Sony E 15mm f1.4 G review
Written by Gordon Laing
The Sony E 15mm f1.4 G is a fast wide prime lens designed for Sony’s mirrorless cameras with cropped APSC sensors. Mount it on models like the ZV-E10 or A6000 series and it’ll deliver coverage equivalent to 22.5mm on full-frame making it ideal for landscape, architecture and presenting pieces to camera.
Announced in June 2022, it’s launched alongside two other new wide models: the E 10-20mm f4 G Power Zoom and E 11mm f1.8. Sony loaned me all three to test, and while this review concentrates on the 15, I also have separate reviews of the other two here. As always my main review is in the video below, but keep scrolling if you’d prefer to read the written highlights!
While the 15 1.4 is unique in Sony’s catalogue, it goes up against a couple of third party options, most obviously the Sigma 16mm f1.4 DC DN, launched four and a half years previously and comfortably cheaper at around $400. To a lesser extent, there’s the slightly wider but equally affordable Viltrox 13mm f1.4, currently available in Fujifilm’s X-Mount at the time I made this review, but likely to arrive for e-mount too before long.
The 15mm is fairly compact, measuring 69x65mm and weighing just 220g; you’ll barely notice it mounted on one of Sony’s APSC bodies, making it an ideal walkaround option. There’s a 55mm filter thread and it’s sealed against dust and moisture including a rubber grommet at the mount. Sony also includes a petal hood with the lens.
Contrast its size with the Sigma 16mm f1.4 DC DN, looking relatively hefty here at 92x72mm and weighing almost double at 405g. Place them side by side and the new Sony is clearly much better-suited to the smaller APSC bodies.
In terms of controls there’s a free-spinning manual focusing ring that feels a little smoother than the cheaper 11mm f1.8 model, and like that model operates with linear-response. Alongside is a dedicated aperture ring, running between f1.4 and f16 with an A position for body-based control. The ring operates in one-third EV increments, but a switch on the side can declick it for smooth and silent adjustments, often preferred in video. There’s also a customisable focus hold button and a switch for auto and manual focus. Overall, it’s a lot busier than the Sigma 16 1.4 DG DN who’s only control is a generously wide manual focusing ring.
Here’s the Sony 15 1.4 mounted on a ZV-E10, autofocusing using AFS and a single AF area in the middle with the aperture wide-open to f1.4 where you can see it’s pretty quick and reasonably confident. It’s also essentially silent in operation. Note you can feel the internal focusing group move a little on all three of Sony’s new wide lenses if you shake them when the camera’s powered down, but they become locked in place when switched-on.
For comparison, here’s the Sigma 16 1.4 DC DN, again at f1.4 on the ZV-E10, and you can see the focusing speed in AFS mode is visibly slower with a tiny wobble at the end to confirm.
Let’s now switch to the same test for movie autofocus, this time with the Sony 15 1.4 filming 4k on the ZV-E10 body in Continuous AFC mode, where you can see the transitions are quick, albeit often aided with a mild wobble to confirm at each end.
And now for the same test with the Sigma, again at f1.4 and suffering from an even more obvious wobble to confirm at each end. I wonder if this was an issue with the ZV-E10 body I had on test, but either way while neither was immune to the confirmation wobble, the Sony was a little more confident.
Next for face tracking with the Sony 15mm at f1.4, where the 22.5mm equivalent coverage is perfect for presenting pieces to camera from a nearby tripod. As a fairly wide lens, you will need to be careful with your position to minimise distortion, but you’ll have no worries over focus.
For comparison, here’s the Sigma 16 at f1.4, where it’s a tad less wide at an equivalent of 24mm, but still ideal for presenting pieces to camera; indeed for many years it was the go-to lens for Sony owners doing this kind of thing. And while third-party lenses, especially older models, can fall behind Sony’s latest in terms of focusing, I’d say the Sigma and ZV-E10 are doing a fine job here.
The slightly wider Sony 15mm is still a bit too long for handheld vlogging at arm’s length as you can see here, and the lack of optical stabilisation means you’ll need another solution to iron-out any wobbles. This is way too shaky on an unstabilised body, but gives you an idea of coverage if you’re using a gimbal or a body with IBIS like the A6600.
The ZV-E10 body used for testing here does however offer Active SteadyShot which applies digital stabilisation, albeit at the cost of a crop to the field of view. As you can see here, it can be effective at reducing shake, but the result here has become way too tight, so to save you any further discomfort, here’s a clip from the 11mm f1.8 with Active SteadyShot, showing it to be the preferred option for the handheld vloggers out there.
Next for focus breathing, with the 15mm manually focusing from infinity to the closest distance and back again. As the lens focuses closer, the field of view widens by a tiny fraction, but it’s barely visible here and I’d say a non-issue for general use.
For comparison, here’s the Sigma 16 1.4 which slightly reduces its field of view when focusing from infinity to the closest distance. It’s certainly more visible than the Sony 15, but not deal-breakingly so.
Ok, now for distortion and like most new mirrorless lenses, especially wide ones, the 15 1.8 employs software profiles to correct geometric distortion. Enter the lens Compensation menu on the ZV-E10 here and you’ll see Distortion Compensation is not just set to Auto on all three of Sony’s new lenses by default, but it’s also greyed-out, meaning you can’t turn it off. This means it’s automatically applied to JPEGs in-camera whether you like it or not, and generally applied by default when converting RAW files. But as a brand new lens, the profile wasn’t yet available in Adobe Camera RAW, allowing me to take a peek behind the curtain.
So here’s a photo I took in RAW+JPEG mode, starting with the RAW version without the profile and as I toggle between it and the out-of-camera JPEG version, you’ll see the latter correcting for some barrel distortion with a mild crop to the field of view as a result. Since the lens was designed to only be used with profiles, I’ll be showing you corrected images from this point on.
For my first test I wanted to compare coverage after the profiles had been applied, so here’s the Sony 15 on the left confirming it’s capturing a broader field of view than the Sigma on the right. Note the Sigma lens also relies on profiles, so I’ve applied them in all the following comparisons.
So let’s now angle the view so that fine details run into the corners. This is the 15mm wide-open at f1.4 where it’s capturing a wide field of view; I always shoot this from the same position so you can compare the coverage and quality with my other reviews. Taking a closer look in the middle of the frame shows a good degree of fine detail, with only a minor boost in contrast and sharpness when closed any further.
For comparison, here’s the Sony 15 on the left and the Sigma 16 on the right, both at f1.4, and while the Sigma is a little more magnified due to its slightly longer focal length, I’d say the Sony enjoys a lead over it in the middle wide-open.
Heading into the far corner of the Sony 15 image at f1.4 reveals a gradual fall-off in sharpness when the lens is focused in the middle of the frame. This can be improved if you were to move the focus area to the corner, but here I’m judging a full landscape image.
Place the Sony 15 on the left and the Sigma 16 on the right, both again at f1.4 and the corner performance from the Sony is noticeably better. As you gradually close the aperture, both become crisper, but the Sony stays in the lead. It’s certainly delivering a sharper result across the frame at larger apertures, whereas the Sigma benefits more from being stopped-down.
Moving onto a portrait distance, here I am with the 15mm at f1.4 on the ZV-E10 again, using face and eye detection to focus, and if you keep to the middle of the frame, you can mostly avoid distortion. Here’s a closer look with the Sony 15 on the left and the Sigma 16 on the right, both at f1.4 with the same camera position, but I’ve stepped back a little for the Sigma to compensate somewhat for its slightly longer focal length. You can see straightaway the Sony 15 is crisper at 1.4 compared to the Sigma, as you’d expect for a much newer lens. Moving onto the background blur, I’d say the Sigma is rendering slightly smoother bokeh than the Sony which to me looks a little more attractive and suffers from less busy-ness.
Next-up a closer look at rendering of bokeh balls here with the 15mm at f1.4 and near to the minimum focusing distance of 20cm; note you may get a tad closer if you manually focus. As you can see it’s possible to achieve attractive background blur effects when focused this close, and while there is some elongation towards the corners, they still look good with only subtle outlining or textures within. As the aperture is gradually closed, you’ll see the blobs take on different shapes influenced by the seven aperture blades.
As another comparison, here’s the 15mm at f1.4 on the left with the Sigma 16 1.4 DC DN on the right, both from near to their minimum focusing distances. Interestingly while the Sigma won’t focus quite as close, that extra millimetre in focal length does mean the background is a little tighter with slightly enlarged blobs as a result. Both lenses have a similar rendering style though.
And at the other end of the scale, here’s an example of diffraction spikes with the aperture closed to the minimum f16. Due to a slightly hazy sky on the day, I had to minimise the Sun’s size by obscuring it a little behind a branch.Check prices on the Sony E 15mm f1.4 G at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!