When the Sony Alpha platform was first announced, there was no denying its groundbreaking nature. Great camera platform, but it needed the equivalent native lenses to finish off the package. The process took a few years, with Sony users now being able to access a good range of primes and zooms at the top end and consumer end of the market. At the wide end of the scale, there’s the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G.
This lens is to appeal to those who want a high-end, wide-angle zoom that works seamlessly with their camera body and doesn’t cut any corners in quality. You’re going to have to pay for the privilege, but if everything shapes up as expected, you shouldn’t have to look any further for a wide-angle zoom.
Firstly, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G goes very wide with 122 degrees of diagonal view, which is one of the widest currently available. To make sure all lens anomalies are kept in check there are seven elements arranged in 13 groups, which include four aspherical elements, three being extra-low dispersion (ED) elements, and one being a Super-ED. The front element is treated to a Nano AR coating, which should cut down on ghosting and flaring.
There’s a seven-blade diaphragm inside the lens. It would have been nice to have a nine-blade version as on the top G Master series. But, with such a wide-angle lens, bokeh rendition isn’t always the calling card unless you’re really close up, meaning the seven-blade will do the job in most cases.
The lens also has an aperture range of f/4-f/22, a minimum focus distance of 28cm, and although it doesn’t feature image stabilization, Sony’s built-in camera system can do a lot of the heavy lifting. The other standout feature is that this lens is very compact.
At only 117.4mm long and weighing in at 565g, it won’t feel out of place on an Alpha body. Some of this could due to the all-plastic lens barrel, but at least the lens is said to be dust and moisture resistant, but it lacks a rubber gasket around the lens mount.
As for the external workings of the lens, it’s a simple layout with a just wide enough zoom and focus ring, which both have a rubberized grip. The manual focus ring works electronically, with the only other features on the lens being the AF/MF switch and the focus hold button. This button itself can be programmed for a multitude of features if needed.
Lastly, the lens has a short and effective petal-shaped hood, which fits seamlessly into the design. Overall, at this point a simple and straightforward lens with high-quality attributes.
The Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G in Use
The autofocus system on a lens is just as important as every other feature. In this case, a Direct Drive Super Sonic Motor (DDSSM) is employed, which is fast and silent to snap into focus. Quiet focusing will benefit the videographers out there, and although there is no distance scale on the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G, all the information is present through the viewfinder. In the majority of cases, the AF didn’t skip a beat locking onto a subject and only started to trip up in the lowest of light conditions.
As for lens anomalies, a wide-angle prime or zoom is inherently going to suffer from some kind of lens distortion and possibly other factors. These factors will obviously depend on the quality of the lens, but with the mirrorless format there’s more leeway for keeping these in check.
The widest angle view presents lateral chromatic aberration, especially at f/4. This shows up as purple and green fringing, but can easily be corrected in software. The same goes for vignetting, which presents itself as a few stops of light falloff in the corners. Again, easily corrected in software, but to get rid of the effect you will have to use the most telephoto end of the range. And to completely get rid of the effect, stopping down to f/8 does the job.
As for the general sharpness of this lens, there are no complaints in the center of the frame at f/4 and at the widest focal, but the edges do suffer from the obligatory stretching. This clears up from f/8 upwards and broadly has the same rendering as you would expect from a high-end, wide-angle lens. Close-up subjects suffer the most from soft edges and less than straight lines, with far off subjects looking the best in the corners.
Once you’re out of the widest zone, by 16mm things like pincushioning and types of barrel distortion become easier to correct. For images such as architecture, this is a must if you want to get lines completely straight. Luckily, a good lens profile sorts out most of the issues.
The Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G also copes very well with flaring and can even produce nice sun stars when stopped down. However, being a wide-angle lens, it can start to produce prominent flares if the sun is completely in frame.
Generally, this lens is fast and efficient and produces well-saturated images with a lovely degree of contrast. The overall image quality is fantastic when the lens is at its optimum settings. But, like all wide-angle lenses, you have to be mindful of the corner rendering.
How Does It Compare?
Like most camera brands, you may want to stick with same brand lenses, but there’s also an argument for the third-party makers. One option could be the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art which is slightly cheaper than the Sony but has comparable optical quality. The Sigma benefits from a wider aperture of f/2.8, but has 2mm less width than the Sony.
The Sigma doesn’t have any real weatherproofing and is slightly heavier, but if you’ve read any of our other Sigma lens reviews, you’ll see that the Sigma Art series is a great option if you want to go down the third-party route.
|Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G||Sigma 14-24mm F/2.8 DG DN Art|
|Optics||17 elements/ 13 groups||18 elements/ 13 groups|
The Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G does suffer from some of the anomalies characteristic with a wide-angle lens, but on the whole, is a great performer. It’s also native to the camera body, so no need for any adapters and considering center sharpness alone, and is up there with the rest.
This lens can be seen as a niche offering and there are other cheaper alternatives on the market. However, considering its overall optical quality, if you really have a need for such a wide-angle lens, this little zoom will act as a great workhorse in the right hands.