Sony’s New 14mm f/1.8: A Must Have Prime Lens?

Sony has released a new G-Master prime lens for its mirrorless E-mount. This new lens is the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM.

This is an exciting release and Sony has really pulled out all the stops for this one. Their G Master line features some of the best glass out there and this 14mm f/1.8 slots in perfectly.

It’s been a little bit since I’ve been super impressed by a new lens, but I have to say, this lens would be on my ‘Buy Now’ list if I was a Sony shooter (I might be in the near future).

It’s a lightweight, super-fast, and super-wide prime that’s ideal for astrophotography and landscape work. Photographers are really applauding this lens already, and for good reason. It’s a challenge to pack a 14mm perspective and f/1.8 max aperture into a lens design that can be considered ‘small’ and ‘lightweight’. But, Sony did it. Let’s get to it.


Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM Lens

Price: $1,598.00

Key Features

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/16
  • Two XA Elements, One Super ED Element
  • Nano AR II and Fluorine Coatings
  • XD Linear Motor AF, Internal Focus
  • Physical Aperture Ring; De-Click Switch
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm

Utilization
Before discussing the technical specifications of the new 14mm f/1.8, I thought it would be useful to talk about what a 14mm prime like this would be useful for. Because, a question I even asked myself was, why this prime 14mm versus a wide-angle zoom, like the 12-24mm f/2.8 or f/4?

That’s a good question, and you should think about what you shoot. For me, I often find myself at the widest ends of the spectrum when I’m shooting a landscape with a wide-angle, which means 14mm for me. It doesn’t seem like it, but the extra ‘mm’ on the wide end really goes a long way for creating interesting foregrounds, while also being able to frame a landscape in the background. For a lot of shoots, I don’t even use the 15-30mm range that I have with my current wide-angle zoom. Would I miss that flexibility, it’s hard to say, but I don’t think I personally would due to my shooting style. Also, put this on a Sony a7r IV or a1, and you have a lot of cropping power from 14mm.

If you do shoot at 14mm a lot, this prime lens is going to offer fantastic image quality. Since the beginning of time, manufacturers have been able to produce prime lenses that have better quality and AF than their zoom counterparts.

Who else is this lens for – astrophotographers. Pairing 14mm with f/1.8 is an astrophotographer’s dream. Many have bought the Rokinon or Samyang 14mm primes for astrophotography alone. They are reasonably priced, offer decent quality, and have a maximum aperture of f/2.8.

Well, I can tell you from experience, getting that extra stop at f/1.8 goes a long way in the darkness. It could be the difference between shooting at ISO 8000 or ISO 3200. The lower ISO possibilities mean less noise. This 14mm f/1.8 will be an absolute workhorse for night and astrophotography. If that’s your passion or something you’re interested in, I think this lens is a great investment…because you will use it for a ton of general landscape shots as well.

We’re going to talk about size shortly, but I think purchasing this lens over something like the 12-24mm f/2.8 would mainly be due to size. I’ve used fast wide-angle zooms a lot. They’re great, but they’re big and bulky, and take up a lot of room while traveling. This 14mm is super compact and fast, the downside – you lose that 15-24mm range.

So, weigh your options. This new lens is fantastic and lightweight, but it’s also priced at $1,600.

Overview
The selling point of this lens is without a doubt the small size and relative weight. Two things that are usually hard to find in the same sentence as ‘14mm f/1.8’. The lens weighs 1 pound and measures 3.9” x 3.3”.

Compare that with the fan-favorite Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 – the Sony has similar dimensions, but it’s lighter AND offers a faster aperture. It’s also lighter than Sigma’s 14mm f/1.8 Art lens. As I said, Sony’s G-Master line is fantastic and I’m assuming this native Sony prime will perform better than the Sigma 14mm f/1.8, which is in the same ballpark when it comes to price.

The lens also just feels really good. That’s pretty vague, but Sony has adjusted the elements in the engineering of this lens to make it much more balanced. Usually, fast wide-angles are top-heavy towards the front element, but that’s not the case with this lens.

There are some plastic materials used in the construction of this lens, but I think that was done as a way to cut some weight. The build quality is still excellent, as you’d expect from a Sony G-Master lens.

It’s worth noting the front element is bulbous. That makes front element filters almost impossible without a dedicated filter system, which can add a lot of weight and size to a lens. However, Sony has implemented a similar design from its other wide angles and you are able to use rear filters. But, I don’t think rear polarizing filters are available, so keep that in mind.

In the quality tests we did, performance was exceptional. We’re excited to take this lens out for a spin on some of our upcoming workshops. The biggest concern with super wide-angle lens is corner sharpness and vignetting. Between f/4 and f/8 this lens is one of the sharpest G-Master lenses, it’s fantastic. We found f/8 to be the best spot for landscape work.

Vignetting is also minimal and disappears entirely when stopped down to f/4. There’s also no apparent color fringing or chromatic aberrations.

Should you buy this lens? That depends on your shooting interests. Is this lens worth it? We absolutely think so. Image quality is fantastic and it’s an engineering marvel of size and weight for a super-wide f/1.8 lens.

What are the downsides? Of course, the fixed focal length, but really, that’s all we can think of.

This is a great release by Sony and we’d definitely recommend checking it out. If I do buy a Sony body in the future, I’ll be picking this lens up.

Matt Meisenheimer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin. His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special.  Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image. Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world. As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals. You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com


Don’t miss the next session of BCJ Live!

Video for the Wildlife Photographer
with Russell Graves

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021
11 am – 12 pm Mountain Time

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