New E-mount lens ideas?

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
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lensist
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New E-mount lens ideas?
3 months ago

Hello, all. I’m hoping to get the benefit of everyone’s opinion on something:

I work with a group of engineers specializing in high-performance optical systems and we’re looking into developing and manufacturing a line of professional quality lenses for mirrorless APS-C cameras, specifically the Sony-E/Fuji-X systems (at least to start). Personally I use a Fuji X-T1 and I love what the quality and compactness of this camera and Fuji’s lens system have done for my shooting and I’d like to add further capabilities to that system (and I think it's the same story for Sony E-mount). We wouldn’t be interested in cheap novelty lenses, nor trying to compete the great lenses Sony and Fuji (not to mention Zeiss) are putting out themselves already, nor what you can get by adapting high-performance Leicas. We want to build lenses that are perhaps a bit more “niche” application, but still are real photographic tools for pros and serious hobbyists. We will probably end up doing a kickstarter campaign on this, but I don’t want to turn this into a spam post by mentioning who we are or trying to promote anything. I’m just looking for advice at this stage.

I’ve got some ideas for what lens we would start with, but I’d be interested in getting the general opinion of those here on which you would find useful (or not useful), and why (or why not). I’d appreciate if you could briefly mention what sort of photography you do: professional portraiture, hobbyist landscape, whatever.

As mentioned, we’re not going to try "core" lens types that are already done well (like basic zooms and primes). And while I do think we have the expertise to work out autofocus, this is definitely something we would want to leave to our second or third lens so we have time to really do it well — it’s hard. So this first offering is going to be manual focus, period. IS would similarly be out of the question, at least to start. So I think this makes some lens ideas, such as a very long fixed telephoto, poor choices for us to start. But with that in mind, I have a couple of concepts that I think do make sense that I’d like your opinion on:

  1. A true native tilt-shift lens. While there are ways of adapting full-frame tilt-shift lenses into tilt-shift duty on these systems, they aren’t ideas solutions, and not particularly optimized optically or mechanically. Some tilt-shift can be simulated digitally these days, but it’s not the same. My feeling would be to start with a fairly wide option — perhaps 15mm-ish — which could be used well for architecture and landscape panoramic usage. We would really want to nail the ergonomics of usage here. And of course manual focus is par for the course for tilt-shift.
  2. A “varisoft”-type soft focus prime. See Minolta’s old Varisoft Rokkor-X 85mm. Essentially this would be a high-quality prime — perhaps 35mm or 50mm or so — but with an added ring to optionally dial in an amount of “dreaminess” that leaves sharpness intact. In a way it’s a very “retro” effect that’s sometimes approximated by vaseline on the lens, but neither that nor digital effects really replicate the subtle effect of doing it optically I think. Again you could adapt a Minolta, but a “native” lens should be much more compact, and potentially higher performance.

Let me know what you think of these ideas — or maybe contribute your own if you think I’m missing out on a lens niche that nobody is really doing well today!

 lensist's gear list:lensist's gear list
Fujifilm X-T1 Fujifilm XF 35mm F1.4 R Fujifilm XF 56mm F1.2 R
Fujifilm X-T1
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