It was a busy year for new cameras and lenses, and few companies were anywhere near as prolific as Sony.
The Five Cameras Sony Launched in 2023
Sony released five new cameras in 2023 and announced a sixth, the a9 III, which will be available next spring.
The Japanese tech giant released its first camera of 2023, the Sony ZV-E1 vlogging camera, at the end of March. The “(almost) perfect video creator camera” features a full-frame 12.1-megapixel Exmor R image sensor, the same one as the Sony a7S III. It includes a robust suite of video features, including AI-powered autofocus and subject tracking.
Two months later, Sony followed the $2,200 ZV-E1 with a much more affordable vlogging camera, the ZV-1 Mark II. The sub-$1,000 content creator camera has a much smaller sensor and a built-in lens, but is a competent tool at a reasonable price.
Another couple of months later, Sony was back with another “sequel,” the long-awaited Sony a6700 APS-C mirrorless camera. Calling it “definitely worth the wait,” PetaPixel lauded the a6700 for its fast-scanning 26-megapixel sensor, refined body design, and across-the-board upgrades.
By mid-July, the company had released two new vlogging cameras and the APS-C a6700. But where was a new full-frame camera for photographers?
In late August, Sony debuted not one, but two new full-frame cameras, the Sony a7C Mark II and the Sony a7C R. The “entry-level” cameras upended the concept of what an entry-level full-frame camera can be. For the a7C II, the $2,200 camera sports a 33-megapixel sensor and is the direct successor to the original a7C, released in 2020. The a7CR, on the other hand, takes the 61-megapixel sensor from the a7R V and puts it inside a compact, lightweight body. Of course, the a7CR sets photographers back $3,000, which is far from cheap, although $900 less than the a7R V.
That is the end of Sony’s new cameras in 2023. Of course, as mentioned, Sony did unveil the a9 III months ahead of its 2024 release, and it is undoubtedly the most important announcement Sony made in 2023 — maybe ever.
Five New Sony Lenses Launched in 2023
To go with its five new cameras, Sony released five new lenses in 2023, bringing the total number of available E-mount lenses to more than 70, including 52 full-frame lenses. Sony’s new lenses were spread pretty evenly throughout the year, with the first landing in January and the most recent one, the new 300mm f/2.8 G Master prime, launching last month.
The Sony FE 20-70mm f/4 G was Sony’s very own Baby New Year. The unusual zoom lens, breaking new ground at the wide end of its focal length range, is a great travel lens with impressive all-around photography and video performance.
After a short quiet period, Sony announced the FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS II alongside the a6700. While releasing a full-frame zoom next to an APS-C camera may seem odd, the lens itself is spectacular. It is compact and lightweight and has some macro capabilities up its sleeve. What’s not to like?
Sony continued its “mark II” approach later this summer with the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM II. Another dynamite zoom lens, the 16-35mm f/2.8 GM II, is Sony’s third revised G Master lens, following the 24-70mm f/2.8 GM II and 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II zooms. It surely won’t be the last G Master lens to receive a fresh coat of paint, either, as some other GM lenses are getting a bit long in the tooth, like 2017’s 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 telephoto lens, for example, which could benefit significantly from the same autofocus upgrades the 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II got in 2021.
Finishing the year is one of the most-anticipated, most-requested Sony lenses, the FE 300mm f/2.8 GM OSS. It is a spectacular lens and the world’s lightest 300mm f/2.8 lens. While not cheap, the $6,000 lens has instantly proven popular with pros, especially sports photographers.
Grading Sony’s Year
It’s high time for a bit of subjective analysis. In terms of quality and quantity, how did Sony perform in 2023?
On the camera front, Sony, like many others, focused too much on vlogging and content creation for my tastes. While this is a trendy market segment, it is difficult for photographers to get excited about it.
After the ZV-E1 and ZV-1 Mark II, things got much more interesting. The Sony a6700 was a long time coming and is an excellent APS-C camera. Ideally, Sony would lean more into the enthusiast market with an APS-C camera design similar to what Nikon and Canon used to do with the D500 and 7D Mark II, respectively. But beggars can’t be choosers; the a6700 was a welcome addition to Sony’s lineup.
The a7C Mark II and a7CR were also great introductions this year. While the single card slot prevents these from being good options for some photographers, they bring high-end features and performance to the market at relatively reasonable prices.
If the Sony a9 III counted for 2023, it’d significantly bump Sony’s camera performance. Nonetheless, Sony’s 2023 cameras earn a solid B-minus grade, heavily buoyed by the a6700 and a7CR.
When it comes to glass, Sony had a dynamite year. From top to bottom, every lens Sony introduced in 2023 is compelling and excellent. There’s not a bad piece of glass in the mix.
It is impossible to pick the “best” Sony lens of the year, given they’re all quite different. Still, there are two standouts. The 70-200mm f/4 G OSS II is a versatile telephoto zoom, and the 300mm f/2.8 GM is a feat of optical engineering.
For its lenses in 2023, Sony earns an A. The company still has a bit of a gap at the longest end of its lens lineup, especially for lightweight and affordable options, and that’s among the rare few things holding the E-mount system back from perfection.
Although this is not an average, Sony’s 2023 earns an A-minus overall. The lenses carry the day, but Sony released many good products this year. It’s a high bar to clear, but could 2024 be even better for Sony shooters?