Sharpness and cost of E-mount lenses

Richard Crowe

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Lens sharpness is certain is not the only criteria on which to judge a lens and, I am not sure if the DXOmark tests can be judged as a reliable indicator of relative sharpness. However, since I have been transitioning to Sony gear, I have noticed one certain thing: Sony lenses (especially full frame lenses) are pretty darned expensive
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I have just sold my Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens which has been my go-to, mid-range, telephoto ever since it was first introduced to the Canon lineup around 2006. I loved this lens but, it has now been replaced with the Sony version, 70-200mm f/4 G OSS and the Sony appears every bit as good as my Canon. It should be if price is any indicator of quality... It is the most expensive of the Big Three (Sony, Canon, and Nikon) offerings in their 70-200mm f/4 stabilized lenses.

Brian Smith Pictures did a survey of compatible lenses from the Big Three:
https://briansmith.com/sony-fe-lense...n-nikon-glass/

Sony lenses are generally (with only a few exceptions) more expensive than their Canikon counterparts in just about ever category. However, I was able to pick up mint copies of the Sony 85mm f/1.8 and the Sony 70-200mm f/4 G OSS from Adorama.com at significantly reduced the prices for both these lenses.

Although I shoot with Sony APSC cameras, I use several full frame lenses. However, there are some APSC lenses for Sony e-mount cameras that are not only decently priced but are very good values performance-wise. The Sony 50mm f/1.8 OSS is a darn good lens which can be had (especially on the used market) at a bargain price while three Sigma DC DN offerings for Sony APSC e-mount cameras (16mm f/1.4, 30mm f/1.4, and 56mm f/1.4) offer great quality at a relatively affordable price. The 16mm is great and the 56mm appears absolutely amazing as an APSC portrait lens (about an 84mm f/2.0 equivalent). These lenses range from $289 USD for the 30mm to $429 USD for the 56mm (Adorama.com prices). So for right at a thousand U.S. dollars, a Sony APSC shooter could be equipped with a trio of great prime lenses. I have the 50mm OSS and 30mm DC DN lenses and can attest to their quality.

Another company that is offering significant sharpness and very decent build quality for Sony E-mount lenses is Samyang/Rokinon. I have a Rokinon 12mm (18mm effective focal length on a Sony APSC body) manual focus, f/2.0 lens that is excellent and I have read some very good things about other Samyang/Rokinon lenses in both, crop sensor and full frame lenses with both manual focus and AF.

Finally, Viltrox has come out with an 85mm f/1.8, which is the least expensive of the 85mm f/1.8 AF lenses and is getting some very good reviews. However, I snagged the mint used copy of the Sony 85mm f/1.8 lens at only slightly more cost than a new Viltrox AF model...
 

WNG

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Wait until you get into adapting manual-focus legacy glass! This was one of the strengths of Sony mirrorless. Made it so easy and fun with focus-peaking, magnification and zebra.
It's a good time to be a Sony shooter. Lot's of native AF and adapted options.
 

Richard Crowe

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I have some great adapted glass that I love to use. A Sears Auto 55mm f/1.4 (Tamioka Produced),
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and several more including the Helios, a Sears Auto 135mm f/2.8 (from Goodwill for $11) and several more. Some. like the Sears give really great imagery while others have optical defects which render very interesting and artistic imagery, The 50mm Oreston f/1.8 is one of my favorites in the latter category...
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davect01

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One of the "problems" with more and more MP and resolution is that lenses that would be passible a few years ago look rough now. As you mentioned the 50mm SEL is one of those standouts but mostly it's a pay to play type of scenario with lenses. As a weekend dad shooter, $2-3000 lenses just are NOT in the budget

I too have a lot of fun with legacy lenses and have a few great ones but have had several come through that were just too soft.
 

Richard Crowe

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I think that legacy lenses are a crap shoot - some are great while others not so much. Since they are usually pretty old there may also be a lot of differences between individual copies of the lenses depending on how well they were taken care of...
The old Triotar lens can capture some interesting images
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While the Russian Helios family does its best work on a full frame camera but, is passable on a crop sensor camera...
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bdbits

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I have heard/read of this complaint often, and sympathize. The usual defense is that if you compare apples-to-apples, equivalent lenses are not that widely different in price, but that Sony lenses are almost always higher quality lenses and you need to choose high quality not just popular lenses from competitors. Also that a lot of the competition's glass is older designs, with R&D costs made up a long time ago. Well, I don't know, but the prices of the new Canikon mirrorless lenses seem to back up those assertions to some degree. And we are getting more affordable lenses now, especially from third parties like Tamron, Sigma, Rokinon, Laowa, etc.

DXO is somewhat controversial with some, but MTF charts and the like can also be a bit intimidating for some of us. I guess I try to look at the images produced by a lens I am interested in, and read trusted reviewers and see what people say at places like talkemount. And I almost always buy lightly used lenses, which can often save quite a bit of cash. Certainly, vintage glass can be pretty great for much lower cost as well, and can often produce quite interesting images.

This can be one of the more expensive hobbies. I really enjoy it and all, but the same money can buy a lot in other hobbies, personal development, travel, etc. It is a matter of disposable income, priorities, and preferences, as with most non-essentials.
 

WNG

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I think that legacy lenses are a crap shoot - some are great while others not so much. Since they are usually pretty old there may also be a lot of differences between individual copies of the lenses depending on how well they were taken care of...
The old Triotar lens can capture some interesting images
View attachment 104208

While the Russian Helios family does its best work on a full frame camera but, is passable on a crop sensor camera...
View attachment 104207
Some beautiful results! And a prime example why I like vintage lenses. It sparks one's creative juices when you see their distinct rendering.
When dealing with anything aged, used, there will always be some inherent risk. That's why research and diligence pays off. Often the investment and loss are low per lens.
I believe in being an educated consumer. ;)
 

Richard Crowe

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I just received a Sony-Zeiss 24-70mm f.4 Vario-Tessar lens that "might" replace my Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens. Initial tests indicate that the lens is in pretty good shape. I have not, as yet determined, how much better (if any) the I.Q. of the Vario-Tessar is compared to my 28-70mm. However, it is a constant aperture full frame lens that is not terribly much larger and heavier than the 28-70mm kit lens.
If I am satisfied with this lens it will become part of my kit and if not, I paid little enough for it, so I can always get my money back selling it on eBay...
I am going to wait and see what Sony is bringing out as a replacement for the A6500. If it appeals to my GAS, I will sell the A6500 to get the new camera. If it doesn't intrigue me, I will turn to a full frame offering, probably a used A7Rii...
 

somnambulist_squirrel

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I have been loving using my A7Rii nearly exclusively with vintage manuals, and have been keeping my a6000 around for AF uses. However, I just can’t swing the cost, even used, of the AF lenses I want. So, it occurred to me that an alternative was to blend platforms.

I sold my (admittedly tired) a6000 and picked up a Nikon body that will drive the older screw drive AF-D lenses, which happen to have manual aperture rings and decent manual focus handling. I am in the process of swapping out some vintage manuals (and the unimpressive 18-200 that came with the Nikon body) for comparable AF-D lenses, which should leave me with a slate of three lenses to share on the Nikon body and the A7Rii - 24mm 2.8 AF-D (or possibly the Tokina 20-35), the 50mm f1.4 AF-D, and the 80-200mm f2.8D. These ought to offer at least a moderate improvement over my current manuals (except maybe the Minolta 24) and also fulfill my occasional needs for AF use with images I am satisfied with. The tankish Nikon will also take on the harder uses (kids, outdoor pursuits, etc.) so that the A7Rii can stay a little more protected.

We’ll see if this experiment works. If not, I expect I can always swap again.....

(GAS GAS GAS GAS GAS GAS GAS GAS GAS....)
 

Richard Crowe

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I picked up a used (like new minus) A7iii from a camera company and I am waiting for delivery. Knowing me and my GAS, I would always be pining for the A7iii if I bought another Sony camera. The A7iii will just about complete my Sony setup so I can sell all of my additional Canon gear,
I don't expect to replace my Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS ii because I can rent a Sony 100-400mm lens for $45 per weekend from a local camera store. I have not used the Canon lens often enough to justify the cost of that glass,
Only one more GAS purchase. I will probably sell my 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar lens because; after I test it on the new A7iii, I suspect that I will find it lacking. I will replace it with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens.
 

addieleman

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I will probably sell my 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar lens because; after I test it on the new A7iii, I suspect that I will find it lacking.
Test carefully, I'd say. I still have my FE 4/24-70 for my A7R2 and it does well enough. I don't do landscape photography with it but for reportage-like shoots it's more than adequate.
 

Tipton

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Modern Sony lenses are more expensive than older designs from other manufacturers, which were usually designed for dslr, rather than mirrorless systems.

Remember that Sony had to design a whole new lens ecosystem. We shouldn't be surprised that lenses designed for newer systems are more expensive than lenses designed for systems that are several decades old.

And Sony seems to have made a decision to take a hit on the bodies and make the money back on the lenses.

(Also, at least the GM Sony lenses are (I believe) future compatible, in that they're actually designed for that 100 megapixel sensor that Sony hasn't released yet.)
 

somnambulist_squirrel

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Modern Sony lenses are more expensive than older designs from other manufacturers, which were usually designed for dslr, rather than mirrorless systems.

Remember that Sony had to design a whole new lens ecosystem. We shouldn't be surprised that lenses designed for newer systems are more expensive than lenses designed for systems that are several decades old.

And Sony seems to have made a decision to take a hit on the bodies and make the money back on the lenses.

(Also, at least the GM Sony lenses are (I believe) future compatible, in that they're actually designed for that 100 megapixel sensor that Sony hasn't released yet.)
For sure.... I still can't afford them.... :)
 

bdbits

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In addition to 100M-sensor readiness, I am sure another factor in the cost of Sony lenses - especially GM - is AF speed relative to burst rates of the camera bodies. It has to adjust focus pretty quickly just to keep up some of the insane burst rates, e.g. the A9's 20fps (60fps to the EVF). This requires precise, fast AF motors and mechanisms.
 

Ziggy99

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I'm getting to grips with the new FE200-600 on the A9.

My most used tele lens has been the Nikon 200-500mm - over 70,000 bird shots on the Nikon D500. And the immediate comparator is the FE100-400mm & 1.4 TC.

My provisional view is that the new Sony is noticeably less crisp than the FE100-400mm & TC and somewhat less than the Nikon.

But here in Oz it costs twice as much as the Nikon.

It's slightly cheaper than its stable-mate but relative street pricing has yet to stabilize.

The Nikon is perhaps something of a bargain in the Nikkorsphere but even so.
 

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