Optically speaking, the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM is a very strong lens with hardly any weak points. I’ll go through this lens’s different optical qualities individually below.
Focus Speed and Performance
The Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM focuses better than any other wide-angle lens that I’ve used on Sony. The f/1.4 maximum aperture is partly to thank for this, since it allows the lens to keep autofocusing even in near-black conditions.
But the biggest autofocus feature on Sony’s 24mm f/1.4 GM is the Direct Drive supersonic motor. This high-torque motor fixes a long-standing issue with 24mm f/1.4 lenses, which is that they are often slow to focus, especially at f/1.4. The 24mm f/1.4 GM focuses extremely fast. The motor is also essentially silent. You can safely use an on-camera shotgun mic with the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM if filming a video – it won’t pick up any noise at all.
As for the lens’s close-focusing capabilities, the minimum focusing distance of the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM is 24 cm / 9.5 inches, offering a maximum magnification of 0.17× (1:5.9). This isn’t anything special, but you can still get some reasonable close-up photos of larger flowers or leaves. Combined with the f/1.4 maximum aperture, the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM is capable of strongly out-of-focus backgrounds despite the wide focal length.
Finally, the lens has a moderate amount of focus breathing, where the image changes size as you focus from near to far distance. You may want to enable your camera’s focus breathing compensation if filming with the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM. Even so, thanks to the silent focusing and bright maximum aperture, the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM is my top choice among Sony’s lenses for filming anything at 24mm.
The Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM has negligible levels of distortion with just 0.82% pincushion distortion as measured in our lens testing lab. Compared to most zoom lenses that cover 24mm, this is a much better performance, and it means that you can use the 24mm f/1.4 GM without correcting distortion in post-processing (thus saving you a bit of additional corner sharpness).
Here’s a simulation of 0.82% pincushion distortion on a flat grid:
The curse of 24mm f/1.4 lenses has always been high vignetting. Wide angle focal lengths and large aperture values aren’t a good combination if you want to minimize vignetting, and the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM is no exception. Here’s our graph of vignetting levels as measured in a lab environment:
The maximum of just over 2 stops of vignetting at f/1.4 and infinity focus is certainly high, although again, not surprising given the focal length and aperture in question. This improves significantly by f/2, followed by another slight improvement at f/2.8 and narrower. Although it never quite reaches negligible levels (under 1.0 EV), it gets close enough.
There is a fairly low amount of lateral chromatic aberration on the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM. Here’s the chart:
Anything under about one pixel is almost impossible to notice in real-world images, even with chromatic aberration corrections turned off. Although the FE 24mm f/1.4 GM reaches slightly higher than that at most aperture values, I’m not concerned by this performance at all. Correcting chromatic aberration in post-production is very easy when it’s as minimal as this. Most of the time, you won’t see it on this lens in the first place.
The Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM is a very sharp lens from corner to corner. Here’s how it performs as measured in our lab:
Even the performance at f/1.4 is very solid, but stopping down just to f/2 already puts the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM into high-end territory. In the center, the sharpest aperture occurs in the range from f/2.8 to f/4, while the sharpest aperture in the midframes and corners occurs from f/4 to f/5.6.
Like all lenses, diffraction harms sharpness at narrower apertures like f/16, although I still use those apertures for landscape photography when I need to maximize my depth of field.
As for other sharpness concerns, the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM has no detectable focus shift, which is simply excellent – and somewhat surprising for a wide angle, wide aperture lens. Meanwhile, there is just a bit of wavy field curvature. The levels are not high enough to be a concern, but it does mean that midframe sharpness on a 3D subject may be a bit better than what the test chart above implies.
Related to sharpness is coma, a lens aberration that can make dots of light in the corner of a photo look like smears. Coma is mainly a factor in Milky Way photography or when photographing distant city lights at night. Considering that the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM will be a popular choice for Milky Way photography, I wanted to put its coma performance to the test.
The crops shown in the image below are extreme 1000 × 1500 pixel crops taken directly from the top-left corner of the 63 megapixel Sony a7R V. Default sharpening and noise reduction from Adobe Lightroom were applied. Here’s the original image followed by crops at f/1.4, f/1.8, and f/2.8:
This is great coma performance. Even at f/1.4, there is only a small hint of coma and no major blurring at all. It’s already good enough that I see little reason to stop down to f/1.8 or f/2.8 when photographing the Milky Way, unless you want more depth of field or less vignetting at the expense of using a higher ISO. All things considered, the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM definitely outperformed my expectations here.
Bokeh is another word for the qualities of the background blur in a photo. “Good” bokeh is completely subjective, since different photographers have their own preferences for how the background blur looks. That said, photographers commonly want their background blur to be soft, not distracting. Out-of-focus highlights that are round, uniform, and soft-edged are usually considered favorable.
Although wide-angle lenses are not usually chosen for their bokeh capabilities, the wide maximum aperture of f/1.4 on the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM makes it a good option for wide-angle portraiture or other situations where bokeh may play a role.
Here are some sample images showing the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM’s bokeh under different circumstances:
I find that it looks really nice – round, smooth, and not distracting. There’s just a bit of a cat’s-eye shape in the corners if you go looking for it. I also see a mild amount of longitudinal chromatic aberration (purple and green color fringing in out-of-focus areas). To me, neither issue rises to the level of objectionable.
Sunstars and Flare
As a landscape photographer, I was particularly interested in the sunstar and flare performance of the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM.
The 11-blade rounded aperture diaphragm of the FE 24mm f/1.4 GM concerned me at first, as I thought it would produce weak sunstars (even though such a design tends to produce better bokeh). However, my concerns were unwarranted. While I’ve seen some lenses produce more sharply-defined sunstars than this, the softer 22-bladed sunstars on the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM are a nice, natural, and somewhat unique look that I really like.
The real benefit of the Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM in backlit situations, though, became clear when the bare sun was in the frame – not in sunstar performance, but in flare performance:
Can you believe that? Just a few little dots of flare near the bright, unobstructed suns. With this performance, the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM has among the best flare performance I’ve ever seen in a wide-angle lens. While you can sometimes find a composition and an aperture value that gives you small dots of flare with this lens, as shown below, it’s pretty hard to conjure. Sony’s coatings on the 24mm f/1.4 GM get full marks from me.
On the next page of this review, I’ll compare the sharpness of the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM against that of other lenses you may be considering. So, click the menu below to go to the following page, Lens Comparisons.
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