Mirrorless Lenses: The Year in Review, 2019

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Mirrorless Lenses: The Year in Review, 2019

Lens development for mirrorless cameras has been in full force throughout 2019, with more lenses from more manufacturers being released than ever before. With many new companies focusing on building new full-frame camera systems, along with the introduction of a few new lens-mount types, brands are chugging along at adding everything from the necessary staples to any well-rounded lens system to even beginning to add some more niche and exotic glass for those special circumstances. Here’s a look at some of the mirrorless lens highlights from 2019.

L Mount Alliance; Sigma, Panasonic, and Leica

I’m going to begin with three brands all working toward one idea: the L Mount Alliance. The three prongs of support for this new mount type are Sigma, Panasonic, and Leica—Sigma and Panasonic are the newcomers to this mount, while Leica developed it and has been using it for a few years. By the numbers, Sigma had the most prolific year for the L-mount since the company brought its entire Art prime lens lineup over to the mount, with new versions available of the 14mm f/1.8, 20mm f/1.4, 24mm f/1.4, 28mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 40mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.4, 70mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.4, 105mm f/1.4, and 135mm f/1.8 lenses.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens for Leica L

Besides adding new mounts of these tried-and-true primes, Sigma also found time to add three wholly new lenses to its lineup, which are natively designed for mirrorless cameras and available in both L-mount and Sony E varieties. The smallest L-mount lens for full-frame at the moment is the 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary, which is a fresh take on a slightly wide normal prime that trades in expected speed for a more compact and modest profile—check out my hands-on review of the lens. More in line with typical Sigma offerings, the company also released the 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art—another lens for which I wrote a hands-on review—which felt like a statement of speed and sharpness and things to come for the L mount. And finally, Sigma also released a wide-zoom with the 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art, which Allan Weitz had a chance to review.

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens for Leica L

On to the next prong of the trident, Panasonic also introduced a trio of L-mount lenses alongside the launch of its initial S1 and S1R cameras. They have the versatile Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro O.I.S. standard zoom, the Lumix S PRO 50mm f/1.4 fast normal-length prime, and the Lumix S PRO 70-200mm f/4 O.I.S. workhorse tele zoom. In addition to these first three, in the fall Panasonic released the Lumix S PRO 24-70mm f/2.8 fast standard zoom. Panasonic is clearly covering the essentials for now, and doing so with premium designs that prioritize optical performance and speed over compactness. It will be exciting to see where they go next in 2020.

Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm f/2.8 Lens

And finally, Leica introduced a pair of long-awaited primes to complement its already developed L-mount lens system. Early in the year, the company released the impressive APO-Summicron-SL 35mm f/2 ASPH., which blends a comfortable wide-angle design with advanced optics and an apochromatic designation. Similarly, and announced later in the year, was the APO-Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 ASPH., which should be a stellar normal-length prime for exacting results. Leica’s releases fall very much in line with what is expected from Leica: to make high-quality examples of traditional focal lengths.

Leica APO-Summicron-SL 50mm f/2 ASPH. Lens

The L Mount Alliance is off to a good start after its first year, and next year should see the arrival of many new lenses from the three brands, along with a few new cameras, as well.

Nikon

Having just a bit over a year to build up a new camera and lens system, Nikon is moving at a brisk pace to put its Z mount in the limelight of this company’s offerings. In 2019, Nikon released seven new Z-mount lenses, including a pair of DX-format zooms—NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR—to go with the Z 50 camera announcement. In terms of the full-frame offerings, though, Nikon is filling out the lineup with a few expected lenses and a few specialized designs. For primes, the wide-angle NIKKOR Z 24mm f/1.8 S and portrait-length NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S were released, which extends both ends of Nikon’s Z prime lens coverage with 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm focal lengths now available. For zooms, a unique wide was introduced—the NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S, which also completes a trinity of sorts, with zooms ranging from 14mm to 200mm now. And the first fast zoom was also released early in the year—the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S—that sets a precedent for what’s to come, in terms of f/2.8 zooms in the future. And finally, the showstopper lens everyone was waiting for: the NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct was finally formally announced. This prized piece was poised as the reasoning behind what the Z mount was capable of, and stands to be a truly impressive-if-very-niche lens for achieving remarkable shallow-depth-of-field images.

Nikon NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct Lens

Canon

Also working quickly to build up an impressive lens lineup to support a burgeoning new mount, Canon had a productive 2019, which rounded out its RF system with a variety of new zooms and a fast portrait prime in two flavors. Catering to all needs, the all-in-one RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM zoom was released, which spans wide-angle to super-telephoto to suit travelers and one-lens aficionados alike. For more specialized applications, with a penchant for speed, Canon also brought the entire “holy trinity” to light, in 2019, with the RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM, RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS USM, and RF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM zooms all being released. These three lenses are sure to be some of the most popular options for working shooters and enthusiasts alike, and should set an example of what the RF mount is capable in terms of bright, versatile zoom lens development. Finally, for the prime lens fans, Canon released two versions of an 85mm with the RF 85mm f/1.2L USM and RF 85mm f/1.2 USM DS. Both are extremely bright portrait-length lenses, perfect for a variety of applications, but the “DS” version has the distinction of a Defocus Smoothing coating for softer, smoother bokeh quality when working wide open, which should especially please headshot and portrait photographers.

Canon RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM Lens

Sony

As in the last few years, Sony had a prolific 2019 with the release of six new E-mount lenses, including, surprisingly, two APS-C-format lenses. Announced in conjunction with the a6600, the E 16-55mm f/2.8 G stands to be the new standard zoom highlight for a6000-series shooters, with a new optical design, fast f/2.8 maximum aperture, and updated focusing motor for faster performance. Similarly, the E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS stands to be a popular telephoto zoom, with an impressive 105-525mm equivalent focal-length range.

Sony E 16-55mm f/2.8 G Lens

For full-frame cameras, Sony started the year with the very popular, well-liked FE 135mm f/1.8 GM short-telephoto lens, which Shawn Steiner had a chance to review and affectionately dub the “best portrait prime.” Extending its long focal-length range a bit, Sony also released a pair of super-telephotos—one prime, one zoom—this year, with the FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS and the inimitable FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS. Steiner also had a chance to review both of these beasts, stating their importance to the lineup as it appeals to sports and wildlife shooters (and now especially with the arrival of the new a9 II camera). And finally, saving the most modest for last, Sony also released the much-anticipated FE 35mm f/1.8; a simple, compact wide-angle prime that is certain to appeal to almost everyone.

Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM Lens

Fujifilm

Having a slower lens year, Fujifilm spent much of 2019 on iterating its popular X-series cameras while giving the optics team a bit of a breather. However, Fujifilm did come up with a pair of new lenses for 2019, which fit nicely within the already well-composed X-mount system. The XF 16mm f/2.8 R WR is the fourth of its highly compact, weather-resistant primes, and widens the range to now include 16mm, 23mm, 35mm, and 50mm walkaround lenses. And for the zoom fans, the exciting XF 16-80mm f/4 R OIS WR was released as a new versatile zoom, fit for photographing everything from portraits to landscapes to pizza parlors, as Todd Vorenkamp did with his review.

FUJIFILM XF 16-80mm f/4 R OIS WR Lens

Tamron

Capturing the attention of almost every Sony E shooter this year, Tamron has been on a hot streak of releasing compact, high-performance lenses for the popular full-frame mirrorless system. The second of its smaller-than-usual f/2.8 zooms, Tamron released the 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD to much acclaim and as the perfect complement to last year’s 28-75mm f/2.8 and next year’s forthcoming 70-180mm f/2.8 tele-zoom. Shawn Steiner brought the 17-28mm to Colorado during Summer Adventure Week, remarking on its sleek size and apt performance. Toward the end of 2019, Tamron also ventured into the compact prime lens market with a trio of unique wide-angle lenses: the 20mm, 24mm, and 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2. Besides being sleek, these wides have the distinction of being perfect for close-up shooting, with each sporting a half life-size 1:2 maximum magnification ratio.

Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens for Sony E

Micro Four Thirds

Despite the attention full-frame mirrorless is getting, Micro Four Thirds still remains as a viable format to maximize compactness and reach. Both Panasonic and Olympus added to the extensive Micro Four Thirds lens lineup this year, with Panasonic announcing a pair of lenses: the premium Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 ASPH. zoom and the second-generation Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 II ASPH. Contrasting these, Olympus released the impressively versatile M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3, which covers a huge 24-400mm equivalent range to suit pretty much any subject.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Lens

Also contributing to Micro Four Thirds, Venus Optics continued to focus on how it could create new and exciting perspectives in 2019. With their penchant for wides, it only makes sense that they released the mind-bending Laowa 4mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens, which achieves an impressive 210° angle of view for making some unique imagery, including stitched 360° panoramas.

Rokinon, Tokina, and Voigtländer

Closing our look at mirrorless lenses in 2019, we’re taking on three manufacturers who produced new lenses for Sony E in 2019. Rokinon continued on its path of bringing AF lenses to its lineup, and added AF 18mm f/2.8 FE and AF 45mm f/1.8 FE primes to its stable of very sleek and capable options. Tokina, on the other hand, developed a short-telephoto FiRIN 100mm f/2.8 FE Macro lens, which achieves a life-size 1:1 maximum magnification for working with close-up subjects. And finally, for the classicists, Voigtländer released a pair of native Sony E-mount primes with the wide-angle Nokton 21mm f/1.4 Aspherical and the normal-length Nokton 50mm f/1.2 Aspherical lens.

Tokina FiRIN 100mm f/2.8 FE Macro Lens for Sony E

What are your thoughts on the mirrorless lenses of 2019? What lenses are you hoping to see for 2020? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

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5 Comments

You forgot to mention the great new 16mm, 30mm and 56mm F1.4 lens for the Canon M-mount cameras.

You're right, those lenses are great (the 56mm is one of my very favorite lenses from Sigma), but for this article I wanted to focus more on Sigma's participation in the L Mount Alliance. The three mirrorless f/1.4 primes, on the other hand, are already tested and loved lenses that have been brought over to a new mount. I made sure to call these lenses out in the Sigma Lenses of 2019 article, though: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/hands-on-review/sigma-lenses-the-year-in-review-2019

A Z-mount version of the Nikkor 28-300 that is available in  F-mount would please me and a 60mm or 100mm macro lens would round out my wish list.

Nikon is making strides to release more lenses for the Z system, so only time will tell.

Thanks for the input Kirk.  We're also excited to see what Nikon releases for the Z system as well!

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