Building the perfect Sony APS-C kit for €2500 – 2014 recap

Looking into my website statistics, I realise that quite a lot of people are still reading this blog entry. I wrote it in late 2011 when the then-amazing new Sony NEX-7 and the Zeiss 24/1.8 lenses were announced.

Just out of fun, I decided to create a follow-up of that article and to outline a current – late 2014 – Sony APS-C mirrorless camera system for €2.500. I can’t really say “NEX” any more because Sony marketing has dropped that name.

First of all, I’m currently not a Sony APS-C user. I used to have a NEX-5 and NEX-5N and while I did think about upgrading to the NEX-7, I was not so happy about the first-generation 24 MP chip inside it, so I skipped that body, opted for a nifty little Olympus E-M5 (a great 2012 novelty) and finally came back to Sony when the full-format A7R was made available.

Anyway, I do love some APS-C stuff that Sony makes. Especially the amazing Sony A6000. It’s super fast, the 24 MP sensor is refined by now, and it offers real bang for the buck. So why not take that for a start of the late 2014 APS-C system.

Sony A6000 + 18-105/4 G – €999

Okay, while the photo below shows the body with the amazing little 16-50 kit zoom, I personally would never bother with a lens like that (which is not to say that it will surely deliver great results for a lot of people – but it’s just not mine).

Sony A6000 (photo: Sony).
Sony A6000 (photo: Sony).

I’ve thought quite a bit of why I would opt for an APS-C system today instead of a full-format one. The first reason, of course, is cost. On the other hand, with €1.199 Sony A7 bodies, it does not seem that impossible to set up a €2.500 full-format system instead, and especially when you look at all those amazing prime lenses that are available today – both new and used – I just can’t see myself going for a primes-only APS-C system these days. Instead, I’d concentrate on the points that APS-C does really well. Apart from lower cost, APS-C can offer great versatility and speed, when you select the right lenses.

If you are really on a tighter budget and want clear, crisp imagery more than anything else, I’d just have a look at the Sigma primes – 19/2.8, 30/2.8 and 60/2.8 for the A6000 body. They are cheap and very good.

Sony E 18-105/4 G (photo: Sony).
Sony E 18-105/4 G (photo: Sony).

If you, however, want to follow that route of great versatility, I’d suggest to have a look at the Sony zoom lenses. There’s in fact one that I find really interesting as a standard zoom and that is … the Sony 18-105/4 G. While this lens has truly worrysome distortion characteristics, it’s sharp, it offers an amazing 28-160 equivalent zoom range with constant f/4 aperture, thus giving nicer portraits with blurry backgrounds than other, shorter APS-C zooms. I’d always take a zoom with a longer end over one that’s a bit wider at the other end. Of course, your mileage may vary.

But the 18-105/4 G is also really cheap! The A6000 bundled with the 18-105/4 G retail for about €999 in reliable German online shops as of October 2014.

Sony FE 70-200/4 G – € 1.369

Now you’ve got another €1.500 left and you can do a lot with that. Given that I already can cover anything up to 160 mm (in 35 mm terms) with my standard lens, I would go and buy the best telezoom lens available for the system: The FE 70-200/4 G.

I do, in fact, own this lens for my A7R. The image quality is very good. But it’s not the perfect companion for the A7R due to that camera body’s slower AF system and the A7R mechanical shutter introducing some vibration that can sometimes spoil images at specific shutter speeds. I have, however, once tried the FE 70-200/4 G lens on an A6000 body and all I can say is that this lens really sings with that body. It’s fast, and it’s really sharp and contrasty even at open aperture. Plus the OSS stabilisation works flawlessly.

Sony FE 70-200/4 G (photo: Sony).
Sony FE 70-200/4 G (photo: Sony).

So, just a body and two lenses and we’re altogether at €2.400. From here, you could stretch your budget just a little bit and still take the 50/1.8 OSS lens that I already suggested back in 2011. You’d then have a nice portrait prime lens to complement your two zoom lenses. I do not think that you really will need much more than what these two / three lenses do offer.

Of course, I realise that I have selected two very big lenses. Wasn’t it the point of all mirrorless cameras to be small and light-weight? Well, for what it offers, the 18-105/4 G lens is not really heavy. It looks bigger than it feels. And it’s normally the weight, not the size, that makes you moan about carrying all that stuff around. The FE 70-200/4, of course, is a 840g lens. Yet still telezooms with that speed and reach just don’t come smaller than that. And given the reach of the 18-105/4 G, you’ll not have to lug the 70-200/4 around every time you leave your home.

Of course, most people would probably select other lenses than I do. That’s the nice thing about 2014: Even for Sony users, there are now at least some more lens options available. So, I’d suggest you have your own fun with finding your personal dream set-up!

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