WHAT ARE THE BEST SONY FE LENS FOR FULL-FRAME?
You’ve just bought a new Sony full-frame mirrorless camera and you’re wondering what are the best FE lenses to get the most out of it? You’ve come to the right place!
First of all, what is the difference between E-mount lenses and FE lenses?
FE is simply the name given to E-mount lenses that are compatible with full-frame sensors, for cameras like the AII, A7RIII, A9, etc…
So the term ‘FE-mount’ is wrong: There is no FE-mount, only FE lenses for E-mount system which are optimized for full frame.
What if I use an FE lens on an APS-C camera?
FE lenses are perfectly compatible with Sony’as APS-C cameras, with no loss of image quality. However the focal range will change: for example, a 50mm FE Lens used with a Sony a6400 will turn into a 75mm lens. Also, FE lenses are bigger and heavier since they uses a lot of glass, so you’ll have to carry a lot of useless weight around.
What if I use an E lens on a Full-frame camera?
E-mount lenses can be used on Sony’s Full-frame cameras, but you’ll get negative side effects: the corners of the images will be darkened as the lens will only use a smaller area of the sensor. You’ll have to enable ‘crop mode’ in the menus of your A7 series camera to automatically crop the picture, but instead of getting a 26 Megapixel image, you’ll get a 10 Megapixel image.
So using a Sony E lens on a full-frame is still usable, but that’s far from ideal.
I hope this is not too confusing for you!
This selection of the 10 best Sony FE lenses will help you choose which lens to buy according to your budget, but also according to the type of photo you want to shoot.
Note: Product links in this article lead to Amazon
- Top 10 best Sony FE-mount lenses
- Comparative table
- Useful accessories
- Some terms to know
- How to choose your Sony FE-mount lens
Weight: 550 g
Filter size: 67 mm
If you’re looking for an upgrade to the kit lens or if you just want one lens for everything, this is the best all-around lens that can even replace a couple of prime lenses. Since it’s relatively small and compact it’s perfect for travel, it’s weather resistant (not weather sealed however…) and its built quality overall is good.
Image quality is excellent, it gives wonderful results thanks to its constant f/2.8 aperture, with a nice bokeh, and it even has good macro performances.
The only downside is that the focal range doesn’t start at 24 mm and you’ll have to get used to the 28 mm. That said, it’s a must-have if you’re looking for the perfect all-around lens, and it’s sold at an incredibly competitive price.
- E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
- Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
- One XLD Element, One LD Element
One of the best-selling lenses for Sony full-format hybrids. This focal range is mainly suitable for street photography, portraits and landscapes. It has a superb quality of construction, with a matt black coating similar to that of the A7 housings and is resistant to dust and moisture. It’s one of the lightest objectives of this ranking but also one of the least cumbersome, it can be carried everywhere easily. Its autofocus is silent, fast and accurate, even in low light (better than the 35mm f/1.4 above).
The highlight of this 55mm f/1.8 is its sharpness, really impressive: the images you get with this lens are very sharp and rich in detail (it’s in the top 5 of dxomark.com).
What about the 50mm f/1.8? Although it’s sold at a very attractive price, its autofocus is really bad and the 55mm f:1.8 is definitely better in every respect, so it’s better to save money to buy it. As for the Sony Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 Planar T*, it offers slightly better performance (e. g. a slightly softer bokeh) but not enough to justify the huge price difference.
In terms of quality/price, I think the 55mm f/1.8 is simply THE best lens you can have for your Sony full-format hybrid camera.
- This version is originally intended for sale outside the US and may contain adapters, manuals, and warranties not compatible with US standards.
One of the best Sony FE lenses for portrait photography. Moreover, it’s sold at a reasonable price and offers excellent optical performance: its nine blade diaphragm allows you to obtain a very beautiful bokeh.
The focus is fast and quiet, its weight is light enough thanks to a mainly plastic construction, and the images obtained are incredibly sharp in the center of the frame through the aperture range. In short, if you are looking for an 85mm for everyday portrait or even landscape photography, don’t hesitate and get the 85mm f/1.8 !
- Wide F1.8 maximum aperture enables beautiful defocusing effects
- 9-blade circular aperture creates beautiful round defocused bokeh
- ED glass element for corner-to-corner sharpness,Minimum Focus Distance:2.63 feet (0.8 m)
The perfect lens for those who want to do macro with their Sony full-format hybrid: the image quality is excellent: superb color rendering, bokeh and sharpness that allows you to make incredible close-ups of tiny insects, flowers and other small objects.
The focal range and aperture of f/2.8 also allow it to be used as a portrait lens. It has a fast and ultra-quiet autofocus, and an effective OSS stabilization. As for the quality of construction, it’s heavy but sturdy.
- A perfect match for α7 series, 35mm full-frame E-mount cameras, 90mm Macro with a bright F2.8 maximum aperture, Nano AR coating effectively suppress reflections, Dust and moisture resistant design
- Minimum Focus Distance : 0.92 ft (0.28 m), Maximum Magnification ratio : 1.0x, Focal Length : 90 mm. The angle of view is 27 degree (35 mm) and 17 degree (APS-C)
- Optical Steady Shot image stabilization for handheld shooting, Instant manual/auto focus selection via a sliding focus ring, Instant manual/auto focus selection via a sliding focus ring
Released in 2014, it’s the first wide angle lens available for Sony FE hybrids: overall it offers excellent optical performance overall and is a very good lens for landscape photography. It offers impressively sharp images, low vignetting, fast focusing, reasonable distortion and very good manufacturing quality.
Unlike the 16-35mm f/2.8 GM below, the f/4 has no AF/MF button and it’s much more affordable. If you hesitate between the two and wonder if it’s worth switching to 16-35mm f/2.8 GM, let’s say it depends mainly on the budget you’re willing to put in and whether you want to get into professional photography. In both cases they are excellent wide-angle lenses that will not disappoint you.
- Ideal for landscapes and the a7 series of full frame cameras, ZEISS T (T star) coating to reduce flare and ghosting
- Minimum Focus Distance : 0.92 ft (0.28 m), Maximum Magnification ratio : 0.19x, Focal-Length : 5/8 - 1-3/8 Inches
- Three ED glass elements to suppress chromatic distortion, constant F4 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range
For those who have the budget and would like to do professional landscape photography, this 16-35 f/2.8 offers even better performance than the 16-35mm f/4. This is a G Master series lens that offers simply incredible image quality, with very little distortion, a uniform sharpness over the entire image with incredible texture detail, and in addition has an autofocus that is fast as light and totally silent.
The aperture of f/2.8 also allows you to take portraits with a beautiful bokeh and if you like to take pictures of the sky at night, it will give better results than the 16-35 f/4 . Its weight is rather reasonable, and it’s resistant to dust and humidity. For the weak points, the price is very high (quality at a price!) and beyond 24mm it loses a little sharpness. In short, an expensive wide-angle lens but it’s the best of the best.
A word about the Sony 12-24 mm f/4: the widest angle available at Sony, with an ultra-wide focal length of 12 to 24 mm that offers a phenomenal viewing angle, has excellent image quality (little vignetting, very sharp) BUT one disadvantage to note: it’s impossible to use a filter on it! It’s therefore mostly suitable for interior architecture photography (if you work in Real Estate, for example).
- Designed to achieve 50 Line pairs/mm resolving power
- Two XA (extreme aspherical) elements w/ high surface precision. Minimum focus distance - 0.28 m (0.92 ft). Maximum Magnification ratio (x)- 0.19
- Constant F2.8 max aperture maintains exposure and Depth of field. Hood Type : Petal shape, bayonet type; APERTURE BLADES: 11
A versatile focal length range that is especially suitable for travelling: this 24-70mm lens offers superb image performance, it’s fast, solid, ultra-quiet and resistant to dust and moisture, in short it’s a must-have if you are looking for a lens that will adapt to all situations while offering stunning images.
For the disadvantages, it’s very expensive (it’s one of the most expensive Grand Master lenses in this ranking) and it’s far from being a lightweight with its 886 g, but on the whole the critics of the net are unanimous about the quality of this lens which offers the flexibility of a zoom without sacrificing image quality.
- SONY EMOUNT LENS: 35mm full frame format, instant auto / manual focus selection, focus hold button
- NATURAL, LIFELIKE IMAGERY: ED and Super ED glass elements deliver breathtaking texture and detail
- REDUCED ABERRATION: Two aspherical elements and an extremely precise XA element maximize resolution
Another lens in the G range, very flexible with its focal length from 24 to 105mm and constant f/4 aperture, it allows you to take very detailed shots more than the 24-70mm f/4 that I didn’t include in this top 10). It’s also lighter and much cheaper than the 24-70 f/2.8 mentioned above.
In short, it may be more suitable for most users of Sony full-format hybrid cameras who can use it for landscape, portrait, wedding, etc. Most tests highlight its optical performance and its quiet and fast autofocus.
- G-lens design with 4 aspherical and 3 ED glass (extra-low Dispersion) elements, for high corner-to-corner resolving power throughout the entire zoom range
- 35 mm full-frame.Constant F4 maximum aperture maintains exposure and Depth of field throughout the zoom range
- 9-blade circular aperture contributes to beautifuly de-focused bakgrounds
A very high quality zoom, perfect for sports or animal photography. On this focal length range, it’s the best lens available at the moment: the images are very detailed and the contrast superb, it’s robust and the focus is super fast and super quiet (ideal for shooting animals or birds without making noise if you use the latest Sony hybrids that have a silent shutter release).
The 2.8 aperture allows you to take images in low light and create a nice bokeh.
Even if the handling is good, it’s a shame it’s so heavy! (not to mention the price). There’s a more affordable option, with a f/4 aperture: the Sony FE 70-200 f/4. It offers great results but it’s not as performant as the f/2.8 in low light situations.
- G Master design combines extraordinary sharpness and smooth bokeh, Constant F2.8 max aperture maintains exposure and depth of field.Weight 1480 g (without tripod mount)
- Class-leading min. focus distance of 37.8” / 0.25x max. mag, Dual floating focus system for high AF speed and precision, XA, ED/Super ED elements and Nano AR Coating for superb resolution
- Aspherical elements & 11-blade circular aperture for gorgeous bokeh, Min. focus breathing and par focal design ideal for video, Direct coupled mechanical focus system for precise manual focus
The only zoom for full-format Sony hybrids that goes beyond 200mm. It has almost the same size as the 70-200 mm.
The focus is silent and very fast and it offers great results thanks to the integrated optical stabilization that reduces camera shake, if combined with the optical stabilization integrated in Sony housings.
- G Master design combines extraordinary sharpness and smooth bokeh
- 35 mm full-frame.Double-linear and Direct Drive SSM for fast, quiet, precise focus
- Optical SteadyShot image stabilization significantly reduces blur
All the Sony FE lenses mentioned here are grouped together in this comparative table to make it easier to see. You can compare them based on price, weight and utility to see which one is best for you. (links lead to Amazon)
|Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD||$$$||550 g||f/2.8||all-around|
|Sony Zeiss Sonnar 55mm f/1.8||$$$||281 g||f/1.8||portrait|
|Sony 85mm f/1.8||$$$||371 g||f/1.8||portrait|
|Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 MACRO G OSS||$$$||602 g||f/2.8||macro|
|Sony G 12-24mm f/4||$$$||565 g||f/4||wide angle|
|Sony 16-35mm f/4||$$$||518 g||f/4||wide angle|
|Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM||$$$||680 g||f/2.8||wide angle|
|Sony 24-70mm f/2.8||$$$||886 g||f/2.8||all-in-one|
|Sony 24-105mm f/4||$$$||663 g||f/4||all-in-one|
|Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS||$$$||1480 g||f/2.8||zoom|
|Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6||$$$||1395 g||f/4.5-5.6||zoom|
Because it’s not easy to find your way around, here are the abbreviations you’ll often find when choosing your new Sony FE lens:
FE: Corresponds to ‘Full-frame E-mount’. Simply put, FE indicates that the lens is dedicated to Sony full-format cameras.
G: Corresponds to ‘Gold’, Sony’s range of high quality lenses, dedicated to professionals and very expensive.
GM: Corresponds to ‘G Master’, the top of the range in terms of quality. Even better than the simple objective’G’.
OSS: Corresponds to ‘Optical Steady Shot’, which is the image stabilization integrated directly into the lens. However, this is no longer an important criterion because the majority of new Sony hybrid devices released have image stabilization integrated directly into their housing.
E: Corresponds to E-mount, Sony hybrid devices with an APSC sensor (smaller than the A7, A7ii, A7III, A9 etc…), such as the Sony a6000, a6300 or a6500.
T*: Refers to the Carl Zeiss T-Star coating that eliminates parasitic light.
ZA: ‘Zeiss Alpha‘, means that the lens was designed in collaboration with the German company Zeiss. It’s supposed to be a guarantee of quality.
Macro: Designed for macro photography, i. e. the photography of small subjects like insescts, flowers…
Which FE lens to choose for your Sony A7, A7II, A7sII, A7RII, A7RIII, A7III, A9…?
If your Sony camera was not sold with a zoom, you will certainly want to choose a lens that will best suit the style of photography you want to do. Here are some important points to consider before buying a new lens:
The type of photo you want to take: Macro (flowers, insects, small objects…), portraits, wide angle (landscape, architecture)… or simply a versatile lens that will serve you in many types of situations?
Your budget: You will find that unlike traditional APS-C sensor SLRs, FE lenses for the new Sony full-format hybrids are relatively expensive, with a few exceptions!
Weight and size: despite the reduction in size of Sony hybrid bodies, some lenses are relatively heavy and exceed 1kg! Again, there are some exceptions. At the bottom of this page you will find all the objectives mentioned in this ranking with their respective weights indicated.
The aperture: it’s indicated by f/1.8, f/1.4 etc… and indicates the amount of light that enters the lens. To put it simply, the lower this number is, the more you can take pictures in low light (concert, wedding in a church…) and the better the “bokeh” or “background blur” will be!
Tip: Remember to update your device’s software. New versions of your camera’s firmware can sometimes offer better compatibility with lenses (autofocus becomes faster, among other things).
A small selection of useful accessories to have in addition to your lenses and your camera (all the links lead to Amazon.com):