A few years ago the answer to this question would have been everything. Especially for the new full-frame 7 series cameras, the line-up was woefully poor. In the last three years Sony (and Zeiss) have really stepped up to the plate and launched a goodly selection of high end lenses for the FE (full-frame e-mount) cameras. In fact at this point the wide angle options are pretty much complete. For the normal range there are several excellent options including a 50mm f/1.4, an 85 f/1.4, a 100mm macro and the recently added 70 – 200 F2.8 G Master zoom.
What is left? Telephotos. Now, Sony has added a 100-400mm zoom. But I would say that Sony is lacking a telephoto zoom that reaches 600mm. If I were a sports photographer I’d be looking for a 600mm F/4. But that is a very expensive lens. I think what would be appropriate is for someone like Sigma or Tamron to produce an e-mount version of their existing 150 – 600mm zooms. This would provide the compromise between price and capability that a large number of amateur wildlife and sports shooters would be willing to pay for. In fact I know that if Sony produced this lens it would probably be too expensive. So it is a natural fit for these two third party manufacturers.
The other thing that I would like to see Sony produce is a 200mm macro. I currently use the Minolta version with an adapter but since it’s a screw-drive focus system it either has to be used as a manual focus on the LA-EA3 or with the “translucent mirror of the LA-EA4. Both of these are compromises. I also think the chance of Sony manufacturing this lens is zero. So once again I think this is a good opportunity for Sigma. They already have a long focal length macro and this would probably only require adapting it to the e-mount. This lens probably won’t have as many buyers as a 150-600mm zoom. But I throw it out there because I’m greedy and annoying.
There is a rumor on Sonyalpharumors.com that Sigma is about to announce a major effort to break into the FE market. The initial offering has been guessed to be a 35mm f/1.4. This is a lens that Sigma has done a good job on already in their Art Lens series. Whether it would require a major modification to work on the e-mount is a question.
So if we assume Sigma is looking to get the maximum bang for their buck in the Sony ecosystem then they should go for some of the open focal lengths that they already have technology for. In that case both the 150-600 and 200mm macro are lenses they already make and represent gaps in the Sony line-up.
If you’re listening Sigma, get busy. You make money and I get to stop complaining. A win-win.
For a long-suffering victim of the notorious Sony (A mount/E mount) bait and switch, lenses have been both a sore point and an important topic. Specifically, much thought had to be given to what strategy would allow you to get the kind of photos you wanted now but minimize the cost of eventual lens duplication when Sony finally got their act together and produced a native version. I could go on and on about adapters for every lens mount known to photography, manual lenses of all description from the cheapest old 50mm nifty fifties made with radioactive thorium coatings to top of the line Leica glass costing in excess of $10,000. We could discuss the perils of using wide angle rangefinder lenses on the very short e-mount registration distance and we could discuss the tradeoffs between the slower AF speed of the LAEA3 vs the light loss of the translucent mirror in the LAEA4. We could talk about these things but let’s not. All of these work arounds are like those very old moving pictures from the turn of the 19th century that chronicled the failures in aviation that preceded the Wright Brothers. There were planes that flapped their wings like birds. There were giant corkscrews that pitched around like a top until they toppled over and vibrated apart. And there was that glider with three levels of wings mounted on a bicycle that collapsed as soon as it reached the bottom of the ramp it was on. All these horrors are relics of the past. The only reminders for me are a few modified Contax G lenses and a few adapters for them still hanging around my photography room (very sad).
Now that Sony has gotten around to filling out the FE lens line up to a pretty convincing degree the lens decisions that a Sony photographer has to make are much closer to the decisions that a Canon or Nikon shooter makes. Native or third party? Manual or autofocus? Fast, large, heavy and expensive or slow, small, light and cheap? Interestingly, if you’re short of cash and go for the more reasonably priced choices you sometimes end up with a very satisfactory lens. For instance, the Sony FE 55mm and 28mm lenses are among the least expensive in the line-up but are both very good performers. But there is no getting around the fact that gear acquisition syndrome (G.A.S.) is a very common and seductive disease. I know because I am a sufferer of this disorder. Oh well.
So how do you go about choosing the lenses you should buy? Well, even before you talk about budget, decide on what lenses you do and do not need to do the kind of photography you plan on doing. If you’re a portrait photographer, you won’t need a 10mm wide angle lens. If you shoot high speed sports like motor cross racing you probably want good autofocus capability and a manual focus lens will have limited application. One thing I find interesting is what I find myself using in real life as opposed to what I own. I have a Minolta 200mm macro lens that I typically use on a manual focus adapter. Well actually it’s an LAEA3 and can autofocus but not with a screw drive lens which the Minolta macro is. Anyway, although the primary mission of this Minolta lens is for macro, I find myself using it for all sorts of things. It’s a very sharp lens and I like it for landscape, portraits and even cityscapes. Another example of what I actually use vs what I have is the 35mm focal length. I have the Sony f/1.4 and f/2.8 35mm FE lenses. Without a doubt, the f/1.4 lens is the better lens and in a darker indoor environment it should be my preference. But it is a much bulkier and heavier lens. So, suppose I’m going to a family occasion and want to enjoy myself but still take a few photos. I take the f/2.8. It fits much more conveniently in my jacket pocket and along with the high ISO capability of the Sony A7S does a very nice job without the extra stop of light. And how about autofocus for landscape photography? You might say who needs it? Just set it to infinity and have at it. An interesting question comes up. What if the infinity stop is off by a small amount? Would a good mirrorless autofocus camera be able to correct for this? These are questions that come up. There are some very high quality manual focus lenses now available for Sony e mount. Zeiss and Voigtlander both have some interesting wide angle manual choices. These lenses tend to be much smaller than the autofocus lenses of the same focal length. Should they be an alternative for you?
So, I’ve made some broad statements here that taken alone are pretty meaningless. In the succeeding parts of this sries of posts I’ll concentrate on specifics and some things I think I’ve learned about lens choices for Sony FE cameras.
Here are some photos I took in the last week or two. Already all the more colorful leaves are now completely gone. The hard frost last week took care of that. The days are short and I’m looking forward to the Holidays to distract me until January. Then I can remind myself the days are getting longer, as I shovel that February snow.
So this is a bit of a joke. The FE 55mm is in no way a macro lens. Its closest focus is about a foot away and so with a 55mm focal length it’s basically a normal size image. The twist is that because the A9 allows autofocus in a magnified view you can get incredibly exact focus on small things like insects from that 12 inches away and then you can crop the image to look like a macro shot. What follows is a series of images followed by a crop of the focal point. I found it pretty easy to get even hyperactive bugs like the bees and wasps to end up in focus. This was my first day with the camera. These photos are just jpgs. I don’t have the latest Lightroom rev that works with A9 files so these are rough pictures and won’t be reworked to their fullest potential. Tomorrow I’ll see if I can do anything more sensible with it.
So Camera Girl found two interesting subjects in the yard. These are all shot with the Sony A7S and the Minolta 200mm F\4 Macro. This is using the manual focus ring because this is a screw drive AF lens and the adapter only autofocuses motor driven lenses. But for caterpillars and plants that not such a problem.
To paraphrase George Costanza, “Spring, renewal, rebirth, all that crap.” Stuff is coming up all over the place. Some pretty, some scary. Here’s a little cross-section from my neck of the woods (southern New England). Most are with the Minolta 200mm Macro on the A7S but the first one is with the Loxia 21mm. Several of these are similar. I was trying to decide which were better, so feel free to leave your opinions in the comments.
There is no surer sign of cabin fever than the late winter indoor macro session. I look out the window at blinding sunshine. I run outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and crash into ten degrees F.
Back inside and break out the macro set up. These were shot with a Sony A7S, Minolta 200mm F4 macro lens, and the LAEA3 adapter and sometimes some A-mount macro extensions. Take them for what they are, a desperate cry for help(i.e., spring).