Holiday Gift Guide – Best Lenses of 2021
The season of giving is upon us – which becomes immediately obvious whenever you walk into a store and you’re overwhelmed by Whamageddon. If you want to avoid the Christmas music and prefer to do your shopping online, then have no fear, DIYP’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guides are here to rescue you with some of our favourite new releases of the year, as well as a few old favourites that always seem to find a place in our gear bags.
In this post, we’re going to be taking a look at lenses, but keep an eye out for upcoming guides featuring Lighting, Tripods, Sliders & Gimbals, and other accessories and gadgets and be sure to check out our previous guide going over the best of this year’s new Cameras.
It took a while for Sony to get around to refreshing its original 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS, but now they finally have, promising “next-generation AF performance” and purports to be the “world’s lightest large aperture telephoto zoom lens”, which is sure going to help your wrists and arms when you’re out shooting with this thing all day! It’s 29% lighter than its predecessor and it’s also pretty small, too, measuring only 200mm long.
Canon completely redesigned its 100mm f/2.8L to bring it from the Canon’s EF DSLR mount to their new RF mirrorless mount. The new design comes with different optics and a Spherical Aberration Control Ring to help adjust the shape and character of foreground and background bokeh. Canon’s previous EF model 100mm f/2.8L was pretty legendary and from what I’ve seen so far, this one seems to live up to the expectations set by its predecessor.
Despite its tiny 70×45.5mm size, the Nikon Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 is a full-frame Z mount lens. A low budget alternative to the “nifty fifty” so commonly used throughout history on most brands, the 40mm offers a slightly wider field of view that is often more useful for things like street photography or as a general walkabout lens while on vacation. This lens also has a price tag to match, coming in at under $300.
Mitakon Speedmaster 90mm f/1.5 – RF, FE, Z M (ZYOptics) – $599
This is the newest lens from Zhongyi Optics’ Mitakon range. Billed as “a budget alternative to the legendary Leica Summilux-M” this lens shaves $13,600 off the price of the classic Leica lens, bringing it right down to only $599. It’s available in native Sony FE, Canon RF and Nikon Z mounts as well as a Leica M mount that can be adapted to pretty much anything. You’ll even get autofocus with the Megadap MTZ11 and Techart TZM-01/LM-EA7 adapters
Samyang 50mm f/1.4 FE II – FE (Samyang) – $749
It seems quite fitting that Samyang would update its 50mm f/1.4 FE for its 50th anniversary and that’s exactly what they did. Like Sony, it boasts to be the smallest and lightest in its glass for full-frame Sony E mount, measuring only 88.9mm long and weighing 420g. A 9-blade aperture offers smooth bokeh and linear stepper motors make the autofocus system fast and virtually silent for video shooters.
This APS-C lens from 7artisans comes in just about every mirrorless mount option you could hope for. All of them, basically, including the often ignored Leica L, the soon-to-be-obsoleted (?) Canon EF-M and the occasionally neglected Micro Four Thirds. With a very wide f/0.95 aperture, this thing loves low light. That 25mm focal length offers a similar field of view to about 32.5mm on full-frame and on Micro Four Thirds cameras, it should act pretty much identical to a standard “nifty fifty” 50mm f/1.8 on full-frame – but with 2 stops more light.
Canon isn’t the only company refreshing its telephoto macro lens to their new lens mount format this year. Nikon also released their new Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S macro lens. It’s taken a while for Nikon to update this one, but they’re finally here. The previous Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G AF-S VR and 105mm f/2.8D AF versions were both wildly popular due to their sharpness and clarity, and this one should be able to easily keep up with the needs of its users.
The Samyang 12mm f/2 AF marks Samyang’s entry into the world of autofocus lenses for the Fuji X mount system. Also available in Sony E flavour for APS-C cameras, this lens offers a fairly wide aperture, a very wide field of view and a very short focusing distance that lets it feel as comfortable indoors in small spaces as it does shooting the stunning vistas of the great outdoors. It’s also a tiny lens, measuring a mere 70 x 59.2mm and weighing a hair over 200g.
When it comes to weird lenses, Canon certainly takes the cake this year with the new Canon RF 5.2mm f/2.8L Dual Fisheye. Designed for shooting immersive 3D images and high resolution VR content with cameras like the Canon EOS R5, this lens offers a pair of 5.2mm fisheye lenses to provide a wide 190° field of view for both left and right eye views to provide an immersive 180° VR experience that more closely resembles human vision.
Sirui 50mm T2.9 1.6x Full-Frame Anamorphic – RF, Z, FE, L (Sirui) – $1,199 (limited price)
Sirui is also no stranger to producing cool and unusual lenses. This year, they brought us the full-frame 50mm T2.9 1.6x Anamorphic lens for Canon RF, Nikon Z, Sony FE and Leica L mounts. The 1.6x anamorphic perspective provides for an ultra-wide 2.8:1 aspect ratio (or 2.4:1 when using a 3:2 sensor) for shooting super wide cinema. Sirui says this offers a viewing experience that “is as premium and immersive as the IMAX format”.
OM System M.Zuiko 20mm f/1.4 Pro – MFT (B&H) $799
And how could we possibly complete this list without including the first lens released under the new OM System brand? The artist formerly known as Olympus has had quite the year, transitioning over to a new company and a new name, but now we finally have the first genuine new product from the company. The M.Zuiko 20mm f/1.4 Pro lens. Hopefully this is the beginning of many new products to come!
So this is our lenses list for this year. There were so many weird and wonderful lenses this year and it was impossible to include them all, but this list represents some of the new lenses that stood out to us the most this year. What new lenses have you gotten in 2021? Will you be adding any of these to your list for Santa?
Keep an eye out for upcoming guides coming over the next couple of days covering lighting, tripods, sliders & gimbals as well as accessories and don’t forget to check our previous guide going over the best of this year’s new cameras.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.