Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM lens review

This is a review of the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM ultra-wide angle lens for full frame Sony cameras. In this review, pro photographer Ian Plant offers his assessment of this remarkable lens, and he asks the question: is this the best ultra-wide zoom ever made?


I recently got my hands on Sony's FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM lens for full frame Sony cameras. I tested it for two weeks while photographing in Badlands National Park of South Dakota.

What this review covers and what it doesn't

I don't have the equipment to perform MTF tests or anything like that. What I will provide in this review is my professional opinion about how this lens performs compared to other lenses I have used. Also, I will discuss how this lens can be used to its fullest advantage. Finally, I will discuss what makes this lens different from other lenses, and how it can expand your artistic opportunities. I'm mostly focused on the creative aspects of using this lens, but I will offer my technical observations to give you a more complete picture.


To learn more, watch the video summarizing my thoughts about the Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 lens.

Financial disclosure

This is a completely independent review without direct compensation from the manufacturer. Affiliate revenue, however, helps support this site. We are committed to 100% transparency regarding financial relationships with equipment providers and brand partners, and we strive at all times to ensure that reviews are independent, honest, and free of bias.


Ultra-wide field of view

This is an ultra-wide angle lens, with an angle of view of 122° at 12mm. That's really wide, but it's not the widest ultra-wide perspective you can find. For example, Canon's excellent 11-24mm f/4 lens is a hair wider, and there are a few specialty third-party lenses that are even wider, such as the Venus Optics Laowa 9mm f/5.6 lens. But, 12mm is pretty close to the widest you can go on a full frame camera with a rectilinear (not a fisheye) lens. Note that although you can use this lens on a crop-sensor camera, it won't be as wide after you apply the crop factor (besides, this lens is designed for full frame, so it is overkill for a crop-sensor camera).


The ultra-wide angle of view offered by the Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 lens is perfect for landscape photography when you want to include a dynamic sky along with a compelling leading foreground.

G Master lens

The Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 lens is one of Sony's "G Master" lenses. The "G" essentially means it is one of Sony's "pro" level lenses. "G Master" means it is one of Sony's very best pro lenses. Simply put, G Master lenses have Sony's most impressive and state-of-the-art technology built into them. You end up paying more, but if quality is important to you, then you can't go wrong with a Sony G Master lens.


Build quality and size

This Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 lens weighs in at 1.86 lbs (847 g). It's a bit smaller and lighter in weight than the Canon 11-24mm lens, but still on the large/heavy side for a wide-angle lens (and it is bigger and heavier than the Sony 12-24mm f/4 lens). The lens also has a "popeye" design with a protruding front element. This makes filter use difficult unless you purchase an expensive and large oversized filter holder. You also have to be extra careful to avoid damaging the front element of the lens, and the protruding design makes it difficult to avoid light hitting the glass which can cause flare (but the lens has great flare resistance, see more below).


This lens is big, but not quite as big and heavy as some other ultra-wide zoom lenses.

Why is this lens so big? Well, a bulging lens design is necessary for high-quality ultra-wide lenses, as you need a lot of extra glass to expand image coverage enough to ensure quality results across the entire image frame even when shooting wide open. That fast f/2.8 aperture exacerbates the problem. How much quality are you getting as a result?


Image quality

I don't need to run an MTF test to know that this lens is SHARP. And yes, this level of sharpness requires all capital letters. This lens is impressive even when used wide-open at f/2.8 from center to the extreme corners, and it just gets better when you stop down. I'd say that sharpness is optimized across the entire image frame by f/8. This lens also controls chromatic aberration extremely well; I saw virtually no evidence of chromatic aberration in any of the photos I made. Honestly, the Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 lens is hands-down the sharpest wide-angle lens I have ever used (and that includes both zooms and primes). From all accounts, it is also sharper than the Sony 12-24mm f/4 lens, which is the less expensive cousin of the f/2.8 lens.


The Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 lens is impressively sharp from center all the way to the extreme edges and corners of the image frame.

Distortion

Since I primarily shoot irregular landscape features, lens distortion isn't typically something I notice in my images, so when I tested the Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 lens, any distortion issues weren't apparent to me. Other reviewers doing controlled objective tests have noted that barrel distortion is very well controlled with this lens.


You'll notice, however, a huge amount of perspective distortion when using this lens, especially at 12mm. An example of perspective distortion is the "leaning in" effect you get with trees or buildings when you are d