Best Sony Zoom Lens (Telephoto Full Frame & Crop Sensor)
With the popularity of Sony Mirrorless cameras, many people are seeking out the best telephoto lens options for their camera body.
Over the last 5 years, I feel that Sony really hit its stride in terms of lens offerings. They’ve got an amazing full lineup of Sony lenses to go along with their feature-packed camera bodies.
While I love the simplicity, bokeh, and sharpness of a prime lens, the flexibility of a good telephoto zoom lens is hard to beat. Now that Sony has a full lineup of G-Master Zooms, it’s can be hard to decide what is the best option.
In this article, I’m going to give my opinion on the best options when choosing a Sony telephoto zoom. I own several of these lenses and have used all of them professionally at various times.
My advice is coming from the background of seeing lenses as tools. Sure, I love some lenses for their unique qualities but my main interest is: will it get the job done in the best way possible?!
In a good telephoto lens, I’m looking for a balance of quality, functionality, performance, durability, and price. In this review, I’ve included almost all native Sony lenses except for one worthy competitor.
Read on to see what I think are the best Sony zoom lenses available in 2021.
Table of Contents
Best Sony Telephoto Lens in 2021
|Sony 16-35mm f/2.8||View Price →|
|Sony 24-70mm f/2.8||View Price →|
|Sony 70-200mm f/2.8||View Price →|
|Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8||View Price →|
|Sony 70-200mm f/4||View Price →|
|Sony 16-35mm f/4||View Price →|
|Sony 24-70mm f/4||View Price →|
I tested all these lenses with my Sony a7III – a full frame camera. (For reviews of just Sony FE full frame lenses, check this guide.)
As such, all these lens recommendations are for full frame Sony mirrorless camera bodies. They also function very well on Sony APS-C sensor cameras, such as the Sony a6000-series.
Many photographers who own Sony APS-C sensor bodies , are willing to invest more in full frame (FE) lenses, in order to maximise the capabilities of the APS-C sensor.
In addition, the focal length multiplication factor of the crop APS-C sensor format may actually be beneficial for those wanting more ‘reach’ from their telephoto zoom lens.
As for the brands of the lenses, with one exception, I have limited this article to native Sony lenses. Some people (me included) think that using a lens and camera manufactured by the same company will give you the best results.
I’ve consistently found this to be true over the last ten years of shooting professionally.
Now that we have refined our search to FE mount (full frame) lenses and mostly native Sony lenses, let’s take a look at my favorites. Here are the top Sony zoom lens options of the year.
1. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8
Weight: 680 g (24 oz.)
Size (Diameter x Length): 3.5 x 4.8″ / 89 x 122 mm
Filter Diameter: 82mm
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.28m (11 in)
- Extremely well built
- Excellent autofocus
- Beatuiful image quality
- Well controlled distortion
- Very sharp
- No image stabilization
This is the lens in my bag that gets used the most. It’s almost always mounted on my camera and I think it’s one of the best lenses in this article.
As you can expect from a G-Master Lens, the build quality and ergonomics of this lens are excellent on the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8. It is weather-sealed, durable, and extremely well built. The zoom & focus rings feel smooth and precise.
Although some of the G-Master lenses are heavy/bulky, this lens balances nicely on the A7 series bodies.
The 16-35mm f/2.8 has excellent autofocus. Additionally, it has a focus hold button that can be programmed to Eye AF.
When it comes to image quality, this lens is excellent. It is one of the highest-rated Sony wide angle zoom lenses.
Chromatic aberration and distortion are well controlled giving you excellent image quality throughout the range.
The consistent f/2.8 aperture of the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 makes it excellent for low light and a wide range of subjects.
If you love getting a wide perspective on a scene, the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 is an awesome lens. Photos definitely have that ‘wow’ factor that get them noticed. It’s a great lens for ‘little-people-big-scene’ type portrait photos.
Because 16-35mm is one of my most used focal ranges, I felt justified in stepping up to the higher price point of this G-Master lens. When compared with the increase in performance you get, this lens has a justified (yet still high) price.
I would recommend the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 to anyone who loves to shoot wide angle landscape images and wants the best when it comes to quality/performance.
2. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8
Weight: 862 g (30.4 oz)
Size (Diameter x Length): 3.5 x 5.4″ / 88 x 136 mm
Filter Diameter: 82mm
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.4m (1.25 ft)
- Solid build
- Extremely sharp
- Quick and accurate AF
- Versatile focal range
The Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 is the top of the line zoom lens for Sony mirrorless cameras. It is sharp, fast, and super solid!
The first thing I noticed when I picked up this lens was the solid build quality. It felt like a “built to last” lens for working professionals.
The second thing I noticed was the size and weight. It was definitely one of the heavier lenses I’ve ever used – nearly as big/heavy as the Sony 70-200mm f/4.
However, with that size/weight comes a lot of performance from the extremely high-quality optics.
With the consistent aperture of f/2.8 on the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8, you get sharpness on par with a prime lens in a zoom lens package, and excellent build quality including weather sealing.
Another unique feature was the ‘zoom lock’ at 24mm. This was a handy feature that keeps your lens from extending out, a problem that sometimes occurs when carrying a lens face down on a strap. I did find that the zoom was tight enough not to drift on its own without feeling stiff, though.
The Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 is similar in size to what you get from the Canon and Nikon equivalent, but with an increase in sharpness and performance. Yes, that makes it the sharpest 24-70mm lens I have ever used.
Lens flare and distortion were acceptable and manageable. It may not have a beautiful flare but it was not disruptive and could be easily removed using the right photo editing software in most cases.
Additionally, I didn’t note any issues with chromatic or spherical aberration and the color/contrast was excellent.
The autofocus on the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 was quick and accurate. I never had any issues with focusing, even in very dark rooms. Additionally, it has a focus hold button that can be programmed to Eye AF, making two-handed shooting efficient and a lot of fun.
This button placement makes a lot of sense since you’ll be using your left hand to cradle the lens for balance – having Eye AF at your finger-tips is much more comfortable than trying to operate it with your right hand, as is normally the case.
As you would expect at this price point, the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G-Master was a top performer!
Because of the top quality performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8, the price becomes more tolerable. It seems like a great value when you compare it with having a series of prime lenses all in one… especially with the convenience of never having to change lenses.
If you’re looking for the top of the line zoom lens to pair with your Sony Mirrorless camera, this is the one to get!
It performs even better than all the other manufacturers’ 24-70mm zoom lens offerings, which says a lot since the competition is fierce.
If you have the budget for this lens, don’t think twice – it really is that good, and a great option for astrophotography too.
3. Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
Weight: 550 g (19.4 oz.)
Size (Diameter x Length): 2.9 x 4.6″ / 73 x 118 mm
Filter Diameter: 67mm
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.19m (7.5 in)
- Great value for money
- Fast autofocus
- Tack sharp
- Light in weight for its range
- No image stabilization
- Focus/zoom rings in reverse order
Tamron has been competing with native lens manufacturers for years. Recently, they have offered some very interesting options for Sony Mirrorless camera users.
Typically I don’t give as much credit to non-native lens manufacturers but the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 caught my attention because of the impressive list of specs, very competitive price, and legions of raving fans.
The Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 is a great option if you need a fast lens, don’t want to sacrifice on sharpness, and don’t want to spend all your money on one lens!
In comparison, this lens is less than half the price of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G-Master! Despite being half the price, it still performs surprisingly well!
In terms of sharpness, this lens performs amazingly well – it really is tack sharp. It actually outperformed the Sony G-Master in some cases!
The autofocus on this lens was fast and accurate. I never noticed any issues and it performed very well.
One major drawback I noticed of the Tamron is that it has a reversed zoom and focus ring. The focus ring is closer to the camera body and the zoom ring is further away – because I’ve never encountered this on a lens, it really threw me off.
I love having equipment that I can use without thinking. The reversal of focus/zoom rings on this lens caused me to get confused and have to reposition my hand while shooting.
I really didn’t like this feature but I’m sure you would get comfortable with it over time (especially if this was your main lens). Also, if this was the first Sony zoom lens you’d ever used, you wouldn’t notice any difference.
Tamron is really shaking up the market with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. To almost match the performance of the Sony G-Master at less than half the cost is an impressive feat.
Tamron are really causing photographers to take a closer look at other options, instead of just sticking to native lenses – this is great for the camera lens industry as a whole, introducing some much-needed competitiveness.
Lastly, I was very impressed with how much weight-savings Tamron was able to make over other lenses with similar specs. The Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 weighs in at 30% less than the Sony G-Master – no mean feat.
The 28-75mm focal range may sound rather unconventional, but there’s not a whole lot of difference to the more ‘regular’ 24-70 lenses. I actually prefer having an extra 5mm of reach, and portraits look amazing shot at 75mm and f/2.8 – the bokeh is very pleasing to the eye. Just be sure you’re attaching it to a great camera for portrait photography, such as these.
Overall, I think this would be a great lens for someone looking to save some money but still wanting great performance from a fast lens. Highly recommended!
4. Sony 70-200mm f/4
Weight: 840g (29.6 oz.)
Size (Diameter x Length): 3.2 x 6.9″ / 80 x 175 mm
Filter Diameter: 72mm
Minimum Focus Distance: 1 m (39.4 in)
- Light and compact for its range
- Image stabilization
- Excellent sharpness
- Weather sealed
- Nice flare effects
- Not ideal for low light
- Some distortion evident
I may be a bit biased, but the Sony 70-200mm f/4 really is one of my favorite lenses ever. It has the excellent performance, features, and quality of a top of the line lens without the extra expense.
Because 70-200mm is one of my favorite focal ranges, I’ve always had a lens of this style. Over the years, I realized that most of my favorite images taken with it are outdoors, so an f/4 aperture would be totally fine (f/2.8 is rarely required when shooting outdoors).
The Sony 70-200mm f/4 lens feels very lightweight and compact when compared with other 70-200mm models (especially the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 G-Master). What it sacrifices in low light performance, it makes up for in weight savings.
The other great thing about this lens is the optical performance. It has excellent sharpness throughout the range and no major issues with chromatic aberration.
Lens flare is one of my favorite things about the Sony 70-200mm f/4. When pointed just off axis from directly into the setting sun, it creates a very unique flare/glow that I have come to love.
Some lenses have beautiful flare, and others have ugly green/red orbs, but this lens can be used to create some amazing effects – see the example photo below.
Autofocus performance on this lens was excellent. It tracks objects very well and also incorporates a manual switch for full or partial autofocus range.
Other features on the 70-200mm f/4 include two modes for optical image stabilization and an auto/manual focus switch. Additionally, it has a focus hold button that can be programmed to Eye AF.
When it comes to value, this lens really shines. At just over half the price of its f/2.8 G-Master bi brother, it seems like an excellent balance of performance/price.
Many professional and keen amateur photographers ‘default’ to the fastest maximum aperture money can buy when choosing a zoom lens. This is fine if you regularly need the extra stops of low light performance, but if you’re shooting in well-lit environments often, an f/4 lens such as this one may be more than adequate.
Coupled with excellent image-stailization and the high ISO performance of Sony mirrorless cameras, f/4 is usually enough to get a clear shot, even in low light.
In addition, shooting at the longer end of the focal range at f/4 on the Sony 70-200mm f/4 can still yield some great bokeh and subject separation, so don’t just assume you need f/2.8 for that.
Overall, this a great buy for someone looking to save some money and weight on the 70-200mm focal length.
6. Sony 16-35mm f/4
Weight: 518 g (18.2 oz.)
Size (Diameter x Length): 3.1 x 3.9″ / 78 x 99 mm
Filter Diameter: 72mm
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.28m (11in)
- Great value
- Beautiful colour rendition
- Solid build
- Image stabilization
- Some distortion
- Slow maximum aperture
The Sony 16-35mm f/4 was one of the first lenses that I owned when evaluating the Sony Mirrorless Cameras. It is an awesome lens that comes in a lightweight, compact design at a great price.
Similar to the Sony 24-70mm f/4, this lens features a minimalist design with only a focus ring and a zoom ring. All other features have been stripped away leaving a clean/simple yet high-performance lens.
The build quality on this lens feels solid, and despite not having weather sealing, it performed without fail even in pouring rain.
The Sony 16-35mm f/4 lens is a great option for someone looking for a wide angle at an affordable price without sacrificing performance. The f/4 design allows it to be compact and light.
As expected, I did notice that this lens suffers a bit in low light situations because of the f/4 minimum aperture. The redeeming quality here is the Optical SteadyShot stabilization that allows you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and still get sharp images as long as your subject isn’t moving.
Except in low light, the autofocus felt fast and accurate. I never had any issues tracking moving subjects or quickly getting tack sharp images.
The image quality of this lens is excellent for the price. Sony seems to have improved the design of this lens when compared with its counterpart the Sony 24-70mm f/4.
Sharpness on the Sony 16-35mm f/4 is excellent, especially at the wider focal lengths. Chromatic aberration and distortion are manageable but not as well controlled as on the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G-Master… but this is to be expected for the huge cost saving you make.
Overall, I think this lens is an excellent value for the photographer looking to cover a wide angle focal range. It’s almost half the price of it’s f/2.8 brother, but still offers great performance!
As long as you don’t do a lot of low light work, f/4 is completely adequate. You won’t be blurring any backgrounds, but at wide angles, this is usually very hard anyway – you need to be very close to your subject, and shooting at least f/2.8.
The smaller dimensions of the Sony 16-35mm f/4 compared to its gargantuan big brother make it a joy to use, and photos shot at 16mm still have that enviable ‘wow’ factor, which seems to be so popular on Instagram right now.
7. Sony 24-70mm f/4
Weight: 426g (15 oz.)
Size (Diameter x Length): 2.9 x 3.7″ / 72 x 94 mm
Filter Diameter: 67mm
Minimum Focus Distance: 0.4m (1.3 ft)
- Excellent value for money
- Compact and lightweight
- Versatile range
- Optical image stabilization
- Not ideal in low light
- Some edge softness at ends of zoom range
Where the drawbacks of the aforementioned, bigger, faster, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G-master left off, this lens picks up!
The Sony 24-70mm f/4 is everything that it’s bigger brother isn’t – small, lightweight, compact, and easy to handle.
The Sony 24-70mm f/4 is paired down to just the essentials. It has a focus ring, zoom ring, and nothing else. This keeps the design simple and featherweight.
If I were travelling, this would be a great lens to carry because it balances so well with the lightweight Sony mirrorless bodies.
However, the benefits of the light/compact design come with the downside of not being the sharpest or fastest lens in this review.
I think the main decision point for this versus the larger f/2.8 G-master is low light performance. I noticed a bit of slowdown on autofocus in low light scenarios with this lens.
If you plan to shoot during mostly daylight hours and don’t care as much about low light performance, the Sony 24-70mm f/4 is a great lens option.
Some people notice this lens to be not as sharp, but in real world applications, I’ve found it to be completely adequate.
The value of this lens is simply awesome. For the highly versatile and useful focal length range, this lens is very affordable making it a great option for someone just getting started or someone who isn’t sure they are going to need a zoom lens.
I mostly shoot prime lenses but occasionally a zoom is nice to have. Because this lens is reasonably priced, I can afford to keep it in my kit and not use it as much.
Bottom line – the Sony 24-70mm f/4 is the best budget Sony zoom lens in this article, and despite its small shortcomings, I feel confident to recommend it to most photographers, whether amateur or professional.
Which lenses work with Sony A7 Cameras?
Through the years, there has been some confusion about which lenses work with the Full Frame A7 series of Sony Mirrorless cameras.
If you’re new to the system, here is a quick breakdown of how things work.
Sony (and third party lens manufactures) make lenses the fit the E-mount in two formats: There are crop sensor (APS-C) lenses and full frame lenses. These are designated by E and FE respectively. In this article, we focused on FE lenses, which can be used on both full frame and APS-C sensor Sony cameras.
As a side note, E lenses will mount on full frame cameras but they will cause a vignette around the edges of the frame because they are specifically designed to work best with smaller APS-C sensors. However, all the A7 series cameras can also shoot in crop sensor mode at a reduced resolution without vignetting.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Sony power zoom?
Power Zoom, abbreviated to PZ, refers to the built in lens motor that offers quiet AF action and variable speeds, as well as zoom rotation direction reversal capability.
What does Sony Fe mean?
‘FE’ refers to ‘Full E-Mount’, meaning that these lenses have been designed specifically for Sony full frame mirrorless cameras. You can still use them on APS-C sensor cameras, but there’ll be a multiplication factor equivalent to 1.5.
Are Zeiss lenses good?
Sony offers several lenses with Zeiss optics. Sony Zeiss lenses are characterised by high build quality, high manufacturing quality, and serious quality control.
Do all Sony lenses fit all Sony cameras?
Sony lenses come with ‘A’ mounts and ‘E’ mounts. The Sony E-mount is used on the mirrorless Sony system cameras, and the A-mount is used on models that have a mirror or a translucent mirror.
Best Zoom Lenses for Sony Full Frame | Conclusion
The above lenses are what I think are the best zoom lenses for Sony full frame mirrorless cameras. They each offer different characteristics that make them suited to one thing or another.
In general, if you want top quality, go with the Sony G-Master lineup, which offers top performance… but the price obviously reflects that.
If you are more of a casual shooter or don’t need the fastest/sharpest zoom lenses available, the f/4 lenses are the obvious choice.
Luckily, there are awesome options at multiple price points so you can find the best lens for your needs!
I’d love to know what you think of these lenses or if there are others you like better in the comments below.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.