Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens Review

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens

The Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 G Master Lens is expected to ship at the end of May. Until the lens arrives, here are my expectations.

Surprisingly, until the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 G Master Lens was introduced, the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens was, for years, the only full-frame lens wider than 20mm to cover the f/1.8 aperture. While that focal length and aperture combination is very desirable and the Sigma lens is a great performer, the size and weight of the Art lens give pause to those wishing to carry it.

Sony crushed that holdback by introducing a same-spec, top-of-the-line G Master lens option that is considerably smaller and less than 40% of the weight.

The compact Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 G Master Lens promises to bring us the impressive image and build qualities of its sibling lenses in a compact, lightweight body — and the price is reasonable.

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens Angle View

Focal Length

The ultra-wide 14mm angle of view is the first reason to purchase this lens or select it for use. Focal length drives subject distance decisions, and perspective is determined by those distances.

When moving back is not an option, 14mm may be a great choice. With even modestly longer focal lengths, you can't move back far enough to fit everything in the frame that 14mm takes in.

The 14mm focal length finds frequent use in architecture, real estate, and landscape applications.

Architecture subjects are frequently large, and fitting large subjects in the frame often requires an ultra-wide-angle focal length. Photographers chasing architecture will likely find 14mm a mandatory focal length to cover.

Real estate is also large, and in the real estate world, larger generally means more valuable. With an ultra-wide-angle lens, you can make real estate appear larger in photos by using an ultra-wide focal length to push the background deeper in the composition, hopefully generating more walk-throughs that sell more properties. The latter point is what gets both realtors and photographers paid.

In a sense, real estate and architecture are products, and 14mm is useful for some product photography applications, such as vehicle and aircraft interiors.

Extreme wide angles can differentiate your work from the crowd, but care must be taken to create compelling extreme wide-angle compositions. An ultra-wide-angle of view pushes the background away, making it considerably smaller in the frame relative to close foreground subjects. Ideal compositions will incorporate an interesting close foreground subject and a complementary midground and supporting background to complete the composition.

The 14mm focal length is extremely useful for landscape photography, and implementing the attractive foreground subject against a beautiful background concept creates stand-out imagery.

While considering this lens for landscape photography use, understand that the bulbous front lens element precludes standard threaded front filters, namely circular polarizer filters (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 enormous. That circular polarizer filters can create uneven filtration at 14mm reduces the desire to use such, and that issue minimizes the lack of support.

I expect the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 G Master Lens to be at the top of the best night sky lenses available list. The extreme wide angle of view will take in a vast portion of the visible milk way, and the deep depth of field at this focal length will encourage the inclusion of attractive foreground elements. I'll talk more about the f/1.8 aperture soon, but that feature is another key to this lens's nighttime specialness.

All focal lengths are useful for photographing people, but don't let this lens's ultra-wide angle of view tempt you to get too close to people as it will enlarge their noses via perspective distortion. Also, remember that a person closer to the camera can appear much larger than a person farther away. Although this effect may sometimes be desired, use caution when photographing groups at 14mm.

Wedding photographers will love how this lens enables capture of the entire venue. 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 an excellent option for attaching to a remote sports event camera, capturing the start of a race, capturing the finish of a race, covering the goal, mounted over the basket, etc. This 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.

The 14mm angle of view promises to spur your creativity, and this focal length can be very interesting when used for video.

I'll pull a focal length range example from a strongly competing sibling lens, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master Lens.

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

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

At the very small focal length numbers, a mm or two change makes a big difference in the angle of view. The 12-24mm lens at 12mm clearly takes in a wider angle of view than the 14mm focal length, but 14mm frames considerably wider than the 16mm and longer options.

APS-C sensor format cameras utilize a smaller portion of the image circle, and that fact means a scene is framed more tightly, with 1.5x being the angle of view multiplier for Sony's lineup. As seen in the previous illustration, the 22.4mm full-frame equivalent angle of view is quite noticeably narrower. Still, the uses for this angle of view are plentiful, with landscape photography and portrait photography perhaps benefiting the most from the difference.

Max Aperture

The lower the aperture number, the more light the lens will allow to reach the imaging sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (full stop examples: f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0) increases or decreases the amount of light reaching the sensor by a factor of 2x (a substantial factor).

When you buy a prime lens instead of a zoom, you expect at least one strong advantage to offset the loss of zoom range versatility. Common prime lens advantages include smaller size, lighter weight, lower price, better image quality, and a wider aperture. The lens checks those boxes (awaiting verification of the expected image quality advantage), including that of the last advantage.

I mentioned that the sibling Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master Lens covers the 14mm focal length. I'll create a complete comparison at the end of this review, but the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens vs. Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens comparison along with a price check will make most of those prime lens advantages obvious.

We are currently talking about the wide aperture advantage. Allowing significant amounts of light to reach the imaging sensor provides tremendous benefits. Use that light to enable action (subject and camera) stopping shutter speeds in very low light levels, along with low ISO settings for reduced noise. At f/1.8, this lens is handholdable in dark environments without resorting to extreme ISO settings. At night, light levels are so low that the earth's rotation becomes a source of camera motion that this lens adeptly defeats, making it among the best available choices for milky way photography.

Increasing the amount of light reaching the imaging sensor improves low light AF performance.

Another advantage of a wide aperture lens is the strength of the background blur it can create. F/1.8 with a close subject creates a very shallow DOF, drawing the viewer's eye to the in-focus subject. It is hard to diffusely blur the background with the low magnification provided by an ultra-wide-angle lens. Still, an f/1.8 aperture combined with a close focus distance can do that, adding artistic advantages to this lens's list of highly-desired features.

There are notable drawbacks to lenses that feature wide maximum apertures. These lenses require the use of larger, heavier glass elements which translate into larger and heavier lenses. Unfortunately, those larger elements are not only evidenced by the increased weight but also by the increased price of the lens. That said, this lens is neither large nor heavy, and the price tag is reasonable.

Narrow aperture advantages are typically related to (often significantly) reduced lens element size and include smaller overall lens size, lighter weight, and lower cost. We all can appreciate those factors, but fortunately, this wide-aperture lens appears to avoid all of them.

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens Top View with Hood

As usual for Sony FE GM prime lenses, the FE 14 f/1.8 GM features an aperture ring, permitting a manually chosen aperture to be selected. With the ring in the A (Auto) position, the camera controls the aperture setting. All other settings electronically force the aperture to the chosen opening. A 2-position switch on the bottom right side of the lens toggles the aperture ring between 1/3 stop clicks and smooth, quiet, non-clicked adjustments, ideal for video recording.

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens Side View Showing Click Switch

Aside from a slightly more complicated design, I find inadvertent aperture changes the primary disadvantage of an aperture ring (especially when photographing in the dark). Incorporating a lock for this ring would eliminate that issue, and learning not to grasp the aperture ring when mounting the camera reduces the issue.

Image Stabilization

The shorter the focal length, the smaller subject details (captured at the same distance) are rendered, and the less still the camera must be held to avoid subject details crossing imaging sensor pixels, the source of motion blur. Still, image stabilization remains a valuable feature in any lens. Sony has not been including image stabilization, OSS (Optical SteadyShot) in their recent wide-aperture prime lenses, and not surprising is that the FE 14mm GM lens excludes OSS.

Sony addresses that omission with Steady Shot or IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) in their mirrorless cameras. In addition to reducing camera shake, the stabilized imaging sensor provides a still viewfinder image, enabling careful composition. Sensor-based AF takes advantage of the stabilized view for improved accuracy.

With no IS switch on the lens, the camera menu must be used to enable or disable IBIS, a slight impediment to working quickly, going from tripod to handholding, for example.

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens Side View with Hood

Image Quality

Until the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens arrives, we are left to guess the image quality it will deliver. That said, the other recent Sony GM wide-angle prime lenses have proven themselves outstanding in this regard. I suspect we will see the same performance from this one — I'm sure enough that I preordered this lens.

The Sony-provided MTF chart appears highly optimistic for outstanding performance.

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens MTF Chart

The design of this lens is illustrated below.

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens Design

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

Sony indicates that "... advanced optical technology that delivers superb resolution and stunning contrast. Two XA (extreme aspherical) elements and one aspherical lens element maintain excellent resolution throughout the entire image area and contribute to its compact and lightweight design. Two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements and one Super ED glass element result in optical refinements that suppress chromatic aberration and deliver excellent contrast and precise rendering at all apertures."

Again, the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens promises exceptional performance

Focusing

Getting the full benefit of excellent image quality requires accurate focus, and most of us rely on AF for that task. Behind the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens's AF capabilities are a pair of XD Linear Motors.

"Using two XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors, focus can be accurately acquired and maintained even when shooting with narrow depth of field at F1.8 giving professional shooters the reliability they need to get the job done in challenging conditions. Moreover, the FE 14mm F1.8 G Master enables quiet AF with minimal vibration for smooth focus transitions, perfect for video content creation." [Sony]

The XD Linear Motors from the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM Lens are shown below.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM Lens XD Linear Motors

Expect the Sony 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens to internally focus smoothly, quietly, consistently accurately, and with good speed. While this lens should focus quickly, the Alpha a1, a7R III, IV, and similar cameras defocus the lens before refocusing. This behavior in AF-S mode remains a focus speed detriment (this behavior is not present in AF-C continuous focusing mode).

The 14 GM's low light AF performance should be excellent.

Sony provides an AF hold button on this lens. While in continuous focus mode, press this button 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 via Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) AF mode.

Expect the nicely sized ribbed-rubber manual focus ring to rotate smoothly and with a modest, slightly light pressure.

"The FE 14mm F1.8 G Master also features Linear Response MF for direct and precise manual focusing." "The focus ring rotation translates directly to a corresponding change in focus, so control feels immediate and precise." [Sony]

I prefer linear MF systems.

Despite having a minimum focus distance of only 10.6" (270mm), this lens's 14mm focal length only turns in a 0.10x maximum magnification spec. While this is a meager number compared to all lenses, it is not unusual for a 14mm lens.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens7.9"(200mm)0.15x
Rokinon SP 14mm f/2.4 Lens11.0"(280mm)0.08x
Rokinon AF 14mm f/2.8 Lens7.9"(200mm)0.15x
Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens10.6"(270mm)0.10x
Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens9.8"(250mm)0.10x
Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens7.1"(180mm)0.20x
Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens9.4"(240mm)0.17x
Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Milvus Lens9.8"(250mm)0.11x

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mounting an extension tube behind this lens significantly decreases and increases those respective numbers, perhaps by too much for an even short extension tube to be usable. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function as normal. As of review time, Sony does not publish extension tube specs, nor do they manufacture these items, but third-party Sony compatible extension tubes are available.

This lens is not compatible with Sony teleconverters.

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens Side View

Build Quality & Features

The G Master lens series represents Sony's best-available lenses. GM lenses feature the complete pro-ready package, and the FE 14 GM's family resemblance is obvious.

Sony FE lenses have a relatively narrow mount and, despite being relatively narrow for its class, a noticeable diameter increase occurs not far in from the mount end. Once the wider diameter is reached, the lens maintains a mostly straight design with a slight diameter increase occurring at the rubber-covered focus ring, making it easy to find tactilely. The outer lens barrel construction is engineering plastic.

Overall, this lens's build quality is high. The AF/MF switch is again recessed, making it hard to inadvertently change and making a bit more effort required to intentionally change it, especially with gloves on or in the dark.

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens Weather Sealing

The FE 14 f/1.8 GM is a great outdoor lens, and its dust and moisture-resistant design, including a gasket on the mount, can save the day out there.

The front element is fluorine-coated to resist dust, moisture, and fingerprints and for easier cleaning.

Those familiar with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art Lens are saying, "Wow, the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens is incredibly tiny and light!" The difference is remarkable. The Sony FE 14 f/1.8 lens's size and weight is not a burden to carry in hand for long periods.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM Lens22.8(645)3.1 x 3.7(80.0 x 94.0)2007
Rokinon SP 14mm f/2.4 Lens27.9(791)3.7 x 4.3(95.0 x 109.4)2016
Rokinon AF 14mm f/2.8 Lens17.1(485)3.6 x 3.8(90.5 x 95.6)2018
Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens41.3(1170)3.8 x 5.0(95.4 x 126.0)2017
Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens16.2(460)3.3 x 3.9(83.0 x 99.8)2021
Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens13.2(373)2.9 x 3.3(73.5 x 84.7)672020
Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens15.7(445)3 x 3.6(75.4 x 92.4)672018

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

As usual for its class and as mentioned earlier in the review, the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens does not have filter threads. The bulbous front element interferes with that feature. "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.

Also, as usual for its class, this lens has an integrated petal-shaped lens hood. For the 14mm coverage facilitated, this hood provides a reasonable amount of protection from both impacts and from bright light.

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 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's latest design improves upon this concept.

The FE 14 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 the inside of the end of the lens hood. This enables the cap to be mounted in any orientation, and it stays on. The cap is lightweight slightly-flexible plastic.

Sony includes a nice zippered, padded nylon lens case in the box.

Price, Value, Wrap Up

While the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM is not an inexpensive lens, it is a great deal. Consider that, despite only opening to f/2.8, the current Canon and Nikon 14mm lenses cost considerably more than the Sony. Sigma, a brand reputed for great value, has their 14mm f/1.8 lens priced $1.00 higher at review time. The price combined with the performance expected from the FE 4 GM lens creates an excellent value.

As an "FE" lens, the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including full-frame and APS-C sensor format models. Sony provides a 1-year limited warranty.

I preordered the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM review lens online-retail.

Alternatives to the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens

The first lens I want to compare the FE 14mm f/1.8 GM with is the impressive Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master zoom lens. The obvious differences are that one lens offers the versatility of a zoom range of focal lengths while the other has the advantage of a 1 1/3 stop larger max aperture opening.

I don't expect a dramatic difference in image quality at 14mm as the FE 12-24 GM is already superb, but the prime might provide slightly better corner performance. The Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens vs. Sony-FE-12-24mm-f-2.8-GM-Lens comparison shows the zoom considerably larger and much heavier. The 12-24 has a higher maximum magnification (0.14x vs. 0.10x), but that advantage is reached at 24mm. The prime lens has a slightly shorter minimum focus distance (9.84" vs. 11.02", 250mm vs. 280mm), so it should compare favorably equalized at 14mm, focus breathing aside. If we look at the price per focal length provided, the zoom appears to be a much better deal. Otherwise, the prime lens has a far lower price tag.

The other lens that should be considered is the direct equivalent, the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens.

While the Sigma lens produces very good image quality, my expectation is that the Sony lens will surpass it.

The Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens vs. Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens comparison shows the Sigma lens considerably larger and over 2.5x heavier. With the balance of the specs appearing comparable and the Sigma lens's $1.00 higher price tag, the Sony lens seems the obvious choice for Sony camera owners.

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

Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens Top View

Summary

Assured is that those photographing architecture, real estate, large products, or other subjects in a confined space, and those photographing the great outdoors, including landscape and night sky photography, will want the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens in their kit.

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Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens
Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens
Bryan Carnathan
by Bryan Carnathan
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