Best Sony Lenses

Best Sony Lenses Reviewed by Shotkit
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Following my recent switch to Sony for wedding photography work, I thought it fitting to write a roundup of the best Sony lenses available in 2018.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to the entire range of native Sony e mount lenses (thanks Sony Japan), and have selected what I believe are the best Sony lenses for all-round use.

One of the advantages of Sony mirrorless cameras is the ability to use almost any third party lens (via a separate mount), allowing photographers to take advantage of Sony’s class-leading camera technology with some of the world’s best glass.

In order to keep this roundup concise, I only included native Sony e mount lenses for full frame (‘Sony FE lenses’) and e mount lenses for APS-C (‘E lenses’). I also included some Sony branded Zeiss lenses, but not the other 3 lines that Zeiss designs independently for Sony (Touit, Batis and Loxia).

I also chose to ignore the new Sigma ART lenses for Sony E-mount, announced in February 2018 (latest pricing here), but will be reviewing these elsewhere soon.

Although I limited this roundup to just the Sony lenses, feel free to leave your non-native Sony lens recommendations in the comments below.

[UPDATE (Sept, 2018): We’ll be reviewing Sony’s latest lens release – the Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM soon to see if it needs to be added to this list!]

The 8 Best Sony Lenses in 2018

Image Product Details
shk2-table__imageSony 55mm f/1.8OUR #1 CHOICE
  • Filter Diameter: 49 mm
  • Size: 64.4 mm (diameter) x 70.5 mm (length)
  • Weight: Approx. 281 g
View Price →
shk2-table__imageSony 35mm f/1.8TOP-RATED
  • Filter Diameter: 49 mm
  • Size: 63 mm (diameter) x 45 mm (length)
  • Weight: Approx. 154 g
View Price →
shk2-table__imageSony 35mm f/1.4GREAT VALUE
  • Filter Diameter: 72 mm
  • Size: 78.5 mm (diameter) x 112 mm (length)
  • Weight: Approx. 630 g
View Price →
shk2-table__imageSony 28mm f/2
  • Filter Diameter: 49 mm
  • Size: 64 mm (diameter) x 60 mm (length)
  • Weight: Approx. 200 g
View Price →
shk2-table__imageSony 16-35mm f/2.8
  • Filter Diameter: 82 mm
  • Size: 88.5 mm (diameter) x 121.6 mm (length)
  • Weight: Approx. 680 g
View Price →
shk2-table__imageSony 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Filter Diameter: 82 mm
  • Size: 87.6 mm (diameter) x 136 mm (length)
  • Weight: Approx. 886 g
View Price →
shk2-table__imageSony 85mm f/1.8
  • Filter Diameter: 67 mm
  • Size: 78 mm (diameter) x 82 mm (length)
  • Weight: Approx. 371 g
View Price →
shk2-table__imageSony 24mm f/1.8
  • Filter Diameter: 49 mm
  • Size: 63 mm (diameter) x 65.5 mm (length)
  • Weight: Approx. 225 g
View Price →

 

Sony’s Best Lenses for All-round Use

I’ve kept the focus of this post on the best Sony lenses for all-round usage. I’m  aware that any ‘best of’ list is largely down to personal preference, but I’ve tried to remain impartial, selecting lenses that I believe the majority of photographers can benefit from in most situations.

I’ve also taken into account the lens’s ‘bang-for-the-buck’ when compiling this list. We all know that f/1.4 trumps f/1.8 or f/2 in most ways, but does the additional price/weight really benefit the consumer that much?

Another area where personal preference has crept in is in the selection of prime lenses over zoom. I believe that small, mirrorless cameras should be used with lenses of a similar size/weight wherever possible… unless of course your job depends on longer lenses, or you intend to shoot with a small tripod.

Based on the past few months I’ve had testing a selection of the best Sony e mount lenses in Japan and Australia, these are the ones that I’ve chosen as a solid base for any Sony full frame or cropped sensor e-mount camera owner. (If you’re looking for Sony lenses to be used exclusively on a7 or a9 series cameras, make sure they’re marked ‘FE’.)

The cameras used for testing were the full frame Sony a7R III (reviewed here), the Sony a7 III (reviewed here) and the crop sensor Sony a6000 (reviewed here).

Be sure to check out this guide to the best lenses for the Sony a6000 for some more Sony e mount lens recommendations for the crop sensor format, and my guide to the best Sony accessories for what I’m currently using with my Sony cameras.

Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Zeiss Sonnar T*

Best Sony lenses - 55mm 1.8

Compatibility: Full frame (FE) & Crop Sensor (E)
Minimum Focus:
0.5 m
Filter Diameter: 49 mm
Size: 64.4 mm (diameter) x 70.5 mm (length)
Weight: Approx. 281 g
Price: Click here for the latest price

Let’s start this list of the best Sony lenses available in 2018 with one of the sharpest lenses ever produced… all the way back in 2013! That’s right, the Sony 55mm f/1.8 is over 5 years old…

Announced to complement the first Sony A7 and A7R mirrorless cameras, the Sony 55mm f/1.8 was the perfect match for these groundbreaking devices. Its size/weight went well with the smaller bodies, and the impeccable Carl Zeiss optics made the most of the A7R’s 36MP sensor.

If you’re looking for the sharpest lens at a useful, flattering focal length, it’s hard to beat the Sony 55mm f/1.8. 55mm may sound unusual, but the difference between a 50mm and a 55mm field of view is minor and something you’ll quickly get used to.

When mounted on a Sony APS-C (crop sensor) body like the Sony a6000, the field of view is converted to 85mm, a classic focal length for portrait photographers, who strive for un-distorted, flattering facial features, beautiful out of focus areas (subject separation) and a mid-range zoom which still doesn’t make the viewer feel too detached from the image.

Sony does make 50mm 1/.8 lenses for both E and FE mount cameras, but this 55mm is faster to auto-focus and sharper, making it definitely worth the additional expense if you plan to use it a lot.

The T* in its full name (Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Zeiss Sonnar T*) refers to Zeiss’ anti-reflective coating, which improves detail, contrast and clarity, particularly in strong light.

tony gale 55mm sony best lenses
Sony a7RII + Sony 55mm f/1.8 | © Tony Gale

As with all Zeiss lenses, build quality on the Sony 55mm f/1.8 is excellent, with a metal barrel and a solid, high quality feel. Its light weight and diminished size make it a perfect walk-around lens when mounted to a Sony mirrorless camera, making this lens an extremely popular choice with street photographers.

Thanks to a high speed internal focusing mechanism, the Sony 55mm f/1.8 delivers fast, silent and precise auto-focus. When tested on my Sony a7R III and a Sony a6000, I found auto focus speeds to be just as snappy as the fastest DSLR lenses I own, and much quicker than the Sony 50mm offerings.

As for image quality, the Sony 55mm f/1.8 delivers razor-sharp images whether shot wide open at f/1.8 or stopped down to smaller apertures – you can expect edge to edge sharpness across the board, and incredible detail retention.

Zooming in 100% on images shot with the Sony 55mm f/1.8 attached to a 42MP Sony a7R III is mind-blowing – individual eye lashes look like wires on head shots which fill the screen with the 55mm. This lens is also amazing for architecture photography for this reason, although at 55mm you’ll obviously need to be able to stand back far enough to fit the subject of your photo in completely.

The focus falloff from these razor sharp in-focus elements to creamy bokeh is gradual and subtle, and the bokeh itself is beautifully smooth.

Colours are precise and vibrant, so JPEG shooters who don’t want to spend any time behind a computer can be confident of nailing the shot straight-out-of-camera. Colour rendition is obviously also dependent on the camera used, but at least with the Sony 55mm f/1.8 , you’ll know it’s not the lens letting you down!

All in all, the Sony 55mm f/1.8 is a gem of a lens to have in your camera bag… or indeed your jacket pocket, due to its diminished size/weight. I’m a firm believer that small mirrorless bodies should be matched with small, lightweight lenses, and this is quite simply one of the best.

Whether you’re a wide angle lens lover or prefer to zoom in to your subject, the Sony 55mm f/1.8 offers a versatile focal length that’s perfect for shooting portraits, and delivers class-leading sharpness and first-rate Zeiss quality. Highly recommended!

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE SONY 55MM F/1.8 FE

Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS

Sony 35mm 1.8 E mount

Compatibility: Crop Sensor (E)
Minimum Focus:
0.3 m
Filter Diameter: 49 mm
Size: 63 mm (diameter) x 45 mm (length)
Weight: Approx. 154 g
Price: Click here for the latest price

Still on the topic of small, lightweight lenses that pair perfectly with Sony mirrorless cameras, the Sony 35mm f/1.8 deserves pride of place in this best Sony lenses list.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s my favourite lens for a crop sensor Sony body such as the a6000 (which is why it’s top of the list in my roundup of recommended lenses for the Sony a6000). At half the weight of the camera body, it’s the perfect complement to the slender Sony APS-C sensor bodies.

If you own a full frame Sony body (lucky you!), feel free to skip ahead to the next recommended lens, since the Sony 35mm f/1.8 is only for APS-C (crop) sensor shooters. Although technically it’d fit on a full frame body, you’d experience nasty vignetting unless you cropped the image in-camera.

On a cropped sensor Sony mirrorless camera, this lens will give roughly a 50mm field of view (52.5mm), which is ideal for a whole range of subjects. 50mm is a popular focal length since it gives an un-distorted view of the world, and can be flattering for portraits, without making the subject feel detached like a longer lens might.

Although the Sony APS-C sensor does a good job in sucking in as much light as possible, due to the limitations of the smaller sensor size, images captured in low-light at higher ISOs can become rather noisy. That’s why having a ‘fast’ lens with a large (f/1.8) aperture like the Sony 35mm f/1.8 is such a big help.

Opening up your aperture to f/1.8 can mean the difference between a blurry image (caused by too slow a shutter speed) and a sharp one, (where using a wider aperture allows a faster shutter speed).

Sony 35mm f:1.8
Sony a6000 + Sony 35mm f/1.8 | © Rambo Estrada

Similarly, it can mean the difference between a noisy image (where a higher ISO is needed to capture enough light), and a clean one (where using f/1.8 allows you to use a lower ISO).

The ‘OSS’ refers to Optical Steady-Shot (image stabilization), a feature that is rare on prime lenses. In combination with the fast f/1.8 aperture, this is another reason that the Sony 35mm f/1.8 is so good for low-light shooting.

As well as low-light shooting advantages, the larger aperture of the Sony 35mm f/1.8 helps to separate the subject, by encouraging sharp in-focus elements, and creamy out-of-focus elements.

An aperture of f/1.8 also means that you’ll be able to get that coveted ‘blurred background look’ that really separates lesser cameras. Sure, your smart phone’s ‘portrait mode’ may be able to do something similar, but the process is much slower with the mobile phone and its fancy A.I.

Sharpness is decent at f/1.8, but stopping the lens down to f/4-f/8 really yields the best results, if capturing the utmost detail is your primary concern.

I have to say that the auto-focus speed of the Sony 35mm f/1.8 when mounted to the Sony a6000 wasn’t amazing, especially when the subject was heavily back-lit. However, in most normal daylight situations, the lens/camera locked onto the subject fast enough, and it wasn’t an issue.

Overall, the Sony 35mm f/1.8 is a versatile and fun little lens that is the perfect complement to a small Sony mirrorless body, with images quality that simply isn’t possible with the kit lens that comes with your camera.

In my opinion, it’s the best prime lens for Sony crop-sensor camera owners who want a small and lightweight setup with excellent optical performance – it’s in many respects the perfect travel camera/lens combination.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE SONY 35MM F/1.8 E

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Zeiss Distagon T*

Sony Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4

Compatibility: Full frame (FE) & Crop Sensor (E)
Minimum Focus:
0.3 m
Filter Diameter: 72 mm
Size: 78.5 mm (diameter) x 112 mm (length)
Weight: Approx. 630 g
Price: Click here for the latest price

Still on the classic 35mm focal length, the Sony 35mm f/1.4 is my recommendation for Sony full frame shooters.

I was on the fence for a while whether to include the excellent Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 here instead, but realised that my love for that lens was mostly due to its size rather than its optical performance. If portability is your primary concern the f/2.8 model is the best choice, but the lens I’m about to tell you about below is much better…

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first – the Sony 35mm f/1.4 is an expensive lens. Although cheaper than the Canon/Nikon equivalents by about $300 (see the latest price here), I imagine that the majority of its owners are either professionals (like me), or amateurs who place a great value on stellar imaging performance.

The fast 35mm prime lens is a stable of the wedding photography industry. I’ve owned numerous iterations of a 35mm lens over my years shooting DSLRs, and so the Sony 35mm f/1.4 was a simple choice as the first lens to buy with my Sony a7R III.

On a full frame camera, 35mm is incredibly versatile. Wedding photographer or not, 35mm allows you to fit enough in the frame to tell the story, whilst at the same time being equally suited to shoot a solo portrait, group shot, landscape image, or anything else for that matter.

Sony 35mm f1.4 Zeiss image sample
Sony a7RIII + Sony 35mm f/1.4 FE | © Gold Hat Photography

Add in f/1.4 for beautiful subject separation and incredible low-light performance, and you have pretty much the ultimate prime lens for Sony shooters.

One downside with f/1.4 lenses across the board is their size/weight. Both the Canon and Nikon offerings top the scales at around 600 g (21.2 oz.), and this one from Sony is no different, at 630 g (22.22 oz).

However, it is a tad smaller, and paired with a Sony A7 or A9 body, it actually feels pretty good – the narrowing of the lens where it meets the camera body creates a comfortable space for the fingers of your non-camera-holding hand to rest.

Whilst you could use the Sony 35mm f/1.4 on a crop sensor body like the Sony a6500, I’d definitely recommend holding the camera+lens seup before making your purchase – the size/weight of the lens will dominate the camera, so could feel quite odd. There are photographers that make this combination work well, though.

Build quality is top notch, as you’d expect from a Zeiss lens. I wouldn’t want to drop it (obviously!), but am pretty confident it’d survive the fall if I did. Not sure if my toes would, though.

One nice touch is the aperture ring which allows aperture adjustments to be made on the lens. I prefer to assign the camera’s command dial to control aperture, but for fans of rangefinders or video shooters, using your other hand to adjust aperture can be convenient. You can also choose between a tactile click or a silky-smooth roll when twisting the aperture ring.

Sony 35mm f1.4 sample image
Sony a7RIII + Sony 35mm f/1.4 FE | © Gold Hat Photography

Bokeh produced by the Sony 35mm f/1.4 is simply amazing. Coming from the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G (included in this best Nikon lens roundup), I noticed a similarity in the smooth transition of in-focus to out-of-focus elements which gives images a kind of ethereal personality.

If you need to turn unsightly backgrounds to mush, or want to give subjects more 3 dimensionality, this 35mm lens is unbeatable in the Sony full frame lens lineup.

Auto-focus performance is just as good as any DSLR equivalent I’ve shot with. Obviously AF speed is largely dependent on the camera itself, but paired with any Sony mirrorless full frame camera, I’m confident that you won’t be disappointed.

best 35mm sony lens
Sony a7RIII + Sony 35mm f/1.4 FE | © Gold Hat Photography

The ‘Distagon’ in its full name (Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Zeiss Distagon T*) refers to a lens design which helps reduce distortion. Whilst slight barrel distortion is still apparent, it’s nothing to worry about, and easily corrected upon import to Lightroom.

One area where the Sony 35mm f/1.4 out-performs the Nikon and Canon equivalents is sharpness. Even wide open, the centre is impressively sharp, with image detail retained right up to the edges of the frame.

I often shoot portraits at f/2, just to give myself a bit of leeway in case of missed focus. F/2 on the Sony 35mm f/1.4 seems to be the sweet spot in terms of centre sharpness, and combined with the beautiful bokeh, that pleasing ‘3D effect’ is actually increased.

I could go on and on about this lens, but to cut a long story short, the Sony 35mm f/1.4 has made me confident that my switch from Nikon to Sony for my wedding photography work has been a wise one.

It’s my ‘money lens’, a real workhorse that delivers great looking images over and over, and allows me to shoot in near darkness with no flash. Highly recommended!

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE SONY 35MM F/1.4 FE

Sony FE 28mm f/2

Sony 28mm f2 FE mount lens

Compatibility: Full frame (FE) & Crop Sensor (E)
Minimum Focus:
0.29 m
Filter Diameter: 49 mm
Size: 64 mm (diameter) x 60 mm (length)
Weight: Approx. 200 g
Price: Click here for the latest price

Along with the aforementioned 35mm, the Sony 28mm f/2 was the second of 3 lenses I bought when I switched from Nikon to Sony this year.

At only 200 g and a truly pocketable size, I imagined this would be my ‘everyday lens’ for non-professional use, or the lens I’d attach to my new Sony a7 III when traveling. In actual fact, it turned out to be much more than that…

The Sony 28mm f/2 is currently the most affordable Sony FE prime lens (see the latest price here), and an absolute bargain when compared to wide angle lenses of a similar caliber by other manufacturers.

28mm is a somewhat unusual focal length, and it did admittedly take me a little time to get used to. I’m not a fan of shooting extensively with a 24mm, so was worried that 28mm would be touch too wide, but it’s actually not too daunting.

28mm allows you to get up close to the action, whilst still providing enough ‘room’ in the frame to tell the story via the background, or other foreground elements.

Sony 28mm f/2 sample image
Sony a7RIII + Sony 28mm f/2 FE | © Gold Hat Photography

The Sony 28mm f/2 is also popular on Sony E mount bodies, providing a 42mm field of view. Due to its small size, it feels great when attached to Sony crop sensor bodies, and makes a fun walk-around lens.

I find that many Sony full frame camera owners also own crop sensor compact cameras too. By investing in lightweight Sony FE lenses such as this 28mm, it’s easy to use the same lens on the smaller crop sensor body, and take advantage of the image quality inherent in FE glass.

One unique advantage of the Sony 28mm f/2, is that Sony also produces two handy converters that can change the focal length of the lens – this one that makes it 21mm; and another one that makes it a 16mm fish-eye!

Whilst this is a cost-effective way to create 3 focal lengths, it should also be noted that using converters in this way diminishes the amount of light that can enter the lens – these converters change the f/2 to f/2.8 and f/3.5 respectively, although in good light or when using a tripod, this won’t be an issue.

Sony 28mm f/2 sample Tyler Shortt
Sony a9 + Sony 28mm f/2 | © Tyler Shortt

Since it’s such a lightweight lens, auto focus performance on the Sony 28mm f/2 is silent and lightning quick. Paired with the Sony a7 or a9 series bodies which offer silent shooting, you can focus and shoot with no noise at all.

Silent shooting is useful in a whole range of situations, but my favourite place to use lightweight wide angle lenses like the Sony 28mm f/2 is on the dance-floor.

At the end of a long wedding day, the last thing I want to attach to the front of my camera is a big, heavy lens like a 24-70, and 28mm allows you to get stuck right into the crazy dance-floor action, making the viewer feel truly immersed.

As for image quality, the Sony 28mm f/2 is sharp and contrasty all the way through the aperture range. Distortion is minimal, but this is probably due to Sony mirrorless bodies which correct most distortion in-camera.

28mm Sony lens
Sony a7RIII + Sony 28mm f/2 FE | © Gold Hat Photography

I was pleasantly surprised with how much bokeh can be produced at f/2 with this lens. Wide angle lenses can’t really create much out-of-focus elements unless you get really close to the subject, but when you do, the Sony 28mm f/2 does a great job at creating subject separation.

For this reason, this little Sony lens which I assumed would be relegated to shots of my kids on holiday actually sees a lot of use when shooting professionally. The 28mm field of view really encourages you to get in close for a sense of immersion, and f/2 can help direct the viewer’s eye by blurring the foreground and/or background.

If you’ve just blown your budget on a new Sony full frame mirrorless camera and can only save up for one lens, the Sony 28mm f/2 would be my recommendation. It makes the camera a joy to hold, has excellent image quality and won’t break the bank. Highly recommended!

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE SONY 28MM F/2 FE

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 best Sony e mount lens

Compatibility: Full frame (FE) & Crop Sensor (E)
Minimum Focus:
0.28 m
Filter Diameter: 82 mm
Size: 88.5 mm (diameter) x 121.6 mm (length)
Weight: Approx. 680 g
Price: Click here for the latest price

If you’re looking for the best wide angle zoom lens available for Sony full frame mirrorless cameras, look no further than the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM. I’ll be uploading some sample photos I took in Tokyo soon, but in the meantime, have a read about this incredible lens.

Owners of the Sony 16-35mm f/4 Zeiss OSS may not want to read any further, but let me just say this before digging deeper – the Zeiss version is smaller, lighter, cheaper, and can deliver outstanding results.

However, it’s still not quite as good as the Sony GM version :-)

GM stands for ‘G Master’ – the premium Sony e mount lenses, similar to Canon’s L series. Check out the video below to see the features that put the GM lenses one step above all the others in the Sony lens catalogue.

Most of the advantages of G Master lenses over regular Sony lenses, or even Zeiss lenses, are admittedly a little hard to quantify by the average photographer. It’s hard after all to differentiate between very good and great, when lens quality is already more than most of us will ever need.

Having said that, after spending a day shooting with the 16-35mm f/4 Zeiss and this Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM, I’m convinced that the latter is worth the extra cost (see the latest price here).

I don’t want to spend too long trying to compare these two excellent lenses, since neither is the ‘right’ choice. Let’s just say that if sharpness, clarity and low-light performance/ability to blur the background is most important to you, carry on reading ;-)

16-35mm is an extremely useful focal range for all types of photographer. 16mm on a full frame camera gives an expansive field of view, perfect for everything from wide panoramic vistas to environmental portraits (so long as the subject is a distance from the camera, and not placed at the edge of the frame!)

35mm is also a great focal length as discussed previously, but the advantage of this lens isn’t to be able to shoot at 16mm or 35mm, but rather, having the flexibility to alter the field of view between these two distances.

You don’t buy the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 as a replacement to your 35mm prime lens.

16-35mm has also become popular with wedding photographers, particularly on the dance floor of all places. 16mm allows for some crazy, in-your-face moments to be captured, and the versatility of zooming out to 35mm allows you to capture wider angle for when the action becomes more varied.

Weighing in at 680g, this is one chunky lens, similar in proportions to the 35mm f/1.4 described above. I was pleasantly surprised that it’s much lighter than the Nikon equivalent (by 320g), and also Canon’s version too (by 110g).

As you’d expect from the price tag of a G Master lens, image quality out of the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 is nothing short of incredible. Shot wide open at f/2.8, images are tack sharp, and this level of detail remains across its entire focal range.

If you can get close enough to the subject, the bokeh exhibited by the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 is smooth and creamy, although to really maximise the effect, you’ll need to be shooting at 35mm.

Pixel peeking website DXOMark named it the highest-rated wide-angle zoom, with a sharpness score that blew the Canon/Nikon versions right out the water.

If you’re looking for a wide angle zoom lens with the best image quality and can justify the price tag, there simply isn’t a better option than the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8. The f/4 Zeiss version (here) is an affordable and tempting alternative, but you’ll be left wondering how much better your image could have looked…!

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE SONY 16-35MM F/2.8 FE

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM

Compatibility: Full frame (FE) & Crop Sensor (E)
Minimum Focus:
0.38 m
Filter Diameter: 82 mm
Size: 87.6 mm (diameter) x 136 mm (length)
Weight: Approx. 886 g
Price: Click here for the latest price

If you want one lens that can handle pretty much any shooting scenario and produce clear, vibrant and sharp images with incredible detail, the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 should be at the top of your wish-list.

Let’s start with the bad news – this is one expensive lens. If you’re coming from Nikon or Canon, you’ll be used to the high price of f/2.8 zooms, the price is more easily justified – there’s a lot of crazy engineering that goes into producing a fixed-aperture lens of this caliber.

You can see the latest price of this Sony mid-range zoom lens here. Now that you’ve got over that initial shock, why the heck am I recommending such expensive glass in a roundup that’s supposed to cater for the average photographer?!

Simple – because it’s the best. Yes there’s an f/4 Zeiss version and even a 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 Sony offering too… but they’re all outperformed by the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8.

Remember when everyone started using prime lenses because they were sharper and better quality than zoom lenses? Well those days are no more – the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 is just as sharp than any Sony prime lens I’ve ever shot with – it’s up there with the Sony 55mm we discussed earlier, and all this from a lens that can take you from wide angle to portrait in one twist!

24-70mm Sony full frame zoom lens
Sony a7RII + Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 | © Tony Gale

If you’ve never shot with a 24-70mm lens before, you’re in for a treat. I call it the ‘lazy lens’, as you can literally shoot an entire wedding with one, barely moving your feet all day!

24mm is wide enough to get the entire church or that epic landscape shot, and 70mm gives beautiful compression for a bridal portrait.

f/2.8 used to be considered sub-par for low-light photography, but with the high ISO capabilities of full frame cameras these days, it’s more than adequate.

In addition, shooting near the 70mm end of the focal range at f/2.8 produces creamy bokeh that turns out of focus elements into mush – very useful for unsightly backgrounds at weddings, for example.

At f/2.8, the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 is impressively sharp in the centre of the frame across the entire focal range. At f/4, sharpness improves, but let’s face it – you’ll be shooting this bad boy wide open most of the time, so it’s good to know it performs well like that!

One small issue I noticed was ghosting when shooting towards the sun – this is one area where the coated glass of the Sony 24-70mm f/4 Zeiss is superior, but I don’t consider it a big problem. Imperfections like this add a certain character to the lens flare, with a certain unpredictability that’s fun to play around with.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8
Sony a7RII + Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 | © C-Gee Photography

The quality of the bokeh really is great, with round and clean highlights throughout the focal length, thanks to 9 rounded aperture blades. As long as you get close enough to the subject, you can get impressive bokeh even at 24mm.

With the sun at your back, images out of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 are vivid, sharp, contrasty and extremely sharp. Distortion is typical for a 24-70mm lens, with pronounced barrel distortion at 24mm, although it’s all easily fixable in Lightroom.

If you’re coming from another camera system, investing in two Sony mirrorless full frame bodies and several lenses may be out of your budget. Investing in one body and just the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 will mean that you’ll have all your focal distances covered, and can mean a more practical entry into the world of Sony for professional use.

As long as you don’t mind the weight of this lens, I really can’t find any reason not to recommend it to any kind of Sony full frame shooter. It’s a pricey beast of a lens, but it could be the only lens you ever need.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE SONY 24-70MM F/2.8 FE

Sony FE 85mm f/1.8

Sony 85mm f1.8 FE

Compatibility: Full frame (FE) & Crop Sensor (E)
Minimum Focus:
0.8 m
Filter Diameter: 67 mm
Size: 78 mm (diameter) x 82 mm (length)
Weight: Approx. 371 g
Price: Click here for the latest price

Remember I mentioned that I bought 3 lenses when I switched from Nikon to Sony? Well, this Sony 85mm f/1.8 was the third lens I settled on.

To give you a bit of background, I used to shoot with two Nikon D750s, with 35mm and 85mm f/1.4 lenses (see my gear set up here). I love the look of images shot at f/1.4, but felt that I could easily get by with f/1.8 – the trade off in light gathering ability was more than worth it for the reduction in size/weight and price.

You can check the current price of this lens here – you’ll appreciate the fact that it’s over $1,200 cheaper than Sony’s f/1.4 G Master offering, and about $700 less than the f/1.8 Zeiss Batis version.

best sony lenses for portraits
Sony a7RIII + Sony 85mm f/1.8 | © Gold Hat Photography

So when I switched to Sony, I decided on the Sony 85mm f/1.8 and haven’t looked back. (If there was an f/1.8 35mm, I would’ve got that too!)

With the compression at 85mm, I find that the bokeh at f/1.4 is almost too much. For all you Canon 85mm f/1.2L shooters, shooting wide open with that lens is like cheating – you can turn pretty much any background to a complete mushy creamy mess!

f/1.8 on an 85mm lens looks great to me, and at only 371 g, it’s the perfect complement to a lightweight Sony mirrorless body.

Sony 85mm f/1.8 sample image
Sony a7RIII + Sony 85mm f/1.8 | © Gold Hat Photography

Even on an APS-C sensor body like the Sony A6500, the Sony 85mm f/1.8 feels good, although 127.5mm as a focal length (with the crop sensor conversion) is admittedly a little less versatile.

Build quality is decent, although not the all-metal tank-like build you’ll see with G Master or Zeiss lenses. The barrel is made from sturdy plastic, and the mount and filter thread are metal. I actually prefer this construction over an all-metal lens, since they’re just so much lighter.

A nice touch is a ‘focus-hold’ button on the side of the lens, which can be customised to control various other functions – I have mine set to control Eye AF.

As for image quality, this is another f/1.8 Sony lens that really excels with its sharpness. As with the 55mm f/1.8 we discussed earlier, the Sony 85mm f/1.8 achieves incredible amounts of detail – zooming in 100% with the Sony A7R III files is mind-blowing.

Sony 85mm f1.8 FE
Sony a7RIII + Sony 85mm f/1.8 | © Gold Hat Photography

DXO Mark compared the Sony 85mm f/1.8 with the other Sony/Zeiss 85mm variants and found it to be the sharpest of the bunch. It also exhibits very little distortion.

The images I’ve shot professionally with the Sony 85mm f/1.8 look fantastic at f/1.8, but to me, the lens really excels when stopped down to f/4~f/5.6, where images become even more contrasty and sharp, almost leaping off the screen.

If you’re coming from another camera system and have always used f/1.4 lenses, give the Sony 85mm f/1.8 a shot before sinking your cash into other options. With the incredible high ISO performance of Sony full frame cameras, you won’t miss the 2/3 of a stop when the sun falls, and you won’t miss it even if you’re a bokeh-whore!

For this price, I recommend the Sony 85mm f/1.8 for any photographer who needs a versatile portrait focal length at a good price, which complements the size of a Sony mirrorless camera.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE SONY 85MM F/1.8 FE

Sony 24mm E f/1.8 Sonnar T* ZA

Zeiss Sony 24mm 1.8

Compatibility: Crop Sensor (E)
Minimum Focus:
0.16 m
Filter Diameter: 49 mm
Size: 63 mm (diameter) x 65.5 mm (length)
Weight: Approx. 225 g
Price: Click here for the latest price

I’ll finish this roundup of the best Sony lenses with a little bit of a controversial choice. There’s no doubt that this Sony 24mm f/1.8 is the best standard wide angle lens available for crop sensor Sony E mount cameras, but its price definitely isn’t for everyone.

I think it’s a fair assumption to say that the majority of professionals use full frame cameras, given the choice. Fujifilm shooters are ‘limited’ to APS-C or Medium Format, but Sony shooters can decide between crop sensor and full frame.. and most pros choose full frame.

So it’s also a fair assumption to say that if your primary body is a crop sensor Sony, you’re not earning money via photography. See where I’m going here?

So for a crop sensor prime lens such as the Sony 24mm f/1.8 to cost almost as much as the camera itself (see latest price here), you’re going to ruffle some feathers amongst hobbyists!

Sony 24mm f/1.8
Sony NEX 7 + Sony 24mm f/1.8 | © Alan Chen Photography

However, I believe that whatever your profession and whatever the camera you own, it’s always a good decision to invest in the best possible lens you can afford… and in this case, that’s the Sony 24mm f/1.8.

So what are you getting for your money? Well first off, attaching this lens to your Sony crop sensor body transforms it into a 35mm equivalent focal length with a fast f/1.8 aperture.

35mm is ideal as a walkaround lens, wise enough for landscapes or architecture and still good for an environmental portrait.

The size and weight balances nicely on the Sony a6XXX series bodies. Build quality is all-metal as to be expected from Carl Zeiss, and it’s a huge step-up from the plasticky kit lens.

As for image quality, the Sony 24mm f/1.8 is impressively sharp right across the frame, especially when stopped down to f/4. At f/1.8 there’s slight corner softness, but nothing that distracts, and if you get close to your subject, you’re rewarded with some beautiful bokeh thanks to 7 rounded diaphragm blades.

It’s fair to say that any of the Sony lenses with the word ‘Zeiss’ on the side really excel in image quality, especially the fast primes such as this one.

Sony 24mm E f/1.8.jpg
Sony a6000 + Sony 24mm f/1.8 | © Duy Nhât Phan

Colour rendition is excellent with the Sony 24mm f/1.8, and images are clear, vibrant and contrasty, but this obviously depends too on the camera used. On the Sony a6000 I used for testing, auto-focus speeds were excellent, and JPEGs looked great straight out of camera.

If you own a Sony crop sensor body and crave the the advantages and flexibility of using a ‘real’ 35mm lens (as opposed to one that’s labeled ’35mm’, but converts to around 50mm on APS-C), the Sony 24mm f/1.8 is simply the best lens you can buy.

If you want to get the most out of every mega pixel in your Sony a6XXX body, investing in premium Zeiss optics will really open your eyes, especially if you’re used to variable aperture zoom lenses, such as the ones that typically come bundled with cameras. Highly recommended!

CLICK HERE TO GET THE LATEST PRICE ON THE SONY E 24MM f/1.8

Best Sony Lenses in 2018 | Final Words

This is the list of lenses I’d provide any friend who’d just invested in a Sony full frame or crop sensor body.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list of the best Sony lenses available in 2018, since every photographer’s needs are different.

However, I believe that this roundup provides a solid selection of all-round lenses that give the best bang for the buck, or simply provide the absolute best image quality at a given focal length.

I’m interested to hear if you agree or disagree with any of my choices, so please feel free to leave a comment below to continue the discussion. As mentioned previously, I’d also like to hear about your favourite 3rd party lenses which you use mount on Sony camera bodies.

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post contain affiliate links which help support Shotkit.

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  • Very helpful and informative with comprehensive information given thank you.
    I’m about to invest in a sony A7 mark 3 (couldn’t justify the R for 1200 more) however im getting bamboozled with lense options. im thinking the 24-70 is a good all rounder G master series. however, why would i then look at getting another such as 35mm or 50mm if this is covered in one lense?

    would you advise getting something like the 24-70 and then an 85.. eventually id get the 200mm but the camera and one lense is breaking my bank.

    could you give me some tips if say you had to get two lenses, which would you go for? i mainly want to capture candid street shooting, and landscapes etc.. so again im a little lost on the direction i take for lenses.

    great website by the way =]

    • Hi Simon! Thanks for the kind words. The 24-70 is an incredible all in one lens, and you’re right in thinking it covers the focal lengths of the 35, 50, and everything else in between 24-70… but not the apertures.

      Whilst f/2.8 will be fine in daylight situations, it may struggle in low light, even with the excellent high ISO performance of the Sony a7III.

      Then there’s the size and weight of those zoom lenses, which won’t be ideal for candid street shooting. For landscape I guess it’d be fine, as long as you don’t mind the additional bulk.

      Finally price is a big factor – you can get a few great prime lenses for the price of one G Master zoom.

      Hope that helps!
      Mark

  • Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the great article. Like the other commenter (also called Simon) I too am about to invest in the A7iii and am also looking at buying two lenses to begin with.

    I live abroad and travel a lot, so am generally interested in a variety of possible shots – landscapes, city streets, and close-ups of flora and fauna (my partner has a 70D with zoom lens so I don’t need to snap birds at the tops of trees as she can cover that).

    I am taken with the 85mm 1.8, but I wonder, will this lens work in macro surroundings? I know it isn’t a macro lens, but would it be suitable for close ups of flowers, insects etc. as well as letting me snap street seems and portraits?

    Like other Simon, I am also attracted to the 24-70mm for its versatility (wide angle through close ups) but do you think a 35mm 1.8 would be more suitable for the types of photograph I’ve mentioned above… or should I go even wider and get a 24mm prime?

    Any thoughts… greatly appreciated. Your explanations of the various lenses and accessories for Sony cameras are the most helpful I’ve read.

    • Glad to hear it Simon! Thanks for the kind words. To answer your questions, yes, you’d be able to take close ups of flower etc, but not to the extent of a macro lens. If you wanted to get closer, you could always crop using Lightroom, or even set up a custom button on the A7iii to crop to APS-C format (this is what I do to extend the reach of my lenses).

      If you invest in the 85mm, I’d recommend a 35mm to complement it. The f/1.4 is excellent but heavy and expensive – the 35mm f/2.8 is a great alternative which is much smaller/lighter.

      As you say you travel a lot, I’d steer clear of any heavy zoom lenses like the 24-70. As attractive a zoom range as it is, it makes the Sony body feel unbalanced, and will be a pain in the a** to travel with! That’s just my opinion though – many traveling photographers happily use big zoom lenses!

      Hope that helps?

  • I’m about to ‘pull the trigger’ on purchasing the Sony A7 III, and am having a (sort of) hard time looking for a 2 lens complement. My photographic choices are for landscapes (mountains, deserts etc.), air shows / action, and African safari / animals.

    My intial thoughts are the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4,5-5.6 OSS G Master and the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS. I know that the zoom is a heavy ‘beast’ but, for its ability, I’m happy to be carrying it for both landscape, air shows and animals in the bush. However, I’m also considering swapping out the 24-105mm f/4 and replacing it with either the 16-35 G Master or the 24-70mm G Master you mention above.

    I know that will leave a gap but I’ll just have to move my feet a little more. I’d certainly like to capture sunrise and sunsets on a month-ling 4×4 trek into the bush.

    What are your thoughts Mark?

    • Hi Bob, wow that’s quite a decision! I’d say that unless you need the low light capabilities of the f/2.8 lenses, the other zoom lenses you mention there will be great. Between the 100-400 and 24-105, it’s really a matter of how much reach you need. I prefer the versatility of having a wide-to-long zoom, rather than a long-to-longer. Hope that helps?!

  • Joined the convert train to Sony mirrorless and purchased the a7iii; now I’m trying to pick lenses along with everyone else here. This is by far the clearest and most thoughtful post/review I’ve found – thank you!

    I’ve tested the 24-70 f/2.8 and likely will end up with it for versatility sake; I rarely use much zoom and love the performance despite the weight factor. I mainly shoot landscape and environmental portraits for nonprofits and would like a complimentary prime that is lighter and easier to trek with; I primarily shot 50mm on my old Nikon setup. Certainly drawn to the 55mm 1.8 for its universal good reviews but periodically find myself wishing for a little wider in closed in spaces. Down the road I hope to be able to pick up the 16-35mm, so from a doubling up and weight factor, I’m not sold on the 35mm 1.4. Does the 55mm seem like a good place to start, or is there another prime I’m missing?

    • The 55 is an excellent place to start Gretchen! If you’re going for the 16-35 and don’t need the low light performance of an f/1.4 lens like the 35mm, the 55mm will be an excellent portrait lens.