New Sony Lenses Announced

Previous Sony SLT-A58 and NEX-3N announcement may not have been all that exciting for the majority of current Sony users, but new and updated lenses usually make a more interesting topic. After all, cameras come and go. As of late, they seem to come and go rather too often – almost as if manufacturers decided to race each other and see who can push more “new” cameras into the market in the shortest amount of time. But good lenses, they tend to stay a while longer. Fine as your camera may be, it doesn’t exactly change the way you photograph all that much, be it a new D7100 or an older D7000, while a new lens – often and quite understandably – can make a much more worthwhile addition to your camera bag. Sony has made sure at least two of the three new lenses are of that kind. Let’s start with the smaller one.

1) Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 Lens

If there was ever a serious reason why I considered Sony DSLRs (namely, the Alpha A850 model), it’s Carl Zeiss lenses. Don’t get me wrong – Nikkor and Canon L lenses can be just as good and, perhaps, even superior. There’s more of them. More choice. Broader second-hand market. But somehow I always admired the legendary German manufacturer. There isn’t any real reason I can base my preference on – it’s neither sharpness nor price. But the few Carl Zeiss lenses Sony did have on offer were, in my opinion and experience, spectacular – the 85mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/1.8 most of all. Now, a new prime joins their ranks, and it’s a standard 50mm f/1.4 class lens. For around $1500.

ZA Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4

No, I haven’t made a mistake. This 50mm f/1.4 Planar will indeed cost $1500 or thereabouts. And what you’re probably thinking now is also completely correct, in my opinion – it is expensive. Very much so. But the basic specs – focal length and aperture – don’t tell the whole story. First of all, the lens is dust and moisture resistant, which makes it the only one along with the premium Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lens to be so. Which also means it is targeted at professionals who require their gear to work always, everywhere. For them, the price may be well justified. I’ve been using my 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens for quite some time now, and two things I would like to see improved most are AF speed and weather resistance. Boasting SSM – Sony’s equivalent to Canon’s USM and Nikon’s AF-S motor – it should be reasonably quick to focus. If Carl Zeiss history is of any indication – and by all means it should be – this lens is also very likely to be spectacular optically.

As it usually is, premium lenses offer only a little more for a lot of money, and most of the time are completely not worth it for the majority of users. The spectacular Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.8G and AF-S 50mm f/1.8G easily prove the point. However, for those who require largest aperture possible in a tough, dependable package no matter the cost, this lens will instantly make it to their to-buy list. Question is, won’t manufacturers such as Sigma eventually prove we’re living a myth and high-quality glass doesn’t have to be so expensive? That we are yet to see.

Here are key specifications of Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 SSM lens for Sony Alpha mount:

  • Focal length of 50mm with maximum aperture of f/1.4
  • 8 elements in 5 groups
  • Dust and moisture resistant
  • SSM ultrasonic motor
  • Always stabilized through Sony’s sensor-shift stabilization system
  • Minimum focus distance of 0.45m (17.72″) with 0.14x magnification
  • Weight of 518g (1.14 lb)
  • 72mm filter thread
  • Will set you back $1500

2) Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 SSM II Lens

The second great addition to Sony Alpha lenses is the new 70-400mm telephoto zoom. This class of lenses has been very popular among nature and wildlife photographers, and can also make a cracking landscape lens for some scenes. Nikon users, for example, have been waiting for a long time for an updated 80-400mm lens with fast AF-S motor and modern stabilization system. Sony has done it first for their loyal customers. It features new lens coatings and, as claimed by Sony, better AF and optics than its predecessor. Sadly, though, no weather sealing is to be found, which I find to be very strange in this lens class and at the price of $2200. Still, it is likely to become very popular among Sony nature photographers.

Sony 70-400mm f4-5.6 Lens

Here are key specifications of this new Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 lens:

  • Focal length range of 70-400mm with a maximum aperture range of f/4-5.6
  • 18 elements in 12 groups
  • SSM ultrasonic motor with full-time manual override
  • Stabilized through Sony’s sensor-shift stabilization system
  • Minimum focus distance of 1.50m (59.06″) with 0.27x magnification
  • Weight of 1500g (3.31 lb)
  • 77mm filter thread
  • Will set you back $2200

3) Sony DT 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II Lens

Judging by what Sony has said about this lens, it’s more or less a cosmetic refresh of the older standard kit zoom with some flare and ghosting improvement. Nothing to be coveted, of course, yet this is the lens most new Sony users will have their first experience with and so has to make decent impression. Other than that, there’s not much to write home about.

Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens

Here are the key specifications of this new-ish 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom lens:

  • Focal length range of 18-55mm with a maximum aperture range of f/3.5-5.6, designed for APS-C sensor cameras
  • 8 elements in 7 groups
  • Micro AF motor
  • Stabilized through Sony’s sensor-shift stabilization system
  • Minimum focus distance of 0.25m (9.84″) with 0.34x magnification
  • Weight of 222g (0.49 lb)
  • 55mm filter thread
  • Would set you back $220 if you ever thought of buying one, which you will probably not

4) Pre-Order Links

We trust B&H, one of the largest photo resellers in the world, most when it comes to buying new gear. Here are pre-order links:

  • Click here to pre-order Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 SSM lens for $1,498
  • Click here to pre-order Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6 SSM II lens for $2,198
  • Click here to pre-order Sony DT 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM II lens for $218


  1. 1) Dvir
    March 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    The new lenses look good! the price on the 50mm is steep, but it is going up against the best of the best, and the new Ziess is 3000$. Also not sure why the 70-400 isn’t weather sealed, read somewhere that because the lens extends so much out, it would have been difficult, but I am not sure. Still if there is one range that Sony is ahead of Nikon and Canon it is in the 70-400 range, were the Nikon really needs an update, and the canon could use one as well. When you used the A77, what lenses did you try out?

    • 1.1) Dvir
      March 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      And just to add to your comment that they are possibly superior, when you compare the Sony Ziess don’t lose any one of the one on one battles that you could do. The Ziess 24 prime because it is F/2 instead of lower has better image quality than the Nikon and Canon equivalents. The 85 Ziess is as good, and the 135 Ziess is the best Sony Lens ever, and considered the best 135mm prime, and one of the best primes on the market. The 24-70 Sony Ziess is equally as good as the last generation canon and the nikon, with better central sharpness than all of them, not as good in the corners. And the 16-35 Ziess is better than the Canon, but can’t beat the marvel known as the 14-24. I just wanted to clear that up :).

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