Sony has made a name for itself in the camera market lately. From its popular mirrorless line to its cinema cameras, Sony seems to be everywhere. The Sony E Mount has been around for about a decade. Since then, it’s been integrated into cameras used by third-party manufacturers as well. In this best of Sony lenses guide, we cover both Sony and third-party Sony lenses.
To learn what to consider when purchasing a lens, check out The best lenses for video — 2021.
Best budget prime
Meike MK-50mm f/1.7
When it comes to budget Sony lenses, the Meike MK50mm f/1.7 is a great place to start out if you’re looking for a good prime. The 50mm focal length provides “normal” view and f/1.7 gives quite a wide-open aperture for your low-light and selective-focus needs. This lens is fully manual and focuses as close as 1.6’ away. It makes use of multi-layer coating to reduce flare and ghosting.
One special note for videographers is the MK-50mm’s de-clicked aperture ring. It allows for smooth aperture pulls without hitting hard clicks with each stop. Also, the throw on each ring feels a little longer than standard photo lenses, but not quite as long as a cine lens might have.
This all comes in a small, all-metal package — only 2.4’’/61mm long and just under 11oz/310 grams. However, this means the aperture and focus rings are very close together. This might be an issue if you have accessories you want to attach for pulling focus, or if you have big hands.
Best budget zoom
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD
Another great budget Sony lens is the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD. It is an affordable choice for a general-purpose zoom lens, great for E mount cameras. It’s both wide enough and tight enough for just about any situation. Plus, the f/2.8 max aperture lets a good amount of light in and it stops down all the way to f/22. It has a minimum focus distance of 7.5 inches, with 1:2.9 max magnification.
Inside, the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD makes use of 15 elements. This includes one XLD element and one LD element to improve color accuracy, as well as two hybrid aspherical elements to produce images with more sharpness.
The 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD uses Tamron’s RXD — Rapid eXtra-silent stepping Drive — motor for quiet and speedy autofocus. The lens boasts Moisture Resistant Construction. It utilizes Tamron’s proprietary BBAR coating to reduce ghosting and flares. It also has a fluoride coating on the front element to protect the glass from dust, dirt and smears. All this is packed into a small package, just 4,64 inches long by 2.87 inches wide and weighing 1.21lb.
Best budget cine
Rokinon Cine DS
The Rokinon Cine DS line is a fantastic choice for shooters looking for cine lenses on a budget. They deliver the main features for cinema-style shooting, such as long throws to achieve more precise and smooth focus pulls, de-clicked apertures for smooth aperture pulls and long teeth on the focus ring so that accessories can be attached easier.
The glass has undergone a multilayer coating process to achieve consistent color across all lenses in the series. They can focus as closely as 11.8 inches.
The Rokinon Cine DS is a series of 12 prime lenses, from10mm T3.1 to 135mm T2.2. The fastest lenses in the line are the middle focal lengths — 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm, all coming in at T1.5. Each lens has markings on two sides of the lens body for focus and t-stop, making it easier to check your settings while shooting. The lenses can be bought individually, or in bundles of 4 or 5, it’s less common to find all the lenses in one kit. Prices range from $400 and up on single lenses in this family, with bundles of 4 being around $2000.
Best wide prime
Sony FE 20mm F1.8 G
The Sony FE 20mm F1.8 G made waves when it debuted in early 2020, as the widest Sony lens available at the time. It’s a great performer, providing stunning, high resolutions images thanks to Sony’s top-quality glass and Nanon AR coating. The lens can be a little soft when it’s opened up, but stop down to a respectable f/2.8 and you get a sharp frame from corner to corner.
This wide-angle lens lets you get in close on your subjects with a minimum focal distance of 7.09in/18cm. The lens achieves fast, quiet and accurate AF through the use of two linear XD motors. Its small form factor of just 3.33in/84.7mm in length and 13.16oz/373g weight make it easy to use on gimbals, stabilizers, drones and more.
This Sony lens has one customizable button that can be assigned to your camera’s features for added functionality. Videographers will also appreciate that the aperture ring can be set to ‘de-clicked’, removing hard stops and allowing smooth, silent aperture pulls.
Best normal prime
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
When it comes to third-party Sony lenses, Sigma really delivers top-notch products. Sigma’s Art lenses are great third-party lenses available in a number of different mount options. For Sony’s E Mount, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art stands out as the best normal prime available.
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art benefits from its fast, nine-blade aperture in low-light shooting conditions, and providing excellent bokeh background blur when using shallow depth of field to achieve selective focus. The 13 glass elements achieve sharp images while minimizing chromatic aberrations and maintaining accurate color fidelity.
The autofocus uses a Hyper Sonic AF Motor while employing full-time manual focus override ability. The lens is largely metal construction in a body of Thermally Stable Composite to maintain functionality in a wide temperature range when shooting in rough conditions.
Best telephoto lens
Sony FE G Master 85mm F/1.4 GM
Sony’s G Master — Gold Master — series are their top-of-the-line professional lenses. They seek to marry high resolution imaging with stunning bokeh, while keeping the lens rugged and useable under tough conditions.
The 85mm F/1.4 GM hit that nail square on the head.
This Sony lens is designed to be super sharp at its most wide, by making use of one XA element and three ED elements as well as Nano AR Coating. The 11-blade circular diaphragm creates a pleasant blur for out-of-focus parts of your image. The 85mm G Master makes use of a ring drive SSM autofocus system that uses two sensors for maximum precision.
On the lens body, there is an af/mf switch, a focus hold button and an aperture ring that can click/de-click with a switch. It’s 4.25’’/107.5mm long and weighs in at 1.8lb/820g.
Best wide and normal zoom
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN HSM Art
Sigma keeps making an impressive showing on the best Sony lenses lists, this time with the 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN HSM Art. It’s in the perfect range for a “walk-around” lens — it’s convenient to get a great variety of shots spanning from wide-angle to tight. Couple that with f/2.8 to get a good amount of light, plus it can get creative with depth of field, and you’re looking at an incredibly versatile lens.
On top of that, functionality is Sigma’s Art glass, with Super Multi-Layer and NanoPorous coatings to improve contact and color accuracy. Then with HSM autofocus and OS — Optical Stabilizer — and you’ve got a great zoom lens.
A few things to note, this Sony lens is sharp in the center. It can be soft around the edges at both the widest and tightest lengths. Additionally, this lens isn’t light. It weighs over 1000 grams. This could be an issue if it’s going to be handheld for long periods or carried in a bag. Also, at wide-angle, the minimum focusing distance is 7.1 inches, but if you zoom in to a tight shot, the minimum focus distance goes up to 1.25 feet.
Best telephoto zoom
Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD
Tamron’s 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD is a flexible zoom lens with a bright aperture and compact profile. With a max aperture of f/2.8, you can shoot under low light conditions and get some nice bokeh when you want shallow depth.
It’s notable how small this lens really is. You’d think it’s meant for crop sensors, coming in under 6 inches (149mm) and weighing only 1.78lb/810g. Yet, there are 19 glass elements in the body, including six low dispersion and three aspherical elements. These elements help image quality through color accuracy and sharpness. The body is moisture-resistant and has a fluorine coating on the front lens to protect from dirt, dust and smears.
70-180mm is a little shorter than most telephoto zooms, which reach out to 200mm. But then, those 20mm aren’t the end of the world, you’re still getting a good range. Plus this lens is discreet, which can be beneficial for videographers working in public, documentarians and more.
One thing that should be taken into account when deciding on this lens; it is designed with the zoom in the front and focus behind, opposite of many other lenses. This might confuse you if you’re often switching glass on and off your camera.
Best cine lens
Rokinon Xeen Sony lenses are great cine lenses designed to swap mount plates so they can be used on several mount systems. They come in a series of primes and can be bought individually or as a group — 14mm, t/3.1 16mm T2.6 20mm T1.9, 24mm T1.5, 35mm T1.5, 50mm T1.5, 85mm T1.5, and 135mm T2.2.
These are fully manual lenses that have standardized gearing and construction to make it fast and easy to swap different lenses out mid-shoot. To the same end, it should be noted these lenses use T-stop instead of F-stop. F-stop is used in photo lenses and is an approximation of how much light gets in. T-stop is a precise and exact measurement, which makes it easy to match lighting when swapping lenses to get coverage of a scene.
These lenses also have long throws on the focus and aperture rings, to make smooth and precise camera moves. They have deeply grooved teeth in the rings, so there’s no more focus-puller slipping off mid-shoot.
The Rokinon Xeen are heavy lenses, build for bigger rigs. They balance on prosumer gimbals. However, it takes a while to get set, and likely requires additional weights. All in all, with the Rokinon Xeen cine lenses, you’re getting great cine glass at a relatively affordable price.
Best crop sensor lens
Sony E 16-55mm f/2.8 G Lens
The Sony E 16-55mm f/2.8 G debuted in late 2019 and provided high-quality glass for the crop sensor. It represents a useful zoom range, which translates to 24-82.5mm equivalent on a full-frame sensor. The f/2.8 max aperture pulls in a lot of light, and couples with 9 rounded diaphragm blades for pleasant background blur.
This lens incorporates four aspherical elements, three low dispersion elements, and Nano AR Coating to create sharp images with accurate color rendering. It has AF/MF options as well as a customizable button for focus hold, or whatever you want to map it on in your camera. It weighs in at 1.09lb/494g and is 3.94’’/100mm long.