The year is 2022 and it’s apparently time for APS-C to shine. With Canon showing off what they’ve cooked up and Fujifilm making its own announcement, Sony is releasing three more wide-angle APS-C lens options today: the 10-20mm f/4 PZ G, 15mm f/1.4 G and 11mm f/1.8.
Sony E 10-20mm f/4 PZ G
In appearance, the Sony 10-20mm f/4 PZ G certainly gives the impression that it is a newer Sony lens. For its chunky size – about 2.5 inches wide (64 millimeters) by 2.16 inches long (54 millimeters) – there are plenty of extras on the side, including a motorized zoom rocker, a programmable button and a focus mode switch. The miniature plastic focus and zoom rings have infinite rotation and feel nice enough in motion, but adding rubber would have gone a long way to making them feel more premium. Fortunately, the lens does not expand in size when zoomed.
Sony claims that not only is the 10-20mm f/4 PZ G the smallest ultra-wide APS-C zoom, it’s also 46% lighter than its competitors. It weighs 6.2 ounces (175 grams) and paired with a compact camera like the Sony ZV-E10, the set is extremely travel-friendly. While hiking with this kit, I would often leave the camera in my hand for miles at a time, as it seemed more inconvenient to store it in my pack than just continue to hold it.
While the front element is bulbous in shape, the lens still accepts 62mm filters. On the back is a thin rubber seal for some protection against dust and moisture entering the mounting point.
Internally, the 10-20mm f/4 PZ G uses two extra-low dispersion elements and one extra-low dispersion aspherical element. Of the three new lenses announced today, this one seemed to have the best performance when it comes to backlit shots. The lens flare is clean, although speckles of color may still appear. It maintains its contrast well and there are no easily apparent color fringing on the high contrast edges.
Testing the 10mm center sharpness, I found the wide aperture at f/4 to be OK, stopping at f/6.3 showed its best, and at f/9 is when the image clearly began to lose sharpness. In the corners, it was an f/5.6 stop that looked sharpest.
Looking at the 20mm sharpness in the center, f/4 was an improvement over what was seen at 10mm, f/6.3 was still the best, and at f/13 that’s when the image started to soften. The corners were interesting because it seemed like the closer the opening was, the softer it got. Unlike the other two current new lenses that only stop at f/16, the 10-20mm can stop down to f/22.
Closest focusing distance is a few inches from the front of the lens and measures 5.11 inches (0.12 millimeters) at 10mm and 6.69 inches (0.16 millimeters) at 20mm. This can create interesting looks due to the super wide angle of view while still keeping close objects in focus. When shot wide open at f/4 like this, there’s even a possibility of subject separation from depth of field.
Sony E 15mm f/1.4G
If I had to choose which of these new lenses looks the most premium, the Sony E 15mm f/1.4 G would be my choice. It measures approximately 2.5 inches in diameter and 2.73 inches long. It is a small fixed focal length lens while offering an f/1.4 aperture.
In addition to the plastic focus ring, the lens also features an aperture ring, aperture click switch, programmable button, and focus mode switch. The focus ring seems ok when turning but would have been improved by a rubber ring instead of plastic. The aperture ring when un-clicked has better glide than the focus ring.
The lens weighs 7.7 ounces (218 grams), which is a little heavier than the 10-20mm, but will be much better at performing in low-light scenarios given the f/1 maximum aperture ,4. When paired with the Sony ZV-E10, the kit fits well in size and is easy to carry around for long periods of time.
The front element protrudes a bit, but the lens does 55 millimeter filters. On the back is a thin rubber seal for some protection against dust and moisture entering the mounting point.
Inside the 15mm f/1.4G, three aspherical elements are used in the optical formula to help retain image sharpness. In my tests of center sharpness I saw wide aperture at f/1.4 was good, down to f/3.5 was best, and finally at f/11 is when it there was an apparent softening of the image due to diffraction. Looking at the corners, f/5.6 seemed the sharpest.
One downside of the 15mm f/1.4G is the amount of lens flare with bright light sources. I guess there isn’t much in the optics to prevent this, as it looks like almost every shape and color shows up on the frame. For landscape photography I’m not sure this is the lens I would want to buy as there will be a lot of separate exposures to control this and then composite together. On the plus side, the color fringing on the high-contrast edges doesn’t seem to bother the lens at all.
This lens has a seven-bladed aperture, and when looking at out-of-focus areas of an image, it can look quite busy. The barrel distortion of this wide-angle lens also produces cat-eye bokeh balls that circle the center of the frame. It’s a look I personally enjoy over something more sterile, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
The minimum focusing distance of this lens is 7.87 inches (0.2 meters) in autofocus or 6.69 inches (0.17 meters) in manual focus. Either way, to that end of things, it’s going to allow for good separation when used in conjunction with that fast f/1.4 aperture while also offering a wide angle of view.
Sony E 11mm f/1.8
The last is the 11mm f/1.8 which is the only lens of the trio that doesn’t get the Sony G designation.
Compared to the 15mm f/1.4G above, it’s essentially missing the aperture ring and aperture click switch, otherwise it keeps everything else outside. There’s still a useful programmable button and the focus mode switch. The focus ring is plastic and has decent glide, but compared to the 15mm it feels grittier, especially when starting and stopping.
This lens measures approximately 2.5 inches in diameter by 2.26 inches long. It’s incredibly compact considering the wide angle of view and fast f/1.8 aperture. At 6.3 ounces (178 grams), it’s almost the same weight as the 10-20mm f/4 featured above. These have all been easy to pack in my backpacking bag or carry for long distances due to their compact nature.
The front element is bulbous in shape, but 55mm filters will still fit. The mount side of the lens has a rubber seal for some level of dust and moisture protection from the elements entering it.
Much like the 15mm f/1.4G lens, this one also has three aspherical elements in the optical formula to help extend sharpness from corner to corner. When testing the 11mm f/1.8 for center sharpness, I found f/1.8 can be a little soft but see a nice improvement at f/2.5. The f/5 stop was the sharpest and at f/9 is where the lens started to soften. At the corner, I saw that the more the opening was closed, the softer it became. Again, as a reminder, this lens and the 15mm f/1.4 G can only stop at f/16.
This lens also seems to enjoy its fair share of lens flare. I don’t believe there’s much inside the lens to prevent this from happening, and in some cases it can absolutely take over a shot. Landscape photographers who shoot a lot in the sun will want to be aware of this issue as it will take some thinking to overcome.
The 11mm f/1.8 has a seven-blade aperture, but with such an angle of view, I think that’s less of an issue here than with the 15mm f/1.4. The out-of-focus areas are moderately busy but it’s harder to notice unless you’re shooting really close to get that kind of depth of field effect.
With a minimum focusing distance of 4.72 inches (0.12 meters), this allows for interesting close-up images with a super wide-angle look. The f/1.8 aperture is good for exposing more light to the sensor, but again the depth of field effect it creates won’t be as pronounced.
The future is vast
The world of APS-C has been slowly moving for some time now, so it’s kind of funny that when the action picks up again for Sony, it’s in the form of three fairly similar lenses. I don’t know why the company would choose to release these three items at this time, but I have to admit that it’s not bad to have options. The 15mm f/1.4G had the best overall image quality, the 10-20mm has all the versatility, and the 11mm will either be cheaper or wider in comparison.
Are there alternatives?
Prior to the announcement of the Sony 10-20mm f/4 PZ G, the company also had the 10-18mm f/4 OSS in the lineup and has had that for almost a decade now. The only bright spot on this lens above the 10-20mm would be the optical SteadyShot image stabilization, otherwise it’s an easy choice to upgrade to again.
An alternative to the Sony 15mm f/1.4 G would be the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary. It strips out all the extras seen on the Sony, but it gets you to f/1.4 at roughly the same focal length. Removing the extra features is also going to make it a decent amount cheaper.
The new Sony 11mm f/1.8 could be compared to the Rokinon 12mm f/2 AF lens. It’s still an ultra-wide-angle lens with a faster aperture, but it takes away a few exterior features from the Sony.
Should I buy them?
Yes. Considering the prices of these lenses, I would have expected better flare suppression, but overall I can’t say that’s a deal breaker. These are acceptably sharp lenses that expand but are not wildly distorted. Best of all, they’re true APS-C designs that consider portability as much as image quality.