Holes in Sony’s lens lineup

Sony has a lot of great lenses for its Alpha series of DSLR cameras. There are also, IMO, some gaping holes. Here’s what I think are the current holes in the Sony first party lineup.

1. Tilt-shift lenses. This is not going to go away. It will be addressed some day, probably by Zeiss, and it’ll be very expensive. But having just one lens isn’t enough. The architecture guys want the 17 or 24mm lenses, and the product photo guys want the 45 and 90mm ones. I don’t think there’s enough margin for Sony to sell all of these, so they’d have to pick their battles. The 24mm and 45mm would be a good start.

They would also need to design the lenses in such a way that they’ll be compatible with the a900 and other future bodies. Make the shifting and tilting mechanisms smooth and easy to use without three-handed antics.

2. Supertelephoto Primes. The 500mm f/4 is a great start, but that’s just it – a start. A 400mm f/2.8, 600mm f/4, and, less so, an 800mm f/4 will have to come some day. Which of these would come first? I’d probably wager the 400 f/2.8. It’s the quintessential sports lens and if Sony wants to compete in the sports market they’ll have to do it.

3. Wide Primes. Again, the 24mm Zeiss is a good start. New 20, 28, 35 primes to replace aging Minolta designs and relegate the old primes to a lower price level. Whether they decide to go f/2 like the 24mm or push to 1.4 with some is up to debate.

4. Long Macro Prime. Maybe Sony hasn’t done this because there is plenty of competition from the Tamron and Sigma 180mm macros. Still, a 200 or 180mm G or Zeiss SSM macro would probably be an excellent lens. This is a less critical hole but it is still a hole. The Minolta 200mm macro is rarer than most World of Warcraft drops.

5. A 24-105 f/4 G SSM. As long as it beats the Canon 24-105 L people will buy it. Sacrificing some speed for range would be a perfect tradeoff for someone who uses flash a lot, for instance. This one is only a matter of when, not if, as 24-105 type zooms have always been popular in the Minolta system.

6. Second Tier Primes. Specifically, an 85mm f/1.8 or f/2 and a 35mm f/2. These are less important, and I’m not sure how profitable all new designs would be. Canon’s 85mm f/1.8 is an ancient design, so is their 35 f/2. I think the success of the 35 f/2.8 and 50 1.8 are probably making them draw up some of these as we speak.

7. Mid-Tier zooms. Specifically, a 16-35 f/4 (or some other f/4 wide angle) and a 70-200 f/4. I’m not sure how well these would sell, but there’s clearly demand for them. The 70-300 G should be pretty good proof that “if you build it, they will come.” Introudce a 70-200 f/4 G and drop the price $100 on the 70-300.

8. An APS-C 17-50 f/2.8 type lens. Tamron has this market cornered. I don’t know if Sony could sell anything other than a rebadge. I certainly wouldn’t trade my Tamron 17-50 unless the lens was a really big improvement. It is still technically a hole in their lineup as Canon and Nikon both provide first party solutions for this on their crop bodies.

These are all lenses that they don’t have first party. There’s obviously a lot of third party options that fill in a lot of these holes, so it’s not as bad as it looks. There’s a lot on the plate for the Sony optical designers, though, so making priorities will be important.

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