The sizzling pace of new lens announcements that reached a fever pitch in 2015 shows no sign of abating as we move into the New Year. Indeed, if anything, that trend is still accelerating, with scores of new interchangeable lenses recently unveiled by most major camera makers and optical specialty companies.
This exciting new glass spans the gamut from lenses for mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras in Micro Four Thirds, APS-C and full-frame formats to APS-C and full-frame DSLRs. Clearly this optical explosion not only enhances the range of creative possibilities for picture takers at all levels, from casual shooters to pros, but also significantly expands the opportunities for nurturing customer relationships and enhancing the profit potential for dealers.
Lens Trends for 2016
As shooters become more sophisticated, creative expression and the esthetic quality of the image have become increasingly important. This has resulted in a renewed interest in wide-aperture prime (single-focal-length) lenses that can create beautiful bokeh effects using limited depth of field at wide apertures in the f/1.1–2.8 range. The inevitable result: Virtually every major lens maker now offers an enticing assortment of high-speed primes ranging from wide angles to long telephotos.
Zoom ranges are also steadily increasing, and there are several enticing new ultra-long telephoto zooms, as well as long-range, wide-to-telephoto zooms that are wider at the wide end and provide unprecedented overall zoom range/aperture combinations.
Other noteworthy trends are: an increasing number of sophisticated, wide-angle zooms and ultra-high-performance lenses, often at premium prices, that are aimed at the burgeoning art photography sector; lenses with built-in, ultraquiet stepping motors for shooting video without focusing noise; and a host of cool creative lens accessories.
Lenses represent an investment and are perceived as a high-value proposition by consumers. As cameras advance at a breakneck pace, lenses retain their value and usefulness as shooters upgrade and migrate to the next, more advanced camera bodies to take advantage of the latest technology. That’s the main reason lenses have a higher resale value than cameras or virtually anything else in the imaging field. It is precisely because they’re considered long-term investments that will pay dividends going forward that the optical sector remains one of the healthiest, most dependable, and exciting niches in the digital marketplace.
Wide-Angles Lenses at Center Stage: Eight Great Fast Primes
Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. Said to be the fastest 20mm lens in production, it’s the latest addition to Sigma’s Art line that’s aimed at discriminating art shooters. This superspeed, ultra-wide-angle, full-frame lens employs two FLD (fluorite equivalent), five special low dispersion (SLD) and two aspheric elements to achieve outstanding image quality and even illumination across the field, even at maximum aperture. Crafted of exotic materials, including Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) to minimize performance variations due to temperature, it also employs a hypersonic motor (HSM) for enhanced autofocus performance. Its bayonet mount is constructed from brass for accuracy and durability. The lens focuses down to 10.9 inches for a maximum magnification ratio of 1:7 and has a 9-rounded-blade diaphragm for enhanced bokeh. $899. sigmaphoto.com
Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 Asph. This Leica-designed, high-speed wide-angle lens for mirrorless, Micro Four Thirds cameras provides an equivalent focal length of 30mm. It’s ideal for travel, street photography, low-light shooting and selective-focus applications. The lens incorporates three aspheric elements to enhance its imaging performance, and it employs an internal focusing system using a stepping AF motor for fast, quiet, precise autofocus that’s optimized for shooting
video. A rounded 7-blade diaphragm provides the smooth transitions to out-of-focus areas that are a hallmark of classic portraiture. The 9-element, 7-group lens has a manual aperture ring and a dedicated MF/AF switch for intuitive operation, and it focuses down to 7.9 inches. Panasonic’s Nano Surface technology coating is added to reduce flare and ghosting. $599.99. panasonic.com
Tamron SP 35mm f/1.8 Di VC USD. A state-of-the-art version of a classic, this full-frame, wide-aperture, wide-angle lens benefits from a sophisticated design that includes one LD element, one eXtra-low dispersion element and two molded glass aspheric elements to control aberrations, distortion and color fringing, plus provide even illumination. It delivers superb image quality, shallow depth of field and extended low-light capability. A ring-type USD motor provides quick, silent, precise AF, and an internal focusing system delivers enhanced performance at close
distances, down to 7.9 inches for true macro capability (1:2.5). It also features: VC (vibration compensation) image stabilization for handheld shooting; moisture-resistant construction; a 9-blade diaphragm for smooth transitions and beautiful bokeh; eBAND (extended bandwidth and angular-dependency) and BBAR (broad-band antireflection) coatings to reduce reflections, flare and ghosting; and a fluorine coating on the front element to repel water. $599. tamron-usa.com
SLR Magic Cine 50mm f/1.1. This Sony E-mount lens is specifically aimed at video shooters. The superspeed normal lens covers the full-frame format, supports cine-style shooting and provides very shallow depth of field at its widest apertures. Its fast, maximum aperture of f/1.1 allows for available-light photography. It features geared focus and aperture rings,
including a click-less iris to allow smooth aperture pulls, and a 13-bladed round diaphragm for enhanced bokeh. The front of the lens does not rotate as you focus, facilitating the use of polarizing filters, etc. The 6-element, 5-group lens focuses down to 1.6 feet and weighs 14.1 ounces. $349. slrmagic.com
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM. This recently announced L-series, full-frame, high-speed wide-angle lens incorporates Canon’s proprietary Blue Spectrum Reflective Optics—an element that refracts the shorter (blue light) wavelengths to significantly reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing. It also uses two aspheric and one ultralow dispersion (UD) element to enhance clarity and sharpness, a subwavelength coating to enhance contrast and minimize flare, and an ultrasonic (USM) motor with full-time manual focus override to ensure swift, silent AF. Its wide
aperture and 9-rounded-blade diaphragm allow creative use of limited depth of field and yield beautiful bokeh. In addition, fluorine coatings on the front and rear surfaces help reduce fingerprints and facilitate cleaning. The lens focuses down to 11.2 inches (0.21x). $1,799. usa.canon.com
Fujifilm Fujinon XF35mm f/2 R WR. This Fujinon X-series lens for APS-C-format cameras provides a longish normal 53mm-equivalent focal length and a max aperture of f/2 for capturing pictorial effects using limited depth of field and shooting in low light. A 9-bladed, rounded diaphragm enhances rich bokeh for compelling portraits. Its 9-element, 6-group design incorporates two extra-low dispersion (ED) and two aspherical elements that work to minimize aberrations and distortion for
crisp, clean images, as well as ensure a compact exterior. Other features include: an inner focusing system with a stepping motor for quiet, accurate and fast autofocus (0.08 sec); a minimum working distance of 13 inches; an all-metal exterior; weather- and dust-resistant construction; and Nano-GI coating for controlling ghosting and flare. $399. fujifilmusa.com
Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Art. This Sony E-mount lens provides a versatile 28.5mm wide-angle equivalent on APS-C-format Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras. The new wide-aperture prime lens is part of Sigma’s acclaimed Art line, and it’s ideal for capturing shallow depth-of-field effects and maintaining sharpness by allowing moderate ISO settings in low-light shooting. It employs
an internal focusing system and a newly developed linear AF motor for quick, precise, virtually silent autofocus. Sigma’s Super Multi-Layer Coating technology minimizes flare and ghosting to yield crisp images even at the maximum aperture. Also featured are a precision brass bayonet mount that uses a special treatment to enhance durability and reliability; a 7-bladed diaphragm for enhanced bokeh; and a 7.9-inch (1:7) close focusing distance. $199. sigmaphoto.com
Pentax HD D FA645 35mm f/3.5 AL (IF). Built for Pentax 645 medium-format cameras, this lens from Ricoh Imaging provides 27.5mm-equivalent, wide-angle coverage on Pentax 645D/Z digital cameras and a 21.5mm-equivalent coverage on film versions—a focal length favored by many interior, architectural and landscape photographers. Its 10-element, 7-group design incorporates one aspheric and one hybrid aspheric element, and one high index low dispersion element to minimize spherical
aberrations and distortion. HD coatings control flare and ghosting and enhance color accuracy. An integrated AF motor and an internal-focusing design keep the lens compact and make handling more intuitive, and a 9-rounded-blade diaphragm enhances bokeh. The lens focuses down to 11.8 inches (1:4). A Super Protect coating on the front element is resistant to moisture and smudging. $1,599.95. ricohimaging.com
A Quintet of Quintessential Zooms from Wide to Telephoto
Tokina AT-X 11–20mm f/2.8 Pro DX. This wide-angle zoom for APS-C-format DSLRs covers an ultrawide to wide, 16.5–30mm equivalent range and provides a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture. It incorporates one P-MO hybrid aspheric element and two glass-molded aspheric elements to minimize distortion, three SD (super low dispersion) elements to reduce chromatic
aberration, and multilayer coats to enhance color accuracy and suppress flare. A one-touch focusing mechanism allows manual focus anytime without switching, while an internal focusing mechanism maintains the same length during focusing to enhance balance. Other features include a 9-blade diaphragm for beautiful bokeh, as well as a minimum focus distance of a tad over 11 inches. In Nikon F and Canon EF mounts, $549. kenkotokinausa.com
Olympus M.Zuiko ED 14–150mm f/4–5.6 II. This 11x, wide-to-telephoto zoom for Micro Four Thirds cameras, including the Olympus OM-D range, delivers the 35mm equivalent of 28–300mm. Dust- and splashproof, thanks to well-sealed construction, its advanced design incorporates a DSA element, an aspheric ED element, an ED element and three HR elements for
enhanced optical correction. ZERO (Zuiko Extra-Low Reflective Optical) coatings optimize light transmission and image clarity. It focuses down to 1.6 feet for a maximum magnification of 1:4 and has a 7-blade rounded diaphragm for smooth bokeh. It also uses an MSC mechanism to make high-speed, silent autofocus possible for movie capture. $449.99. olympusamerica.com
Sigma 24–70mm f/2.8 IF EX DG HSM. This compact, high-performance wide-aperture zoom is perfect for photojournalism and street shooting and provides a focal-length/aperture range favored by many pros. It covers the full-frame format, provides a 38–112mm equivalent range when used on APS-C-format cameras and features easy, anytime AF/MF switching. It incorporates three aspherical, one extraordinary low
dispersion (ELD) and two SLD elements for superior correction of chromatic aberrations. Its uses a silent, high-speed hypersonic AF motor (HSM), and its DG designation indicates it’s been redesigned to provide enhanced performance with digital sensors as well as a lighter, more compact body. Plus, a 9-rounded-blade diaphragm renders out-of-focus subjects more naturally, resulting in a beautiful bokeh. $799. sigmaphoto.com
Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–90mm f/2.8–4 Asph. This lens is designed for the groundbreaking, full-frame Leica SL 24MP, pro-aimed mirrorless camera. The superlative standard zoom incorporates four aspheric and 11 anomalous partial dispersion elements in its 18-element, 15-group design to deliver images of impressive sharpness and clarity over its entire focal length and aperture range, as well as enhanced depth-of-field control. It
incorporates built-in OIS that provides a 3.5-stop, anti-shake advantage in handheld shooting. Its swift, silent and precise stepping AF motor with linear positioning is coupled to an internal focusing system for enhanced video and action performance. An AquaDura water-repellent coating on the front/rear elements and moisture-sealed construction offer reliable all-weather operation. The lens focuses down to 11.8 inches at 24mm and 17.7 inches at 90mm (1:3.8). $4,950. us.leica-camera.com
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200–500mm f/5.6E ED VR. Optimized for sports, wildlife and other genres requiring a long reach, this outstanding, constant f/5.6-aperture telephoto zoom for full-frame Nikon (FX) DSLRs incorporates three ED glass elements to reduce chromatic aberrations and distortion. Super Integrated
Coating increases light transmission and clarity while keeping flare and ghosting to a bare minimum. A silent wave motor AF system assures swift, silent autofocus and allows manual focusing at any time. In addition, its vibration reduction (VR) image stabilization system delivers a 4.5-stop, anti-shake advantage in handheld shooting, and it offers sport mode for shooting fast-paced action where panning is required. It uses a 9-rounded-blade diaphragm that enhances bokeh, and it provides a rotating tripod collar for balanced support. The lens focuses down to 7.2 feet at all focal lengths (0.22x). It’s also compatible with DX (APS-C-format) Nikons, where it provides a 300–750mm equivalent. $1,399.95. nikonusa.com