APS-C Lens Line-ups Compared

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Lenses' started by Hawkman, Feb 25, 2016.

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  1. Hawkman

    Hawkman TalkEmount Top Veteran

    943
    Sep 10, 2013
    Virginia, USA
    Steve
    There has been a lot of talk/chatter/discussion/mentions of concern about the future and/or state of the line-up of APS-C E-mount lenses coming from Sony lately (and the lack of any such since late 2013). So I decided to do a little bit of research into what's out there and compare to several of the other systems.

    Additionally, some have noted that as Sony is one of only a few companies supporting both cropped and "full-frame" formats in their mass-market lens lineups, a comparison to what Nikon and Canon offer in their APS-C lines is perhaps the most indicative of the state of the market and what perhaps to expect from Sony going forward. I agree with this thought and believe that Sony has shown that it's goals are directed at competing with Canon and Nikon at the top of the interchangeable-lens camera market rather than compete against the other cropped-only lines of otherwise great brands like Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, and Samsung (assuming Samsung stays in the ILC market much longer). While Pentax just (re)joined the cropped+full-frame club, I think it is fair to say that Pentax is not seeing the same level of market- and mind- share that Sony, Canon and Nikon do. Perhaps that will change, but for now, I think is fair to count Sony, Canon, and Nikon as the major multi-format ILC players (where ILC means either DSLR or mirrorless).

    I've also chosen to focus only on 1st Party offerings and not those from third parties like Zeiss, Sigma, Tamron, and the Rokinon/Samyang group, mostly in order to simplify matters and because the 1st party camera/lens makers cannot really be held accountable for the offerings by third parties. I am including the Sony-Zeiss lenses like the SEL24F18Z, as those are primarily Sony-branded and manufactured. That leaves out some great offerings, I know, but I'm trying to compare apples to apples here - bear with me.

    In order to do a comparison, I needed to find a good source of a list of actively produced and sold lenses for each manufacturer. And for that I have turned to B&H, as the largest camera specialty seller in North America (my apologies to my friends and fellow forum members in Europe, Africa, Australia/Oceana, Asia and South America). I think this is a relatively fair choice of a source as B&H is (a) a major dealer of all brands and sells essentially every lens model in production, and (b) this forum benefits from links to B&H ;)


    So without further ado, I will provide four links to page listings of actively available APS-C lenses as of today (February 25, 2016):

    First, our own format, Sony's APS-C E-mount lineup (17 lenses, some duplication by color):
    Mirrorless System Lenses | B&H Photo Video

    Next, Sony's own A-mount APS-C lenses for its DSLR/T models (12 lenses, no duplication):
    SLR Lenses, DSLR Lenses | B&H Photo Video

    Third, Nikon's F-mount AF-S APS-C lenses (21 lenses, 1 bundle, not much duplication, but significant focal length overlap):
    SLR Lenses, DSLR Lenses | B&H Photo Video

    And finally, Canon's EF-S line of APS-C lenses (20 lenses, multiple duplicates - especially of 55-250):
    SLR Lenses, DSLR Lenses | B&H Photo Video

    Now, some thoughts on the lenses and how the line-ups compare.

    First, in general Sony's E-mount line-up actually stacks up fairly well against each of the other APS-C line-ups from Sony's own A-mount, Canon, and Nikon - our other dual-format players. There are clearly some areas that Sony is lacking coverage on, particularly long or fast zooms and macros, but Sony APS-C E-mount actually seems to have a broader line-up of primes.

    Second observation, Canon and Nikon both seem to focus mostly on zooms for their APS-C DSLRs. Canon appears to offer only 2 primes - a pancake 24/2.8 and a 60/2.8 Macro. Nikon offers a 10.5/2.8 Fisheye , 35/1.8, 40/2.8, and an 85/3.5. In A-mount, Sony offers a 30/2.8 Macro, 35/1.8, and a 50/1.8. Our E-mount system includes a 16/2.8, 20/2.8, 24/1.8, 30/3.5 Macro, 35/1.8 and 50/1.8. Not bad Sony (but maybe a longer macro, like a 50/3.5, would be nice to see; and that Nikon 85/2.8 is interesting).

    What I think both these observations suggest is that Sony, like Canon and Nikon, has attempted to provide coverage of most of the commonly-desired APS-C focal lengths in both primes and zooms, and then will fill in with full-frame lenses going forward, especially in the longer and faster primes and the long "action-oriented" zooms (like the 70-200s).

    I will try to update this with further observations and comparisons, but that's a good start. I will end now with one personal observation. When looking particularly at Sony's own A-mount APS-C line-up, it looks like most of the lenses offered have comparable counterparts in E-mount. Just three exceptions stand out as not having E-mount versions: the 16-50/2.8 constant aperture zoom, the 18-135/3.5-5.6 zoom, and the 55-300/4.5-5.6 telephoto zoom. If Sony is listening and is interested in making any of those three, I could be made to part with money for one or more. ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
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  2. unlo

    unlo Sony ******

    Jan 19, 2014
    Ohio
    Matt
    given the AF capabilities of the upcoming 6300 i'd love to see some tests with the LA-EA3 and that 16-50 2.8 in A mount...
     
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  3. soeren

    soeren TalkEmount Top Veteran

    658
    Dec 12, 2014
    Næstved, Denmark
    Soeren
    Hmm I would say there is also some overlap in Sony zooms, the 16-xx range. But still no longer focallenght macros, portrait teles and faster wides. Im not so interested in how many offerings different brands have if I can just have the few more vital ones.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  4. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Cyprus
    Nick
    Wouldn't the G 18-105/4 and the kit 16-50 act as alternatives of the above 18-135 and 16-50/2.8?

    I've always been in the camp that supported that sony e-mount apsc lens lineup is just fine - sure certain FLs might be missing but that's also subjective because everyone have different preferences - but I would be very happy if I had the options of the apsc lens lineup as a ff user :(
     
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  5. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Cyprus
    Nick
    Also, I think a more fair comparison (I know you mentioned it already ;) ), would be if one took out the color duplications etc ;)
     
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  6. soeren

    soeren TalkEmount Top Veteran

    658
    Dec 12, 2014
    Næstved, Denmark
    Soeren
    Funny, Id be satisfied with the 55 FE, 90 makro and some wideangle in the 21-24mm range in FF :) Instead Im stuck with 12mm samyang, 24mm Sony and 60mm sigma :( It's a good kit no doubt but even so it would have been nice if all could have been Sony.
     
  7. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran

    876
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    Been there, done that with EF-S. Good values but not the most enthusiast-friendly selection IMHO. (Awesome if you like slow zooms...)

    A couple of other systems worth mentioning:

    Canon EF-M: small, light, inexpensive and quite good. I actually bought into this system for the nifty 22/2 pancake and a $100 18-55 kit zoom with a 52mm filter thread. The bodies aren't nearly as ambitious as Sony's but they do have their redeeming qualities. (If & when Canon puts mirrorless on the front burner, things are going to get interesting.)

    Fuji X: a lens system I admire from afar. If I were to start over I'd be very tempted. (Except I kind of like the way Sony RAW files work with my Adobe workflow.)

    I like a good "normal" prime and it is interesting to note how for Sony APS-C e-mount there will soon be no less than 5 options (if you do count third party options) as opposed to certain other systems' zero.
     
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  8. soeren

    soeren TalkEmount Top Veteran

    658
    Dec 12, 2014
    Næstved, Denmark
    Soeren
    Yeah but why is it that it's the third parties that provide us with most of the goodies and not Sony themselves
     
  9. Nexnut

    Nexnut TalkEmount Top Veteran

    In my case it's mainly the Sigma twins and my legacy glass that kept me from going back to Nikon FF some years ago and it was the great 1855 that made me buy the X-Pro1 and stick with that X-Trans madness for so long. So yeah, Sony could have had that money (and some more I guess) but apparently they didn't and still don't want it.
     
  10. Amamba

    Amamba TalkEmount All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2013
    SE MI
    Sorry, but I completely disagree with this reasoning.

    There's a huge physical size and cost difference between APS-C and FF lenses in Sony lineup. The main reason we want Sony to build APS-C lenses is to keep them compact, and because we know that they tend to put premium prices on their FE line.

    We wouldn't care how many APS-C lenses Sony was producing if their FE line had many lenses of comparable size with APS-C, at reasonable prices.

    Which is exactly the situation in the DSLR world. The relatively small number of APS-C lenses in Canon lineup (still more than Sony) is because of the large number of FF lenses that are compact and cheap enough that no APS-C variant makes sense. E.g. the "Nifty fifty" 50/1.8, or the EF 85/1.8 USM - they are FF but compact and inexpensive, so why make an APS-C lens of same FL ?

    A small gain in physical size for an already compact (in DSLR terms) lens is meaningless when you still deal with a relatively large body. This is also the reason for only having a few pancake primes. Putting a pancake on A6000 will make it pocketable (in a jacket, anyway). Putting a pancake on SL-1, the smallest Canon DSLR body, still requires a bag and isn't much smaller than a body+regular prime setup. Still, there's two pancakes in Canon DSLR lineup (40/2.8 and 24/2.8) vs three in Sony MILC lineup (16/2.8, 20/2.8 and 16-50) even though Sony's users need them rather badly, and Canon users for most part don't care much. I'd also dare to say that Canon choice of focal lengths for their pancake primes makes far more sense. A $149 24/2.8 pancake would be a killer lens on A6000.

    Look at the popular Tamron DSLR zoom duo - the FF 28-75/2.8 and APS-C 17-50/2.8 - they are roughly the same size, same weight, and same cost. The only major difference was the focal length range which was suited to the particular sensor size. There was really no good reason to try and make 17-50/2.8 more compact, since it's already small enough for a DSLR.

    So, CaNikon DSLR people don't have to make many APS-C lenses because they already have a ton of FF lenses that are compact enough and cheap enough. The mirrorless is another story.

    As to the Sony line-up - not only it isn't complete (missing a fast standard zoom, a long tele prime, and a midrange-priced UWA zoom), but some of the lenses that are cruicial in the existing line up are rather mediocre, 16/2.8 being a great example. 16-50 would also greatly benefit from a redesign. Sony has a setup that can be made to work, but it's far from perfect and doesn't let us utilize the full ability of their APS-C sensors.

    BTW, there's only two Canon 55-250 - the IS and STM. The IS I or II are the same lens, just some external cosmetic changes to reduce cost. STM does have a completely different motor and is said to be sharper optically.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2016
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  11. GateCityRadio

    GateCityRadio TalkEmount Regular

    56
    Oct 9, 2014
    Kev
    You leave out Pentax, but they make the most APS-C lenses out of any brand listed above. I think its especially important to watch Ricoh/Pentax because of the fact that they are entering the FF market. I'm curious to see if they seem to just dump APS-C like Sony has seem to of done with their APS-C E-Mount, then again Pentax is more established in APS-C than Sony ever was with the E-Mount and they really have everything covered already, so all pentax would have to do is release a new APS-C body every once in a while and focus on lenses for the new FF...they have the FA Limiteds and the FA50/1.4 from the film era still being produced which could be upgraded with new coatings and styling and be rebranded as D-FA.
     
  12. Hawkman

    Hawkman TalkEmount Top Veteran

    943
    Sep 10, 2013
    Virginia, USA
    Steve
    Wow, A nice range of comments so far. My thought with this thread was (a) just as a mental exercise for myself; and (b) to engender conversation and discussion. And I did/do plan to add more comparisons and thoughts as I go, including adding info/links to other lens line-ups, starting with the Canon, Nikon and Sony FF lenses that fill out their offerings for both APS-C and FF. NOTE: What I include in each brand's list is currently limited by B&H's search and filter features... so I can't leave out the color duplications as far as I can tell.

    True, Nick, they are definitely alternatives. But I was looking at correlations, or counterparts where certain lenses are either direct equivalents or close ones. The 16-50/2.8, as a constant 2.8, is much faster than any Sony E-mount APS-C zoom. And the 18-135, as a 27-200 equivalent, seems unique to me even though the FL range is covered partially by the 18-15G and entirely by the three different E-mount 18-200s.

    Good points Jeff and Kev. As I said, I was focusing on systems where the makers offer both cropped AND full-frame digital ILC bodies and lenses. And, until last week (when Pentax announced the K-1), that was Canon, Nikon, and Sony (correct me on that if I'm wrong). I plan to get around to the line-ups of Pentax, Canon EF-M and Fuji X as well, knowing especially that Fuji has a reputation for a very nice line-up of APS-C mirrorless lenses.

    Amamba, I understand your point and your position. And I agree that Sony needs more affordable lenses and more compact ones, be they FF or APS-C.

    But my goal was to start from scratch and look at Sony's developing line-up in view of who they, as a company, see as their primary competition, not through the "lens" of what we as users want to see (although what we want is certainly a valid perspective). It seems clear that Sony is targeting Canon and Nikon. And their emphasis on adapting lenses from other systems with improved AF and IS - especially with the Mk. II series of A7x bodies and the A6300 - seems to me to make even more clear that they are trying to provide as many options as they can in a short time. Not to be a fanb0y-ish defender, but it seems their pace of introducing new lenses over the last few years is as good as anyone's. We can't realistically expect to meet every need in just a year or two. I think Sony has now focused on FE lenses precisely because they are starting from scratch there and know that any FF lens will work completely on APS-C, but not vice-versa. And as a company struggling to maintain an overall profit, they are targeting the higher-end, more profitable options and going after pros hard. Unfortunately that does leave budget-conscious hobbyists like myself (and many others here) out searching for affordable options.

    That said (and far too longwindedly), I'll next update this with the FF line-ups and move on to other APS-C ones as well.

    Thanks for all the comments. They're all great! (Where's the Tony the Tiger emoji?)
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2016
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  13. GateCityRadio

    GateCityRadio TalkEmount Regular

    56
    Oct 9, 2014
    Kev
    Pentax has actually had Full Frame lenses in production for a long time now. The FA50/1.4 and FA Limiteds (FA31, FA43, FA77) have been out since the 90's and are still in production. The D-FA50 Macro and D-FA100 Macro have been around since 2004. The D-FA 150-450 and D-FA 24-70 came out last year. Part of the reason I got the A7 was to use my FA Limiteds on FF because at that point it seemed like pentax was never going to release a FF body to use these lenses on....lol.