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Sony ‘open-source’ E-mount: New Lenses on the way

27 Feb Posted by Matt in News |
Sony ‘open-source’ E-mount: New Lenses on the way

The Sony E-mount is the name for the lens-fitting used on the popular (and excellent!) Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5 compact system cameras (both the Sony NEX-3 and Sony NEX-5 are available now.

Sony NEX-5

Sony NEX-5

Compact system cameras are like Digital SLRs in that they have interchangeable lenses and large image sensors (for better image quality), but are physically much smaller and more portable.

Sales of compact system cameras have risen very sharply in the last two years, and although Digital SLRs still sell in larger numbers at the moment, as compact system cameras get more feature-rich and more accessories become available we expect sales to grow even stronger.

This leads us to Sony’s latest plan aimed at helping this trend along a bit; they’re opening up the standard they use for their NEX-3 and NEX-5 lenses (known as the E-mount).

One of the biggest setbacks for compact system cameras (for all brands, not just Sony) is that the number of lenses available is generally quite limiting, and often what is available can be relatively expensive.  Taking the Sony range as an example, there are currently just three E-mount lenses available – a 16mm wide-angle ‘pancake’ lens, a standard 18-55mm zoom, and a 18-200mm zoom lens.  For the enthusiast this is, at best, a restrictive selection.

Sony NEXBy opening up the standard, Sony hope that third-party lens manufacturers will start making E-mount lenses that fit the NEX series of cameras.

This is good news; not only will this give consumers more choice, but third-party lenses also tend to be cheaper than OEM ones.

Which third-party lenses will be available?

The announcement that Sony is opening up the E-mount specification has gone down well with third-party manufacturers, with the following companies suggesting that they will be offering lenses in the future:

  • Sigma
  • Tamron
  • Cosina
  • Carl Zeiss

Sigma and Tamron are particularly notable, as not only are they the most dominant third-party lens manufacturers, but they’ve also proven popular with enthusiasts on a budget over many years.

Good news for Video and Film-makers

The NEX-3 and NEX-5 can produce some surprisingly good quality videos, giving the most DSLR-esque feel of any compact system camera.  This is largely thanks to the large APS-C sized image sensor in both models, which helps when trying to create a shallow depth of field.

Sony NXCAM E-Mount Camcorder

Sony NXCAM

Film-makers haven’t tended to opt for the Sony NEX series for anything serious as yet, with Canon Digital SLRs (particularly the 5D MkII) still the favourite for creating a ‘film look’ with digital technology.

This could be set to change though, as the already announced Sony NXCAM (pictured) is set to launch in the first half of this year.

We already predicted that the NXCAM would make a mark in 2011, but the restrictive selection of lenses was always going to be an issue if Sony hoped to sell the camera to professional or semi-professional videographers.

Our Verdict

Sony opening up the E-mount lens system is great news for consumers, who will now be able to enjoy both a wider and potentially more affordable selection of lenses for their NEX-3 and NEX-5 cameras.  It also shows that Sony is serious about the E-mount lens system, and with the launch of the NXCAM Handycam shortly we are already seeing the system become more prevalent.

This news may have come as a bit of a shock (Sony are hardly famed for opening up their technologies to third-parties), but it’s a welcome shock.

We loved the NEX-5 when we tested it last year, and whilst it didn’t win our group test it still comes highly recommended. You can buy both the Sony NEX-3 and Sony NEX-5 right now.

Sony NEX-5

 

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