This Lens Is Critical for Canon and Nikon, so Why Doesn’t It Exist for Sony?

This Lens Is Critical for Canon and Nikon, so Why Doesn’t It Exist for Sony?

Sony’s lens line-up has grown significantly over the last couple of years with various third-party manufacturers stepping up to fill gaps or offer more affordable versions. However, one lens remains missing from Sony’s line-up and it’s even stranger when you consider that, from the outset, both Canon and Nikon created versions for their new mirrorless cameras.

If you’ve read my other articles you’ll probably be aware that I love minimalism and traveling light, despite owning a full-frame camera. As a result, I recently fell in love (read my review here) with two tiny offerings from Samyang: the 24mm and 35mm f/2.8 lenses, pieces of glass that add almost nothing to the front of your camera in terms of weight. It was as I was researching comparable lenses that I discovered that, unlike other full-frame systems, there is no 35mm f/1.8 autofocus lens available for Sony.

In the last year or two, I’ve suddenly fallen in love with prime lenses, having previously hauled two fast, heavy zooms around which I’ve now realized was probably a waste of time and effort. In November, I shot for four days in Belgrade and used the Canon 50mm f/1.8 extensively, an absolutely classic lens at an incredible price as well as being extremely low weight. Last September, Fstoppers writer Evan Kane wrote an excellent article singing the praises of this ridiculously affordable piece of glass, and I too found it a joy to use. When I acquired my Sony a7 III a few months ago, I hoped to get similar results from Sony’s own nifty fifty — the FE 50mm f/1.8. As yet, I’ve not been disappointed (given its affordability, at least) and having the eye autofocus has been a bit of a game changer.

Canon 50mm f/1.8 in Belgrade

Shooting for Skochypstiks.com in Belgrade, a city that gets more hours of sunshine a year that Istanbul.

Feeling inspired, I wanted to add another prime to my bag and started looking around for a nifty thirty-five. I don’t need and I certainly can’t justify the cost of anything faster than f/1.8, and although the Samyang f/2.8 35mm is proving itself to be a remarkable lens, I was hoping to find something that would offer me just a little bit more separation without breaking the bank and without adding 20 ounces (566 grams) to my camera bag. The f/1.4 options, amazing as they might be, are not in my budget and are the same weight (and almost the same size) as my workhorse, the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II — a lens that I already find far too heavy (especially when paired with the Sigma MC-11). Sigma’s f/1.4 is $899 and Sony’s effort, the Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA, is almost twice that, and they both weigh a ton.

Samyang 35mm f/2.8

The Samyang 35mm f/2.8. It's tiny, but I'd love to have the option of f/1.8.

So am I being unreasonable? Perhaps, but it’s an odd gap to have given that both Canon and Nikon have launched completely new ranges of lenses in the last 6 months and both have made the 35mm f/1.8 a priority. Nikon went with the NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S, a slightly pricey lens that weighs a mere 13oz (370g). Described as a “desert-island lens” in Nikon’s marketing, it’s clearly a piece of glass that they believe will have broad appeal and was one of a couple of lenses that accompanied the launch of the Z system.

Canon has approached its new lens line-up from the opposite end to Nikon, creating super fast, incredibly expensive glass for pros rather than the prosumer-focused lenses that Nikon have opted for. In light of this, Canon’s decision to create their own 35mm f/1.8 lens makes Sony’s omission even more puzzling. It's the one lens in the RF line-up that is more prosumer than pro; the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro is a reasonable $499 (and arguably very cheap given the mirrorless premium that Canon seems to have imposed). In summary, then, both Nikon and Canon believe the 35mm f/1.8 lens to be fairly central to their range of lenses; quite why Sony and its third party manufacturers don’t see it the same remains a mystery.

So far suggestions have included the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 — which is a great price but still comes in at over 20 ounces — or hooking up a Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4 MC using a Techart PRO autofocus adapter, a combination that saves a load of weight but adds up to more than a thousand dollars. For now, I think I'll sit tight and see what else might come to market in the next year.

If you've any other suggestions (other than "Get a Fuji!"), I'd be grateful to hear them in the comments. More importantly, I'd appreciate your thoughts on why, according to Sony, photographers don't seem to want a 35mm f/1.8, or whether it's just that both Canon and Nikon have completely misread the market. I look forward to receiving your suggestions.

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69 Comments

RX1 is the reason I think. Sony knows 35/1.8 or f/2 is the most universal lens 'if you can only have one prime', that's why it's been for years offered as a fixed one in RX1 and it's iterations. But to release one for A7 would surely 'undercut' the overpriced RX1 (I imagine is the marketing opinion in Sony), so we have to wait till the RX1 line dies on it's own.
At least the 35/1.8 is rumored to finally come in some 2 years roadmap.
Also the sad part is if Samyang wouldn't just copy the existing 35/2.8, they would sell tons of the faster ones.

Andy Day's picture

RX1 - yup, hadn't thought of that. I like your reasoning.

Don't think so, Sony totally isn't fearing cannibalizing own sales with lots of models like Canon.

yeah it's surprising there's no 3rd party option, like as if we needed another 35 1.4 and a 2.8 clone

Xander Cesari's picture

I believe it is in Sony's roadmap for 2019 or early 2020. But absolutely agree that it's weird they put it off so long. I don't love the focusing motor in that 50mm f1.8 but it's a solid little lens that's sold very well for them. Seems peculiar to not want to replicate that.

Gordon Cahill's picture

FE 28mm f2.0?

michaeljin's picture

Completely different focal length, even though it's a good value.

Dylan Zoebelein's picture

Have you had much experience with that lens? I am also a rock climbing and currently only use the 24-105mm F4 Sony lens. It would be nice to get a small lightweight wide lens for multipitch, mountaineering trips.

michaeljin's picture

If you're looking for a sharp 28 that focuses well, it's a great choice. I'm not sure I'd take it rock climbing, though. On the one hand, it's really light because of the less-than-stellar build quality in terms of materials used so that might help with comfort, but for the same reasons, it doesn't exactly strike me as the most durable lens or the type that I would want to take out with me in rough environments...

Then again, I suppose the 24-105mm f/4 isn't exactly the sturdiest feeling lens either. I'd suggest that you give it a shot and see if you like it.

Andy Day's picture

Dylan, definitely check out the Samyangs. The 24mm isn't the sharpest wide open but it's tiny and lightweight. Would probably be my choice for a multipitch trip. Very affordable too. My review here: https://fstoppers.com/originals/fstoppers-reviews-samyang-af-24mm-and-35...

I've literally only used the FE 28mm f2 for the last six months. Primarily because it was the only lens I had until recently! However, I think it's amazing. It's a really versatile and lightweight lens. Tack sharp and plenty fast enough for me (worked great to capture the Nothern Lights). I've not tested its ruggedness to the absolute limits, however it survived a visit to Lapland completely unscathed. -25 degrees C, snowmobiling, husky sledding etc. I can't see myself selling it any time soon.

From the rumors that have been floating around on the sonyalpharumors site, a 35mm f1.8 G lens is entourage for 2019 and so far they’ve been pretty accurate with rumors lately.

Well 35 mm is not a good choice for separation, but a good choice for street photography, and the tiny 35 f 2.8 is a good lens for that. If you want separation then really I think with a 35 mm, a 1.4 is a much better choice. But a low cost 1.8 like the 50 1.8 would not be out of the way, and I suppose it will come soon. Lenses always are a compromise so options are good, specially at popular focal lengths :)

Brian Comeault's picture

I can’t agree with you more. I own that same 50mm and like to travel light. I had an x100s and loved it and I crave that light 35mm fast but not super fast lens. Currently I have adapted a Canon FD 35/f2 but I still would like an autofocus lens for when I need one. One of the drawbacks of having a Sony FF body is you wait around for the lenses you want, and pay a boatload for the pro glass. Still, can don’t be beat in the FF market? Not yet I don’t feel.

Eric Salas's picture

I’ve been adapting lenses or using the available 35mm options like the Gmaster and Sigma. A 1.8 isn’t appealing to me when I can adapt what I need/want anyways for cheaper.

Andy Day's picture

Yeah, makes sense. If weight (or super fast AF) isn't a concern, then the options are almost unlimited.

Eric Salas's picture

I think a ton of people get too caught up in AF speed and think you’ll be waiting forever to lock when it’s still less than a second even if an adapted lens is hunting.

At 35mm if your subject isn’t close enough for the camera to AF well you’re probably too far to be using a 35mm IMO.

Voigtlander 40mm f1.2 while not exactly 35mm is rather close. Comes in the Sony mount and by all accounts is stunning. Just my suggestion...

Ziggy Stardust's picture

Some new ideas here?
https://phillipreeve.net/blog/sony-fe-lenses/?unapproved=102827&moderati...
So, there are 3 choices of f1.4/35mm. None suitable?

Jeff Diffner's picture

I think, perhaps, you are being a little unreasonable (your words). How many years in is Sony to their FE mount? Not that many. We've reached the point where there are only a few key, niche, lenses left (a proper fisheye, a few more sports telephotos, tilt-shift, etc) and that's before you look at third party lenses. Yes, it would be great if we could all get f/* in **mm at a super low price, but us Sony shooters need to be a bit more realistic; Sony doesn't seem to be in a hurry to pump out a bunch of cheap glass (and considering how great their high end glass is, I don't blame them). I also think it would be hard to argue that Sony have misread their target customers considering how fast they have taken up market share the past few years. Yes, there's the vocal minority of us who post on forums and complain about this and that (flip screens and crap menus) but it's hard to argue with the raw sales numbers. If anything, Canon and Nikon have been slow to react to customer demands (yes, they offer the ONE lens you want, probably not much else) considering how late they both are to proper mirrorless cameras.

JetCity Ninja's picture

wow, use some vagisil for that irritation.

Spot on commentary

I highly recommend the TechArt Pro. It will permit you to use all kinds of old manual lenses with pretty good auto focusing. Just have to set the aperture. Some old glass, such as the Konica Hexanon lenses are very reasonable, yet have been considered by many to be top end for both mechanical and image quality. Just need a Konica to Leica adapter to connect the lenses to the TechArt. EBay currently has one 35mm f2.0 (https://www.ebay.com/itm/Konica-Hexanon-AR-35mm-f2-Mint/143156910482?has...) and some 35mm F2.8's for sale - not as fast, but still great iq, price, and a small lens!

I'm using an a7rii, with almost exclusively old glass, of all kinds.

Luke Adams's picture

I had the adapter, but returned it. I found it could only really grab focus in the middle of the frame, and the adapter got in the way of using your camera on a tripod. Doing event and wedding photography and having to make transitions quickly, that was a non starter for me.

Yes. I do mostly landscape and macro photography, and, mostly handheld, so I don't have the problem you describe.

Indeed I have the techart and I’m happy with it, using voigtlander 40 mc 1.4, it is even better on a7iii serie, but it can not compete agains a fe. It is fun but as soon I can replace it with a real 35 1.8 fe I’ll do it. Still very usefulll for when using vintages lenses

If the rumors are correct, a 35mm f/1.8 should be a reality in 2019 or 2020.

Which rumors? Any source?

Check the Zeiss 40mm f2

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