Sony announces a shockingly small & lightweight FE 14mm f/1.8 GM ultra-wide fast prime
posted Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 9:59 AM EDT
Nearing just a month since their last announcement, Sony is unveiling yet another addition to their growing E-mount lens lineup with the new FE 14mm f/1.8 G Master -- Sony's widest-angle and widest-aperture full-frame lens. The new Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM lens marks the 64th E-mount lens in Sony's lineup and the 14th member of their high-end G Master series.
As you can tell from the model name, this is an ultra-wide-angle prime with an ultra-bright f/1.8 aperture, making it a wonderful optic for subjects such as landscapes, architecture and astrophotography. Yet, despite its focal length and maximum aperture, Sony engineers have managed to re-think this type of full-frame lens and shrink it down into a surprisingly compact and lightweight lens, making this type of lens all the more appealing and approachable for a variety of use-cases, such as ultra-wide environmental portraiture, wide-angle close-up photography and creative video uses. Measuring just 3.27 in x 4 in (83mm x 99.8mm) and weighing only 1.02 lbs (460g), the FE 14mm f/1.8 GM has more user-friendly handling, especially when it comes to handheld video shooting and easier mounting with drones and gimbals.
While there have been several full-frame 14mm lenses on the market over the years (with Sony themselves even offering a wider 12-24mm FE zoom lens), Sigma has, up until now, been the only manufacturer to offer a full-frame-format 14mm prime paired with an f/1.8 aperture. However, even though this lens comes in an E-mount version, it's based around a DSLR-lens design, with a very large and bulbous front element and a rotational AF motor system. Ergonomically, the Sigma lens can be quite front-heavy and generally heavy, weighing nearly three pounds. Meanwhile, the new Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM lens is a "mirrorless first" lens. Utilizing the short flange-back distance of the Sony E-mount system, the engineers were able to use smaller and lighter lens elements as well as position them in such a way that more mass is situated back towards the lens mount, making the overall lens lighter and better balanced on Sony's lighter Alpha cameras.
In terms of the precise optical formula, the FE 14mm f/1.8 GM lens is comprised of 14 total elements placed into 11 groups and includes several exotic elements, such as two XA (extreme aspherical) elements, two ED (Extra-low dispersion) elements, one aspherical element and one Super ED element. One of the XA elements is a highly-curved lens at the front of the lens and the other is smaller and located at the rear. Though smaller than the super-large XA front element of the FE 12-24mm GM lens, the front XA element here is again a highly-curved optical element with a characteristically high surface precision. The two XA elements and the additional aspherical element are said to help ensure sharp, high-resolution image quality performance across the frame with low distortion, even when shooting wide open. Further, the lens is designed to minimize sagittal coma flare, the purple-fringed, elongated stretching of point light sources, such as stars. Good coma performance is a key factor for high-quality astrophotography.
Additionally, the two ED glass elements and the Super ED glass element help combat chromatic aberration and color fringing. At the same time, the Nano AR Coating II suppresses flare and minimizes ghosting in bright sun. Like the FE 12-24mm lens, the new 14mm f/1.8 GM lens also features a fixed petal-shaped lens hood to help block stray light rays (as well as protect the front element). As such, the FE 14mm lens does not offer front screw-on filter threads and instead supports rear gel/sheet-type filters with a built-in rear filter holder.
In terms of focusing, the FE 14mm f/1.8 GM lens is, like most other G Master lenses, powered by an XD linear motor-based autofocusing system. The FE 14mm f/1.8 GM lens utilizes two XD (extreme dynamic) linear motors in order to provide precise control, low vibration and efficient power to the lens's focusing group. Like many other Sony lenses, the FE 14mm prime is also an internally focusing lens. Rather than move the large and heavy front element, a rear-positioned focusing group comprising smaller lens elements moves instead, which also aids in providing fast AF performance. Autofocusing is said to be smooth and fast, and designed for excellent performance whether you're shooting static images, tracking motion or recording video.
Despite the wide-angle design, the FE 14mm prime also offers impressive close-focusing performance, with a minimum focusing distance of just 9.8 inches (0.25m). It's not a macro lens by any stretch of the imagination with a magnification factor of just 0.10x, but the lens should perform very well for close-up wide-angle photography -- and the fast f/1.8 aperture should provide pleasing and stylish subject isolation at close distances.
Of course, the lens also supports manual focusing with a large, gripped focusing ring, and a dedicated AF/MF switch on the side. The lens includes a Linear Response manual focusing design, which Sony states helps provide precise and accurate focusing control, despite the mirrorless lens' focus-by-wire design. There is also a Focus Hold button on the side of the lens barrel; however, this button can be customized in the camera to a wide variety of other modes and functions.
The FE 14mm GM lens also includes a manual aperture control ring with marked full-stops from f/1.8 to f/16 as well as at third-stop increments. Like most other GM lenses, the aperture ring can be "de-clicked" for smooth iris control for video recording. Both the front and rear elements include fluorine coatings to help ward against water, dirt and oil, and the entire lens features a dust- and moisture-resistant construction like other G Master lenses.
Pricing & Availability
The Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM lens is scheduled to hit store shelves in May 2021 and will be priced at approximately $1599 USD ($2100 CAD).