Looking for the best Sony lenses? Whether you have an APS-C Sony camera for a full-frame model like the Sony A7R IV, we’ve tested all of the best lenses to help you find the right ones for your camera and style of photography.
If you’re relatively new to Sony cameras, here’s a quick introduction to them. Sony has two distinct line-up of mirrorless cameras. The APS-C range is aimed at beginners to enthusiasts, while the full-frame range is available for enthusiasts up to professionals.
Sony took the photographic world by storm back in 2013, with the launch of its first A7 mirrorless camera. This diminutive yet powerful body quickly grew into a whole series of A7 and A9 cameras, which have gone from strength to strength. It took no less than five years for the biggest names in traditional cameras to catch up, with Canon and Nikon only launching its first full-frame mirrorless cameras in 2018, namely the Canon EOS R and RP, and the Nikon Z7 and Z 6.
With such a lengthy head start, Sony put those five years to good use. It designed and brought to the market a succession of impressive full-frame compatible lenses, while also ramping up its range of APS-C format lenses for its popular line of A6000 series camera bodies. Whatever type of prime or zoom lens you need for your Sony full-frame or APS-C format body, you’ll be able to find an own-brand Sony lens to fit the bill. The only catch is that sometimes the bill can be a little steep, so we’ve taken value into consideration as well in this in-depth guide to the best Sony lenses.
Just as with conventional SLRs, independent manufacturers have kept an eye on Sony’s progress and started designing prime and zoom lenses that compete with own-brand optics. Some of the latest from the likes of Sigma and Tamron deliver similar or even better performance than Sony’s own lenses, while undercutting them for price. Let’s take a closer look at the best buys to suit a range different requirements.
While Sony lenses can be shared across all of its bodies as the mount is the same regardless of sensor size, many are specifically designed to be used on either the full-frame bodies, or the APS-C bodies. In this guide we’ll be taking a look at lenses which are available for both systems – and will note if they are best suited to full-frame or APS-C, or are good for both.
Best Sony lenses 2020 at a glance:
- Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM
- Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM
- Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
- Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art
- Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art
- Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
- Sony FE 85mm f/1.8
- Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
- Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS
- Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
- Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
- Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS
- Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS
- Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS
- Sony E 16-55mm F2.8 G
- Sony E 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS
Best Sony lenses in 2020:
The FE 24mm f/1.4 GM is Sony’s newest wide-angle prime lens and also the company’s eighth high-end G Master lens. Sony has designed the lens around four key criteria: resolution, bokeh, speed, and a compact and lightweight design. It doesn’t disappoint. Image quality is stunning, with excellent sharpness across the frame, while the 11-blade circular aperture renders smooth and natural-looking bokeh. Focusing is swift thanks to the Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM), while it weighs in at only 445g (15.7oz). That’s quite a bit lighter than Canon’s 24mm f/1.4 (650g / 22.9oz), Nikon’s 24mm f/1.4 (620g / 21.9oz) and Sigma’s 24mm f/1.4 (665g / 23.5oz). The only real downside is the hefty price tag.
The Zeiss-badged Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS has been the main choice for Alpha users after a high-quality wide-angle zoom lens, but the arrival of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM now makes that decision much harder. A stop faster at f/2.8, this is a larger piece of glass that weighs in at 680g. Build quality is excellent and includes a full set of weather-seals, while the 11 blade rounded aperture diaphragm delivers ultra-smooth bokeh. Focusing is fast and silent, while the image quality is stunning – the perfect partner for cameras like the 42MP Alpha A7R III and the newer 61-megapixel A7R IV.
This is a stunning lens and the perfect optic for beautiful portraits. The 11 blade rounded diaphragm helps produce sumptuously soft and dreamy bokeh in defocused areas. Sharpness across the entire frame is very good at f/1.4 – and stunning at f/2.8 and beyond. Sony’s Nano AR coating fends off ghosting and flare, while lateral and longitudinal fringing are both minimal. The focus hold button and de-click aperture ring option are nice bonuses, with the latter working very well when shooting video.
Sigma’s Art lenses have an uncompromising design ethic that goes all out for enabling artistic flair and creativity, no matter if they end up being quite large and weighty. The 24-70mm f/2.8 standard zoom for Canon and Nikon SLRs is typical of the breed but the new ‘DN’ version for Sony mirrorless cameras is more of a complete redesign than a simple tweak with a different mounting plate. It’s also about 200g lighter, making it more manageable on a svelte Sony mirrorless body, but is still pretty weighty at 830g.
Sigma has certainly thrown the full weight of its technological expertise into the lens. It has a complex optical path of 19 elements. Of these, there are three aspherical elements, six top-performance FLD (‘Fluorite’ Low Dispersion) elements and two SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements. In addition to Sigma’s usual Super Multi-Layer Coating, there’s a brand new Nano Porous Coating, to further reduce ghosting and flare.
The lens is impressive mechanically as well as optically. Its stepping motor autofocus system is very fast and virtually silent in operation, and comes complete with the usual electronically coupled focus ring, which enables very precise manual adjustments. Meanwhile, aperture control is based on an 11-blade diaphragm which remains very well-rounded when stopping down, helping to retain attractive bokeh.
Image quality is mostly fabulous, with superb sharpness and contrast, and absolutely negligible color fringing. The only minus points are that barrel distortion is rather noticeable at the short end of the zoom range and vignetting is quite severe at f/2.8, but automatic in-camera corrections are available for both of these aberrations.
Own-brand Sony wide-angle zooms include the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master and the FE 12-24 f/4 G. This new Sigma lens goes wider than the 16-35mm while matching its fast and constant f/2.8 aperture, although it doesn’t go quite as wide as the ‘slower’ f/4 lens. For our money, the Sigma is actually an ideal compromise in terms of zoom range and aperture rating. And speaking of money, it massively undercuts both Sony lenses for purchase price.
Like Sigma’s 24-70mm Art standard zoom for Sony mirrorless cameras, this one has evolved from a very popular lens that was designed for Canon and Nikon SLRs. Again, there are considerable differences in the construction of the E-mount version, starting with the optical path. The veritable feast of glass includes three aspherical elements, complete with a large-diameter, ultra-high-precision one at the front. Further back, there’s an FLD (‘Fluorite’ Low Dispersion) element and no less than five SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements. Also like the standard zoom, the ultra-wide lens uses both Super Multi-Layer Coating and Nano Porous Coating, which give a noticeable reduction in ghosting and flare, compared with the older SLR lens.
As usual in ultra-wide lenses, the lens hood is an integral part of the barrel and protects the bulbous, protruding front element. As such, there’s no attachment thread for the direct mounting of filters. However, the new E-mount version of the lens adds a gel filter slot in its mounting plate, complete with a locking device, and comes with a template for cutting gel filter material to size.
Build quality is excellent and the construction features comprehensive weather-seals. Handling is similarly top-drawer. The autofocus system is fast and unerringly accurate, and image quality is stunning in terms of sharpness and contrast, even when shooting wide-open at f/2.8. However, whereas the SLR edition of the lens is virtually a ‘zero distortion’ optic, the DN version produces noticeable barrel distortion in the 14-16mm sector of its zoom range. Even so, this can be automatically corrected in-camera.
This lens has already garnered much acclaim since its release five years ago, being prized for its sharpness. Not only that, but at a fraction of the price of Sony’s own Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA optic, this is a very tempting option for street, portrait and nature photographers who need that wide f/1.4 aperture, be it for working in low light or for isolating subjects from their surroundings. It’s not the smallest 50mm f/1.4 lens of its kind, although it seems that the extra bulk is necessary in order to deliver the kind of imaging performance we find here.
This fairly chunky optic nonetheless only weighs in at a pretty modest 371g thanks to a predominantly plastic construction, but balanced really nicely on the Alpha A7R II we tested it with. The design is very clean – so much so that there’s no distance or DOF scales, but those niggles aside, it’s a cracking portrait lens. Focusing is nice and brisk while the nine-blade diaphragm delivers to really beautiful bokeh. Optically, there’s little to fault it on either – it’s incredibly sharp at the centre of the frame through the aperture range. If you can’t justify one of the more exotic Sony portrait lenses, this is a great option.
A classic portrait focal length and a wide f/1.4 aperture are the main draws of this lens, as is the fact that it can be had at a far more agreeable price than Sony’s own G-Master version. Like that lens, it’s fairly big and heavy (even more so here, in fact), but it rewards with a robust build, fast focus and excellent image quality. Sharpness is excellent at the widest f/1.4 aperture, and this only improves once you stop down a touch, while bokeh is nice a natural – a key consideration for portraiture. The deep focusing ring also makes manual focus very pleasing when you need to use this. Overall, a wonderful lens at a wonderful price.
Sony’s FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master OSS is undeniably a cracking lens, but if you want even more telephoto reach, the new 200-600mm delivers it in fine style and is better value.
With a tough, weather-sealed construction, it’s ideal for everything from action sports and wildlife photography to shooting birds and aircraft. The maximum 600mm focal length is epic on a full-frame body and gives an absolutely phenomenal 900mm ‘effective’ reach on Sony’s APS-C format cameras, thanks to the 1.5x crop factor.
Handling is excellent, with well thought-out controls that have effectively the same layout to those of the smaller 100-400mm lens. Three customisable focus-hold buttons are fitted around the lens barrel and there’s an autofocus range limiter. It’s enhanced in the 200-600mm lens, however, enabling you to lock out either short or long focus range and the optical stabilizer gains a third switchable mode.
Again, modes one and two are for static and panning shots respectively. The new third option only applies stabilization during actual exposures, making it easier to track erratically moving objects. The optical stabilizer is even more effective when working in conjunction with the sensor-shift stabilization of Sony’s recent camera bodies.
Helped by the inclusion of one aspherical element and five ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements, sharpness and contrast are outstanding for a super-telephoto zoom and amazingly consistent throughout the entire zoom range, right up to 600mm. Color fringing and pincushion distortion are also very negligible at all focal lengths. Autofocus is super-fast and, unusually for a super-telephoto zoom, the physical length remains constant at all focal lengths. All in all, this is a fabulous lens for both full-frame and APS-C format Sony cameras.
The first 35mm prime lens to be launched for full-frame E-mount bodies was the dinky little FE 35mm f/2.8, designed along Zeiss’s Sonnar principles. The newer f/1.4 Distagon lens is massive by comparison, measuring 79x112mm and weighing 630g. However, it’s two f-stops faster and has a much more sophisticated feature set. Unusually for an E-mount lens, there’s a manual aperture ring. As a bonus, you can select one-third click steps or click-free rotation, the latter being ideal for shooting movies. Sharpness is exemplary, right across the whole image frame, chromatic aberration is only slight and barrel distortion is extremely low for a 35mm lens.
Unlike most up-market zoom lenses for DSLRs, this one has a widest available aperture of f/4 rather than f/2.8, which helps to make its size and weight a better match for the comparatively small A7 series bodies. As with most Zeiss-badged optics, the physical design looks minimalist, without any switches for auto/manual focus modes or on/off for the OSS (Optical SteadyShot) stabilizer. Even so, the metal lens barrels feel beautifully engineered and the build is dust/moisture resistant. Sharpness is good and very consistent throughout the zoom and aperture ranges although the corners become a little soft at longer zoom settings.
At its closest focus distance, this 90mm lens gives full 1.0x macro reproduction, ideal for monstrous enlargements of tiny bugs and other small objects. Attractions include top-quality glass, quick and ultra-quiet autofocus, OSS (Optical SteadyShot) stabilization and a nicely rounded nine-blade diaphragm. Image quality and handling are excellent, and the lens isn’t just a one-trick macro pony. The combination of a 90mm focal length and fairly fast f/2.8 aperture make the lens equally useful when you want to minimise depth of field for portraiture or still life.
Two rear-mounted OSS (Optical SteadyShot) stabilization switches select on/off and static/panning modes. A further two switches are on hand for auto/manual focus modes, and to lock out the close autofocus range below three metres. Unusually for this class of 70-200mm f/4 lens, there’s also a set of three focus-hold buttons towards the front of the lens, plus a tripod mounting collar. The optical path includes plenty of premium glass, plus Sony’s Nano AR Coatings. Sharpness and contrast are generally very good, although extreme edge and corner-sharpness drops off at 70mm when using an aperture of f/4, and at 200mm throughout the aperture range. Ultimately, this lens is a highly competent telephoto zoom with excellent handling.
The FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS is Sony’s only lens for it’s mirrorless cameras that covers a focal length greater than 200mm, so it’s just as well it’s a great lens. Until more dedicated telephoto primes become available, this is a great partner of the Alpha A9, and isn’t much bigger than Sony’s 70-200mm f/2.8. Focusing is incredibly quiet and quick, while the built-in optical stabilization means you can reduce camera-shake by five stops. Optically, results are very good. Don’t expect results to match rival primes, but sharpness is very good.
Sony’s very first 16-55mm lens for its APS-C cameras with a constant f/2.8 aperture shows that the company doesn’t see its smaller sensor cameras as second rate. A superb walk around lens, offering an equivalent of 24-82.5mm in full-frame terms, the lens is compact and light, with excellent sharpness from corner-to-corner. You can use it for all sorts of subjects, with its flexible focal length being well-suited to street, landscapes, travel and even portraiture. This lens is particularly well-matched with higher-level APS-C cameras, such as the recently announced a6600.
Designed to appeal to those shooting sports, wildlife and action with fast cameras like the Sony a6600, the 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3G OSS super-telephoto lens is an exciting new addition to Sony’s APS-C range. It promises high optical performance, with built-in optical image stabilisation, plus typical G master lens sharpness from corner to corner. Offering 5x optical zoom, the lens is still relatively lightweight and would be a great addition to any kit bag.