Sony E-mount selection grows with slim pancake prime, far-reaching video power zoom


posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 2:11 PM EDT

Two newly-announced lenses today take the selection of Sony E-mount optics to no less than fifteen, including 13 lenses and two converters. The newest optics are a tiny pancake prime, and a power zoom lens aimed at video use. The latter has actually been shipping for a while in a bundle with the NEX-VG30 camcorder, but will now be available as a separate product in its own right.

The Sony Alpha E-mount 20mm F2.8 lens is a pancake-style wide-angle prime lens, with a six element, six group optical design including three aspheric surfaces. Both lens barrel and mount are crafted from metal, and dimensions are 2.5 x 0.8 inches (62.6 x 20.4mm), with a weight of 2.4 ounces (69g). There's a seven-bladed circular aperture, for pleasing bokeh. Maximum magnification is 0.12x with an APS-C camera body. When used on a Sony NEX-series camera body, it has a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 30mm, and its aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/22.

Sony's 20mm f/2.8 pancake prime accepts 49mm threaded filters.

Autofocus is catered for with an in-lens stepper motor which is suitable for both still and movie capture; Sony rates noise levels during focusing as "excellent". The lens supports Direct Manual Focus, and has a minimum focusing distance of 7.8 inches (20cm). 49mm threaded filters can be attached to its front. The Sony SEL20F28 lens ships this April, priced at US$350.

Alongside the pancake prime, there's a new power zoom lens. The Sony Alpha E-mount PZ18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS has a much more complicated optical formula, with 17 elements in 12 groups, of which there's one extra-low dispersion ED glass element, and a total of five aspherical surfaces. This provides just slightly more than an 11x optical zoom range, covering everything from the equivalent of a useful 27mm wide angle to a powerful 300mm telephoto when coupled with the focal length crop of a Sony NEX-series camera body. Just like the prime, there's a seven-bladed circular aperture to yield smoother bokeh. At wide angle, the aperture varies from f/3.5 to f/22; by telephoto this falls to a range of f/6.3 to f/40. Not surprisingly, the power zoom lens needs much larger 67mm threaded filters. It includes Sony's Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, including an Active mode which provides greater stabilization when near the wide-angle end of the zoom range.

The Sony 18-200mm PZ lens is a power zoom aimed at videography.

Just like the prime, the power zoom has a metal finish and a metal mount, plus a built-in stepper motor for autofocus, and it too includes support for direct manual focus. Dimensions are 3.75 x 4 inches (93.2 x 99mm), and the lens weighs in at 22.9 ounces (649g). Maximum magnification is 0.35x with an APS-C camera body, and the minimum focusing distance varies from 12 inches (30cm) at wide angle to 20 inches (50cm) at telephoto. As you'd expect of a lens designed for videography, the autofocus motor and aperture mechanism are rated by Sony as having "whisper-quiet" noise levels during use. Three zoom speeds are available, controlled with a rocker on the side of the lens barrel. Zoom can also be controlled directly from the camcorder body when shooting with the Sony NEX-VG900, NEX-VG30 and NEX-FS700 using current firmware. Available from March 2013, the Sony SELP18200 lens is priced at around US$1,200.

Three power zoom speeds are available, set with a slider on the lens barrel.