During a solid year of camera and lens development, Sony had a productive 2021 that saw a great deal of attention given to the prime lens. With six primes and one zoom being released over the past 12 months, Sony made a concerted effort to release some tempting, but humble, compact prime lenses along with some more high-end and fast G Master lenses. The brand has clearly reached a level of maturity at which it is filling in the gaps with more specialized and unique lenses, as well as updating some of the classic lenses with faster design and improved optics. Let’s take a look at what Sony was up to with lens releases in 2021.
FE 35mm f/1.4 GM
Getting an early start on the year, Sony released the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM in January and is its first go at making a G Master 35mm lens. The 35mm f/1.4 is a staple of any lens system, so Sony made sure to make this one shine with advanced optics that include extreme aspherical (XA) and low dispersion glass elements, along with Sony’s latest Nano AR II coating. Dual XD linear AF motors are featured, too, and the lens is relatively sleek, considering it’s an impressively fast wide-angle lens. It’s a straightforward foundational lens, but also a statement piece that Sony made sure to get right.
FE 24mm f/2.8 G, FE 40mm f/2.5 G, FE 50mm f/2.5 G
Focusing on the next three lenses at once, last spring Sony launched a trio of well-matched lenses that play to a new trend in lens development: the compact-but-sophisticated prime. The FE 24mm f/2.8 G, the widest of the bunch, the FE 40mm f/2.5 G, the proverbial sweet-spot lens, and the FE 50mm f/2.5 G, the compact normal, all favor function and form over speed. Recognizing that not every lens needs to be the fastest or most optically advanced, these three lenses are all about usability and style. They’re G lenses, meaning not quite the top-tier G Master series, but Sony’s second tier of lenses that offer impressive sharpness with more modest designs. They’re slower lenses, too, which helps to render them as compact and lightweight optics, perfect for walkaround, travel, and everyday use. And finally, they’re also among the few full-frame lenses that would still feel at home on an APS-C-format camera, due to their reduced size and weight. These aren’t the lenses that people are going to be wowing over, but they’re solid, reliable choices that are meant to be used on a daily basis.
FE 50mm f/1.2 GM
Announced right around the same time as the trio of compact primes is a lens of the opposite intent: the FE 50mm f/1.2 GM is the fastest Sony E-mount lens to date and is a proverbial beast in regard to its optical excellence. As a G Master lens, this 50mm f/1.2 emphasizes image quality, sharpness, and even bokeh quality—this lens uses sophisticated optical elements that balance sharpness and control over eliminations with a pleasing character that’s perfect for portraiture, documentary, and landscape subjects. Beyond optics, it has one of the most advanced focusing systems in Sony’s lens lineup, with four XD linear motors, along with a weather-sealed build, 11-blade diaphragm, and a physical aperture ring that can be de-clicked. It’s a high-end prime that adds a wealth of class to one of the most common focal lengths around.
FE 14mm f/1.8 GM
Another G Master lens, the FE 14mm f/1.8 GM is a hugely impressive optical feat combining an ultra-wide field of view with a truly bright maximum aperture. A pleasantly unique combination, this lens excels in astrophotography situations, as well as with landscape, nature, architecture, and interior subjects. It’s the widest G Master lens, too, making for an excellent choice when optical quality and wide-angle are both needed. The bright f/1.8 design is perfect for low-light and available light situations and even offers some depth-of-field control despite the wide focal length. Capping it off, this lens has the same physical features as most GM lenses at this point, including a de-clickable aperture ring and focus hold button, and this 14mm f/1.8 also has a built-in petal-shaped hood.
FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II
Finally, we arrive at the fourth and final G Master lens of 2021, and the first second-generation GM lens to be released, the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II. This overhauled telephoto zoom workhorse features a revised optical configuration that’s inspired by some of Sony’s super-tele lenses to achieve a better balance of incredible sharpness and reduced weight, compared to the first version. New specialized glass elements, like XA and ED aspherical elements, contribute to this sleeker design and help to control aberrations better, and improve sharpness and rendering. More than just an optical update, this new 70-200mm also features an overhauled AF system, which now uses four XD linear AF motors, and an improved OSS system that now features a framing stability mode.
How do you think Sony did with its lens releases in 2021? Did the brand release your new favorite E-mount lens? What Sony lenses would you like to see next year? Let us know your thoughts, in the Comments section, below.