Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Announced – The First Ultra-Wide Zoom Of Its Kind
Sony has announced the widest ultra-wide constant f/2.8 zoom lens ever made, and everything about it is impressive. It goes to f/2.8. It goes to 12mm. It doesn’t even weigh as much as you’d expect, and it looks decently portable, too! Oh, and it’s going to be $2999, when it starts shipping next month…
For those photographers to whom 16mm is just not wide enough, Sony has announced this next G-Master series lens to compliment their existing “holy trinity” of f/2.8 zooms. It’s the 11th GM flagship-grade lens, their 37th FE full-frame lens, and 57th E-mount lens.
For photographers of all types who like to go as wide as possible, and/or as close as possible, what the Sony 12-24 2.8 GM offers is truly unprecedented. Here are the official specs:
Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM | Specifications
- FOCAL LENGHT & ANGLE OF VIEW: 12-24mm, 122°-84°
- LENS MOUNT(S): Sony FE (full-frame)
- APERTURE: f/2.8 to f/22, rounded 9-blade aperture
- STABILIZATION: No (in-body on most cameras)
- AUTOFOCUS: Yes, near-silent, four XD linear motors
- MANUAL FOCUS: Yes, electronically controlled, no focus markings
- OPTICAL CONSTRUCTION: 17 elements in 14 groups, 3 XA, 1 aspherical, 2 Super-ED, 3 extra-low dispersion, Nano AR Coating II
- MECHANICAL CONSTRUCTION: All-metal barrel, fully weather-sealed
- MAGNIFICATION & FOCUS DISTANCE: 0.14x, 28 cm (11.02″)
- FILTER THREADS & HOOD: rear drop-in filters
- SIZE: 146 x 90mm (5.75 x 3.54″)
- WEIGHT: 847 g (1.86 lbs)
- PRICE: $2,999 (B&H | Adorama | Amazon)
As with all flagship Sony FE GM lenses, the 12-24mm f/2.8 is indeed fully weather-sealed and built rock-solid overall. Surprisingly though, it’s not “enormous”, per se, and it’s not “overweight”, either. For a lens that offers a range and aperture that no other lens does, it’s surprisingly modest in both regards. Astro-landscape photographers who do a lot of hiking in the wilderness, rejoice!
But, landscape and nightscape photography is not all that this lens is likely going to be good for. Sony also stepped up their autofocus technology for this lens, with four XD linear motors, making this lens faster at autofocus than any competing ultra-wide lens. That makes it perfect for things like extreme sports and low-light journalism or even portraiture. (Also, thanks to its relatively lightweight, it ought to make a workable video lens on a larger gimbal, too!)
Ultra-Wide Lens Competition At 12mm?
The Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 GM stands alone as literally the only lens to offer everything that it does. No other zoom goes to 12mm and hits f/2.8. So, if you need those things, there is literally no competition.
Having said that, if you’re willing to “settle” for f/4 instead of f/2.8, or 14mm instead of 12mm, and/or manual focus instead of autofocus, (yeah, all that compromise is really adding up!) …there are a few lenses that could be considered competition. At ~12mm, we have no other f/2.8 lenses aside from the Venus Optics Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D, which as we found in our review here, is not a very sharp lens, (coma even at f/5.6!) indeed, considering its performance on 24-megapixel cameras, it probably looks pretty abysmal at 61 megapixels…
Other than that, the only other competitors are f/4 lenses, like the Sony 12-24 f/4 G. Alternately, the competition that hits f/2.8 is all “stuck” at 14mm or 15mm, such as the Sigma 14-24 for Sony FE, or the forthcoming Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 for Z-mount, or the Canon 15-35mm f/2.8 for RF-mount… All of these lenses are definitely sharp and impressive, but of course, none of them reach both 12mm and f/2.8. The Sony does, and does it very well, apparently. (We’re hoping to get our hands on one for review very soon!)
Image Quality Samples
Indeed, from sample images we’ve seen so far, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM is, in fact, ultra-sharp right up to the extreme corners, even at 12mm and f/2.8.
Of course, sharpness is only one aspect of image quality, but Sony didn’t stop there. This “exotic” optic truly lives up to the term, by having 3 ED elements, 2 super-ED elements, and 3 XA extreme aspherical elements, and 1 “regular” aspherical element. (For those who know what goes into making an aspherical element, the fact that we have to call one of them “regular” should tell you just how high-end the glass in this lens is!)
Considering that there are 17 elements in 14 groups in this lens, that means that literally more than 50% of the elements in the lens are, well, exotic. VERY exotic, in fact; the front element is the biggest “XA” element ever made for a Sony lens.
Also, Sony had to basically re-invent or upgrade their anti-reflective coating in order to be able to evenly coat such a large front element, and the result, their new “Nano AR Coating II”, is supposed to ensure virtually zero flare, as well as zero chromatic aberration or color fringing. (And, indeed, from the sample nightscape images seen in the video created by Sony Ambassador Nate Luebbe below, it looks to be true!)
All in all, it seems that Sony has created a monster, without creating the type of “monster” that we don’t want to have ty carry around. If you need what it offers, then you’d better start saving up to afford that $3000 price tag…
Official Sony Press Release
SAN DIEGO – July 7, 2020 – Sony Electronics Inc. today announced an exciting new addition to its full-frame lens line-up with the introduction of the FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM (model SEL1224GM) Large-aperture Ultra-wide Zoom lens. This compact and versatile lens is ideal for shooting landscapes, astrophotography and architecture while providing extra mobility for active sports shooters who want to capture ultra-wide perspectives. As part of Sony’s flagship G Master series lenses, users can be completely confident that it delivers outstanding image quality up to an ultra-wide 12mm angle of view with F2.8 constant aperture and beautiful bokeh effects.
The introduction of the FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM now extends the F2.8 range of Sony’s G Master series zoom lenses all the way from 12mm to 200mm[ii] and at 12mm, offers the world’s widest range of zoom at F2.8. At this focal length, it is possible to emphasize 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 excited to introduce the new FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM as the 57th lens in Sony’s E-mount line-up”, said Neal Manowitz, deputy president of Imaging Products and Solutions Americas, Sony Electronics. “It is important for us to continue to push boundaries in the industry to develop the best tools for our customers. By extending our range of G Master constant F2.8 zoom lenses out to 12mm, we are excited to see how these new innovations will help our customers create like never before.”
The FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM benefits from innovative construction that delivers outstanding corner-to-corner image quality throughout the entire zoom range. It features three precise XA (extreme aspherical) elements including the largest XA element ever made for an α – Alpha brand lens. These XA elements, with an additional 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 control chromatic aberration and combine to deliver corner-to-corner clarity while minimizing color fringing.
An extremely effective floating focus mechanism divides the lens’s focus group into two independently controllable groups, ensuring both outstanding close-up performance and maximum sharpness at any distance. The two independently controlled groups help realize a constant 11” (28 cm) minimum focusing distance throughout the zoom range, and because it is an internal focus lens, its length remains constant, so its center of gravity varies very little and is always optimally balanced in the hand.
The signature bokeh effects of Sony’s G Master series lens are 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 spherical aberration and, in combination with a 9-blade circular aperture, further enhances its exquisite bokeh.
The FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM employs four original high-speed, high-thrust XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors to ensure that it is compatible with the speed performance of both current and future camera bodies. With two XD Linear Motors for each of the lens’s focus groups, autofocus is fast and precise. New control algorithms maximize the response of the system while achieving flawless synchronization between the two focus groups. Further benefits include extremely quiet operation with minimal vibration and lower power consumption.
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, minimizes 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.
The constant F2.8 maximum aperture at all focal lengths ensures that exposure is stable when zooming. As a result, this means that shutter speed and ISO sensitivity can remain constant while shooting movies. The creative opportunities afforded by shooting movies at a 12mm angle of view with F2.8 constant aperture in full-frame are boundless, and when used on an APS-C or Super 35 camera, the wide end of the zoom range becomes equivalent to 18mm, providing a useful zoom range for moviemaking.
Weighing only 1.87 lbs (847 g), the FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM offers numerous features for full professional control of shots. These include a customizable focus-hold button, focus-mode switch, zooming ring and focusing ring that are positioned for easy operation while 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[iii] and the front lens element features a fluorine coating that repels water, oil, and other contaminants, making it easier to wipe off any fingerprints from the lens surface. The rear filter holder accommodates standard sheet-type ND, color correction, and other filters for expanded expressive capability. A cutting template for sheet filters is supplied.
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