Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS lens SEL24105G
If you had to choose just one lens to take with an α7 camera while travelling, this would be the one.
It’s a fine companion to the α7M3 we used for our review and should be as good a fit with any of the other models in the series, as well as the α9.
Announced in late October 2017, the FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS is a versatile standard zoom lens for Sony’s full-frame mirrorless cameras. Extending the range of the FE 12-24mm f/4 G lens announced roughly six months earlier, like that lens it features a constant f/4 maximum aperture and weather-resistant construction. Other shared features include Nano AR coating for flare control and a near-silent internal Direct Drive SSM focusing motor.
Side view of the FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS lens without the supplied lens hood and end caps. (Source: Sony.)
The optical design of this lens is quite complex, involving 17 elements in 14 groups. In the mix are four aspherical elements, two of which are high-precision AA (advanced aspherical) types that minimise distortion while maintaining optimal centre and edge resolution throughout the 24-105mm zoom range.
This diagram shows the positions of the exotic glass elements in the lens design. (Source: Sony.)
Three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements are positioned in the optical path to suppress chromatic aberration and ensure sharpness and natural colour reproduction are maintained. Sony’s proprietary Nano AR Coating has been applied to various elements to suppress spurious reflections that can cause flare and ghosting and the lens’s front element features a fluorine coating that repels dust and grease, making it easy to keep clean.
This lens is supplied with the usual front and end caps plus a petal-shaped lens hood (ALC-SH152) that reverses over the barrel when the lens isn’t being used. There’s no locking button on the hood. A lens case is listed among the components but, since it wasn’t supplied with the review lens, we can’t say what it’s like.
Who’s it For?
While it can be used on Sony’s APS-C cameras, this lens is really designed for the full-frame α7 models and also the flagship α9. We tested it on the recently-released α7M3 body, which is reviewed separately (INSERT LINK).
The ‘G’ nomenclature indicates it’s a step down from the ‘GM’ professional lenses both in performance and price. Interestingly, we found the 24-105mm performed as well as the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens we reviewed in June 2016 (INSERT LINK) while covering a longer range. It’s also smaller, lighter and less than half the price of the 24-70mm lens but a full stop slower.
Twenty-four to 105mm is the ideal standard zoom range, which can be used for shooting subjects as diverse as landscapes, portraits, social events and everyday snapshots. In some circumstances it can also be used for close-ups and architectural shots.
The dust and moisture resistant design make it well suited for outdoor photography, while the quick and quiet autofocusing make it good for shooting video clips. The constant f/4 maximum aperture, compact size and relatively light weight combine with built-in optical stabilisation to make this lens ideal for hand-held shooting, including in low light levels.
Build and Ergonomics
At just 663 grams, the FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS is lighter than Canon’s EF 24-105 f/4L II USM DSLR lens and the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art lens (the only option for Nikon’s full frame cameras). It’s even a few grams lighter than Canon’s original EF 24-105 f/4L lens which has been an essential companion to our EOS 5D cameras.
The lens barrel appears to be made from high-quality polycarbonate plastic with an inner barrel made from metal and a metal filter threading. Build quality is only marginally below the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM (model SEL2470GM) lens we reviewed in June 2016, which is appropriate for a G lens.
The focusing ring is located at the front of the outer barrel. It’s 17 mm wide with the 15 mm at the leading edge clad with a finely-ribbed rubber grip band. Autofocusing is driven by a piezoelectric linear drive SSM (Supersonic-wave Motor) that moves an internal group of elements. It’s well implemented and supports fast autofocusing but doesn’t provide much tactile feedback.
Manual focusing is electronic, with the focus ring only working when the camera is switched on. Users can select it either via the top slider on the lens barrel or set the focus mode to DMF (Direct Manual Focus), either via the camera’s menu or with a programmed Fn button, which will allow instant manual override in the AFS mode.
An almost identical ribbing also covers most of the zoom ring, which begins 18 mm behind the focusing ring. The focus lock button is situated on the left hand side of this section of the outer barrel, just below the ‘G’ branding label.
The zoom ring is roughly 24 mm wide and has a sloping, un-ridged trailing edge that carries indicator marks for the 24mm, 35mm, 50m, 70mm and 105mm focal lengths. These line up against a white mark on the non-moving section of the lens barrel.
The rotary zoom mechanism is turned to the right, extending the barrel by 40 mm when moving from the 24mm to the 105mm position. There’s no zoom lock and none is required since the zoom movement is tight and smooth.
Behind the zoom ring the lens barrel remains straight for 17 mm. The AF/MF slider is located here, with the stabiliser switch below it. These switches are only slightly raised from the lens barrel to minimise the risk they might be inadvertently reset.
The barrel then slopes inwards for the final 15 mm that leads to the lens mount. The characteristic cinnabar-coloured ring surrounds the barrel just in front of the mounting point. In common with other Sony lenses we’ve reviewed recently, no focus or depth-of-field scales are provided.
The minimum focusing distance is only 38 cm, which isn’t ideal for close-up shooting at wider angles of view. However, the f/4 maximum aperture at 105mm provided some scope for isolating subjects from the background.
Autofocusing was very fast and also completely silent and the camera did not pick up any operational sounds from the iris diaphragm when apertures were changed. Focus ‘breathing’ – when the framing changes when focus is adjusted between players in shots – was not detected. All these features make the lens ideal for recording movie clips.
Imatest showed this lens to be capable of exceeding expectations for the 24-megapixel sensor on the α7M3, even with JPEG files. This occurred near the centre of the frame at aperture settings between f/5 and f/6.3, with the best results at the 35mm focal length.
Edge softening was relatively minor and much less than we found with the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens. The highest edge resolutions recorded were slightly below the expected resolutions from about 50mm to 105mm, with edge softening slightly greater at the 24mm and 35mm focal lengths. The graph below shows the Imatest results for the aperture ranges for each focal length setting.
Lateral chromatic aberration remained within the ‘negligible’ band in both auto-corrected JPEGs and uncorrected ARW.RAW files and, thus, shouldn’t be a problem for this lens. We found no signs of coloured fringing in images captured in the course of our tests. The results of our Imatest tests are shown in the graph below.
Like other Sony lenses, this lens has been designed for use with cameras that provide automatic corrections for rectilinear distortions, vignetting and chromatic aberration. While you can turn off these corrections in most α7 cameras, we shot both JPEG and raw files to assess performance in these areas and found the following.
Distortion not corrected in the camera is significant. It’s fortunate that you can’t disable the in-camera corrections because they do a good job of eliminating it; the distortions we found in corrected files were barely evident.
In contrast, uncorrected raw files showed obvious barrel distortion at 24mm, which switched to slight pincushion distortion at 35mm. By 50mm, pincushion distortion was obvious and it increased slightly at 70mm before reducing a little at the 105mm setting. It’s easy to see why Sony prevented auto-correction from being disabled.
Vignetting correction can be disabled and when it isn’t corrected in the camera we found obvious edge and corner darkening at f/4 with the 24mm and 35mm focal length settings. It became less obvious at 50mm and 70mm before returning as corner darkening at 105mm. Stopping down to f/5 should eliminate most of the problem if you choose to disable the in-camera corrections.
Flare resistance was generally excellent, thanks to the well-designed lens hood and effective anti-reflection coatings. Flare artefacts were difficult to generate, even when a bright light source was within the frame.
The built-in optical stabilisation worked well with the in-body image stabilisation in the α7M3, enabling us to hand-hold the camera and lens at shutter speeds down to between 1/3 and 1/2 second at 24mm and 1/4 and 1/8 second at 105mm and obtain a high percentage of ‘keepers’.
Bokeh was generally smooth and attractive, particularly at longer focal lengths, where it’s relatively easy to isolate the subject from the background at f/4. This isn’t as easy at 24mm or 35mm, where the close focusing limit of 38 cm makes it difficult to shoot arresting close-ups of most subjects.
If you had to choose just one lens to take with an α7 camera while travelling, this would be the one. It’s a fine companion to the α7M3 (INSERT LINK) we used for our review and should be as good a fit with any of the other models in the series, as well as the α9.
With an RRP of AU$2099, it’s a significant investment, although much cheaper than the faster Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM but a bit more expensive than the Zeiss-branded Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS , which isn’t such a good performer. It’s a bit lighter than Canon’s similarly-specified EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens and a slightly better performer, although the Canon lens is a little cheaper.
Nikon doesn’t offer an equivalent lens, the closest being the AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR and AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR. Sigma makes a 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM ‘Art’ lens with mounts for Canon, Nikon and Sony, which sells for around AU$1150 and was reviewed in April 2014.
If you shop around you can probably find the FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS lens for approximately AU$1950. But you’ll need to check how much is charged for shipping. B&H has it listed at US$1289, which is a little under AU$1800. But they won’t ship it to Australia and by the time you included GST and shipping, it would probably cost more than the average local price.
Picture angle: 84 – 23 degrees
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 17 elements in 14 groups (including 4 aspherical elements, 3 ED elements and Nano AR coating)
Lens mounts: Sony E (Full-Frame digital sensor)
Diaphragm Blades: 9 (circular aperture)
Focus drive: Direct Drive SSM (piezoelectronic)
Minimum focus: 38 cm
Maximum magnification: 0.31x
Filter size: 77 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 83.4 x 113.3 mm
Weight: 663 grams
Standard Accessories: Lens front and end caps, lens hood (ALC-SH152), case
Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071; www.sony.com.au.
Based on JPEG files from the α7M3 camera.
Vignetting at 24mm, f/4.
Vignetting at 35mm, f/4.
Vignetting at 50mm, f/4.
Vignetting at 70mm, f/4.
Vignetting at 105mm, f/4.
Rectilinear distortion at 24mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 35mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 50mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 70mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 105mm.
24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/8.
105mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/5.
Close-up at 24mm; ISO 100, 1/80 second at f/4.
Close-up at 105mm; ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/4.
Bokeh at 105mm f/4, ISO 100, 1/2000 second.
Backlit close-up, 105mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/2000 second at f/4.
105mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/6.3.
Crop from the above image magnified to 100% showing no apparent coloured fringing.
105mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/1250 second at f/4.
77mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/8.
30mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/40 second at f/8.
24mm focal length; ISO 500, 1/30 second at f/8.
High contrast backlit scene; 24mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/10.
24mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/8.
105mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/800 second at f/10.
Flare test; 24mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/8.
Stabilisation test at 24mm focal length; ISO 2000, 1/2 second at f/4.
Stabilisation test at 105mm focal length; ISO 6400, 1/4 second at f/4.
Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Sony α7M3 camera.
RRP: AU$2099; US$1299
- Build: 9.0
- Handling: 8.9
- Image quality: 8.9
- Versatility: 9.0