About 1 month after writing this 'first impressions' Review I am back with an update. As mentioned in this article I brought the lens to Iceland (during tours I am doing for Iceland Photo Tours and also spent some time with my girlfriend) for 3 weeks for further testing. This review is now updated with lots of new image material and a couple of new findings especially regarding astrophotography. Please scroll down for the new material.
I had the please of trying out the brand new Sony 24mm f/1.4 G-Master lens before it was announced today. I spent the last few days in Sicily (actually only 1 ‘real’ day) with Sony Europe and we had some time to try out the lens. First things first: as most of you know I am a Sony Ambassador of Imaging so you might think I am biased when reviewing Sony products. I am always honest in my reviews and will point out flaws regardless of brands I am representing. Apart from Sony, most of the people on this trip were press. I was one of the very few ambassadors on this event that got to try out the lens. I am now sitting at the airport writing this article, but I can only release it tomorrow (when you read this) when my NDA ends.
There were a lot of rumors going around about Sony announcing a bunch of new stuff within this event. It was almost certain that they would announce the 24mm which they did, but there were also a lot of other ‘hopes’ like the 135mm GM and maybe a new body. Unfortunately, Sony didn’t announce any of that during this event. Who knows if they will do another announcement during Photokina, but I don’t know anything about that. For now, it’s ‘just’ the 24mm. But the 24mm 1.4 is not just another 24mm. It completes the Sony Native e-mount line up with now 30 lenses! That’s quite something if you consider that the competition is just starting on mirrorless.
NOTE: For higher resolution shots, please scroll to the bottom of this article where I included a gallery.
When I first saw the 24mm and was holding it in my hands there were immediately some things that stood out. The small form factor and most importantly: the very light weight of the lens. The lens has a very modern sleek design with some key functions right at your disposal. It doesn’t have a lot of buttons like some of the big GM lenses, but instead a very minimal modern design. The package of the 24mm and my Sony A7RIII felt and looks great.
Top view of the Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM mounted on the Sony A7RIII
So about the weight. This lens weighs just 445 gram. That’s not just lightweight, it’s extremely light weight if you compare it to its competition. A small comparison:
24mm f1.4 Samyang : 665g
24mm f1.4 Nikon: 650g
24mm f1.4 Canon USM II: 650g
So with it’s 445g, the Sony lens is almost 50% lighter than the competition! Sony is really pushing the lightweight advantage of the mirrorless system here, which is great for people like me who are traveling a lot with their gear.
When we look at the rest of the lens we see some interesting features:
A dedicated wheel for the aperture. Aperture goes from f/1.4 to f/16. After F16 comes ‘A’. When you put the lens to A the aperture is controlled by the body. When you use the wheel on the lens itself it will override the aperture setting from the body.
A switch to change the aperture ring to steps or step-less. As usual, Sony thinks about the videographers out there that can greatly benefit from smooth step-less aperture change.
A decently sized lens hood is included. When we remove this we see a 67mm filter thread. As expected this lens takes 100mm filters (or 67 screw ins of course)
The focus ring is nice and smooth. It’s not too smooth and offers enough resistance to keep it in place. It turns infinite, as we see in every other GM lens.
switch on the 24mm GM lens to set the aperture to clicks or smooth.
Sony arranged some shooting locations and models for us to try the lens on. I actually didn’t expect to try the lens for a long amount of time but it was quite a nice morning with enough time to get a good first impression of the lens. With an early wake up of around 5:30 we went out to shoot the sunrise. The session went on till about 11 AM so we had about 5 hours of shooting some landscapes, cityscapes, macro and portraits. Multiple locations that were all different made it possible for me to take my time and take a bunch of shots.
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24GM, f/8, 1/25s, ISO 200, Hand held
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24GM, f/8, 1/40s, ISO 100
We spent the sunrise close to the hotel in the harbor of Catania, Sicily. There were some nice sea views there and we had a colorful sunrise. I tried some landscapes and portraits here (although I am not a portrait photographer ;) ) I didn’t bring my tripod so all of the shots in this article were made hand held. As expected, the corner to corner sharpness of this lens is great. It performs well over the entire aperture range.
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, widen open f1.4, 1/1250s, ISO100
Obviously, you would want to use this lens at its 1.4 aperture. It does not disappoint here. With Sony’s G-Master brand they always promote extreme resolution and sharpness combines with a beautiful Bokeh. As you can see in above image it looks great.
100% crop of the face. The sharpness here wide open at f/1.4 is quite incredible.
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, widen open f1.4, 1/1250s, ISO100
From a bit further away the subject still pops from the background with great sharpness on the subject and a smooth out of focus backdrop. The autofocus was fast and snappy here and the use of the facial recognition with Eye-AF is really useful when using a lens with such a small depth of field. It is worth noting that this lens obviously has some vignetting at f/1.4. The upcoming lens profile will fix this, but at the time of writing this lens profile isn’t out yet.
The close focus distance of the lens is quite close making it possible to do some macro shots. I spent some time to do some macro shots wide open. These were all shots at minimum focus distance:
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, widen open f1.4, 1/400s, ISO100
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, widen open f1.4, 1/640s, ISO100
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, widen open f1.4, 1/500s, ISO100
In the last photo you can see the sun in the background. Because of its 11 aperture blades this lens has some nice ‘bokeh balls’ that are smooth and round.
After our first harbor location we went for a little drive up to a little beautiful Italian village named Castelmola. I love shooting these cute little streets in these villages so I was in my element here. Because we were there so early in the morning the village was basically empty and it was a pleasure to walk around, enjoy the atmosphere and take some photos. Here are some shots from the streets of Castelmola. Again, they were all shot hand held:
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, f/8, 1/60s, ISO200
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, f/8, 1/80s, ISO200
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, f/8, 1/250s, ISO200
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, f/9, 1/80s, ISO100
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, f/9, 1/60s, ISO200
Some 100% crops from the above image:
100% Center crop. You can see all the little details and cracks in the wall.
100% Crop top right corner. again, very good corner sharpness.
If you read some of my reviews before you know I love cats. And there were a lot of them in this cute little village so I just had to take some shots. Not only do they add some cuteness to this article, they also have a functional aspect as demonstrate the nice bokeh from this lens. For more front/back bokeh blur and creative effects, check the update below:
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, widen open f1.4, 1/1600s, ISO200
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, widen open f1.4, 1/1250s, ISO200
Another great thing about this lens is the sunstar. With the 11-aperture blades the lens creates a beautiful star at closed down apertures. For more examples, check the update below.
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm, closed down at f/16, 1/400s, ISO200. Demonstration of the sunstar.
After spending a few hours on the road with this lens I can say the following:
This lens is great for a wide variety of shooting styles. It shoots beautiful portraits with great sharpness and it really pops your subject at f/1.4 with a beautiful background blur. It’s also perfect for street photography. Along with its great image quality it’s also very portable and light weight. The A7RIII with the 24mm package feels great to carry around in the city. Last, this lens should also be great for astrophotography and low light video.
Unfortunately, there was no time to test the lens for astrophotography. As a landscape photographer this lens is particularly interesting for me for night scapes. However, it was great to see Sony addressed this very topic in their press conference and in the specifications of this lens. They paid great attention to the sagittal flare. They showed some images of milky way shots with this lens and they focused particularly on the corners. Lots of very fast lenses produce a lot of distortion and aberrations in the corners, making the stars not nice in the corners.. Sony focused on this in their press conference and showed some impressive corners result wide open at f/1.4 with great corner sharpness of stars. This looked promising. As I haven’t tested this myself I can’t comment much more on this, but I will hope to do this soon when I get my hands on the lens to try it longer.
Image taken from Sony's website
I have now used the lens for another month and have also tested it regarding astrophotography. I can say that Sony lived up to their 'promise' and delivered a lens that is great for shooting the stars with very few aberrations and coma wide open at f/1.4. I have tested the lens wide open all shooting auroras in Iceland. The great thing about the f/1.4 aperture is that you can use very short shutter speeds to capture all the detail in the aurora. It also allowed me to capture erupting geysers at night with a short shutter speed and the aurora because of the short shutter speed. Another nice thing is that it autofocuses on the stars. This worked both with my A7RIII and A7III.
Fast lenses almost often have aberrations in the corners wide open. For a wide variety of aberrations please check the Lonely Speck guide to lens aberrations.
Here are some examples:
Another shot of the erupting geyser with the aurora. Same settings as the above shot.
Here's a crop of a top right corner crop:
As you can see there are some very slight aberrations here, but it only happens very close to the edge at a minimum. When we compare this to other lenses we could conclude that this is next to nothing and that this lens performs great for shooting stars and auroras.
Here's a center crop of the same image. We can see there is some chromatic aberration around some stars, but again its very low considering we are using the lens wide open. And the sharpness is great in both the corners and center.
Some other examples:
f/1.4, 2s, ISO 1600
f/1.4 (focus stacked), 4s, ISO 2000
f/1.4, 4s, ISO 1000
Spending some time in Iceland I also took a bunch of other images to show the properties of this lens. Here are some more examples of how it performs shooting into the sun. Like I mentioned in earlier in this article already: the lens has a nice sunstar when stopped down:
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm GM, f/9, 1/200s, ISO 100
Sony A7RIII, Sony 24mm GM, f/14, 1/125s, ISO 100