I write “so…” posts as attempted self interventions. Occasionally I get it wrong. One of those times was when I wrote about the Sony G 24mm, 40mm, and 50mm prime lenses. But first, let me back up.
I have been very happy with the Sony A7c.
This camera has been excellent in every way and has succeeded at every task I threw its way. But after many attempts and false starts what has eluded me has been the perfect lens to pair with it. A walkabout lens with great ergonomics reminiscent of the Leica Q I once had.
It need not be as fast a lens, but IQ and ease of use are a must. My shopping list:
- Small and light.
- Fast and accurate AF.
- Great IQ.
- Great build and aesthetics.
It was not for a lack of trying.
Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/2.8 FE (Tried and sold.)
Not a bad lens at all. But not great either. While very affordable and capable of creating good images…
- Light and cheap feeling.
- Good IQ for sure, but not great.
- Has nothing to to do with IQ, but not a great looking or handling lens.
Bought this lens more than once, but in total I have posted less than 100 photos with this lens to Flickr. That is not a great keeper rate, and why I eventually gave up on this lens early on.
Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2 (Never tried.)
Larger than the Rokinon/Samyang lens above this lens did not interest me.
Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA (Briefly tested.)
Too expensive for what it was. That is all I have got. Never interested me even after trying it out.
Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary (Never tried.)
See SIGMA 45mm mentioned below and add larger size.
Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 (Never tried.)
Larger size and price than I would like.
Other options not listed were likely either too large and/or expensive for consideration for an every day lens or was not considered for reasons listed above.
The first attempt was the SIGMA 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary.
Came close. Why not a win?
No one thing I can put a finger on. Produced a fine image.
But it did not quite click with me for some reason. SIGMA nailed the build and aesthetics, especially the metal build, aperture ring, and snazzy looking metal hood (That I never used because of its size.)
Close focus was another strong suit.
If I had to guess it had to do with:
- While not large, it was not quite as compact as I would have liked.
- AF could not be defined as slow, but it did not feel quite as swift and accurate as I would have expected.
- Surprisingly colors. Not bad. Not great. Perhaps a result of my editing, but I had seen better color reproduction with other lenses.
Another contender was an AF adapted 7artisans Photoelectric 28mm f/1.4 FE-Plus M-Mount Lens.
This solution was an aesthetic and IQ hit,…
…but was undone by:
- Impracticality. When the IQ pixie dust cleared from my eyes I could not ignore the lack of weather sealing and adapted AF was not a match for native AF.
- Preference for a longer focal length. Unlike the Leica Q I am free to choose any focal length I would like and if given a choice 28mm would not be my everyday focal length.
Ignoring the focal length epiphany above I tried the even wider Rokinon/Samyang AF 24mm F1.8 FE next.
This is an excellent lens. Great IQ, great features, and build quality far better than the Rokinon/Samyang lenses that came before it.
- As noted above a 24mm focal length was not optimal for daily use.
- While not large, it was larger than I envisioned for such a solution.
- Build quality better than prior lenses still not as good as I would have liked.
Next up I thought I would give the Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/1.8 another try since the 24mm came so close.
A much more suitable focal length for daily use and great IQ.
- While a bit smaller than the 24mm it was still a bit larger than I would have liked.
- Build quality not as solid as the 24mm will not do.
At this point, I even gave the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 another try.
This old lens was greatly improved courtesy of a firmware release.
If I were a rational man this could have been it. Most every AF complaint I leveled against it in the past has been addressed. But I am not reasonable and could not dismiss the following.
- Build quality is less than meh.
- An utter lack of controls is a hard sell after trying the third party lenses above.
Next up I punted and went with the much better than I expected it to be Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6.
Similar to quite a few lenses above this would be fine if I were a reasonable man.
But a strange thing happened over time. Not only did it prove me wrong about the 28-60mm f/4-5.6 itself.
- Perfect size and weight match for the A7c.
- Very fast, silent, and accurate AF.
- Great IQ.
- Great build quality.
It also forced me to reevaluate my previous observations regarding the three small Sony FE primes.
- If f/4-5.6 will do what was my beef with f/2.5?
- If this build quality sufficed why not consider the even better build G trio?
- If I was so enamored with the small size of the 28-60mm when collapsed would not a lens that retained that small size in use be even better?
- If I liked this lens’ ergonomics would not a dedicated aperture ring, AF/MF switch, Click On/Off switch, and focus hold button be even better?
- By all accounts as good as the AF is the primes are even better.
- As good as the IQ is with the 28-60mm by all accounts the primes are even better.
The only “sacrifice” would be losing a variable focal length. Now while I had no issues with the 28-60mm focal range this did make a prime alternative easy to choose from the three available compact Sony FE primes.
Speaking of that, why the 40mm?
- Have seen in reviews that the 24mm suffers from a bit of distortion without corrections.
- Similar to the Rokinon/Samyang lens above it is a bit wide for an everyday lens.
- f/2.8. Not much difference, but it mattered.
- Effectively equals other than the focal length.
- I really like the 50mm focal length, but also have really grown to appreciate 35mm lenses for everyday use.
So… the Sony 40mm f/2.5 G. On paper:
- 40mm seems more of a perfect compromise between my favorite 35mm and 50mm focal lengths than the SIGMA 45mm.
- The reviews have indicated that there is little distortion.
- Reviews have noted very fast AF with two of their latest motors driving a very tiny lens.
- All the switchgear a person could want.
- A great focal length compromise to the 28-60mm.
- As much as I liked the build of the 28-60mm this is better. Better than I expected actually. Feels like a tiny G Master lens.
- As much as I had made peace with the twist to open 28-60mm I really like that this lens retains its size in use and is always ready to go.
- A perfect aesthetic and functional fit for the A7c.
Preface. This is definitely this lens’ strong suit. There are lenses that are greater than their spec sheet would ever indicate. This is one of those lenses.
Ergonomics and Aesthetics.
I cannot state enough how well this lens looks and feels with the A7c. Certainly, this lens can be used on any E Mount camera, but it is most at home on the A7c. It has the feel of a full frame lens included camera solutions like a Leica Q, Zeiss ZX1, or Sony RX1. But I prefer the ergonomics of this camera/lens combination over all of those.
This is perfect for me. Because when needed this is a camera that can still be used as an interchangeable lens solution. And here is the kicker. Not only are they comparable in size, the A7c and 40mm f/2.5 combined costs considerably less than any of those all in one cameras listed above. (Used the 28-60mm in the comparison because there is no 40mm kit available. Get on that Sony.) The actual price would be a bit more ($2,346.00) since you would have to purchase the camera and lens separately. But that is still less expensive than the other cameras listed. Almost $1,000 less expensive than the next least expensive Sony RX1 RII. A camera that I had wanted for a long time… until now. While you do not get a 42MP sensor the A7c:
- Has a much better EVF implementation. Many have griped about the (perfectly fine for my purposes) EVF on the A7c, but I would much prefer it over the RX100-esque pop up viewfinder on the RX1 RII.
- I also prefer the fully articulating screen of the A7c over the tilt only RX 1 RII. The other two even more expensive cameras both have screens that do not articulate at all.
- AF on the A7c benefits from being a much newer camera with added features like Eye AF in video.
AF Speed and Accuracy.
As has been established in all of the Youtube and written reviews for this lens AF is stellar. Focus acquisition is immediate, silent, and accurate. It does not even introduce any indication that the lens is focusing at all. I have not seen focus without any vibrations in a lens like this since the excellent Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. In both cases, I thought the lens was not focusing. But they were both just so smooth in operation that no focusing motions could be felt through the body. Impressive.
Immediately apparent that this lens exceeds the IQ performance of any of the lenses listed above. Period. Across the frame. Wide open. Does not matter. This lens impresses me. The colors are great. Sharp wide open. Lovely bokeh.
And like the SIGMA 45mm above there is more bokeh than I would have expected from such a relatively humble aperture spec. Had thought this might be problematic, but it is just fine in actual use. Close focus is good also.
I really like that it has a full host of features fitted on a such a small both. Aperture declick switch. AF hold button. AF/MF switch. Aperture dial.
Metal build. Weather resistant to some degree. Very few of the lenses listed above offered any type of weather resistance.
Not really. The snoot hood adds size and I do not like the way it looks so it will stay in the bag but I am glad I have it. And it is convenient that the lens cap works with both the camera and hood.
While we are at it the lens cap is a rather standard issue Sony plastic affair.
A snazzy metal lens cap like the Leica Q…
…would have really completed the outfit, but I am just hunting for things at this point. So no. No real downsides so far. None that matter anyways.
SIdebar: Another thing I just realized. I have mentioned in the past that a range of variable focal length Leica Qs would have been great, like SIGMA’s (mostly discontinued) dp range. With the three Sony lenses, you could make a compact full-frame solution with a focal length to your liking.
So.. I like it. A lot. In one day I racked up as many Flickr gallery images as I did after months of owning the Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/2.8 I mentioned above. Great fun to use. Below are more product shots followed by early sample images.
It took me a long time and required me to admit that I had been wrong about this lens before, but I believe I have finally found that one lens to spend most of its time on the front of my A7c.
Well done Sony.