The Full Frame Lens Situation 2

One thing that gets overlooked in many discussions about mirrorless lenses is where everyone is in their actual cycle. Sony introduced the A7 and A7R and FE lenses in 2013, Canon and Nikon introduced the RF and Z lens mount cameras and lenses in 2018. Sony thus had five years head start on Canon and Nikon, so they'd damn sure better have more lenses at this point ;~). The current count is 30 for Sony, 8 for Canon, 8 for Nikon. 

But where did Sony stand three years in? Because that's what we should compare with now that Nikon has announced their lens road map through 2021. Canon doesn't have a road map, though there are enough leaks to give us an idea of what they're up to. Let's take a look, shall we?

Canon RF Nikon Z FX
Sony FE
Primes 24mm f/1.4 L
35mm f/1.4 L
50mm f/1.4 L
85mm f/1.2 L
105mm f/1.4 L
135mm f/1.4 L
20mm f/1.8 S
24mm f/1.8 S
28mm ?
35mm f/1.8 S
40mm ?
50mm f/1.2 S
50mm f/1.8 S
58mm f/0.95 S
85mm f/1.8 S
28mm f/2
35mm f/1.4
35mm f/2.8
50mm f/1.8
55mm f/1.8 ZA
85mm f/1.4 GM
Zooms 15-35mm f/2.8 L
24-70mm f/2.8 L
24-105mm f/4 L
24-240mm f/4-6.3
28-70mm f/2 L
70-200mm f/2.8 L
14-24mm f/2.8 S
14-30mm f/4 S
24-70mm f/2.8 S
24-70mm f/4 S
24-105mm ? S
24-200mm ?
70-200mm f/2.8 S
100-400mm ? S
200-600mm ?
16-35mm f/4
24-70mm f/2.8 GM
24-70mm f/4 ZA
24-240mm f/3.5-6.3
70-200mm f/2.8 GM
70-200mm f/4 G
70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G
Specialty 35mm f/1.8 Macro
90mm f/2.8 Macro
60mm Macro
105mm Macro S
28-135mm f/4 G
50mm f/2.8 Macro
90mm f/2.8 Macro

Total 8 produced

5 rumored

13 total (likely to be higher)
8 produced

12 known

20 total
16 produced


16 total

Update: I had originally left the 14-24mm f/2.8 out of the table. It's been added.

In the case of Canon, I've had to use clear rumored and hinted at lenses to fill in the table through the end of 2021. I suspect there will be at least two or three additional lenses that I haven't caught. Which would put them on par with Sony's first three years in the FE mount. 

The more interesting thing is how the initial lens choices for the new mount differ between the three companies. Nikon is executing a full series of f/1.8 primes and a broader zoom range then Sony originally produced. Nikon also seems to emphasizing higher quality lenses than Sony originally did (thirteen S-Line Nikkors versus six G or GM Sonys). Canon's lens list sure looks like there's a higher end camera coming soon, otherwise it makes little sense.

Canon and Nikon are, of course, are both relying upon their established DSLR lens base to tide them over until they can get to parity with Sony. The Canon and Nikon mount adapters have been included with just about every sale, and both do an excellent job of making DSLR lenses useful on their mirrorless systems. Thus, existing Canon and Nikon users probably now seem like viable full frame systems with no need to switch. 

Of course, there's this: if you were buying from scratch today, Sony's in a better position, simply due to that head start. 

Update: I've been getting a lot of feedback on this article. A good portion of it is seems to ignore that last line ("if you were buying from scratch today..."). 

So why do this article? For the same reason I was trying to moderate knee-jerk opinions back in 2014 and 2015 with the Sony FE mount! A lot of people forget that Sony pretty much abandoned the A-mount to fully pursue mirrorless. Meanwhile, their initial FE mount lens choices seemed a bit anemic. The 28-70mm was really poor, the 24-70mm f/4 Zeiss was poor in the edges and corners of the frame, though the 70-200mm f/4 was pretty decent. Sony also initially seemed to keep executing 28/35mm and 50/55mm primes for some reason.

Canon and Nikon both will end up with a trio of high-quality, pro-level f/2.8 zooms faster than Sony did. To me, this bodes well: both companies understand that they have a long way to go to get to absolute lens parity, but they're putting emphasis on key optics in a way that shows to me that they're very serious about this market and will do what it takes to eventually satisfy users.

So I look at the present scene for Canon and Nikon DSLR shooters much like I looked at the scene for Sony A-mount back one and two years into the FE bodies: Canon and Nikon are moving faster, and it's far easier to see where they're headed from the initial road maps. People don't remember that Sony A-mount users were leaving Sony in 2014 and 2015 for Canon and Nikon DSLRs, and both the apparent abandonment of the A-mount and the strange mix of initial FE lenses was part of the reason.

For Canon and Nikon DSLR users now in the same position, they have a choice: switch to Sony FE or transition to Canon RF or Nikon Z. I'm going to call this one: those Canon and Nikon users have more and better information than the Sony A-mount users did at the same point in Sony's transition. 

Finally, a lot of folk think the race is over and Sony has won. They apparently haven't paid a lot of attention to history or understand the dynamics of a company like Canon (Nikon's more quirky, as cameras are the only real consumer business they have; everything else at Nikon is pretty much business-to-business). 

Sony's right to be highly aggressive right now. It's their last chance before the battleship (Canon) and cruiser (Nikon) lock onto them with their full battery. But here's the thing: this is exactly what we as customers want to happen. Strong competition between Canon, Nikon, and Sony will keep all three on their toes and improving their products and fleshing out their lineups. If you just want Sony to win and Canon and Nikon to fade to oblivion, you're asking for mediocrity down the line. No need for all that R&D investment if you don't have competition.

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