Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?

Started Apr 20, 2016 | Discussions
OlHeath Regular Member • Posts: 212
Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
2

I'm sure I must be missing something, but it seems to me focus by wire is universally unpopular. Is there a technical reason Sony persist with this, or... ? Having used proper manual focus lenses I don't understand why FBW would ever be desired...

 OlHeath's gear list:OlHeath's gear list
Sony a7R III Sony a7 III Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar Sony FE 55mm F1.8 Sony FE 28mm F2 +7 more
Stflbn Veteran Member • Posts: 3,733
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
21

It's perceived as unpopular because people hate change.

Also...  humans don't typically post to forums over things that they don't hate.

-- hide signature --

Sony A7ii A6300 A7s A7r
28 FE f2 | Sony 55 FE 1.8 | 70-200G FE F4 | 24-240 FE | Sony 90mm FE Macro
http://501concepts.com

 Stflbn's gear list:Stflbn's gear list
Sony RX100 V Sony a6500 Sony a7 III Sony FE 55mm F1.8 Sony FE 28mm F2 +9 more
papillon_65
papillon_65 Forum Pro • Posts: 27,030
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
3

OlHeath wrote:

I'm sure I must be missing something, but it seems to me focus by wire is universally unpopular. Is there a technical reason Sony persist with this, or... ? Having used proper manual focus lenses I don't understand why FBW would ever be desired...

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

-- hide signature --

"Wow! look at the sharpness...." said no non photographer ever....
http://bit.ly/1K1oqkv

 papillon_65's gear list:papillon_65's gear list
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Sigma DP1 Merrill Sigma DP2 Merrill Sigma DP3 Merrill Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX50V +7 more
OP OlHeath Regular Member • Posts: 212
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
2

papillon_65 wrote:

OlHeath wrote:

I'm sure I must be missing something, but it seems to me focus by wire is universally unpopular. Is there a technical reason Sony persist with this, or... ? Having used proper manual focus lenses I don't understand why FBW would ever be desired...

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

Ah, its about keeping size down. Thanks. Though, that being said, doesnt this make it all the more strange that many of the FE FBW lenses are just as heavy as their DSLR equivalents? Manual focusing on the Tamron 24-70 was a joy in comparison.

Not that this will stop me getting the new GM 24-70 but just all seemed a bit odd...

 OlHeath's gear list:OlHeath's gear list
Sony a7R III Sony a7 III Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar Sony FE 55mm F1.8 Sony FE 28mm F2 +7 more
papillon_65
papillon_65 Forum Pro • Posts: 27,030
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
1

OlHeath wrote:

papillon_65 wrote:

OlHeath wrote:

I'm sure I must be missing something, but it seems to me focus by wire is universally unpopular. Is there a technical reason Sony persist with this, or... ? Having used proper manual focus lenses I don't understand why FBW would ever be desired...

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

Ah, its about keeping size down. Thanks. Though, that being said, doesnt this make it all the more strange that many of the FE FBW lenses are just as heavy as their DSLR equivalents? Manual focusing on the Tamron 24-70 was a joy in comparison.

Not that this will stop me getting the new GM 24-70 but just all seemed a bit odd...

Fast zooms require big glass elements, especially high quality lenses. Some high quality zooms do still have mechanical focusing as a selling point as well.

-- hide signature --

"Wow! look at the sharpness...." said no non photographer ever....
http://bit.ly/1K1oqkv

 papillon_65's gear list:papillon_65's gear list
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Sigma DP1 Merrill Sigma DP2 Merrill Sigma DP3 Merrill Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX50V +7 more
envnews Regular Member • Posts: 265
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
4

papillon_65 wrote:

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

I am not sure I'm entirely sold to this argument. There are many legacy lenses out there that are much smaller and lighter than corrispective FE lenses with focus by wire (actually, often people would buy legacy because they are lighter and smaller).

 envnews's gear list:envnews's gear list
Canon EOS 7D Sony a7R Sony a7R II Sony a7R III Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM +6 more
Mordi
Mordi Senior Member • Posts: 2,305
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
3

OlHeath wrote:

I'm sure I must be missing something, but it seems to me focus by wire is universally unpopular. Is there a technical reason Sony persist with this, or... ? Having used proper manual focus lenses I don't understand why FBW would ever be desired...

The energy requirements of mechanical/electrical focusing would be a bear - and a massive drain on an already-small A7/NEX battery.

Also, those who want mechanical manual focusing have a zillion options - including what appear to be brilliant new Zeiss options.

I still own a Nikon D7000 with an internal focusing motor, and an 80-200mm f2.8 two-ring zoom. It is a joy to focus manually, and with the internal D7000 motor, hit AF perfectly and fast. You would not believe how heavy it is! That lens is great with the A7II, too.

 Mordi's gear list:Mordi's gear list
Sony a7 II Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony FE 35mm F2.8 +7 more
RicksAstro
RicksAstro Veteran Member • Posts: 3,879
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
3

envnews wrote:

papillon_65 wrote:

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

I am not sure I'm entirely sold to this argument. There are many legacy lenses out there that are much smaller and lighter than corrispective FE lenses with focus by wire (actually, often people would buy legacy because they are lighter and smaller).

When you have to have both AF and MF, it will obviously add complexity, weight and size over having one or the other.   Also, they have different design goals...a nicely dampened with some resistance manual focusing feel is less ideal for AF.

I believe they are serving the greatest percentage of people who AF 90% of the time, where focus by wire is just fine.

-- hide signature --
chrisrabe Senior Member • Posts: 2,001
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
2

Must say, am ok with fbw.

I just wish

1) they would keep all lenses as on the 90mm fe. Push/pull to change af/mf, plus hard stops for near and infinity. Love it.

2) allow us to customise aspects of it. Let us set whether turning slow or fast will change speed or not. Let us choose the rotation vs speed setting. That would be so fantastic in my opinion.

 chrisrabe's gear list:chrisrabe's gear list
Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony a9 Sony a7R III Sony a6600 Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 +5 more
Waipingqi Regular Member • Posts: 224
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?

chrisrabe wrote:

Must say, am ok with fbw.

I just wish

1) they would keep all lenses as on the 90mm fe. Push/pull to change af/mf, plus hard stops for near and infinity. Love it.

2) allow us to customise aspects of it. Let us set whether turning slow or fast will change speed or not. Let us choose the rotation vs speed setting. That would be so fantastic in my opinion.

I agree with this. The 90mm FE Macro is the best focus by wire implementation I have ever used. It's very simple, it's because it has hardstops. And hardstops just plays well with muscle memory.

Points 2 is iffy though. If the focus ring has hardstop, then it can't have the speed acceleration, since the speed acceleration requires the lack of hardstop.

 Waipingqi's gear list:Waipingqi's gear list
Sony a7 II Sony FE 28mm F2 Sony FE 85mm F1.8
OP OlHeath Regular Member • Posts: 212
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?

chrisrabe wrote:

Must say, am ok with fbw.

I just wish

1) they would keep all lenses as on the 90mm fe. Push/pull to change af/mf, plus hard stops for near and infinity. Love it.

2) allow us to customise aspects of it. Let us set whether turning slow or fast will change speed or not. Let us choose the rotation vs speed setting. That would be so fantastic in my opinion.

+1

Great suggestions.

 OlHeath's gear list:OlHeath's gear list
Sony a7R III Sony a7 III Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar Sony FE 55mm F1.8 Sony FE 28mm F2 +7 more
sensibill
sensibill Veteran Member • Posts: 5,402
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?

envnews wrote:

papillon_65 wrote:

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

I am not sure I'm entirely sold to this argument. There are many legacy lenses out there that are much smaller and lighter than corrispective FE lenses with focus by wire (actually, often people would buy legacy because they are lighter and smaller).

I hate feeding what feels a lot like a troll thread, but which legacy lenses are you talking about, exactly - that are fully equivalent yet smaller/lighter than FE?

 sensibill's gear list:sensibill's gear list
Sony a7R III Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm F0.95 Tamron SP 85mm F1.8 Di VC USD Sony FE 24-105mm F4 Tamron 24mm F2.8 Di III OSD +2 more
stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 24,744
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?

OlHeath wrote:

I'm sure I must be missing something, but it seems to me focus by wire is universally unpopular. Is there a technical reason Sony persist with this, or... ? Having used proper manual focus lenses I don't understand why FBW would ever be desired...

I get your concern and it would be nice if some of the Sony FE lenses were mechanically coupled. However, it is more expensive to manufacture and to be honest, I find my focus by wire lenses quite sensitive and fine grained in their focus than most of my mechanical lenses.

 stevo23's gear list:stevo23's gear list
Fujifilm X-Pro2 Fujifilm XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8 R Fujifilm XF 27mm F2.8 Fujifilm XF 23mm F1.4 R +3 more
chrisrabe Senior Member • Posts: 2,001
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?

Waipingqi wrote:

chrisrabe wrote:

Must say, am ok with fbw.

I just wish

1) they would keep all lenses as on the 90mm fe. Push/pull to change af/mf, plus hard stops for near and infinity. Love it.

2) allow us to customise aspects of it. Let us set whether turning slow or fast will change speed or not. Let us choose the rotation vs speed setting. That would be so fantastic in my opinion.

I agree with this. The 90mm FE Macro is the best focus by wire implementation I have ever used. It's very simple, it's because it has hardstops. And hardstops just plays well with muscle memory.

Points 2 is iffy though. If the focus ring has hardstop, then it can't have the speed acceleration, since the speed acceleration requires the lack of hardstop.

You are right.

In the absence of doing point one for all lenses, I would like point 2 implemented.

As they will NEVER do all lenses with point 1, I really just want point 2

 chrisrabe's gear list:chrisrabe's gear list
Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Sony a9 Sony a7R III Sony a6600 Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 +5 more
envnews Regular Member • Posts: 265
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
1

sensibill wrote:

envnews wrote:

papillon_65 wrote:

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

I am not sure I'm entirely sold to this argument. There are many legacy lenses out there that are much smaller and lighter than corrispective FE lenses with focus by wire (actually, often people would buy legacy because they are lighter and smaller).

I hate feeding what feels a lot like a troll thread, but which legacy lenses are you talking about, exactly - that are fully equivalent yet smaller/lighter than FE?

hope you are not hinting at me being the troll (as that is really not the case)... I just wanted to give my small contribution with my 2c

Anyways... there are many examples, just to pick one: compare the voigtlander nokton classic 35 f1.4 (Leica M mount), which is tiny, with the Sony Zeiss Distagon 35 f1.4, which is huge

 envnews's gear list:envnews's gear list
Canon EOS 7D Sony a7R Sony a7R II Sony a7R III Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM +6 more
papillon_65
papillon_65 Forum Pro • Posts: 27,030
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?

envnews wrote:

papillon_65 wrote:

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

I am not sure I'm entirely sold to this argument. There are many legacy lenses out there that are much smaller and lighter than corrispective FE lenses with focus by wire (actually, often people would buy legacy because they are lighter and smaller).

That's because they are mostly simpler designs, without AF, without OIS and without any electronic circuitry. Some may be smaller but they are definitely not lighter as they are usually made of metal.

-- hide signature --

"Wow! look at the sharpness...." said no non photographer ever....
http://bit.ly/1K1oqkv

 papillon_65's gear list:papillon_65's gear list
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Sigma DP1 Merrill Sigma DP2 Merrill Sigma DP3 Merrill Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX50V +7 more
Cipher010 Contributing Member • Posts: 727
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?

OlHeath wrote:

I'm sure I must be missing something, but it seems to me focus by wire is universally unpopular. Is there a technical reason Sony persist with this, or... ? Having used proper manual focus lenses I don't understand why FBW would ever be desired...

I expect one of the reasons for the unpopularity is the reduction of reliability of the lens due to focus by wire. If focus by wire mechanism fails and it cannot be repaired, say due to lack of spare parts, the lens would be useless. If direct manual focus option was available, the lens is still useful. However, modern lens designs include focus by wire due to various reasons given in the above posts.

 Cipher010's gear list:Cipher010's gear list
Olympus E-M1 Sony a7R II
Entropy512 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,977
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?
4

papillon_65 wrote:

OlHeath wrote:

I'm sure I must be missing something, but it seems to me focus by wire is universally unpopular. Is there a technical reason Sony persist with this, or... ? Having used proper manual focus lenses I don't understand why FBW would ever be desired...

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

It also allows the use of focus motor technologies simply not usable with a lens that has mechanical focus couplings to a focus ring.

Numerous Sony E-mount lenses use a linear voice coil actuator to move the focusing element - there is NO way to reliably position something like this manually.

The advantage of linear VCAs is that they can be controlled both rapidly and precisely.

 Entropy512's gear list:Entropy512's gear list
Sony a6000 Pentax K-5 Pentax K-01 Sony a6300 Canon EF 85mm F1.8 USM +5 more
Entropy512 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,977
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?

envnews wrote:

sensibill wrote:

envnews wrote:

papillon_65 wrote:

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

I am not sure I'm entirely sold to this argument. There are many legacy lenses out there that are much smaller and lighter than corrispective FE lenses with focus by wire (actually, often people would buy legacy because they are lighter and smaller).

I hate feeding what feels a lot like a troll thread, but which legacy lenses are you talking about, exactly - that are fully equivalent yet smaller/lighter than FE?

hope you are not hinting at me being the troll (as that is really not the case)... I just wanted to give my small contribution with my 2c

Anyways... there are many examples, just to pick one: compare the voigtlander nokton classic 35 f1.4 (Leica M mount), which is tiny, with the Sony Zeiss Distagon 35 f1.4, which is huge

Those are all MF lenses.

In the past, Pentax has stated outright that their smaller lenses would (at least for some time being) remain screwdrive in order to keep size down.

However, newer focus motor technologies such as the linear VCAs Sony uses heavily allow for a compact AF lens with in-lens AF motor - most notably because a linear VCA allows you to dispense with the focusing helicoid, but also requires that the focusing element of the lens be light.  A lens with a VCA focus motor can go from maximum to minimum focus in a fraction of a second.

 Entropy512's gear list:Entropy512's gear list
Sony a6000 Pentax K-5 Pentax K-01 Sony a6300 Canon EF 85mm F1.8 USM +5 more
SQLGuy
SQLGuy Forum Pro • Posts: 12,465
Re: Why are all Sony FE lenses focus by wire?

Entropy512 wrote:

papillon_65 wrote:

OlHeath wrote:

I'm sure I must be missing something, but it seems to me focus by wire is universally unpopular. Is there a technical reason Sony persist with this, or... ? Having used proper manual focus lenses I don't understand why FBW would ever be desired...

It makes lenses smaller and lighter, nearly all mirrorless cameras have lenses with focus by wire, it's old news. If you want mechanical manual focusing buy legacy lenses and accept that they will usually be larger and heavier (Though not always as they don't have focusing motors).

It also allows the use of focus motor technologies simply not usable with a lens that has mechanical focus couplings to a focus ring.

Numerous Sony E-mount lenses use a linear voice coil actuator to move the focusing element - there is NO way to reliably position something like this manually.

The advantage of linear VCAs is that they can be controlled both rapidly and precisely.

Good points. They're also quiet, smooth, and relatively inexpensive. More of an interest in AF video applications may also also explain the preference for FBW in the E-mount lenses.

-- hide signature --

A7-II with kit lens and a number of legacy lenses (mostly Canon FD); NEX-7 converted to IR.

 SQLGuy's gear list:SQLGuy's gear list
Canon PowerShot G9 Canon PowerShot S100 (2000) Sony Mavica FD-91 Sony RX100 VI Canon EOS-1D +42 more
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads