Best Alpha Mount Lenses? (ie, for sony a900)

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AVA Creative:
Hiya folks at LL -
I've been loving the intelligent reviews and banter on this site for years, and am finally faced with a tough question. I'm definitely getting a Sony a900, but need to plan my lens line-up. I've read the the LL articles on the a900, which include some very useful info - but there's really a wide range of lenses available for the alpha mount (older Minolta lenses, Tamron, Sigma, etc). I'm a big Zeiss fan and use them on my Contax 645. However, I've heard that SONY is actually producing/manufacturing the alpha mount Zeiss series, and Zeiss is only participating in the lens design.
Anyhow, without further preamble, I suggest we try to achieve a 'best-of-class' list for alpha mount lenses - in terms of resolution and sharpness - include both MF and AF lenses - with a stress on real tests and comparisons rather than general brand favorites (dyxum does well, but the ratings are perhaps a bit overzealous and not 'best-of'). So, by general category (with some possibilities listed):

Best 50mm-70mm macro? (Sony / Minolta - AF 50 F2.8 Macro? Minolta - AF 50 F3.5 Macro?)
Best 90+mm macro? (Minolta AF 3x-1x 1.7-2.8 Macro? Minolta AF 100mm F2.8 Macro RS or D? Minolta 200mm F4 AF apo macro? Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro?
Best wide prime? (Minolta - AF 20 F2.8 RS? Sony 35mm F1.4 G? Minolta - AF 28mm F2 RS? Sigma 24 F1.8 EX Aspherical?)
Best standard prime? (Minolta - AF 35 F1.4 G RS? Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM? Sony 50mm F1.4?)
Best mid-tele prime? (Zeiss-Sonnar T* 135mm F1.8 ZA? Zeiss-Planar T* 85mm F1.4 ZA? Sony 135mm F2.8 [T4.5] STF? Minolta AF 85 F1.4 G?)
Best long-tele prime? (Sony 300mm F2.8 G Telephoto? Minolta AF 200mm F2.8 G APO HS?
Best wide-to-mid zoom? (Zeiss-Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35 F2.8 ZA SSM Zoom? Minolta - AF 17-35 F3.5 G?)
Best mid-to-tele zoom? (Zeiss-Vario-Sonnar f2.8 24-70mm Zoom? Minolta AF 28-70mm F2.8 G?)
Best tele zoom? (Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G-Series SSM Zoom? ? Sony 70-300mm G SSM Zoom? Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8? Minolta AF 70-200mm F2.8 APO G D SSM?)

Hope this is a hot topic, and hope the above research helps get us started!
thanks
Kyle at AVA Creative

Plekto:
http://www.dyxum.com/lenses/index.asp
These guys are a tad more crazy about such things.      Good site for information.

http://www.dyxum.com/lenses/detail.asp?IDLens=152
Sigma 24 F1.8 EX Aspherical
This appears to be a gem in hiding.  Back it off to 2.8 and it'll likely crush a normal 28/2.8(I can't tell much difference between 24 and 28mm myself, and any distortion is easy to tweak on the computer)  The only minus is it's not as damage-proof as the OEM lenses.

The 35mm f/2.0 is also great for not a lot of money.  Thanks to the A900s internal stabilization, the lenses don't need to have any of that, either.  Just good, clean optics.  Since you have to pull the 35mm 1.4s in a stop or two, very few people report a real difference between the more expensive 1.4 one and this.

The Minolta AF 85 F1.4 G is also a superb lens.  Yes, it's pricey used, but is equal to the much more expensive new Zeiss option.  

Zooms aren't my forte, though.  I prefer scenery and people.

AVA Creative:
Thanks Plekto!
I've added your suggestions to the list above. When you mention "The 35mm f/2.0 is also great for not a lot of money." - is this a Minolta or Sigma, etc?

Kyle

ErikKaffehr:
Hi!

Check this, too:

http://www.newcamerareview.com/lens_reviews_id21.html

I have the following lenses myself for the Alpha 900

Minolta 20/2.8, good when stopped down
Sony 24-70/2.8 ZA (Zeiss labeled), very good but not perfect (bad extreme corners), very crisp images
Minolta 80-200/2.8 APO, significant lateral CA, can be compensated in raw conversion, very sharp and crisp
Minolta 100/2.8 Macro, the jury is out
Sony 70-300/4.5-5.6 G, new lens, the jury is out
Minolta 400/4.5G + extenders, very sharp if correctly focused, questions about AF accuracy
Minolta 50/1.4

Sample pictures here:
http://www.pbase.com/ekr/a900_test





Quote from: AVA Creative

Hiya folks at LL -
I've been loving the intelligent reviews and banter on this site for years, and am finally faced with a tough question. I'm definitely getting a Sony a900, but need to plan my lens line-up. I've read the the LL articles on the a900, which include some very useful info - but there's really a wide range of lenses available for the alpha mount (older Minolta lenses, Tamron, Sigma, etc). I'm a big Zeiss fan and use them on my Contax 645. However, I've heard that SONY is actually producing/manufacturing the alpha mount Zeiss series, and Zeiss is only participating in the lens design.
Anyhow, without further preamble, I suggest we try to achieve a 'best-of-class' list for alpha mount lenses - in terms of resolution and sharpness - include both MF and AF lenses - with a stress on real tests and comparisons rather than general brand favorites (dyxum does well, but the ratings are perhaps a bit overzealous and not 'best-of'). So, by general category (with some possibilities listed):

Best 50mm-70mm macro? (Minolta - AF 50 F2.8 Macro RS? Sony - AF 50 F2.8 Macro? Minolta - AF 50 F3.5 Macro?  Sigma - 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro?)
Best 90+mm macro? (Minolta AF 3x-1x 1.7-2.8 Macro? Minolta AF 100mm F2.8 Macro RS or D? Minolta 200mm F4 AF apo macro? Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro?
Best wide prime? (Minolta - AF 20 F2.8 RS? Sony 35mm F1.4 G? Minolta - AF 28mm F2 RS? Sigma 24 F1.8 EX Aspherical?)
Best standard prime? (Minolta - AF 35 F1.4 G RS? Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM? Sony 50mm F1.4?)
Best mid-tele prime? (Zeiss-Sonnar T* 135mm F1.8 ZA? Zeiss-Planar T* 85mm F1.4 ZA? Sony 135mm F2.8 [T4.5] STF? Minolta AF 85 F1.4 G?)
Best long-tele prime? (Sony 300mm F2.8 G Telephoto? Minolta AF 200mm F2.8 G APO HS?
Best wide-to-mid zoom? (Zeiss-Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35 F2.8 ZA SSM Zoom? Minolta - AF 17-35 F3.5 G?)
Best mid-to-tele zoom? (Zeiss-Vario-Sonnar f2.8 24-70mm Zoom? Minolta AF 28-70mm F2.8 G?)
Best tele zoom? (Sony AF 70-200mm f/2.8 G-Series SSM Telephoto Zoom? ? Minolta AF 70-200mm F2.8 APO G D SSM?)

Hope this is a hot topic, and hope the above research helps get us started!
thanks
Kyle at AVA Creative

Brammers:
Many Sony lenses are rebadges of the latest version of the corresponding Minolta, updated cosmetically and electronically.  A couple are not...

Best 50mm-70mm macro?  

Minolta 50 f3.5 macro is allegedly the sharpest, but it's only 1:2 macro.  Otherwise either the latest version of the Minolta 50, the Sony 50 or the Sigma 70, even though it gets soft towards infinity.

Best 90+mm macro?

Minolta RS D or Sony for 100mm macros.  Minolta 200/4 G for 200mm macro.

Best wide prime?

Minolta 35/1.4 G D or Sony 35 1.4 for 'look'.  Minolta 35/2 or 28/2 for sharpness.  Wait for PMA - strong rumours regarding Zeiss 24/2.  

Best standard prime?  

Sony 50 1.4 - it's an previous unreleased update to the Minolta RS - optical differences.  Or the Siggy.

Best mid-tele prime?  

Any of the (5!) 85s, either of the 135s.  

Best long-tele prime?

All of the long tele-primes are well regarded, the 200mm 2.8 especially so.  Choose depending on your focal length needs.

Best wide-to-mid zoom?

It's the Zeiss - in the tests I've seen it takes the Minolta G to pieces towards the edges.

Best mid-to-tele zoom?

Zeiss again - it's pretty spectacular.

Best tele zoom?

Sony & Minolta 70-200 2.8s are optically identical.  Very good things coming out about the Sony 100-400 G if you want longer.  Sony 70-300 G if you're after something less exotic.


Final tip, if you're really into studio portraiture you really owe it to yourself to at least rent the STF.  I couldn't justify it over the Zeiss 135 because it is slow - T4.5 - but the images...  It's not a soft focus or a DC lens, it's a bokkeh enhancer and it's utterly gorgeous.

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