Theme: Compromise - Suggestions of lenses for E-mount? (old and new, native and non-native)

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Cameras' started by TheAbsurd, Apr 13, 2014.

  1. TheAbsurd

    TheAbsurd New to TalkEmount

    Apr 13, 2014
    Hi everyone,

    I know this horse has been flogged to death by now but I'd like to ask for your advice nonetheless. I've owned a few Canon cameras in the past (XSi, 60D, hv30 -video camera-) and in looking for a replacement for my 60D which I sold almost 2 years ago. I landed on mirrorless cams some time ago. I sold the 60D because I needed money, and even if I hadn't, I still thought it was a bit too bulky for my needs. Since then, which is pretty much the two years since I sold the 60D, I've been sitting back and waiting for the market to develop and putting some money aside. I ultimately landed on the a6000, after considering M4/3 and Fuji, as well as going back and forth with my decision to forego DSLRs, since the Sony seemed to be the best compromise for me in terms of being good at both photos and video, being small in size, and since it's likely to be a serious upgrade in quality over my 60D (if DxO is to be believed). Now I'm looking to buy the a6000, possibly/hopefully even tomorrow since Aden in Toronto has them in stock, and I'd like to know what lenses you'd recommend as top-quality (on a low budget) for Sony e-mount.

    Here are the details of what I'm looking for:

    Old or new - Either works for me, if the quality is there, size can take a backseat to that. If a "10" year-old Canon FD or Minolta can match Sony's offerings in e-mount I'd love to own it, despite the fact that it wouldn't have stabilization or AF.

    Native or non-native - Same mentality as above, if the quality is there, I don't particularly care who the manufacturer is, provided I can get away with an adapter that won't cost me a boatload ($300 range is a boatload imo, at least for my skinny wallet)

    Cheap - so no 800+ lenses (unless there is one lens to rule them all in that price range, but I doubt there is any such mythical monster after doing some research on Sony's offerings). Putting aside a hypothetical budget of $800 CAD (or less preferably), do your worst/best, please. (this budget can stretch a bit either way, ofc, since lens prices are never exact, especially in dealing with legacy lenses)

    Focal length - I love shooting landscapes (as you can see from my flickr page: so a high quality wide-angle is a definite want. I also like/(would like to do more of) shooting birds so a decent longer length would also be desirable. Beyond that, I also like architecture and shots of people (not a street shooter but maybe one day). So if possible I'd like to cover a range from wide-angle to telephoto, the midrange being reserved for day-to-day shooting. *Note: I realize zooms have severe compromises, so primes would be a better fit so cover this range, and I don't mind changing lenses, but IF there are zooms that are truly worth having, please leave me a comment.

    AF - frankly I'm partial to AF since when I owned the 60D I tended to use MF quite a bit and I know I can re-train myself to do so especially with the Sony's peaking (although it would be nice to take advantage of the a6000 AF system, but again not a deal-breaker)

    Sharpness - I value sharpness in my photos quite a bit, but since that can be applied in post (to varying results) it can take a back seat if a suggested lens EXCELS in something else or is REALLY special in some way.

    Distortion - I'm not really a pixel-peeper though I do want the best quality I can get ofc. Having said that, I was pleased with the photos I took that I liked even after I learned what chromatic aberrations and moire etc. are and I found them in some shots, so I don't think I'm hung up on the (imo) deluded goal of seeking perfection in lenses, or in any case, my budget can't afford such lofty goals.

    Size - I know lenses add a significant -perhaps the only significant- factor to the whole size benefit debacle of owning a mirrorless but I have three things to say on the topic: 1). I think a small mirrorless body is preferable to a big DSLR, even if the lens makes it bigger than it would otherwise be (say with a small prime); 2). Ultimately my goal is a camera that's versatile and allows me to do what I want (photographically) and there's no skirting around size of lenses if you want good quality so not really an issue in my mind. 3). I can always carry one single lens on those days when size becomes a priority, which is something that in a DSLR would still be a nuisance, since it is big from the get-go, regardless of what lens I pair it with.

    What I've considered myself so far (any recommendations/un-recommendations on these would be appreciated):

    Sigma's DN art series lenses (19, 30, and 60) - considering how much they cost, they seem like a no-brainer, especially the 30mm which has a decent focal length and quality to boot, from what I've read. I always loved the sharpness of my 50mm f1.8 on my 60D but thought the frame was too tight for day-to-day use, and having never owned a 30mm, I can only assume the 30 (45mm equivalent in FF) is closer to what I'd want to replace the 50 with.

    SEL 16-50mm kit lens - I like the practicality of multiple focal lengths but since I don't just want snapshots for a quick facebook upload and I'd like to produce something that's truly pleasing I'm afraid that lens would limit me. I absolutely hated my 18-55 on the 60D in every situation but the brightest of days and when I had no option but to use it, so I think this lens might bring back the same kind of feelings. But I could always be wrong, so let me know.

    SEL 55-210mm - This seems like a cheap and decent quality for when I want to go out during the daytime and take some wildlife pictures. I'd love to know if it truly is a decent lens, better than, same as, or worse than my old Canon 55-250 which I always thought was quite decent and it served me well.

    Ideally I'd love to own something like the 10-18mm and 24-70, and the 70-200 but because of how much they cost I can't justify spending that much nor can I realistically afford spending it. So I'm left with other options and that's what I hope to glean from you guys/gals, since you're familiar with what the system offers as a whole. There's a lot more I'd like to say, but I've already written the equivalent of a short story, so if you have any questions on gaps in my requirements/expectations please ask.

    I know this may be a case of TL;DR so if you skipped to this ending, and/or don't want to go into detail about any lens, then just pointing me in the right direction (a compiled list of best lenses, legacy or otherwise that I can research myself, or a past thread etc.) would be much appreciated. As the theme states, I'm well aware of the fact that buying lenses, especially on a tight budget is a game of compromise, so I'm looking for any and all suggestions/recommendations that could cover a range of wide to long, within a budget of ~$500-800 CAD, whether in legacy or current glass and that would not limit me from producing pleasing photos (whether for print or otherwise).

    Thank you,

    p.s. I posted this on Dpreview originally but considering I posted another thread 2 months ago and it wasn't approved by mods I don't expect this one to be approved either. For some reason they never seem to get to my posts. My posts stay forever stuck in limbo like in Inception. :/
  2. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    Real Name:
    First, welcome to the forum, Mihai.

    Second, as you say at the beginning of your post, this question has been beaten to death. And then it's been beaten some more. So I don't really know what to say that hasn't been said many times before. But FWIW, the Sigma is the sharpest of the three you list. If you want wider or longer, then you'll have to get some other lenses for those purposes. And the other two are perfectly good, but not spectacular lenses. But I suspect you already knew that.


    Why not get all three and call it good? It's not like you can't put them up on ebay and buy something else if you find them wanting.

    Sorry, I know that's probably not what you wanted. But I only know which lenses work for me. And I'm very leery of telling complete strangers on the Internet which lenses would suit them.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    Real Name:
    Wow, lots of info there.

    What you have not included is what you primarily shoot? This really will tell you what you want/need.

    You seem to have a pretty good grasp on the lenses already, not sure what I could add. Of the lenses listed, I have the 30mm Sigma and just love it.

    Go to the sample section and take a look at what people are putting out.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. TheAbsurd

    TheAbsurd New to TalkEmount

    Apr 13, 2014
    Thank you Woodworks. What you said is fair and I understand I've thrown so many elements into the fire that it's hard to even recommend anything. What I really wanted to get at, but went about the wrong way (in retrospect) is what lenses other Sony users have bought and currently use themselves (I would love for people to drop me a comment saying "I have so and so lens, and I think it's great because of this..."). What I put up is only what I've found that seemed decent. My biggest problem is that I have no idea where to start even looking for legacy lenses; there are plenty of youtube videos and the like discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the native e-mount lenses, but I can't find any resource that simply lists the good, bad and great legacy lenses. If you have any idea where I could look for that I'd much appreciate it. I noticed after I joined that there's a section for legacy glass in this forum, so I'll be looking into that over the coming days.

    Also I think you're right, I can always buy the three and sell them off later, but that is a hassle, I would have hoped to circumvent that. As always, no such thing as a free lunch I s'pose. I think for starters I'll buy the 30mm, and look around for a used 55-210. Later on I can find a decent zoom in the 18-55 range or thereabouts, hopefully something in legacy glass, that provides better image quality then the 16-50 (wishful thinking). Thanks again for your post and glad to be here :D
  5. TheAbsurd

    TheAbsurd New to TalkEmount

    Apr 13, 2014
    Thanks Davect01, I'll check it out. I have a tendency to over-write so my bad for that, the issue I'm having is that I've waited for so long I want the absolute best fit (no such thing I realize) for me. Then that only makes me more anxious about what I'm getting, and that in turn makes me second guess every decision and on and on it goes in circles (which I suspect is the root cause of a majority of these types of threads). I'm excited about the 30mm, and until today I hadn't even known about it, with so many threads on FE lenses on dpreview, I guess it got lost in there somewhere and I never saw mention of it.
  6. TheAbsurd

    TheAbsurd New to TalkEmount

    Apr 13, 2014
    Forgot to answer your question. I can't say I have a primary shooting style/subject. Mostly I've shot landscapes, architecture, and impromptu portraits of friends and family. But honestly, what I like about photography is the ability to experiment with different things. For example I shot a few wildlife shots and I find that enjoyable also, so yep, can't really give a definitive answer I'm afraid. If you check out my flickr you'll see some of what I've shot, and you'll notice it ranges quite a bit.

    Btw, looked over the samples thread and the 30mm looks amazing for its price, it might just be my first lens :)
  7. xXx1

    xXx1 TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 15, 2013
    Sigma 19mm, 30mm and 60mm are extremely cheap, light in weight and optically good so I would take these first.

    From legacy lenses I use mostly:
    24mm/2.8 Ensinor
    28mm/2.8 Super Ozeck
    Zeiss Contax Planar 50mm/1.7
    Zeiss Contax Sonnar 85mm/2.8
    Nikon ED 180mm/2.8
    Minolta 35-70mm/4 macro zoom
    Vivitar 70-150mm/3.8 (made by Kiron, there is also a Tokina model)

    Lately I have been collecting 135mm lenses and Auto Beroflex and Jupiter 37A are my current favourites. I can't really recommend these Beroflex, Super Ozeck and Ensinor as these were just marketing companies and there is probably several manufacturers lenses sold and sample variation might be great too. I think that these 3 lenses are made by single manufacturer (Cimko or Ozone Opticals). 24mm & 28mm lenses have solid red unequal diamond marking focusing distance and aperture. The Beroflex has got open green one.

    CZ 50mm/1.7 costs about 100 Euro and is excellent lens. CZ 85mm/2.8 costs about 250 Euro and Nikon ED 180mm/2.8 600 Euro.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    • Like Like x 2
  9. TheAbsurd

    TheAbsurd New to TalkEmount

    Apr 13, 2014
    Hey, thanks for the great list. I'll check it out :D
  10. TheAbsurd

    TheAbsurd New to TalkEmount

    Apr 13, 2014
    Great, thank you :) Since I didn't end up buying an a6000 today I have a week to do some research. This will definitely come in handy.
  11. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    Other people have already posted some good lists. The problem with 'wide' legacy lenses is that once you factor in a 1.5x crop none of them are really that wide, and then they either start to get very big or very expensive or both.

    With that in mind, you can't really go wrong with the Sigma 19/2.8 for your wide angle purposes. It is very good across the frame wide open and gets even sharper stopped down a bit. You may want to check out some of the recent Samyang 8, 10 and 12mm offerings, if you don't mind manual focus lenses though.
  12. xXx1

    xXx1 TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 15, 2013
    I don't know how much as good as Sigma 19 mm lens will cost in legacy lenses but I imagine lots more than Sigma. Personally I haven't been looking anything below 24mm in legacy lenses. If I have enough money I will get Zeiss Contax Distagon 28mm/2.8 and 35mm/2.8 some day.

    I may get Samyang 12 mm some day too. It is extremely cheap considering its wideness.