Where are the lenses?

Posted by on Mar 17, 2013 | 4 Comments

Unfortunately it has been another photographically challenged week for me but a conversation with a friend has raised a few questions that I thought I would pose and vent about for this weeks post.

As a you know, as of the last 12 months I have been falling further and further into love with mirrorless cameras with the addition of the Nikon J1 and the Olympus E-P3 into my kit bag. These cameras have well and truly displaced my DSLR’s from my everyday bags, and has even forced the venerable Samsung EX1 into hiding.

For awhile now I have been considering selling up and moving completely to a mirrorless system, however a friends recent plea for advice in choosing a versatile, bright zoom lens for her Panasonic has lead me to quickly realise that mirrorless users have it worse off then even APS-C and FourThirds users.

There are currently a few prevalent mirrorless systems;

  • Olympus/Panasonic Micro FourThirds (2x crop)
  • Sony NEX (E-Mount, 1.5x crop)
  • Fuji (X-mount, 1.5x crop)
  • Nikon 1 (CX, 2.7x crop)
  • Samsung NX (1.5x crop)
  • Canon EOS-M (1.6x crop)


If we look at the lenses available for these systems, some a better equipped than others but the choices of bright, versatile zoom lenses is seriously lacking. The only bright, standard zoom lenses available in all of htese mounts are the Pansonic 12-35mm f/2.8 (24-70mm equiv) and the Fuji 18-55mm f/2.8-4 (27-82.5mm equiv) and a promised but yet to be released Samsung 16-50mm f/2.8 (24-75mm equiv). So between six different systems and seven different manufacturers we have one mediocre fast standard zoom (Pansonic), one promised fast standard zoom (Samsung) and a half-effort fast standard zoom (Fuji). However if we compare the available arsenal of prime lenses all of these systems have at least one stand out prime, if not more.

This surely must indicate that there is a serious lack of lenses available for anyone hoping to build a kit that includes a fast zoom. The M4/3 are the best equipped lens wise but they only have the Panasonic duo of the 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100 f/2.8 and the 12-35 is nothing to write home about. Worse still, the 35-100mm f/2.8 represents the sole mirrorless fast telephoto available.

This leaves us in a bizarre situation where we have great camera bodies (Olympus E-M5, Sony NEX-6, Fuji X-E1, Samsung NX 20 etc) and very few decent zoom lenses for those of us who are not so prime inclined.

Food for thought, but where are our ‘enthusiast/pro’ zooms?



EDIT: Thom Hogan wrote on a similar vein earlier in 2013 he has some interesting numbers and writes some good points regarding the need for more lenses

  • Greg

    Hi Cam,
    Surely you are forgetting the adapter that allows the Nikon 1 series to use all the Nikon SLR lenses. The “Trinity” series will take you from normal through to super tele all at f/2.8. and with excellent optics. I grant you wide angle cannot be covered this way.

    I hope you are coping with the workload the PhD puts on you. I know my daughter is struggling with hers.

  • aim54x


    There are such adapters for all the systems (NX > Pentax K, 4/3 > M4/3, Alpha (Minolta AF) > E) but these defeat the purpose of these systems in being small and lightweight. The native mount lens selection for all of these systems needs to be addressed if they are to steal the market from the DSLR, unfortunately a large part of the target market (people moving up from compact cameras) will not like the idea of using DSLR lenses on a mirrorless platform as it erodes away the advantages of size. The Nikon FT1 adapter (which I own) cripples the Nikon 1’s AF to a fixed centre point and the lenses become painfully slow in AF. The Sony LA-EA2 is the best option for using DSLR lenses on a mirrorless platform as it retains the AF speed of the lenses, which is faster than the native NEX focus speed. Regardless it is a stopgap solution for those who own the fast glass, and for the CX and M4/3 formats it still leaves a hole at the wide end.

    PhD is stumbling along and picking up speed. Hopefully it will not overwhelm me.

  • Julian

    On a similar note, another purported benefit of the CSC platform is smaller lenses. Small lens = less materials required to make = reduced manufacturing costs… I think the major manufacturers are really raking it in when they charge similar prices for lenses with similar goals, albeit with less glass, metal etc inside.

  • aim54x

    Julian, that is very true….the stop gap measure of using DSLR glass on a CSC platform really negates the size advantages, and moves away from the advantages of smaller, cheaper lenses that were promised in the past.

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