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.
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.
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.