One of the main complaints I’ve heard about Sony’s full-frame E-mount system is its lack of lenses. Well... Sony has been busy silencing the critics this year with releases that span the entire spectrum, including an ultra-wide 12-24mm, a far-reaching 100-400mm, and everything in between. The company has also expanded certain arenas, like its portrait prime and wide-angle zoom lineups, and has added a brand new general-purpose zoom that will please many mirrorless shooters.
A Pair of Portrait Primes
Sony got off to a great start this year with an early announcement of a pair of portrait primes, the FE 85mm f/1.8 and the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS. These join the well-received FE 85mm f/1.4 GM in providing a variety of options to every level of Sony shooter by offering a more affordable and lighter kit or an advanced technical design with enhanced bokeh. I want to kick things off with the 85mm because it really hits a sweet spot of price-to-performance, while also being a much more compact choice than the G Master. The f/1.8 is also a very popular option for many systems, and this lens promises to be a high performer. It also has some nice added features, such as a focus hold button and a double linear AF motor for smooth, fast focusing.
Moving back up the chain, the FE 100mm Sony released this year is a unique offering in the world of lenses, because it features Smooth Trans Focus (STF) technology by using an apodization element and eleven-blade aperture to create incredibly smooth and circular bokeh. While this isn’t the first time we have seen this tech, it is the first time that Sony could use it while also offering speedy autofocus with a Direct Drive SSM AF system. It offers a maximum magnification of 0.25x, meaning it can work well for those who need to shoot an occasional close-up. That isn’t all for this lens—as a part of the flagship G Master line, it gets all the bells and whistles in Sony’s arsenal, including Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, a physical aperture ring that can be de-clicked, and a macro switching ring, as well as a programmable focus hold button.
Sony Goes Long
When Sony announced the sports-oriented a9 camera, it only made sense that the company would need to quickly expand its telephoto offerings, which it did right away with the FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS. This is currently Sony’s longest lens, and since it supports the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, you can extend its reach up to an incredible 800mm. Tuned heavily for sports and wildlife shooters, this lens has all the features you would expect from a super telephoto lens, including focus hold settings, a zoom torque adjustment ring, a focus range limiter, and weather-sealed construction. Sony also claims high sharpness and minimal aberrations, using one Super ED and two ED elements along with a Nano AR coating to combat flare. The lens is relatively lightweight, as well, an impressive feat considering the zoom range. Additionally, it has a minimum focus distance of 3.2' for close-up imaging.
If you want to see some sample images from this lens, be sure to check out Todd Vorenkamp’s review of the 100-400mm and an a9 and his trip to Monticello Motor Club to photograph cars on the race track.
Then Came the Wides
I’ve been craving some high-end wide-angle lenses from Sony, so I was pleased when the manufacturer announced the FE 12-24mm f/4 G and FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lenses this summer, especially since I was able to take the G Master for a spin, and Cory Rice was able to test the now widest lens in Sony’s stable.
One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when the 12-24mm was announced was that it was seriously small. Other lenses in this arena are significantly heavier and larger than what Sony could create. Even so, Sony put the G marker on it, signifying outstanding optical performance by using four aspherical elements, one Super ED, and three ED elements. A constant f/4 aperture is another achievement for this lens, ensuring consistent performance throughout the zoom range, while a Direct Drive SSM autofocus system makes it quick and easy to lock onto your subjects, whether it is some close-up action or a distant landscape.
The other wide-angle zoom has some overlap with the 12-24mm, but it is designed to be Sony’s top wide-angle lens for the system because it completes the f/2.8 zoom trifecta. The 16-35mm covers a good range for documentary, landscape, and architecture shooters and promises high sharpness and quality bokeh through its G Master designation and constant f/2.8 aperture, respectively. As a result of my testing, I can back up Sony’s claims to the lens’s performance and I greatly appreciated the physical controls and quality of the zoom and focus rings. Also, much like the other lenses here, it has a fast and responsive Direct Drive SSM AF system. If you are looking for a professional-quality wide-angle zoom from Sony, this is it.
And Finally, an All-Around Zoom
With yet another joint camera/lens announcement, Sony revealed the a7R III and the FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS, both of which share the distinction of being options that can almost do it all. I saw that many Sony users have been waiting for this lens to be released because they wanted something with a little more range than the 24-70mm f/4 and a bit lighter weight than the 24-70mm f/2.8. This lens is meant to be something that someone can snap onto their camera and just leave it on for an entire day of shooting, regardless of what happens. In addition, Sony has optimized it for video, as well, by significantly reducing focus breathing and focus shift with this lens. Optical SteadyShot furthers the lens’s already stellar feature set and works in tandem with the Direct Drive SSM AF system for ensuring sharp images. It is also weather resistant and has a fluorine-coated front element. This looks like it could easily become the most popular mid-range zoom for Sony.
This year proved that Sony is working hard to fill any gaps in its lens lineup, and that it’s doing a very good job in creating sharp, fast glass to complement their mirrorless cameras. Also, Sony has announced the development of the FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS, its first serious telephoto prime for mirrorless, which will be available next summer. With this new telephoto on its way and the recent announcement of the a7R III, it seems like next year will be a very exciting year for Sony shooters.
What lenses do you want to see Sony release next? Which of this year’s announcements was most exciting to you? Let us know in the Comments section, below!