Friday, January 18, 2013

The Consumer Lens Gap

Back in 2006, anyone with a full-frame (or even film) body had plenty of choices when it came to decent consumer-level zooms. Ignoring the existence of the 28-80, 28-90 etc, there was the 20-35 3.5-4.5, 24-85 3.5-4.5, 28-105 3.5-4.5, and 28-135 rounding out the wide angle and standard zooms. There was also a 28-200 superzoom, for better or for worse.

Fast forward to today, and the situation is very different. Anyone looking for a wide angle or travel zoom in a consumer price range is forced to look to third parties, since Canon doesn't offer anything. Meanwhile, anyone wanting a non-L standard zoom can choose the aging 28-135 or...the 28-135. The telephoto end is similarly sparse, with only the (awful) 75-300 and 70-300 IS to choose from as the 100-300 4.5-5.6 had been discontinued a few years back.

In the past, this wasn't much of an issue since full-frame bodies cost an arm and a leg, really only making them affordable to those who could justify a collection of  L-lenses to match. Nowadays things have changed and 5D Mk II's are clearing out for as low as $1500, the 6D selling below $2000 as well, and used 5D classics going in the $500-$600 range. These cheaper bodies only help to compound the issue of decreasing lens choices.

In September 2012, Nikon launched the D600 along with a stabilized 24-85 for $600, and a 28-300 superzoom. Yet when the 6D was announced a few days later, a consumer zoom failed to accompany it, forcing another 'go L or go home' scenario. Three non-L EF zooms just isn't enough to properly support a system that's offering affordable full-frame options.

Contrasting the zoom situation in 2012 however was the long-awaited replacement of some of Canon's ancient AFD primes, plus the introduction of the extremely affordable 40mm 2.8 pancake. That's four consumer grade EF primes released in one year, and although three of them were a bit pricey, that should drop significantly over the next year or two. With Canon refreshing their prime lineup like that in 2012, one can only hope 2013 will be the year the full-frameconsumer zooms finally get re-introduced.

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