I’ve just been sent Sony’s two new full-frame FE mount superwide zooms and I took both down to Durdle Door for a try-out with Digital Camera Magazine. The FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM is the premium model, offering a 1-stop aperture advantage over the older Zeiss 16-35mm f/4, but it’s the Sony FE 12-24mm F4 G that really caught my eye. This is the widest rectilinear zoom yet for Sony’s full-frame mirrorless A7 and A9 models and I tried it out with an A7R II.
I love super-wide lenses, and this one let me get right inside a small hollow in the rocks at the end of the beach to frame a rock stack in the sea and the white cliffs beyond – I tried this with the 16-35mm and it just wasn’t quite wide enough.
True, the 12-24mm produces a good deal of barrel distortion at its widest setting, but this only becomes prominent if you’ve got the horizon (or any other straight line) near the top or bottom of the frame. Hopefully Adobe will release a correction profile soon, but in the meantime a manual correction with Lightroom’s Distortion slider works perfectly well. There’s a bit of chromatic aberration at the frame edges but, again, Lightroom and other apps can take this out automatically and it doesn’t need a lens profile for that.
What I love about this lens, apart from how wide it goes, is its size. Sony makes some great lenses for its FE mount cameras, but they’re big and heavy (and we won’t even talk about the cost). This one is different. It’s not small, exactly, but it’s smaller than I was expecting – it’s smaller than the 16-35mm f/2.8, for a start. Given its angle of view, size and its price, I think I’d choose this over the 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master, despite the (probably) better optical quality.
A quick word about the A7R II. I don’t own one, but I use them quite often and I have to say I find them a bit small. Full-frame lenses are typically big and heavy and I generally prefer a big and heavy body to go with them, just for general handling and balance – well, not THAT big and heavy, but full frame DSLR size anyway.
But the A7R II’s image quality just blows me away every time I use one. It’s the colour rendition and the exceptional level of detail that does it for me. I do a good deal of tutting and sighing when I’m using the A7R II, but when I go through the pictures later all that is quickly forgotten. If they didn’t cost so much and if the batteries lasted longer, I might even buy one.