Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras have become a hot topic among tech-savvy shooters, from enthusiasts to pros. They provide a DSLR-like shooting experience in a lighter, more compact body, along with operational advantages.
The top mirrorless models deliver pro-caliber imaging performance as well as high-res, high-magnification electronic viewfinders or OLED EVFs with incredibly rapid refresh rates that display the captured image in real time.
Most also offer advanced hybrid autofocus systems that combine fast, decisive on-sensor phase-detection AF plus precise contrast-detection AF. As a result, mirrorless cameras also provide continuous AF and focus tracking before and during the exposure—which is not possible with conventional DSLRs.
Mirrorless system cameras also have fewer moving parts than DSLRs and less shutter-release noise and vibration, thanks to the elimination of the moving mirror.
They additionally provide a shorter flange back distance. This makes it easier to design compact, high-performance lenses, especially wide angles, and to mount a wide variety of legacy lenses via adapters.
As a result of the surge in the sales and market penetration of mirrorless cameras over the past two years or so—with exciting full-featured entries in a variety of formats—both camera makers and independent manufacturers of lenses have responded by expanding their optical offerings.
By increasing the creative options available to mirrorless shooters (while creating expanded marketing opportunities for dealers), this optical explosion has resulted in a positive feedback loop that promises to accelerate the mirrorless trend.
Here is a brief rundown on 12 of the most interesting lenses offered for mirrorless cameras.
Great Lenses for Mirrorless
Olympus M.Zuiko ED 14–150mm f/4–5.6 II
This Micro Four Thirds (MFT) wide-range zoom fits all cameras using this mount and format, providing a 28–300mm equivalent focal length range. It offers dust-, splash- and freezeproof construction, as well as high-transmission ZERO (Zuiko Extra-Low Reflective Optical) lens coating. Its advanced design incorporates one DSA (dual super aspherical) element, one aspheric ED (extra-low dispersion) element, one ED element as well as three HR (high-refractive) elements. Additionally, it has a rounded 7-blade diaphragm to create enhanced bokeh, and it focuses down to 1:4. Olympus’s MSC (movie and still compatible) drive is virtually silent. The compact lens comes with a lens hood. $599.99. olympusamerica.com
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12–35mm f/2.8 Asph
This small, handy, constant aperture MFT lens offers a wide-to-moderate-telephoto zoom. Designated a pro lens, it provides a 35mm equivalent focal length range of 24–70mm. It uses Nano Surface coating to reduce flare and ghosting, and it incorporates Power OIS image stabilization to reduce the effects of camera shake during handheld shooting. Features also include: splashproof, dustproof construction; UED (ultra extra-low dispersion) and UHR (ultra-high refractive) elements to minimize chromatic aberration and enhance resolution across the field; a circular 7-blade diaphragm; and a metal mount. $799.99. panasonic.com
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary
This MFT, high-speed, longish normal (60mm equivalent) prime lens is ideal for portraiture as well as low-light shooting. Its advanced design incorporates one aspheric element and one double-sided aspheric pair to reduce spherical aberration and enhance clarity and definition. It also employs a high-refractive index element for outstanding color correction and Super Multilayer coating to reduce flare and ghosting. Other features are: a stepping motor for fast, nearly silent AF; a rounded 9-blade diaphragm to enhance bokeh; and a Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) barrel for operation at any temperature. $339. sigmaphoto.com
Fujifilm Fujinon XF100–400mm f/4.5–5.6 R LM OIS WR
This water- and dust-resistant super telephoto zoom covers a focal length equivalent of 152–609mm. Its high performance optical construction includes five ED lenses and one super ED lens to help reduce chromatic aberration that often occurs in telephoto lenses. The lightweight lens was designed with handheld shooting in mind; it boasts a 5-stop image stabilization (IS) system. A linear motor for fast AF makes it geared for shooting fast-moving subjects. In addition to being water and dust resistant, the lens can operate in temperatures as low as 14°F, making it suitable for a wide range of outdoor shooting conditions. A fluorine coating was also applied to the front element to repel water and dirt. $1,899. fujifilmusa.com
Sony FE 70–200mm f/2.8 GM OSS
The pro caliber, E-mount G Master flagship is a full-frame, high-speed telephoto zoom that benefits from Sony’s latest optical technology. It incorporates one XA (extreme aspherical), two aspheric, four ED and two super ED elements to deliver outstanding imaging performance over its entire range. It has built-in Optical SteadyShot (OSS) IS to minimize the effects of handheld camera shake and Nano AR coating to reduce flare and ghosting. A fluorine coating on the front element resists smudges and enables easy cleaning. A supersonic wave motor provides precise, quick, quiet AF. With dust- and moisture-resistant construction, its rounded 11-blade diaphragm contributes to pleasing bokeh. And a rotating, removable tripod collar permits quick switching from horizontal to vertical shooting. $2,599.99. sony.com
Tamron 18–200mm f/3.5–6.3 Di III VC
A lightweight, extended range telephoto zoom, it provides an effective focal length range of 27–300mm on APS-C-format cameras. It features a stepping motor for fast, quiet, precise AF performance, especially during video recording and with a contrast-detection AF system. It has a close minimum focusing distance of 1.8 feet over its entire range for compelling close-ups. Built-in vibration compensation (VC) image stabilization employs a 3-coil system and a compensating group mounted in steel ball bearings to ensure smooth movement and provide shake effect reduction that’s especially important at long focal lengths. $739 in Sony E mount; $499 in Canon EF-M mount. tamron-usa.com
Nikon 1 Nikkor VR 70–300mm f/4.5–5.6
An impressive range of lenses for its CX-format, ultracompact Nikon 1 mirrorless line has been introduced by Nikon. This 189–810mm equivalent, long-range telephoto zoom is an outstanding example. The lens provides a 3.3-foot minimum focusing distance for dramatic close-ups. It incorporates a super ED glass element and Nano Crystal coating to enhance color rendition and image quality. Other features include built-in VR (vibration reduction) IS to minimize the effects of camera shake and a 7-blade rounded diaphragm for enhanced bokeh. For portability, the lens barrel retracts when not in use. $999.95. nikonusa.com
Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f/1.6
In Sony E/A, Fujifilm X, MFT, Nikon FX, Canon EF and Pentax mounts, this is a fascinating, fast 56mm moderate telephoto prime lens. It employs a unique 4-element, 3-group “single-doublet-singlet” optical design said to deliver a “velvety, glowing, ethereal look” at its widest apertures and “sharp but subtly unique” images as you stop it down. It provides an 84mm-equivalent focal length in the APS-C format and a 112mm equivalent on MFT cameras. Able to accept 62mm filters, the Velvet has an all-metal body and a well-damped manual focus mechanism that focuses down to 5 inches from the front element. Some mounts are also available in a silver edition. $499.95–$599.95. lensbaby.com
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
This lens for Canon’s EF mount and a flexible combo for full-frame and APS-C-format Sony E-mount cameras (with the MC-11 converter) provides a bridge between Canon EF and Sony E-mount shooters. It delivers full electronic control compatibility with both systems, including AE, AF and finder readouts. This high-speed, moderate-wide-angle lens is ideal for street shooting as well as low-light work. In addition, one FLD (fluorite equivalent), four SLD (super-low dispersion) and two aspheric elements deliver crisp imaging and excellent color correction. Furthermore, a hypersonic motor (HSM) provides swift, quiet, precise AF. And it has a floating, internal focusing system; Super Multi45layer coating; a 9-blade circular diaphragm for outstanding bokeh; and a precision brass lens mount. $899; with MC-11 converter, $999. sigmaphoto.com
Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
Recently unveiled, this is an E-mount, high-speed normal lens for full-frame as well as APS-C-format Sony cameras. It includes one AA (advanced aspherical) element, one aspherical element and also one ED element in its classic Zeiss Planar design. It delivers exceptional image quality at all apertures, with minimal chromatic and spherical aberrations. Also, a ring-drive, silent wave motor system provides quick, quiet, precise AF, and its aperture ring can be de-clicked for seamless control when shooting video. Additionally, features include an 11-blade rounded diaphragm for smooth bokeh; a 1.48-foot minimum focus distance; plus dust- and moisture-resistant construction. $1,498. sony.com
Tamron 14–150mm f/3.5–5.8 Di III
For Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras, the lens provides a 28–300mm equivalent range. The lightweight, compact all-in-one zoom employs one LD (low dispersion) glass element, two AD (anomalous dispersion) elements, two molded-glass aspherical elements as well as a hybrid aspherical element to provide superior correction and image quality. It also features a stepping AF motor to deliver quick, quiet, precise autofocus for stills and video capture, while a 7-bladed rounded diaphragm creates enhanced bokeh. Also, a metal lens barrel adds to its durability and tactile quality. $459. tamron-usa.com
Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical IF UMC
For use with Fujifilm X-mount cameras, this manual focus, ultrawide-aperture telephoto prime (127.5mm equivalent) is ideal for low-light and shallow depth-of-field applications. It features an internal focus design that maintains its overall length while focusing. The lens also incorporates one aspheric element for enhanced optical correction and UMC (ultra multicoatings) to minimize flare. Additionally, it has a circular 8-bladed diaphragm to produce creative bokeh. The Samyang 85mm is also suited for cropped sensors, including APS-C/DX sensors, providing approximately a 120mm equivalent. $269.99. samyanglensglobal.com