See my L-mount mirrorless wishlist.
Roy P writes:
As you were publishing the Sigma announcement of 11 lenses for the L mount, I was ordering the Panasonic S1R! I decided to go for it. Based on the feedback from some people who have tested M lenses with the S1R, it looks like they will work well. So I finally have my street photography setup, EIGHT years after dumping my Leica M9. (I still have six M mount lenses.)
As I was saying when the L-mount alliance was announced, Sigma appears to be the biggest winner, followed by Panasonic. Sigma now has a great outlet for all its lenses that is virtually free of competition. With the Sony E mount, there were always competing lenses from Sony or Zeiss. For the L-mount, it’s totally green field.
No one in their right mind is likely to buy Leica SL lenses for use with the Panasonic cameras when there are so many Sigma lenses and Canon FE lenses with the MC-21 adapter. Panasonic has no lenses, and Sigma has lenses coming out of its wazoo. And finally, Sigma has a clean way to offer a FF Foveon camera that can start its life with a lot of available lenses on day one. Many M-mount lens owners like myself will likely get the Panasonic and / or Sigma cameras, too.
Panasonic S1R and S1 and Lenses
I can hear Sigma and Panasonic laughing all the way to the bank. Exactly what does Leica get out of this, apart from some royalty dollars perhaps, for the L mount? No idea.
Re. “why no Nikon F adapter?“ – it’s a PITA to autofocus with Nikon AF-S lenses. Something to do with their construction that requires the Nikon DSLRs to do more work than other cameras like Canon or Sony have to with their AF lenses. So to building an effective adapter for Nikon lenses requires some of that functionality from Nikon cameras to be replicated inside the adapters, which is not easy. For the past 4+ years, at least 3-4 companies have tried to build AF adapters for F mount lenses and none has worked well.
DIGLLOYD: Panasonic has three L-mount lenses announced for the Panasonic S1R as of March 2019, two zooms and a prime.
I’m skeptical on the Leica M lenses, as this would require extremely thin sensor cover glass not much different than the Leica M10—or some other mitigating sensor design aspect that I do not understand. In the past, all claims on M lenses “working great” have proven to be hogwash when examined critically. See for example the MTF performance losses of the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon on Sony mirrorless as well as two evaluations on the Nikon Z7 of the Zeiss ZM 35/1.4. I don’t see how this can change unless the sensor cover glass is seriously thin on the S1R (maybe it is?). Still, I hope to be proven wrong, as I also have six Leica M lenses along with a hugely devalued Leica M240 (still makes very nice images, but I never shoot it).
As to “no one in their right mind” buying Leica SL lenses, I don’t see it that way—rather, the Leica SL lenses are so expensive that they are out of reach for most buyers. I do want to evaluate at least a few of them, to see just how good (or not) they are at 45 megapixels. They are probably highly attractive, but the price is off-putting and in that respect, the “right mind” comment does apply, sort of—there are buyers out there that may well find them perfect for their needs, such as pros with specific needs (performance, the “look”, etc) or just people for whom money is not a concern and want the (at least perceived) best.
Jason W writes:
My reaction is the S1R and S1 are priced too high and the L-mount is a millstone. I imagine it has added licensing costs that will be passed on to the user, the average user can't afford L-mount glass and the smart user would not want it, if I remember what you've demonstrated in testing. They'd have done better to keep the price below Sony, introduce reasonably priced native licenses, and partner with Sigma for increased options.
DIGLLOYD: the Panasonic S1R is priced about 10% higher than the Nikon Z7. With the best EVF by far (ultra high res), so it's said, I have yet to see it. Plus it has pixel shift and a new type of high dynamic range sensor (pixel shift also increases dynamic range, when used). I’d say that if any of those pan out, the 10% premium is more than fair. And that’s just current full list price.
Licensing fees could be built into the L-mount lenses but so what? All I care about as a buyer is the actual price I have to pay, and prices for the Sigma DG HSM Art lenses for L-mount seem to the the same as for Nikon F or Sony FE or Canon EF mounts. Even if they were $100 more, I can’t see that as important.
Leica SL lenses—there are 4 or 5 lenses that I have not tested and I’d bet they are very good. The affordability point remains, but if a lens addresses a need for a pro or cash-rich lens aficionado, it’s better to have them available. Build quality would concern me given Leica’s record on Leica S lens quality (internal build and repair record).
Panasonic lens prices as shown above are full list price, and are in line with competitors, and in some cases a lot lower (70-200). The 50/1.4 is a primo lens but same price as the Canon RF 50/1.2L (ignoring the current instant rebate). So I don't think price point is a differentiator.
Ronnie A writes:
Regarding the Sigma lenses for Panasonic (and also for Sony), these lenses are somewhat disappointing in terms of design concept: they are not designed to take advantage of these mounts (large diameter, but especially short flange depth). Instead, they are inherently compromised designs, originally made for DSLRs, with the offset (long flange depth) required for the mirror box.
Sigma has basically just added an adapter to their existing DSLR designs for the Panasonic, the only difference from third party adapters being that the adapter is built in.
The new Canon designs for their full frame mirrorless should be much better, since they are starting with a clean sheet, to take advantage of the short flange depth to create beautiful lens designs.
I understand, commercially, what Sigma is doing: it’s much less expensive to use an existing design just adapted for the new mount, and it will be much quicker to the market. However, it’s still disappointing: they could have made a new lens design, adapting their existing designs, instead of just adding a mount adapter for the new mount – just look at the length of those lenses! They’re made for a camera with a virtual mirror box!
DIGLLOYD: Ronnie A is hitting the same nail I pounded in Sigma DG HSM Art Lenses for Sony Mirrorless: Ergonomic and Other Concerns.
The awkward barrel extension (or its equivalent, the lens adapter) aside, some of the Sigma DG HSM Art DSLR lenses are stunning performers. For example the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, and it doesn’t matter if it is shot on a DSLR (Nikon D850) or mirrorless (Nikon Z7 or Canon EOS R or (I predict excellence) Panasonic S1R—it’s an outstanding lens.
I applaud Sigma’s move, because even while the barrel extension is undesirable at best, it makes available a very wide range immediately. Which is more than Canon mirrorless and Nikon mirrorless can say for their lens lines.
While it would be nice to have seen 11 new Sigma optical mirrorless designs, at no time in photographic history has any company been able to pull of more than 2 or 3 high-end designs quickly (I deem all Sigma DG HSM Art lenses “high end”). Thus it is unrealistic to think that Sigma can just deliver a dozen all-new lens designs, nor have Canon and Nikon.
DSLR lens designs have always been friendly to mirrorless because ray angle is highly favorable for most designs. This is not to say DSLR lens designs are the best or most optimal design for mirrorless (since the short backfocal distance of mirrorless simplifies some aspect of design), but rarely are DSLR lenses any worse on mirrorless (there might be slight variations due to sensor cover glass thickness, but that is not a DSLR or mirrorless distinction by itself).
Clean sheet mirrorless lens design
As for “clean sheet” design, that’s always true regardless of platform (witness the huge improvement in DSLR lenses in the past 3-4 year), but in moving from DSLR to mirrorless optical designs two factors work in favor of mirrorless: (1) larger flange opening and (2) a shorter backfocal distance. Reducing/removing those constraints allows more freedom in the optical design, reducing the number of design tradeoffs. That means the potential for faster/smaller/higher performing lenses for the same cost and/or making it easier to design ultra high performance lenses and/or lenses with fewer design tradeoffs.
Potential vs actual performance
There may be some unreasonable optimism out there about the potential vs the actual. Canon has beautifully exploited the potential of the short flange focal distance by going all-out with the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L and Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L, but that high-grade performance comes at a very high price. At the same time, the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM is a dud. I say “dud” because the 24-105/4L is only marginally better than the DSLR version at a very similar cost—the gains are there but are incremental as per Canon’s own white paper.
In terms of potential vs actual optical gains, the existence proofs are already there with Sony mirrorless lenses: many are excellent, but not a few are only modestly better than DSLR lenses and there have been quality control issues as well. In other words, there are DSLR lenses as good or better than equivalent mirrorless ones.
As of March 2019, Nikon has failed to deliver any lenses demonstrating the full potential of the much wider flange and short backfocal distance. I refer specifically to the consumer-grade Nikon NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S, Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S and Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S. The new lenses are vastly improved in correction for secondary color, and are very good lenses overall, but fall short of what I would like to see. They are better than their mediocre predecessors, but also cost about double for the primes. Had the cost been the same, that would be a solid testament to the gains possible, but with the much higher price, it is not in evidence that the mirrorless design moved the bar forward on a performance-vs-cost basis.
In other words, demonstrating that a mirrorless lens has clearly superior performance for the same lens speed and price and similar size and weight is most interesting. Or perhaps substantially reduced size and weight for the same performance, which is indeed what Nikon states about the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S (25% smaller, 18% lighter)—so that appears to be a clean-cut win.
The very best performance is going to cost a lot, just as with DSLR lenses. Indeed, even though mirrorless removes certain design obstacles, the very best performance still means a much higher price as the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L and Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L demonstrate.