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Thread: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

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    A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Been thinking about this for a couple of days. There is a suspicious lack of AF lenses for the FE mount. I understand that the mount is still relatively new and I know Sony is akin to a giant, lethargic snail when it comes to producing lenses. Sony themselves have a decent selection out right now (I guess) but they seem to be on the Zeiss/G/expensive side. What surprises me is that nobody in the third party world has jumped all over this gaping hole of a lens lineup and at least came out with something.

    Now I know that Samyang has a nice selection of manual focus lenses. I know that there are some tasty Zeiss manual primes on the way. And of course there are all those adapters out there for manual focus and even Minolta/Sony AF lenses via the LAE adapters. Dont get me wrong, I can easily be considered "Mr. Just use a freaking adapter for every lens ever", and that is actually how I shoot the majority of my photography. But I have a small urge to add a couple of small, basic, inexpensive AF prime lenses to my camera bag in the near future in the native FE mount. Something akin to the wonderful little Sony 35/1.8 for APSC alpha lenses.

    But...there just arent any.

    Where is Sigma? Where is Tamron? Tokina? Anyone actually. It seems that there is a decent niche market here that can only grow in the future. Sony is releasing its third A7 soon. I know the market share for all the cameras combined cant be HUGE mind you, but you would think that one of the third parties would be jumping all over this and establishing themselves early in this lucrative FE mount. It really cant be that hard to come out with a basic 1.8/2.8 set of three or four primes in the traditional focal lengths.

    I would like to hear everyone's opinion on this, up to and including which lens you would like to see produced by whom. Me personally, I would love to see Sigma release a 35/1.8, 50/1.8 and 85/1.8 trifecta of ART lenses at reasonable prices. They seem to be on a roll recently with producing high quality lenses with great optics for very decent prices.
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Designing lenses is a labor intensive, very expensive project. There are so many factors to consider, and they all vary depending on the mount. You can't just slap a lens designed for a Nikon mount on a Sony by altering the connections. It's all pretty much from scratch.

    Manual lenses are a bit easier, but add the electronics and micro-motors for autofocus and image stabilization, and it gets a bit more complicated.

    It's not surprising that Sony got a head start. Besides having prototypes a lot sooner than other lens makers, they have an economic incentive to get lenses out ASAP, as this spurs camera sales. Sigma, etc., wasn't about to go gung ho right off the bat. They would probably want to wait and see if the A7x is a success before devoting development resources to another mount. It has been, so I expect third party lenses to make an appearance in the (hopefully) not to distant future.

    But not tomorrow, or next week, or even next month. Maybe not even this year.

    I don't know what more you can expect, and I disagree that Sony is a lethargic snail. Anything but: Five lenses (two more in the next few months) and three camera bodies, and it hasn't even been a year.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Thanks dandrewk for the input. I understand the economics of a corporation designing and bringing new lenses to market. And no, its not always a matter of using an existing lens and changing mounts. Although that has been done in the past. And I am not talking about complex zooms and the mechanical and marketing decisions that need to be made for those.

    I am talking about basic lens formula that has been studied and tweaked for years now. Sigma has been making prime lenses, both manual and AF, in the focal lengths I have mentioned for decades. And they already have the working formula for contact points and flange distance for the E mount in existing lenses for the NEX cameras. While it would be an additional investment for them to work out a good compromise set of primes for the FF Sony sensor I simply cant imagine it would be that much. Everything is there in place on their servers. Just a few puzzle pieces to move around and make fit.

    Im really wondering if it is just a matter of resources being stretched to thin. They have after all delayed some popular new lenses recently for other mounts. I suppose they are just running at max capacity and may not have time to bring these to market. I guess my overall surprise is that none of the third parties seem to really moving forward on what appears to be a huge potential market. Im pretty sure most A7 owners would gobble up a set of decent primes in the sub 400 price range.

    And you are right. I know they will eventually get here, but proabably not this year. Could be they are all slaving away in private and not making any announcements regarding new FE lenses. I would just think if this were the case there would be some leak, intentional or not, to let people know what was on the horizon.

    And Sony being a snail was not in regards to their camera production, but rather their history of getting new, well thought out lenses to marked, mainly for the NEX line. They seem to have production diarrhea when it comes to new cameras. And they are constipated when it comes to lenses.

    Thanks again for the input.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    I feel your pain, so I totally sympathize. Not have -any- WA native lens options is a real downer at this point. The purported 16-35 can't come soon enough.

    I'm a terrible optimist. I am predicting such "where are the lenses?" threads will quickly be a thing of the past.
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    canikon lenses are easier to make, larger market, larger margins. you don't see anyone else make m43 lenses other than pana and oly. sigma dipped in only when they had lenses from the DP series to make a new mount for.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Reasons might be very simple: Imagine you are executive of lens company. Your job description is to maximize profits and minimize expenses. To achieve that goal which one of following is correct answer:

    A) Produce for Canon and Nikon DSLR mount that gives you huge existing base of potential buyers with technical approaches you already figured out and production lines you already have in place, or

    B) Produce for mount whose user base is much much smaller, designs are much more complex thanks to much shorter registration distance, challenges haven't been figured out yet, and production lines need to be built?

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Ken, ZoranC, I understand the logic behind what you say. And taking the easy path to corporate earnings is of course one way that some companies choose to run themselves.

    But if I were the executive of a lens company (or at least a successful one) my job description is also to recognize new markets for product placement well ahead of the competition and to have a comprehensive plan in place to strongly position my company as the leader with the 'go to' product for that area.

    Making a decent set of primes for the worlds smallest ever FF mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (which currently suffers from a lack of small, cheap primes) would seem to be a natural thing for third parties to want to get their foot in the door early. I mean, its for this very scenario that many third party lens makers exist. To fill the hole in existing lens makers line ups with cheap, high quality alternatives.

    Again, Im not saying its not going to happen. It almost certainly will. Im just wondering why this far into the game we dont even have an inkling of anyone coming out with anything.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Yes, recognizing new markets would be part of your job description too. So I will answer your question with counter-question: Do you see that opportunity? But before you rush the answer remember, you need to take off your enthusiast hat, put on cold business hat and do analysis, market forecast, return on investment, risk factor, etc, as you will be answering many questions on that to your board of directors, investors, etc.

    So maybe answer is that they already did their homework. Or they feel there is insufficient data and it is prudent to wait. Or maybe they already are working on it but development takes time.
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    ZoranC, its easy to argue with the specter of information that neither one of us posses and claim the high ground based on board meetings that may or may not have happened. The fact of the matter is that it seems odd, from a consumer/enthusiast point of view, that NOBODY has even released an hint of a rumor of a whisper of developing any native AF lenses for what is arguably one of the most important cameras of the last few years.

    That is my whole point. If you would like to provide the minutes to the board meeting where these discussions took place and these decisions were made then wonderful. I would love to see them.

    Otherwise the easy answer is to quote all the stuff you just did. Economics, profits, return on investment. I was aware of that when I posed this question. So either they did or did not decide to make lenses for FE. They are making them in secret now and want to surprise and unsuspecting public or, for all the reasons mentioned, they decided is simply isnt profitable for them to do it now.

    Again, it just seems incredibly odd to me that not a single third party has chosen to grab this market share. It is the very definition of low hanging fruit. On the other hand, do the third party powers that be simply not have faith that the FE market share will ever amount to anything?

    That I think is very telling.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    I think it has more to do with of the complexity of designing and manufacturing high quality glass. Even if they wanted to RUSH a lens to market, they can't just push a button and start banging them out. It's not even been a year.

    ... And this from a person who pays $extra for overnight shipping. IOW, I'm not known as a patient person.
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Quote Originally Posted by f/otographer View Post
    ZoranC, its easy to argue with the specter of information that neither one of us posses and claim the high ground based on board meetings that may or may not have happened. The fact of the matter is that it seems odd, from a consumer/enthusiast point of view, that NOBODY has even released an hint of a rumor of a whisper of developing any native AF lenses for what is arguably one of the most important cameras of the last few years.

    That is my whole point. If you would like to provide the minutes to the board meeting where these discussions took place and these decisions were made then wonderful. I would love to see them.

    Otherwise the easy answer is to quote all the stuff you just did. Economics, profits, return on investment. I was aware of that when I posed this question. So either they did or did not decide to make lenses for FE. They are making them in secret now and want to surprise and unsuspecting public or, for all the reasons mentioned, they decided is simply isnt profitable for them to do it now.

    Again, it just seems incredibly odd to me that not a single third party has chosen to grab this market share. It is the very definition of low hanging fruit. On the other hand, do the third party powers that be simply not have faith that the FE market share will ever amount to anything?

    That I think is very telling.
    Yes, it is easy to argue while not having an insight. However, I don't need to have an insider info to know that if they did consider taking certain direction such meetings have very likely happened because one doesn't make such size gambles on a whim, to do them on a whim one has to own the company and be very impulsive. Vast majority of time business decisions are not done purely on faith.

    Knowing that and considering plenty of time has passed since world became aware there will be a FF E-mount it is not question whether there were such meetings, it is very likely there was an analysis and there were meetings (obviously there were no rash single handed decisions or otherwise we would have already heard announcements), question is what was decided in them. Whatever it was not enough time has passed to indicate anything, development doesn't happen overnight, especially when new system introduces complexity, so I don't understand anxious wondering. Only if PhotoKina / ramp up to Xmass shopping season passed without any signs of anything on the horizon would I take that as sign to start wondering.

    P.S. Personally I would rather hear news about high quality FF FE manual focus lenses than AF ones of lesser quality.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    a7/r series is six months old, five AF lenses, 3 very capable bodies.
    Until any 3rd party maker sees what Sony has up its sleeve, they would be very reluctant to commit to this moving target. Whatever they produce must be better in a marketing sense than what Sony offers. It's not like Zeiss seeing an opportunity because Canon was making poor wide angles years back, and CZ knew they could offer durable, high quality manual focus lenses for the EOS mount - they now make 15mm-18mm-21mm-25mm-35mm, all fine Distagons.

    Sigma and co maybe do not feel Sony's AF is up to scratch yet. Sigma is making old style heavy lenses for DSLRs like the 820 gram 50/1.4 ART, all 13 elements of it; or the crazy zoom for APS-C at the same weight and even more complexity (17 elements, just pile more in!) - the 18-35/f1.8. And Sigma specialises in fast lenses, the ones with big elements that require more power to shift them fast.

    Size and weight are major attractions in FE, not that easy to make the right trade-off. Those Sigma lenses are each heavier than the a7r plus FE55, card and battery.

    Then - market sector...we don't know who Sony is selling to, what type of buyer, nor how many units. We know more about who is not interested lol.

    One maker that could sell into the a7r base is CV, whose DSLR lenses are already a fine match in size and quality for a small FF camera. If/when Sony steals market from Leica they may get interested.

    All decent lens makers are moving upmarket in full frame - where the profit is.
    Sony is willing to discount alarmingly - another possible hurdle to entry.

    Really Sony and Zeiss are best advised to make lenses based on the Leica M model of light, simple design, small and superb, even off-mainstream items like the WATE. I'm sure guys like jono are keeping a watching brief on developments, and the M buyers are more important than bottom feeders to Sony; again, for profit and the prestige niche Sony is aiming for - along with their other recent developments in the RX1, medium format.
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Problem is you can't rely on Sony. 6 months later they might have created the FED line of lenses and changed everything again, perhaps not very likely but the way Sony has been throwing cameras and designs at the dartboard almost blindfold, I can see why manufacturers would hesitate. They have a single camera design which uses the new lens mount. That's not really enough is it for companies to retool? What would be interesting of course is to find out how many types of Fuji X bodies were in the wild before Sigma started making stuff in X mount. That would be a good indication.
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    For a company like Sigma there are big pros and cons toward the development of FE lenses.

    PRO: it a new market, not saturated with lenses like canikon. There is a big need for lenses with all that enthusiasts buying the A7 series of cameras.

    CON: due to the shorter flange distance, they cannot easily adapt yet another mount. Most of the lenses will need a complete redesign which will be time-consuming and expensive. Look at the samyang lenses which are available with e-mount now. They simply made the lenses nearly 1 inch longer, which looks ridiculous.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Despite all the discussion on forums like this, the amount of cameras with the proprietary FE mount out in the market place is probably like a few grains of sand on a mile long beach. If the A7 series couldn't take a lot of other lenses, there would be even fewer FE grains on that beach.

    Sony is steeped in a tradition of consumerist products, and as of late hasn't been all that successful at that either. They brought that mentality to cameras with an avalanche of models aimed at consumer level photographers video games that take pictures. Unfortunately, the bottom dropped out of that whole segment and Sony is suddenly interested in more serious photographers who still do buy expensive cameras, lenses, and over-priced accessories. $$$$ now fill their corporate eyes.

    What has escaped them is the whole lens gestalt the very thing that more serious photographers place a priority on. A camera who's claim to fame is big sensor in the palm of your hand needs a good choice smaller AF FE lenses with IQ that makes use of what their sensor division is inventing. The AF FE55/1.8 should have been the standard and they should have started the lens effort the second that the camera design got the green light.

    IMO, Sony needs to stop spitting out cameras like a M&Ms factory, support current buyers with firmware updates, and get the lenses out the door pronto so we have choices to fit our needs, not fit our needs to some meager offering.

    - Marc
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Could not agree more here
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Now like Marc we both like Sony and these comments are not to be negative on them but more to help them grow in a segment of photography that is important to the advanced enthusiast and Pro level folks that are looking for the best the industry has to offer. Our job or our place in the industry for those that care to grow our photography is to push the OEMs with gentle nudges of wake up here is what we need and in the process you get to grow your company on a level that is looked up too in the industry. Let's bury the consumer mindset and get seriously involved in the higher end market and give people that care more options.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Am I wrong or i read that Sony required licensing fees on their af protocols?
    This could explian some.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    I had understood that it was an open protocol.
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    What would be interesting of course is to find out how many types of Fuji X bodies were in the wild before Sigma started making stuff in X mount. That would be a good indication.
    I was actually thinking of checking the Sigma E mount release history vs the actual Sony NEX release history when I posted originally but was a bit lazy. Had I taken the time to do so, which I have now done, I might not have made my post to begin with.

    Turns out the first Sony NEX camera was released on in June of 2010, announced in Feb of 2010. The first Sigma release notification that it was making lenses for E mount didnt come until Jan of 2013.

    So that is about a year and a half after the first NEX was released that Sigma made a public announcement that it was going to produce e mount lenses. Good discussion everyone.

    A quick search for the Fuji/Sigma relationship surprised me a little. The first interchangeable lens Fuji X camera, the X Pro 1 was announced Jan 2012 and launched on March 2012.

    Sigma currently sells no lenses in the X mount, over two years later. The news is that they will announce them at the upcoming 2014 Photokina. Wow, I did not know this.

    So obviously I jumped the gun a bit on my desire to see the FE line fills out. Looks like we are in for a wait. Its probably silly to hope Sony will come out with some nice, affordable primes in a timely matter as well. They really seem to be positioning the lenses for FE in the Zeiss/G range to suit their upscale desire for the a7's placement.

    Oh well, good thing I love my Yashica and Minolta lenses.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    Let's bury the consumer mindset and get seriously involved in the higher end market and give people that care more options.
    If that's the plan, sending a SDK to Phase One with a bottle of wine, some flowers and a note that starts with 'please' and ends with 'thank you' would be a good place to start.
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Paul Pizzano (Manager from Sigma) - there is not a plan to make Full Frame E-mount lenses yet:

    “Maybe one day but it would take a much larger commitment on the part of Sony. A full line of cameras and lenses with the FE mount, as well as the conversion of their NEX line to the FE mount. At the moment it is a very limited line and we are unable to invest in it when the parent company Sony seems reluctant to do so.”

    Hmm. I think they would struggle to do better than either Sony or especially Zeiss given the FE need for 'excellent' AND 'small / light'.

    Sony are three FE bodies worth of 'reluctant' also..
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Yeah, I wonder if something was lost in that "quote". The part about Sony's commitment is absurd.

    Also... "conversion of their NEX line to the FE mount". ???. Unless I misinterpret, does he not know the FE lenses work quite well on NEX (APSC) cameras?

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Agree I think he got some things backwards and not looking to far into his comments. I will say the FE is still young in the world as far as growth but that will change as well. The S opens a lot of doors to lenses for video for them. That area alone might give them a push. Look at Rokinion right now with major push in video glass. I would agree with him market will determine there involvement, that only makes sense.
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Quote Originally Posted by ken_vs_ryu View Post
    canikon lenses are easier to make, larger market, larger margins. you don't see anyone else make m43 lenses other than pana and oly. sigma dipped in only when they had lenses from the DP series to make a new mount for.
    Micro-FourThirds (and FourThirds) before it are a bit different. Sony's published the spec for the E/EF mount and mount protocols. To get the spec for Micro-FourThirds you have to be a member of the consortium, and both Olympus and Panasonic have been holding the cards tight as they are both intent on filling out the lens portfolio ..

    G

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    According to our regional sales rep, Sony is announcing five lenses for FE during Photokina. They usually ship pretty quick after announcement so we could potentially see 10 native FE lenses within a year (give or take a few months) of the A7 launch. I'm saying 10 instead of 12 because I think he is including the 2 recently announced lenses (the 16-15 and the power zoom) in that total.

    Looking at other product line histories illustrates that this is actually a fairly aggressive rollout. Who knows if any of those lenses will be affordable but personally, I would rather Sony follow Fuji's roadmap of fast primes at the standard FOVs. If they are as good as the 55mm I'll pay a small percentage increase over what Fuji charges for their fast glass - which is about what the 55mm equates to compared to the XF 56/1.2

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Any news about the rumored manual focus Zeiss lenses? I do not need AF for my style of photography, but the lack of exif data with manual lenses is a bit annoying. Also I'm wondering how these rumored lenses are constructed - are they simply versions of the existing ZE/ZF lineup with an integrated adapter or are they build from scratch?
    Last edited by ThomasZ; 2nd June 2014 at 15:20. Reason: Typo

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Zeiss, Sony, Sigma, and at least one other that I know of are announcing new FE lenses at Photokina. Including some wide surprises, from what I am hearing. Stay tuned for more news soon, and get your order in with Santa Claus for the end of the year
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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    It's been all quiet on the western front of late. I hope Zeiss give us a fair bit to chew on, such as their plans going forward for the manual FE lenses. Their QC and attention to detail have been really good of late. What will the lens range be called, after the 'Touits'? lol

    thanks for the info, Chuck, the wireless is tuned to your frequency.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    Photokina is a long way off. If the road map is accurate, there should be at least two lenses released at the show or soon after, along with announcements of future releases.

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    Re: A dearth of Auto Focus FE lenses...why?

    I'm just buying time with the A mounts for now. My one huge reason which is better than anyone out there is these A mounts are AF but more important they manually focus incredibly well which ever other AF lens on the market pretty much has no feel at all to them. I love the 24,85 and 135 there like focusing butter with feel.
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