What We Love.
The G Master line has quite a reputation: high-class, high-standard design, high image quality. So when we finally got our hands on the new Sony FE 24mm F/1.4 GM
, we definitely had high expectations. It's a good thing that Sony is consistent with producing excellent glass. This wide-angle lens swaggers with the makings of a great lens--a very precise autofocusing system that works very well even in low light, incredibly sharp and clean images, smooth and creamy bokeh, and impressive weather sealing that has allowed it to survive a snow storm up in the Sierra Nevada during our tests. This lens also does an amazing job at minimizing distortion so that it's either practically negligible or works to the shooter's advantage. Additionally, it has an aperture control ring and an AF/MF switch, giving users more external control, as well as a wide maximum aperture of F/1.4, giving them the advantage of a shallower depth of field and when shooting in low-light conditions. Finally, it's beautifully built, well balanced, fairly lightweight, and made with textured metal.
What We'd Change. That isn't to say, of course, that the Sony FE 24mm F/1.4 GM is perfect. Unfortunately, despite the three Extra-low Dispersion glass elements that Sony asserts to "effectively suppress chromatic aberration," we have more than a few times encountered some purple fringing in our images. It's a little disappointing, considering its namesake and price, which brings us to our second point. Because this lens is a G Master and it is made exceptionally well, a higher price tag does come with the territory. You must be prepared to shell out $1,400. Other than those two, perhaps the only other thing we should point out is that there were times when 24mm just wasn't wide enough for some landscape shooting situations. Obviously, this isn't a flaw. We're merely mentioning it because we had found ourselves in a couple of spots where this focal length just wasn't wide enough to get everything we needed in the frame, and you might find yourself in the same scenario.
Pick This Up If... you're a landscape, travel, and/or portrait photographer looking for an excellent glass that produces sharp images and can survive rugged conditions, and you've got deep pockets.
If you've seen our other lens reviews, you'll know that it's no secret that we're fans of Sony's G Master line. We've constantly worshiped the 85mm F1.4 GM
, sang the 16-35mm F2.8 GM FE
praises, and gushed about the FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS
. So we knew that reviewing the new Sony FE 24mm F/1.4 GM, which came out last 2018, was going to be easy peasy.
In fact, this superb glass almost makes it too easy for any photographer to take wide-angle compositions not just because of the excellent image quality it produces but also because of its autofocusing, weather sealing, and aperture control ring, to name a few.
Like any true G Master, however, while it is one of the more affordable lenses in the line, it's still $1,400. So the question now is, is this lens really worth breaking the bank for? We'll leave that up to you to decide after you read our review.
We tested the Sony FE 24mm F/1.4 GM with our own Sony A7R III
and an old Manfrotto BeFree Compact Tripod. While we did expose the lens to some heavy snowfall in Yosemite, we spent two days of shooting during a snowstorm so there were times when we had to use a light rain cover to protect our setup and make it easier for us to shoot.
- Model: SEL24F14GM
- Fits: E-mount full frame and APS-C cameras
- Focal Length: 24mm (full-frame), 36mm (APS-C)
- Maximum Aperture: F1.4
- Minimum Aperture: F16
- Angle of View (diagonal): 84° (full-frame), 61° (APS-C)
- Lens Construction: 13 elements in 10 groups
- Minimum Focus Distance: 0.79 ft (0.24 m)
- Maximum. Magnification Ratio: 0.17 x
- Filter Size: 67 mm
- Length: 75.4 x 92.4 mm
- Weight: 15.7 oz (445 g)
- Aperture Blades: 11 (circular)
- Standard Accessories: Hood, front cap, rear cap, case
Sony touts the Sony FE 24mm F/1.4 GM the lightest and most compact lens in its class. And at 15.7 oz (445 g) and 75.4 x 92.4 mm, this glass is definitely easy to handle and feels nicely balanced whether you've got an APS-C body or a full frame camera. We like the textured finish, which keeps fingerprints and smudges at bay; and its high-quality construction for durability.
For added protection, the lens also has a dust and moisture resistance design (including weather-sealing around the lens mount) to protect it from harsh elements when shooting in the field.
In fact, we took this to Yosemite to shoot snow, and ended up in the middle of the snowstorm. There were times when we did use a rain cover to protect our whole set-up and see the LCD screen better, but this lens definitely took a beating in the snow and cold, and it still performed flawlessly.
One of our favorite things about the FE 24mm F/1.4 GM is its ribbed aperture control ring as it makes it more convenient for aperture mode and manual shooters to quickly switch gears during shoots. This aperture ring has a nice tactile response; and while it's easy to turn, it also has enough resistance to prevent accidental rotations.
It also has a "Click" switch that you can toggle on/off that clicking feel and sound whenever you're changing apertures. Personally, we prefer this on, as we are used to the feedback. But it's also good to know that the silent option is available for others and for when you're shooting videos.
On the other side of the barrel opposite the "Click" switch are the AF/MF switch as well as customizable focus hold button that you can assign other functions to. They're within easy reach of your left hand, again making it convenient to switch gears on-the-fly in the middle of shooting.
Finally, there's the focus ring. It's got good resistance on it, again to prevent accidental turns. The only thing we really don't like about this is that it's made of ribbed rubber, which makes it susceptible to dust particles. This actually doesn't affect the lens performance, but it is a little annoying if you're the type who prefers his/her gear nice and pristine.
SPEED & FOCUS
Autofocus is one of the FE 24mm F/1.4 GM's greatest strengths. As we mentioned earlier, we shot this camera in bad weather and lighting condition. There was heavy snowfall during our two-day test in Yosemite. It was also very foggy and darker than usual. The lens' front element kept getting wet. We ourselves struggled to set up and frame our shots, not to mention choose our focus area, what with the rain cover and moisture forming on the inside and our freezing fingers.
Yet this lens' focus was almost always on point. It was able to detect and/or track its subjects quickly, even in the very early morning hours when there was barely any light or when fog was covering the landscape. With faster moving subjects--as in a person jumping--the tracking and autofocus faltered a little, but it was still able to produce some well-focused shots on continuous mode.
It's all thanks to this lens' newly developed Direct Drive SSM focusing drive system, which is also quiet, giving videographers an advantage when shooting movies and nature photographers when shooting wildlife.
With 11 circular aperture blades, the FE 24mm F/1.4 GM boasts beautifully dissolving backgrounds that are soft and creamy, giving you amazingly dreamy backgrounds and foregrounds when shooting at the widest apertures up to F/4. The bokeh is stunning too--though not perfectly rounded, as we would prefer, they are smooth and natural-looking.
Expect super sharp images with the FE 24mm F/1.4 GM. When Sony promised excellent corner-to-corner resolution on this lens even at its widest aperture of F/1.4, they weren't playing around. Combine that with its rich and accurate, if very slightly subdued, color representation as well as nice contrast, and you'll have zero problem taking stunning images with this lens.
There's some softness at F/1.4, but stop down to F/2 and that should eliminate most of that faint softness your very discerning eyes might spot. However, it is at F/5.6 to F/8 when this lens gets tack sharp, which we definitely recommend for when you're taking portraits, landscapes, and portraits in landscapes.
Sony gave this lens three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements to suppress chromatic aberration. However, it seems those aren't enough for keeping it at bay when capturing snowy landscapes, as we had realized during our testing. However, to be fair to this glass, color fringing is minimal and it is a lot easier to yield them in snowy conditions due to high contrast. Plus, you can easily correct the problem in Lightroom during post.
Other than that, the images taken with the FE 24mm F/1.4 GM are remarkably clean. We saw the faintest signs of vignetting, but that is also easily fixable in post. In non-snowy yet still high contrast conditions, signs of color fringing are practically non-existent. We haven't found any ghosting and flare, either. And the probability of barrel distortion is slim to none, which is another thing we really love about this wide-angle.
PROS & CONS
- Light & compact
- Has weather sealing
- Aperture ring is a plus
- Fast and precise AF, even in low light
- Very sharp image quality
- Hardly any barrel distortion
- Nice bokeh
- Signs of chromatic aberration
The Sony FE 24mm F/1.4 GM isn't what we'd call the perfect glass. We had to fix some issues of purple fringing and vignetting in post. Granted, they were very minimal and practically invisible to the untrained eye. But to the more experienced photographers, these might be a bit of a pain, especially considering its price tag.
This being a G Master means it will break the bank unless you're loaded or a pro photographer, and at $1,400, some may just opt for cheaper alternatives like the Sonnar T E 24mm F/1.8 ZA ($999) or a zoom like the Vario-Tessar T FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS ($799). However, its excellent autofocusing system, very effective weather sealing, almost negligible barrel distortion, creamy bokeh, great low light performance, and super sharp image quality may just be worth shelling out a few extra hundred bucks for.