In contrast to the fast primes, high-performance zooms, and top-notch G Master lenses of its lens lineup, Sony recently and subtly introduced a trio of compact, modest, and sophisticated prime lenses: the FE 24mm f/2.8 G, FE 40mm f/2.5 G, and FE 50mm f/2.5 G. Playing into the trend of sleek and slow lenses, Sony’s launch of these three G lenses is a strong acknowledgement of the value of a well-designed lens that prioritizes sleekness without sacrificing optics.
Beyond focal length and aperture, there isn’t too much that separates the three lenses—an intentional design decision—but let’s review the distinctions first:
- The FE 24mm f/2.8 G is the widest of the bunch and has an optical design that includes three aspherical elements and one extra-low dispersion element. The minimum focusing distance is 9.4", which translates to a 0.13x maximum magnification, and the lens weighs a paltry 5.7 oz.
- The middle child of the trio is the FE 40mm f/2.5 G, a hugely versatile focal length straddling wide-angle and normal fields of view. Specialized optics include three aspherical elements, an 11" minimum focusing distance and 0.2x magnification, and its 6.1-oz weight.
- Finally, the longest of the pack is the normal-length FE 50mm f/2.5 G lens; a classic focal length that, historically, is perfect for anything from tighter street shooting to wider portraits. Its design includes two aspherical elements and one extra-low dispersion element, the minimum focusing distance is 13.8" with a 0.18x magnification, and, just like the 40mm, it weighs 6.1 oz.
Shared Design Elements
Aside from these basic differences, the three lenses have many similar features, beginning with shared 2.7 x 1.8" dimensions. This form-factor continuity also includes a 49mm filter size for all three lenses. More on the physical design: each of the lenses is visually matched with large focusing rings, manual aperture rings, and clear, intuitive markings on the barrel. The aperture rings can also be de-clicked, for smooth, silent aperture switching, making these lenses suitable options for cine shooters. And one more point on the physical configuration—the lenses also sport crisp metal exteriors, which are weather sealed, and offer a solid in-hand feel along with a sense of durability and quality.
Looking inside the lenses, each one features two linear motors for responsive and accurate autofocus performance, along with support for Linear Response MF for natural and intuitive manual focus control. Each of the lenses also has focus hold buttons, which can be programmed to adjust a variety of focusing or exposure functions.
Now that we know what the lenses are, the bigger question is—what are they all about? Sony describes these lenses as delivering “high image quality and beautiful bokeh in a lightweight and compact design, perfect for photographers and videographers needing high image quality combined with easy mobility.” As simple as this sounds, it’s a surprisingly elusive concept in practice, since faster and larger lenses have dominated the headlines of product development in recent years.
One area where this concept makes a big impact is with smaller cameras, especially those built for the intention of travel shooting, vlogging, or general all-day, everyday carry. Cameras that fall into this niche are Sony’s own a7-series bodies, the sleek FX3 cine cam, and the APS-C-format a6000-series cameras. Especially with that last camera in mind, these smaller lenses don’t look or feel disproportioned when used on the smaller APS-C cameras; they feel right at home despite their greater full-frame coverage.
So, these lenses are essentially meshing the humble and compact prime with a bit more enthusiasm for the optics and physical details. Think taking your high-end, high-budget lens and cramming its features into the more budget-friendly kit lens or entry-level prime form factor. The immediate advantages of weight savings and a smaller size are obvious, but some of the more hidden benefits of a lens like this include portability, approachability, and a lack of intimidation. These are small, fun, and portable lenses, and with those ideas in mind, they’re the types of lenses that will, inevitably, often sneak their way onto your camera. They’re the type of lens you grab without much thought, perfect for a casual day out shooting when you haven’t done any planning but just want to take some photos along the way. Their simplicity and lack of frills is their strength; they’re go-to lenses for times when you’re more concerned with the act of shooting rather than obsessing over the details of the gear you’re using.
Do you have any experience with Sony’s trio of compact G primes? What’s your favorite focal length of the three? What focal length would you hope to see next in the series? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section, below.