Sony Lens Abbreviations and Acronyms

INTRODUCTION
THE DARK HORSE

Welcome to a guide on the 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 made camera sensors for other companies before launching their own production line.

So in a way, Sony is not really a new kid on the block, but a rather experienced player. Also, you might 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 to find out!

 

 

MOUNT SYSTEMS

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.

 

LENS DESIGNATIONS

  • ZA: Zeiss Alpha. A-mount lenses made by Carl Zeiss.
  • SAL: Sony A-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.
  • SEL: Sony E-mount lenses with autofocus.
  • DT: Digital Technology, designed for cameras with crop (APS-C) sensors. They still work on full-frame cameras, but at the cost of megapixels (cropped image).

 

 

LENS CLASS

  • 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.
  • 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

  • ED: Extra-low Dispersion. Designed to reduce chromatic aberrations.
  • Super ED: Extra-low Dispersion on steroids. The better version of ED.
  • T*: T-star coating on a Carl Zeiss lens. A special layer of optical coating that prevents flaring, ghosting and increases image contrast.

 

STABILIZATION

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 a sensor-based stabilization (built-in, in-camera stabilization).

 

SPECIALIZATION

  • 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 lens which is 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.

 

 

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:

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