With a bang, Carl Zeiss is introducing a new family of autofocus lenses for mirrorless system cameras at photokina 2012. Dr. Michael Pollmann, Consumer Lenses Product and Program Manager in the Carl Zeiss Camera Lenses Division, is addressing frequently asked questions in a Q&A.
What is the idea behind this new product family of mirrorless system cameras?
The market for mirrorless system cameras (CSC) is becoming increasingly important. This increases the demand for powerful lenses. We are seeing great potential for our new family of lenses.
Why has Carl Zeiss waited so long to enter this market?
We have observed this market very carefully. Initially, many considered it a "cheap system camera segment" with slightly more sophistication than the market for compact cameras. That was not in line with our idea of quality. However, when growing numbers of camera manufacturers began to offer high quality cameras, Carl Zeiss’ interest in this market increased. Since the introduction of Sony’s NEX-7 and Fujifilm's X-Pro 1, it became obvious that CSC cameras required quality lenses. So we decided that the time was ripe to bring such lenses to the market.
What sizes are the lenses designed for?
To showcase our high demands on imaging quality, we decided to focus on cameras with sensor size APS-C.
What focal lengths will be offered?
It will be a product family of its own. Three prime lenses are already in development: 2.8/12, 1.8/32 and 2.8/50 macro.
Will Carl Zeiss offer zoom lenses for that?
We’ll start the family with prime lenses. Zoom lenses are an option that is still being considered.
What type of bayonet (mounts) will be supported?
The new lenses will be available for Sony E-bayonet (Sony NEX cameras) and for Fujifilm X-bayonet (Fujifilm X cameras).
Will they be manual focus lenses like most other SLR lenses made by Carl Zeiss?
The new family of lenses will consist of autofocus lenses with support for all camera functions. The E-mount lenses for NEX cameras can also be focused manually. In addition to that, the lenses for the X-bayonet will come with a manual aperture setting.
What type of material do you use for the lenses?
We use different types of glass.
Will the housing of the new lenses be made of metal?
The mirrorless system cameras are lighter and more compact in comparison to SLR cameras. With this new line of lenses, we are continuing our concept of high-quality lenses for this camera system while attempting to construct them with relatively light materials. For the mechanical parts, we were looking for the best tradeoff between quality in material and total weight. As a result, we decided on a mix of materials. For parts that require no metal for accuracy or strength, we have also approved lighter materials.
How much will the lenses cost?
Exact prices haven’t been set yet but will hover around the EUR 1,000 mark. Thus, they will be comparable to prices of high-quality lenses from other vendors. A good yardstick would be the Sonnar E 1.8/24 ZA T* we developed with Sony and which Sony distributes.
Where are the lenses made?
For our CSC Lenses, we are using our longstanding global production network of trusted partners in the optical industry. The lenses will be manufactured in Japan.
Will the lenses also be available with Micro 4/3-bajonet (MFT)?
We want to offer lenses of very high quality. The image quality of the system also hinges on sensor size. Therefore, we intend to concentrate initially on the biggest sensor size in this segment which is APS-C. It would be possible for us to make lenses for Micro 4/3-bajonet as well but we have not made a decision on that yet.
If current APS-C lenses were also used for the Micro 4/3-bajonet, we wouldn’t be able to achieve the best tradeoff between lens size (weight), and image quality.
Do the lenses have image stabilization?
No, those three lenses we mentioned do not come with image stabilization. With short focal lengths image stabilization is not only not necessary – stabilization of lens elements can impair the imaging performance of the lens. Thus we decided for quality reasons to develop the lenses without image stabilization.
When will the first lenses be brought to market?
Their expected arrival is spring /summer 2013.