA
  • Creative potential
  • Fast and accurate AF
  • High construction quality

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Cons

  • Susceptible to flare
  • High price
  • Lower edge performance
Features4/5
Handling5/5
Performance4/5
Value4/5
Overall Verdict

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Specifications

ManufacturerSony
General
Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
  • Sony FE Mount
Lens
Focal Length12mm - 24mm
Angle of View84 - 122
Max Aperturef/4
Min Aperturef/22
Filter SizeNo Data
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalent18mm - 36mm
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnification0.14x
Focusing
Min Focus28cm
Construction
Blades7
Elements17
Groups13
Box Contents
Box ContentsFront cap, rear cap, case
Dimensions
Weight565g
Height117.4mm

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