Available Mirrorless Autofocus Zoom Lenses

Yesterday I tackled the autofocus primes available in the various mirrorless mounts. Today I'll tackle the zoom lens choices. 

Here's the full list of what I came up with for full frame, autofocus, zoom lenses that are currently available (organized by mount, in declining aperture order, alphabetically by brand):

bythom ff zoom 92222

You'll note I've used color in this table. The yellow section is wide-angle zooms, green is mid-range/superzooms, and the blue is telephoto zooms. Generally, zoom lens users tend to eventually end up with one of each type of zoom (or sometimes two lenses in two distinct zoom categories). That's because the notion of "zoom" is really "cover everything." 

The photojournalism (PJ) needs eventually netted us a trio of zoom lenses, often called the Holy Trinity, which tended to be wide-angle, mid-range, and telephoto zoom lenses with an f/2.8 maximum aperture. You'll note in the full frame mounts, all three of the major mounts (RF, Z, and FE) have that trio of lenses available, though they tend to differ on the wide-angle focal range a bit. The L-mount substitutes an f/4 optic at the wide end, and that overlaps with the mid-range focal length. 

So what can we glean from the above table?

  • Canon RF — A Canon go-it-alone approach is evident. Fortunately, that gives you three choices in wide angle, five in mid-range, and four in telephoto. Canon also has both f/2.8L and f/4L trios, so they're covering the historical PJ needs well. Canon also has a trio of more consumer zooms, too (non-L), with slow top focal end apertures (f/6.3, f/7.1, or f/8). One could say that Canon is well diversified in their offerings, but they are also unimaginative or unexceptional in them (other than perhaps the 28-70mm f/2).  The Canon full frame RF zoom line feels like "a safe choice" so far. As an aside, I'd point out that in my testing of various zooms across the mounts so far, the only Canon I found to be at or near the top of the heap optically compared to direct competitors is the 100-500mm f/4-7.1L. I'd say the lineup is solid, but unexceptional.
  • L-mount — Once again the trio of partners in the mount are what gives the options some strength. Surprisingly—considering the lower performance DFD or contrast detect autofocus in the available L-mount cameras—We have a solid set of telephoto choices, but less support in the wide-angle realm. It really should be the other way around as far as I'm concerned. Optically, the options I've tested in the L-mount are all very good, perhaps a notch above Canon's offerings, but still not what I'd call exceptional.
  • Nikon Z — Nikon put a lot of their early emphasis on the mid-range. We have six zooms there from Nikon compared to two each in the wide-angle and telephoto ranges. That said, what I've found in side-by-side testing is that the Nikkors tend at minimum to essentially equal the optical best-in-class, in a few cases they beat the competitors optically. Nikon wasn't mailing in their R&D results. All of the S lenses deserve their designation, for sure. At the same time, until recently, Nikon wasn't getting any third party help, either. This produced a set of zoom options that are great, but only if you like the focal range Nikon provided. Nikon needs more diversity of options at the wide angle and telephoto zoom end. Tamron has stepped in with a telephoto option, and I'm pretty sure they'll add the 150-500mm at some point, too. That Tamron, coupled with the 200-600mm Nikon has on their road map (and is overdue to appear), should shore up the telephoto side, but the wide angle side needs more work (and I don't think Tamron will quickly step in there). 
  • Sony FE — The earliest Sony zooms, including that Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm f/4, now look like junk compared to what's happened with the G and GM efforts since. Like Nikon, Sony is either offering equal-to-best or best-in-class options in their zoom range. There's not a G or GM lens in the bunch I'd have issues with in daily high-end use. And just picking G/GM gives you three wide angle, three mid-range, and five telephoto zoom options. That's augmented by the Sigma/Tamron offerings, which tend to be quite good, as well. One interesting note is that Tamron now offers you 17-180mm in three matched f/2.8 lenses that are smaller than the usual trio and all take 67mm filters. We need more of that out-of-the-old-box approach in lenses, and it's really only in the FE mount that you see serious rethinking of zoom lens focal lengths at the moment.

So, Sony FE is probably the best-covered mount at the moment, though Nikon has been surprisingly quick and nimble, particularly in the mid-range. My current feeling is that I'd be highly comfortable with any Nikon S or Sony G/GM zoom lens in my work. Not a dud amongst them, and most produce exceptional image quality across all attributes. I can't quite say that for the options in the other mounts, though the Panasonic fixed aperture zooms are right behind their Nikon/Sony equivalents. 

Sony FE users, however, get the added benefit of some out-of-box thinking (mostly by Tamron), with options you don't see in the other mounts. Canon's apparent prohibition of RF third-party autofocus lenses puts the onus on the Canon team to do something less conservative than they have (unlikely), while Tamron's recent step into the Nikon Z-mount seems to indicate that we'll eventually see the Z and FE mounts offering much the same choice. Does Canon understand that they're making a "systems camera"? 

On to APS-C:

bythom aps zoom 9222

A quick glance at the APS-C chart can be a little misleading. So let's look at the mounts individually:

  • Canon M — No new zooms in six years says: dead mount. Particularly in APS-C, convenience lenses are the norm, and zooms are the way you provide that convenience. What Canon's no-new-zooms approach in the M mount tells you is that the Canon R&D team has left the building. Any that remain are over in the RF building now. The M mount choices are likely as convenient as you'll ever get from Canon. Of the five choices, I only liked one (11-22mm) well enough to use with any regularity. For mid-range to moderate telephoto I just used primes (32mm f/1.4, basically). On the 33mp Canon M6 Mark II, the rest of the zoom range tended to not live up to the image sensor, IMO.
  • Canon RF-S — Two zooms are the total extent of the current RF-S lens lineup (no primes). Of these, I've only tried the 18-150mm, and I found it pretty decent (review coming), though not exceptional. It's actually better than the 18-150mm in the M mount, so perhaps that R&D shift got Canon rethinking how good their lenses needed to be. But a sample of one isn't really a sample. So I'd say the verdict's out for the time being. Moreover, Canon's 1.6x+ crop for APS-C means that the widest you can go is about 29mm. Right now all I hear is buzzing (buzz, buzz*).
  • Fujifilm XF — Ah, the motherlode. Seventeen zooms! Two wide angle, nine mid-range, and six telephoto. On the surface that appears to be a very solid set of choices. Scratch the front elements and, uh, not so much. I've found the relative quality of the Fujifilm XF zooms to be somewhat random. No doubt there are some exceptional lenses in the bunch (the wide angle zooms, the 16-55mm and 50-140mm f/2.8 pair come to mind first and foremost), but I've found myself fairly disappointed in many of the others. The 16-80mm f/4, in particular, just didn't live up to what I need from a 24-120mm equivalent mid-range zoom. I don't know if it's individual lens samples I've been having issues with, or whether the wide variation in optical quality is just a thing in zooms you find in the XF mount. I suspect the latter given other people's comments. I'd say that "trust but verify" is very much needed with the Fujifilm zooms, and I suspect that's going to blow up on Fujifilm with the 40mp camera that's coming. 
  • L-mount — Wait, what? The L-mount has more options—and at least one in each category—in APS-C than the Canon RF or Nikon Z mount for zooms? How'd that happen? The Leica TL, basically, though that model seems to now be retiring permanently. The Leica Elmars are solid basic performers, and not at all stressed by the TL's 24mp sensor, even though it doesn't have an AA filter. 
  • Nikon Z DX — Nikon currently has an equal number of DX cameras as it does DX lenses (three of each). If that doesn't tell you something is wrong, I'm not sure what will. Worse still, we don't have any wide-angle zoom option, though there is one on the Road Map. The good news is that the 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 kit lens is exceptional for a kit lens (and even holds up against non-kit lenses in the mid-range), while the 18-140mm f/3.5-6.3 option is a top level superzoom performer (28-210mm equivalent). But there's not a lot of meat on the bones in Z DX. Nikon needs to up their game, considerably. Fortunately, Canon RF-S has almost no game. Still, a lot of buzz, buzz* is in Nikon's future if things continue as is in Z DX.
  • Sony E — As with Fujifilm XF, this part of the chart looks like a motherlode. Three wide angle, 13 mid-range, and two telephoto options. But looks once again deceive. As with the full frame side of the mount, I have no issues at all with the Sony G lenses. Unfortunately, only three of them exist. In my testing, Sony's 16-50mm is not as good optically as Nikon's (or Fujifilm's 16-45mm for that matter). Three of the lenses are PZs (power zooms), which shows Sony's strong lean towards video. Only two of the Tamron's zooms really live up to what I want (11-20mm and 17-70mm). What I end up with is that there is only five or six E zooms that I really want to use on my A6### bodies. Fortunately, that's good enough for me, as I'm covered from 10-300mm with those lenses. 

While I've tried to be complete, up-to-date, and accurate in this article and charts, please inform me of any errors you might find so I can correct them, as necessary. This is a big task, and the sands shift on an almost daily basis.

*Buzz, buzz is my shorthand for acting like a fly in the management's face while they're just sitting on their butts doing nothing. Yes, I'm trying to annoy them. Maybe they'll get up and go to the R&D lab and ask for some lenses to act as fly repellant. 

Available Mirrorless Autofocus Prime Lenses

Updated: 9/2/22

After coming down hard on dpreview's attempt to show what's available in terms of autofocus lenses for the full frame mirrorless camera mounts last week, I decided I needed to put my keyboard where my mouth is and attempt to do the topic better justice. Today, I'll start with prime lenses (zooms are a little more difficult to categorize due to their variations). I'll also cover APS-C mirrorless mounts, which dpreview didn't tackle.

If you need to understand how the focal lengths differ, see Lens Angle of View.

Here's the full list of what I came up with for full frame prime lenses that are currently available (organized by mount, in declining aperture order, alphabetically). I've used color to distinguish wide angle (yellow), mid-range (green), and telephoto (blue) lenses. I know that my definitions are a little arbitrary, but doing this gives you a quick way of sussing what a mounts strengths and weaknesses are.

bythom ff prime 9222

As far as full frame primes are concerned, it should be clear that Sony's FE mount has the widest choice currently available, though that tends to logjam between 24 and 85mm, and is clearly due to better third-party support. 

However, it's easy enough to see some clear patterns within the four mounts:

  • Canon RF — Canon's mostly going it on their own at the moment, with only two third-party primes from Yongnuo giving any supplement (and that's not fully a given due to Canon's attempts to shut down third party choices). Significant lenses are missing: 20mm, 28mm, and 135mm, for instance. If there's a strength in Canon's early RF prime lineup, it comes in the long telephoto choice. Indeed, it's the widest range of options for the four mirrorless mounts at the moment, though Nikon is about to whittle that advantage down some more.
  • L-mount (Panasonic) — A surprising number of choices. More choices than Canon or Nikon, but this is mostly due to the fact this is a mount alliance with three primary suppliers (Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma). Panasonic's offerings are mild: four primes. It's mostly Sigma that's filling in the gaps, though Leica also fills in three of the focal lengths. While Panasonic is currently only providing 24mm to 85mm, the Leica/Sigma connection extends that to 14mm at the wide end and 135mm at the telephoto end. Significantly missing from the L-mount are lenses that would appeal to sports and wildlife photography (e.g. >200mm prime). 
  • Nikon Z — Gets some help from TTArtisans, Viltrox, and Yongnuo, though those really only provide additional choices where Nikon already has a lens. Nikon has nothing below 20mm, and Nikon's 86-399mm range has only a lonely macro lens at present. As with Canon, one of Nikon's stronger showings is in long telephoto, particularly with the 600mm f/4 about to hit coupled, with the built-in teleconverter of the 400mm f/2.8 already also covering the 500mm f/4 length.
  • Sony FE — With all that third-party support filling in the wide to modest telephoto range, it's really only the long telephoto range where Sony needs more choice. I would argue that telephoto primes are still Sony's weak point, and getting more so each day as Canon and Nikon announce new lenses. 

Were Samyang or Sigma to start making Canon RF and Nikon Z lenses, the prime landscape—other than the long telephoto options—would level out very, very quickly. Of course, Canon is threatening legal action against third party lens makers, so that's not going to happen in the RF mount (and note how that also impacts RF-S, below). Nikon, on the other hand, seems to be playing a quiet game with third party lens makers, allowing them but not promoting them. Nikon's closest third-party supplier would be Tamron, which has only three prime lenses in their current lineup that might come aboard eventually (20mm, 24mm, 35mm, all f/2.8). 

I'd guess that the current situation in primes for full frame is going to continue much as it is now: Canon and Nikon will be mostly going it alone, Sigma will continue to be the primary supplier in the L-mount, and Sony will be well supported up through 135mm, but starting to fall behind above that focal length.

Okay, let's try APS-C. How is the autofocus prime lens lineup shaping up for crop sensor mirrorless users?

bythom 2124

Very different! Sony users should be having a bit of concern, even with the recent wide angle options that have appeared. It's the third party support that's bolstering Sony APS-C, not Sony. Meanwhile, Fujifilm has stormed to the lead.

Once again we see some clear patterns:

  • Canon M — A scattering of support, both from Canon, Sigma, and Viltrox. But that only provides options from 24-85mm equivalent. Unfortunately, the M-mount cameras seem to be at a dead end, and we've seen no new Canon M-mount lenses for four years. I don't see the M-mount situation getting better in the future. 
  • Canon RF-S — Crickets. Buzz buzz*. Nada. I suspect we'll see the transfer of a few M lenses to RF designs, since that should be easy enough for Canon to do. But that's just three primes. The prohibition on third-party lenses in the RF mount that Canon is trying to enforce isn't going to help them. Basically, you're going to be buying M-mount conversions from Canon, and RF full frame primes to fill in for RF-S, is my guess.
  • Fujifilm XF — The mount with the mostest. I'd characterize the XF options as both broad and deep, as you have the largest range of choices in focal length, and with multiple brands at several key focal lengths. Both Fujifilm and third parties have really filled out the options in the XF mount, giving you 16-300mm equivalent choices. Nikon executives have only to look at this column in my table to understand how they ceded away all those DSLR DX users to Fujifilm mirrorless cameras over the years. Even in the now end-of-life DSLR DX line, the available choices would look far slimmer, and that was after 20 years of building them. Now you know why I was writing buzz, buzz, all those years. I saw it. Fujifilm saw it. Nikon? See what? 
  • Leica L — The TL cameras now seem to be on closeout—they're the cheapest way to buy a new Leica at the moment—and partner Panasonic isn't interested in APS-C, so L-mount APS-C options modest. Sigma added their trio, which helps and makes that column stand out even more from Canon and Nikon ;~). Still, L for APS-C seems to be done. The list you see here is probably the final list. 
  • Nikon Z DX — Fortunately Nikon hasn't tried to shut Viltrox down as Canon has, otherwise it would be crickets in the Nikon DX column, too. Nikon has announced a 24mm DX prime is coming, but when it will appear is impossible to say. The only good news is that a few recent FX primes also provide some options DX users will like, most notably at 28mm f/2.8, 40mm f/2, and 50mm f/2.8 macro. I'd guess that Nikon saw those lenses as targeting both Z5 (FX) and Z50 (DX) customers. Still, Nikon currently has infinity more cameras than lenses in APS-C (DX in Nikon-speak). Oh wait, you can't divide by zero, can you? (buzz, buzz).
  • Sony E — Of these mounts, E is the one with the longest history, but curiously, not with the most options. Sony appears to be taking competitive advice from Nikon DSLR DX, and starving their APS-C line while emphasizing full frame cameras and lenses. Sony also took a long rest in APS-C lenses after Samsung decided to stop competing with them head to head. Apparently the Sony executives went sleeping at that point, as the Fujifilm bullet train passed them on the tracks and disappeared into the distance. Recently, we've seen some renewed interest in delivering APS-C lenses from Sony, but mostly in the wide angle end to help support their vlogging camera. That said, from 16-85mm equivalent you have a decent range of choice in the NEX, uh, E mount. 

For those contemplating APS-C cameras and primes, let me say this: the Sigma, Viltrox, and Zeiss options are all quite good, and shouldn't be ignored. I'll eventually finish my full set of Viltrox reviews over at At one point I had reviews of all of the Sigma lenses on this site, too, but I've removed them as they're now out of date to the cameras you'd be using them on. I reviewed them on 12mp to early 24mp cameras, and we're now in a much better 24-33mp world, so I need to redo those reviews to be current.

While I've tried to be complete, up-to-date, and accurate in this article and charts, please inform me of any errors you might find so I can correct them, as necessary. This is a big task, and the sands shift on an almost daily basis. Permanent link to this article is in lens section. 

*Buzz, buzz is my shorthand for acting like a fly in management's face while they're just sitting on their butts doing nothing. Yes, I'm trying to annoy them. Maybe they'll get up and go to the R&D lab and ask for some lenses to act as fly repellant. 

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