The best Sony lenses are typically the company's G Master lenses, which are big, beautiful and expensive. They are the best, though, so it's no surprise they are at the top of the list. However, there are cheaper alternatives, and not just from Sony but from third party brands like Tamron and Sigma too.
Sony cameras come in both full frame and APS-C models. Broadly speaking, the full frame models are amongst the best cameras for professionals, while the APC-S models are more for hobbyists and enthusiasts.
Sony cameras are amongst the best mirrorless cameras, especially for action subjects, video and vlogging, so it makes sense to choose the best lenses you can afford. You can use full frame lenses on the APS-C cameras and very often this is the best choice for telephotos, macro lenses and other longer focal length options. But with standard zooms and ultra-wide lenses you must get a lens designed for that format.
Read more: The best Sony cameras right now
Some up-market Sony lenses are produced in conjunction with legendary optical manufacturer Zeiss, but Sony now also produces its own premium ‘G’ and top-flight ‘G Master’ lenses. These aim for the ultimate in all-round performance and image quality, especially in terms of sharpness and bokeh (the quality of defocused areas within images).
Note: We've arranged these lenses in order of focal length, with the shortest first and the longest lenses and telephotos at the end, so that it's easier to find the type of lens you're looking for.
Sony FE wide-angle lenses
Following on the heels of Sony’s FE 12-24mm f/4 G zoom, which was launched three years ago, the new G Master edition delivers the same ultra-wide viewing angles but goes an f/stop wider in aperture. The f/4 lens is still on sale and a lot cheaper, so don't rule it out. By necessity, the front optical elements of this f/2.8 version are considerably larger but the lens is reasonably lightweight and easily manageable. It certainly goes large in terms of performance, with outstanding image quality and rapid autofocus, making it well worth the typically high asking price for a G Master lens. Before, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master was the widest f/2.8 G Master lens in the Sony range, but the new Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master has stolen its crown.
Read more: Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master review
Featuring exotic glass that includes two ultra-high-precision XA (Extreme Aspherical) elements, the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master was Sony’s top-quality wide zoom until the arrival of the even wider Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master. Having said that, many might find the 16-35mm range just a little more usable, and it does take conventional filters where the 12-24mm lens does not.. Other highlights include nano-structure coatings, a keep-clean fluorine coating on the front element, and extensive weather-seals. There’s a fast and constant f/2.8 aperture and, when stopping down, the aperture remains extremely well-rounded thanks to an 11-blade diaphragm. The DDSSM autofocus system is incredibly accurate and the lens also features a customisable focus hold button on the barrel. For outright quality, this is the best Sony lens for landscapes, interiors, travel and other subjects where space is tight.
Read more: Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master review
Neatly picking up the baton from Tamron’s 28-75mm standard zoom, this 17-28mm lens takes you into ultra-wide-angle territory. It very much follows suit, with the same high-end, weather-sealed build quality, fast and constant aperture rating, quick and virtually silent RXD (Rapid eXtra silent stepping drive) autofocus system and, best of all, the same terrific image quality. Corner-to-corner sharpness is particularly impressive for an ultra-wide-angle lens, even when shooting at the widest aperture. It doesn’t quite match Sony’s 16-35mm lenses for maximum viewing angle but it comes very close, and it’s great value at the price.
Read more: Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD review
There’s a raft of 20mm ultra-wide-angle prime lenses for E-mount full-frame cameras but for a long time, they’ve only been available from independent manufacturers like Sigma, Tamron, Samyang/Rokinon and Tokina. Sony finally joined the fray with its own rather fabulous 20mm f/1.8 lens. It has a tough, weather-sealed construction and a top-grade optical path. High-speed autofocus combines with excellent handling, helped by the inclusion of a high-precision manual focus ring, a customisable autofocus hold button and an aperture ring with a de-click switch. Image quality is absolutely phenomenal in all respects, with stunning sharpness, gorgeous colour rendition and absolutely minimal coma, distortion and colour fringing. It’s a pricey lens, but you get what you pay for.
Read more: Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G review
Tamron offers a trio of wide-angle primes for Sony full-frame E-mount cameras, with 20mm, 24mm and 35mm focal lengths. But if you're going to go wide, it may as well be the widest of the bunch. All three lenses share a common aperture rating of f/2.8 and a filter size of 67mm. The primes have a tough act to follow, as we’ve recently been hugely impressed with the Tamron 17-28mm and 28-75mm constant-aperture f/2.8 zooms. Keeping in step, this 20mm lens is very lightweight in build and price tag, but goes large on performance with sumptuous image quality.
Read more: Tamron 20mm f/2.8 Di III OSD review
Sony FE standard lenses
We rate Sigma’s 24-70mm f/2.8 Art lens for Canon and Nikon full-frame DSLRs very highly. The newer ‘DN’ edition for Sony full-frame E-mount cameras isn’t just a tweak of the original, but rather a complete redesign. The all-new optical path includes no less than six FLD (‘Fluorite’ Low Dispersion) and two SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements. Top-notch construction includes comprehensive weather-seals and a super-fast, virtually silent stepping motor autofocus system. Barrel distortion at 24mm and vignetting at f/2.8 are rather noticeable when uncorrected in-camera but overall handling, performance and image quality are excellent, and it’s ultra-sharp. Bokeh is enhanced by an 11-blade diaphragm, whereas the DSLR version of the lens only has nine.
Read more: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art review
The Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS isn’t Sony’s ‘best’ standard zoom lens for its full-frame cameras. However, compared with the top-flight Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master, this lens is smaller, lighter and feels better balanced on A7 series bodies. It also has a more generous zoom range and adds optical stabilization which is lacking in the bigger lens, and it only costs about two-thirds of the price. Sure, you lose an f/stop in aperture rating compared with the G Master lens, but we think the 24-105mm is the best Sony lens for affordable everyday photography.
Sony’s own-brand FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS is a popular lens, not least because it’s frequently sold as a kit lens with A7-series bodies. However, sharpness away from the centre of the image frame is lacklustre and the aperture shrinks to a fairly narrow f/5.6 at the long end of the zoom range. This Tamron lens beats the Sony on both counts, with razor-sharp image quality right into the edges and corners, and a fast f/2.8 aperture rating that remains constant throughout the entire zoom range. That makes it two full f/stops faster at the long end, enabling faster shutter speeds and a much tighter depth of field. It’s perfect for everyday shooting and a brilliant buy at the price.
Read more: Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD
Sony markets an excellent FE 50mm f1.4 ZA Planar T* standard prime, but it’s eye-wateringly expensive. This top-grade Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens comes at less than half the price. One of Sigma’s first ‘Art’ designation prime lenses in the Global Vision line-up, it’s a major revamp of the company’s previous 50mm lens. The revised optical layout includes an aspherical element and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements, in a complex build that includes 13 elements in total. Typical of Sigma’s f/1.4 Art lenses, there’s no optical stabilization. The lens also lacks weather seals but is beautifully built and has a thoroughly pro-grade feel to its construction and handling. The ring-type HSM (HyperSonic Motor) autofocus system is super-fast and whisper-quiet, with the usual availability of manual override. Image quality is excellent but, compared with most 50mm f/1.4 lenses on the market, it’s big and heavy.
Sony FE telephoto lenses
Larger and nearly twice the weight of many 85mm f/1.4 lenses on the market, this Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is quite a handful. A relative latecomer to Sigma’s Global Vision party, it wasn’t launched until late 2016, some two and a half years after the 50mm Art lens. Similar in design to the 50mm Sigma, this lens has one aspherical elements and two rather than three SLD elements, along with a nine-blade diaphragm. Build quality and handling feel almost identical, although the newer 85mm lens adds weather-seals in its ‘dust- and splash-proof’ construction. Sharpness is exceptional across the entire image frame, even at the widest aperture of f/1.4, while colour fringing and distortion are minimal, and bokeh is beautifully smooth. All in all, it’s a large optic that goes extra-large in image quality, making it a great portrait lens.
The Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS is a great lens that’s smaller and much lighter than the f/2.8 edition, and only costs half the price. It's true that a 70-200mm f/2.8 is seen as a 'must have' lens in any professional system, but you pay the price very literally, and there's a weight penalty with the f/2.8 version (below) too. This f/4 lens is cheaper, lighter, a lot less expensive and only one f-stop slower.
The Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master OSS is simply one of the very finest 70-200mm lenses on the planet. A feast of glass includes one double-sided XA (Extreme Aspherical) element, two other aspherical elements, four ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements and two Super ED elements. Nano-structure coatings are also applied, plus a fluorine coating on the front element. There’s not one but two autofocus systems, incorporating a double linear motor plus an RDSSM (Ring Drive Super Sonic wave Motor), the latter being used for the heavier forward focus groups. The construction is fully weather-sealed and includes a fluorine coating on the front element. Handling is particularly refined, with an autofocus range limiter, customisable focus hold buttons, and dual-mode stabilization for static and panning shots. Bokeh is excellent, as is sharpness, helped by an 11-blade diaphragm. The only drawbacks are that it’s a big, heavy lens, with a particularly heavyweight price tag.
There’s no denying that the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master OSS is a large lens, but surprisingly, it’s barely any bigger than the 70-200mm f/2.8, slightly less heavy and no more expensive. That’s despite having twice as much telephoto reach, albeit with a variable aperture that shrinks to f/5.6 at the long end of the zoom range. Although physically only 5mm longer than the 70-200mm, it lacks an internal zoom mechanism so the inner barrel extends when zooming toward the long end of the zoom range. Up-market build and handling characteristics are very similar to those of the 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master lens, but this one adds a variable torque adjustment for the zoom ring. Again, the Optical SteadyShot is very effective and the autofocus system is super-fast, this time based on a combination of double linear motor and DDSSM (Direct Drive SSM) systems.
Fast supertelephoto lenses on full frame cameras are always expensive, and the Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS is no exception, but compared to fast supertelephoto primes it's actually not THAT expensive, and probably just about falls within an achievable price range for keen amateurs. It doesn't boast Sony's G Master badge of optical excellence, and it does have a relatively restricted maximum aperture of f/5.6-6.3, but in the stratospheric world of full frame super-telephotos, this one is both effective and achievable.
Read more: Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS review
Sony FE Macro lenses
At its minimum focus distance of 0.28 metres, the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS lens delivers full 1.0x or 1:1 magnification. That basically means that small objects are reproduced on the camera’s image sensor at full life size. Naturally, if you’re filling the whole image frame with something as small as a postage stamp, the potential for massively enlarging tiny details is enormous. Beautifully built, this lens has up-market handling attractions including a customisable focus hold button, autofocus range limiter switch and Optical SteadyShot. Given that manual focusing is often preferred for extreme close-up shooting, there’s also a handy push-pull mechanism in the focus ring, for switching between auto and manual focus modes.
Sony E-mount APS-C lenses
There aren't too many ultra-wide zooms out there for Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras, so it's just as well that Sony's own offering looks like a good one. We've not been able to test this lens yet, so we can't comment on its performance, but the signs are good. It's a stubby little lens that's wider than it is long, and it has a constant f/4 maximum aperture across its relatively modest zoom range. This corresponds to 15-24mm on a full frame camera. The good news is that you get optical image stabilization built in, which is quite rare on an ultra-wideangle zoom lens, and ideal if you have one of Sony's un-stabilized A6000-series cameras.
There is an older Sony Vario-Tessar T E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS which is cheaper and lighter than this lens and has optical stabilization, but the maximum aperture is f/4, so the new Sony E 16-55mm f/2.8 G is, we think, the best 'pro' lens for Sony APS-C cameras. As a standard lens with a classic zoom range, the Sony E 16-55mm f/2.8 G ticks nearly all the right boxes. It delivers sumptuous image quality with fabulous sharpness and contrast, along with pleasant bokeh. Handling is very refined, with the addition of a customisable focus hold button, strong build quality and weather-seals. Autofocus is super-fast and deadly-accurate. The only downside is the lack of optical stabilization.
Read more: Sony E 16-55mm f/2.8 G review
The choice of standard zoom lenses for Sony's APS-C mirrorless cameras is narrower than you'd expect. The 16-50mm 'pancake' standard zoom sold with many A6000-series cameras is very small and convenient but not terribly good optically. Otherwise the Zeiss Vario-Tessar (above) is a good buy but has a constant f/4 maximum aperture, and while the brand new Sony E 16-55mm F2.8 G fixes that with a constant f/2.8 aperture, it's big and expensive... and none of them have much of a zoom range. This is why we really rate the Sony E 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 OSS. It's compact, neat and affordable, it offers a really good zoom range and – unlike almost every other long-zoom lens – it holds it performance even at full zoom. If you use a raw processing program that doesn't automatically apply lens corrections you'll see how much the digital corrections are needed, but if that's the price you pay for this level of optical quality, we'll take it!
The Sony E 30mm f/3.5 Macro is really inexpensive and gives good performance. The only drawback is that due to its 35mm focal length, the closest focus distance of 9.5cm for full 1.0x macro magnification puts the front of the lens just 2.4cm from the object you’re shooting. This can cast a shadow over the object if shooting under ambient lighting, as well as scaring away bugs and other tiny creatures you may be trying to shoot. Still, if you only shoot macros occasionally and don't want to spend a fortune on a lens you won't use very often, this lens is simply perfect.