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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Huw Morgan's picture

Totally agree that the 35mm G 1.8 is long overdue. I ended up buying the Canon 35mm f2 and using it with a metabones adapter. It works very well for still shots, but not for video. It will probably work with your Sigma adapter too.

FE 50mm FTW!

Eric Salas's picture

I’d love this lens too if the CA wasn’t so bad at 1.8; you can fix it with a simple click in LR anyways.
Thankfully it’s still sharp and the 85mm doesn’t have the same problem!

I have the 85mm 1.8 too, and love that it’s super sharp for the price. I bought the 85+50(used) for less than just the 55mm.

Michael Jin's picture

The 35mm f/2.8 is fine if you're a street shooter as you'll probably be stopping down anyway. I'm guessing that Sony probably figured that people who wanted to be able to get a shallow DoF would get the f/1.4 anyway so they might as well focus on keeping the slower lens more compact even at the expense of some light gathering.

While you could say that they're the only ones that don't have a 35mm f/1.8, you could also say that they're pretty much the only ones in the full frame MILC arena with a compact 35mm AF lens right now. So their weakness is also a distinguishing factor. Of course, it's ridiculously overpriced, but that's beside the point.

Regardless, it seems like they'll have one soon enough.

why not take into consideration the 24-35 f/2 art ?

its very much on prime level.

update. ah, now I see, you want small and light.

I love heavy and big lenses. feels fantastic to hold for long 12+ weddings.
we can make a complaint letter from today till infinity of what we want

I want a 50-85mm f/2 lens for wedding to go with the 24-35 f/2

Andy Day's picture

Yeah, i'm being fussy. Like all of us. 😊 Don't get me wrong, I love big heavy lenses. I just end up not taking them with me. 😂

Jacques Cornell's picture

Yeah, that's an interesting option, but it's not available for Sony, I don't trust adapters, and I'd rather shoot with three bodies & three primes because each one individually is lighter. Working a week of 10-12-hour days is part of why I ditched my heavy DSLRs with big zooms for mirrorless & primes for corporate event work. Still, if they made a native E-mount version it'd be something to think about...

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

I decided to go with the Samyang 35mm f2.8 instead of the Sony Zeiss. At the time I bought it, Sony raised the price (what reason ever) in Switzerland by 400 bucks, for it's 35mm. I don't regret it. It's a great small lens and great for street photography. Only the AF could be a little faster, but it's okay on my A7rIII.

And about Sony FF, what about a 200 mm ? Nothing, niente, nad, except 70-200 f2.8 and f4. But NOT ANY prime lens

Yavor Kapitanov's picture

The 24m GM is really amazing lens, the AF is probably the best out there, so freaking fast. I was using for sometime the 85mm GM but that thing is like an elephant, slow AF, it's terrible and it's so loud. The best travelling combo for Sony would be, 24mm GM, 55mm Zeiss, and the 85mm f1,8 Sony. I think those three lenses weight as much or less, altogether, than any of the GM zoom lenses.

Daniel Lee's picture

On Canon my 35mm f/2 IS was my main lens and stayed on my body for 90% of the time! When I switched over I adapted it but sold it not long ago due to the RF mount and rumors of a 35mm f/1.8 G.

With all the QC issues for Sony's 35mm f/1.4, it would be worth it to make not only a 35mm f/1.8 G as well as a 35mm f/1.4 GM.

Same case here, my most used lens ever is Canon 35mm f2 is. Incredible universal, practical and excellent performance.

Andy Day dear friend, I agree with you 100%. This lens is sorely missed in Sony lineup. On Canon my most used lens is 35mm f2 is, and it is so incredible useable that I can't believe Sony is delaying this lens. We've all heard rumours that it is coming this year and we can hardly wait. How's little Samyang 35mm performing AF wise in bad lighting?
Best regards!
Miljan from Belgrade.

Andy Day's picture

Miljan, great to hear from you! Glad it's not just me that's feeling this omission! Can kind of understand why Sony have decided to wait but it's a mystery as to why third party manufacturers have overlooked it.

The Samyang 35mm is great. Not had much chance to use it much since the review but it goes everywhere with me. It's so tiny, there's rarely a good reason to leave it at home. From what I recall, it does ok in low(ish) light (very similar to the 50mm Sony 1.8), but not had chance to properly test it. Will keep you posted. :)

Yes, the idea that you can bring a ff camera with 35mm and 85mm prime in a small bag and have it with you anytime is fantastic...
That samyang is really micro sized, sony a7 iii with it can fit into a jacket pocket...
Since we are both coming from Canon 6D how do you feel about sony's af in low light generally?
As I'm clearly seeing some advantages of 6D af system over a7III...

Gary Pardy's picture

Sony has approached full frame from two sides. First, playing up the 'thin and light' a7 with compact lenses like the 35 f2.8, 55 f1.8 and 24-70 f4. Second, going for high-end, professional glass as the ergonomics and size of the a7ii series and a7iii/a9 bodies made FF mirrorless less about portability and more about capability.

A 35 f1.8 is not widely considered a high-end, professional lens, nor is it as compact as the f2.8. It's a walking around sort of focal length for the RX1's, X100's and crop sensor cameras. Rather than giving people a 35 f1.8 as an easy compromise lens between the 28, 50, and 55, they held off as long as possible so as not to cannibalize sales of other E-mount and legacy A-mount glass.

Yes agreed, it's a much discussed gap in the range. I use my Zeiss Flektogon 35mm f/2.4 on my A7 III which is fantastic, but I can understand people wanting an AF lens. The question is will Sony's 35/1.8 effort be a £500+ akin to the brilliant 85mm f/1.8 or will it be a £150 'nifty' like the 50mm f/1.8? Hell, if they put a G badge on it they may even try for £700+

calaveras grande's picture

I know you said dont. But I have been so happy since I switched to a Fuji XT3 a while back. I test drove an Xpro2 and fell in love with the handling and image quality. There is something about these cameras. I was always in shutter or aperture priority modes on my Canon cameras. On the Fujis full manual is just so much more intuitive and fun.
I'd also posit that Fuji has no mediocre glass. Even their kit lens is really good.

The secret that I found out about Fuji is that they source their sensors from Sony, and use their own CFA and processors to drive their imaging. So you get similar performance to a Sony, but with Fuji's lenses. Not a bad recipe.

Generally I get the impression that whomever is running Fujis camera division is a huge photography nerd. Whomever is running Canon's is a bean counter. Sony and Nikon I haven't owned so can't comment.

Andy Day's picture

Ha, it's fine. The XT3 was totally on my radar when I was pondering the a73, and their timing to release it made the decision really hard. In the end, one of the decisive factors was being able to adapt all of my existing glass so effectively, and hang on to my beloved Canon 16-35 for a little while longer. Loving the Sony, but occasionally I still gaze fondly at everyone waving their new Fujis around wonder "what if" to myself... 😂 (Also, quickly changing ISO on the Sony is a bit of a nightmare. Not found a dial setup that works for me across my various shooting scenarios just yet.)

I've been shooting the Sony Alpha system since the original a7 released and have been saying since day one a 35mm 1.8 at an affordable price is required for many to take this system serious and make it considerable for a brand switch. Canon, Nikon, and Tamron offer one for $600 while Sony offers a f2.8 for $200 more. I owned the f2.8 for only a week and though it's a great lens, it's overpriced and didn't cut it so I was forces into buying the f1.4 for a premium, along with the size and weight. Get on it Sony!

Jacques Cornell's picture

I totally agree. There also isn't a 24/1.8, and the Zeiss Batis 25/2 is pricey. As a low-light event pro who shoots with three bodies and wants a small & light kit, 24/1.8, 35/1.8 and 85/1.8 would be my trifecta. I'd swap my Rokinon 35/1.4 for a Sony 35/1.8 with the barrel button in a New York minute. Sony, wassup wit dat?

Davide Preziosilli's picture

(The Zeiss 35mm 2.8 is AMAZING)

Fuji does rule though!

Andy Day's picture

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's an A mount lens for SLR cameras. Plus, it's 1.8lb..!

Adam Palmer's picture

Sony users can use any lens they want from any brand :)

Sony's 35mm is f2.8 the RX1 is why it isn't faster most likely
Sony 35mm F2.8 Sonnar T FE ZA

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