The best Sony telephoto lenses will make it easier to get closer to the action and ensure you capture stunning photos. Whether you shoot sports, wildlife, portraits or landscapes, these lenses are essential to have in your photography kit bag.
If you're a serious wildlife or sports photographer then owning a telephoto lens is a must. Telephoto lenses enable you to pick out finer details in the distance and still produce a sharp, clear image. It also means you don't have to be too close to your subject which is perfect when you're shooting wildlife and you don't want to scare animals away.
Likewise, if you're a sports photographer you'll often be in a defined area so you'll want to make sure you can still capture some great pictures, even if you're on the far side of the track, pitch or court.
Telephoto lenses have many uses though and are great for producing different perspectives to wider options. They have a lot less distortion which makes them great for picking out details in a landscape and the longer focal lengths enable you to achieve greater separation between your subject and background. For this reason, portrait photographers will shoot with a telephoto lens so that they have a beautifully blurred background in their image.
In this guide we're including telephoto zoom lenses like typical 70-200mm offerings, but also prime lenses with 85mm and 135mm focal lengths. These are ideal for shooting portraits, as they provide a flattering perspective while also enabling a larger maximum apperture than a zoom lens.
Here are the best Sony telephoto lenses right now, at the best prices...
Sony FE full-frame telephoto lenses
These are the best Sony telephoto lens options for full-frame mirrorless cameras: Sony A1, A7, A7 II, A7 III, A7 IV, A7R, A7R II, A7R III, A7R IV, A7S, A7S II, A7S III, A7C, FX6, FX9, A9, and A9 II…(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
The Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master OSS is one seriously well-specced optic. 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. 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.
All this translates into decent performance. Image sharpness is very good indeed wide-open at f/2.8, throughout the entire zoom range, becoming excellent at f/4. Color fringing is minimal but distortion is a little worse than average for this type of lens. In our tests, autofocus speed proved slightly underwhelming compared with competing lenses in its class. The 2-stop optical stabilizer is less effective than in most similar lenses, but its performance is boosted in later Sony cameras that add in-body stabilization into the equation.
Read more: Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS full review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
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 one of the best portrait lenses (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
This Sony lens ticks all the right boxes for portraiture on a full-frame camera, with its 85mm focal length and fast f/1.4 aperture. As such, it works really well for isolating the main subject against a blurred background. As well as being super-sharp, the quality of bokeh is wonderfully soft and dreamy, and remains so even when stopping down a little, helped by a very well-rounded 11-blade diaphragm. It’s undeniably a very pricey lens but we've estabished that its performance more than justifies the cost.
Read more: Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM full review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Fallen in love with Sony's premium FE 85mm f1.4 GM, but want something cheaper? Sony's own FE 85mm f1.8 is the answer! It's only about a third of the cost and less than half the weight of its f/1.4 G-Master stablemate, so it lightens the load for handheld shooting and is much easier on your bank balance. Handling is refined, build quality is impressive and image quality is excellent in all respects: center-sharpness is absolutely outstanding, even when shooting wide-open, and it remains highly impressive right out to the extreme corners of the frame. Indeed, there’s virtually nothing to be gained in sharpness by stopping down to f/2.8. The quality of bokeh doesn’t match that of the f/1.4 G-Master lens but it’s nevertheless very dreamy, and remains smooth when reducing the aperture a little.
Read more: Sony FE 85mm f1.8 full review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
While the FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master will be seen as the most ideal portrait lens by many, this 135mm version gets you closer to you sitter while maintaining a natural shooting distance, thus working really well for close-up portraits, and any other shooting scenario that calls for impeccable image quality at this focal length. The high-grade optical path includes XA (eXtreme Aspherical), Super ED and regular ED elements, along with an 11-blade diaphragm that maintains a particularly well-rounded aperture when stopping down a bit. For hands-on aperture control, there’s a physical aperture control ring with one-third f/stop click steps and a straightforward de-click switch to enable smooth transitions during movie capture. Along with impressive sharpness and contrast, the lens delivers sumptuously smooth bokeh, helped not only by the long focal length but also by the sheer optical quality. The only slight niggle is that defocused lights near the edges and corners of the frame can take on a very elliptical appearance.
Read more: Sony FE 135mm f1.8 GM full review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
The Samyang AF 135mm F1.8 FE goes head to head with Sony’s own-brand Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master lens. It boasts many of the same high-end features and handling exotica, as well as a tough, weather-sealed construction, but costs less than half the price to buy. It’s ideal for tight head shots in portraiture, as well as for sports and wildlife photography, and any time you want medium telephoto reach with a fast aperture for isolating the main subject with a tight depth of field, or for freezing motion under low lighting conditions. Autofocus is both fast and virtually silent, and it works particularly well with Sony’s eye-tracking AF mode in portraiture. The lens also features Samyang’s Astro-Focus Mode complete with LED Index for accurate infinity focusing at night. Although sharpness is very impressive, the quality of bokeh is arguably a bigger plus point in terms of image quality. It’s beautifully smooth when shooting wide-open at f/1.8 and remains excellent when stopping down a little. The 11-blade aperture diaphragm ensures that bokeh disks, formed by defocused bright spots, remain very well rounded.
Read more: Samyang AF 135mm F1.8 FE full review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
There’s no denying that the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master OSS (opens in new tab) 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.(opens in new tab)
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.
Sony E-mount APS-C telephoto lenses
These are the best Sony telephoto lens options for APS-C-sensor mirrorless cameras: A6000, A6100, A6300, A6400, A6500, and A6600…(opens in new tab)
The Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS is a really welcome addition to the Sony lens line-up. Designed specifically for APS-C format Sony E-mount cameras, it sports a 5x zoom range equating to 105-525mm on a full-frame body. It might not have an ultra-fast maximum aperture, but the modest f/4.5-6.3 aperture rating enables a much more compact, lightweight build, at a more affordable price. Image quality is also very impressive for a lens of this class and while it doesn’t have the world’s most effective optical stabilizer, you can still expect a good hit rate of sharp handheld shots. Overall, this is a lens that’s big on performance but refreshingly small and lightweight for handheld shooting. See our full review (opens in new tab).
How we test lenses
We test lenses using both real world sample images and lab tests. Our lab tests are carried out scientifically in controlled conditions using the Imatest testing suite, which consists of custom charts and analysis software that measures resolution in line widths/picture height, a measurement widely used in lens and camera testing. We find the combination of lab and real-word testing works best, as each reveals different qualities and characteristics.
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