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.