Sony vs Nikon lenses 2009

by Enche Tjin on October 11, 2009

Sony is a very aggressive newcomer in DSLR market. In short time, Sony is able to steal some market share especially from Canon. Last year, Sony released Sony A900, a full frame camera. This year, Sony releases 6 DSLR cameras from beginner (A230-380), advanced (a500-550) and affordable full frame A850. There are some new lenses released as well.

The main difference of Sony system compared to Canon and Nikon is Sony uses built-in stabilization instead of lens stabilization. This feature is significant because every Sony lenses you mount on Sony cameras will have this benefit. So, even if Sony lenses are a bit more expensive, it worth the money because you get advantage of IS.

Image stabilization will be useful for still photography in low light situation such as portrait, still life, landscape and so on. Although IS can’t replace tripod for maximum image quality, but IS is very useful for daily use especially if you don’t want to bother carrying tripod around.

Without further ado, we will compare Sony and Nikon lenses starting from consumer zoom lenses, which are low-grade lenses, designed for consumers and enthusiasts.

Note: BQ = build quality, IQ = image quality. Price is approximate street price can change without notice

Sony DT lens BQ IQ Price Nikon DX zoom lens BQ IQ Price
Sony 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 7 6 $700 Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 7 8 $800
Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM 5 5 kit Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR 5 5 kit
Sony 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 5 4 kit Nikon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 7 7 disc.
Sony 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6 7 6 $600 Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 VR 6 7 $335
Sony 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 7 7 $750 Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VR 7 8 $675
Sony 24-105mm f/3.5-4.5 7 - $600 Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 VR 7 4 $550
Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 9 8 $1300
Sony 55-200mm f/4-5.6 SAM 5 7 $230 Nikon 50-200mm f/4-5.6 VR 6 7 $225
Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G non DT 8 - $850 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR 7 7 $500
Sony 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 6 3 $575 Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR 8 7 $750
Sony 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 6 6 $600
Sony 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6 non DT 5 6 $250
Sony 28-75mm f/2.8 SAM not DT - - $800


Compared to Nikon consumer zoom lenses, Sony does not have really good lenses to compete. Sony 16-80 Zeiss is probably the best lens Sony has, but it is not as good as Nikon 17-55mm or 16-85mm. Sony also has poor super zoom lenses which is very popular for travel and general walk around lens.

Sony recently releases 28-75mm f/2.8 and 70-300mm f/4-5-5.6G, these two lenses are actually designed for Sony full frame camera, but you can use it for Sony crop sensor cameras as well. These lenses should be better than the rest of Sony consumer zoom lenses.

Sony prime lens BQ IQ Price Nikon prime lens BQ IQ Price
Sony 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye 7 - $850 Nikon 10.5 f/2.8 Fisheye 8 9 $700
Sony 20mm f/2.8 7 - $600 Nikon 20mm f/2.8 7 7 $560
Nikon 24mm f/2.8 7 7 $350
Sony 28mm f/2.8 7 - $270 Nikon 28mm f/2.8 7 6 $275
Nikon 35mm f/2D 7 7 $350
Sony 50mm f/1.8 4 7 $150 Nikon 50mm f/1.8 4 7 $140
Sony 50mm f/1.4 7 8 $370 Nikon 50mm f/1.4D 7 8 $350
Nikon 85mm f/1.8 7 9 $450
Sony 135mm f/2.8 7 8 $1250
Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro 8 8 $680
Sony 30mm f/2.8 Macro SAM 6 - $200
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G 7 8 $225
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G 7 8 $450

In prime  consumer prime lens category, Sony has decent collection. The two new lenses, 50mm f/1.8 and 30mm f/2.8 Macro are very helpful for consumer who can only afford cheap lenses with good quality optics.

In addition, All the lenses will be benefited with built-in image stabilization which could be very helpful in low light shooting (except moving object).

The interesting part is the hi-grade zoom lens part:

Sony hi-grade zoom lens BQ IQ Price Nikon FX zoom lens BQ IQ Price
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 10 10 $1815
Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss 9 9 $1900 Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 9 9 $1750
Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss 9 9 $1600 Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 10 9 $1900
Sony 70-200mm f/2.8G 9 9 $1800 Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR 9 10 $2000
Sony 70-400mm f/4-5.6G 9 8 $1600 Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR 8 7 $1650
Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR 9 9 $6300

Lenses above are optimized for full frame DSLR cameras. Sony has two full frame now A850 and A900, both are famous because of its high resolution (24 mp) great for oversized prints.

On the other side, Nikon has D3, D3x, and D700. Nikon full frame cameras are famous for its responsiveness, auto focus speed and clean image in high ISO, but only have 12 mp except D3x which has 24mp but has very high price tag.

Therefore, Sony actually competes with Canon more than Nikon. I think that Sony is one of major culprit (beside Nikon) why Canon loses its market share in recent years.

Price and quality wise of Sony and  Nikon hi-grade zoom lenses are almost equal, but Sony has the advantage of built-in stabilization, so Sony pro grade zoom lenses provides better value for money.

Last table is hi-grade prime lenses:

Sony prime lens BQ IQ Price Nikon prime lens BQ IQ Price
Nikon 14mm f/2.8 9 6 $1700
Sony 35mm f/1.4G 9 9 $1400
Sony 85mm f/1.4 Carl Zeiss 9 10 $1400 Nikon 85mm f/1.4G 8 10 $1300
Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss 9 9 $1500 Nikon 135mm f2 DC disc.
Nikon 200mm f/2G VR 10 10 $5100
Sony 300mm f/2.8 9 9 $6250 Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR 10 10 $5300
Nikon 300mm f/4 9 9 $1500
Nikon 400mm f/2.8 VR 10 10 $8500
Nikon 500mm f/4 VR 9 9 $9200
Nikon 600mm f/4 VR 9 9 $9500
Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR micro lens 9 9 $900
Nikon 200mm f/4 micro lens 8 9 $1800

Sony has limited prime lens collection especially in the longer-end. But in short prime lens, Sony has an edge, because they have new 35mm f/1.4G, 85mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/1.8. These trio are main challenges to Canon L lenses. These lenses are popular among wedding photographer because of its big aperture and low light capability.

On the other hand, Nikon pro photographer desperately waiting for Nikon prime lenses such as 24mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4 and 135mm f/2.

CONCLUSION

Sony has pretty good collection of lenses, especially for still life, portraits, fashion, wedding etc. It has many new prime lenses that can compete with Canon lenses. It also has benefit of built-in stabilization.

Sony weakness is in  photo journalistic type of photography, which is Nikon strength. Nikon camera and lenses are built for that. Unfortunately, many Nikon lenses especially prime lenses are out of date in term of design. However, Nikon consumer zoom lenses provide great image quality in cheaper price.

Now.. if you are considering whether to jump into Nikon or Sony bandwagon, I have advice:

If you are concentrating on high quality portrait, fashion, landscape, get Sony full frame camera and shoot with pro grade zoom lens or prime lenses. But if you can’t afford full frame cameras ($2000+), you might want to jump to Nikon system because they have  impressive array of good value zoom lenses. Nikon system is also better if you do photo journalistic assignments such as sports, or events because Nikon cameras have excellent auto focus system and they are very good in low light condition.

I recommend to get Canon and Nikon lenses at Amazon.com or BH Photo Video. They have stellar services and very competitive price.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Eesti August 31, 2011 at 4:53 am

the sony 50 mm takes excellent pictures indoors if you use the A- aperture setting and dial down to 1/8 great sharp pictures without the need for a flash. But everyone should have a 50 mm in their kit. it is also great for portraits as to the wider aperature. Well worth the money and takes great pictures.

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