You can argue all you’d like about whether mirrorless or DSLR is the right choice, whether Sony’s adding full frame to the mirrorless lineup was the right choice, and all the other camera-related things that have happened since Sony took over the KonicaMinolta camera group a decade ago. But I’m here to say that one choice that Sony made was absolutely correct, and we’re now seeing the results of that choice nearly every day.
What choice was that?
Well it was actually two choices: (1) to standardize on the E-mount for both the still and video cameras; and (2) to open up the mount information to third parties.
Here’s the thing: Sony (and previously Minolta) has been competing against the Big Two lens mounts for many decades. Canon’s now at over 120m EF lenses produced, while Nikon is up to 110m F-mount lenses produced. That’s a ton of inertia in the market, but it’s also a ton of inertia on Canikon themselves, as they struggle to keep their lens sets modern and complete. Neither company really shares lens mount information with third parties. There’s a bit of behind the scenes that happens, particularly between Tamron and Nikon at times, but there’s no official program to support third party manufacturers.
Meanwhile, Sony knew that they needed a wide choice of lenses, and fast. Even using KonicaMinolta—yes, that company still designs camera lenses—and Zeiss resources, Sony wasn’t going to fill a lineup of lenses very fast.
But look where we’re at today: 34 Sony-branded lenses for the E-mount, and dozens more from third parties, with more being announced every day. Today, for instance, we add the Tokina 20mm f/2 FiRIN. This week we’ll see some more, including additional Zeiss offerings (they already have nine E-mount lenses of their own).
The whole autofocus lens adapter scene probably wouldn’t have developed without information about the mount being available for license, which certainly opened up the Canon EF lenses to Sony mirrorless users. (The Nikon equivalents don’t fare quite as well because Nikon has made more persnickety changes to the communications on their mounts over the years, and shared that with virtually no one.)
As much as we talk about the latest and greatest camera being the most important thing just announced, I believe that the lens sets are much more important. I argue that the Canon and Nikon crop DSLRs have been failing against mirrorless for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest is the lack of appropriate lenses and the high emphasis on low-end consumer zooms (buzz, buzz [dslrbodies.com readers will know what buzz, buzz means ;~]).
The more interesting aspect of this tale is video. Only Canon and Sony are now positioned well for lenses that can be used appropriately on both still and video cameras (Panasonic gets a nod as decently positioned; all other players not so much, particularly Nikon).
So congratulations to whomever at Sony was involved in the “consolidate and open the E-mount” decisions. Job well done.