Review: Sony 20mm f1.8 G (A Fantastic Lens for Everyday Shooters)

The Sony 20mm f1.8 is a versatile lens that will suit photographers who like to shoot a wide range of genres.

When you look at the current Sony E mount lens lineup, and then you take a look at the Sony 20mm f1.8 G, you might be wondering why Sony released this lens when they already have the 24mm f1.4 GM. The specs of the Sony 20mm 1.8 G sound great; in fact, the 20mm f1.8 G borrows a lot of the same tech that’s used in Sony’s more expensive GM options, so it should be a strong performer. On paper, the Sony 20mm f1.8 G sounds like a solid wide lens (it also happens to now be the widest prime lens in the Sony lineup), but how does the lens perform in the real world for $899.99? Let’s find out in our review.

“The Sony 20mm f1.8 G is bitingly sharp. Both the 24 Megapixel a9 II, and the 61 Megapixel Sony a7r IV when paired with this lens produced images with fantastic levels of sharpness.”

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Nice and light (0.82lbs)
  • The small footprint makes it easy to carry around for long periods
  • Super fast, silent focusing
  • Weather sealing
  • Very sharp optics
  • Colors rendered are pleasing, and the bokeh isn’t too shabby either
  • The aperture ring can be de-clicked so that it can be used for video
  • The large, smooth manual focus ring

Cons

  • A slight amount of purple fringing is evident in some images

Gear Used

Sony 20mm f1.8 G

We used the $899 Sony 20mm F1.8 G with the Sony a7r IV and the Sony a9 II.

Tech Specs

All technical specifications have been taken from Sony directly.

  • ED Glass for improved image quality and better controlled chromatic aberration
  • Nano AR coatings to help with reflections and ghosting
  • 7.5-inch minimum focusing distance
  • XD LM autofocus motor that’s found in GM lenses
  • Max magnification of 0.20x with Af and 0.22x with MF
  • Minimum focusing distance of 7.5-inches
  • Filter thread diameter of 67mm
  • Dimensions of 2.89-inches x 3.33-inches
  • Weighs just 0.83lbs

Ergonomics

Sony 20mm f1.8 G

The Sony 20mm f1.8 G is a well-designed lens, which feels really nice in the hands. Put this small prime on your camera, and you’ll hardly notice that it is there given its small footprint (2.89-inches x 3.33-inches) and lightweight (0.82lbs). In the image above, you can see that the Sony 20mm f1.8 has a large focusing ring, and closer to the lens mount, you’ll see an aperture control ring.

Sony 20mm f1.8 G

On the right-hand side of the barrel, you’ll find the on-off switch for the aperture ring click. The switch is well placed and is easy to find. You’re also going to see the Sony branding here too. To the bottom right of the image, you will see the petal-shaped lens hood that comes with the lens,

Sony 20mm f1.8 G

On the left-hand side of the barrel, you will find the auto and manual focus selector switch, the focus hold button, and the large Sony G branding.

Sony 20mm f1.8 G

The front element of the Sony 20mm f1.8 G us ever so slightly bulbous but not to an extreme, this is to be expected in a lens of this focal length. This top-down image of the lens shows the front element. As you can see, the filter thread size is 67mm. Overall the Sony 20mm f1.8 G has an unremarkable, rather plain design. Let’s call it a standard design. There’s nothing that makes it stand out.

The lens is small, clean, uncluttered and, you’ll barely notice it attached to your camera, which means this lens is perfect for those who like to keep things compact and easy to carry when they head out of the door. There are no complaints here when it comes to ergonomics.

“The aperture control ring is, as you would expect, much smaller than the focus ring, but it feels great. Leave the click mechanism turned on, and you get very satisfying clunks as you turn it.”

Build Quality

Sony 20mm f1.8 G

The Sony 20mm f1.8 G has the build quality that we have come to expect from G branded lenses in Sony’s line up; that’s to say, it’s excellent. The lens is a plastic affair, but it doesn’t feel cheap at all, in fact, it feels like it will stand up well to what most photographers will subject it to during normal use.

The Sony 20mm f1.8 G also features weather-sealing, which means you can take this lens out into the rain with no problems at all. I took it out with me, and the heavens opened up out of the blue, and it just kept on working with no issues at all. The focusing ring has just the right amount of tension, and the size of it makes it easy to use. The aperture control ring is, as you would expect, much smaller than the focus ring, but it feels great. Leave the click mechanism turned on, and you get very satisfying clunks as you turn it. When you put the Click switch to off, you get a smooth spinning, completely silent aperture ring, which makes it ideal for video work. Overall the Sony 20mm f1.8 G won’t disappoint in the build quality department.

“The small size and weight of the Sony 20mm f1.8 G make this lens a pure joy to use.”

Ease of Use

Attach this lens to any Sony E mount camera, and off you go. It’s just that easy. The only choices you have to make are whether or not you want to be in control of the focusing, and if you want the aperture ring to be clicky or smooth. If you don’t want to use the aperture ring to change your f-stop, you can put it in auto, and you can use the dedicated aperture control on the camera body. The focus hold button does exactly what it’s supposed to do too. The short minimum focusing distance is great as well! You can get nice and close to your subject (7.5-inches), and you can create some gorgeous bokeh.

Sony 20mm f1.8 G

The small size and weight of the Sony 20mm f1.8 G make this lens a pure joy to use. If you love going out on photo walks, partake in street photography, do documentary work, or landscapes that involve hiking to your location, you will enjoy this lens. There’s no IS in this lens, but you simply don’t need it on such a wide piece of glass, besides the IBIS on select Sony bodies will help if you need it. Put the lens on the camera and forget about it. You can easily use this lens all day without worrying about it becoming a burden.

“There were no problems with real-time human and animal eye-AF, nor with objects in motion. Half-press the shutter and you get focus lock almost instantly.”

Autofocus

The Sony 20mm f1.8 G was able to keep up with my crazy dog while he was out playing, and it had no problems with animal eye AF even as he got closer to me. As you can see, the camera and lens nailed the shot on the eyes.

The Sony 20mm f1.8 G is a great performer when it comes to autofocus. Not only is it completely silent thanks to the XD LM linear AF motor that’s found in Sony’s more expensive GM lenses, but it’s also super snappy too. I tried this lens on the Sony a9 II, and the Sony a7r IV and granted, these cameras are ridiculous when it comes to the AF systems they employ, but the lens never missed a beat, and I doubt that it would miss on any newer Sony camera with the latest firmware. There were no problems with real-time human and animal eye-AF, nor with objects in motion. Half-press the shutter, and you get focus lock almost instantly. This is the story in both good lighting conditions and less than stellar lighting conditions.

Image Quality

You’re going to be happy with the images you create with the Sony 20mm f1.8 G. Sharp is an understatement here. The amount of detail the lens can help Sony sensors resolve is incredible. One thing to note is that there were no profiles for this lens in either Capture One 20 or Lightroom during our testing period, so while the images look fine, there may well be some distortion, but at first glance, the photos look excellent. I can also say that vignetting is very well controlled too.

The Sony 20mm f1.8 G is going to give you great colors, nicely rendered bokeh, razor-sharp images from corner-to-corner from f1.8 and on, and the lens coatings control flare well when shooting directly into the sun. What more could you need?

Bokeh

While bokeh is not really a strong point of wide-angle lenses, you can surely create some nice out of focus areas with the Sony 20mm f1.8 G. The minimum focusing distance of 7.5-inches helps here. The bokeh that can be rendered can be smooth and creamy; of course, it just depends on exactly what your background is, but overall the bokeh is great and not distracting in any way.

Sony 20mm f1.8 G

Step back a little, and you can see that the bokeh produced is still very nice indeed. I don’t think people buying this lens will be doing so for the bokeh, but just know that if you want to create some subject separation, you can do so easily, and you will get pleasing results.

Chromatic Aberration

Sony 20mm f1.8 G

During my time with the Sony 20mm f1.8 G, I have been quite impressed with the lens, but I do have to say that at times I have noticed some purple fringing. You can see some in the image above around branches in the background. I was able to remove it easily during post, though, and once the lens profiles hit photo editing software, it will be gone with a single click. So, yes, there can be fringing at times, but no, it’s not a deal-breaker.

Color Rendition

The colors that the Sony 20mm f1.8 G renders are accurate and true to life. They aren’t overly saturated, nor are they muted, they just look great, I left the camera on auto white balance and was pleased with the colors overall, and I think that anyone who picks one of these lenses up for their own use will be happy with what they will see too.

Sharpness

Sony 20mm f1.8 G

The Sony 20mm f1.8 G is bitingly sharp. Both the 24 Megapixel a9 II, and the 61 Megapixel Sony a7r IV when paired with this lens produced images with fantastic levels of sharpness. This should come as no surprise really as primes generally offer unmatched levels of sharpness. When you look at other G lenses that Sony offers, there is no reason for this offering to be any different from the levels of sharpness they offer, and it doesn’t disappoint. Use this lens with a flash, and sharpness levels will be even higher, not that you need it, though.

Additional Image Samples

Below you will find a mixture of both straight out of camera unedited RAW files and edited files so that you can get an idea of what to expect from this lens. Images are marked accordingly.

Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Edited
Edited
Unedited
Edited
Edited
Unedited
Unedited
Edited
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Edited
Unedited
Unedited
Edited
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Edited
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Edited
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Unedited
Edited
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Unedited
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Unedited
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Edited
Edited
Edited
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Edited
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Unedited
Sony 20mm f1.8 G
Unedited

Conclusions

Likes

  • Great size and weight
  • Razor-sharp, even wide open
  • Very fast and very quiet AF motors
  • Nice natural color rendering
  • Weather sealing

Dislikes

  • The purple fringing isn’t bad, but we really shouldn’t be seeing any at this point

I have been really impressed with the Sony 20mm f1.8 during my time with it. At first, I was wondering if there was a need for a 20mm f1.8 lens in the Sony lineup, but after using the lens, I can say that yes, there is. This lens is perfect for a ton of different genres, from street photography to documentary, to landscapes, environmental portraits, macro, portraits, and food photography. This lens will also be an excellent choice for those who like astrophotography thanks to its wide field of view and fast f1.8 aperture.

The Sony 20mm f1.8 G is a small lens that packs a punch. The images the glass will help you capture will be tack sharp from f1.8 and on. The colors that it renders are pleasant and neutral and will no doubt please many. The bokeh is very good for a wide-angle lens, and the way the lens coatings help control flares and ghosting is excellent. This lens is a speed demon in the AF department as well, in both good and poor lighting conditions. The Sony 20mm f1.8 G is fun to use for extended periods thanks to its lightweight and small size. It’s the perfect lens for the everyday photographer. Put it on your camera, and you may not want to take it off.

Despite the few instances of purple fringing, the Sony 20mm f1.8 G is a great performing lens. We award the Sony 20mmm f1.8 G five out of five stars. If you want a small, sharp lens that’s fun to use on your Sony E mount cameras, check out this one.