Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM Review
- Build Quality
As always, this is not a super technical review with specs, corner sharpness tests, pixel peeping distortion shots and what not… Plenty on the web for that. This is more about the character of the lens, how it fits into my photographic style and if it’s the right lens for me. What I hope to show in my reviews are sample images of people, places and things I normally would photograph vs taking a photo just for a review.
I have been shooting with a 35mm focal length (specifically a 1.4 prime) exclusively for almost 15 years as my main-go-to lens for any commissioned work. I’ve decided to challenge myself to switch things up a little. Going from what I’m comfortable with to a focal length not necessarily desired for portrait photography, is not only scary, but it’s also super risky. With that said, a lot of the decision to transition from 35mm to 24mm also has to do with size.
Through the years, I found myself taking my little 28mm FE during travel and leisure leaving my Sony Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA at home. For me, it’s just too large to be an every day, take with you anywhere lens. So I did it, put the 35 up for sale and bought the 24mm GM.
My hope is the 24mm can be my portrait, landscape, interior, food, pets, super-all-in-one-prime-lens for every day life, but also for weddings and portrait shoots. Read below for more thoughts regarding if the 24mm can be that versatile prime lens for me.
Full disclaimer here… I am a full-fledged, self-certified environmental portrait photographer. When I talk about this 24mm lens as a portrait lens, I’m referring to environmental portraits and I understand not many people are into using wide angle lenses for portraiture. For me, incorporating ones environment can convey more meaning by showing a time and place. I find it more interesting and feel that it helps create a narrative, adds to a timeline and evokes a sense of feeling in regards to where you are at that moment in time.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m usually rocking a 55mm or 85mm prime on my second body, but wide angle portraiture really gets you thinking more about composition and I love that. With that said, distortion does happen when you get too close, but more on that later.
The build quality of the Sony 24mm GM is magical. It’s lightweight, tiny for a 1.4 prime but still feels really well built. I’m a huge fan of aperture rings and the 24mm GM has one of the best. It feels mechanical and has that old school sturdiness feel to it. It also has a MF/AF switch as well as a custom button. All that in a small package.
The size and weight really is a perfect combination for the Sony full frame line. The main reason I made the switch from Canon when the original a7 came out was, at the time, mainly due to size, so it’s no wonder that I’m looking to replace larger lenses like the Sony Distagon T FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA. I really do love that lens but as I said earlier, it stays home most of the time.
The lens hood provided is also of high quality, felt interior and dedicated button for release.
So back to discussing portraiture.
First thing people ask regarding using wider primes for portraits is, “What about distortion on faces?” Sure, if you get too close things can get wonky and certain features may look off. While I think there’s a time and place for getting close, in my opinion, as long as you are careful with your composition and angles, you can achieve some really nice results. And with the short time I’ve had the 24mm, I’m realizing that as long as your subject is centered, distortion for me is hardly noticeable.
In the 15 years I’ve been paid to shoot, I haven’t had a single client wonder or worry about distortion. Granted, I’m not doing many traditional portraiture, I’ve found that most people won’t even know what face distortion is.
And with close up selfies, photoshop, beauty mobile apps as well as social media filters, people are constantly distorting their faces without even knowing anyway lol.
And what I thought might be a weakness is actually turning out to be a strength. Because it has a much wider field of view, I’m no longer feeling limited in tight spaces where I normally would be with my 35mm. For weddings, 80% of the time, up until the reception, I’m usually rocking two bodies with a 35mm and 85mm prime. It’s been amazing but there have been times where I wanted to go a little wider in moments where I didn’t have time to switch out lenses. I have yet to shoot a wedding with the 24mm, but I’m thinking it will be a great combo with the 85.
With all that said and done, don’t let anyone tell you a certain focal length limits you from taking a portrait. If anything, one can argue it makes you better because it causes you to think more about composition and angles.
Holy crap this lens is sharp! I’ve had to adjust my workflow with shots from this lens to decrease the amount of sharpening I usually apply. This isn’t a technical review so I you won’t find samples or discussion regarding corner sharpness here… but man, for me and what I do, this thing is freakin SHARP.
Just like portraits, you don’t necessarily equate wide angle lenses with beautiful out of focus areas. But because of the 1.4 aperture and 11-blade diaphragm, it has the ability to create circular out of focus areas and creamy backgrounds. To get that separation between your subject, either of these two things need to occur while shooting wide open at 1.4 – a) The background of your subject is far or b) you gotta get close to your subject.
When done right, you can acheive really nice bokeh with creamy backgrounds and 1.4 prime-like separation.
At the end of the day, value depends on you and your specific needs. For me, it’s worth every penny in regards to how it performs. Add to the fact that because it has, for a month now, been that take-with-me-everywhere kind of lens… that alone is quite priceless for me.
From dinners to parties to brunches… from pets to portraits to food… it’s such a versatile lens for what I do. I have yet to put it through it’s paces at a wedding or portrait shoot, but I did take it with me for a week in Hawaii with my family and it was a joy to use and a breeze to carry.
35mm vs 24mm?
I love the fov a 35mm gives but I’m also really growing to love the 24mm focal length that I actually think it’s a more versatile lens. It absolutely can still provide me that nice separation for portraits but it can also get shots that the 35mm couldn’t in tighter spaces.
I shoot a lot of authentic stock photography, check out my profile on Twenty20 here, and I’m finding that this lens can do it all. I’ve yet to book a portrait session but once I do, I will definitely update my thoughts and include some of those photos here.
I know what you’re thinking… “So wait, 35mm or 24mm?” There’s no right answer tbh. And I learned that before I made the switch. In a perfect world, own both. I’m still struggling with letting my 35mm go. But if you’re in a position where you can only choose one or it makes sense for you to only own one, then my vote is for the 24mm GM for the reasons in this review. Those benefits the 24mm GM provides my shooting style just make sense for my situation. I also have a little more bias towards switching to the 24mm given 35mm was the focal length I’ve relied on for the last 15 years and I need to get out of my comfort zone.
So there you have it… I’m breaking up with my beloved 35mm (for now any way).
Below are more random photos in hopes to show some of the versatility I was referring to in terms of subjects and spaces you can photograph with this lens. I’ll also include some photos of my trip to Hawaii where I used this lens and this lens alone to capture the trip.
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask below or better yet, follow me on Instagram and DM me!
Quick Hawaii Trip w/ Family