March 4, 2009: Yesterday Sony has just announced six new optics to the Alpha dSLR lens lineup. They are:
- Super Telephoto Lens
- DT 50mm F1.8
- DT 30mm F2.8 Macro
- DT 18-55mm F3.5-5.6
- DT 55-200mm F4-5.6
- 28-75mm F2.8
No word on pricing or when they will be available, but Sony says they are coming.
I find it interesting that four of the six lenses are DT lenses, intended for APS-C sensors. These lenses will not cover a full-frame sensor like the one in the A900. Sony hasn’t promised any further full-frame dSLRs, but as sensor technology evolves, full frame dSLR cameras are becoming more and more common.
I have to assume that Sony will offer more full-frame dSLRs, but based on these new lens offerings, it appears that at least some of the future Alpha lineup will feature APS-C sensors. Why introduce new DT lenses unless you intend to offer further APS-C cameras?
This is significant, when you consider that The A200, A300 and A350 were announced twelve months ago and the A700 is nearly 18 months old. On average, dSLR models are refreshed or replaced every 18 months. That means that at least some of the APS Alphas are due for replacement or a major update in the next year.
You don’t introduce four brand new DT lenses unless you intend to continue selling APS dSLRs. So I expect that Sony has some more APS-C dSLRs up its sleeve.
At the same time, I wonder about the wisdom of buying into these new lenses. If you expect to move into a full-frame dSLR at some point, these aren’t the lenses to buy for the long haul. You can use DT lenses on the A900, but not at full resolution. Basically a DT lens will turn the full-frame camera back into a crop camera, at reduced resolution.
On the other hand, you can use a full frame lens on a crop camera without a hitch. I think I would prefer to buy full-frame lenses so they could be used with either format.
Of course Sony hasn’t given us an indication of the price of the new lenses. Possibly Sony will bring the DT lenses in at an attractive price level. We will need to wait and see.
I also wonder where the new 18-55mm lens fits into the lineup. The standard kit lens has been the 18-70mm zoom. Unless the 18-55 offers a significant improvement over the 18-70mm, I don’t see any reason to introduce a new lens in this focal range. When you already have a solid 18-70mm lens, why replace it with one that lacks 15mm in the telephoto range?
If it is not a replacement, who will buy this lens if the 18-70 is still in the catalog? If the new lens was significantly faster or offered macro capabilities, perhaps I could see its value. As it is, unless it offers superior sharpness or better auto focusing, I don’t understand this lens’ purpose at all.
Also somewhat puzzling is the announced DT 55-200mm F4-5.6 lens. Sony already offers a lens of this exact speed and focal length. Perhaps the new model will offer improvements not available in the current 55-200mm zoom. Still, you would think that Sony would concentrate on filling out its lens line with optics that are not available, rather than replacing one 55-200mm with another.
Sony is also offering a new 50mm f1.8 DT lens. It will obviously be priced lower than the existing f1.4 50mm, but it is a DT lens. I think the old Minolta f1.7 50mm, which will cover a full frame sensor, might offer a better value equation, unless the new Sony comes in at a very attractive price. It will be interesting to see how the new lens affects the pricing of used Minolta 50mm f1.7 lenses, which have steadily increased in value as the Sony Alpha line has expanded.
Some people are already wondering aloud about the 30mm f/2.8 macro, but to me this makes perfect sense. Remember it is a DT lens, so it isn’t really a wide angle macro, as some have suggested. On a APS-C sensor, it will offer the equivalent of a 45mm macro. Since Minolta sold truckloads of 50mm macro lenses, I would guess there is a place for this lens in the Alpha lineup.
That leaves the mystery “super telephoto.” I take the term “super” with a grain of salt. Not that I don’t expect it to be a good lens. It has the appearance of the highly regarded G lenses, so I expect this will be a G lens as well.
Sony has gotten into the habit of calling any lens greater than 300mm a super telephoto. If you look through the Sony lens catalog, most of the G lenses as well as the 500 mirror are listed as super teles. So super doesn’t indicate this is an extraordinary lens — it simply means the lens is probably greater than 300mm.
The mystery lens does have a tripod collar, so I assume it will be fairly heavy or fairly long; or both. The recently introduced 70-400 G lens does not have a collar, so I am banking to this lens being faster or heavier.
If looks are any indication, it will be a fast lens — but what focal length? There is no indication whether it is a zoom or a fixed focal length lens. It appears to be finished in silver, like the other recent Sony G lenses.
About the only thing we can say for sure, it that it will probably be excellent. And expensive!