Why Do Sony Users Have So Few Options When It Comes to This Basic Lens?

Why Do Sony Users Have So Few Options When It Comes to This Basic Lens?

Sony users tend not to struggle when it comes to choosing lenses thanks to a ton of third parties complementing a large offering from the Japanese manufacturer. However, one lens now forms a bizarre gap in the lens lineup and, amazingly, companies are not trying to fill it.

When I switched to Sony a couple of years ago, while I adapted a load of my Canon glass using the Sigma MC-11 to soften the transition, I purchased one brand new lens: the Sony 50mm f/1.8. This is a lens that, while perfectly adequate, is not impressive, even though as a nifty fifty, it was competitively priced given that it was frequently on sale. Right now, it’s $248 from most major retailers, and — until the last six months at least — there were regular discounts that brought it to less than two hundred dollars.

There is nothing exceptional about this lens, and $200 feels about right, while pushing $250 starts to feel expensive, especially when you consider how much the market has changed in the six years since this lens was released. It has a plastic build without any bells and whistles and is one of the few Sony lenses that lacks weather-sealing. This is not a bad lens and one that I've enjoyed using, taking it along on many adventures where space and weight are at a premium, but it's definitely due for an overhaul. However, much as it is lightweight and compact, sharpness is underwhelming, chromatic aberrations are pronounced, and autofocus, while not terrible compared to DSLR nifty fifties, is put to shame by almost every other E-mount lens on the market. Those that are slower — and I’m thinking here of the Tamron 20mm, 24mm, and 35mm f/2.8 primes — are designed with macro in mind.

Given that there’s evidently a gaping chasm waiting to be filled by third-party manufacturers, it’s a mystery as to why there is no direct alternative, made more confusing given that there are so few lenses that even come close.

One of the most obvious competitors in terms of price and focal length is the Samyang/Rokinon AF 45mm f/1.8 FE. Regularly discounted, right now it’s an appealing prospect given the cut from $399 to $279, and at 5.71 oz (162 g), it’s a shade lighter than the Sony. Since its release in spring of 2019, Samyang has begun adding weather-sealing and customizable rings to its lenses, so despite being less than two years old, it now feels a little dated. By all accounts (it’s one of the few Samyang primes that I’ve not tested), it’s a solid performer and a viable alternative to Sony’s nifty fifty.

The respectable Samyang/Rokinon 45mm f/1.8

However, if we’re being picky, it’s not 50mm, and it’s the exception that proves the rule. There’s nothing in Tamron’s lineup that comes close, despite it having released a 45mm f/1.8 for Sony A mount back in 2015. Bizarrely, everything about Sigma’s I-series of Contemporary lenses suggests that a 50mm f/1.8 or thereabouts should be included, but its 45mm is a very random f/2.8 and feels like a missed opportunity. I reviewed the 35mm and 65mm f/2 lenses, and they were beautifully sharp and a true joy to use. Why the 45mm isn’t an f/2 feels like a mistake.

Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary Lens for Sony E. A beautifully designed lens that is immensely satisfying to use.

It has fallen to Viltrox to make the only truly direct competition to Sony’s own nifty fifty. Released earlier this month, it costs $379, and early reviews suggest that autofocus is far from snappy, though accurate and still quicker than the Sony, but tends to hunt. It’s also bigger and notably heavier than the Sony (12 oz / 340 g versus 6.56 oz / 186 g) and I can imagine that customers might be reluctant to pay a good chunk more for a third-party lens that doesn't seem to offer significant advantages.

Sony has updated a couple of lenses recently, but it remains to be seen whether the cheap and cheerful nifty fifty is on its radar. Canon has set a ridiculously high standard with its RF 50mm f/1.8, creating something affordable and with excellent performance, and it would be good to see Sony follow suit.

Is the Sony 50mm f/1.8 due for an update? Have the likes of Sigma and Tamron missed out by not making a direct competitor? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

Log in or register to post comments

The Sony Zeiss 55mm 1.8 is one of the best in its class.

I personally own this lens, and it has shot up to be in my top 3 of lens’ I use and love, it just rocks!

Great lens, but unfortunately it limits the A1 to 15 fps in AF-C.

I don't think so, it's a native Sony lens; the 15fps limitation is only applied to third-party options...

That’s the official support chart: https://support.d-imaging.sony.co.jp/www/cscs/lens_body/index.php?mdl=IL...

It seems out of all 50mm only the new 50/1.2 and 50/2.5 are capable of 30 fps.

Interesting, according to this, even the 85mm GM lens is limited to 20fps, along with the 50mm 1.4 Zeiss! Would seem other factors inhibit the top FPS rating, likely onboard SoC controller and/or focus motors.

Thanks for the useful link!

It's one of the first FF E-mount lenses. Makes sense that the AF motor wasn't super fast like the ones in use for the past few years.

The sony 50 1l8 is just fine. Lenses, like every other consumer item, are driven by demand

The demand for a newer "normal" lens comes after other lenses are first purchased. By that time, the replacement normal has to have a lot of perceived advantage over the existing one. And that's real hard to achieve without the obvious cost of greater weight or a much higher price for little true advantage

You harp on a low cost (never cheep) 50mm and title your essay "Why Do Sony Users Have So Few Options When It Comes to This Basic Lens?" If you went Sony a7 in '14 yes very few lenses, I even used my Canon film FD lenses for a year before getting a Sony lens because of adapters that Sony let out spics before release. Today you can have telephotos from 1224mm f/2.8, 24240 and 24-70 (great at 50mm), 70-200 f/2.8 and primes from 14mm to 135mm. If you want great try the 50mm f/1.2 (I have the FD lens yes all manual but great). I once went to Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 and had star elongation in corners but the old APS-C 1018mm (15-27) at 12-18mm in full frame was spot on even at 30s and the 1635 also yes great with perfect stars.
For me a lens is forever and I will wait and pay for the best as time goes and as far as Sony Glass there is no comparing and you get what you pay for but none are cheap by no means just lower in price for the ones who need a starter lens until they save for the best.

Sony has the most complete lineup of native mirrorless lenses and the fact they share focus information with third party lens manufacturers puts them head and shoulders above the competition. I owned the 50mm 1.8 II EF lens for Canon, back in the day. Autofocus was bad, pentagon shaped bokeh, very soft wide open, very sharp at around f4 and poor build quality. No other choices in that price bracket for Canon for a long time. No one really complained. It was released in 1991 and years later a replacement finally came in 2015 - 24 years later. This article is seriously nitpicking.

Samyang 35mm F1.8 is very close to this price tag too, and its awesome lens.

Love mine

Funny, a quick search of Fstoppers.com pulls up an article titled, “ A Guide To Sony's Ridiculous 50mm Lens Selection” …..and that was from 2016; there’s a lot more available now.

I suppose you want Sony or someone to make a 200 USD nifty fifty that outperform Canons offering? Because there are 4 nifty fifty from Sony. The cheep version, not hardly a proper Sony lens. There is 55 1.8, a 50 1.4 - both Zeiss branded, and the new 50 1.2 GM. The Zeiss branded ones are expensive but plenty offerings second hand for a good price. It’s interesting how fast these expensive lenses drops to half price.

If you count all the lenses between 35 to 55 in the sony e mount it's almost ridiculous how many options you have. ( I need to read all the comments before posting.)

Huge choices throughout the range now, from both Sony & 3rd Party manufacturers and despite there still being a couple of obvious gaps, e.g. 500/4, 50mm this isn't one of them).

I use the Samyang 45/1.8 (an amazing lens for the price/weight), had the 55/1.8 (don't know why I sold it - mistake) and a few old adapted lenses, the Cosina 55/1.2 being my favourite. I'm not sure how anyone can nitpick over 5mm, whether it's 45mm or 55mm it's in the ballpark and a step or two forward or back and there's your 50mm. So more than enough choice when zooms are included too and, let's be honest, most nifty-fifties are either stepping stones or gap fillers.

You're being picky and pedantic and putzy

Nobody needs a 50mm lend any more than they need a 45mm lens or a 48

What most photogs need Is a lens that produces decent representationn

No more
No less