When packing his camera to go on an epic adventure, the super wideangle Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master lens is one of the first to go in Michael Schaake's backpack.
“The biggest advantage it offers is that I can capture a lot of the environment in a single shot,” says the German wildlife and nature photographer. Capturing a grand vista is important to Michael as he wants to take the viewer on a journey to the location.
Also, if you're shooting the night sky - the Milky Way or the Aurora Borealis - you need a wideangle lens like this one, just because the sky is so big, and you want to capture all the wonderful light as it happens.”
On his adventures in Norway, the Sony 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master lens comes into its own, with the 12mm shortest focal length combining with the f/2.8 aperture to capture the faintest of stars. When shooting the night sky, the 1-stop difference in aperture over an f/4 zoom lens delivers time after time.
“You need all the light you can get,” remarks Michael. “I don't typically need an f/2.8 aperture for shooting landscapes, as I want to maximise the depth of field where I can. So for me, the reason is actually to capture most of the light in the night sky.”
The FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master zoom was used to take one of Michael's favourite recent photographs of the Aurora Borealis at a lake in Kvikkjokk, Sweden.
“I remember when I took this photo; it was a beautiful moment to capture. It was so calm. There was no wind at all, so there was this perfect reflection of the trees in the water. Then you have part of the Milky Way, which leads the eye to the middle of the photo. Then, the aurora from the left leads nearly to the same spot, with the two trees a little to the right. For me, this is a really nicely balanced photo.”
Michael could’ve used a fixed focal length lens, but the 12-24mm focal length offers him versatility, which is especially important when trekking. “I'm not the kind of guy who walks somewhere and waits hours to take a shot. I am always on the run, walking and hiking.” As such, Michael wants to make the most of every gram of weight he adds to his camera bag.
“It's a more versatile lens than the 24mm, which is only sometimes wide enough, while the 14mm is sometimes too wide or not quite wide enough – so Sony’s 12-24mm is by far the most versatile option I can have. I’ll usually also take the FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS lens and the 70-200 GM II lens, and then I have everything I need for any eventuality.”
Sometimes using a zoom lens is a significant compromise compared to a fixed focal length lens. But the design of the 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master means there is no need for compromise, with the optical quality more than good enough for Michael to use with his 61-megapixel Sony Alpha 7R IV and Alpha 7R V cameras.
“The lens is special. It is very, very sharp wide open at f/2.8, but around f/8 is the sweet spot. In the corners, it is sharp with no distortion.”
Another of Michael's favourite shots taken with the 12-24mm lens was shot on the Isle of Skye.
I remember there were such changing weather conditions. There was a break in the clouds which produced this beautiful dramatic light. The advantage of the 12mm focal length was that it allowed me to get close to the river, and you can see all the detail and texture on the rocks lit by the sun.”
When the weather allows, Michael isn't afraid of shooting into the sun to create beautiful 18-point sun stars from the 9-rounded aperture blades of the lens. “I always place something like a branch or distant tree directly in front of the sun to produce the stars, but I find I never have a problem with flare or spots unless I go to extremes or intentionally want them in a shot.”
Overall, the performance of the FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master lens is exceptional, which is something Michael, and many other photographers, have come to expect when they see the red 'G’ logo on a Sony lens. “G Master stands for quality, and you just know it will be the perfect lens.”