TechNow: The Sony Grand Master of ultra-wide zoom lenses

Sony has been at the forefront of the full-frame mirrorless market with their A7 line of cameras.
TechNow: The Sony Grand Master of ultra-wide zoom lenses
The Sony E (SEL1224GM) Lens

Sony has been at the forefront of the full-frame mirrorless market with their A7 line of cameras. Last year they released the A7RIV with a 61MP sensor, six years after the original A7 was released. In 2013, the A7 had a limited selection of lenses, but today, the Sony E lens mount boasts the largest selection of native lenses of any full-frame mirrorless system.

This week, Sony announced another new lens in their top-of-the-range line saying it is the world’s widest zoom lens with a constant f/2.8 aperture.

Features 

The FE 12-24mm F/2.8 GM is an exciting new lens for the Sony E-mount system in a compact form factor offering Sony users a versatile lens that’s ideal for shooting landscapes, astro and architecture. As part of Sony’s flagship G Master series lenses, users can be confident that it delivers outstanding image quality up to an ultra-wide 12mm angle of view with f/2.8 constant aperture. 

Sample Image taken with the Sony E (SEL1224GM)
Sample Image taken with the Sony E (SEL1224GM)

This new lens does somewhat overlap the fantastic 16-35mm GM, which is recognised as one of the sharpest wide-angle zoom lenses currently available based on DXOMark tests. 

However, at nearly double the price of the 16-35mm GM, the new 12-24mm GM offers versatility and range that isn’t available to Sony A7 owners currently. The closest is the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN lens, but the extra 2mm at the wide-angle side does make a difference. If you already own the 16-35mm GM and you think you’d like wider than the 12-24mm GM might be for you. 

However, if you don’t own either, then the 12-24mm GM is a no-brainer when coupled with the 24-70mm GM, assuming you need the f/2.8 aperture.

The G Master range of Sony lenses is designed to offer the ultimate in sharpness, contrast, faithful colour rendition and build-quality as well as the ability to resolve images at the A7RIV’s 61MPs and beyond.

The Grand Master 

The introduction of the FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM means that the F2.8 range of Sony’s G Master series lenses now extends all the way through from 12mm to 400mm and at 12mm, offers the world’s widest zoom at F2.8. At this focal length, it is possible to emphasise distance and create dynamic perspectives that are beyond the scope of the human eye, opening the door to new avenues of creative expression.

“We are tremendously excited about the introduction of the FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM as we believe that photographers and videographers using the Sony’s Alpha system will fall in love with this lens”, said Yann Salmon-Legagneur, Director of Product Marketing, Digital Imaging, Sony Europe. 

“It is important for us to continue to push boundaries in the industry and by extending our range of G Master constant F2.8 lenses out to 12mm with such a technology-packed and high performing lens, we are excited to see the results of the new creative opportunities it offers.” 

Sony says the FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM benefits from a rich and innovative construction that delivers outstanding corner-to-corner image quality throughout the entire zoom range. It features three extremely precise XA (extreme aspherical) elements including the largest XA element ever made for an α (Alpha) lens. 

These XA elements, with the addition of a further aspherical element, effectively suppress astigmatism, coma and field curvature right out to the image edges. Furthermore, three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements plus two Super ED glass elements, powerfully quell chromatic aberration and combine to deliver corner-to-corner clarity whilst minimising colour fringing.

A floating focus mechanism divides the lens’s focus group into two independently controllable groups. It is extremely effective at ensuring both outstanding close-up performance and maximum sharpness at any distance as it divides the lens’s focus group into two independently controllable groups. 

It also helps realise a constant 0.28-metre minimum focusing distance throughout the zoom and because it is an internal focus lens, its length remains constant and its centre of gravity varies very little, so it is always optimally balanced in the hand.

The signature bokeh effects of Sony’s G Master series lens have been achieved through the fine-tuning of the lens’s spherical aberration characteristics during both the design and manufacturing process. At the same time, the extremely high surface precision of the lens’s XA elements effectively suppresses onion-ring effects and, in combination with a 9-blade circular aperture, further enhances its exquisite bokeh.

A brand-new Nano AR Coating II that can be evenly applied to large lens elements or highly curved element surfaces has been used for the first time on the FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM. 

It suppresses internal reflections, minimises flare and ghosting for clear, crisp imagery and despite the lens's wide-angle of view, Nano AR Coating II maintains high clarity and contrast throughout the entire image, even in difficult light.

Moviemaking 

The constant f/2.8 maximum aperture at all focal lengths ensures that exposure is stable when zooming. In turn, this means that shutter speed and ISO sensitivity can remain consistent whilst shooting movies.

The creative opportunities afforded by shooting movies at a 12mm angle of view with f/2.8 constant aperture in full-frame are boundless, however, when used on an APS-C camera or with a Super 35 angle of view, the wide end of the zoom range becomes equivalent to 18mm, providing a very useful zoom range for movie making.

Professional Control Weighing only 847 grams, the FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM offers numerous features for full professional control of shots. These include a customisable focus-hold button, focus-mode switch, zooming ring and focusing ring that are positioned for easy operation whilst shooting. 

The Linear Response MF ensures that the focus ring responds directly to the most subtle adjustments when focusing manually so control feels immediate and precise. It is dust and moisture resistant and the front lens element features a fluorine coating that repels water, oil, and other contaminants while making it easier to wipe off any fingerprints from the lens surface.

I love screw-on filters but these won’t work on the 12-24mm GM. Instead, you’ll have to use a filter holder system or the rear filter holder built into the 12-24mm GM that accommodates standard sheet-type ND, colour correction and other filters for expanded expressive capability. A cutting template for sheet filters is supplied.

Pricing and Availability

 The FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM is available in Europe from August 2020, priced at approximately €3,300.

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