What mirrorless lens should I choose?
After writing a complete guide this year in helping you to choose the best mirrorless camera for you, I have started, as promised, a huge project to help you choose your mirrorless lenses. I must admit it, I’m (originally) much more oriented towards DSLR’s and it took me a lot of time researching to be able to write this article. I would like to thank Alex (who will recognize himself) in advance for his important support in this work.
Choosing a camera lens is never easy in any case, especially when you’re just starting out, when you don’t know all the models of mirrorless lenses and when the choice is so wide depending on the brand that you’ll end up getting lost. In fact, I must admit that I myself got lost quite a few times. I’ve had to dive into hundreds (or even more) models! Indeed, the amount of interchangeable lenses available for mirrorless cameras is incredible….
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As you will have understood, this article is the result of a lot of work. I summarize everything you need to know on how to choose a mirrorless lens in technical terms but also by giving you an overview of the generalities of the lenses according to the type of picture you want to produce. Simply put, “what is the purpose of this type of lens and for what situation?” Finally, by what interests you the most. I provide you with my recommendations for mirrorless lenses, classified by sensor type (Micro 4/3, APS-C and Full Frame), then by brand and situation. This article is obviously dedicated to all people who want to upgrade from their kit lens and/or diversify their photo equipment. I therefore took a big interest in sorting them by sensor size and brand. You can refer directly to the desired paragraph depending on the body you have. I will not speak about compact cameras in this article.
You will find under each category the most exhaustive tables possible of all the mirrorless lenses (click on the small magnifying glass to open them). I will update them as soon as new products are released! It’s a crazy job actually to list all the possibilities, and I’ve only included the classic native brands (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji), the lenses with autofocus (Sigma, Tamron) and the common third brands (Samyang/Rokinon, Zeiss).
For your information and to avoid repeating everything!
- FF: Full Frame / 24×36 sensor
- mFT: Sensor also called Micro 4/3, or Micro four third
- MF: Manual Focus
- AF: Autofocus
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1. Technical terms
To be clear from the beginning, there is really no difference between choosing a DSLR camera lens and choosing one for a mirrorless digital camera. The different criteria to look into are identical. If you want to know more, I suggest that you to read the article on how to choose your camera lens. However, here is a summary of the things you need to be aware of to save some time.
a. The focal length
This is the most essential element in making your decision among mirrorless lenses. For beginners who do not know the term, it is basically the “zoom level” of your lens. These are the values indicated in millimeters on your lens (example: 35mm, 100mm, 300mm). There are fixed focal lengths (Ex: 14mm) and variable focal lengths (24-70mm). The focal length impacts your viewing angle. A short focal length (Ex: 11mm) allows a wider viewing angle than a long focal length (Ex: 300mm).
We usually separate the focal lengths into 3 groups:
- Wide angle / Ultra wide angle
- Standard / transtandard focal lengths
- Telephoto lenses
The difficulty (so to speak) to understand is that the focal length always refers to a full frame camera, therefore to the size of a precise sensor. For a mirrorless camera, you have essentially 3 types of sensors: Micro 4/3, APS-C and full frame, each with its own size. A Micro 4/3 sensor is half the size of a full frame sensor. The one of an APS-C sensor is 1.5 times smaller.
You have to understand that a focal length will not give the same result depending on the type of sensor that is used. The easy-to-understand example concerns transtandard lenses. You will choose between:
- A 24-70mm on a full frame sensor (large sensor),
- A 16-55mm on an APS-C
- A 12-35mm on Micro 4/3
As a general rule, brands offer dedicated lenses for the sensor sizes they offer. I invite you to read the article if needing to choose between a fixed focal length lens or a zoom lens to know the advantages and disadvantages of each.
b. The maximum aperture
This is the second most important parameter when choosing your mirrorless lens. We might say that it is the ability of your optics to “collect light to enter into the lens”. This is the number behind the “f/” on your lens. Remember that the smaller the number (Ex f/1.2), the larger the aperture, and inversely, the larger the number (f/16), the smaller the aperture. You get used to it after a while, don’t worry.
Having a large maximum aperture allows you to take pictures faster (faster response time), to help your shots in low light conditions and to blur your backgrounds to isolate a subject (reduce the depth of field).
The apertures can be fixed (Ex: f/2) or sliding (Ex: f/4-5,6). In the latter, your maximum aperture will be varied by the focal length. For instance, with my Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 at 70mm, I can open at f/4, and at 300mm, I am only able to open at f/5.6.
For mirrorless lenses, a nuance must also be specified according to the size of the sensor. It is not possible to compare an aperture of f/2.8 on a Full frame sensor to one on a micro 4/3 sensor that is half as small (diagonally). The result will not be the same. To compare the things that can be compared, you will need to compare a 35mm f/1.4 (APS-C) lens with a 50mm f/2 Full-Frame lens to get about the same result.
Another example for a similar result is to compare a 12mm f/1.4 mFT lens with a 24mm f/2.8 on a Full Frame sensor. You will notice that the diagonal of an mFT sensor is half as small in size as a Full Frame sensor. The equivalent focal length is therefore doubled to obtain a similar angle of view between the two sensor sizes. Regarding the maximum aperture (and therefore the depth of field), the surface of an mFT sensor is 4 times smaller than a full frame sensor, hence the difference of 2 stops. There is therefore a quasi-equivalence between an aperture of f/1.4 on mFT and an aperture of f/2.8 on Full Frame.
The stabilization of a lens is another one of the elements to be taken into account when making your choice. A stabilized lens allows you to generally limit motion blur in low-light conditions and also when using long focal lengths, which is where a higher shutter speed is usually desired. Remember that stabilized lenses are generally more expensive and heavier. Quite often, for each brand, you have an acronym reminding you of the stabilization.
d. Construction (range, tropicalisation)
This is also another point to be taken into account. With all brands, you have several ranges available, from entry-level lenses to the most expensive high-end lenses. In general, the more expensive the lenses are, the better and the more resistant the build of the lenses will be to the elements. After all, it depends on your hobbies. If it’s for everyday life, there’s no need to focus on a tropicalized lens. On the other hand, if you travel in difficult conditions (dust, wind, cold) or if you live in an area with a high humidity level (as I do), it will be worth it in my opinion to be able to take pictures with complete peace of mind (even if I store my photo equipment in a refrigerated “drybox”…).
e. Physical data (weight, dimensions, compactness)
Many of you who decide to switch to mirrorless format will be interested in the weight and size of the cameras and lenses. In general, if you start with an entry-level mirrorless camera, it will always be slightly lighter and smaller than an entry-level DSLR camera. For high-end mirrorless lenses combined with a Full Frame sensor, the difference between the weight/dimension in comparison to a DSLR still exists, but it is more limited.
f. The price
For most people, even if it is not really a technical element, it is one of the most important criteria for choice. Indeed, not everyone will be able to spend 1000$ on a lens. This is why choices will have to be made and compromises will have to be found between your needs, desires and your budget (as for the choice of a lens for DSLR’s). Whatever the camera, remember that in general, the larger the lens opens (smaller “f/”) the more expensive, heavy and cumbersome it will be.
g. The brand (native or third party)
Finally, last but not least, the brands. Each brand has built more or less lenses. You will have much more choice with Sony, Panasonic/Olympus and Fuji than at others such as Canon and Nikon. Also remember that both brands of Micro 4/3 sensors (Panasonic and Olympus) share the same sensor and that the lenses are compatible between the two brands, which offers quite a few more possibilities.
Finally, each brand offers specific acronyms to indicate, for example, compatibility with APS-C and Full Frame formats. The table below summarizes the acronyms of the brands.
|Brands||Full-Frame Compatibility||APS-C Compatibility||Compatibility with mFT (4/3)|
|Tamron||Di III||Di III||Di III|
Small specification (because there is enough to already be tearing your hair out), the Sony “A” labelled mounts are dedicated to DSLR type cameras and therefore do not fit on mirrorless cameras. You often find them under the term “SAL”. On the contrary, Sony optics that are compatible with mirrorless cameras are labelled “E-Mount” or “SEL”.
2. Which mirrorless lenses for what type of photos?
I wouldn’t say that you can really categorize everything perfectly for lenses and their use, but overall some lenses and their related characteristics will be much more suitable for some photographic practices. Again, everything will depend on the size of your sensor.
- For landscape or architecture: it is generally recommended to use a wide angle or ultra-wide-angle lens even if it is quite possible to take pictures of this type with a telephoto lens. Very often we will use these types of focal lengths:
- Micro 4/3: 7-14mm,
- APS-C: 10-17mm
- Full Frame: B14-20mm
- For portrait photography: fixed focal lengths are often preferred, depending on whether you want to shoot tight or distant portraits. It’s mostly uses focal length around:
- Micro 4/3: 35-50mm
- APS-C: 50-100mm
- Full Frame: 100-135mm
Here is a full guide to choose the right body and lenses for portrait photography.
Example of the perfect mirrorless lens for wildlife or sports photography: The Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 – More details on Amazon
A great example of the perfect mirrorless portrait lens, the Sony 85mm f/1.8 – More details on Amazon
- For wildlife and sport photography: Telephoto lenses (fixed or zoom) will be used to capture these types of subjects. We will stick to focal lengths around:
- Micro 4/3 : 35-100mm
- APS-C : 55-200mm
- Full Frame : 70-200mm
Of course, the burst mode of your camera and its number of frames per second (ip/s) will be even more important in correlation with your lens.
- For macro photography: it all depends on your sensor again but generally you will have focal lengths of around:
- Micro 4/3 : 30-60mm
- APS-C : 60-80mm
- Full Frame : 100mm
Here is globally what should be remembered about the type of mirrorless lenses to use in correlation with your practices and the type of photos you want to take. Let us now get to the heart of the matter.
3. Mirrorless lenses for Micro 4/3 sensor (mFT)
Two brands mainly use this Micro 4/3 sensor size: Panasonic and Olympus. These offer different optics but remain compatible with each other (beware of the loss of certain functionalities such as stabilization for example). In general, you can’t go wrong because only Panasonic offers a few optics (called “L”) for its latest full-frame bodies.
Very often, the basic kit lenses of both brands offer a transtandard with a small sliding aperture, such as 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 or 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6. Sometimes you may choose a 14-140mm f3.5-5.6 or 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 ED II type telephoto lens. I suggest below some serious recommendations for each type of photography for an evolution of your equipment. All the Micro 4/3 lenses mentioned in the paragraphs that follow are present in the summary table below. This table also includes all the current Micro 4/3 lenses.
To go further in detail, I wrote a full article of the best Micro four-third lenses available today, according to your photography needs.
For landscape photography, I particularly recommend the use of a wide-angle lens, a lens with a wider viewing angle than your “12 or 14mm kit”. From Panasonic, there are two excellent references at a price varying between 700-800€: the 7-14mm f/4, very well-known, and the 8-18mm f/2.8-4, brighter at 8mm, also useful for photography in low light or for landscapes at night. Olympus has the excellent 7-14mm f/2.8 (more expensive due to the fixed aperture at f/2.8). For those with a more limited budget but looking for a wide angle, you can consider the 9-18mm f/4-5.6 or the very good Olympus 12mm f/2 (but wider). To my knowledge, there are no third-party brands that offer wide angles for Micro 4/3. Only Samyang/Rokinon offers (in MF) a 10mm f/2.8 and a 12mm f/2 which are very well reputed for their quality/price ratio!
Panasonic has also just released the 10-25mm f/1.7, a lens with a nice wide angle (equivalent to 20mm in FF) with a very large maximum aperture. Perfect for landscape, but also in low light, all at a price a little crazy!
Everything will depend on your usage and your budget. I often carry a transtandard lens with me, a wide angle, a telephoto lens and a bright/fast fixed focal length for street/night photography. If you want to upgrade to a better transtandard than the one of your kit, you can prefer the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 II (superb with wide fixed aperture) or the 12-60mm f/2.8-4 (a little cheaper and a larger focal length). With Olympus, it will be necessary to go up to 12-40mm f/2.8.
For a good quality universal lens for people travelling quite a bit, I particularly recommend the Olympus 12-100mm f/4 or the excellent (but more expensive) 40-150mm f/2.8. For a fixed focal length for street photography, you can choose the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7, a very good lens at a low price.
For close-up portrait photography, I particularly recommend the Olympus 75mm f/1.8. For larger shots, you can look at the Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.7 or the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 without hesitation. Both are very good and cheap. Sigma also offers a 56mm f/1.4, which has an excellent reputation for portrait photography.
3.d Low light
Everything will depend here on the focal length you want, of course, but a bright aperture lens like the Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 or for a much less expensive option the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is always preferred. Sigma also offers a nice reference, the 30mm f/1.4.
For telephoto lenses, I strongly recommend the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 II (equivalent to 70-200mm in FF with large fixed aperture at f/2.8). If you want to zoom “further”, the Panasonic 100-300 f/4-5.6 is also a very good reference for a reasonable price. Regarding Olympus, I believe that the 40-150mm f/2.8 is the reference. For those who want to buy their first telephoto lens and who are limited in budget, you can go for the Panasonic 45-150mm f/4-5.6.
For macro photography, there is the 30mm f2.8 (Panasonic) and the 60mm f/2.8 (Olympus).
Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 lens, ideal for low-light photography with a very large aperture – More details on Amazon
For those wishing to go deeper, you should take a look at our special page listing all the lenses suitable for the Micro 4/3 mount. You will find Olympus/Panasonic lenses but also many third-party brands.
4. Mirrorless lenses for APS-C sensor
Regarding mirrorless lenses for APS-C sensors, four brands offer this type of format: Sony, Fuji, Canon and Nikon. The acronyms corresponding to the mounts for APS-C sensors are: Fuji (X), Sony (E), Canon (EF-M) and Nikon (Z DX).
4.1 Sony mirrorless lenses for APS-C
For Sony, it is the “E” mount that refers to the lenses specially designed for an APS-C sensor. They can be adapted on a Sony Full frame camera but the camera automatically crops the image (necessary due to of vignetting). You therefore lose the benefit of owning a Full Frame body if you do not use optics specially designed for it (we’ll come back to it below). “FE” optics refer to special lenses for Sony Full frame cameras. They can be mounted on a Sony APS-C body. At Sony, you will also have the opportunity to look at third party brands, such as Sigma (DC DN), which offers bright quality optics. Finally, Rokinon and Zeiss also offer some very nice references (with or without autofocus (AF/MF)). The lenses mentioned below are listed in the table below, which also includes all the lenses for mirrorless Sony APS-C bodies.
For APS-C Sony camera, there is generally three kit lenses with a small sliding aperture: the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6, the 16-70mm f/4 and finally the 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3. If you think more carefully, you realize that the choice of APS-C format lenses is limited and you will often have to look for lenses designed for Full Frame cameras, which many people seem to do.
Sony only offers one wide angle lens dedicated to APS-C sensors: the 10-18mm f/4, the reference that I recommend with a wide focal length and fixed f/4 aperture. Two other very well-known possibilities exist (in manual focus), the Rokinon 12mm f/2 or the superb Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8.
If you want to upgrade to a better transtandard lens than the kit one, the best (but very expensive) one is the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 G. You may prefer to include a lens with a wider focal length range such as 18-105mm f/4 G OSS or 70-200mm f/4 (Full Frame lens).
For fixed focal lengths for street photography or daily use, there is a whole series of 35mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.8 that can do the job very well for a small price, under 350€. The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN also has a great reputation and will be helpful as soon as the luminosity decreases.
For portrait photography with an APS-C Sony mirrorless camera, I would go to the 50mm for environmental portraits. I particularly recommend the excellent Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN. For close-up portraits, there is also the Sony 85mm f/1.8 that has an excellent reputation (the f/1.4 version is unaffordable for most people). There is also the 50mm Rokinon/Samyang (MF) version with very large aperture (f/1.2), for less than 450€.
4.1.d Low light
For low-light situations, the Sony 24mm f/1.8 ZA remains a reference (but expensive). You can also use the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN or the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN I mentioned above, that work very well in low light (and will therefore be able to for both portrait / low light).
For wildlife and/or sport, the use of long focal lengths will be recommended. For your first telephoto lens, you can look at the Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 for example. Depending on your budget, you can choose a 70-200mm (the f/2.8 version is very expensive, the f/4 version much less for example). For a little cheaper and to “zoom in more”, there is also the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G.
For macro photography, there is the 30mm f/2.8, the 50mm f/2.8, but especially the excellent 90mm f/2.8 G Macro OSS. The latter is also renowned for portrait photography (which could be a “2 in 1”). Be careful this optic fixed on an APS-C sensor will give the equivalent of a 135mm.
Some clarification on Sony mirrorless lenses. Some of the lenses mentioned in this paragraph are designed for full frame camera. Although they have the advantage of being fully usable in the case of a Full Frame upgrade in the future, they lose the advantage of being less heavy/bulky and less expensive if they had been initially designed for APS-C.
If you want to go further, you can have a look at my full guide on all lenses dedicated to Sony APS-C cameras. I include obviously all Sony lenses here, but also about a dozen of third-party brands (often with manual focus) that could be interesting for people with a more limited budget and/or who want to try a particular focal length.
|Type of lens||Sony (E)||Sigma (DC DN)||Tamron (Di III)||Zeiss||Samyang / Rokinon (E)|
|Wide angle||10-18mm f/4||12mm f/2.8 Touit||8mm f/2.8 (MF) Fish Eye |
8mm f/3.5 (MF) Fish Eye
10mm f/2.8 (MF)
12mm f/2 (MF)
|Wide angle||16mm f/2.8||16mm f/1.4 DC DN||16mm f/2 (MF)|
|Wide angle||19mm f/2.8 DN Art|
|Standard||16-55mm f/2.8 G|
16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
|Standard||18-105mm f/4 G OSS|
|Standard||18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS|
|Standard||18-200mm f/3.5-6.3||18-200 mm F/3.5-6.3 DiIII VC|
|Wide angle||20mm f/2.8||21mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC (MF)|
|Standard||24mm f/1.8 ZA||30mm f/1.4 DC DN|
|Standard||35mm f/1.8 OSS||30mm f/2.8 DN Art||32mm f/2.8 Touit||35mm F1.2 ED AS UMC CS (MF)|
|Standard||50mm f/1.8 OSS||56mm f/1.4 DC DN||50mm f/1.2 (MF)|
|Standard||60mm f/2.8 DN Art|
|Telephoto||85mm f/1.8 (MF)|
|Super telephoto||70-350mm f/4.5 - 6.3 G OSS||300mm f/6.3 (MF)|
|Macro||30mm f/3.5||50mm f/2.8 Touit Macro||100mm f/2.8 (MF)|
4.2 Fuji mirrorless lenses for APS-C
With Fuji, things are simpler. The brand only offers APS-C sensors and dedicated lenses. Depending on the model of Fuji mirrorless camera you purchase, you may get different transtandards lenses. It is one of the only brands to offer a kit lens that opens at f/2.8 at 18mm. Indeed, you will find for example the XT-3 combined with the very good 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS. Two other transtandard kit lenses exist with Fuji: the 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 and the 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS. You will find all the Fuji lenses in the table below.
For landscape and architectural photography with a Fuji camera, two lenses exist that are wider than the kit lenses: the 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR, an ultra wide angle with constant aperture of f/2.8 (although very expensive) and the most affordable 10-24mm f/4R OIS (a very good reference that I personally rather recommend). The f/2.8 aperture of 8-16 mm can help you in low light, but I recommend saving your money to buy an even brighter fixed focal length (we come back to it below).
To replace your standard sliding aperture transtandard kit lenses, my recommendation would be to upgrade to the excellent 16-55 mm f/2.8 R LM WR, at the limit of the wide angle with a fixed f/2.8 aperture. But if you can buy the kit lens 18-55 mm f/2.8-4, why not stick to that instead, because it’s rare to have f/2.8 on a quality kit lens. Another alternative is to choose the very good 16-80mm f/4.
For travel, I would recommend something versatile like the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8. It is sometimes found as a lens kit and with its 70-300mm equivalent in full frame format, it is a good lens to cover just about everything when travelling. The equivalent version or almost equivalent with a constant aperture at f/2.8 (50-140 mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR) is much more expensive and heavier.
For street photography, I particularly recommend the 23mm f/1.4 R. It will also be used very well in low light situations for standard shots.
For portrait photography, there are two Fuji references according to the type of portrait desired. For wide/environmental shots, I recommend the 50mm f/2 R WR. For close-up portraits, the option would be the 90 mm f/2 R LM WR.
4.2.d Low light
For low light conditions, everything will depend on your budget and what you already own. From Fuji, 16mm, 23mm, 35mm and 50mm with maximum apertures of f/1.4 (more expensive and heavier) and f/2 (cheaper and lighter) can be found. An excellent reference for street, portrait and low light (“3 in 1”) photography is the superb 56 mm f/1.2 R. If you want a wider angle of view, go have a look at the 16 mm f/1.4 R WR.
For long Fuji focal lengths, I would recommend a single and unique lens, with a very good reputation, the 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS.
There are two Fuji macro lenses, a 60mm f/2.4 (which is not a “real macro” with a reproduction ratio of 1:2) and a 80mm f/2.8, which is still Fuji’s main reference.
If you want to go further with your choice, I invite you to read my page listing all the Fujifilm lenses for the X-mount.
4.3 Canon mirrorless lenses for APS-C
Canon’s entry into the mirrorless camera market is later (2012) and the number of associated lenses for this type of camera body is very limited. The acronym EF-M refers to Canon optics for APS-C cameras. For information, you will often be sold the bodies with the following kit lenses: EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM and EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM.
To upgrade to a wider angle lens (landscape/architecture), I recommend the EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM. However, for Canon APS-C mirrorless camera owners, Samyang offers three manual focus and wide aperture lenses, which may be very interesting: the 10mm f/2.8, the 12mm f/2 and the 14mm f/2.8.
For street and low light photography, you can use the excellent EF-M 32MM F/1.4 STM. Finally for travel and wildlife/sport photography, you will be looking at the EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM.
Note that recently in 2019, Sigma now offers 3 wide aperture lenses compatible with the Canon EF-M mount: the 16mm f/1.4 and 30mm f/1.4 which will go very well for night and low light photography and a 56mm f/1.4 which may be very suitable for portrait photography.
For further details on lenses available for Canon EF-M, I have written a detailed page with all the lenses available, both with autofocus and manual focus.
|Type of lens||Canon (EF-M)||Sigma (DC DN)||Tamron (Di III)||Samyang / Rokinon (MF)|
|Wide angle||11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM||8 mm f/2.8 II Fish Eye |
10mm f/2.8 (MF)
12mm f/2 (MF)
14mm f/2.8 (MF)
|Standard||32mm f/1.4 STM||30 mm f/1.4 DC DN|
|Standard||15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM||16 mm f/1.4 DC DN||16mm f/2 (MF)|
|Standard||18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM||56mm f/1.4 DC DN||21mm f/1.4 (MF) |
35mm f/1.2 (MF)
|Standard||18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM|
|Wide angle||22mm f/2 STM|
|Macro||28mm f/3.5 Macro IS STM|
|Telephoto||55-200mm f/4,5-6,3 IS STM||18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di III VC||50mm f/1.2 (MF) |
300mm f/6.3 (MF)
4.4 Nikon Mirrorless lenses for APS-C
With the release of its Nikon Z50 in 2019, the brand is also entering the competition for APS-C mirrorless cameras. At the time of writing, only two lenses are available from Nikon: the Nikkor Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR and the Nikkor Z DX 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 VR. Note that the “Z Dx” optics will be compatible with Nikon’s mirrorless Full Frame cameras (Z6, Z7) but that only the central part of the sensor will be used (which is normal since they are not initially full frame optics). To be precise, it is a “Z” frame compatible with Nikon’s F optics (DSLR). By using an FTZ adapter ring, Nikon DSLR lenses can be used on the Z50 body (and also on the Z6/Z7). Be careful to ensure the compatibility beforehand seeing as some people seem to have problems in adapting some lenses….
5. Mirrorless lenses for Full Frame sensors
The largest of the sensors that are still “relatively affordable” for a mirrorless camera are the Full Frame sensors, also known as “24×36” sensors. Let us be clear: they are the most expensive, the heaviest, but also often the most sophisticated cameras. Only Sony Full Frame lenses can be mounted on an APS-C sensor. For other brands, it will be necessary to add adapter rings. You will then only have to apply the conversion factor of 1.5 (on average) to get your equivalent focal length. A 200mm lens on Full Frame gives an equivalence of 300mm on an APS-C sensor.
There are currently 4 brands in the world of mirrorless Full Frame cameras: Sony, Nikon, Canon and Panasonic. To put it bluntly, it is with Sony that you will have the biggest choice in terms of optics. Indeed, Canon/Nikon/Panasonic only recently started offering full-frame cameras. You will still have to wait a long time to have get the choice with other brands that is already available with Sony.
To remind you of the acronyms in Full Frame optics: Sony (FE), Nikon (Z), Canon (RF) and Panasonic (L). Another point of clarification, with these 4 brands, you will also have the possibility of choosing lenses from third party brands (Sigma (DG) – Tamron – Rokinon/Samyang), but these will probably quickly end up being offered by the others, especially at Panasonic thanks to the alliance with Sigma. At Canon/Nikon, Rokinon offers some alternatives with manual focusing (but much cheaper).
Here are the 4 brands that offer full frame mirrorless cameras (Nikon, Canon, Panasonic and Sony)
5.1 Sony full frame mirrorless lenses
When buying a Full frame kit (lens + body) from Sony, you will usually get either a 28-70mm f/3.5-6.3, an 85mm f/1.8 or a 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3. Here are some suggestions below to upgrade to the best equipment according to your needs. I’m talking mostly in the text about Sony lenses (Sony and Sony Zeiss) and known secondary brands (Sigma, Tamron). In the summary table (at the bottom of these ideas) you will also find some very nice suggestions concerning the Rokinon/Samyang lenses (AF = Autofocus – MF: manual focus), but also the very nice Zeiss (AF) lenses offering notably a superb wide angle in 18mm and a nice lens for portrait, in 85mm.
As always, wide angle lenses are often recommended. For a Sony FF mirrorless camera, you will have several options but the prices remain high. The 16-35mm f/2.8 or wider (but cheaper), 12-24mm f/4 G are very often recommended. For those who are more restricted in budget and want to look at third party brands, Tamron offers an excellent 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD. Sigma offers a 14-24mm f/2.8 that has an excellent reputation. Third party brands are almost half as expensive here, so think about it!
For those who want to upgrade to a better transtandard lens than the kit (28-70mm f/3.5-6.3), I particularly recommend taking a look at the excellent 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD, which everyone loves. Sony also offers two 24-70mm f/2.8 but which remain very expensive in my opinion to explain the price difference with the Tamron (at half price).
If you want a versatile lens of high quality that is highly appreciated, I particularly recommend the Sony 24-105mm f/4. The disadvantage is that you will be limited to 105mm, which is not very long for a focal length. To “zoom in more” you can choose a 70-200mm (f/4 or f/2.8 depending on your budget and the desire to be carrying a heavy lens).
For street photography (and in low light), I recommend the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 or 85mm f/1.4 DG with my eyes closed. If you are a little tight on budget, look for the 50mm 1.8 versions from Sony, or the 85mm f/1.8 which also has a very good reputation.
For portrait photography, I would also recommend 50mm for a wide portrait and 85mm, or even 135mm for a close-up portrait. You will have the choice of staying at Sony or going over to Sigma. You could use a 50mm f/1.8 for example from Sony and a 135mm f/1.8 DC from Sigma.
5.1.d Low light
For low light photography, a wide aperture lens such as the superb 24mm f/1.4 from Sony or the 20mm f/1.4 from Sigma is recommended.
For long focal lengths, Sony offers some very nice lenses above 300mm, such as the 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 or the very crazy 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3. For amateurs of very long focal lengths Sony offers a 500mm and a 600mm, out of reach in terms of price for 99.9% of us!
For those who are passionate about detail, I particularly recommend the 90mm f/2.8 G Macro from Sony or the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro.
If you want to know more about Sony FE lenses, I have listed in a page all the Sony FE lenses and a dozen of third-party brands offering lenses for this mount.
5.2 Panasonic Full Frame mirrorless lenses
Panasonic’s entry into the Full Frame world is very recent, at the beginning of 2019, with the introduction of the S1, S1R and S1H bodies. The choice in native lenses is therefore more than limited since only 6 mirrorless lenses for Full Frame have been released from Panasonic: a 16-35mm f/4 L (for landscape and travel), a 24-105mm F/4 L, perfect for landscape and daily photography I would say, a 24-70mm f/2.8 L perfect for those looking for a superb quality light transtandard lens, a 50mm f1/4 L, an optic made for street, environmental portraits and low light situations and finally, two telephoto lenses : 70-200mm f/4 L and a 70-200mm f/2.8 L, perfect to shoot distant subjects.
You also have alternatives at Leica and Sigma, which offers several lenses for the Panasonic L frame:
- For landscape photography the Leica 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 or Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN,
- For low-light photography, I recommend looking at the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM or the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN,
- For portrait photography, you should choose the Sigma 85mm F/1.4 DG HSM that has an excellent reputation,
- For street photography, you can consider the Sigma 24mm F1.4 DG HSM.
|Type of lens||Panasonic (L)||Sigma (L)||Leica|
|Wide angle||16-35mm f/4 L||14mm f/1.8 Art DG HSM L|
14-24 mm f/2.8 DG DN
|16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH|
|Standard||24-105mm f/4 L
||20mm f/1.4 Art DG HSM L|
24mm f/1.4 Art DG HSM L
28mm f/1.4 Art DG HSM L
|Standard||24-70mm f/2.8 L||24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art L||24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH|
|Standard||50mm f/1.4 L
||35mm f/1.4 Art DG HSM L|
35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art L
40mm f/1.4 Art DG HSM L
45mm f/2.8 DG DN L
50mm f/1.4 Art DG HSM L
|Telephoto||70-200mm f/4 L
||85mm f/1.4 Art DG HSM L|
105mm f/1.4 Art DG HSM L
135mm f/1.4 Art DG HSM L
|90-280 f/2.8-4 ASPH|
|Telephoto||70-200mm f/2.8 L|
|Macro||70mm f/2.8 Art DG MACRO L|
5.3 Canon Full Frame mirrorless lenses
Canon’s entry into the world of mirrorless full frame was achieved with the release of the Canon R and the Canon RP. At the time of writing, the choice of Canon full frame mirrorless lenses is even more limited than from Panasonic. There is no third-party brand to my knowledge that offers Canon Full Frame, except Samyang/Rokinon offering a 14mm f/2.8 and 85mm f/1.4 (manual focusing though).
With Canon, I particularly recommend the RF 15-35mm L IS f/2.8 for landscape and architectural photography. For portrait photography, there is a superb RF 85mm f/1.2L USM. For travel, a Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS will be very interesting in many situations. If you are looking for something more versatile yet brighter, you can look to the RF 28-70mm f/2L USM. For street or low light photography, I would personally choose the 50mm f/1.2 or 35mm f/1.8 (much cheaper and of good reputation). Canon has just released their first 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS RF. Canon has focused on high-end, large aperture lenses for the launch of this Full frame world, but more affordable lenses should soon be made available.
To go even further, you can have a look at my page dedicated to the Canon RF lenses list. You will find all current Canon RF lenses updated daily, but also all third-party brands offering RF-mount lenses, such as Samyang, Laowa or Meike.
|Type of lens||Canon||Samyang||Laowa (MF)|
|Ultra wide angle||Laowa 11mm f/4 FF RL|
|Wide-angle||RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS||AF 14mm f/2.8 Canon RF|
MF 14mm f/2.8 Canon RF
|12mm f/2.8 Zero-D|
|Standard||RF 24-105mm f/4-7.1 IS STM||14mm f/4 FF RL Zero-D|
|Standard||RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
||15mm f/2 RF Zero-D|
|Standard||RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM|
|Standard||RF 28-70mm f/2L USM|
|Standard||RF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS|
|Standard||RF 50mm f/1.2L USM|
|Telephoto||RF 85mm f/1.2L USM||85mm f/1.4 Canon RF (MF)|
85mm f/1.4 Canon RF (AF)
|Telephoto||RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM|
|Telephoto||RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS
|Telephoto||RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM
|Super telephoto||RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L US USM|
|Super telephoto||RF 600mm f/11 IS STM|
|Super telephoto||RF 800mm f/11 IS STM|
|Macro||25mm f/2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro|
|Macro||100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO|
5.4 Nikon Full Frame mirrorless lenses
Nikon is in the same line as Canon on this side with a late arrival and a still very limited choice of optics. For landscape photography, I particularly recommend Nikkor Z 14-30 f/4 S. The Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S is ideal for portrait photography. The Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 S and the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8 S will be very suitable for street and low-light photography. For those looking for wide angles and a large aperture, there is also a 24mm f/1.8. There are no telephoto lenses at the time of writing. For a transtandard travel lens for example, you can choose the 24-70mm f/2.8 (or f/4 depending on the budget). In the list above, you can also use the two Samyang/Rokinon manual focusing lenses (14mm and 85mm).
If you want more details about all the lenses available for the Nikon Z mount, here is the dedicated page!
|Type of lens||Nikon||Samyang||Laowa (MF)|
|Ultra wide angle||Laowa 9mm f/5.6 FF RL|
|Ultra wide angle||Laowa 11mm f/4 FF RL|
|Wide angle||Nikon Z 14-24mm f2.8||Laowa 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6|
|Wide angle||Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S||Samyang 14mm f/2.8 Z (MF)||Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D|
|Wide angle||Nikon Z 20mm f/1.8 S||Laowa 14mm f/4 FF RL Zero-D|
|Wide angle||Nikon Z 24mm f/1.8 S||Laowa 15mm f/2 FE Zero-D|
|Standard||Nikon Z 24-50mm f/4-6.3|
|Standard||Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S|
|Standard||Nikon Z 24-70mm f/4 S|
|Standard||Nikon 24-105mm S|
|Wide angle||Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S|
|Standard||Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S|
|Standard||Nikon Z 50mm f/1.2 S|
|Standard||Nikon Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct|
|Standard||Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S||Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Z (MF)|
|Telephoto||Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR|
|Telephoto||Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S VR|
|Super telephoto||Nikon Z 100-400mm S|
|Super telephoto||Nikon Z 200-600mm|
|Macro||25mm f/2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro|
|Macro||100mm f/2.8 2x Ultra Macro APO|
So, I’m coming to the end of this post on choosing a mirrorless lens! I will try to keep this list as up-to-date as possible in order to integrate new releases. This article is the result of extensive investigation and cross-referencing of information. If you enjoyed the work put into this article, it helped you and you want to support this blog, you can decide (at no extra cost for you) to use one of the links in the article to choose your lens! I hope that this work will help you in choosing your future lens! If you see any errors or omissions (it’s possible…), don’t hesitate to contact me!
Have you found this post helpful for your next purchase or not? 🙂
I’ll see you soon,