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Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM: will it be the ultra wide zoom I’ve been hankering for?

Thank you for using links on this site to buy—and FYI if you sign up for availability notifications by B&H, this doesn’t give credit to this site.

The about $2999 Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM weighs in at a remarkably lightweight 867 grams for its f/2.8 speed. As a complement to other zooms such as the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G, it would be my strong preference over the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM for getting into the moderate wide angle range, especially given the modest performance along with unappealing pincushion distortion at the long end of the 16-35/2.8. But mainly—there is a huge difference between 16m and 12mm, so it is disqualifying to give up the 12-16mm range for my shooting.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM
Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM
  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • 9 special glass elements: 3 extreme aspherical, 1 aspherical, 2 Super ED, 3 ED
  • Nano AR II and Fluorine Coatings
  • Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave Motor
  • Focus Hold Button, AF/MF Switch
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Seven-Bladed Rounded Diaphragm

Will the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM be the ultra wide angle zoom lens I finally buy? It has the speed, it has the full range I want (11mm would have been a nice touch I suppose), and it has the specifications that say it ought to be the best lens of its range yet made (the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L is superb, but it is a stop slower). And maybe it will outperform primes in its range, like the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon and the Voigtlander FE NOKTON 21m f/1.4.

The difference between 12mm and 14mm is much greater than the small numeric difference suggests. For me, that difference is a compelling factor in selecting an ultra-wide zoom.

Also, at 12mm there will surely be strong barrel distortion which will diminish in the 14-16mm range—versus a 14-24mm zoom which will have the full or nearly full distortion problem at 14-16mm—keeping distortion down is a very real practical advantage to a 12-24mm instead of 14-24mm. UPDATE: checking sample raw images, the barrel distortion at 12mm is remarkably well controlled, and at 14mm it looks to be as good as it gets for 14mm. Pincushion distortion ismore than desirable at 24mm but it is not worse than similar lenses.

But can a good sample be obtained?

Sample (build) variation that leads to lens skew is the single biggest factor in lens performance these days (lens mount / sensor parallelism as a secondary issue)and so it’s not a question of theoretical lens design with fantasy MTF, but the concrete challenge of getting a good sample. So as much as I liked the Sigma FE 14-24m f/2.8 DG DN Art a great deal, I never could find a symmetric sample—including a sample I tried in May this year which was badly blurred on one side wide open. I for one see strong evidence that lab bench tests do NOT detect or show issues properly, because tiny changes in focus can produce wildly differing results when the lens is shot on distance scenes.

About $2998 Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM

Thank you for using links on this site to buy—and FYI if you sign up for availability notifications by B&H, this doesn’t give credit to this site.

The exceptionally high price (for Sony) and 17-element design suggests that Sony is going all out to deliver the world’s best 12-24mm zoom. Will it outperform the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art and Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art?

Optical design of Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM
Specifications for Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM
Focal length: 12-24mm
Aperture range: f/2.8 - f/22
Focusing range: 11.02 in / 28 cm
Angle of view: 122° - 84°
Number of elements/groups: 17 elements in 14 groups
9 special glass elements: 3 extreme aspherical, 1 aspherical, 2 Super ED, 3 ED
Nano AR II and Fluorine Coatings
Diaphragm: 9, rounded
Magnification: 11.02 in = 28 cm to INF
0.14X = 1:7.1
Filter thread: gel filter, rear
Weight, nominal: 1.86 lb = 847g
Dimensions: Approx. 33.84 x 5.39 in / 97.6 x 137 mm
Street price: about $2999
Supplied with: Front Lens Cap
Sony ALC-R1EM Rear Lens Cap
Lens Case
Filter Cutting Template
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