Warning: Not a review. Rantings ahead.
Native Sony lens releases usually fall into one of two categories for me:
- That is a lot of money for that spec and performance. A bit less and I would be all over it. A bit better spec or performance and I would be all over it.
- Nice lens. Very nice. Also large, heavy, and/or pricey. A bit smaller or less expensive and I might be all over it.
My last post on a Sony lens release fell into the latter category. After a lot of words this one will fall into the former.
Tamron to the rescue for Sony zoom lens side and other brands (Exhibits A and B) held the prime lens side down until a recent change in course. (A little favorite prime remains.)
Sidebar: I have already watched a few YouTube videos about these lenses. Similar headings. Similar analysis. Most seem impressed with these lenses overall with caveats. But I wanted something different from Sony. I blog as therapy on the side and have a sporadic to near non-existent YouTube release schedule with low effort production and an inconsistent social media update schedule and low engagement levels. In other words attributes that do not at all lend themselves to being offered trial lenses from manufacturers. One dead mount walking came through with a no strings freebie fisheye before they packed it in, but not expecting that to happen again. Posts like this will also not help my case admittedly. Back when I wrote for KEH for a couple of years they floated the idea of providing me loaners for review, even asking me what I wanted to try. I was amped and provided some requests. But they moved on to the greener pastures of the big YouTube names before that happened. No regrets and I understand completely. It was a great experience. Fortunately my local camera shop is still there for me. But until I get by there once they have them in stock, based on specs alone, I must admit that I do not get it. That being said I have no malice towards Sony in general because…
I really like Sony. Especially Sony cameras. I have bounced around between digital brands but I have had and still have more Sony cameras than any other digital brand. And I have had a bunch, in case Sony accidentally stops through here. Starting with the A7 and then in no particular order after that RX100II, a6000, a6100, A7II, A7RII, and I currently have settled in nicely with a ZV-1, A7III and A7c.
Great cameras. And there is also one Sony lens that flies in the face of my opening assertions. The Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. That is a fantastic lens. Affordable. Solid build. Weather resistant. Impeccable, cost defying IQ performance. I bought it from my local camera shop on its release date in 2017. Bright aperture. Fast, silent, and accurate AF. Relatively small and light weight considering the spec. If Sony had kept this up in other focal lengths (28mm, 35mm, and 50mm for instance.) this blog post would not be a thing.
Also a fan of the bang for buck champ Sony 28-70mm kit zoom (So much so I recently wrote another post about it even though I do not currently own it.) which holds its own against the pricier Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4. It took the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 to finally replace it in my bag. But I still regularly recommend it to others.
So those two lenses prove that Sony is able to deliver on an attractively priced, solid performing lens that is reasonably sized. But I like prime lens families. As good as the 85mm is, it is a standalone proposition. The FE 50mm f/1.8 that came before it looks similar, but do not be fooled. Pick it up and use it and it quickly becomes apparent that looks are the only thing these lenses share. After trying this lens two or three times I moved on.
When I first heard leaks that Sony was about to release three new primes I had recently purchased a trio of lenses from another brand. Had waited almost 4 years for Sony to follow up on the 85mm f/1.8 before running out of patience. So I briefly wondered if I had not waited long enough. Could I have gone without purchasing an whole new camera to put behind these other lenses?
- First reports gave scarce details except the focal lengths (24mm/40mm/50mm) and that these were expected to be compact.
- Rut roh. After so may years should I have waited another month or two? If they offer an affordable bright aperture spec like the 85mm f/1.8 this could be a great family of lenses, I thought.
- Next up the apertures were leaked. They would be f/2.5 and f/2.8.
- Ok. Enthusiasm curbed a bit. Would prefer f/1.8 or at least f/2, but not necessarily a deal breaker in isolation yet. Perhaps they are going the value route, I thought.
- Product shots were leaked that bear a striking resemblance to the Sigma 45mm f/2.8. Button, switches, and aperture ring goodness present and accounted for.
- Ok. Not necessarily a bad thing.
- Then the prices were announced. $598 a pop.
- Yeah. I’m good. Marking myself safe from a Sony product release.
As a play on that Star Wars line from Alec Guinness the internets have spoken to me.
- These aren’t the lenses you are looking for. You can go about your business. Move along.
First the positives and negatives for all three lenses based on what I have read and watched so far. Then my personal preference on alternatives for all three.
Strong points for all three.
- Strong IQ performance overall as described by DPReview.
- Compact size.
- Sturdy build with weather sealing. A feature many other lenses below do not have.
- Good looking lenses that, like the Sigma FE Contemporary primes, are a good functional and aesthetic match for the A7c.
- I could see some really being drawn to compact premium-ish looking options like these.
Weak points for all three.
- Per DPReview loca is an issue for all three.
- Like Tamron options these are relatively slow apertures for primes at f/2.5 and f/2.8.
- A 26mm focal length spread is not as tight as Tamron’s three prime 15mm spread but not much better.
- $598 is a bit much for me. Not entirely an apples to apples comparison but both the Canon STM 35mm and 50mm f/1.8 lenses can be had for that price combined. The STM 85mm f/2 is still faster, has IS, and costs about the same.
I would have probably really liked these lenses if they were released a few years ago. But a lot of native and third party competition has been released since though. Sigma just fleshed out it’s FE mount Contemporary lens prime line up and there are a lot of similarities.
On to lens preferences.
- I like it so much that it is the only Rokinon/Samyang lens that survived my recent Rokinon/Samyang sell off.
- While relatively a good deal at it’s normal $399 price it regularly goes on sale for as little as $209. You have to make sure you check both brand versions as the sale seems to flip flop. Can be had for even less used.
- A swift and silent focusing lens.
- Not weather sealed, but that was not really expected at this price point. It is also so very tiny and light I can easily forgive that.
- Spec wise it is practically a twin with the new Sony.
- While it is possibly technically inferior to the Sony it cannot be by much. I have no complaints at all IQ wise.
Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD
- Same aperture.
- Not that large given its added focal length flexibility.
- Not that much more expensive given its added focal length flexibility.
- Close focus like the Sony prime.
- Also weather sealed.
- As optically proficient if not more so.
At f/3.5 and $549 I do not get the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary either.
On to the other two new Sony lenses.
Sony FE 40mm f/2.5 G Lens / Sony FE 50mm f/2.5 G Lens
Also attractive little lenses. If I am honest I am as baffled with Sony offering both of these lenses as I am with Tamron releasing both a 20mm and 24mm f/2.8 prime. All I can think of is that perhaps having had two FE mount 45mm prime lenses released by third party lens makers Sony did not want to release a third… maybe? Whatever the reason these lenses are close enough that they compete with the same lens alternatives for me. I would be surprised if someone purchased both lenses, but hey why not? Have at it.
Rokinon/Samyang AF 45mm f/1.8 FE
- Splits the difference between the new Sony lenses.
- While lacking weather sealing it is forgivable due to the lower price.
- A brighter aperture makes it an attractive lens for low light and bokeh.
Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary
- I am a bit biased since I owned this lens and felt it was a great fit for the Sony A7c.
- If I did not know any better I would think that this Sigma and the two Sony lenses were designed by the same person. They are similar in size, weight, and design. Not a bad thing.
- Very similar in price to the Sony lenses as well with only $50 separating them.
- Splits the focal length of the two Sony lenses so it would seem to be the perfect fit for a person that was having a hard time choosing between 40mm and 50mm.
- Also provides excellent optical performance like the two Sony lenses also.
- Does not bode well that this lens matches the two Sony lenses so well since I sold this lens in the end.
Lenses like the Rokinon/Samyang 50mm f/1.4 are competitors in focal length and price range only. It is far too large and heavy for a direct comparison. I will not raise the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 as a direct competitor like I did with the 17-28mm above due to its slightly larger size. But I will mention that it is not that much more while offering focal length flexibility, excellent optical performance, and a similar aperture spec. I would choose either of these newer Sony lenses over the existing Sony choices however. The Zeiss 55mm f/1.8, new G Master 50mm f/1.2, macro 50mm, and the 50mm f/1.8… Sony makes a lot of 50mm-ish lenses… are all a bit too expensive for what is offered, meh performing, large, and/or heavy for me… Still loving those cameras if Sony is listening.
But there is a larger issue. What is my issue? What did I want from Sony? I wanted this.
If at any point Sony had cloned the excellent $199 Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM in FE mount I would have handed them my money immediately.
Heck. You do not even have to sell it for $199 like Canon. I will pay a whole $250 or even $300 for it. Viltrox has the right idea. While Viltrox lenses are reasonably priced Canon offers better value across the line. If Sony had gone the same spec/price path Sony would have saved me from hovering over my local camera shops Craigslist page until I scored an EOS RP. I would still be a Sony lens customer for sure. But alas it was not meant to be. Oh well. No big. Minor bother all things considered, world still smoldering in the aftermath of 2020 and all.
Sidebar: This post is written from a photography stand point admittedly. If you consider no other brands this video did make a compelling case for these lenses as opposed to other Sony lenses on the market for video use.
Maybe next Sony lens release then. Until then my wallet and the three Canon STM primes and EOS RP are marked safe from this Sony lens release.
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