Is alternative fast zoom coming to microFourThirds?

In a slowed-down economy, with slowed-down lens releases, any new lens is good news. If it’s a cheap lens, it’s even better, and with an ƒ/2.8 aperture, it’s excellent news. This time, although still just a rumour, it’s all three –‍ expected new lens release, with an ƒ/2.8 aperture, and shouldn’t be expensive. Enter YongNuo 12‍–‍35mm F2.8‍–‍4 STM Asph.

YongNuo 12‍–‍35mm F2.8‍–‍4 m43 STM Asph. autofocus zoom lens

YongNuo is no stranger to the microFourThirds system, their previous lenses in the system offer full autofocus and aperture control and cover the basics –‍ 25mm F1.7 and 42.5mm F1.7, fast 50mm and 85mm equivalents (in 35mm film format). So, fast normal and portrait lenses.

This new lens should cover another basic need – fast normal, 24‍–‍70mm-e coverage. With ƒ/2.8‍–‍4 aperture range, it is almost the equivalent of cheap(er) Sigmas and Tamrons 17‍–‍50mm from the days of APS-C DSLRs, something every single mirrorless system sorely needs. Only recently, and only some of the smaller-than-full-frame mirrorless systems gained lenses like these – again, from Sigma and Tamron.

For some reason, both Sigma and Tamron are staying away from the microFourThirds system, leaving open access to modern Chinese optical companies. So far, there have been only a few autofocus lenses from Chinese optical companies, mostly primes. This is one of the first autofocus zooms and The first fast zoom, with ƒ/2.8 aperture.

According to the rumour mill, the lens will have an internal zoom and internal focus mechanism, meaning its length remains the same, no matter what the lens is doing. That’s nice, but usually not that high on the list of essential features. The closest focusing distance should be pretty close, at 13cm (probably from the focal plane), which indicates reasonably good pseudo-macro magnification. According to the images, the lens will use STM focus motors, so focusing should be pretty quick, albeit not totally silent.

What’s the fuss all about?

Although there are more than a few similar fast zooms in the system, all those lenses are high-class lenses, with a high price, and usually out of reach of hobbyists, especially in emerging markets. Those lenses, with a short explanation of other major differences, are in the following list:

  • Panasonic G X Vario 12‍–‍35mm F2.8 – the same range and constant, faster aperture,
  • Olympus M.Zuiko 12‍–‍40mm F2.8 Pro – more reach and constant, faster aperture,
  • Olympus M.Zuiko 12‍–‍45mm F4 Pro – slightly more reach and constant, but slower aperture.

There are cheaper alternatives with a 12mm wide angle, all at least ƒ/3.5‍–‍5.6 kit lenses or even darker. Despite the fact that there is only a half-a-stop difference between ƒ/2.8 and ƒ/3.5 on the wider end, there is at least a full stop difference on the narrower end – ƒ/4 vs. ƒ/5.6. Although most of those lenses are at least decent optically, wonders should not be expected. Also, their build quality is usually optimized for low price, not high quality. A list of those lenses follows, again with a short explanation of other major differences:

  • Panasonic G Vario 12‍–‍32mm F3.5‍–‍5.6 – collapsible and very compact,
  • Panasonic G Vario 12‍–‍60mm F3.5‍–‍5.6 – a lot more reach,
  • Olympus M.Zuiko 12‍–‍50mm F3.5‍–‍6.3 EZ – the same constant length inner-zoom mechanism, has power-zoom, and slower aperture at the narrow end,
  • Yi Xiaoyi 12‍–‍40mm F3.5‍–‍5.6 – more reach,
  • Kodak PixPro 12‍–‍45mm F3.5‍–‍6.3 – slightly more reach, slower aperture at the narrow end.

Competing lenses from Olympus and Panasonic are joined by 3rd party models from Chinese companies, in this category. All of those lenses were kit lenses for their respective cameras.

So, let’s wait and see how this new YongNuo lens will behave, let’s hope its optical qualities will be on-pair with almost legendary Sigmas and Tamrons from the days of yore.

TL;DR

YongNuo is rumoured to have a new lens in the works, and it should be an ƒ/2.8‍–‍4 zoom, covering 24‍–‍70mm-e range. It should be inexpensive and its build quality should be good, which is great news for hobbyists. If it performs optically on par with the lenses from Sigma and Tamron of similar range and aperture, it could become a great bargain.