Echoing the attention currently given to mirrorless cameras, lens releases in 2020 also primarily went the mirrorless way. With mirrorless camera systems becoming more mature, tiered, and solidified among various brands, lens development is also reaching a point where nearly all manufacturers have a well-rounded lineup. This year saw a number of foundation releases, as well as a handful of exciting and special optics that dominated headlines when announced. Let’s take a look a look at the top 10 mirrorless lenses of 2020.
10. Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4.5 Zero‑D Shift
Distinct rendering and shift control make this ultra-wide one of the most unique lens options of 2020 for mirrorless shooters.
Never one to shy away from doing something unique, Venus Optics released its Laowa 15mm f/4.5 Zero-D Shift lens in 2020, which is one of the only shift lenses available for mirrorless cameras. Its ultra-wide field of view pairs with a “Zero-D” design that limits unwanted distortion, and +/- 11mm of shift helps to control keystoning and correct converging lines to suit architectural and interior applications. Also, while available for Canon RF, Nikon Z, and Sony E full-frame mounts, Venus also states the lens has enough coverage (75mm image circle) to enable its use on medium format mirrorless cameras with a 44 x 33mm sensor, which is possible by adapting either the Canon EF or Nikon F SLR versions of the lens.
9. Canon RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
Impressively sleek and lightweight, the f/4 version of this tele zoom is perfect when you need flexible reach with portability.
When Canon launched its RF 70-200mm f/2.8, it stuck out due to its truly sleek, retractable form factor compared to SLR-intended 70-200mm lenses. Now, Canon has released the even smaller RF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, which trades in a stop of light for about a 13 oz reduction in weight and 1″ off the total length. Besides it being sleeker and lighter, this f/4 version retains its L-series classification, standing for optical excellence and weather sealing, and it features a five-stop-effective image stabilization system to minimize camera shake. This is a great option for Canon mirrorless shooters looking for the prized 70-200mm range but who can do without the speed of an f/2.8 maximum aperture.
Click here for our hands-on review of the 70-200mm f/4.
8. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art
A fresh and sleek take on the classic fast portrait-length prime, this 85mm f/1.4 lives up to mirrorless’s claims of reducing heft while maximizing quality. Sigma spent 2020 focusing on expanding its DG DN series of lenses for full-frame mirrorless cameras, and the highlight of 2020 has to be the 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art, available for L-mount and Sony E. In the past, Sigma hasn’t been one to shy away from larger-sized lenses to allow for high speed and optical excellence. With the DG DN lenses, though, the company seems to be minding the collective desire to make smaller lenses for the smaller mirrorless camera sizes. This lens is an ideal example of offering high speed and a manageable size. Beyond just its form factor, though, it’s also a member of Sigma’s Art line, meaning its optics prioritize sharpness and clarity, and it’s spec’d out to please portrait shooters with a rounded 11-blade diaphragm, an autofocus lock button, and a manual aperture ring.
Check out our first look on the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 here.
7. Canon RF 800mm f/11 IS STM
An 800mm lens for the people, Canon’s compact super-telephoto prime trades in speed for a unique design that is handholdable and affordable.
Traditionally, super-telephoto lenses are known as the huge and heavy lenses with a high price tag. Enter Canon’s RF 800mm f/11 IS STM, which is a very fresh and unique take on the ultra-long 800mm lens. Compared to an 800mm f/5.6 that would invariably be large and heavy, Canon decided to implement an undeniably slow f/11 maximum aperture, a retractable design, and Diffractive Optics to achieve a lens that gives you the same reach at a fraction of the size, weight, and cost. It’s a specialty lens for wildlife shooters, for sure, but now that it’s more approachable, it will be interesting to see how many newcomers stick their toes in the super-tele birding and wildlife photography game.
Learn more about the RF 800mm and other Canon releases from its major announcement in July, here.
6. Nikon NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S & NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S
Rounding out its holy trinity of f/2.8 zooms, Nikon’s Z system is now ready to handle almost any shooting situation faced by working shooters.
Cheating a bit, but for this spot we’ll include two lenses from Nikon: the NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S and the NIKKOR Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S, which were both released in 2020 and stand to complete the holy trinity of lenses comprising the 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, and 70-200mm f/2.8. These two lenses are sure to be found in the bags of many working photographers for years to come and are essentially standards for any pro-grade camera system, mixing versatility and speed. When redesigning these lenses for mirrorless, Nikon didn’t simply switch mounts from its prized SLR version; these are wholly new designs that provide even greater sharpness and improved clarity to match the imaging demands of the Z cameras. They’re not especially unique lenses, but they’re classics for a reason and will be some of the most popular lenses from Nikon for future years.
Click here to learn more about Nikon’s lens releases from 2020.
5. Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM
Long reaching in a portable form factor, this 100-500mm has impressive flexibility and coverage for an all-in-one tele zoom.
Those who want the versatility of a zoom with a bit more reach than a 70-200mm will feel right at home with Canon’s RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM. Longer than a 70-200mm and a 100-400mm, this lens’s reach makes it that much more useful for sports and wildlife shooting. Its modest maximum aperture range, while not excelling in terms of low light, does help to keep the size and weight down for handheld use, and it also sports 5-stop-effective IS to control camera shake. It’s an L-series lens, too, featuring advanced optics and a weather-sealed design, and it has a Dual Nano USM system for quick and accurate autofocus performance.
Learn more about the 100-500mm and other Canon lens releases here.
4. Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO
Extreme reach, built-in teleconverter, and advanced optics—this lens checks all boxes for what a super-telephoto zoom needs to be.
Making use of the Micro Four Thirds sensor size, the M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO is even more impressive sounding when you consider its 300-800mm equivalent focal length range, which goes even further to 375-1000mm equivalent when you take into account the built-in 1.25x teleconverter. This super-tele zoom is clearly aimed at wildlife and sports crowds; its reach is great, the f/4.5 constant maximum aperture is suitable for available-light shooting, and it features five-axis image stabilization to compensate for camera shake. It’s also weather sealed and outfitted with a variety of dials and switches for intuitive handling for fast-paced shooting.
Get more information on this super-telephoto zoom here.
3. Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S
High speed, high sharpness—this impressive normal-length lens excels in all the ways you’d expect from a premium prime.
Officially, it’s the fastest 50mm autofocus lens Nikon has ever made, but the NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S is more than just a normal-length prime with a bright design. Aspherical and ED elements offer distinctly sharp rendering that is backed by advanced ARNEO and Nano Crystal Coatings that offer high contrast and vivid color rendering. The f/1.2 maximum aperture is still an important aspect of this lens and offers extensive control over depth of field to suit portraiture, and a rounded nine-blade diaphragm contributes to a smooth and rounded bokeh. Like other premium Nikon Z lenses, this 50mm f/1.2 also sports a top OLED info panel and has a multi-focus system for quick and accurate performance.
Check out our announcement on the 50mm f/1.2 here.
2. FUJIFILM XF 50mm f/1.0 R WR
Fast, fast, fast, FUJIFILM’s short-tele prime is all about shallow depth of field and low-light shooting, making it a unique option for portrait shooters.
While f/1.2 and f/1.4 lenses are typically considered “very fast,” FUJIFILM takes it up a notch with its XF 50mm f/1.0 R WR. As a lens for APS-C-format camera systems, this 76mm equivalent lens sits in the unique short portrait-length range, which allows you to isolate subject matter from backgrounds without losing total focus of the context. However, the huge f/1.0 maximum aperture does allow for dramatic blurring of backgrounds as well as the ability to shoot handheld in very low lighting conditions. Beyond its speed and optics, this 50mm f/1.0 lens is also characterized by a weather-sealed design and a robust DC autofocus moto that’s perfect for handling the physically larger glass elements of this specialized portraiture lens.
Click here to check out our hands-on review of this fast portrait-length lens.
1. Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM
Ultra-wide and ultra-versatile, this exacting zoom mixes focal length flexibility with a bright f/2.8 design to realize an ideal lens for landscape and nature shooting.
Sneaking into the top spot for 2020 is Sony’s FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM, an ultra-wide zoom that offers a bit more than your standard ultra-wide zoom. To begin, it does have the ever-so-slightly wider focal length range than most lenses in this class, while retaining the prized f/2.8 constant maximum aperture. Beyond focal length, this G Master lens has an advanced optical design that’s all about limiting distortion and maximizing sharpness throughout the zoom range, making it an immensely versatile lens from wide to long ends. Specialized elements, a Nano AR coating, and a floating focusing system all contribute to high performance, along with an XD Linear Motor system that also contributes to quick focusing speeds. Additionally, as a lens meant for landscape shooters, it also touts a weather-sealed design and fluorine-coated front element, and it has a built-in petal-shaped hood.
Get a more in-depth look at this ultra-wide zoom here.
These are my top 10 lenses for mirrorless cameras from 2020. What are your favorites from 2020? Did I miss anything? Let us know your thoughts and top picks in the Comments section, below.