The first new Sony FE Lens of 2020! Here's the 20mm f/1.8. Not an ultra wide prime, but a nice little fast wide angle that could be great for a number of uses. Sony asked me to try this lens out for a few days. One week in between 2 trips and during the moving of my house, my first response was : “sure!” . The bad weather in the Netherlands certainly didn’t help much, but I managed to test the lens in a variety of conditions. In this little article I’ll be addressing my first responses after having tried this lens for a few days.
First things first: It’s tiny! And light! It’s great to see Sony really pushing the size of mirrorless for what it was meant: smaller and lighter. This lens follows the design of the 24mm GM, and is surprisingly no GM lens, but merely a G. We might also see this reflect on the price tag :) (I don’t know the retail price yet). Being a G lens, this lens still looks quite identical to the 24mm GM lens. It has a similar design, has a dedicated ring for the Aperture (nice for video), has a dedicated AF/MF switch and is small and tiny like the 24mm.
Left (Sony A7III with the 20mm f/1.8), Right (Sony ARIII, 24 1.4 GM). The 20 1.8 is a little bit smaller than the 24 1.4 GM which is already very small.
The front is 67mm, which is again the same as the 24mm GM lens. Useful if you’re using ND filters so you don’t have to switch to different step-up rings.
The size and weight of the Sony A7 bodies combined with this lens is great. It’s a nice small package that can also be used greatly on for example a gimbal. Videographers and vloggers are going to love this lens. Not only because its compact form factor. It also has a beautiful bokeh. Something we’re used to from mainly the GM lenses of Sony. And it has quite a close focus distance, making it possible so shoot beautiful close ups with a very soft background. More on that later. Here are some images of the form factor of the A7III combined with the 20mm f/1.8:
A video setup with the rhode video mic mounted on top.
Characteristics & Performance
For the few days I got to use this lens I brought it into my city: Amsterdam, shot some landscapes around a near lighthouse, photographed some architecture and also did a lot of close ups. Unfortunately I didn’t get to test the lens on some star photography. I didn’t get any clear skies in the Netherlands during the days I had the lens.
Some of my observations:
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/11, 2 seconds, ISO 100, Tripod
As you can see I tested this lens mainly on my A7RIV. Even though this being a G lens, it performs excellent on the A7RIV with nice sharpness across the entire frame when we’re working on ideal apertures. On above example shot at f/11, the sharpness across the entire can be considered great.
Center crop of the frame, where we can read a lot of titles from the magazines :)
Crop of the (left) edge of the frame
Top left of the frame
When opened up the lens some vignetting occurred, and especially on the edges sharpness became less. But the center sharpness stayed impressive even wide open at f/1.8:
Center crop at f/1.8. Its a tiny bit softer than f/11 but it’s hard to notice the difference.
The top left of the frame definitely loses sharpness but its not extreme. (notice it’s a bit darker as the f/11 crop because of the vignetting at f/1.8, no lens profile available yet).
Keep in mind though, that these crops are from the demanding 61 megapixel A7RIV. The overall results are nice.
Sure, the lens is nice, but what about the library? Pretty cool architecture there right? Here are some more images of this impressive library:
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/8, 1/15s, ISO 800, Hand held
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/5.6, 1/15s, ISO 400, Hand held
And like I mentioned earlier, the bokeh is impressive for a lens like this. As you can get quite close to your subject you can create some very soft images with beautiful background blur. Some examples of this in the library:
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/1.8, 1/60s, ISO 400, Hand held.
Notice the nice ‘bokeh balls’ in the background from the lights and reflections.
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/1.8, 1/100s, ISO 100, Hand held.
Playing a bit more with the lights in the background. This shot was done with the minimum focus distance of the lens.
Now like I said, I’ve seen a lot of rain when testing this lens but that did not hold me from going outside. To stay in the ‘bokeh’ atmosphere I took some close ups of bikes in the rain. I really enjoyed playing with the depth of field of this lens.
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/1.8, 3.2s, ISO 100, Tripod
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/1.8, 2.5s, ISO 100, Tripod.
The center sharpness with the beautiful soft background blur wide open is - I think - what Sony markets this lens with. And as you can see, it does deliver. Check the center crop of the raindrops:
Crop of center sharpness of previous image
This lens has some great character to it and is a joy to use in creative ways. Some more examples of the close focus distance and beautiful bokeh:
In the Dark
This lens is fast so besides using it wide open to create beautiful bokeh shots it’s also aimed at photographing in few light. As can be seen earlier I took the lens out to Amsterdam during the rainy evenings. I was doing a both handheld shots as shots on the tripod trying out different apertures. Shooting mostly wide open hand held, obviously. During this, the autofocus performed snappy and fast. AF is also completely silent, a plus for video.
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/1.8, 1/160s, ISO 1250, Hand held
Hand held night shooting works really well with this lens.
And I hear you think: Can you actually take portraits with this lens? Well you can! And the results are nice as the bokeh is beautiful and the separation between sharp and blur is perfect. Here’s a ‘portrait’ of my girlfriend standing under a streetlight in the evening:
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/1.8, 1/50s, ISO 3200, Hand held
And here are a bunch of tripod shots from the evening I shot:
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/11, 25s, ISO 100, Tripod
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/1.8, 1/3s, ISO 200, Tripod
Exactly the same shot, but using wide open aperture and a faster shutter speed.
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/14, 30s, ISO 200, Tripod
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/7.1, 30s, ISO 200, Tripod
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/11, 30s, ISO 100, Tripod
The light streaks are from a tourist boat going by during the 30 seconds exposure.
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/13, 30s, ISO 100, Tripod
More light streaks of cars and trams.
Now when you see most of these shots and look closely you can see stars appearing at some of the lights. This is a nice characteristic of this lens: it creates very nice looking stars even at ‘normal’ apertures of around f/8 (you don’t need to stop it down all the way to f/14 or more). Here’s another example:
Look at these nice little stars appearing around the lights on the bottom right. This was shot at f/8 (15 seconds exposure on a tripod).
But the lens not only has nice stars during the night. The so called ‘sunstar’ is also a nice feature of this lens. And again, you don’t have to stop down too much to get it.
Here’s a shot shot at f/11 when the sun is touching the edge of the houses and tree line, causing this nicely defined sunstar. Note that this shot was done with bracketed exposures (bright and dark) to capture the entire dynamic range of the image.
I also shot a few seascapes near the city. Obviously this lens is great for both landscapes and cityscapes:
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G, f/11, 20s, ISO 100, Tripod
Sony A7RIV, Sony 20mm f/1.8 G,f/11, 185s, ISO 50, Tripod
A long exposure (more than 3 minutes) with a 10 stop ND filter
LAST MINUTE UPDATE: ASTRO
I managed to try the lens on some stars in Iceland and found out that the lens performs well wide open. It’s not perfect in the corners but very acceptable for wide open use. And this is on the A7RIV:
Here’s a super simple aurora image widen open at f/1.8, ISO 1600. Let’s take a look at the corners and centre:
Centre crop: Stars in the center are pin point sharp. Impressive sharpness for the wide open aperture.
Top left: we can see a tiny little bit of deforming on the stars but overall very impressive!
So there you have it, a new fast Sony wide angle prime. This was a hands on review of just using the lens for only a few days.
To summarise this article:
Very compact, tiny and light.
Very similar to the Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM
67mm filter size (same as the 24mm)
Despite being very similar to the 24mm GM, this 20mm f/1.8 is not a GM, but ‘just’ a G.
Great for video and vlogging
Performs well on the A7RIV
Sharpness across the frame is great on stopped down apertures
Edge sharpness suffers a bit on faster apertures (tested on the A7RIV)
Wide open f/1.8 center sharpness is impressive
Good for astrophotography with little coma and chromatic aberrations .
Beautiful soft bokeh
Close focus distance, you can get some beautiful creative results by using it wide open and playing with depth of field.
Nice sunstar and stars around lights at night.
Sony is slowing making their way to the prime I want: A fast ultra wide angle lens. They released the 24mm f/1.4 which is an amazing little piece, and now come with the new 20mm f/1.8. Let’s hope for an even wider lens next :)
Hope you enjoyed this Hands-on article. Feel free to ask anything on here!