E Mount lenses are perfect for Sony FS7 and Alpha cameras
The Sony FS-7 and now FS-7 Mk II are amongst the most popular mid-range 4K cameras around today and whilst they are compatible with either EF mount or PL mount lenses with suitable adapters, the FS7 series cameras are fitted with a native lens mount E mount or APS-C format and it is not commonly known that lenses actually exist which can be fitted directly to these cameras without needing an adapter.
This is a shame, as there are some useful lenses available to the film maker today and this article explores the advantages of using native APS-C or E mount lenses and details the range of lenses available today.
In case you are confused with the naming convention, there is no difference between E Mounts or Sony α Mount and as these are all different names for the same mount. APS-C format represents the image size, which is very comparable to Super-35 and is independent of lens mount, though this is often used with E Mount lenses.
For easy reading, I shall refer to this mount as an E-mount, rather than calling it an E-Mount/APS-C/Sony α Mount.
Why does the E-format exist?
Without going into the boring bits about image sensor compatibilities and available space to sensor to permit multiple lens options etc, the important thing here to note is that:
- Native EF mount cameras are NOT compatible with PL adapters (C300, 5D, Blackmagic),
- The native E mount cameras (Sony FS7, A7S Mk II etc) are compatible with both EF and PL adapters to allow both EF mount and PL lenses to be used.
This is a great advantage, since there are an enormous range of EF and PL lenses available today, all of which are compatible to use giving a huge choice to choose from.
The Canon C300 Mk II and ARRI Alexa Mini/Amira get around this limitation by making the camera lens mount interchangeable to give the user a choice of either a native PL or EF mount but changing the lens mount does involve some unscrewing and refitting and also exposes the sensor. This is not for everybody and certainly not something that you want to do in the field.
In contrast to this, the original Canon C300 Mk I did not have interchangeable lens mounts, so you had to choose whether to buy a native PL or native EF version depending on the lenses that you planned to use.
The Panasonic EVA 1, Canon 5D series cameras, Canon ME20 super low light camera and many Black Magic cameras others ONLY make cameras with a native EF mount.
Seen in this light, an E mount is actually quite versatile.
Using Lens Adapters - PL and EF lenses with FS7
With an E-mount camera like the Sony FS7, using a PL adapter does not pose any problems, since all PL lenses are manual lenses by design (the /i data is not compatible with adapters) and the adapter is simply metalwork.
However, using EF lenses with an E-mount camera can be less responsive. Since the majority of EF lenses are electronic and often are devoid of an iris ring (iris control is controlled via the camera body on EF cameras), so users have little option but to use the now-familiar Metabones series lens adapters. These work well and allow EF lenses to be fitted to E mount camera and the user is able to manually ride the iris (or control the iris from the camera) but users frequently claim that iris control is not as responsive as using manual lenses or cameras with native EF mounts.
Another issue is that using lens adapters introduces inherently more ‘play’ in the lenses, since the lens being used will have 3 x separate mounting points to the camera, rather than just 1 when using a native lens mount.
Native E Mount Lenses
Happily, there is a 3rd option and that is to use lenses with native E-mounts – these fit directly to the camera body avoiding using a lens adapter.
- Avoiding a lens adapter make the camera system shorter
- Ensures a solid lens fit without the play introduced when using lens adapters.
- Electronic lens control (where appropriate) is also more responsive, since there is no electronic conversion process which occurs.
Full Frame and S-35 coverage for E-Mount Lenses
One caveat here is worth mentioning – whilst all of these lenses are compatible with FS7 series cameras, A7S series cameras are not compatible with all of them as they have a full-frame sensor.
Essentially, the Sony FS7 and FS7 Mk II have Super-35 coverage, whereas the Sony A7S Mk I and Mk II achieve full frame coverage.
- This means that S-35 lenses won’t make an image large enough to cover the full full-frame sensor if using an A7S MkII, so vignetting will result.
- If you are using the A7S series cameras, be aware that if you are shooting 4K then you will use full-frame and can only use the Sony electronic lenses presently.
- If you are shooting A7 series cameras in HD (not 4K), then you can activate the S-35 windowing (called APS-C mode) and use all of these lenses.
- However, since most shooting is now in 4K mode, this will be a problem. I agree that this is confusing.
Perceived Field of View for Full Frame and S-35
The second issue worth mentioning is that for the Sony compatible lenses, working in Full frame means that the perceived field of view (in full frame mode) is wider than that of S-35, owing to a larger image size being generated by the lens.
The very useful website by Abelcine here demonstrates this very effectively.
The Range of available E-Mount Lenses
VMI stocks 3 x separate types of E Mount lenses: The native Sony SELP/SELZ zooms, the Fujinon MK series zooms and the Veydra Mini primes.
Note that more native E mount lenses are available in the marketplace but VMI currently stock this range of lenses and this is likely to continue to increase as these lenses become more popular.
Sony SEL G series Zooms
VMI currently stock 3 x Sony native E mount lenses for hire, all of which are budget lenses and have two advantages of being both compact and lightweight (roughly 0.5kg) though all have a relatively slow F4 maximum iris. They are fully electronic lenses and full auto control and servo functions are compatible with both the Sony FS7 (Mk I or II) and A7S (Mk I or II).
Their electronic design though means that manual operation is rather limited and their limited focus rotation and design makes them unsuited to focus pulling and conventional film-type applications such as using wireless lens control systems etc.
Compact and lightweight design (roughly 0.5kg)
Fully electronic lenses permitting full auto control
Servo functions are compatible with both the Sony FS7 (Mk I or II) and A7S (Mk I or II), permitting autofocus, servo zoom, auto-focus and also auto iris as well.
Great for documentary applications
Relatively slow F4 maximum iris may be a disadvantage to those wanting to easily throw the backgrounds out of focus.
A shallow depth of field is much easier to achieve with the Fujinon MK series and Veydra lenses detailed below.
Sony 16-35mm FF/S35 zoom
The Sony SELZ1635 is a 16-35mm/F4 zoom lens which has an equivalent 35mm range when working in cropped mode on the A7S cameras of 24-53mm.
Sony 18-105mm FF/S35 zoom
The Sony SELP 18105G is an 18-105mm/F4 zoom lens which has an equivalent 35mm range when working in cropped mode on the A7S cameras of 27-157.5mm.
Sony 28-135mm FF/S35 zoom
The Sony SELP 281135G is a 28-135mm/F4 zoom lens which has an equivalent 35mm range when working in cropped mode on the A7S cameras of 42-202mm.
Fujinon MK series E Mount Zooms
Fujinon has taken a completely different approach to Sony and created 4K quality zoom lenses specifically designed for S-35 coverage and supplied with a native E mount.
Fujinon has manufactured two film zoom lenses to cover the 18-135mm range with an 18-55/T2.9 and 50-135/T2.9. Both achieve a constant T2.9 thoughout their zoom range, don’t flare and equipped with special coatings to match the look of other Fujinon film zoom lenses. Importantly, both are manufactured with a native E mount and are designed to cover S-35 but not full-frame.
Unlike the Sony lenses, these are fully manual throughout and are built inside robust metal housings. They feature clear focus scales and feel like serious lenses. Their 4K performance with minimal focus breathing, 200 degrees of focus adjustment and being fitted with industry standard 0.8 gear focus gear teeth reflects their precision design and manufacture.
They are also surprisingly light (just under 1kg) and of course fit directly onto Sony FS7 (Mk I & II) though worth repeating that neither are compatible with the Sony A7S in 4K mode, since these cover S-35 only.
Crucially, compared with DSLR primes, these are parfocal, so focus is held when you are zooming.
Both of the Fujinon MK zoom lenses incorporate a Macro and back focus adjustment.
Fujinon 18-55mm S35 zoom
The Fujinon MK 18-55mm/T2.9 Cinema Zoom Lens is a 4K zoom lens which covers 18mm-55mm in S-35 and a minimum focus distance of 2’9” or 1’3” in macro mode. It weighs just 0.98kg (2.16lb) and is 20.6cm in length. (compare this with a metabones and 24-70mm lens at 16cm).
The MK 18-55 also incorporates a macro mode for close focussing capabilities and a flange adjustment for adjusting the back focus.
Fujinon 50-135mm S35 zoom
The Fuji MK 50-135mm/T2.9 Cinema Zoom Lens is a 4K zoom lens which covers 50mm-135mm in S-35 and a minimum focus distance of 3’11” or 2’9” in macro mode. It weighs just 0.98kg (2.16lb) and is 20.6cm in length. Compares with 23cm for 70-200 and Metabones
Like the 18-55, the MK 50-135 also incorporates a macro mode for close focussing capabilities and a flange adjustment for adjusting the back focus.
Veydra are a lesser-known Californian lens company who manufacture purpose built mini prime lenses with Chinese optics which are surprisingly good.
They manufacture a The Veydra Cinema lens prine set which features extraordinarily compact lenses which are just 11.5cm long and weigh just 880 grams per lens.
Whilst these are manufactured to cover micro 4/3 images, the 5 lens sets that VMI stock are fitted with native E-Mounts which fully cover Super-35 of 19mm-85mm and are all T2.2 (except for the 19mm which is T2.6), so easy to produce a shallow depth of field.
- Really small (only 11.5cm long) - especially considering that a further 3cm of an unnecessary Metabones adapter is also saved
- Common Form factor and lens front 80mm (VMI modification)
- Cover Super-35 (not full frame)
- Cinema lens form factor construction with 0.8 cinema pitch gears, so will work with follow focus
- Constant T stop of T2.2 (25mm-85mm); 18mm is T2,6
- 4K+ resolution
- Excellent coatings
- 19mm/T2.6 Veydra Cinema Mini Prime lens
- 25mm/T2.2 Veydra Cinema Mini Prime lens
- 35mm/T2.2 Veydra Cinema Mini Prime lens
- 50mm/T2.3 Veydra Cinema Mini Prime lens
- 85mm/T2.3 Veydra Cinema Mini Prime lens
- E-mount lenses are a really good option if using the Sony FS7 series cameras and all E Mount lenses are compatible with FS7
- Be aware that not all E Mount lenses are totally compatible with A7S series cameras. Only full frame lenses are compatible if shooting 4K, otherwise you risk vignetting when shooting in 4K mode.
- Using E-mount lenses saves on having to use an unnecessary Metabones adapters and this makes the camera system shorter, the lens mount more secure and electronic functions a bit faster.
- E-Mount lenses include a choice of using fully electronic lenses which are constructed and act/feel more like DSLR lenses but feature an electronic zoom as well as both auto focus and auto iris functions, though the downside is that they have a relatively slow T4 iris.
- Alternatively, you can also select either E-Mount film zooms or mini film primes, which are currently available from Fujinon MK series and Veydra.*
- The Fujinon MK series E-mount primes are compact and lightweight but still are surprisingly high quality and have a very solid feel to them. They act and feel much more like conventional film primes, rather than DSLR primes and feature full 4K quality. They also hold their focus when zooming (parfocal), don’t flare and exhibit minimal focus breathing; they feature a constant T2.9 iris, so are easy to create a shallow depth of field with and the 2 lenses presently available have a useful focal range. The downside is that they are a bit more expensive and are manual operation only*.
- The Veydra Mini primes are also worth considering, since these are also native E-Mount** and are a comparable size to DSLR primes. Featuring a maximum iris of T2.2-T2.6 allows the operator to generate a shallow depth of field which film makers so desire, with comparative ease but being prime lenses means that you will have to change lenses whenever you require to change your focal length.
- Ultimately, using native E-mount lenses are worth considering but just make sure that you make appropriate equipment choices suitable to how you shoot.
* External lens servo option is available from P+S Technic and full WLCS systems from multiple manufacturers.
** Veydra Mini Cinema Primes have a variety of different mounts including Micro 4/3 and E Mount but VMI only supply these with a native E-mounts
Barry Bassett, July 2018
Helpful and practical advice
As a regular user of Sony Alpha and FS7 cameras, I'm used to working with a metabones adapter to make use of the wide range of EF lenses available. It's good to know that there are lot of native E Mount lenses around. Also useful for some of the auto functions which often don't work via a metabones adapter.