Sony is finally showing some love to their APS-C cameras by launching three new lenses specifically for their crop sensor platform. The Sony 15mm f/1.4 G, which will take on the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN, is a lens designed for photographers and videographers who like to keep things wide. Let’s see how it performs in our full review.
- Small and light
- Weather sealing
- Snappy autofocus
- De-clickable aperture ring
- Nice color rendering
- Heavy ghosting
- Green fringing
- Heavy distortion with lens correction off
- The price
Sony 15mm f/1.4 G — Technical specifications
Sony provided all technical specifications for the Sony 15mm f/1.4 G:
- Designed for APS-C cameras
- Dust and moisture resistant
- 22.5mm equivalent focal length
- 2x linear AF motors
- Optimized for video
- Weighs 7.7oz / 0.48lbs
- Seven circular aperture blades
- Active Mode support for walking
- De-clickable aperture ring
- Focus hold button
- Focus mode button
Sony 15mm f/1.4 G — Ergonomics and build quality
Sony’s G series lenses are smack dab in the middle of the pack (Sony, Sony G, Sony GM) when it comes to their build quality. This small APS-C prime is no exception to that rule. That’s not to say that this lens is bad. Not at all; In fact, this lens’s build quality and overall ergonomics are some of the biggest selling points. Thanks to its overall size and weight, the Sony 15mm f/1.4 balanced near perfectly on my loaner Sony a6600.
The lens weighs less than half a pound (0.48lbs), it’s roughly three inches long and takes 55mm filters. Quite impressive for a lens that has a maximum aperture of f/1.4. This lens is noticeably smaller Sigma 16mm f/1.4 it’s competing against. Like the Sigma 16mm, the Sony is dust and moisture resistant. I didn’t get to test the lens out in the rain, but I have subjected G series lenses to light showers before and they have faired just fine. I’m sure it will be the same story with this lens.
From a controls standpoint, the Sony 15mm f/1.4 G is laid out well. There’s a decently sized manual focus ring sitting behind the front element, and there’s a de-clickable aperture dial. On the left side of the barrel, you’ll find a function button and the AF/MF switch. On the right sits the de-click switch. All fall nicely in reach when you’re holding the lens. The lens is all plastic, but it feels nice, it has survived some unintentional bumps and it’s easy to use.
Sony 15mm f/1.4 G — In the field
The Sony 15mm f/1.4 G — which provides an equivalent focal length of 22.5mm — is nice to tote around on Sony’s APS-C cameras. The lens weighs practically nothing, it balances well and the controls feel great. You can control the aperture from the lens thanks to the dedicated dial, or you can leave it in A mode and control aperture values from the camera body. The de-click option will delight videographers, and so will the smooth manual focus ring.
There’s no optical stability built into this lens, which is odd as Sony is marketing this lens as a solid option for video. Let’s be honest, IBIS in the a6600 is not that great. However, I was able to handhold this lens with good technique and managed to pull off acceptably sharp still shots at 1/10th of a second. Other than these things, the lens is about as plug-and-play as possible. It’s easy to use.
Sony 15mm f/1.4 G — Focus performance
If I had to describe autofocus performance in one word, I would say that the Sony 15mm f/1.4 G is swift. In addition to being a speed demon, the lens focuses accurately. Focusing from near to far is near-instantaneous. I had no problems doing street photography with this lens. When tracking objects, it didn’t miss a bit. The performance is impressive. You can get quite close to subjects thanks to the minimum focusing distance of 7.87-inches.
As mentioned above, Sony is touting this lens for video production. Videographers, you’ll be pleased to know that there is very little focus breathing when manually focusing. You’ll be able to pull focus and create excellent clips with ease when using this lens. Overall focusing performance is solid. If you’re debating between this lens and the Sigma 16mm f/1.4, the Sony wins handsomely here.
Sony 15mm f/1.4 G — Image quality
Image quality is a mixed bag. Part of the issue here is that there were no lens profiles available for this lens during our review. Even the distortion compensation in the a6600 was useless. I’m sure that once lens profiles start hitting various editing suites, the images will be better overall. In the review state, though, the lens exhibited bad distortion, ghosting and fringing. However, center sharpness, bokeh, and color rendition are excellent. Let’s break things down further.
We can’t help but tell you that this lens produces significant distortion without any lens correction profiles enabled. In every image above, you can see the barrel distortion. The pictures bulge out in the center, and items on the sides have extreme curves. For example, look at the portrait image of the Devon Tower. The waterline of the pond in the foreground shows excessive curvature. We expected distortion because this is a wide-angle lens, but we weren’t expecting this much.
Ghosting, flaring, vignetting and chromatic aberrations
The biggest downside of the Sony 15mm f/1.4 G is the amount of ghosting and fringing it produces. As you can see in the images of the statue above, at f/1.4, ghosting is minimal; However, as soon as you reach f/5.6, it starts to become an issue. At f/16, well, you won’t be using these images.
The image of the flower shows green fringing. Once lens profiles have been added to the editing software suites, I’m sure that the CA will be manageable. As you would expect, there is a vignetting when shooting wide-open. But, again, vignetting will easily be fixed once lens profiles have been added to various pieces of editing software. Still, by the time you hit f/5.6, the vignetting calms down. Unfortunately, for those in pursuit of gorgeous sun stars, the Sony 15mm f/1.4 G doesn’t produce the prettiest examples I’ve ever seen.
In the center, the lens is nice and sharp when wide-open. However, at the edges of the frame, sharpness falls off. This is likely due to the distortion the lens introduces. Interesting, when looking at the images on my computer, I could see lots of fine detail.
Stop the lens down to f/5.6, and images sharpen up across the frame. You can shoot down to roughly f/11 before the effects of diffraction show. Is it the sharpest lens I have ever used? No, but it’s more than acceptable, and the edges and corners will likely get better once the distortion is under control.
You’re not going to buy a wide-angle lens like this one for bokeh; Still, having said that, the fast aperture of f/1.4 does allow you to create some rather lovely bokeh when you shoot wide-open and at the lens’ minimum focusing distance. Bokeh balls aren’t perfectly round, but they’re OK for what this lens is. Don’t buy this lens for the bokeh. Buy it for the low-light shooting ability it brings, and take what bokeh you can create as a bonus.
I love the way this lens renders colors. All of the images you have seen here in this review were captured using the standard color profile, and no alterations were made regarding colors during processing. You’ll find that the colors are pleasant and natural. You could easily walk around and shoot JPEGs without a worry in the world when it comes to colors. Excellent job, Sony.
Sony 15mm f/1.4 G — A good but expensive APS-C lens
The Sony 15mm f/1.4 G is a welcome addition to Sony’s APS-C lens lineup. With an equivalent focal length of 22.5mm, this lens will give photographers and videographers who like to keep things wide a nice option. However, it’s clear that Sony is going after Sigma’s 16mm f/1.4 Contemporary.
In many cases, the Sony 15mm f/1.4 is the better lens. It’s smaller and lighter, has better weather sealing, focuses faster, and has a fantastic de-clickable aperture dial. However, the Sony does exhibit more distortion and ghosting than Sigma’s 16mm f/1.4.
However, overall sharpness is great, the lens renders pleasing colors and nice bokeh, and it has minimal focus breathing, which is vital for videographers. The most significant difference between this Sony lens and Sigma’s option is the price, with this Sony 15mm f/1.4 G coming in hot at $750, it’s double the cost of the Sigma.
Overall the Sony 15mm f/1.4 G is a nice lens that should improve when lens profiles are added to editing software. You just need to decide if you want an OEM lens from Sony or a third-party one from Sigma.