Alpha System Timeline

1985 – Alpha Begins

Minolta released their autofocus Alpha system in 1985 with one camera the Alpha 7000 and 12 interchangeable AF lenses. Many of the new AF lenses used the same optics as Minolta’s existing manual focus lenses. Two of these original Alpha lenses are still sold by Sony today: the 50mm F1.4 and 50mm F2.8 Macro.

The new high-end, white $3,156 300mm F2.8 APO telephoto prime lens had a gold colored ring near the front. The AF 28-135mm F4-4.5 zoom was the next most expensive lens. It lacked a gold ring and was only $526. Minolta had several manual focus lenses that were more expensive. Late in the year a higher end Alpha 9000 body was released with a faster maximum shutter speed and manual film advance.

The 24mm and 28mm F2.8 primes reused the optics of the last simplified MD versions released in 1981 and 1983. The 24mm switched to rear focus while the 28mm remained unit focus. The 50mm F1.4 and F1.7 primes continued older MD Rokkor designs. The 28-85mm, 35-105mm, and 70-210mm had previously been released as MD one-touch zooms in 1983.

The new 28-135mm F4-4.5 zoom and 135mm F2.8 prime used internal focus designs to speed up AF. The manual focus control of the 28-135mm was behind the zoom control, close to the lens mount. The new AF 50mm F2.8 Macro did life-size reproduction without requiring an extension like the older Rokkor 50mm F3.5.

Minolta also released two adapters to allow their older lenses to be used on their new Alpha cameras. Both have teleconverter optics. Third parties release simpler adapters with 1.2X optics.

  • 24mm F2.8
  • 28mm F2.8
  • 28-85mm F3.5-4.5
  • 28-135mm F4-4.5 ‘Secret Handshake’
  • 35-70mm F4 ‘Baby Beercan’
  • 35-105mm F3.5-4.5 ‘Hidden G’
  • 50mm F2.8 Macro
  • 50mm F1.4 and F1.7
  • 70-210mm F4 ‘Beercan’
  • 135mm F2.8 ‘Pocket Rocket’
  • 300mm F2.8 APO white w/ gold
  • 2X M/A Converter-L (5/3)
  • 2X M/A Converter-S (7/6)


Minolta released a lower end Alpha 5000 camera body and several higher end optics. Sony continues to sell updated versions of the 16mm fisheye, 20mm rectilinear and 100mm macro released in this year.

  • 16mm F2.8 Fisheye
  • 20mm F2.8
  • 28mm F2
  • 75-300mm F4.5-5.6 ‘Big Beercan’
  • 100mm F2.8 Macro
  • 200mm F2.8 APO white w/ gold
  • 600mm F4 APO white w/ gold
  • 1.4x Tele Converter APO white
  • 2x Tele Converter APO white


  • 24-50mm F4 zoom
  • 35mm F1.4 and F2
  • 80-200mm F2.8 APO black w/ gold
  • 85mm F1.4
  • 100mm F2
  • 100-200mm F4.5 ‘Lite Beercan’

1988 – cheaper, smaller zooms:

  • 35-80mm F4-5.6
  • 35-105mm F3.5-4.5 N
  • 70-210mm F3.5-4.5
  • 80-200mm F4.5-5.6
  • 100-300mm F4.5-5.6

High-Speed G APO lenses:

  • 200mm F2.8 G APO HS white w/ gold
  • 300mm F2.8 G APO HS white w/ gold
  • 600mm F4 G APO HS white w/ gold
  • 1.4x Tele Converter-II APO
  • 2X Tele Converter-II APO

1989 – world’s first AF mirror lens

  • 500mm F8

1990 – specialized

  • 3x-1x F1.7-2.8 Macro

In 1991 Minolta added 3 additional pins to the mount to power zoom motors for their Xi series of lenses and camera bodies. These extra pins were reused in 2000 for powering focusing motors and reporting focus distance encoding. The Alpha 9xi body was released in 1992 and had a shutter that went to 1/12,000 second.

2000 – Alpha 7 – SSM and Distance Ecoding

2000 brought the original Alpha 7 camera and support for in-lens focus motors and focus distance encoding. The older Alpha 9 cameras could also be refitted to support motorized lenses. This is the last major addition to the lens mount before the Sony Alpha 77 SLT in 2011. Minolta released APO D versions of their Tele Converters in 2003.

2004 – Alpha 7D Digital SLR

The first digital Konica-Minolta Alpha 7D was released in 2004. The last Konica-Minolta film cameras the Alpha 70 and 50 are also released. The less expensive 5D becomes the last Konica-Minolta camera in 2005.

2006 – Sony Alpha 100

Sony released their first SLR the Sony Alpha 100 in 2006. They released the higher end Alpha 700 body in 2007, and the first full-frame digital Alpha 900 in 2008.

2009 – Easy Choice Primes

  • SAL2875 A 28-75mm F2.8 SAM
  • SAL30M28 DT 30mm F2.8 Macro SAM
  • SAL50F18 DT 50mm F1.8 SAM
  • SAL55200-2 DT 55-200mm F4-5.6 SAM

2010 – E-mount and SLTs

Sony released the new mirrorless E-mount with the NEX 5 and 3 camera bodies in 2010 along with 3 E-mount lenses. The new cameras come in kits with either a pancake wide prime or a traditional mechanical 18-55mm zoom. All three lenses come with a silver exterior finish.

  • SEL16F28 E 16mm F2.8 (pancake)
  • SEL1855 E 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS
  • SEL18200 E 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS

Sony also released the first SLTs the small 55 and 33 bodies which use the same small batteries as the NEX cameras. The last SLR bodies are released this year: 580, 560, 450, 390, 290. Three new A-mount lenses arrive including two more Easy Choice SAM primes.

  • SAL24F20Z A 24mm F2 ZA SSM Distagon T*
  • SAL35F18 DT 35mm F1.8 SAM
  • SAL85F28 A 85mm F2.8 SAM

2011 – Lens Compensation – 4x Faster Tracking

In 2011 Sony added Lens Compensation to both of their lens mounts. The required data can be transmitted from lens to camera body, but the data for some older lenses is added to cameras through firmware updates. The cameras embed the Lens Compensation data in their ARW raw files.

  • SEL24F18Z E 24mm F1.8 ZA Sonnar T*
  • SEL30M35 E 30mm F3.5 Macro

Sony releases the new enthusiast Alpha 77 and 65 SLTs. The 77 comes with a new 16-50mm F2.8 SSM kit zoom. This is the first SSM lens to support 4x faster tracking on the A77 and A65. Sony will eventually update all of the original A-mount SSM lenses except the 24mm to this new standard as SSM II lenses.

  • SAL1650 DT 16-50mm F2.8 SSM

2012 – Full Frame E-mount Camcorder

In 2012 Sony released the full-frame VG900 E-mount camcorder with a new full-frame LA-EA3 A-mount to E-mount lens adapter. They also add on-sensor phase-detect to both mounts with the full-frame Alpha 99 SLT and the APS-C NEX 5R. Several new E-mount lenses are added including a new pancake kit power zoom.

  • SEL1018 E 1018mm F4 OSS
  • SELP1650 E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS
  • SEL18200LE E 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS LE
  • SELP18200 E PZ 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS
  • SEL35F18 E 35mm F1.8 OSS
  • SEL50F18 E 50mm F1.8 OSS

APS-C SLTs will not be given on-sensor phase-detect. The A99’s Dual AF system involves using a special AF-D focusing mode and only supports some lenses. Two APS-C zooms were released for A-mount the 18-135 and the 55-300. The very expensive 500mm F4 G SSM was also released.

  • SAL18135 DT 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 SAM
  • SAL55300 DT 55-300mm F4.5-5.6 SAM
  • SAL300F28G2 A 300mm F2.8 G SSM II
  • SAL500F40G A 500mm F4 G SSM

2013 – Full Frame Mirrorless

In 2013 Sony releases the first two full-frame mirrorless cameras the Alpha 7 and Alpha 7R with a new Eye AF contrast-detect function. All subsequent Alpha models have some form of Eye AF. The FE lenses lineup initially consisted of just three lenses, but two additional F4 zooms were announced. APS-C E-mount gained a higher end Zeiss branded F4 zoom, a camcorder F4 G kit zoom, and a second pancake prime.

  • SEL1670Z E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar T*
  • SEL18105G E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS
  • SEL20F28 E 20mm F2.8
  • SEL2870 FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS
  • SEL35F28Z FE 35mm F2.8 ZA Sonnar T*
  • SEL55F18Z FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Sonnar T*

This same year the Sony 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM is released as the last new Sony A-mount lens. The new entry-level Alpha 58 SLT camera body comes with a cosmetically updated DT 18-55mm SAM APS-C kit zoom. These are the last Sony A-mount lens releases.

  • SAL1855-2 DT 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SAM II
  • SAL50F14Z A 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM Planar T*
  • SAL70200G2 A 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM II
  • SAL70400G2 A 70-400mm F4-5.6 G SSM II

2014 – 5 Axis Stabilization

Sony released 6 Alpha camera bodies in 2014 two were full-frame mirrorless and the rest were APS-C including the popular 6000 and a new high-end 77II SLT. The high sensitivity 12 MP A7S gained a new all-metal E-mount. A new magnetic floating 5-Axis sensor stabilization system debuted in the A7II. Four FE zooms were released.

  • SEL1635Z FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar T*
  • SEL2470Z FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar T*
  • SELP28135G FE PZ 28-135mm F4 G OSS
  • SEL70200G FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS

2015 – AF-C Eye AF

Sony released two more full-frame mirrorless bodies: the high resolution Alpha 7RII now equipped with on-sensor phase-detect and the Alpha 7SII. Both equipped with the 5-axis sensor stabilization from the Alpha 7II. The 7RII gathered interest for supporting Eye AF in AF-C, and the ability to use its on-sensor phase-detect with adapted lenses. Sony released a firmware update for the 7II that also gave it the latter ability. Four new FE lenses were also released.

  • SEL24240 FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS
  • SEL28F20 FE 28mm F2
  • SEL35F14Z FE 35mm F1.4 ZA Distagon T*
  • SEL90M28G FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS

2016 – FE G Master Lenses

The first release this year was the first E-mount lens longer than 240mm. The big news however was a couple of F2.8 FE zooms which received a new G Master designation by Sony. Sony also released a trio of 50mm primes, a 85mm GM, and a Super 35 cinema zoom for their high-end E-mount cinema cameras.

  • SELP18110G E PZ 18-110mm F4 G OSS
  • SEL2470GM FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM
  • SEL50F14Z FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Planar T*
  • SEL50F18F FE 50mm F1.8
  • SEL50M28 FE 50mm F2.8 Macro
  • SEL70200GM FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS
  • SEL70300G FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS
  • SEL85F14GM FE 85mm F1.4 GM

2017 – Digital Alpha 9 – High Speed Electronic Shutter

The Minolta Alpha 9 series cameras were known for their fast mechanical shutters. Sony created a stacked full-frame digital sensor to increase the electronic read speed. The camera with this sensor is the new Alpha 9. The all electronic shutter can do 1/160 s reads and 1/32,000 s exposures.

The last lens not updated to support 20 FPS tracking on the A9 was the FE 70-300mm G OSS released in 2016. The FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS, FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Planar, and FE 85mm F1.4 GM receive firmware updates to do support 20 FPS.

  • SEL1224G FE 12-24mm F4 G
  • SEL1635GM FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM
  • SEL24105G FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS
  • SEL85F18 FE 85mm F1.8
  • SEL100F28GM FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS
  • SEL100400GM FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS

2018 – Aperture Drive in AF

The latest Sony E-mount lenses support Aperture Drive in AF option on the Sony A9 models. Two of these are APS-C zooms. The 24mm and 135mm GM primes required a firmware update to support this feature.

  • SEL1655G E 16-55mm F2.8 G
  • SEL70350G E 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS
  • SEL20F18G FE 20mm F1.8 G
  • SEL24F14GM FE 24mm F1.4 GM
  • SEL35F18F FE 35mm F1.8
  • SEL135F18GM FE 135mm F1.8 GM
  • SEL200600G FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS
  • SEL400F28GM FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS
  • SEL600F40GM FE 600mm F4 GM OSS