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I never bought any lens. I always used kit lenses of my cameras. Now that I own a Sony NEX camera and I love it, I'm wondering if it's a good investment to start buying E Mount lenses for my camera. Some of E Mount lenses are really expensive.

My questions are:

  • Will E Mount lenses and compatible cameras be around for a long time?
  • Are E Mount lenses cameras good enough for "investment"
  • What are limits of E Mount lenses? What kind of lens I will not find in E Mount series
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Zeiss glass is expensive regardless of the mount, and Sony has an exclusive arrangement with Zeiss for autofocus on their cameras only in the small-format stills category. For the E-mount, that lens can be a relatively cheap (!) Sonnar; for SLR/SLT mounts, they offer a more expensive f/2 Distagon, so you'd be getting off easy. –  user2719 Mar 30 '13 at 2:04
    
Given that Zeiss has announced their Touit line of lenses for the Fujifilm X-mount, how can it be true that Sony has an exclusive arrangement with them for autofocus in the small-format stills category? –  Frank B. May 28 '13 at 21:06

4 Answers 4

In general lens lines stick around for a good long while and a typical reason to get a DSLR is so that one can invest in glass, but that said, it's never a sure thing how long a particular lens line will be around. I would be a little more confident with lens for EF mount or Nikor's mount since those are by far the two most popular and even if they get changed out, someone will make an adapter (though you'll likely have to use them manually). Canon and Nikon also have a long history of using the same mounts for long times. I'm not sure what Sony's history is with the E mount series.

As for quality, you will almost certainly notice an improvement in the clarity of your pictures from an improved lens. When I was looking at the difference between even a $1500 and a $2300 lens, the difference was clearly noticeable to my wife (who isn't a photographer) without any explanation, so comparing a cheap kit lens to a better quality lens should make a noticeable difference.

That said, it's always a risk and always a guess. Deciding if it is worth it is a pretty personal decision based on your needs and your desire to move forward in the field. It's also worth pointing out that a $1000 lens is not a "very expensive" lens. On the professional side, $1000 is very cheap for a good lens. Most of the most popular lenses are in the $1500 to $2700 range and EF mount Cinema lenses from Canon run up in the $40,000 range. The cheapest lens I use is $800.

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Nit: while Nikon has not changed the F lens, many old F-mount lenses (specifically the pre-AI ones) will not physically mount on many modern Nikon bodies. The coupling prong will not clear the pentaprism. –  Pat Farrell Mar 29 '13 at 20:06
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E mount is the new mount for the NEX mirrorless cameras, so it doesn't really have a history. Sony's DSLR mount ("α mount") comes from Konica-Minolta (when it was "A mount"), and has a long relatively consistent history back to the 80s. –  mattdm Mar 29 '13 at 22:43
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A non photographer was able to tell the difference between a $1500 and $2300 lens? Most people I've tried that experiment with can't tell the difference between a smartphone and a $2000 lens. –  dpollitt May 28 '13 at 0:39
    
@dpollitt - Well, the 24-70 is one of the sharpest zoom lenses Canon makes and I was using an image where the sharpness gave it much stronger resolving power. It was a photo of our cat and the difference in the clarity of the fur was what made it obvious. –  AJ Henderson May 28 '13 at 4:06

As an owner of an NEX-6 and two of the more expensive lenses currently available for it (the Sony 18-200mm zoom and the Sony Zeiss 24mm F1.8), and with the warning that I may be doing nothing more than reinforcing my own biases, I would say that, if they meet your needs, you shouldn't hesitate to purchase E-mount lenses. Why?

First, the mirrorless camera industry in general and Sony's NEX line specifically seem to be doing quite well. My evidence is anecdotal, but clearly there's a great deal of market momentum in the mirrorless segment, and Sony has received quite good reviews for their NEX cameras. Four of Snapsort's top five mirrorless cameras are NEX models, and the only one that isn't, the Leica M 240, costs approximately seven times that of the most expensive NEX model.

Second, the E-mount system has excellent choices for a variety of purposes now. Sony themselves offers 13 different lenses plus two converters in the E-mount format, with lens list prices from $250 up to $1,200, and with focal lengths from 10mm to 210mm. (You can find the Wikipedia article with a good overview of the lenses here.)

Third, the E-mount system has attracted third party support. Tamron, Sigma, and Zeiss all make E-mount lenses with autofocus and full electronic control. I personally tend towards fewer better lenses, and so my interest is mostly in the Zeiss lenses. The image samples from their new 12mm/F2.8 and 32mm/F1.8 lenses have been stunning, at least to my eyes. And Zeiss has more lenses forthcoming, with an a 50mm/F2.8 macro lens due later this year.

There are plenty of lenses you won't be able to find that are specifically designed for E-mount. If you want an 800mm telephoto lens, or a tilt-shift lens, or a fisheye lens with a full-frame-equivalent aperture of 8mm, and you want them tuned for E-mount, with full autofocus and electronic control of the aperture, then you need to keep looking. But these are fairly specialized requirements; my hunch is that if you had them, you'd already know the answers and so wouldn't be looking at NEX -- you'd be focused on full-frame formats, probably Canon or Nikon.

Ultimately, a question you should ask yourself is this: given the E-mount lenses that are available now or that have been definitively announced for near-future availability, could you purchase a camera-plus-lenses set that would give you enough years of usage to make the original investment reasonable on a per-photo basis? If so, then dive in and have fun!

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I think "invest" is the wrong word here. Lenses will typically last ten or more years. This is many times as long as a typical body will stay interesting.

Read http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2010/07/lenses-dont-collect-the-whole-set

it describes cost effective ways to buy lenses.

For all brands, some of their lenses are really expensive. But as others have said, buy what you need, based on how you shoot and what limitations you have found with your current lens. If you are happy with your current lens, stay happy. If you are unhappy, figure out why, perhaps it is too slow (large minimum F-stop) or too short (you want to shoot wildlife).

For 99% of photographers, this is a hobby. The word investment has no place in the discussion.

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Buy what you need. You'll be enjoying them right away.

However, if you want to buy lenses you do not need, I understand your concern about investment. Otherwise, there is little point in asking those questions.

No one can foretell the future and, however improbable, Sony could discontinue its NEX system as early as tomorrow. Guess what would happen? Your lens and camera would still work! And it would still be fun using them.

As long as the system is alive, lenses above the basic kit and truly entry-level ones rise in price over time. Once it is discontinued, the best lenses still go up in price for a short while at least, so you would be able to find more lenses or sell your lenses should you or Sony decide NEX is not the right system.

There are no specific limits to E-mount lenses that I know of. The only limitation is that because they have such a short flange distance, adapters to most other mounts would be impossible to make. In other words, when there are no long any NEX cameras, there will be very little chances of the lenses being usable.

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