Sony beefs up FE lens lineup with 4 new optics, including Zeiss 35mm f/1.4, lens converters
posted Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 12:00 AM EDT
One of the big complaints aimed towards Sony's popular A7-series of full-frame mirrorless cameras is the lack of a robust native lens lineup. In an effort to stem that tide, Sony continues to expand their FE lineup with the introduction of four new FE lenses, including their first f/1.4 lens for the FE-mount, a Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 optic. Also joining the full-frame E-mount family is a 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS lens, a 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS versatile zoom and a compact, budget-friendly 28mm f/2 prime.
When the A7 and A7R were first announced, alongside them was the FE 35mm f/2.8 Zeiss lens. And while this particular lens was great in terms of compactness, the f/2.8 maximum aperture was a bit underwhelming for those looking for premier low-light shooting and background blurring effects. And while the new FE 35mm f/1.4 Zeiss is noticeably larger and heavier than its f/2.8 counterpart, it answers photographers' calls for a more pro-oriented lens with a full two stops of additional light gathering capabilities.
Inside the all-metal, dust and moisture-sealed barrel of the new Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Zeiss, the lens is constructed out of 12 lens elements situated into eight groups, with three aspherical elements -- including one Sony Advanced Aspherical Element, which aims to enhance corner sharpness and reduce chromatic aberration. The lens also features Zeiss's T* coating for reduced flare and ghosting as well as improved color accuracy and contrast. Coupled with the bright f/1.4 aperture, the 9-bladed rounded aperture diaphragm should help insure smooth, pleasing background blur.
The autofocus performance of the Zeiss 35mm lens should be top-notch thanks to Sony's Direct Drive SSM focusing system, which utilizes a linear, piezoelectric actuator to move the focusing group quickly, precisely and quietly, even down to its minimum focus distance of 12 inches. The quiet focusing performance should work very well for video recording, plus the manual aperture ring can be "de-clicked" at the flip of a switch for even further noise suppression for video as well as smooth exposure adjustments.
While the new 35mm lens tackles wide-angle and low-light shooting, the new FE 90mm f/2.8 G Macro lens takes thing close. Very close. Sony's first macro lens for the FE-mount features true 1:1 magnification and built-in Optical SteadyShot for hand-held macro shooting capability. The 90mm focal length and wide f/2.8 aperture also makes it a great option for portraits and video shooting for good subject isolation.
Like the new 35mm f/1.4 lens, the 90mm Macro features Direct Drive SSM for fast, quiet focus, and in this cases, uses two separate focusing groups. The macro lens also features manual focus override with a large, textured focus ring, a dedicated focus hold button and a focus limiter switch. For critical macro applications, the lens is completely internally focusing and the front element does not extend out further while focusing.
The lens uses 15 elements situated in 11 groups, and includes Super ED elements as well as Sony's Nano AR coatings and has a 9-bladed, rounded aperture diaphragm.
For a do-it-all solution and for those that find the existing FE 24-70mm f/4 Zeiss lens not long enough, the new FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS should come in very handy for a one-lens-one-camera setup for landscapes, travel and other general-purpose photography.
The powerful 10x zoom lens covers an enormous range for a full-frame lens, and the five aspherical elements and one ED glass element should help produce high quality images, and the linear AF motor makes for quick, quiet and smooth focusing. Lastly, with longer focal lengths and the not-so-bright variable aperture range, the inclusion of built-in Optical SteadyShot is a very welcomed feature.
To round out Sony's latest lens announced, they've also introduced a very compact, budget-friendly prime lens: the FE 28mm f/2. This wide-angle prime is compact, making it a great option for a small walkaround lens, plus the 28mm is a great option for landscape and travel photography. With the bright f/2.0 aperture, the 28mm prime is also a great choice for low-light shooting.
Despite the budget-friendly price-point, the FE 28mm f/2 maintains a high build quality with a high-grade aluminum barrel construction and nine elements in eight groups, including three aspherical elements and two ED glass elements for improved edge-to-edge sharpness. The aperture is also a 9-bladed, circular design and all lens surfaces are multi-coated for suppressed flare and ghosting.
In addition to the lenses, Sony also released a couple full-frame lens converters for the new FE 28mm f/2 lens to get even more creative possibilities out of this little lens. The "SEL075UWC" Ultra-Wide Converter transforms the 28mm lens into a 21mm one, however, the maximum aperture is narrowed somewhat to f/2.8. To go even wider, there is also a "SEL057FEC" Fisheye Converter. Creating a 16mm fisheye lens, the now-f/3.5 prime lens is capable of a full 180-degree field of view. When attached, the EXIF data will take the conversion lenses into account.
For Sony APS-C shooters, fear not as they've released APS-C versions of the ultra-wide and fisheye lens that replace the two current models, and are compatible with both the E 16mm f/2.8 and E 20mm f/2.8 prime lenses. Using the "VCL-ECU2" ultra-wide converter, the 16mm and 20mm prime lenses become 12mm and 16mm lenses, respectively, with light loss (the f/2.8 apertures remain unchanged). The "VCL-ECF2" fisheye converter will create a distorted, fisheye effect with full, 180-degree coverage for either lens, and, as with the ultra-wide adapter, the 16mm is converted to 12mm and the 20mm into 16mm.
Pricing and availability for all the new Sony releases vary somewhat, with the new FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS hitting store shelves first this March with an estimated retail price of around $1000. The FE 35mm f/1.4 Zeiss follows with an April availability and an estimated price around $1600. Coming in May, new FE 28mm f/2.8 prime will go for about $450. The converter lenses also ship in May, with the full-frame ultra-wide and fisheye converters retailing for around $250 and $300, respectively. Meanwhile, the APS-C versions will be shipping then as well for $160 and $180, respectively. Lastly, hitting retailers in July for around $1100 is the FE 90mm f/2.8 G Macro lens.
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