Welcome to a guide on Sony lens abbreviations and acronyms. Sony is one of the younger players when it comes to manufacturing cameras. But interestingly, they are not new to the world of photography. For those who do not know, Sony actually manufactured camera sensors for other companies before launching their own production lines.
So in a way, Sony is not really a new kid on the block, but a rather experienced player. Also, you may have noticed that some of the Sony lenses are manufactured by Carl Zeiss, and some old Minolta lenses are totally compatible with Sony cameras. Just what is happening here? Let us answer all of the lens abbreviations and walk through a little bit of history at the same time – Read on!
Sony only has 2 mount systems at the time of writing.
- A-mount (or Alpha α-mount): To answer the question of why Minolta lenses are compatible with Sony A-mount cameras – It is because they are exactly the same system. Yes, Sony first introduced the A-mount in 2006, which they acquired from Konica-Minolta.
- E-mount: A later mount system that Sony designed for the NEX series of mirrorless cameras.
- SEL: Sony E-mount lenses with autofocus.
- E: E-mount lens, in short. But please take note that lenses with this designation are made for crop (APS-C) sensors.
- FE: Full-frame E-mount lens.
- LE: Not quite sure of this one actually. I am guessing this is “Lightweight E”.
- SAL: Sony A-mount lenses with autofocus.
- DT: Digital Technology, designed for cameras with crop (APS-C) sensors.
- ZA: Zeiss Alpha. A-mount lenses made by Carl Zeiss.
- G: Gold. Nope, the lens is not made of gold, but it is Sony’s range of professional lenses. This is the equivalent of Canon’s red ring or Nikon’s gold ring.
- GM (or G Master): The even better gold class, master-level gold lens.
ZOOM & AUTOFOCUS
- SAM: Smooth Autofocus Motor, not a surface-to-air missile. This is an economic lower-end motor used in the “regular Joe” lens. Sufficiently fast and quiet, but not quite as good as the more advanced SSM.
- SSM: Super Sonic Motor, Sony’s ultrasonic motor. Extremely fast and silent.
- DDSM: Direct drive supersonic motor. A bigger SSM on larger lenses.
- IF: Internal Focus. All the focusing magic happens inside, the lens does not extend or retract as you focus on subjects.
- PZ: Power Zoom, this lens has a motor to drive optical zoom. It may not make much sense for still photography unless you are so lazy to even turn the focus ring… This is used for videography where we want a smooth zoom transition.
LENS ELEMENTS & COATING
- ED: Extra-low Dispersion. Designed to reduce chromatic aberrations.
- Super ED: Extra-low Dispersion on steroids. The better version of ED.
- XA: Extreme aspherical lens element. For producing super-smooth bokeh.
- T*: T-star coating on a Carl Zeiss lens. A special layer of optical coating that prevents flaring, ghosting and increases image contrast.
- AR: Anti-reflective coating. Reduce lens flare and haze.
Sony calls its stabilization Optical Steady Shot (OSS). Sony has a rather different approach to stabilization. You will only find OSS on the E-mount lenses since the A-mount cameras use sensor-based stabilization (built-in, in-camera stabilization).
- Fisheye: Very wide-angle lens with extreme distortion, just as how fishes see. Still very useful and unique.
- TC: Teleconverter. This is a secondary lens designed to be fitted on another lens to extend its focal length.
- Macro: Shoots up-close. Sony does not mess around with macro, if it is macro, it is 1:1 magnification… unlike some 3rd party lenses which are 1:2 magnification.
- STF: Smooth Transition Focus. These lenses are built to deliver silky-smooth out-of-focus bits, AKA BOKEH. If blur backgrounds are your thing, STF is the way to go.
- C: Cinematic lens, specially meant for videography. This is kind of confusing though, as Zeiss uses “C” as “compact” and “classic”.
Just like Canon, Sony adopts a roman numeric revision system. The first revision is “I”, the second revision is “II”, the third revision is “III”, and so on…
LINKS & REFERENCES
Thank you for reading and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope that it has helped you to better understand, and here are a couple of extra links that may be useful to you:
- Lens mount and sensor formats – Sony
- Sony Lens Abbreviations – Photography Life
- Easy Guide to Sony Lens Abbreviations – Expert Photography