A Week with the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens

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My time with the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G lens was split between the streets of Manhattan and the tracks of Monticello Motor Club. Shooting among such diverse surroundings allowed me to test Sony’s widest E-mount zoom under a variety of conditions. To learn more about Monticello (as well as Sony’s new, FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens), check out Todd Vorenkamp’s article. All of the photographs in this article were made using a Sony Alpha a7R II and are uncropped unless otherwise noted.

Todd Vorenkamp

My first reaction to Sony’s new addition to the G series was surprise at how light it felt in my hands. The last 12-24mm f/4 with which I had shot was Sigma’s heavyweight Art lens, which made this 1.24 lb (565g) lens feel like a feather. The rest of its physical exam was less surprising. It is constructed of durable plastic, and the movement of the zoom and focusing rings is smooth. Its lens hood is permanently attached, mixing the convenience of never misplacing it with the inconvenience of not being able to attach a threaded filter to its front.

24mm; 1/80 sec; f/22

Autofocusing with Sony’s Direct Drive SSM was quick and reliable, despite the challenges presented by the fast-moving cars at Monticello. Freezing my subjects in place required shutter speeds between 1/2500 and 1/8000 sec. Keeping pace with focusing was never a problem.

12mm; 1/8000 sec; f/7.1
12mm; 1/20 sec; f/22

The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 11.02" (28 cm). This allowed me to get close enough to the cars at Monticello to make their owners nervous while creating dramatic portraits of my curvy subjects. The clarity of the lens was especially impressive when shooting open at f/4.

24mm; 1/1600 sec; f/4
24mm; 1/640 sec; f/4 (cropped).

Sharpness was fairly consistent across the frame, despite the inevitable distortion that comes with shooting through such a wide lens.

12mm; 1/8000 sec; f/7.1

On the streets of New York, the autofocus performed quietly and smoothly. The wide range of the lens allowed me to squeeze a considerable amount of space into the frame when shooting on cramped sidewalks. The tradeoff for this convenience was perspective distortion, especially pronounced when my model was human.

24mm; 1/60 sec; f/11Cory Rice

Working with a lens this wide outdoors requires an awareness of the sun and its effect on your images. The built-on hood of the lens is complemented by a nano anti-reflective coating to help prevent distortion from powerful light sources. Nevertheless, I found flare and ghosting to be recurring annoyances any time that the lens was pointed anywhere near the sun. This was expected, but could be improved.

12mm; 1/80 sec; f/22
1/160 sec; f/18

Overall, the FE 12-24mm f/4 G makes for a convenient zoom for photographers looking for a sharp, light, wide lens to complete their Sony collection.

5 Comments

Couldn't see much distortion in that women, but I would have liked to see the wicked IOS ratings to go with the racing car speeds.

Where  does the term "durable plastic" comes from? Is the author an expert in plastics? Or just copying advertising hype?

Hi Traveler, 

I'm not a fan of plastic lens constructions to begin with-- many feel like they stand no chance if you ding them against a rock or drop them even a short distance. Because I'm clumsy, I actually have dropped other G and GM lenses and, maybe because I am lucky, suffered no consequences other than bruised lens hoods. The 12-24 has a similar build to the other lenses. However, the lens was a loaner so I didn't give it a drop test and I'm not a plastics engineer. I hope this clarifies

If it's a professional grade lens and aimed at heavy use, I actually prefer Sony's composite material over a metal shell. Almost all of my Zeiss lenses end up with paint wear and tiny chips in hood or focusing ring. Composite is much more forgiving and resistant to wear I've found. 

Great Read. I don't really care too much for cars, but you shuld have included more photos of people. That woman featured sure is a tall drink of water. 

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