Speculating on the announced Sony wide-angle lens

July 18th, 2008 - 10:35:18 PM:

On PMA 2007 Sony has announced a number of lenses, of which they have released two in the meantime. More were promised for later this year. Today I'd like to speculate on what Sony called just "wide-angle fixed lens".

The specifications of wide-angle lenses are always hard to guess. For example, the 24/2.8, 28/2, 28/2.8 and 35/2 all are very similar in size, weight, filter size and appearance.

Sony wide-angle prototype (left) and Sony 35/1.4 G (right)

But with this lens it appears to be easier. The only other lens in the current lineup that is similar is the 35/1.4 G. From the diameter of the lens mount, which is a known size, you can infer the other dimensions of the prototype. The diameter and length are very similar (in the images to the left the 35/1.4 is displayed a bit smaller than the new lens). Where there is a big difference is the filter size. The prototype appears to have a 62 mm filter size while the 35/1.4 only has 55 mm. So the second thought would be "no, it's not a 35/1.4". But look closer! The prototype has a lot more space between the actual front element and the filter threads. On the existing 35/1.4 the filter threads are right next to the front element. If you compare only the front elements, they again are of very similar size, and even the curvature looks quite similar.

But would it make sense to replace the 35/1.4 with a new lens already? I think it does. The 35/1.4 was always regarded being less sharp than the (now discontinued) 35/2. What set the 35/1.4 apart from the much cheaper 35/2 was the one full stop of speed, but not the optical quality. The current Sony version was updated with the D function and kludge-coupled focus ring. But these improvements were already in the pipe when the system was still owned by Konica Minolta. They have announced the D version of this lens, but it was not released before Sony took over.

So my theory is that Sony re-released the 35/1.4 G mainly because it was already there. It bought them time to design a new 35/1.4 that has the speed of its predecessor coupled with the optical quality of the slower 35/2.

So when will the new lens be released? We don't know, but the release of the announced flagship DSLR would be a good opportunity to also release a few new lenses. Will it be branded Sony or Carl Zeiss? We don't know that either.