The Full Frame Lens Situation

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 at what would be/was available from all three mounts three years in, 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
14-30mm 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

11 known

19 total
16 produced

16 total

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 than 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, 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 existing DSLR lenses useful on their mirrorless systems. Thus, current Canon and Nikon DSLR users probably now feel that they have a viable full frame mirrorless system, with no need to switch brands. 

Of course, there's this: if you were buying from scratch today Sony is in a clearly better position, simply due to that long head start. Which brings up another question: just how quickly will companies like Samyang, Sigma, and Zeiss move their FE mount products over to the RF and Z mounts? 

From my standpoint I'll continue to say what I've been saying:

  • If you're a Canon DSLR user it's not likely that you're going to want to switch brands in moving to full frame mirrorless. If you're happy with what Canon was doing for you in the EF mount, you have a natural progression to RF by staying with Canon.
  • If you're a Nikon DSLR user it's not likely that you're going to want to switch brands in moving to full frame mirrorless. If you're happy with what Nikon was doing for you in the F mount, you have a natural progression to Z by staying with Nikon.
  • Everyone else should probably look first at Sony for full frame mirrorless, as that long head start means that you can pick from a broad FE lens system on day one.

What about the L-mount and companies like Panasonic? I'd tend to point to that last bullet for the time being. But the L-mount lens base will likely dramatically change in the next year and I'll need to re-evaluate when it does.

text and images © 2019 Thom Hogan
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