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Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G review

The Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G is the widest Sony-made zoom lens for the Sony A7 and A9 series cameras, but what is it like?

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G
(Image: © Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

It might not be one of Sony's G Master lenses, but the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G is a high-performance lens that enables extreme wide-angle shooting, adding fresh potential to Sony’s full-frame E-mount cameras. It's also cheaper than the 16-35mm G Master.

Pros

  • +

    Very good center sharpness

  • +

    Ultra-wide angle of view

Cons

  • -

    Corner sharpness not as good

  • -

    Lens hood prevents filters

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The Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G filled a gap in the Sony lens range while the company was still ramping up the lens range for its full frame mirrorless cameras. Even now, it's the widest Sony-branded lens you can get for the FE mount. 

To a degree, it's overshadowed by the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master lens launched at the same time, which has a faster maximum aperture and more obvious pro credentials, which is why it is in our guide to the best Sony lenses (opens in new tab) – but the 12-24mm remains both wider and cheaper than its pro stablemate.

Key features

As a G-series lens, the Sony doesn’t gain the top-flight G Master designation of the new 16-35mm (opposite) but still has an impressive set of features. The optical path includes four aspherical and three ED (Extra- low Dispersion) elements, plus a Super ED element, along with Nano AR coatings. The plan is to maximise corner-to-corner sharpness, while minimising chromatic aberrations, ghosting and flare.

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
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Specifications

Full-frame compatible: Yes
Effective focal length: 12-24mm (18-36mm APS-C)
Image stabiliser: No
Minimum focus distance: 0.28m
Max magnification factor: 0.14x
Manual focus override: Yes
Focus hold switch: Yes
Internal zoom/focus: No/ Yes
Filter size: None
Iris blades: 7
Weather seals: No
Supplied accessories: Pouch
Dimensions (dia x length): 87 x 117mm
Weight: 565g

Build and handling

Autofocus is based on Sony’s DDSM (Direct Drive Super Sonic Motor) system, which is practically silent and well suited to both stills and movie capture. The fly-by-wire manual focus ring operates smoothly and with excellent precision.

The zoom mechanism isn’t fully internal, but the extending inner barrel remains within the confines of the outer barrel, so the overall physical length remains the same at all zoom settings.

Like many ultra-wide zooms, the petal- shaped hood is permanently fixed, precluding the easy attachment of filters, which could be a nuisance for landscape photographers, but while the metal mounting plate doesn’t have a weather-seal ring,  the lens is classed as being ‘dust and moisture resistant’. Usefully, the button just above the AF/MF switch is customisable – its default function is for focus hold.

Performance

Even at the widest aperture of f/4, vignetting isn’t too obvious, while the drop in corner-sharpness is significant but acceptable at both ends of the zoom range, and negligible at mid-zoom settings. When you hit f/5.6, sharpness is excellent across the frame. Autofocus is speedy and highly accurate, and the lens is very resistant to ghosting and flare.

Lab tests

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
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(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
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Sharpness across the central region of the frame is pretty epic, and remains pretty good even in the extreme corners. Wide-angle zooms often struggle to produce any kind of sharpness at the corners of the frame, and our test charts are shot at a distance that does not necessarily show them at their best.

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
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Moderate color fringing at 12mm quickly drops at mid-to-long zoom settings. We tested this lens without optical corrections applied, but these are available in-camera with most raw processing software by default, so real-world results are likely to be better than the figures suggest.

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
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There is some barrel distortion at 12mm but this quickly swaps to pincushion distortion at 16mm and beyond. Note the remarks above about optical corrections.

Verdict

It might not be one of Sony's G Master lenses, but the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G is a high-performance lens that enables extreme wide-angle shooting, adding fresh potential to Sony’s full-frame E-mount cameras. It's also considerably cheaper than the 16-35mm G Master.

Optically, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G is really rather good, given its extreme angles of view. The downside to its focal range is that you can't fit conventional filter holders to the front, which will dampen its appeal a little for landscape photographers.

Read more:

• These are the best Sony lenses (opens in new tab) today
• The best wide-angle lenses (opens in new tab) right now
• The best Sony cameras (opens in new tab) to buy

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Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 


His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 


In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.