Sony FE 24mm f/2.8 G (SEL24F28G) lens
The 24mm focal length is often seen as ‘classic’ for landscape and architectural photography and the small size, light weight and weather-resistance of the 24mm f/2.8 G will make it a good ‘take everywhere’ lens. It won’t take up much space in a bushwalker’s or for traveller’s backpack and won’t weigh the photographer down.
Announced in late March, 2021 but released in May, Sony’s 24mm f/2.8 G-series lens is one of three compact prime lenses designed or the company’s full-frame mirrorless cameras, which can also be used with APS-C sensor bodies. We hope to review the other two – the FE 40mm f/2.5 G (model SEL40F25G) and FE 50mm f/2.5 G (model SEL50F25G) in the near future. All three lenses are similar in size, use the same 49 mm diameter filters and are almost the same weight to make them easy to interchange when using the camera on a gimbal. They also share a common RRP of AU$999.
Angled view of the FE 24mm f/2.8 G (SEL24F28G) lens without the supplied lens hood. (Source: Sony.)
The optical design of this lens (shown below) is relatively simple, consisting of eight elements in seven groups, with one aspherical and three ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) elements. The iris diaphragm has seven blades, which are curved to produce a near circular aperture as the lens is adjusted, creating ‘pleasing’ bokeh quality.
This diagram shows the positions of the exotic glass elements in the optical design of the Sony FE 24mm f/2.8 G lens. (Source: Sony.)
Two XD linear motors plus an internal focusing design ensure fast, quiet and accurate autofocusing allowing this lens to be used for video recording. In addition, the Linear Response manual focus control and AF/MF switch on the lens barrel allow more tactile control, while the focus hold button gives rapid access to focus mode settings.
Also for video use, the aperture ring can be de-clicked to allow smooth, silent aperture readjustment. All three lenses in the series are dust-and moisture-sealed and have fluorine coatings on their front elements to repel water, dust and grease and make the lens easy to keep clean. This lens is supplied with front and end caps plus the cylindrical ALC-SH165 lens hood (which wasn’t provided with the review lens).
Who’s it For?
Prime lenses often tend to be specialised – but the 24mm focal length is a bit more versatile than most, thanks in part to its autofocusing system. However, the 24mm focal length is wide enough to cover landscapes and documentary photography and its relatively low distortion levels make it suitable for architectural use and interior photography.
Its small size and light weight make it ideal for handheld vlogging, where the 24mm focal length provides a near-perfect angle of view. Being able to use a gimbal adds to the other advantages.
Wedding and event photographers often use 24mm lenses for group portraits, environmental portraits and ‘establishment shots’ that capture the scene. But, aside for vlogging, we wouldn’t recommend using this lens for close-up portraits unless the associated distortion towards the edges of the frame was a desirable effect.
The small size and inconspicuous nature of the lens would also be suitable for street shooting and some types of photojournalism, where its relatively fast f/2.8 maximum aperture could be handy. Although designed for Sony’s full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, it can also be used with APS-C models where it covers a 36mm equivalent focal length.
Build and Ergonomics
The FE 24mm f/2.8 G lens is made mainly from aluminium alloy and feels solidly built. The front element is only about one centimetre is diameter and recessed into the front panel, which is threaded to accept 49 mm diameter filters. The clip-on lens cap that locks into the filter thread is made from black plastic.
At the front of the lens barrel is the focusing ring, which is 8 mm wide and entirely covered with moulded ridging. Since focusing is driven from the camera, this ring turns through 360 degrees when power is off.
Roughly 2 mm behind the focusing ring is the aperture ring, which is marked in one-stop increments from f/2.8 on the right to f/22 on the left, which click-stops at 1/3-stop intervals. A red A mark beyond the f/22 setting denotes the auto aperture setting. It takes effect seamlessly when the camera is set to the P and auto shooting modes.
Behind the aperture ring is a 10 mm wide section of the lens barrel that carries the focus button and AF/MF slider switch around the left side of the barrel and the click On/Off switch around to the right. The white index line for the aperture settings is located on this band, along with the 24 an G branding logos.
The barrel then slopes inwards and extends for another 10 mm section, which carries the index mark for mounting the lens on the camera plus additional branding data. The solid metal mounting plate is surrounded by a thin rubber gasket that seals the joint against ingress of moisture and dust.
Resolution-wise, we found the 24mm f/2.8 G lens was not quite up to the performance of the FE 14mm f/1.8 GM lens we have recently reviewed – and which was tested at the same time. However, it’s aimed at quite a different customer and is a bit more versatile.
While our Imatest tests showed centre resolution to be just above expectations for JPEG files, as expected, resolution declined towards the periphery of the frame. ARW.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw turned in a somewhat better performance but even they fell short of expectations outside of the central zone.
The best performance was at f/3.5 although, as shown in the graph of our test results above, central resolution remained high until f/16 when diffraction took effect. Peripheral resolution also remained relatively constant throughout the aperture range, with some softening evident at the three widest aperture settings. This performance can be seen as a good overall result.
Lateral chromatic aberrations in JPEG files recorded with all in-camera corrections disabled were mainly in the low band, with some values extending into the moderate band at minimum apertures. In the graph of our test results above, the red line marks the boundary between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA, while the green line separates ‘low’ and ‘moderate’ categories.
Interestingly, we found no signs of coloured fringing in either JPEGs or raw files in our test shots. This suggests the problem is mainly found towards the corners of the frame, where our Imatest measurements are taken. Fortunately, the in-camera corrections do a good job of correcting problems and it’s easily fixed when raw files are processed.
Both vignetting and rectilinear distortion were obvious in uncorrected files, although the in-camera corrections addressed them effectively. Most signs of vignetting had gone by f/5.6 but traces remained through to f/8. Barrel distortion was obvious at all aperture settings.
The 24mm focal length is wide enough to produce angular distortion when the lens is tilted – but not nearly as much as the 14mm f/1.8 GM lens. However, some care is still required when framing shots, especially when photographing people and buildings or other structures with vertical walls.
The review lens handled backlit subjects quite well and resisted flaring under most conditions. Flaring could be forced by pointing the camera at a bright light source but sunstars at f/22 were disappointingly ‘mushy’.
The minimum focus is not close enough to make this lens useful for close-up work, although with careful framing it can produce acceptable close-ups of larger flora and fauna. Bokeh in wide-aperture shots is influenced by background lighting, becoming fragmented and choppy in uneven illumination. Highlight outlining was common and circular highlights became oval-shaped towards the edges of the frame.
We found no issues with autofocusing, save for slight focus breathing which made the image slightly larger at close distances. It’s debatable whether this would be significant for most users.
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Picture angle: 84 degrees
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 8 elements in 7 groups (including 1 ED and 3 aspherical elements)
Lens mount: Sony FE-mount
Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
Weather resistance: Dust- and moisture-resistant sealing
Focus drive: Linear motor with internal focusing
Stabilisation: Relies on IBIS in Sony cameras
Minimum focus: 18 cm (manual focus) 24 cm (AF)
Maximum magnification: 0.19x
Filter thread: 49 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 68 x 45 mm
Weight: 162 grams
Standard Accessories: Front and end caps, ALC-SH165 lens hood.
RRP: AU$999; US$599
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/2.8.
JPEG file; 1/15 second at f/13, ISO 100.
Crop from the above image magnified to 100% showing little evidence of coloured fringing.
Uncorrected raw file; 1/15 second at f/13, ISO 100.
Crop from the above image magnified to 100% showing little evidence of coloured fringing.
Minimum focus 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.
Close-up; 1/500 second at f/4, ISO 100.
Close-up;1/8 second at f/8, ISO 100.
Close-up;1/320 second at f/3.2, ISO 100.
Backlit scene, 1/100 second at f/16, ISO 100.
Sunstar at f/16, 1/200 second at ISO 100.
1/640 second at f/8, ISO 100.
1/60 second at f/9, ISO 100.
1/200 second at f/8, ISO 100.
1/8 second at f/7.1, ISO 100.
1/100 second at f/6.3, ISO 100.
1/50 second at f/8, ISO 100.
1/8 second at f/10, ISO 100.
1/15 second at f/11, ISO 200.
1/8 second at f/11, ISO 100.
1/30 second at f/8, ISO 100.
- Build: 8.9
- Handling: 8.8
- Image quality: 8.8
- Autofocusing: 8.9
- Versatility: 8.8