Lenses for Sony – Part 2 – Wide Angle Lenses for Full Frame Cameras

A couple of years ago the lament among Sony A7 series users was that there were no lenses for their cameras.  It would be hard to make such a claim about wide angle lenses for the A7 cameras today.  If you set aside the cine lenses there are 25 e-mount full frame lenses from 10mm to 35mm.  Looking only at what Sony manufactures themselves you would still have fifteen lenses.  Adding in Rokinon, Tokina, Voigtlander and Zeiss, that number increases to 25.

  1. Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
  2. Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 AF FE
  3. Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 AF FE
  4. Sony 16mm Fisheye Conversion Lens
  5. Sony 21mm Ultra-Wide Conversion Lens
  6. Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G
  7. Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM
  8. Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS
  9. Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 OSS
  10. Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS
  11. Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM
  12. Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
  13. Sony FE 28-135mm f/4 G PZ OSS
  14. Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS
  15. Sony FE 28mm f/2
  16. Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
  17. Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Sonnar
  18. Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE MF
  19. Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar
  20. Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6 Ultra-Wide Heliar III
  21. Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Super-Wide Heliar III
  22. Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8
  23. Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
  24. Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8
  25. Zeiss Loxia E 35mm f/2 Biogon

As mentioned above, this does not count the specialized lenses used for motion picture shoots called cine lenses.  Counting all the models from Rokinon, Sigma and Zeiss this adds up to 18 wide angle cine lenses available for full-frame e-mount cameras.

  1. Rokinon 20mm T1.9 Cine DS
  2. Rokinon 24mm T1.5 Cine DS
  3. Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine DS
  4. Rokinon Xeen 14mm T3.1
  5. Rokinon Xeen 16mm T2.6
  6. Rokinon Xeen 35mm T1.5
  7. Sigma Cine 35mm T1.5 FF Prime
  8. Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 18mm T3.6
  9. Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 21mm T2.9
  10. Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 25mm T2.1
  11. Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 35mm T2.1
  12. Zeiss Compact Zoom CZ.2 28-80mm T2.9
  13. Zeiss CP.3 15mm T2.9
  14. Zeiss CP.3 18mm T2.9
  15. Zeiss CP.3 21mm T2.9
  16. Zeiss CP.3 25mm T2.1
  17. Zeiss CP.3 28mm T2.1
  18. Zeiss CP.3 35mm T2.1

Luckily for me I don’t shoot motion pictures so I’ll take that as an excuse not to say anything about cine lenses.  Which is lucky for the reader since I don’t know anything about these lenses and anything I said would be highly suspect.

The fifteen FE lenses manufactured by Sony are divided into several groupings.  The supposedly highest quality are the G Master (GM) lenses.  Next in quality are the G lenses.  After that are the ZA lenses which are produced under quality standards provided by Zeiss.  And finally, there are the just plain FE lenses.  Honestly, I am of the opinion that the actual qualities of a lens should be determined on a case by case basis.  Because of the higher prices for the highest quality classes it’s reasonable to compare equivalent lenses and determine whether the more modestly priced lens gets the job done for you.  In general, the biggest advantage of the Sony brand lenses is the alignment of firmware in the lenses and cameras to provide optimized autofocus.  It’s possible this also applies to the Zeiss Batis lenses since Zeiss and Sony are linked by cooperative agreements.  But that is only speculation on my part.  In general, the reputation of the Sony brand lenses is good.  The only caveat is that none of the Sony lenses are warranted as water proof.  There is mention of weather sealing but I do not believe they are as resistant to moisture as some of the professional grade Canon and Nikon lenses.  If water proof ability is needed then check the manufacturer’s warranty.

The next series of lenses I’ll talk about are the Zeiss Loxia and Batis series.  Zeiss is an old guard German lens manufacturer with a reputation for producing excellent lenses.  And the Zeiss lenses are known to be weather resistant.  Up until very recently all of Zeiss’s lenses were manual focus.  The Loxia lenses are manual focus lenses.  I currently use the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 for landscape and general outdoors shooting.  I can attest that it is extremely sharp and has an excellent look to it.  I’ve also tried the Loxia 35mm and 50mm focal lengths and found them equally excellent.  So, if manual focusing is not a problem (landscape applications) then the Loxia lenses are highly recommended.  The Batis are the first Zeiss autofocus lenses.  They have the same excellent sharpness and look of Zeiss glass but they come with the advantages of autofocus.  They aren’t cheap but they are actually less expensive than the Sony GM equivalents.  If you have plenty of money then the Batis line provides another quality choice.

Voigtlander is another old German lens maker.  However, I believe the current company is really a Japanese company using the name.  Voigtlander provided some lenses for the Leica M-mount that were much less expensive than Leica glass.  They weren’t touted as highly as Leica lenses but they had a reputation of being very good.  Also, some of their designs were extremely compact.  For some types of shooting, like street shooting, this was an advantage.  Two lenses that Voigtlander produced in the past were the 12mm and 15mm Heliar designs.  These had a good reputation for compact size and low distortion in an extremely wide focal range.  Recently Voigtlander re-issued these lenses in e-mount and added to the niche by designing a 10mm wide angle for e-mount.  I have used the 12mm and found it to be an excellent lens for its kind.  I own the 10mm and also think it’s excellent.  But let me give full warning, 10mm and even 12mm are very odd focal lengths.  .  Even a slight raising or lowering of the of the camera out of the horizontal will cause wild distortions of the objects in the field of view.  So, don’t expect to use these lenses for portraits unless you’re in a fun house.  I believe Voigtlander will be issuing their 35mm f/1.2 lens in e-mount.  That would be an interesting lens to experiment with at f/1.2.

Rokinon makes extremely inexpensive lenses.  In the past there were quality problems associated with poorly centered lens components.  Lately I’ve heard that the quality control has improved quite a bit.  However, it is important to realize that the components and the construction techniques are not built to last forever.  Taking that into account you can get excellent results from some of Rokinon’s lenses for comparatively little cost.

Tokina currently has a 20mm e-mount lens.  I have not seen it.  However, Tokina makes very good lenses.  It would be nice to see both Tokina and Sigma get into the full-frame e-mount lens business.  It would be good for the competition and good for pricing.

So that’s a rundown on what’s out there.  What does it mean?  It means you have choices.  Even if you have a limited budget you have choices.  Because in addition to the lenses I’ve mentioned, if you don’t mind forgoing autofocus you can manually focus almost any lens in the world by using an adapter to put it on your A7 family camera.  In addition to adapted manual focus lenses some of the more modestly priced Sony wide angle lenses are actually quite good.  The Sony FE 28mm f/2 is $423.  I’ve used it and it’s actually extremely good.  For another $477 you can add the Sony 16mm Fisheye Conversion Lens and Sony 21mm Ultra-Wide Conversion Lens to it and get three focal lengths for a total of $900.  The Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Sonnar is the kit lens that’s usually included with the A7 camera.  If you buy it separately it’s $700.  It’s a good lens and very compact.  And now that high ISO really works it’s a perfectly useful lens for indoors too.  The   Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 is $300.  The autofocus version $550.

If you have more money you have more choices.  Voigtlander lenses are between $800 and $1,000.  The Zeiss and pricier Sony selections run into the $1,200 to $2,200 range for the wide angle lenses.  Are they worth the extra money?  To some people.  Landscape photographers want the sharpest lenses they can get and they want the nicest colors.  They worry about chromatic aberration and distortion.  They want a 3-D look where the details pop off the print.  They will pay the extra money to get the look they want.

Bottom line, you can get the wide angle lenses you want for the A7 (or A9) cameras.  If only the telephotos were so lucky.

12 thoughts on “Lenses for Sony – Part 2 – Wide Angle Lenses for Full Frame Cameras

  • December 31, 2017 at 9:17 am
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    I used to do a fair amount of architectural photography where wide angle is an absolute necessity. The 24mm wide end of my 24-70 will usually cover most, but not all, of those situations. I also find myself in the numerous military museums to be found down here dotted around NW Florida. Try shooting the conning tower or torpedo room of a WWII era submarine without an extreme wide lens. You will not get usable results. Ditto if you want to shoot the last remaining aircraft in existence to have actually taken part in the battle of Midway when it is surrounded in a dense sea of other historical aircraft at the Naval Air Museum.

    To date, my only seriously wide lens is a Sony 11-18 A mount 3.5-5.6 but it’s a crop sensor meaning it performs like a 16.5-27 mm. Though the lens is generally rated as mediocre at best, I’ve gotten some decent results. I originally bought it 10 years ago for a Sony A700 but It works decently via an LA-EA4 lens adapter for my A6300.

    I want a native FE wide lens for my A7, 12-24 mm at f4 would suite me but it looks like around $1600-$1700 is the floor for those specs.

    Reply
  • December 31, 2017 at 9:34 am
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    If a 12mm prime is acceptable both Voigtlander and Laowa have a $900 price tag. Before I bought the Voigtlander 10mm I rented an M-mount 12mm Voigtlander and I liked it. It’s pretty small which I found convenient.

    Here’s a shot with the 10mm that I tilted up to exaggerate the distortion

    I was able to get this whole clock Tower in a photo while standing almost next to it. Of course the distortion is extreme.

    But if you keep the camera horizontal it looks pretty normal

    Reply
  • December 31, 2017 at 3:13 pm
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    I think I’ve decided on the Sony G 12-24 f4. According to the reviews, it is among the very top of the wide zooms for image quality and sharpness but the real kicker for me is size. All of the 12-24 f2.8 lenses, including the Sony G Master 16-35 f2.8 equivalent are HUGE honking lenses. I’ve got a 24-70 G Master and, even though I go to the gym and work out with weights several times a week, it’s uncomfortably big, heavy and out of balance hanging off my A7. The 12-24 is half the volume the weight.

    BTW: If you don’t like the vertical distortion inherent in wide lenses, there is an easy fix for it in Adobe Camera RAW. Lightroom too?

    below (if it works) is a link to a shot taken with my antediluvian A700 using my crop sensor Sony 11-18

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomd77/7137397787/in/album-72157618786279813/

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  • December 31, 2017 at 3:50 pm
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    Man, that is a cool shot! From what I’ve read, the Sony 12-24 is top notch. If the price works for you you’ll get a quality lens. One thing I like using the ultra wide angle lenses for is eliminating power lines from shots of buildings. You stand right across the sidewalk from a house and get the whole building with no power lines.

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  • January 1, 2018 at 10:21 am
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    “You stand right across the sidewalk from a house and get the whole building with no power lines.” Yep, that’s the whole point, to shoot an object when there is either insufficient space to back up or when backing up introduces too much junk in the field of view.

    I was getting ready to buy the Sony G 12-24 but started doing research again. The research led me to order a Zeiss 16-35 f4.0. It’s about the same size and weight as the 12-24 but the reviews tend to show a substantially better build quality along with superb image quality. For years the go to lens on my 6300 has been a Zeiss 16-70 (crop lens, equivalent 24-105). Been shooting with it for several years and have been very happy. Reportedly, it’s full frame wide angle sibling will be at least as good. The widest I can shoot with it is 16mm but that wider than the functional 18mm I’ve been getting with the crop Sony 11-18. With other or earlier camera, I might have passed it by because of the f4.0 compared to the 2.8 but the newer Sony cameras are high ISO beasts. If I get limited light, all I have to do is crank the ISO up to what would have a ridiculous value by the standards of my earlier cameras.

    Below, a couple of links to aircraft museum shots using very wide angle settings.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomd77/5638996045/in/album-72157618786279813/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomd77/5892100010/in/album-72157618786279813/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomd77/17279076558/in/album-72157618786279813/

    Reply
  • January 1, 2018 at 10:48 am
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    I like that shot of the F14 backlit by the sun. I guess f/4 is the new f/1.4 with ISO 6400. Pretty nice having that museum so close. I brought my son to see the Air and Space Museum about 30 years ago but I despise the old eastern cities so much at this point that I’d have have to be riding an Abrams M1 before I’d want to go back to D.C. Guess I’m getting intolerant.

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  • January 6, 2018 at 8:59 pm
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    Got new lens this week and spent a few hours at the Naval Air Museum at NAS Pensacola.

    The museum is a lot dimmer than indicated in these shots. I shots these as a 5 exposure HDR, stepped 1 EV per and combined in Photomatix 6.03. I also got a bunch of natural light regular exposures but haven had time to go through those too. One thing is plain, this new Zeiss 16-35 is an order of magnitude better lens than my previous.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomd77/38649007155/in/dateposted/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomd77/39545126771/in/dateposted/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomd77/25674564308/in/dateposted/

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomd77/39545123661/in/dateposted/

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  • January 6, 2018 at 9:44 pm
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    Tom:
    Those shots are fantastic. Did you have to use a tripod to get the five exposures? I know a lot of museums won’t let me bring one. Congrats on the 16-35. Remarkably clean shots.

    By the way, I copied your links and put them under a forum topic Zeiss 16 – 35mm. They opened up there without a problem. Take a look.

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  • January 6, 2018 at 11:02 pm
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    “Did you have to use a tripod to get the five exposures?”

    Oh, yes!

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  • January 6, 2018 at 11:23 pm
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    Sounds like a very reasonable museum. A few years ago I went to the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. They have some amazing dinosaur fossils and some very nice mounted African mammals in vintage dioramas. But the light levels are pretty low. They don’t allow tripods or flash. That’s where the A7S came into its own. I cranked the ISO and got the shots. But I was truly annoyed at their inflexibility. They wouldn’t even allow a monopod.

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  • January 7, 2018 at 8:48 am
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    The rationale behind that? It has to be something beyond sheer bloody mindedness.

    I can understand flashes in certain types of museums though the Naval Air Museum has no problem. Aircraft are considerably more robust than century’s old paintings.

    Trip hazard?

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  • January 7, 2018 at 9:13 am
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    Yeah, trip hazard and also congestion. But they could be accommodating by allowing off peak and arranged conditions for photographers. But bureaucrats will be bureaucrats. One interesting thing about the AMNH is that as part of their original charter they must allow any resident of NYC to enter for any price that he decides. In practical terms you can decide to give as little as one penny. But when you’re in line the signs tell you that adults have to pay twelve dollars and kids six dollars (or was it 20 dollars and 12 dollars, can’t remember). I was there with my whole family, about twenty of us, a few years ago and I told the cashier that I decided we would pay two dollars for adults and a dollar for kids. It was quite a scene. But to make sure other people don’t start thinking they rushed us along.

    Reply

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