Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Review

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens

And then there were two — two Sony FE 12-24mm lenses to choose from. Sony followed the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens with the f/2.8 GM version, extending the FE f/2.8 GM zoom lens focal length range down to 12mm. With an aperture opening to twice that of the f/4 lens, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens is able to stop action in half the light levels required for the f/4 lens to do the same while offering a stronger background blur potential.

Rectilinear (not fisheye) full-frame lenses do not get much wider than this one, and I find ultra-wide usually equating to ultra-fun. Not only remarkable for the ultra-wide-angles of view, this nicely-built lens is surprisingly light in weight and small in size relative to its focal length and max aperture specs. Exceptional image quality is my favorite Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens aspect.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Angle View

Focal Length Range

The 12-24mm focal length range is the primary reason for getting this lens, and that range is a differentiatingly great reason. There are wider angle full-frame lenses available, but most of them are fisheye lenses that capture a strongly-barrel-distorted image, rendering straight lines very curved (unless passing directly through the center of the frame). While the fisheye look can be great for some uses, I find a rectilinear lens image to have greater versatility. As I'll share soon, 12mm is very significantly wider than the 16mm focal length more commonly available.

As I've said in some other ultra-wide-angle lens reviews, you might want to wear scene-complementing shoes when working with this lens at 12mm. Keeping your own shadow from contaminating the scene is another challenge (consider wearing a nice hat and embracing the selfie aspect).

Extreme wide angles can differentiate your work from the crowd, but creating compelling extreme wide-angle compositions remains a challenge. It is easy to zoom out to 12mm and start shooting, but these snapshots will usually look like ... snapshots. An ultra-wide-angle of view pushes the background away, making it much smaller in the frame relative to close foreground subjects. Ideal compositions will incorporate an interesting close foreground subject along with a complementary/supporting midground and background completing the composition.

Unless working in a tight space, there is going to be a lot of background in the scene, and keeping the entire background attractive can be challenging in many locations. The big landscape of the American Southwest is an example of a great location for utilizing this lens. Still, there are many applications close to everyone's home (or perhaps within it). Of course, the 24mm focal length is not extreme and is quite easy to compose with, providing the ideal angle of view for many uses.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Landscape Sample Picture

As you likely already determined, these focal lengths are very popular with landscape photographers. While considering this lens for landscape photography use, understand that the bulbous front lens element precludes the use of standard threaded front filters, namely circular polarizer. Neutral density filters are accommodated via a rear filter holder). Companies such as Fotodiox offer a filter solution for this type of lens, but the filter holder and filters are quite large (ever see a 145mm filter?), and circular polarizer filters can create uneven filtration at the very wide focal lengths. Regardless, there remains a lot of landscape photography to be done without filters.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Milky Way Sample Picture

The 12-24mm focal length range is a perfect choice for most milky way photography needs.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Monument Cove Milky Way Sample Picture

Architecture and real estate photographers will find this lens extremely useful, perhaps even mandatory. In real estate, bigger generally means more valuable. If you can make the real estate appear larger in photos by pushing the background deeper in the composition, more walk-throughs can be generated, and more properties can potentially be sold. The latter point is what gets both realtors and photographers paid.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Old Mine Ruins Sample Picture

When people are in the photo, care will be required to prevent perspective distortion. The 12-24mm range can be perfect for environmental portraits, but getting too close to the subject can cause heads (and noses) to appear awkwardly larger than the rest of the body parts (ears, feet, etc.) in the composition. A person closer to the camera can appear much larger than a person farther away (though sometimes this attribute can be an advantage). Wedding photographers can capture the big picture of the venue with this range. For example, photograph the bride and groom coming down the aisle, large in the frame, with the rest of the ceremony small in the frame behind them.

This lens is a great option for attaching to a remote sports camera, capturing the start of a race, capturing the finish of a race, covering the goal, mounted over the basket, etc. The lens will also capture the big image of the arena and will work for the overhead shot of the MVP sports figure being mobbed for interviews after a big game.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Diesel Engine Sample Picture

There are many additional needs for wide-angle photos captured in tight spaces, including vehicle interiors and large groups. These angles of view promise to spur creativity, and the 12-24 range can be very interesting when used for video.

Here are two examples of what this focal length range looks like:

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Focal Length Range Example

12mm | 16mm | 20mm | 24mm
12mm | 14mm | 16mm | 18mm | 21mm | 24mm

Compare the focal length of the widest lens in your kit to 12mm to see what you are missing.

Cameras with smaller APS-C format imaging sensors utilize a smaller image circle with the angle of view crop factor being 1.5x for such Sony models. On an APS-C camera, this lens provides an angle of view equivalent to a 18-36mm lens mounted on a full-frame camera. While that angle of view range is less exciting from a differentiating point of view, it remains a very useful range. Most will find this range more ideal for portraits and general-purpose uses and less ideal for architecture and real estate.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Front View

Max Aperture

While many wide-angle lens needs call for a narrow aperture, there are strong advantages to having a wide aperture available. Few zoom lenses offer an aperture wider than the f/2.8 opening found in this lens.

Though f/2.8 is relatively common in zoom lenses, it is especially wide compared to other 12mm focal length-capable lenses and one-stop wider than the also-common f/4 lenses have available. The number "one" seems small, but the 2x difference in the light it provides is not. Compared to an f/4 lens, an f/2.8 max-aperture lens can stop action in half as much light using the same ISO setting. Alternatively, a one stop lower ISO setting can be used in the same light level, and the difference in noise can be significant at the higher settings. Photographing indoor sports, low light events, and the night sky are scenarios where this lens' aperture can be game-changing.

Another advantage held by wide apertures is their ability to strongly blur the background. Wide-angle lenses are not the most adept at creating strong background blurs, but the f/2.8 aperture is more capable than f/4.

The following images show the maximum background blur this lens can create.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Maximum Blur Example

12mm | 24mm   12mm | 24mm

At 12mm, with the lens focused at minimum focus distance, the distant background details remain quite recognizable. On the other hand, at 24mm, the more-highly-magnified background shows a noticeable amount of blur.

In a zoom lens, the max aperture will sometimes be stated as a range, indicating that the max aperture narrows as the focal length increases. A very positive feature of this lens is that the max aperture is constant, with f/2.8 always available. Manually-set wide open exposures can be retained and counted on throughout the entire zoom range.

Image Stabilization

The Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens is not optically stabilized, but Sony generally takes care of that omission with Steady Shot or IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization). On a traditional DSLR with an optical viewfinder, IBIS results in an unstabilized view, meaning that stabilization was not helpful for composition or for providing a still subject to the camera's AF system. With EVFs being prevalent in Sony's lineup, the viewfinder image is directly from the imaging sensor, which is stabilized. Therefore, the viewfinder image is very nicely stabilized, and sensor-based AF takes advantage of the stabilized view for improved accuracy.

I spent a couple of hours exploring Independence Mine in Alaska with this lens handheld on a dark, cloudy day. None of the images were impacted by camera motion blur. Ultra-wide-angles combined with IBIS make it easy to get sharp images.

With no IS switch on the lens, the camera menu must be used to enable or disable IBIS, and that additional step is annoying when needing to work quickly, such as when going from tripod to handheld.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Side View

Image Quality

Having reviewed camera lenses for approaching two decades, I usually have a good idea about the performance of a lens before it arrives. With "GM" in the name, and especially with a very high price tag, this lens was expected to be a very high performer. On the second reasoning point, there was no other option for the outcome. If this lens didn't perform exceptionally well, it would be a financial failure as no one would buy it. Worse yet would be a high rate of product returns from those who also expected high performance. Sony has been building lenses long enough to get that formula right — and they did.

In the center of the frame, wide-open at f/2.8, this lens is razor-sharp throughout the entire focal length range. There is no need to stop down for improved sharpness.

In general, lenses are not as sharp in the periphery where light rays must be bent more strongly than in the center, and wide aperture, ultra-wide-angle lenses traditionally fared the worst. That said, the corner performance of this lens is remarkable. Wide and mid focal lengths are very sharp wide open, and the corners appear even sharper when stopped down, primarily due to peripheral shading diminishing. The extreme 24mm corners are not quite as impressive at f/2.8, but they are still sharp. By f/4, the 24mm corners are looking very good, and f/5.6 brings on impressive sharpness.

Below you will find sets of 100% resolution center of the frame crops captured in uncompressed RAW format using a Sony a7R III. The images were processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method with the sharpening amount set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

12mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
17mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0
24mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0   f/2.8 | f/4.0

These results are excellent. Again, I don't see center of the frame sharpness being a reason to stop this lens down. When paying a high price for a wide aperture lens, you expect to be able to get great image quality at that wide aperture. This lens has that feature.

In some lens designs, the plane of sharp focus can move forward or backward as a narrower aperture is selected. This effect is called focus shift (residual spherical aberration or RSA), it is seldom (never?) desired, and this lens does not exhibit such.

Next, we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme-top-left-corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture these images.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

12mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6   f/2.8 | f/4.0
17mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6   f/2.8 | f/4.0
24mm: f/2.8 | f/4.0 | f/5.6   f/2.8 | f/4.0

That is really impressive performance. Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, in this case, can be counted on to show the worst performance a lens is capable of. The corner results from this lens look great.

Corner sharpness does not always matter, but it does matter for many disciplines, including landscape and architecture photography, two primary uses for this lens.

When used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle, peripheral shading can be expected at the widest aperture settings. Wide-angle, wide-aperture lenses tend to show strong peripheral shading wide open, and the just-over-3-stops of shading in the 12mm corners is relatively strong, but not unusual. The shading is less significant at longer focal lengths with about-2-stops of f/2.8 shading remaining at 20-24mm. At f/4, the amount of shading ranges from just-over-2-stops down to about-1-stop. Reductions in vignetting at f/5.6 and narrower apertures are modest. The over-1.5-stops of corner shading at 12mm, f/16 are going to often be noticeable.

APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the about-1-stop of shading showing at 12mm, f/2.8 may be slightly visible in some images, primarily those with a solid color (such as a blue sky) showing in the corners.

One-stop of shading is the amount often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern showing in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.

The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better not to have the problem in the first place. Any color misalignment present can easily be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples. These are 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of ultra-high-resolution Sony a7R III frames showing diagonal black and white lines.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

12mm | 14mm | 16mm | 18mm | 21mm | 24mm

There should only be black and white colors in these images, with the additional colors indicating the presence of lateral CA. Not unusual is for a zoom lens to have noticeable color separation in the corners at the focal length extremes with mid-range focal lengths showing little lateral CA. This lens does have modest lateral CA showing at 12mm, but it diminishes significantly by 16mm and remains diminished through 24mm.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or more simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

In the examples below, look at the fringing colors in the out of focus specular highlights. Created by the neutrally-colored subjects, any fringing color differences were introduced by the lens.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

12mm | 17mm | 24mm

Those results appear very good.

Flare and ghosting are caused by bright light reflecting off the surfaces of lens elements, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes-interesting but often destructive artifacts. Sony combats these issues with Nano AR Coating II.

"A brand-new Nano AR Coating II that can be evenly applied to large lens elements or highly curved element surfaces has been used for the first time on the FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM. It suppresses internal reflections, minimizes flare and ghosting for clear, crisp imagery and despite the lens's wide angle of view, Nano AR Coating II maintains high clarity and contrast throughout the entire image, even in difficult light." [Sony]

In the field, it is not challenging to get the sun or other bright lights in the focal lengths provided by this lens. Our standard flare testing uses the sun in the corner of the frame, and this test brings out noticeable flaring from most lenses, especially at narrow apertures. This lens shows remarkably low effects from flare in this test.

Two lens aberrations that are particularly evident when shooting images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point, instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma), or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either meridional (radiating from the center of the image) or sagittal (perpendicular to meridional). Remember that lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The images below are 100% crops taken from the top-left corner of a7R III frames.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Coma Example

12mm | 17mm | 24mm

While these results are not amazing, they are good from a relative, comparative standpoint.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Distortion Example

Normal is for a zoom lens to show barrel distortion at the wide end and pincushion distortion at the long end. This lens checks that box with 16mm being the approximate transition focal length. However, the amount of distortion shown is quite low for a lens with such extremely wide focal lengths. The example above was captured at 12mm.

Most modern lenses have lens correction profiles available, and distortion can easily be removed using these. Still, distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level as some portion of the image must be stretched, or the overall dimensions reduced.

As seen earlier in the review, the amount of blur a lens can produce is easy to show, and wide-angle lenses are disadvantaged in this regard. Assessing the quality is more challenging due in part to the infinite number of variables present among all available scenes. Here are some f/8 (for aperture blade interaction) 100% crop examples.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Bokeh Example

12mm | 17mm | 24mm | 24mm

The first three results appear nice. The last example shows defocused highlights. Wide-angle lenses tend to not create the most amazing specular highlight results.

Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the corner of the frame does not produce round defocused highlights with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the corner of the frame, the shape is not round. That is the shape seen below in the top-left quadrant images.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

12mm | 17mm | 24mm

The effect seen in these results is mild. As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming rounder.

With a 9-blade count aperture, point light sources captured with a narrow aperture setting and showing a sunstar effect will have 18 points. Wide aperture lenses tend to have an advantage in this regard, and this lens is capable of producing beautiful stars. The examples below were captured at f/16.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Sunstar Effect Example

12mm | 12mm | 16mm | 20mm | 24mm

The first 12mm result shows a real-world application of this feature, while the other results show the lens's capability. This lens is a great option to choose when sunstars are desired.

The design of this lens is illustrated below.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Design

[1] Extreme aspherical lens (XA lens) [2] Aspherical lens [3] Super ED glass [4] ED (extra-low dispersion) glass

"It features three precise XA (extreme aspherical) elements including the largest XA element ever made for an Alpha brand lens. These XA elements, with an additional aspherical element, effectively suppress astigmatism, coma and field curvature right out to the image edges. Furthermore, three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements plus two Super ED glass elements, powerfully control chromatic aberration and combine to deliver corner-to-corner clarity while minimizing color fringing." [Sony]

I'm loving the image quality being delivered by this optical formula. The only aspect I can complain about is the noticeable peripheral shading at 12mm, f/2.8 and the modest geometric distortion. Sony obviously got this design right.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens on Tripod

Focusing

Sony shares:

"The FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM employs four original high-speed, high-thrust XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors to ensure that it is compatible with the speed performance of both current and future camera bodies. With two XD Linear Motors for each of the lens’s focus groups, autofocus is fast and precise. New control algorithms maximize the response of the system while achieving flawless synchronization between the two focus groups. Further benefits include extremely quiet operation with minimal vibration and lower power consumption."

"An extremely effective floating focus mechanism divides the lens’s focus group into two independently controllable groups, ensuring both outstanding close-up performance and maximum sharpness at any distance. The two independently controlled groups help realize a constant 11" (28 cm) minimum focusing distance throughout the zoom range, and because it is an internal focus lens, its length remains constant, so its center of gravity varies very little and is always optimally balanced in the hand."

This lens internally focuses with good speed, though the Sony a7R IV and other similar camera models defocus prior to focusing in AF-S mode, slowing the overall AF lock time. Only faint clicks are audible to a very close ear in a quiet environment. The AF accuracy from this lens is great, and its low light AF performance is quite good.

As frequently featured on Sony FE lenses, the 12-24mm GM lens has an AF hold button. While in continuous focus mode, this button can be pressed to lock focus at the currently selected focus distance, permitting a focus and recompose technique. This button also acts as a custom button (C5) and can be programmed to another function using the camera's menu.

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) AF mode.

Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as focus is pulled from one extent to the other, referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing negatively impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone very-critically framing while adjusting focus. The images below illustrate this behavior.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Focus Magnification Example

12mm: Far | Close   24mm: Far | Close

This lens shows a moderate change in subject size as full extent focus adjustments are made.

The reviewed lens does not exhibit parfocal-like behavior. Refocusing is necessary after focal length changes.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Parfocal Example

24mm | 20mm | 16mm | 12mm

The rubber-ribbed focus ring is positioned between the built-in lens hood and the zoom ring. This ring is relatively small in size but very usable. Being raised slightly from the barrel and zoom ring behind it makes the focus ring easy to find. The focus ring has a comfortable resistance, is very smooth, and adjusts focus smoothly. This linear-adjusting ring requires about 140° of focus ring rotation for a full extents adjustment.

A focus distance window is not provided, but a focus distance meter shows in the lower portion of the camera's electronic viewfinder during manual focusing.

Ultra-wide-angle focal lengths are inherently making details small in the frame, and despite a close 11.0" (280mm) minimum focus distance, this lens generates a low 0.14x maximum magnification at 24mm — just like its f/4 sibling, and not significantly different from the other lenses in its class.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.16x
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.21x<
Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.14x
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens11.0"(280mm)0.15x
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Lens11.0"(280mm)0.16x
Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens9.4"(240mm)0.20x
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens10.2"(260mm)0.19x
Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.14x
Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens11.0"(280mm)0.14x
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.19x
Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens11.0"(280mm)0.19x
Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens11.0"(280mm)0.20x

At 12mm, a subject measuring approximately 18.1 x 12.1" (460 x 307mm) fills the frame of a full-frame camera at the minimum focus distance. At 24mm, a subject measuring about 9.6 x 6.4" (244 x 163mm) does the same.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Maximum Magnification Example

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and greater magnification? Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, which permits shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes enable the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function as normal. Sony does not publish extension tube specs, nor do they manufacture these items, but third-party Sony extension tubes are available. An extension tube mounted behind this lens should provide a very significant decrease and increase, respectively — perhaps too much for all except the shortest tubes.

This lens is not compatible with Sony teleconverters.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Front View on Camera

Build Quality & Features

The GM (Grand Master) lens series represents Sony's best-available lenses, and this lens holds that membership card.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Product Images

MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated        Compare »

This lens features a quality plastic exterior construction. The overall shape includes a series of diameter increases from the mount until the built-in hood's diameter is reached. As with the focus ring, a diameter change occurs at the zoom ring, making it similarly easy to find. Also like the focus ring, the zoom ring is very smooth with an ideal rotational resistance. While this lens does extend and retract a small amount during focusing, the extension is contained deep within the hood.

I appreciate this lens having the AF/MF switch that has gone missing on many current-era lenses. It is faster to switch between these modes using a switch than using a menu option.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Mount

Sony indicates that this lens has a "Dust and moisture-resistant design" and the mount has a gasket seal.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Weather Sealing

The fluorine front element coating resists water drops and makes cleaning easy.

While this lens is not large, it has a noticeable size that fills out your hand. When using the Sony a7R III and a7R IV, my knuckles modestly impact the barrel of this lens.

For a lens with the 12-24mm focal length range and a constant f/2.8 aperture, this one is very light and compact.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens41.7(1180)4.3 x 5.2(108.0 x 132.0)2015
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens29.7(840)3.5 x 5.0(88.5 x 126.8)822019
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens34.2(969)3.9 x 5.2(98.0 x 131.5)2007
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Lens17.1(485)3.5 x 3.3(89.0 x 85.0)822019
Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens40.6(1150)4.0 x 5.2(102 x 131.5)2016
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens40.6(1150)3.8 x 5.3(96.4 x 135.1)2018
Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens29.9(847)3.8 x 5.4(97.6 x 137.0)2020
Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens19.9(565)3.4 x 4.6(87.0 x 117.4)2017
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens24.0(680)3.5 x 4.8(88.5 x 121.6)822017
Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens18.3(518)3.1 x 3.9(78.0 x 98.5)722014
Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens39.2(1110)3.9 x 5.7(98.4 x 145.0)2018

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

Here is a visual comparison:

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens
Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens to other lenses. I preloaded that link with a comparison you may find interesting.

As discussed earlier in the review, this lens does not accept standard threaded filters. "The rear filter holder accommodates standard sheet-type ND, color correction and other filters for expanded expressive capability. A cutting template for sheet filters is supplied." [Sony]

Notably not supported by the rear filter holder are circular polarizer filters. The alternative is to use a filter attachment system with very large filters.

Again, this lens has a built-in, non-removable hood. This is an attractive petal-style matte plastic hood with a mold-ribbed interior. While this hood does cannot provide deep protection for the front lens element due to the 12mm angle of view requirements, the hood is still helpful.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Case

Sony includes a nice zippered, padded nylon lens case in the box. This case has an about-2" (5cm) belt loop sewn onto the back, and a shoulder strap is provided.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Cap

Ultra-wide-angle lenses with a convex front lens element and built-in hood get a 3-dimensional cap that surrounds the end of the lens. How such caps attach varies with some utilizing a friction fit for securing in place. That design is usually deficient with the cap frequently sliding off when the lens is removed from a case. The better-designed caps clip onto the end of the longest petals of the hood, though this design typically requires a specific alignment for the clips to connect to work. Sony improves upon this design.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Cap Back

The FE 12-24 lens cap has plastic fingers covering four sides of the lens hood. Pressing the cap's release buttons moves these fingers inward, and when released in position, the fingers very securely grip inside of the end of the lens hood. The cap can be mounted in any orientation. And, it stays on. The cap is lightweight slightly-flexible plastic.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens with Cap

Price, Value, Wrap Up

I've had primarily very positive things to say about this lens, but the quality and features come with a very high price. Those wanting to reward their efforts with the highest image quality available will find this lens worth every bit of the cost.

As an "FE" lens, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including both full-frame and APS-C sensor format models. Sony provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens was online-retail sourced, and I later purchased this lens.

Alternatives to the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens

The Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens is an outstanding performer. How does it compare? It seems most obvious to first compare to its one-stop-narrower sibling, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens.

In the image quality comparison, we see the f/2.8 GM lens producing sharper images at f/2.8 than the f/4 G lens produces at f/4, especially in the corners. By f/8, the image quality from the two lenses greatly equalize, but the f/2.8 lens continues to hold an advantage. Wide-open, the two lenses produce similar amounts of peripheral shading. Aided by the one-stop-wider max aperture, the f/2.8 lens shows considerably less vignetting in the f/4 comparison and still considerably less at the wide end even at f/16. The f/2.8 lens shower modestly fewer narrow aperture flare effects and has modestly less geometric distortion, including at both ends of the focal length range.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens vs. Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens comparison shows the f/4 lens noticeably smaller and considerably lighter, two differences commonly expected with a 1-stop difference in max aperture. The max aperture difference is notably important for some uses, typically those involving low light. The GM lens has 9 aperture blades vs. 7 in the G lens. The GM lens has a Quad XD Linear AF motor vs. SSM. The GM lens has a considerably higher price tag, though it comes with a padded case.

If you can afford and carry the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens, take that option as it is a substantial upgrade.

It is not uncommon to see the highly regarded Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens used on Sony cameras via mount adapters, and this was another comparison I wanted to see. Note that 11mm is noticeably wider than 12mm.

In the image quality comparison with wide-open apertures, the two lenses are competing rather closely at the wide end with the Canon lens having slightly more lateral CA. The Sony lens modestly outperforms the Canon lens at the long end. With apertures equalized at f/4, the Sony modestly overtakes the Canon lens at the wide end and more obviously outperforms it at the long end. Stopped down, the two lenses become more similar, with the Sony lens holding a slight edge in the periphery of the frame.

The Canon lens has modestly more peripheral shading wide open and considerably more at the equalized f/4 aperture. By f/8, the two lenses appear similar in this regard, and at f/11, the Canon shows slightly less vignetting. The Sony lens shows fewer flare effects. The Sony lens has less slightly geometric distortion at the wide end and slightly more at the long end.

Looking at the specs and measurements, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens vs. Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens comparison shows the Canon lens to be wider and noticeably heavier. The two lenses have the same minimum focus distance spec, but the Canon lens has a slightly higher maximum magnification spec (0.16x vs 0.14x). These two lenses share the same list price (the mount adapter must be factored into this equation if it is not already owned).

Unless the 1mm of focal length difference is important to you, I recommend opting for the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens for Sony camera applications.

How about an f/2.8 zoom lens comparison? The closest I can come to matching the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens's focal length range is the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens. Yes, the 2mm difference on the wide end is substantial — see that difference in the focal length comparison at the top of this review. The price difference between these two lenses is also quite substantial.

In the image quality comparison, the Sigma lens performs close to the Sony lens at the wide end but falls short at the long end. The Sigma lens has slightly less peripheral shading at the wide end at narrow apertures. The Sony lens shows fewer flare effects at narrow apertures. The Sigma lens shows stronger barrel distortion at the wide end and less pincushion distortion at the long end.

From a specs and measurements viewpoint, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens vs. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Lens comparison shows the two lenses similar in size. However, the visual comparison shows the Sigma holding the widest diameter over a longer area of the lens. From a weight comparison standpoint, you will much prefer to carry the Sony lens. The Sigma lens has a higher maximum magnification (0.19x vs. 0.14x). Again, the Sigma lens leaves more weight in your wallet.

Use the site's comparison tools to create additional comparisons.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Top View

Summary

I couldn't resist adding this lens to my kit. Though expensive, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens is simply an outstanding lens in nearly all regards, with very impressive image quality topping the list.

The 12-24mm range of ultra-wide-angles of view is able to create stand-out imagery while efficiently complementing the range found in most standard zoom lenses. This lens seems well built, including weather sealing, and the AF system performs well.

The Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM lens will be found critical to architecture, real estate, and serious landscape photographers, and many more will find this lens loads of fun to use. As I said before, see the world anew with the 12-24mm angle of view!

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My Recommended Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens Retailers

Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered, and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my purchases. Get your Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens now from:

B&H Photo
Adorama
Amazon.com
Check used inventory at MPB
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Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM LensX
Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens
Bryan Carnathan
by Bryan Carnathan
Manufacturer ID:
SEL1224GM

Review Date: 2020-10-06
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