The Sony A7 / A7R / A7S / A7II has become quite a popular camera in 2014 — a full frame mirrorless camera that’s about half the size of a DSLR full-frame. Another jewel in the A7’s crown is the ability to mount almost any lens, which (unfortunately) has increased the demand for manual-focus lenses significantly.
This is an ongoing list of lenses that have been tested by myself or others on the A7 camera series.
Looking at Sony’s FE roadmap you can see they don’t have many auto-focus lenses yet. Of the ones available now, many are expensive and don’t have as wide of an aperture that I’d expect for the price.
For example, Sony released a 24-70mm f/4 for $1,200, and when compared to Sony’s 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the image quality isn’t that much better to justify the price. I’d rather save my money for an f/2.8 lens. Luckily, there are plenty of manual focus lenses, both new and old.
New Manual Lenses
The Samyang company has gained a lot of popularity lately for making modern, quality, manual-focus lenses for almost any lens mount (commonly rebranded as Rokinon, Bower, Bell and Howell, etc). From the countless reviews, these lenses are sharp and their build-quality is ever-increasing.
With the demand for ‘vintage’ lenses so high, in many cases it can be cheaper (or negligible) to buy a new manual lens rather that fight-it-out on eBay. For example, a Nikon AI-S 85mm f/1.4 averages $550 on eBay, compared to the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 Sony FE mount for $299.
I purposely left Lecia lenses off this list because people report mixed success based on adaptors, A7 variant, and lens itself. Plus, they’re mostly too expensive for me to seriously consider buying.
Samyang 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fish-Eye
Samyang 10mm f/2.8, $350
Solid performer, not the lens-of-choice for bokeh. Review
Samyang 12mm f/2.0, $300
Samyang 14mm f/2.8, $300
Samyang 16mm f/2.0, $350
Canon FD 20mm f/2.8
Decent color and contrast, distortion's simple to correct, corners are good stopped down. If you're focusing below two meters, be mindful of your angle and don't go too far off axis. Surprisingly compact for an ultra-wide with an f/2.8 max.
The 20mm f/2.8 performs a little better than the 24mm f/2.8 but they are very similar. At f/8 center and extreme corners are excellent.
Canon FD 24mm f/2.8
Canon FD 24mm f/2
Kind of legendary among FD shooters for the performance improvements over the (smaller and less expensive) 24 f/2.8. Very strong performance throughout the focusing range. The 24L is better corrected, but it's big, hard to find, and pricey.
Minolta MD W Rokkor-X 24mm f/2.8
Samyang 24mm f/1.4, $550
Contax Zeiss 28mm f/2.8
Small, lightweight, great image quality.
Canon FD 35mm f/2 concave
Perfect optics and contrast is off the charts. Just a little big/heavy
Canon FD 35mm f/2.8 Tilt Shift
Great for landscapes or architecture, though it's pricey and getting harder to find.
Rokinon 35mm F1.4 AS UMC f/1.4, $500
Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Planar T*, $1300
Newly-released manual lens with native Sony FE mount.
Voigtlander 40mm f/2.8 Heliar, $400
Leica M mount, but built for the Sony E/FE lens mount. Requires the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter, $300. Steve Huff’s Review
Canon FD 50mm f/1.2L
I think this one is second to only to the Olympus 50mm f/1.2 for smallest, lightest fast normal. The rising prices make it tough to recommend over the very good 50mm f/1.4, but, aside from being better corrected, the wide open performance is great for people with less than perfect skin, and close-up performance from f/1.4 on to be better enough to justify the price difference. Stopped down to f/5.6 or more, it's one of the better landscape lenses.
Rokinon 50mm f/1.4, $400
Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T*, $950
Newly-released manual lens with native Sony FE mount.
Samyang 85mm f/1.4, $299
Canon FD 85mm f/1.8
TOKINA AT-X MACRO 90mm f/2.5
Canon FD 135mm f/2 or f/2.8
Vivatar 135mm f/2.8
Minolta MC/MD Rokkor 135mm
Nikon AIS 135mm f/2
Canon FD 300mm f/4 L
Canon FD 28-85mm f/4
Despite the fact that it's a big lens, it doesn't feel at all awkward on the A7. Strong, consistent performance throughout the zoom range, great flare control.
Native Sony Lenses
Sony Vario-Tessar T* 16-35mm f/4 OSS
Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8
The smallest autofocus lens available with really stellar performance (but not as good as the 55mm).
Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8
Considered one of the sharpest autofocus lenses ever made. This lens is made by Sony, with licensed Zeiss technology.
Sony Zeiss 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 (kit lens)
Okay performance, but I wouldn’t buy it again.
Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4
When compared to Sony’s 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the image quality isn’t that much better to justify the price, weight, and size. And when compared to Canon’s 24-70mm f/2.8L II for $2,000 (which I sold when switching to the A7), I’d just rather save my money for a f/2.8 version (probably never coming though).
Sony 70-200mm f/4.0 G OSS
For similar coloring, fall-off, and overall picture feel:
- C/Y 21 f/2.8, C/Y 28 f/2.8, a Contax G 45 f/2, and a Contax G 90 f/2.8
- Contax 28 f/2.8, 35-70, and 100-300
My Ideal Lens Mix
I’m still trying to decide on what my perfect lens mix will be, but here is what I’m thinking for now.
Sony/Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 with autofocus or Voigtlander 40 f/2.8 Aspherical Heliar (adapter required). These focal lengths are close yet different, but it really depends on the shooting experience. Do you want to shoot fast with sharp autofocus, or do you like to take time to compose and focus your shot (not to mention the Lecia-esq colors from the Voigtlander). But for now, I’m thinking both.
Sony/Zeiss 55mm f/1.8
This lens is so sharp, it’d be a mistake not to have this lens. At $1,000, this is the first lens you should buy for the A7.
85mm f/1.4 or 135mm f/2
This is focal length is ideal for portraits, but I’m still trying to decide which is right for me. I’d really prefer autofocus for this focal length, but manual is the only option for now.
300mm f/4 or f/2.8
This will have to be a manual lens; I’d really love to find a Canon 300mm f/4 for a decent price.
Sony 16-35mm f/4, $1300
This lens would be great for landscapes, but I’m not sure I need autofocus for that. I certainly want something wider than 24mm or 28mm
Sony 24-70mm f/4, $1200
I have the 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 now, but I'd like to upgrade it sometime. However I find f/2.8 a necessity for this lens — having the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 really spoiled me. But with better high ISO performance and the A7II’s image stabilization, I’m not sure a f/2.8 will be in the works for quite some time.
Sony 70-200mm f/4, $1500
I’d love this to be f/2.8, but I don’t think it’s in the cards for this focal length any time soon.
Title image by s58y