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Sony’s new ultra-wide full-frame lens is the first of its kind

Sony arguably makes the best full-frame camera on the market, but the true strength of its Alpha-series mirrorless system may lie in its lenses. The new 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master is out to prove this. It is the widest f/2.8 full-frame zoom of any manufacturer — and at $3,000, it won’t come cheap.

Shipping August 13, the 12-24mm marks Sony’s 11th lens in its high-end G Master line. It offers a significantly wider field of view than Sony’s existing f/2.8 wide zoom, the 16-35mm f/2.8, and competes head-on with the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DN, a lens that we said sets a new bar for ultra-wide zooms in our review.

Sony’s main advantage over the Sigma is the extra 2mm on the wide end. This seemingly small difference is more significant than you might think, with Sony claiming a near 10-degree increase in field of view at 12mm compared to 14. While we must contend that 14mm is still plenty wide for most situations, for a minority of landscapes and interiors, 12mm could mean the difference between telling the story you want and missing out on the shot completely.

It isn’t just for its field of view that the 12-24mm G Master looks to be an excellent lens. Its optical design features three extreme aspherical (XA) elements, including a front objective lens that is the largest XA element Sony has ever produced. It necessitated a new kind of anti-reflective coating as the interior curvature is too severe for Sony’s existing lens coatings. It also features four linear focus motors split between two focusing groups and is the first full-frame ultra-wide to use linear motors, which should mean very fast focus performance and improved accuracy for sports and action photographers depending on continuous autofocus.

And all of this fits into a body that weighs just 29 ounces, a mere 4 ounces heavier than the Sigma 14-24mm DN, which was purpose-built to be as compact and lightweight as possible. We should mention, though, the Sigma only costs $1,400.

Camera tech geeks may be quick to point out that while this Sony may be the first full-frame 12-24mm with an f/2.8 constant aperture, Fujifilm makes an 8-16mm (12-24mm full-frame equivalent) with a constant f/2.8 for its APS-C X-series cameras. Interestingly, it also uses a linear focus motor. However, f/2.8 on APS-C is equivalent to f/4 on a full-frame, so Sony’s accomplishment remains an impressive one.

But as cool as this new lens is, it probably it isn’t the Sony announcement we were waiting for. The heavily rumored replacement to the A7S II camera has been confirmed for summer, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the official word.

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