Taking a step up from the exisiting very fine Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G lens, here is the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master. Featuring the largest extreme aspherical element ever produced for Sony E mount lenses and a groundbreaking f/2.8 maximum aperture, there is much potential here, as well of course as a significant price tag to go with it. The concept of a fast, bright f/2.8 constant aperture ultra-wide zoom is a tempting one, so let’s couple it up with the new full-frame Sony A7 IV 33MP camera body and see how it handles and performs.
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This is a very well made lens, no doubt about that, and it weighs in at 847g, so not a lightweight lens. However, it does balance well on the A7 IV body. It could also be used on the APS-C bodies, where the “35mm-equivalent” field of view would be 18-36mm, but the size and weight of the lens would put it out of all proportion. It is dust and moisture-sealed, but not 100% waterproof. The front element also has a Fluorine coating that repels dust, grease and moisture. This bulbous front element is protected by a fixed petal lens hood, as usual for ultra-wide lenses. There is no provision for filters here, which would be rather impractical, but there is a gelatin filter slot at the rear of the lens. The lens cap is a large plastic clip-on type that covers the front of the lens effectively.
Immediately behind the hood is the manual focusing ring, which is compatible with all the usual Sony features such as AF, MF and DMF (Direct Manual Focus) and these are all set via the camera menu. There is also an AF/MF switch on the lens barrel, plus a focus hold button. Manual focusing is ultra-smooth and AF is fast and accurate via new upgraded XD Linear (Extreme Dynamic) motors. It is also very quiet and unobtrusive. Focusing is down to 0.28m, 0.92 feet, for a maximum magnification of 0.14x. The lens utilises floating elements to maintain performance at all focusing distances.
The zoom ring is also smooth, but more physical in that it moves the lens barrel forwards and backwards. The front element stays within the bounds of the petal lens hood, which is stationary at all times. There are clear markings at 12mm, 14mm, 16mm, 18mm, 21mm and 24mm.
Optical construction is 17 elements in 14 groups, including 3 XD (Extreme Aspherical), 1 Aspherical, 3 ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) and 2 Super ED. The rounded diaphragm comprises 9 blades for improved, smooth bokeh effects. Sony also uses its Nano AR coating technology to improve light transmission and reduce flare.
There is no OSS (Optical SteadyShot) in the lens, instead relying on that built into Sony camera bodies. There is also no compatibility with any of the teleconverters.
The lens mount is smooth and slick, fitting perfectly with no hint of any rotational movement when clicked into place. At the back of the lens, as mentioned, there is a baffle and a filter slot for gelatin filters.
Using ultra-wide lenses does need some care and thought, as there could be a tendency to simply shoot images that are from the usual distances, resulting in very small distant objects in the frame. This can make distant mountains, for example, extremely disappointing. The key is to get in close, then closer, to make the most of dramatic foregrounds and perspective. Interiors obviously can be photographed to advantage, making spaces look vast and spacious. Landscapes need foreground interest. Even portraits are possible though, and one of the advantages of the 12-24mm is that at the longer end we have a perfectly viable choice for reportage/street photography. This makes for an extremely versatile lens.
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