Initially, mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras were slow to take off in the U.S., largely because of the huge installed user base of DSLRs. However, the mirrorless market is now expanding at a steady rate. It’s being spurred on by such enticing new arrivals as the Panasonic Lumix GH5, Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, Sony Alpha 6500, Canon EOS M6 and the Sigma sd Quattro H. And interchangeable lenses for mirrorless cameras are following suit.
In addition, medium-format, mirrorless cameras—an entirely new category—have emerged to challenge the once unassailable bastion of medium-format DSLRs. Innovative new entries include the Fujifilm GFX 50S and the Hasselblad X1D-50c.
Mirrorless cameras overall are an increasingly popular choice among tech-savvy shooters ranging from emerging enthusiasts to seasoned pros. They provide a DSLR-like shooting experience in lighter, more compact form factors, along with robust feature sets and significant technical advantages.
These cameras offer high-res, high-magnification electronic viewfinders or OLED EVFs with incredibly rapid refresh rates that display captured images in real time. They also employ advanced hybrid autofocus systems that combine fast, decisive, on-sensor phase-detection AF plus precise contrast-detection AF—with the unique ability to provide continuous AF and focus tracking before, during and after the exposure.
Many of the latest high-end mirrorless cameras deliver 4K UHD video capture and full-res burst rates that few, if any, DSLRs can match. They also have minimal shutter-release noise and vibration thanks to the elimination of the moving mirror.
Notably, the shorter flange back distance of mirrorless cameras makes it easier to design compact, high-performance lenses, especially wide angles. It also makes it possible to mount a wide variety of legacy lenses using simple adapters, or sophisticated mechanical/electronic adapters that provide full metering and AF functionality.
As sales of mirrorless cameras have grown, camera makers and independent lens manufacturers have seized the opportunity to vastly expand their optical offerings. Indeed this is a positive feedback loop, since increasing the creative lens options available to mirrorless shooters further accelerates the move to mirrorless.
With that said, herewith is our selection of 12 unique and exciting interchangeable lenses for mirrorless cameras.
Top Interchangeable Lenses for Mirrorless Models
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro
An ultrahigh-speed normal prime lens for Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras, this 19-element, 14-group optic provides a 50mm-equivalent focal length in the 35mm format. It incorporates three ED (extra-low dispersion) elements, four high refractive index elements and also an aspheric element to achieve outstanding image quality, even at its maximum aperture of f/1.2. Its rounded, 9-bladed diaphragm enables smooth bokeh.
The high-performance lens also features a movie and still compatible AF system (MSC) optimized to deliver smooth, fast, quiet autofocus for stills and video. Other features include: internal focusing; an AF clutch for anytime manual focus; weather-sealed as well as freezeproof construction; and a lens function button on the side of the barrel for direct settings. $1,199.99. olympusamerica.com
Canon EF-M 11–22mm f/4–5.6 IS STM
Now that the EOS M6 camera has pushed Canon’s mirrorless envelope, this APS-C-format, 18–35mm-equivalent lens is flying off the shelves. It employs two aspheric elements and one ultralow-dispersion (UD) element to minimize aberrations and enhance image quality. The lens features Canon’s built-in Dynamic Image Stabilization (IS) that provides up to a 3-stop advantage in reducing the effects of camera shake in movie shooting mode.
It also incorporates a stepping motor (STM) that provides the smooth, nearly noiseless AF required for optimal video capture. The wide-angle lens focuses down to 5.9 inches (0.3x) for impressive close-ups, and it’s Super Spectra coated throughout to increase light transmission and minimize flare and ghosting. $399.99. usa.canon.com
Sony FE 85mm f/1.8
Just announced, this fast, full-frame, E-mount, medium telephoto lens is ideal for portraiture and low-light shooting. Its advanced design includes one ED element to minimize chromatic aberrations. And a rounded, 9-bladed diaphragm enhances bokeh to produce crisp portraits with soft background defocus. It also focuses down to 2.6 feet for frame-filling head shots.
The lens, which also works with APS-C-format cameras, incorporates a double linear motor to provide the smooth, quick, quiet AF required for high-quality video recording. Also provided is easy manual focus for fine adjustments. Furthermore, a customizable focus hold button can be set to control various lens functions. $600. sony.com
Tamron 18–200mm f/3.5–6.3 Di III VC
This lightweight (16.2 ounce), extended range telephoto zoom provides an effective focal length range of 27–300mm on APS-C-format mirrorless cameras. It incorporates a stepping motor for fast, quiet and precise autofocus performance, especially during video recording and with contrast-detection AF systems. A close minimum focusing distance of 1.8 feet over its entire range (1:3.7 at 200mm) produces 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 produce smooth movement and shake-effect reduction that’s especially important at long focal lengths. In black or silver, Sony E mount, $739; Canon EF-M, $499. tamron-usa.com
Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 Asph
Designed by Leica, this high-performance, high-speed, wide-angle lens for MFT cameras offers a 24mm-equivalent focal length. The prime lens employs two aspheric elements, one ED element and two UED (ultra-extra-low dispersion) elements to control chromatic and spherical aberrations, as well as produce outstanding sharpness and clarity from edge to edge.
Engineered for maximum depth-of-field control thanks to its f/1.4 maximum aperture, it provides apertures to f/16 and a rounded, 9-bladed diaphragm to create pleasing bokeh. It also employs a smooth AF motor with an AF/MF switch for tactile direct focus mode. Built to work in the field, it has a rugged metal lens barrel and weather-resistant construction. $1,299.99. panasonic.com
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12–100mm f/4 Pro
This 24–200mm-equivalent long-range lens is intended as a high-performance, “universal zoom” for critical shooters. Its built-in 5-axis image stabilization system interfaces with the 5-axis stabilization system in the OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera body to “calibrate and coordinate” the overall system for optimal performance. It is claimed to provide a 6.5-stop anti-shake advantage in handheld shooting—the highest in the industry—virtually eliminating the need to carry a tripod.
Combined with the Mark II, the lens provides a weather- and dust-sealed self-contained unit that should be a boon to photojournalists on assignment, as well as adventure seekers. Other tech includes a circular, 7-bladed diaphragm and a fast, precise MSC AF system with easy manual override. $1,299.99. olympusamerica.com
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary
This innovative, high-speed, normal prime lens (60mm equivalent in MFT mount; 45mm equivalent in Sony E mount) is ideal for portraiture and general 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.
In addition, it utilizes a high-refractive index element for impressive color correction. And a Super Multilayer coating reduces flare and ghosting. Other features are: a stepping motor for very fast, nearly silent AF; a rounded, 9-bladed diaphragm to enrich bokeh; and a Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) barrel for uniform performance at any temperature. $339. sigmaphoto.com
Fujifilm Fujinon XF55–200mm f/3.5–4.8 R LM OIS
Designed for X-mount, APS-C-format mirrorless cameras, this compact telephoto zoom provides an 84–305mm-equivalent focal-length range. Its built-in optical IS system is claimed to deliver a 4.5-stop shake-effect reduction in handheld shooting.
The lens focuses down to 3.6 feet at all focal lengths, enabling impressive telephoto close-ups to 0.18x magnification. One aspheric element, two ED elements and one Super ED element work to minimize chromatic aberration and enhance sharpness.
Its aperture ring provides 1/3-EV click stops, and a metal focusing ring offers precise MF control. Other features include: a rounded, 7-bladed diaphragm; HT-EBC coatings to minimize ghosting and flare; and dual linear motors for fast, accurate and quiet AF. $699. fujifilmusa.com
Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f/1.6
Available in Sony E/A, Fujifilm X, Micro Four Thirds, Nikon FX, Canon EF and also Pentax mounts, this compelling, moderate telephoto f/1.6 lens employs a unique 4-element, 3-group “singlet-doublet-singlet” optical construction. It’s engineered to deliver a “velvety, glowing, ethereal look” at its widest apertures and “sharp but subtly unique” images as shooters stop it down.
The fast prime lens provides an 84mm-equivalent focal length in the APS-C format. In addition, it offers a 112mm equivalent focal length on MFT cameras. It has an all-metal body as well as a smooth well-damped manual focus mechanism that focuses down to 5 inches from the front element (max magnification ratio: 1:2). The Velvet also accepts 62mm filters. Some mounts are available in a silver edition. $499.95–$599.95. lensbaby.com
Tamron 14–150mm f/3.5–5.8 Di III
For Micro Four Thirds cameras, the all-in-one lens provides a 28–300mm-equivalent range. The lightweight, compact zoom employs one LD (low dispersion) glass element, two AD (anomalous dispersion) elements, two molded-glass aspherical elements as well as one hybrid aspherical element to provide superior correction and image quality.
It also features internal focusing and a stepping AF motor to deliver quick, quiet, precise autofocus for stills and video. Furthermore, a 7-bladed rounded diaphragm creates enhanced bokeh. It also provides a minimum focusing distance of 1.8 feet. A metal lens barrel adds to its durability and tactile quality. $459. tamron-usa.com
Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN Art
This high-performance lens provides a 90mm-equivalent, mid-telephoto range in the Sony E-mount configuration and a 120mm-equivalent focal length in the Micro Four Thirds version. In both versions, the fast prime lens incorporates special low-dispersion (SLD) glass and molded glass aspheric elements to minimize aberrations and chroma as well as enhance sharpness.
A linear motor and internal focusing help ensure fast, accurate, quiet AF that’s optimized for video recording. In addition, it focuses down to 19.7 inches (1:7.2) for impressive close-ups.
A 7-bladed diaphragm helps create an attractive blur (bokeh) in out-of-focus image areas. It’s available in a choice of black or silver finish. $239. sigmaphoto.com
Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS
This soon-to-be-released, mid-telephoto prime lens is the latest in Sony’s pro-caliber G Master series. The E-mount lens covers the Sony full-frame mirrorless format. It features Smooth Trans Focus (STF) technology and a unique radially graduated apodization filter. STF achieves beautiful bokeh in both foreground and background image areas, in conjunction with a rounded, 11-bladed diaphragm.
The lens is constructed with one aspheric and one ED element to enhance sharpness and clarity at the point of focus. In addition, its built-in Direct Drive SSM motor helps produce fast, smooth, quiet AF. There are two selectable focusing ranges to enhance AF speed. And Sony’s Optical SteadyShot IS minimizes the effects of camera shake. For video recording, a manual aperture ring can be de-clicked for silent operation. In addition, dust and moisture sealing enable shooting in inclement weather. $1,500. sony.com