Introduction to the SEL1224G
Recently, Sony’s mirrorless full-frame system has been actively replenished with new optics. Any manufacturer would envy such speed! Having closed the needs of photographers in the most popular lenses, the engineers took up the “exotic”. The hero of today’s test is the brand new Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G (SEL1224G) ultra-wide.
Recall that the system already has a couple of cool wide-angle lenses, but there was no 12mm lens for the full frame yet. By the way, some scenes in this test and in the Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM (SEL1635GM) test are the same. So you will be able to compare the difference in viewing angle between 12mm and 16mm.
All the uniqueness of this lens lies in the ultra-wide angle of view. For a full frame, it is 122–84°. Do you want to fit a skyscraper into the frame, moving away from it a few steps? Easy!
But a wide viewing angle dictates its own requirements for the design of optics. So, filters cannot be installed on the SEL1224G due to the protruding front lens. There are no threads for them, and there is no attachment for flat filters behind the rear lens. But the lens is equipped with a built-in hood. A specific massive cover is installed on it – a distinctive feature of ultra-wide-angles.
The dimensions of the body remain unchanged when zooming and focusing, the movement of the front lens block occurs within the dimensions of the tube. Weight and size are more than modest for this class of optics: 565 grams and 117 mm in length. Classmates from the world of DSLRs have less modest weight and size characteristics.
The zoom and manual focus rings are rubberized, wide and grippy. There is also a programmable button on the body, which is assigned the autofocus lock function by default.
We did not manage to look inside the lens, but we will still tell you what is hidden there. The optical scheme consists of 17 elements in 13 groups. There are four aspherical lenses, three more elements are made of low dispersion glass, and one is made of extra low dispersion. And all this splendor is placed in a dust- and moisture-proof case.
Focusing on the lens is very fast and almost silent thanks to the Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM). The minimum focusing distance is only 28 cm from the plane of the matrix.
Now let’s move on to shooting with the SEL1224G. By the way, we shot many of the shots for this test with the demanding 42-megapixel Sony ILCE-7RM2 camera.
Lens in action
Ultra wide angles surprise every time. More than a dozen lenses of this class have passed through our editorial office, and yet one glance into the viewfinder is enough to take your breath away from a completely unnatural, unearthly transmission of perspective. Scattering of straight lines, amazing rendering of space even on the simplest scenes – this is the strongest side of the SEL1224G.
We deliberately walked through the places known to Muscovites to show the usual places in the unusual viewing angle of the ultra-wide angle. For example, you can shoot the Moscow City skyscrapers from a few steps.
And the beautiful Daineka mosaics at the Mayakovskaya metro station, which you usually look at with your head held high, are visible simultaneously with the panorama of the entire station.
Shooting with the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G, once again I catch myself thinking that I am moving around the city without looking up from the viewfinder. Familiar landscapes look completely different. This captivates just enough to not think at all about some particulars such as focusing speed.
Sony engineers have made every effort to ensure that the lens does not leave questions for the photographer, but simply allows you to shoot. Autofocus is really fast and quiet. With a close focusing distance of 28cm, there was never a moment when the camera didn’t focus. Autofocus works so predictably, accurately and quickly that you can just forget about it.
The lens does not have a built-in image stabilizer. But if you shoot on a camera with built-in stabilization, this is no longer a problem. Due to the short focal length, matrix stabilization works very effectively. Shutter speed of ⅕ second with hands is easy.
One of the main characteristics of ultra-wide angles is not even sharpness, but the level of geometric distortion. Indeed, often during technical shooting (interiors, architecture), these distortions have to be corrected in the editor in order to “straighten” the curved lines at the frame border.
This is done simply, with one click in Adobe Photoshop, or even using the settings in the camera menu. But such a precious angle of view of the lens may be slightly reduced.
In the case of the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G, geometric distortions are present. But their levels are low. At wide-angle, there is a subtle barrel roll that you will only see if you place a deliberately straight line along the larger side of the frame, near the very edge. After correcting the distortions in the editor, the line magically straightens out, only the details located in the very corners of the frame can be lost.
In the 24 mm position, the distortion is directed in the opposite direction – pincushion. It is also small, but a little less pleasant to work with. After software processing, it will no longer be fragments of corners that will be lost, but details located along the entire edge of the frame. But we note again: we have not seen lenses without distortion at all. And in SEL1224G, their level can be called relatively low.
The second scourge of ultra-wide angles is traditionally chromatic aberration. But the designers of the SEL1224G have packed so many ED and ED elements into the optical design of the lens that the nasty colored edges don’t stand a chance.
JPEG also uses software chromaticity suppression, which is also activated automatically when converting RAW in Adobe software products. So you will find some indistinct chromatic aberrations only on frankly provocative scenes along the edge of the frame in converters and “viewers” that do not support built-in RAW profiles. That means you have to work hard!
The strongly convex front lens of ultra-wide angles provokes them to “catch” glare. [Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G is no exception. If the sun shines into the frame, then you can catch single greenish highlights. At a certain angle, the glare can become round. This is especially noticeable in the wide-angle position at medium apertures. A slight change in the shooting point in most cases solves the problem.
As the aperture closes, rays appear around bright light sources – reflections of light from the aperture blades. There are 14 of them, because there are seven aperture blades.
But what about sharpness? To evaluate it, as well as a number of other features of the picture, we shot a traditional series at all aperture values from one point. Let’s start with the most popular focal length of 12mm.
Already at an open aperture, the lens gives excellent sharpness in the center of the frame, even on a demanding 42-megapixel matrix. Only the detailing of the periphery cannot be called very high. The industrial climbers at the top of the skyscraper are clearly visible, but they are a little lacking in sharpness. Aperture increases the detail on the periphery: at f / 5.6 it is very significant, but at f / 8 there are no complaints about the technical quality of the pictures at all. Also at f / 8, vignetting is significantly reduced, which is clearly visible at f / 4 and f / 5.6.
The focal length of 24 mm shows even more positive dynamics. At an open aperture, sharpness is high across the entire field of the frame. And only strong vignetting is evident. The best result is obtained at f / 8: both in sharpness and in the level of vignetting.
The Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G is not cheap. There are third-party ultra wide-angles on the market at a more attractive price. But can they match the SEL1224G in features and image quality? There are not many lenses on the market that can provide a 122ﾟ angle of view and good sharpness across the frame.
The SEL1224G has a relatively low level of geometric distortion. The level of chromatic aberration can also be described as very low. The pluses of this model include fast and silent autofocus, a protected body, a relatively small size and weight, and a programmable button on the body.
But there are also objective disadvantages. So SEL1224G does not allow you to put filters either in front of the front or behind the rear lens. The lens can catch strong glare in certain conditions, has noticeable vignetting at an open and slightly covered aperture. However, this is a feature of most ultra-wide-angle lenses as a class of optics.
The bottom line is that Sony has once again pleased the adherents of the system with a new high-quality lens, created specifically for modern multi-megapixel cameras. Its price is slightly higher than the optimistic expectations of the market. But it seems that we just need to put up with the high prices for top-end optics: good things don’t come cheap. By the way, ultra-wide-angle zooms for a full frame and competitors do not differ in friendly price tags.
- Maximum viewing angle 122 degrees,
- High sharpness across the field of the frame,
- Relatively low level of distortion,
- Low level of chromatic aberration,
- High contrast even in backlight,
- Dust and moisture-proof housing,
- Fast and quiet autofocus,
- Programmable button on the case,
- Relatively small weight and size for a full-frame ultra-wide angle.
- Can catch glare in the backlight,
- There is vignetting,
- There is no way to install filters,