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Full-frame mirrorless lens information 2021: Digital Pictures Evaluation

Image of a Nikon lens
The transfer to mirrorless by a few of the trade’s largest gamers places the deal with their new lens lineups.

Up to date October 1 2021 | Initially printed April 2020

On this article, we’re going to take a look at Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic/Leica/Sigma full-frame mirrorless techniques to see what they provide and the place they could but go. In any case, In our have a look at ~$2000 full body mirrorless cameras, we stated that selecting between them is as a lot about shopping for right into a lens system as anything.

This text is not a query of ‘which vary is largest,’ it is to assist present which lineups have the lenses you may want to your pictures.

In addition to the lenses at the moment accessible, we’ll contemplate the diploma of help offered by third-party lens makers and briefly focus on a few of the applied sciences concerned.

Observe: The lens charts on this article had been up to date and now replicate the high-end, autofocus lens choices for every system as of October 2021 with a focal size vary of 14-200mm. Decrease-end, variable aperture zooms reminiscent of equipment lenses are omitted.

Sony E-mount

Relating to full-frame lenses for mirrorless, Sony has the largest head begin. Sony launched its full-frame ‘FE’ vary alongside the unique a7, again in late 2013, and already had a number of years expertise of creating APS-C E-mount lenses by that time.

Sony has additionally taken the weird transfer of permitting third-party lens makers entry to its lens mount specs and communication protocol. This has allowed firms reminiscent of Sigma, Tamron and Zeiss to increase the vary of obtainable lenses for Sony photographers. Within the case of Sigma, these embody current DSLR optical designs in addition to new, devoted optical formulations for mirrorless, denoted ‘DG DN’.

Diagram covers autofocus primes and high-end zooms within the 14-200mm vary. Lineups right as of October 2021.

Along with masking most of those bases, Sony has had time so as to add specialist lenses, reminiscent of 600mm F4, 400mm F2.8, 100-400mm and 200-600mm telephoto choices, equivalents to which are not at the moment accessible for different techniques.

Beginning earlier has given Sony time to offer a wider vary of lenses, together with much less apparent choices such because the 135mm F1.8 GM

Sony says that the years it is spent making giant lenses for mirrorless digital camera has allowed it to develop experience within the varieties of motors greatest suited to full-frame mirrorless lenses (the necessity to drive lenses easily for video, in addition to shortly means the necessities aren’t the identical as for DSLRs). Nevertheless, whereas it is true that Sony’s adoption of applied sciences reminiscent of linear motors and piezoelectric drive gives its more moderen lenses with impressively quick, easy focusing, bear in mind that a few of the firm’s earlier lenses do not all the time present this similar efficiency.

Canon RF-mount

Canon’s RF lens lineup up to now has proven a definite deal with the wants {of professional} customers, with a lot of its first lenses belonging to the premium ‘L’ vary.

Canon hasn’t opened up its lens mount to different makers, so there’s little or no third-party help accessible in the meanwhile. If the RF mount positive aspects something like the recognition that the EF mount did, it is extraordinarily probably that different firms will discover a option to provide autofocus lenses, however widespread third-party help for RF could also be some years away.

Diagram covers autofocus primes and high-end zooms within the 14-200mm vary. Lineups right as of October 2021.

Along with these lenses (and the variable aperture ‘equipment’ and journey zooms you may count on), Canon has additionally launched two fascinating and relatively inexpensive F11 telephoto prime lenses masking 600mm and 800mm. These use diffractive optics to maintain the dimensions and weight down.

Canon at the moment makes use of quite a lot of motors in its RF lenses: primarily utilizing the corporate’s quick, easy ‘Nano USM’ know-how or the ring-type USM motors that underpin most of its high-end DSLR lenses. The ring-type motors seem to work fairly properly with Canon’s twin pixel AF system however aren’t all the time the smoothest or quickest, particularly on condition that they are typically used within the lenses with giant, heavy lens components that have to be moved. We have been impressed by the Nano USM lenses, although.

The RF 35mm F1.8, in the meantime, makes use of a small stepper motor, which makes it noticeably slower and noisier to focus than the most effective of Canon’s different mirrorless lenses.

Nikon Z-mount

Like Canon, Nikon has not but opened up the Z-mount to third-parties, so that you’re primarily depending on Nikon’s priorities and launch schedules for now.

Nevertheless, Nikon’s preliminary build-out technique seems to be very totally different from Canon’s: Slightly than beginning with exotica (handbook focus 58mm F0.95 aside), Nikon has developed a variety of comparatively inexpensive/transportable F1.8 primes, alongside a set of F2.8 and F4 zooms.

Diagram covers autofocus primes and high-end zooms within the 14-200mm vary. Lineups right as of October 2021.

When it comes to focus motors, Nikon appears to primarily be counting on the usage of small stepper motors for its lenses to date, which provide respectable efficiency however do not seem to match linear motors or Canon’s Nano USM applied sciences for both velocity or smoothness. Twin focus teams assist to present correct focus even close-up, in a few of Nikon’s zoom lenses, which may additionally enhance on the customarily modest speeds of single-motor designs.

L-mount: Panasonic, Leica and Sigma

Panasonic, together with Sigma, has aligned itself with Leica by adopting the ‘L’ mount for its full-frame mirrorless cameras. This immediately offers it entry to a longtime lens vary (although, like Sony’s, one that’s constructed round a mount initially targeted on APS-C). Sigma’s inclusion within the alliance ought to guarantee a variety of third-party L-mount lenses turn into accessible: it is constructed L-mount variations of a lot of its designed-for-DSLR primes and can also be introducing ‘DG DN’ lenses designed particularly for full-frame mirrorless cameras.

All Panasonic cameras to date have been primarily based across the firm’s Depth-from-Defocus (DFD) AF system and Leica makes use of a system whose description sounds remarkably related. We’re informed all of the lenses within the L-mount are appropriate with DFD however that they are not all essentially optimized for it, by way of AF drive or how shortly the lenses talk with digital camera our bodies. For now we would not count on the identical consistency throughout native L-mount lenses that we have seen from the single-maker techniques, however we would count on the three companions to be working to maximise compatibility.

Diagram covers autofocus primes and high-end zooms within the 14-200mm vary. Lineups right as of October 2021.

Panasonic’s lenses primarily make use of linear focus motors, however use a mix of linear and stepping motors for lenses such because the 50mm F1.4 and its 70-200s that require extra glass to be moved round. Sigma’s lenses fluctuate, and we would count on higher efficiency from its made-for-mirrorless DG DN lenses than from the older DSLR optics.

DSLR lens help

In the event you already personal a collection of DSLR-mount lenses, then you definately’ll discover that with the fitting equipment, you may mount them on any of those digital camera our bodies. For the reason that mirrorless mounts are all shallower, this leaves loads of room to place an adapter between the lens and physique. The efficiency you get will fluctuate, although.

Canon often bundles one in every of its EF-to-RF adaptors with its RF-mount cameras, and it makes three variants (a easy pass-through tube, one other with a management ring round it and a 3rd that allows you to drop a alternative of filter between the lens and the digital camera). The twin pixel AF system, mixed with Canon’s information of its communication protocol means EF lens customers will get most likely the most effective tailored lens expertise when utilizing Canon RF-mount our bodies. Usually we have had roughly DSLR-level efficiency from the EF lenses we have tailored nevertheless it’s not essentially true for each lens.

Unsurprisingly, you are inclined to get the most effective tailored efficiency for those who use DSLR lenses on the identical manufacturers’ mirrorless our bodies. Do not assume you may all the time get DSLR ranges of efficiency, although.

Varied firms additionally make EF-to-E adaptors, permitting EF-mount lenses for use on Sony our bodies. And, whereas not fairly as constant as Canon-on-Canon pairings, we have had good experiences with this mixture, although typically solely with shorter focal lengths. In the meantime, Sigma makes the MC-21 adapter for utilizing EF lenses with L-mount our bodies however, with out part detection AF in most of these cameras, steady AF just isn’t accessible.

Nikon additionally affords kits that embody its ‘FTZ’ F-to-Z mount adaptor with a few of its digital camera our bodies. This gives an honest stage of help for current lenses however doesn’t include a spotlight drive motor, so can solely autofocus lenses with their very own motors (AF-S, AF-P and AF-I lenses and their third-party equivalents). F-to-E adapters can be found, however efficiency can fluctuate, lens-to-lens, making it extra of a bet.

Sony additionally makes a number of adapters for utilizing A-mount lenses on E-mount cameras. The newest, LA-EA5 adapter features a focus motor to focus older lenses designed to be pushed from the digital camera physique, however this operate solely works with choose high-end Sony cameras.

As you’d most likely count on, then, older lenses are inclined to work most reliably with the cameras made by the identical model. Nevertheless, they can be utilized on different techniques, so relying on how in depth your current lens assortment is, it’s possible you’ll discover you may make do with lowered efficiency, somewhat than having to sell-up and begin once more, for those who do not need to stay certain to the whims of the maker of your DSLR.


As you’d count on, Sony’s almost five-year head begin and openness in the direction of third-party makers has let it construct up a big benefit over its rivals, however all 4 mounts are already beginning to see key holes of their respective lineups being stuffed.

In the long term, it is probably that each one 4 techniques might be prolonged to supply a variety of mid-range, in addition to high-end primes and zooms, nevertheless it’s fairly clear that originally, Nikon and Canon are specializing in totally different units of customers.

Third-party help gives extra choices in younger lens techniques. There’s much more to be gained when makers of cameras and lenses turn into companions in a system, as has occurred with the L-mount.

Nikon and Canon’s selections to maintain their mounts closed to rivals means they’ll management the consistency of expertise for his or her customers (with much less threat of a third-party lens providing sub-standard AF velocity or smoothness, for example), however with the draw back that you just’re extremely depending on that firm’s growth priorities and pricing, until you are blissful to take your possibilities with easy handbook focus or reverse-engineered choices.

It is the third-party makers and their skill and willingness to provide fully-compatible lenses that might be fascinating to look at. The adoption price of Sony E-mount cameras and the provision of the lens protocols is prone to imply most future third-party lenses might be designed round this mount. However with Sigma already becoming a member of the L-mount Alliance, different techniques are beginning to profit from additional enter.

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