DSLR Lenses: The Year in Review, 2019

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Even with DSLRs declining in popularity and prominence, development of new lenses continues for these tried and true cameras. While production has slowed in the last few years, optics manufacturers are still working on putting out new glass to make the most of updated sensor designs and pushing the boundaries of how well a lens can perform, how compact and lightweight a lens can be, and filling in the gaps of desired focal lengths.

Pentax

Perhaps the most notable of DSLR stalwarts, Pentax continues to champion the history, reliability, and familiarity of a DSLR. In 2019, this company released a trio of K-mount lenses—all wide-angles—including two refreshes and one wholly new design. Looking at the most unique first, the HD Pentax DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW is a 17-27.5mm-equivalent zoom designed specifically for the APS-C-format cameras. The useful wide-angle range is complemented by an f/2.8 constant maximum aperture, along with an optical design that uses a slew of aspherical and extra-low dispersion elements to produce well-corrected imagery. Aero Bright II and Super Protect Coatings are also present, along with a DC motor for quick and precise AF performance. Also unique, and making this lens especially interesting for nighttime/astro photographers, is a dedicated groove for wrapping an optional heating device around the lens to prevent freezing or condensation when working in cold temperatures.

Pentax HD Pentax DA* 11-18mm f/2.8 ED DC AW Lens

In addition to this new offering, Pentax also updated a pair of lenses in 2019: the HD Pentax-FA 35mm f/2 and the HD Pentax-DA Fish-Eye 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 ED. The 35mm f/2 is a traditional compact wide prime designed for full-frame cameras and features an updated optical design, which includes an aspherical element, and new HD and SP Coatings for improved rendering and clarity. Similarly, the 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 has been updated with the HD coating for greater flare resistance (especially important for a fisheye design) and an improved exterior design that matches more contemporary Pentax looks and has a removable lens hood. The 10-17mm is intended for use with APS-C cameras, but, with the hood removed, can be used on full-frame models as a near-circular fisheye for unique effects.

Pentax HD Pentax-FA 35mm f/2 Lens

Tokina

Also choosing to focus on wide-angles, Tokina announced a pair of zooms for DSLRs in 2019. Early in the year the company extended its line of optically refined lenses with the opera 16-28mm f/2.8 FF, available for Canon EF and Nikon F. Like last year’s opera 50mm f/1.4, the new 16-28mm prioritizes sharpness and clean rendering through the use of several specialized elements, along with a bulbous front element to reduce distortion, and multi-coated elements to suppress flare. The constant f/2.8 maximum aperture excels in low light and a built-in petal-shaped hood is there to block stray light in bright conditions. For focusing, a DC motor, Silent Drive module, GMR magnetic AF sensor, and internal focusing design all contribute to quick, quiet, and precise focusing while a One-Touch Focus Clutch Mechanism permits fast switching to manual focus.

Tokina opera 16-28mm f/2.8 FF Lens for Canon EF

More recently, Tokina also updated one of its most favored lenses with the new atx-I 11-16mm f/2.8 CF, also available for Canon EF and Nikon F. This sleek wide zoom is designed for APS-C sensors and sports a revised optical design for improved sharpness and clarity. It has an internal focusing design and a One-Touch Focus Clutch, too, and very little focusing breathing, making it ideal for video applications.

Tokina atx-i 11-16mm f/2.8 CF Lens for Canon EF

Tamron

While most of Tamron’s year was dedicated to mirrorless development, this company managed to introduce a couple of sophisticated lenses toward the beginning of the year. The more unique of the two is the 35-150mm f/2.8-4 Di VC OSD; a wide-angle to portrait-length zoom for Canon EF and Nikon F. Despite its variable maximum aperture, it remains a relatively bright lens to suit working in variable lighting conditions and Vibration Compensation is also there to compensate for any camera shake. Low dispersion and aspherical elements reduce a variety of aberrations throughout the zoom range and Tamron’s BBAR coating has also been employed to minimize flare for greater contrast. Also, an Optimized Silent Drive AF motor affords quick and quiet focusing and the lens has a weather-sealed design.

Tamron 35-150mm f/2.8-4 Di VC OSD Lens for Canon EF

The second lens from Tamron in 2019 was the SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD, for Canon EF and Nikon F. Even though it’s a traditional focal length and typically bright design, Tamron used this lens to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its SP lens series while also showcasing the company’s capabilities in optics. However, the new 35mm f/1.4 incorporates a high number of low dispersion and aspherical elements to greatly reduce chromatic and spherical aberrations and a second generation BBAR-G2 coating also provides enhanced flare resistance. An Ultrasonic Silent Drive motor contributes to adept AF performance and full-time MF override and the lens also has a moisture-resistant design with a protective fluorine coating.

Tamron SP 35mm f/1.4 Di USD Lens for Canon EF

ZEISS

Speaking of refined optical performance, ZEISS launched a single lens for SLRs this year: The Otus 100mm f/1.4, available for Canon EF and Nikon F. Even though it was just a single-lens-year from ZEISS, this 100mm is a true showstopper in typical Otus fashion. As with the Otus 28mm, 55mm, and 85mm, this new 100mm has an uncompromising floating elements optical design that uses nine anomalous partial dispersion elements and one aspherical element to achieve apochromatic performance. The lens also uses a Sonnar concept that prioritizes sharpness and resistance to flare. Like most ZEISS lenses, this one is a manual focus prime and it has the characteristic rubber focus ring, bright yellow paint, and depth of field and distance scales for easier control.

ZEISS Otus 100mm f/1.4 ZE Lens for Canon EF

Venus Optics

Another brand that was mainly focused on mirrorless lenses, but managed to eke out a single SLR lens, is Venus Optics with the Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO, which comes in Canon EF and Nikon F mount types. As Venus is known for, this 100mm f/2.8 is a bit more unique than your average short-telephoto prime because it’s an especially capable macro lens with a 2:1 maximum magnification ratio and 9.7" minimum focusing distance. It’s designated an apochromat, too, and uses a pair of low dispersion elements to eliminate color fringing, virtually, for high clarity and color accuracy.

Venus Optics Laowa 100mm f/2.8 2X Ultra Macro APO Lens for Canon EF

Rokinon

Closing out our look at some of the SLR lens highlights of 2019 is a super wide-angle prime from Rokinon. Available only for Canon EF, the SP 10mm f/3.5 is part of the premiere SP lineup, which emphasizes sharpness and clarity. This 10mm provides an immense 130° angle of view to accommodate architectural and interior shooting and uses numerous specialized elements to help control distortion and color fringing for sharp and accurate rendering. Also, it’s a manual focus lens, has a built-in petal-shaped lens hood, and features a durable aluminum alloy housing.

Rokinon SP 10mm f/3.5 Lens for Canon EF

What are your thoughts on the DSLR lenses of 2019? What lenses are you hoping to see for 2020? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

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