Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM (SEL14F18GM) lens
Photographers looking for an ultra-wide prime lens for their Sony full-frame camera should give this lens serious consideration. For the subject types it has been designed to shoot, it represents excellent performance and handling at a competitive price.
Announced in April, 2021, Sony’s 14mm f/1.8 GM (G Master) is a compact ultra-wide-angle for the company’s full-frame mirrorless cameras. Weighing only 460 grams, this lens has a built-in petal-shaped lens hood and features dust- and moisture-resistant construction with fluorine coatings on the front and rear lens elements to keep it clear of water, oil, and other contaminants. It also has an aperture ring plus a switch that allows click stops to be switched ‘on’ for still photography or switched ‘off’ to ensure quiet iris adjustments while recording video. We reviewed this lens on the Sony α7 II camera.
Angled view of the new Sony 14mm f/1.8 GM (SEL14F18GM) lens. (Source: Sony.)
The opposite side of the lens showing the click off/on switch. (Source: Sony.)
The sophisticated optical design consists of 14 elements in 11 groups. Two XA (extreme aspherical) elements and one aspherical element combine to maintain high overall resolution in a lightweight form factor, while two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements and one Super ED glass element minimise chromatic aberrations while maintaining image contrast across the aperture range.
This diagram shows the positions of the exotic glass elements in the lens design. (Source: Sony.)
Autofocusing is driven by two XD (extreme dynamic) linear motors to maintain accuracy and stability, particularly when shooting with narrow depth of field. The system is also very quiet with minimal vibration to ensure smooth focus transitions. Linear Response MF is supported for direct and precise manual focusing and the lens includes a user-programmable focus hold button that can be set to access a selected function without using the camera’s menu.
This lens is supplied with a permanently-attached lens hood, the usual front and rear caps plus a lens case and a template for cutting the sheet-type filters for insertion into the holder that is built into the rear of the lens. The large front cap is specially designed to fit over the built-in hood.
Who’s it For?
The ultra-wide angle of view of this lens should attract those who shoot landscapes, architecture and interiors of buildings and want more dramatic coverage than most wide-angles lenses. For real estate shooters, it can make interiors look much larger than they actually are and add a spacious feel to photographs of houses, gardens and other buildings.
This coverage, combined with its fast maximum aperture and wide coverage also make it a good choice for capturing starry skies at night. But it requires careful framing of shots to minimise the effects of angular distortions that can produce unnatural-looking pictures.
With its weather-resistant construction and relatively light weight (460 grams), it could be suitable for bushwalking. Light enough for mounting on gimbals and drones, it would work well for both stills and video shooting.
While the wide angle of view offers little potential for shallow depth of field work, the nine-bladed iris diaphragm should produce impressive 18-pointed sunstars when the lens is stopped down to f/16. However, such a wide angle of view requires careful framing of images; its inherent distortion when tilted even a little means it’s not much good for portraiture. Nor is it suitable for close-ups, where the maximum magnification is only one tenth life size.
Lenses of this type inherently capture a very wide depth of field a couple of stops down, so any grime that accumulates on (or damage to) the front element will be visible in shots. And since you can’t fit a filter to protect this lens, the lens cap becomes especially important and should be fitted whenever the lens is not being used.
Instead of a filter thread, there’s a small holder for gelatin filters fitted inside the rear mounting plate which will accept ND and soft focus filters, etc. But it would be difficult to use filters that require orientation adjustment, such as polarisers and graduates – with this lens.
While the 14mm f/1.8 GM lens can be used on Sony’s cropped-sensor cameras, the resulting 21mm equivalent angle of view won’t be as impressive as 14mm on the ‘full frame’ cameras. Nonetheless, it’s among the widest lenses available for that format –aside from Sony’s E-mount 10-18mm f/4 zoom and a couple of Laowa lenses (most of which are manual focus and designed for the FE mount).
Build and Ergonomics
Although much of this lens is made from industrial-quality plastic, it has a very solid, chromed metal mounting plate. Build quality is generally very good. The front element of the lens is a little over 50mm in diameter and bulges outwards so the permanently-attached hood is able to provide a reasonable degree of protection against accidental impact.
The hood is approximately 15 mm deep, when its longest ‘petals’ are measured. Between the base of the hood and the front element is a gently-sloping annulus that is finely ribbed to suppress reflections. The supplied plastic lens cap is roughly 85 mm in diameter and 23 mm deep. It clips on securely with pinch grips.
The focusing ring is located just behind the trailing end of the lens hood. It’s 20 mm wide, with most of its surface clad in fine rubber ribbing. Because focusing is driven from the camera, this ring turns through 360 degrees with power off. But even with the camera powered-up there are no hard stops to delineate the focus range.
Aft of the focusing ring is a 19 mm side section of the barrel that carries the main controls. Around the left side of the barrel you’ll find the focus hold button, with the AF/MF slider just beyond it, while on the right side is the click on/off slider. Between them is the name of the lens: FE 1.8/14 GM.
The aperture ring is located just behind this section of the barrel. It’s roughly 14 mm wide, with its front half clad in rubber ribbing and the rear half carrying aperture markings in one-stop increments, starting with 16 on the left hand end and ending with 1.8 on the right. A red ‘A’ left of the 16 mark sets the lens to auto aperture control, while a narrow band behind the ring carries a white index line for selecting the selected aperture setting.
The barrel slopes gently inwards for just over 10 mm behind this band and then flattens out for a further 10 mm to meet the metal lens mount. You can feel the narrow rubber flange around this intersection, which keeps out moisture and dust. Ten gold-plated contact points inside the lens mount carry signals between the lens and the camera, while the gelatin filter mount sits inside this part of the lens.
While the review lens comfortably exceeded expectations for resolution in the centre of the frame, it fell a little short half and three quarters of the way to the edges of the frame with JPEG files. This is to be expected for such a wide angle lens.
ARW.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw, were even better, exceeding expectations across the entire frame. The highest resolution recorded was at f/2.8, as shown in the graph of our JPEG test results below, which also shows the effects of edge softening.
With all in-camera corrections switched off, lateral chromatic aberration remained mainly within the ‘negligible’ range, as shown in the graph of our test results below in which the red line marks the border between negligible and low CA. We found few signs of coloured fringing in test shots.
Some vignetting was to be expected with such a wide angle lens and it was evident at the widest apertures, reducing gradually as the lens was stopped down. Barrel distortion was visible – and also expected – but less obvious than we anticipated for a lens of this type. In-camera corrections address both issue in JPEG files and raw files are easily adjusted during conversion into JPEG or TIFF format.
Such a wide angle of view makes this lens prone to angular distortion (when the lens is tilted) and it’s very easy to include unwanted items like your shadow or your feet in shots. Some creative framing is required when using this lens – but the results can be quite rewarding and the lens is very nice to use.
Backlighting also requires careful shot composition, although we found the review lens to be surprisingly flare-resistant. It could be forced to flare when the sun was inside the frame but the resulting shots were seldom unsalvageable. Some nice, 18-pointed sunstars could be produced when the lens was stopped down to f/16.
It’s relatively easy to use this lens with slow shutter speeds because of its wide coverage and the assistance of the IBIS in Sony’s full frame cameras. Shots can be taken as slow as 1/5 second to capture the effects of movement in parts of the scene contrasted against static areas. Panning should be relatively straightforward with this lens.
As noted above, this lens is not the best choice for close-ups, due in part to its limited close-focusing distance and very wide angle of view. Bokeh in unevenly-lit close-ups tended to be choppy, with bright highlights producing hard-edged circular spots near the centre of the frame and becoming oval-shaped towards the periphery.
Autofocusing was fast and accurate on the α7 II camera we used for our tests, even in low light levels and with low-contrast subjects. But then, AF speed is seldom an issue with ultra-wide lenses. We noticed a slight increase in the image size (‘focus breathing’) as the focus was adjusted from normal range to minimum focus.
Finally, the large lens cap is an important feature of this lens and it’s important to keep the lens capped when it’s not in use to protect the vulnerable front element. Fortunately, the cap is well-designed and easy to fit and remove.
Please Login or Register to access the Conclusion.
Picture angle: 114 degrees
Minimum aperture: f/16
Lens construction: 14 elements in 11 groups (including 1 Super ED, 1 aspherical, 2 XA and 2 ED elements)
Lens mount: Sony FE-mount
Diaphragm Blades: 9 (circular aperture)
Weather resistance: Dust and moisture resistant
Focus drive: Linear motor with internal focusing
Stabilisation: Relies on IBIS in Sony cameras
Minimum focus: 25 cm
Maximum magnification: 0.1x
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 83 x 99.8 mm
Weight: 460 grams
Standard Accessories: Front and end caps, soft case, filter template.
RRP: AU$2079; US$1599
Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071
Based on JPEG files recorded with the Sony α7 II camera.
Based on RAW-RAW files recorded simultaneously and converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.
Vignetting at f/1.8.
1/15 second at f/13, ISO 100.
Crop from the above image magnified to 100% showing little evidence of coloured fringing.
Close-up at f/1.8, 1/640 second at ISO 100.
Close-up at f/1.8 showing choppy bokeh, 1/640 second at ISO 100.
Backlit scene, f/16, 1/100 second at ISO 100.
Sunstar and flare artefacts at f/16, 1/200 second at ISO 100.
Flare from the sun, which is just outside of the frame; f/16, 1/40 second at ISO 100.
1/200 second at f/8, ISO 100.
Backlighting; 1/125 second at f/8, ISO 100. (From ARW.RAW file with post-capture editing.)
1/640 second at f/8, ISO 100.
1/50 second at f/13, ISO 100.
1/400 second at f/6.3, ISO 100.
1/160 second at f/8, ISO 200. (Note the distorted perspective due to the wide angle of view.)
Hand-held shot at 1/5 second at f/13 to record motion caused by windy conditions, ISO 100.
1/640 second at f/11, ISO 100.
1/500 second at f/14, ISO 100.
1/125 second at f/10, ISO 100.
- Build: 9.0
- Handling: 9.0
- Image quality: 9.0
- Autofocusing: 9.0
- Versatility: 8.5