Sony’s new FE 14mm F1.8 GM takes the company’s lens range to new places – it’s the fastest ultra-wide AF lens available, so far, and opens up all sorts of shooting applications while promising top-drawer G Master quality. It’s a full frame, E mount lens, so compatible with all the latest mirrorless Alpha bodies.
What’s it for? Well, pretty much any wide-angle situation from landscapes and architecture to interiors and even documentary, weddings and quirky portrait photography, especially if you need to shoot in low light. The angle of view is a whopping 114°, while astrophotographers and those who like to shoot landscapes under the stars will be particularly interested in the new model with its f/1.8 maximum aperture.
To provide top-level resolution and contrast, the FE 14mm F1.8 GM uses two XA (extreme aspherical) elements and excellent results are claimed to be maintained even in the corners, a common failing for ultra-wide angle lenses. Interested in lens elements? Then know that it totals 14 elements in 11 groups, within which are two ED (extra-low dispersion) and one Super ED glass elements to suppress chromatic aberration and optimise sharpness and contrast throughout the aperture range. Good stuff.
Despite having lots of quality glass to provide what should be excellent image quality, the lens is surprisingly compact, too. It measures 83×99.8mm and weighs 460g, so it’s very much in line with the mirrorless ethos of smaller and lighter cameras and optics. The size and weight should make it a great choice for Alpha users who want top image quality and low-light potential from a wide-angle lens, but need to travel light.
It’ll only stop down to f/16, but that’s typical for f/1.8 lenses, and you can always fit NDs for longer exposures, right? Speaking of filters, though its bulbous front element and built-in lens hood won’t allow regular filters, there’s a rear filter holder that accepts standard sheet-type filters when you need to control light or colour.
Being a GM lens, you’d expect decent build quality and the FE 14mm F1.8 GM shouldn’t disappoint in that regard, with a dust- and moisture-resistant design, and fluorine-coated front element to repel water and oils. Of interest to landscape photographers out on the hills, it may also repel crisps, but the official release says nothing of that. The rear element is also fluorine coated, which is important, actually, because if you’re using the slot filter holder it may need more cleaning than usual.
Controls wise, you’re looking at a focus hold button, a focus mode switch and a manual focus ring, though the hold button can be customised to all sorts of uses from the camera menu. The focus ring is of the Linear Response MF type which should make it more precise and intuitive in use. The lens also has a physical aperture ring, which is great if you like working that way. In theory it also frees up an input on the body.
The lens also claims to give pleasing bokeh, and if you focus close enough at the wider apertures – the minimum is 25cm – you should be able to generate some subject separation in stills and video, even at this wide angle view. This smooth bokeh comes via a 9-blade circular aperture mechanism and XA lens elements, and there’s also Sony’s Nano AR Coating II technology included to subdue flare and ghosting.
Finally, though you might not normally expect – or even need – fast focusing from an ultra-wide angle lens, the FE 14mm F1.8 GM promises quick and quiet AF thanks to twin XD (extreme dynamic) linear motors. That should twin it nicely with your Alpha body’s advanced AF modes and be useful if you’re using it for documentary work. The liner motors are virtually silent, too, making it suitable for video.
The FE 14mm F1.8 GM will be available in May with an RRP of around £1,400.