The FE 24mm 1.4 GM is a lens that Bastian, David and Jannik preordered the lens based on the spectacular specs: It is significantly lighter and smaller than competing lenses and affordable (for a GM lens at least). In this review you can read why they did not regret the decision.
Sony A7III | Sony FE 1.4/24 GM | f/1.4 | full size
The Sony FE 24mm 1.4 GM has the following specifications
- Diameter: 75 mm
- Field of view: 84° (diagonally)
- Length: 92 mm
- Weight: 445g
- Filter Diameter: 67 mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 11 (rounded)
- Elements/Groups: 13/10
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.25 m
- Maximum Magnification: 1:5.9
- Mount: Sony-E
Build Quality / Handling
The rubberized focus ring has okay damping and as the Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM it also has a linear coupling which means it always takes 180° from the minimum focus distance (0.25 m) to infinity no matter how fast you turn the focus ring.
When you turn your camera off the lens will remember the last focus position and will still be there when you turn the camera on again.
The aperture ring has 1/3 of a stop click stops (which you can declick by using a lever on the lens) but those feel a bit different (less dampened) compared to the 85mm 1.4 GM.
You can also set the ring to “A”(utomatic) and let the camera choose the aperture value or use the camera dial to change the aperture value when it is set to “A”.
On the left side of the lens there is a programmable button (which I think is a great choice to map with Eye-AF) and an AF-MF switch.
The outer casing seems to be made from a high quality polycarbonate and all markings are engraved and filled with paint.
The hood also features higher than usual build quality with felt on the inside to counteract stray light. Furthermore there is also a button which you have to press to remove the hood, which is usually only found on higher grade tele lenses.
The rubber front bumper seen on the FE 85mm 1.4 GM or the FE 35mm 1.4 ZA is missing here though.
All in all I am quite happy with the build quality of this lens, only the absence of a distance scale bothers me quite a bit.
Nevertheless I highly value many of the design choices Sony made with the GM series (programmable button, aperture ring with actual aperture values instead of that “control ring” on the Eos R series).
From the picture above you can see the 24mm is significantly smaller in every dimension compared to the 85mm.
This aperture series was shot with Janniks A7III (24MP). The lens is showing already excellent center and midframe resolution wide open. The corners are already good wide open and improve slightly until f/5.6. The corner sharpness never reaches the midframe quality, the MTF diagraph indicates some astigmatism. The corner sharpness starts to decrease at f/8 and even more at f/11. This could be diffraction due to vignetting. In the center, vignetting becomes visible at f/11.
We have made different observations regarding field curvature. Janniks lens seems to have very flat field on his A7III but Bastians lens shows some field curvature on his A7RII.
These are 100% crops at f1.4 of the lower right corner of Janniks lens. The left side shows the corner sharpness with the lens focused on the center, the right side was focused directly on the corner. The differences are very low as is the field curvature.
At the minimum focusing distance (0.25m), the central and midframe sharpness is already very good wide open. There are slight improvements in contrast and edge acuity until f/2.8 where the center doesn’t improve any further. Even the extreme corners are very good at this aperture, quite unusual for a wide angle non-macro lens.
I took the lens though a very tough challenge today and learned a bit about the flare behavior. In general, flare seems to be controllable but provokable. I will show you a few images that contain possible lens flares. In the sample image section there is an image from exactely the same situation without flare. Please keep in mind that this is a very extreme test, most of the images will show much less flare.
1) Sun close to the center
This shot shows a ray that is containing different ghostings from the lens elements. It was possible to move that ray around the frame as long as the sun was close to the center. I guess this is the type of ghosting that videographers like (landscapers not).
2) Sun in the midframe:
There were different artifacts visible with the sun in the midframe:
There can also be some green veiling flare although it is quite rare.
3) Sun just outside of the frame
If the sun is just outside of the frame and the lens hood is not used, this obstrusive rainbow-coloured ghosting can appear:
4) Wide open flare
Usually, flares are most obstrusive stopped down. However, this ghosting flare only appears wide open at the edge of the frame and can be quite annoying:
The Sony FE 1.4/24 GM won’t set new standards when it comes to flare resistance, that is for sure. Lenses like the 21mm 2.8 Loxia are in a different class in this aspect. On the other hand, flare resistance is still better than many other wide angle prime and zoom lenses. We will continue to look at that aspect until we make a final judgement. A night light scenario will follow too.
We have some sun in the frame images taken on David’s A7riii. Starting with sun in the upper centre:
And here are three apertures with the sun in the corner
In all of these images (which have substantial exposure and shadow lifting in post) there is very little flare despite the unveiled sun. There is a little artefact in the opposite corner in the corner case, and vertically opposite in the upper centre case. This is actually extremely good performance for a fast wide lens. I think we all agree that there has been some hasty negative hype about the flare performance of this lens, based on crops taken in extreme conditions and massively lifted. One such crop is by the internet pundit so many love to hate: Ken Rockwell. But Rockwell knows a thing or two, and when he took and image of the sun between trees in a dark forest, and raised in many many stops of shadow and exposure boosting, he said – rightly – that this was good performance. But some folks saw the crops, didn’t understand the conditions they were taken in, and concluded that the flare performance was poor.
The GM 1.4/24 shows some coma wide open which is well controlled after stopping down just one stop. Furthermore, there is some purple fringing around bright stars. This can be handled by the manual CA correction of Lightroom. I think the performance is very good for a wide angle lens of that speed. I wouldn’t hesitate from using it wide open.
Most wide angle lenses show barrel distortion, but this lens shows a mild pincushion distortion, which will be invisible in most images except of architecture.
Correction profiles are available. The distortion can be corrected easily with a value of -3 in Lightroom.
The Sony FE 1.4/24 GM exhibits a high amount of vignetting wide open. It starts with 2.8 EV at f/1.4 and decreases quite rapidly until f/2.8. From that point, it decreases only slowly and doesn’t get less than 1.7 EV (reached at f/8).
These figures look high, but the mirrorless wide angle prime competition is about the same. The Loxia 2.8/21 and the Sony FE 2/28 have more than 3EV vignetting wide open.
The Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM had very low mechanical vignetting compared to the competition and I was hoping the FE 24mm 1.4 GM will be the same.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.
Already wide open the GM shows only very moderate mechanical vignetting. Because of the wide field of view the light circle when placed in the corner appears slightly bigger compared to the center. Interestingly this makes the light circles at f/1.4 look like they have pretty much the same size across the whole frame which I think gives a very natural rendition.
This comparison was done at 0.3 m focus distance, you may get slightly different results at other distances.
The 24mm 1.4 lenses that I tried so far (Nikon and Sigma Art) struggle quite a bit with double edged structures towards the corners, so I was looking for some foliage and taking pictures at different focus distances. First we have a look at the whole images:
And now we have a look at 100% crops from the upper right corner:
At about 1.0 m focus distance the transition zone overlaps with the background. This is where most fast wide angle lenses struggle and the GM holds up pretty well. Of all the 24mm f/1.4 lenses this looks like the smoothest bokeh rendering to me.
What really surprised me about the FE 85mm 1.4 GM is the lack of spherical aberration in the focal plane but the significant amount behind the focal plane which is what makes the bokeh looks so smooth. In this crop we can see that this is also true for the 24mm lens (slight glow on the red/white signs):
To me this is seriously good news, as the bokeh of the FE 85mm 1.4 GM was unlike (better than) anything I have seen before. Now I am pretty confident this is actually part of Sony’s design criteria, so that rumored GM 135mm lens will probably have amazing bokeh rendering as well.
The Sony 1.4/24 GM features XA (Extreme Aspherical) elements that should provide the advantages of aspherical elements without affecting the bokeh in terms of onion rings. We have seen, that this works very well with the Sony FE 1.4/85 GM, so we had high hopes for this lens. I had a very close look at the bokeh and I couldn’t spot onion ring patterns. Around the close focusing distance in front of the focal plane and in the harshest light, there is some minor outlining but nothing that matters.
I found some traces of onion rings in this scene. I took more than two thousand images with the lens so far, this was the only scene where it was visible. The distance was a typical half body portrait. Usually onion rings are not an issue at all.
Lateral chromatic aberrations are not an issue in practice. They are corrected by default in any RAW-Editor which can not be turned off.
However, if the cameras JPEG lens corrections are all turned off, LaCA becomes visible in the corners at mid-distance, less so with subjects that are far away. This is the most extreme sample that I found yet.
The lens can exhibit some green/purple longitudinal chromatic aberrations under demanding circumstances. This is comparable to our fountain test which is the most demanding scenario. The LoCA are mostly gone by f/2.8.
The level of LoCA was mostly very low, even when I expected to see much of it. It seems to depend on the light if LoCA will occur or not:
In this focal length range we already have the Zeiss Batis 25mm 2.0, the Zeiss Loxia 25mm 2.4 and the “native” Sigma Art 24mm 1.4.
The two Zeiss lenses spot a similar price and while I see that the Loxia still appeals to the MF enthusiast, I am not so sure in the future many will pick the Batis over the GM, as the GM is only 100g heavier, yet a full stop faster and equipped with more controls.
The Sigma will be a good budget option, for those that care less about size and weight.
Comparison with the Batis 25mm
One of us (David) had the Batis 25mm for some time (I reviewed it here). Unfortunately it had to be sold to fund the GM 24mm, so direct comparisons are not possible. But having used it extensively since it came out, and having shot the GM for a week for my contribution to this team review, I can say a few words which might be of interest to someone trying to decide.
When I first used the GM I would not have known it was a little larger and heavier than the Batis if I hadn’t looked at the specs. This is remarkable, a full stop faster and yet a very similar form factor. The GM is as sharp wide open as the Batis is stopped down a little; so the GM at f1.4 is sharper than Batis at f2. And the bokeh of the GM is much nicer both wide open and f2 than the Batis, and perhaps a touch better at other apertures.
I have seen online complaints about flare and CA on the GM: but again both are considerably better, in my experience than the Batis! There were complaints about some images of the GM taken with the sun showing though a dark forest, but they were nowhere near as severe as this Batis image:
This is not really to comply about the Batis; it’s a torture test to have a ver dark forest with the sun shinning through, and then lift the shadows. But the GM handles itself much better in these situations.
In my general flare tests which will be added to this article soon, the GM acquits itself really well: outstanding for a fast wide.
So where does this leave us with respect to Batis? Well, if you are looking for a fast 24 to complement your fast zoom lens, or perhaps your Loxia 25, the Batis does not make sense. It doesn’t have enough speed advantage over an f2.8 zoom or the Loxia, and it isn’t as good as the Loxia and has only a modest IQ advantage over the zooms (though some).
Bur on the other hand if you are putting together an AF prime set, the Batis remains an excellent choice at the low used prices you can now get. It is superb from f2.8 and it’s f2 performance, while eclipsed by the GM, is good by the standards of previous f2 wides. The GM is the better lens for the first few stops and is worth the extra outlay if you can afford it, but the Batis is very fine. The Batis might also still make sense if you use a slower f4 zoom, and are looking for a more affordable but still high quality fast 24 to complement it.
All authors of our blog appreciate the performance of the Sony GM 85mm 1.4. When Sony announced the GM 24mm 1.4 we were happy, but were also debating whether the Sony lens designers actually know what they got right with the GM 85mm 1.4. The most important things we like about the 85mm is its gorgeously smooth bokeh rendering including best in class (meaning lowest) mechanical vignetting and the great build quality with eye-AF button and aperture ring and linear manual focus.
After spending many months with the Sony 1.4/24 GM we can tell you that they indeed got all this right again.
Furthermore, this lens is the ultimate jack of all trades when it comes to wide angle lenses. It is quite small, light, has all the comfort of a high-end lens, great build quality, decent landscape and astro performance and is also excelling in portrait, wedding and documentational photography. This is the best lens if you shoot many different subjects or want to own just one wide angle lens.
Bastian has been a long time user of the Nikon AF-S 24mm 1.4G back when he was shooting Nikon DSLRs. He appreciated the benefits of the speed and focal length especially in these scenarios:
- Astrophotography (if Coma correction is really good)
- Environmental portraits (watch the distance to the subject)
If you are in the market for a 24mm f/1.4 lens this really seems to be one of the lenses showcasing the benefit of a narrow flange focal distance, offering a real benefit over the comparable DSLR lenses. Actually this is the first 1.4/24 that I can recommend to a broader range of people (not only for speed junkies), mostly because of its moderate size and speed and its well rounded optical performance.
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More Sample Images
- Photokina Recap Part 1: Viltrox E-mount lenses
- Review: Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95
- Review: Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM
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