25 Feb 2015

Lenses for mFT-cameras

Lenses for mFT-cameras

Updated April 2nd 2015
© Jouko Lehto

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with these companies - except that I use some of their products. I don't work for them, they don't pay me anything. Also the information here is collected from public resources - manufactures pages, dealer information, lens tests, ebay... I have no legal responsibility on the information - the manufactures can change the items as they like, and the list shows no hint of the quality of the lenses.

Canarian Kestrel. Tenerife.
Olympus OMD E-M1 + m.Zuiko 75-300mm @ 270mm f6.7, ISO 800. © Jouko Lehto

In the beginning...

Basicly I'm intersted in lenses available for mFt-cameras because I use them. I have about enough lenses really - some mFt, some FT, some older manual lenses - and mostly use the AF-compatible ones now. But there are always use for the older ones for some special reason: nostalgic, rendering, reach, macro ability etc... Mostly nostalgic anyway. And there are now and then the questions about the need to change a lens or send it tho the service - even "new" lenses need that sometimes. 

There were so many threats in different locations (DpReview, 43rumors etc) asking for the next lenses, complaining about the lack of some specific lens etc, that I decided to make a list of available ones. I knew, that it is going to be a quite long list, because I personally have quite many, maybe even too many lenses myself, and there are lots of choices more out there.
But I was suprised. With a little digging I found new manufacturers, some I had never heard of, making lenses to this system. So the list grew. There are some very exotic choices (by features): F0.8-0.95 lenses, full circle fisheyes, special macros... Not to mention pancakes, pinholes and very compact telezooms. There are AF-lenses from 7mm to 300mm now available as new, equivalent from 14mm to 600mm in "full format". 

So, not too many holes there anymore. Remember, all the 43-lenses (FT) are usable with converter in mFT-body: AF may be slow with some cameras, but apertures work fine, contacts work and even EXIF-info and IS-system work, if the last one is available in the body. Some companies make only manual focus lenses (like Samyang, Cosina-Voigtländer and SLR Magic), but that does not mean the lenses are poor. In fact, if you check some reviews and tests, they are mostly at least very good, and usually excellent. Manual focusing and using aperture manually of course is more difficult than working full auto, but that's the way life is.

If you are interested on the lenses or other equipment, please check the manufactures pages about the availability, and also some tests / reviews / comments of the one you are interested in. Most of the lenses are on production, except the ones marked. Some might be officially announced, but just not out yet. Fortunately it is easy nowadays to make some comparisons before buying...
There are also toylenses, bodycap lenses and pinholes etc on the list - maybe not high quality lenses on traditionally thinking (meaning sharpness, contrast, color rendering etc), but able to give some special results in the right hands, as any lens. After all, it is always the photographer that makes the photo.

The List

I have divited the list for three main parts: PRIMES, ZOOMS AND OTHER. You'll find the normal subcategories (fisheye, wide etc) from the list. Basically the lenses are listed by the shortest focal length, and fastest (largest) aperture first within equal focal lengths.

PRIMES contain single focal lenght lenses, ZOOMS (varifocal and parfocal lenses) and OTHER focal length reducers, teleconverters and extension tubes. And in the Prime-section there is the SPECIAL MACRO... real special lens. Other macro lenses are included in the normal or tele-sections. 

With varifocal zoom lenses tho point of focus changes when the lens is zoomed, with parfocal lenses the focus point stays the same. There is no info about which type the zooms now are, but that is not so big deal with AF-lenses - you focus again after zooming and composing anyway ... But, of course, the parfocal design would make the workflow faster when needed, and using the lens for video would be easier. No info available anyway.

There are some strange Field of view-degrees with some lenses: I suppose this is partly due because of the differences between lens designs and real focal lenghts (so they are real), and mostly because different measuring methods with FOV. Usually it is measured diagonally. In reality I'd suppose that the lenses with the same advertized focal length will have about the same FOV.

Primes or Zooms?

Some years ago - decades in fact - if you wanted the best image quality the lens choice would always be a prime. Now those days are gone. If you check some lens reviews and test results, you'll find that the zooms are really good now, and there is no real difference in the overall image quality between the best zooms and the best primes.

Why to choose a prime then? To make a premium fast zoom there needs to be quite a lot of glass inside. Premium fast zoom is always larger and heavier than a prime with the same aperture - and a prime can be made even faster. But then there is also the question, that how many primes you'll need to cover the zoom range... Is the 12-35 or 12-40 F2.8 enough, do you need a faster aperture and in which focal lenght, or even more lenses? Or, if you have the 12mm, 20mm and 45mm lenses, do you need everything in between? How much do you want to carry?

And then there are other aspects of image quality than sharpness and contrast. The much talked BOKEH, meaning the way out of focus areas turn out in the final image. MICRO CONTRAST, how well and real the smallest details of feathers or fabric show out. FOCUS SPEED and RELIABILITY... BUILT QUALITY? Check the tests and reviews for those.

F or T ?

F-stops, T-stops... Two different ways to measure the aperture and light transmission. F-stops refer to the aperture (1/F), T-stops to the real light transmission. Basicly, lenses with F-stops are usually designed and made for photography and lenses with T-stops for videography. Last ones usually have "clickless" aperture construction, and F-stops a marked with clikcs. But, both can be used for photography and video. F-stops and T-stops compare to each other so, that F-stops are a bit faster in markings: F2 is about  T2.2. So the fastest lens on the list is either F0.8 or T0.95... Pretty fast anyway.

Winter scene. Olympus OMD E-M1+ Samyang 7.5mm f3.5 FE at f8.
Photo shows some lens reflections etc, but hey, that's just 
taken right against the sun.  © Jouko Lehto

Software correction vs optical correction

About all new lenses rely in the in camera or raw software correction for barreling, vignetting and chromatic aberration corrections. Older lenses (FT-series) were mostly built to correct those optically. In the end, from the results, it is difficult to know how the correction was done.

Coatings and hoods?

Even if some of the manufactures don't announce it anymore, I think it is quite safe to say that about all of these lenses are multicoated on a way or another. Most modern technology is the nanocoatings, which uses nanoparticles to reduce reflections. Names like nanocoating or zerocoating mean that. The older technologies are not as effective, but work quite fine too. Still, I'd recommend to use a hood too: that empty tube in front of the lens adds contrast shading the front element, reduces reflections and protects the front element from dust, moisture and fingerprints.


When you are reading the photogrpahy forums, lens test etc, you can not pass the "equivalence"-term. Basicly it is the question to compare the field of view with lenses between different formats, and the "full format" meaning the old 135-film size (or 35, kino, whatever). Nowadays there are "full format cameras" like Sony A7-series, Canon 5D-versions, Nikon.... They have the same size of sensor as the old SLR-cameras had for film.  

mFT-cameras have smaller sensors. The crop factor is 2 - so, to get a "normal" 50mm equivalent field of view, we need a 25mm lens. And the 150mm tele corresponds a 300mm lens. Easy? No.

Field of view, FOV, in fact is about easy. It works, about, anyway enough, if you are familiar with those FF-systems, modern or pass, for you to get the lens or focal lenght you want. If you are not, you'll learn the this system while using it. No problem. For us oldies, 2x is good enough.

Depth of Field, DOF: it is dependent of the real focal lenght and used aperture. So, a 25mm lens with F1.4 is a 25mm lens with F1.4. Equivalent for 50mm F 2.8. The smaller the F-stop NUMBER, the larger the aperture opening, and the thinner the DOF. And the longer the lens and shorter the focusing distance, the thinner the DOF. On the other words: a wide-angle stopped down to F8 and focused to infinity has a large DOF, a 300mm at F2.8 and focused to 2m has a very thin DOF.

Metering the light: Use the real values: F1.4 = F1.4, F8 = F8... The camera does that anyway. If you are using some other meter, make a test shot too. On important shots, do that always, and check the results. There are discussions about how many photons hit the sensor in reality etc, but that goes too deep in theory to have any influence for my use of camera. Maybe has something for the engineers...

ISO-values: ISO-values mean the sensors sensitivity for light. All sensors have the base sensitivity (usually ISO 100 or 200), and that can be changed by used voltage, between reasonable limits. Theoretically ISO-values are compareable between different camera manufactures, but... In practice all the in-camera prosessing is included into the ISO-value setting, so the metered ISO/shutter speed /aperture combination can vary quite a lot between different camera manufactures and camera models. Meaning:
  1. If you are using different camera models, don't just move the values from one into the other. Use cameras own meter, and take some test shots, check results. In reality: that's what you do anyway.
  2. The corresponding ISO-value between different camera bodies can vary quite a lot - lets say "standard" ISO 800 can be something like ISO 400 to ISO 1600. But, in practise: use the camera you have, the ISO/ shutter speed/ aperture combination is the thing that makes the effective exposure.
  3. The higher the ISO, the more noise you'll get. How much is acceptable or too much, is up to you. The overall circumstances and the meant use of the photo also have a factor here. 


 (And most of us, really): If you are just getting into photography and not sure what you are going to shoot with your camera, getting into a new hobby - or casual shooters, with nothing particular in mind, but wanting to travel light... The KIT systems are really quite good and always a good starting point. Not too expensive, really capable for great results and flexible. One or two lenses from around 14mm to 150mm (there are variations) give both a reasonable wide angle and a longish tele, useful in nature and travel photography. Both- and everything in between - in a compact and light, easy to manage and hold baggage. Later you can add some more lenses or change to faster ones, after you find out what you need.


The next manufacturers are now included in the lists:

California, Cosina (Voigtländer), Fotodiox, Jackar, Kipon, Kodak, Kooka, Kowa, Lensbaby, Metabones, Meyer-Optik-Görlitz, Mitakon, Neewer, Olympus, Panasonic, Photex, RJ Camera, Samyang (alias Rokinon, Walimex), Schneider, Sigma, Skink, SLR Magic, Tamron, Tokina, Veydra, Viltrox, Yasuhara, Zeiss and ZY Optics. Missing some?

What more?

Quite a list on next pages. But I'm sure there will be plenty of more. And we don't have to wait too long for the next ones.

My quess: More AF lenses coming, and maybe also from new companies. Longer superzooms. Tamron has a patent for a 14-300mm lens... Quess the proper format? Maybe even something to the longer side. One trend seems also be faster, wider aperture primes. Olympus has patents for F1-lenses... Hopefully there will be something compatible with the wallets too.


PS1. Even if the lens is marked as "out of production", it doesn't mean it is unusable or poor quality. In fact, some of the older lenses are of very high quality in every way. FT-lenses work fine IQ-wise with every mFT-body, but are usually larger and heavier than the new lenses. Sometimes that is good, sometimes not.

PS2. Some lenses are sold under different names. Samyang for example is sold also under Rokinon and Walimex brands - but the lenses are the same. I have just listed one name here.

PS3. Some cine-lenses can be in fact with PL-mounts - they are here because they are marketed also as mFT lenses. As full manual lenses they have all the original functionality anyway. There are also other manufactures making PL-lenses, not mentioned here. And other mounts adaptable to mFT - C, M42, L39, T, Leica M, Nikon F, Canon FD & EF, Pentax K, Minolta MD... About every manual lens can be used with these bodies. Pick yours.

PS4. There are now AF-compatible adapters available for Canon EF-mount too. At least Kipon and Metabones make those - but the results of the real AF-useability seems to vary from adapter to adapter and lens to lens. Check the day's results from manufacturers pages and user blogs and comments around the net. Updates and new products change things.

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