Best New Wide Angle Zoom Lens
Nikon NIKKOR Z 14-30mm F4 S
This zoom was an important addition to the Nikon Z full-frame mirrorless-camera lens lineup because it allowed photographers to own a native ultra-wide-angle zoom lens. In other words, they wouldn’t need to use one of Nikon’s lens adapters for one of the Nikon F mount DSLR NIKKOR lenses. It has a body construction of 14 elements in 12 groups and four ED glass and four aspherical lens elements, plus it has a minimum focusing distance of just under 1 foot. And I was surprised that it’s much lighter and more compact than Nikon’s DSLR ultra-wides: Nikon said it’s 51.5 percent lighter and 35 percent shorter than the AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED for the F mount. And in terms of image quality, I found it to be a remarkable lens with excellent edge-to-edge performance—and great power and flexibility. It can also accept screw-in filters, which is a plus.
Best Wide-Angle Prime Lens
Tamron SP 35mm F/1.4 Di USD
Constructed with 14 elements in 10 groups, Tamron’s fast fixed-focal lens comes with an f/1.4 aperture and high-speed, high-precision AF functionality. It also offers exceptional reliability plus various other features for increased convenience. It’s available for Canon and Nikon DSLR mounts (for models with full-frame or APS-C-size sensors). It’s also compatible with Canon’s R-series or Nikon’s Z-series full-frame mirrorless cameras, but you’ll need to use an adapter. Overall, it’s a lens that has exquisite quality at a great value.
Best New Standard Prime Lens
Sigma 40mm F1.4 DG HSM
Sigma designed this prime with 16 elements in 12 groups, including three FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) glass elements and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements to correct for axial chromatic aberration and magnification chromatic aberration. It all makes for crisp, sharp images and video as well as a beautiful soft bokeh with maximum apertures. The exterior of the lens also has a water- and oil-repellent coating on the front lens element along with a dust- and splash-proof structure. It’s available for several mounts, including Sigma’s mount, Nikon’s F mount, Canon’s EF mount, Sony’s E-mount and L-mount compatible cameras.
Best New Telephoto Prime Lens
Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM US Telephoto Lens
This Sony G Master series lens is a superior, best-in-class lens, although there are other high performers in its class, too. While it’s an expensive lens, it’s worth the high price. What’s striking is that it feels like the type of lens that’s designed not just to resolve images on today’s high-resolution sensors but also to be forward-compatible so that it can handle tomorrow’s digital imaging sensors. But practically speaking, it’s a versatile lens that would be well suited for portraits, street shooting, wildlife and some sports, although its reach is a bit limited in terms of sports. It also has very impressive ergonomics and some nice controls on the camera body.
Best Medium-Format Camera Lens
Fujifilm FUJINON GF100-200mm F5.6 R LM OIS WR
While some of Fujifilm’s camera bodies and lenses may have a somewhat retro design appearance, the company has always produced cutting-edge technology and optics inside its imaging products. And this is especially true when it comes to its GFX medium format system, which includes robust technologies, sophisticated systems and impressive optics. The FUJINON GF100-200mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR telephoto zoom lens is a great example of a lens that embodies these qualities. It includes a powerful image-stabilization system (with five stops of compensation) and has a durable exterior design (constructing the lens with seals that resist moisture, weather and dust).
Best New Telephoto Zoom Lens
Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS
One of the nice qualities you’ll find on this super-telephoto zoom lens is that it has a fixed-length structural-lens design that features an internal zoom, which means the length of the lens doesn’t change while zooming. It also has a high resistance to dust and moisture in order to deal with the elements when shooting outside. For sports and wildlife photographers who are on a tight budget, Sony’s given this lens a very competitive price point. It’s also very versatile. For instance, the lens has a built-in optical stabilization system with three modes, a focus ring for responsive, manual-focus control, and three customizable focus-hold buttons, plus a focus-range limiter.
Best New Special-Purpose Lens
Lensbaby OMNI Creative Filter System
Lensbaby has always been an inventive imaging company. This year was no exception, with its intriguing filter system. Like many of its previous products, photographer and videographers can produce optical effects in-camera instead of in software for their photos or videos. The OMNI system includes effect wands that attach magnetically to the OMNI ring, which screws onto the lens’ filter threads.
Best New Standard Zoom Lens
Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm F4 Macro OIS
The Lumix S 24-105mm F4 MACRO O.I.S. is a very versatile standard zoom lens, which also provides macro capabilities and can be used without the need for pressing a button or flipping a switch. The lens is constructed with 16 lenses in 13 groups, including two aspherical lenses and two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) lenses, for suppressing chromatic aberration and maintaining high resolution. This Lumix lens comes equipped with an optical image stabilizer to minimize blur due to hand shake and a nine-blade circular aperture diaphragm. And its rugged dust/splash-resistant exterior design helps protect the lens from the elements as well.
Best New Budget Superzoom Lens
Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM
There are two important aspects of this lens—it has a big, 10x optical zoom range, and it’s affordably priced. That’s important for Canon’s new R full-frame system, which up until now included some pretty pricey glass. With such a long zoom range, it’s nice that it comes with optical IS. It’s also constructed with 21 elements in 15 groups and has a minimum close-focusing distance of 1.64 feet at the wide end of the zoom range and about 2.5 feet at the telephoto. It’s also a great option for those on a budget or for those on the road.