Sony’s cameras and lenses by the numbers
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been slowly updating the Sony DLSR page and lenses chart, and in the process, I’ve collected some interesting tidbits about Sony’s DSLR and NEX camera systems, so I thought I’d share that info with you. Some people will probably get PO’d over some of my assessments, but sometimes reality sucks, sorry. However, on the flip side, some people may be pleasantly surprised by reading other parts.
I’ll start off with some stats for all of Sony’s cameras and lenses, and then offer some thoughts on Sony’s progress (FF, APS-C and NEX) since their purchase of Konica Minolta’s imaging division in late 2005.
Sony has been in the DSLR/SLT business for a relatively long period of time (over six years now), so let’s see what they’ve achieved!
Note; the term ‘current’ or ‘currently’ means May of 2012.
Prices and availability are from Sony’s US retail website on the last week of April, 2012.
Sony DSLR lenses.
Total number of lenses offered by Sony since buying Konica Minolta’s DSLR business in late 2005; 35, plus 2 teleconverters.
Current number of lenses available for purchase from Sony, 32.
Number of new lenses designed by Sony and Carl Zeiss; 13.
Number of tele-converters designed by Sony or CZ; 0.
Number of tilt-shift or other specialty lenses designed by Sony or CZ; 0.
Current number of legacy lenses (designed by Minolta or Konica Minolta, both FF and DT) still offered by Sony; 13.
Number of currently available full frame lenses; 20.
Number of lenses still using the 1980s Minolta slot-screw focusing system; 14.
Number of manually focusing lenses available; 1.
Full frame lenses introduced in the last two years (since summer of 2010); 1, the 500/4.
Number of lenses discontinued by Sony; 3+ (24-105mm, 28mm F/2.8, 500mm F/8), and the 18-70mm, although it’s still listed as a clearance item on Sony’s US website. Also, the first 55-200mm DT lens which was replaced by the 55-200mm using the new SAM focusing system.
Average current retail price of Sony DSLR lenses including FF and DT; $1532.
Average current retail price of a Sony Full frame lens; $2092.
Number of full frame lenses with a retail price under $1000; 7. (7 out of 20 FF lenses)
DSLR and SLT Cameras
Total number of Sony cameras produced; 23.
Total number of pro camera bodies produced; 2
Total number of intermediate camera bodies produced; 2
Current number of pro camera bodies available; 0
Current number of intermediate bodies available; 1
Current number of camera bodies for sale at all levels; 5—really 3, as the A35/55 are listed as ‘no longer available on Sony’s US website.
Full Frame system.
Right now, Sony’s full frame system is inferior to the SLT and even NEX system, here’s why: Sony currently has no full frame cameras available, you have to buy new old stock, or used on eBay. That’s just plain wrong. Additionally, the quality and variety of lenses is not first class; look at the differences between the CZ 24/2 and NEX CZ 24/1.8, the NEX lens is smaller, lighter, faster, performs better at all levels, and is cheaper. If you try and argue the focal length is more appropriately compared to the 35/1.4, the NEX CZ 24/1.8 looks better yet. Also compare the new DT 16-50mm SSM to the full frame 28-75mm SAM; the DT 16-50mm is built better, sharper at the long end, less expensive, and has superior SSM focusing, why is that? Again, how about the new NEX 50/1.8 OSS, it’s better overall than the 25 year old 50/1.4 full frame lens, and much less expensive. One last item, Sony is trying to get $1000 for a 1980s fisheye lens (Sony 16mm F/2.8) with archaic film filters built-in? That’s a joke! Get a good quality $280 Bower fisheye for your APS-C camera and save the $720 for a nice vacation!
Sony does have a few top-notch lenses for full frame, like the 70-400mm, CZ 135/1.8, 300/2.8, 500/4 (no review yet) and the cheap but good 85/2.8. Price for the five lenses; $24,100!
As mentioned above, well over half of Sony’s full frame lenses are re-badged Minoltas from the mid 1980s to late 1990s, and most of those use the old fashioned slot-screw focusing system.
Also worthy of mention; the APS-C A77 is more useable than the now defunct, and former flagship A900 due to the tilting screen, much faster continuous shooting, live-view focusing and peaking feature. I think the different viewfinders (optical VS OLED) have their pluses and minuses, so that’s a toss-up.
The lack of good quality, less-expensive lenses such as a 70-200mm F/4, or 200/300mm F/4, 35/1.8, 85/1.8 etc will keep Sony from becoming a real player in the full frame camera business. Sony has been doing this for six years now, with no real progress. At least they had one or two full frame cameras to offer between 2008 and 2011, now there’s nothing. I’m sure Sony will come out with a new FF camera later this year or in 2013, but who will care? I think Sony’s whole FF system is meant to impress amateur photographers; making them think Sony is a legitimate force in the professional camera world, and a logical choice when they become more advanced photographers, and ready for professional equipment. Unfortunately, Sony is not a real player by any means in the world of full frame, so switch to Canon or Nikon for the best value and choice in full frame pro cameras. However, not all is lost. In the APS-C world, things are looking very good for Sony.
APS-C, or ‘DT’system.
Sony’s APS-C system is moving forward in a very good way. Most of the ‘DT’ lenses within the past several years have been winners, like the fabulous 35/1.8, 16-50/2.8 and older CZ 16-80mm. Prices for cameras and lenses are very reasonable and competitive in the market. The newest cameras are also setting the standard with high continuous shooting speeds, focus peaking, auto lens corrections, well implemented video features, stunning OLED EVF’s and of course the ever present built-in SteadyShot.
No big complaints here, although Sony should expand the lens line-up with a few more fast primes and high quality tele- zooms to keep people satisfied as their level of creativity and knowledge grows.
Number of APS-C cameras produced; 21.
Current number of APS-C camera bodies available; 5, or 3 in the US from Sony’s website.
Average retail price of a Sony ‘DT’ lens; $501.
Number of ‘DT’ lenses with a retail price under $1000; 11 (12 with 18-70mm)
Number of currently available ‘DT’ lenses; 11 (12 if you count the 18-70mm)
DT lenses introduced in the last two years (since the summer of 2010); 1; the 16-50/2.8.
Sony’s newest system is the shining star of their small-scale imaging abilities, and it’s clearly number one on their list of priorities. Since the debut of the NEX system in early 2010, Sony has come out with five cameras and seven lenses, with many more coming up according to Sony. This system has great potential, it remains to be seen if Sony can lock down this segment of the market before other manufacturers are able to create a better camera and more lens selections at lower prices.
Total number of cameras produced; 5
Total number of lenses produced; 7 (excludes converter lenses).
Number of lenses produced in last two years (since summer of 2010); 4.
Number of lenses over $1000; 1.
Average retail price for a NEX lens; $497.
Well, that’s about it. In six years Sony has come a long ways in the consumer grade DSLR/SLT/mirrorless market; where will Sony be in 2018? Will there be a full frame camera? My hope is that Sony abandons the full frame market, (too heavy, too expensive, totally unnecessary now for good images) and concentrates its resources on bringing out more inexpensive, but excellent quality lenses for its APS-C market, and making the NEX cameras capable of phase detect focusing without the adapter, with the addition of more great lenses like the CZ 24/1.8, and a high quality zoom or two.