So, what do you do? You pick the right lens for the job, and considering the alternatives available, you rate that lens as the best for you.
In this article, you’ll find the best Sony E-mount lens for the most common photography genres.
In case you’re in a hurry, we’ve summed up our lens picks below. Spoiler alert!
- Prime for portrait photography – Yongnuo YN85mm f/1.8S DF DSM
- Standard prime for everyday photography – Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
- Medium telephoto zoom for everyday photography – Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II
- Wide zoom for everyday photography – Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM
- Macro photography – Sigma 105mm f/2.8 DG DN Macro Art
- For sports and wildlife photography – Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS
BEST PRIME LENS FOR PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY
BEST STANDARD PRIME LENS FOR EVERYDAY PHOTOGRAPHY
BEST MEDIUM TELEPHOTO ZOOM LENS FOR EVERYDAY PHOTOGRAPHY
BEST WIDE ZOOM LENS FOR EVERYDAY PHOTOGRAPHY
BEST MACRO LENS
BEST LENS FOR SPORTS AND WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY
Best Prime Lens for Portrait Photography
1. Yongnuo YN85mm f/1.8S DF DSM
The lens I have shortlisted as the best for portrait photography isn’t a Sony E-mount OEM, but rather a Yongnuo product. This may be hard to believe, but the Yongnuo YN85mm f/1.8S DF DSM is a fantastic lens and is the highest rated by DxOMark when paired with the high-resolution Sony a7R IV.
There are multiple versions of this lens. You will find one for the Nikon Z-mount, one for the Canon EOS R-mount, and, as I mentioned before, one for the Sony E-mount.
The lens is designed specifically to be a fantastic performer for the portrait genre. The fast, wide-open aperture of f/1.8 allows the user to capture smooth background blur. Plus, that extra-wide aperture comes in handy when shooting in low-light conditions.
Coming down to the construction of the lens, the lens weighs a shade under 350 grams. Yet it feels solid in the hands and the build quality is good despite the lens being built predominantly out of plastic. There is, however, a metal lens mount at the back of the lens and a filter thread at the front that’s also made of metal.
There are only nine elements in this prime lens and no image stabilization, which is one of the reasons that the lens weight remains low. If you have a preference for heavier lenses, you can try the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 or the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4.
But I must warn you that the amount of money you’ll have to spend on these lenses is not comparable to our pick. With the Yongnuo YN85mm f/1.8S DF DSM, you can save a lot of money and get excellent results.
Does the absence of image stabilization affect the image quality of the lens? In bright conditions and when you’re using the widest open aperture, I’d say no. You’ll only miss image stabilization when you shoot in very dark conditions compounded by a desire to get a larger depth of field.
There’s no weather sealing on this lens. I am one of those photographers who prefer to pick lenses with weather sealing. Weather sealing ensures that I don’t have to keep an eye on the weather when I am out shooting.
For an 85mm f/1.8, it’s only natural that you would want to use this lens outdoors in bright conditions, during the summer months, and especially during the golden hour. Not having weather sealing means I will dock a few brownie points from the final rating.
Coming now to the performance of the lens. I must say that I am very impressed with the image quality of the YN85mm f/1.8S DF DSM. The lens is very sharp at the center of the frame.
Moving away from the center of the frame, the lens sharpness drops a little but never enough to be a cause for worry. Corner sharpness will always be less than the center of the frame.
Overall, the performance is extremely good, and I am happy to rate this lens higher than the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8.
Best Standard Prime Lens for Everyday Photography
2. Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
With a standard range of 35mm-50mm, I chose the 50mm, and among the multiple 50mm primes on offer, I chose the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA. This OEM Sony lens is designed for full-frame E-mount Sony cameras.
This is an ultra-fast prime standard lens with an aperture of f/1.4. The lens is built well and comprises 12 elements arranged in nine groups. The lens construction includes one advanced aspherical element and one aspherical element that takes care of spherical aberrations.
Apart from that, the lens also features one extra-low dispersion element that ensures that the lens can suppress the effects of chromatic aberrations. In real-life situations, the lens suppresses various spherical and chromatic aberrations.
The lens has weather sealing built in. Considering the price, this is one of the best lenses you can get if you plan to shoot street photos and, in general, spend a lot of time outdoors with your camera.
The first thing you’ll notice when you look at this lens is the size of this thing. At 780 grams, this is a heavy 50mm prime. The 72mm front filter thread reaffirms this is a big lens.
The problem with big lenses is that they need more space inside the camera bag. Also, when you’re walking around with that a heavy lens attached to the front of your camera, you feel the weight of the lens pulling you down.
Most of Sony’s mirrorless E-mount cameras are lightweight. The Sony a7R V weighs only 723 grams, and the a7 III weighs only 650 grams. With the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA, I would still say the weight balances itself out.
The lens features 11 rounded aperture blades that help produce excellent background blur. This is one of the primary benefits of shooting with a fast wide-aperture lens – capturing excellent bokeh.
Autofocusing on the lens is powered by a ring drive supersonic wave motor which is near silent when operating. Silent autofocusing is sometimes an overrated requirement.
When shooting inside a church or a library, I can understand the need for a practically silent lens. But for most genres of photography, it isn’t that useful.
The lens features a full-time manual focusing override, which I feel is a great little tool, especially when shooting in low-contrast or dark conditions. 99% of the time, however, I favor autofocusing because I trust its accuracy.
Let’s talk about the usage feedback. I first tried this lens several months after it was launched. And even then, it was only for about a week or so. The second time I got to use this lens a bit more extensively. The center of the lens is superbly sharp.
If you shoot wide open at f/1.4 and only care about the center sharpness at that aperture, I don’t think you will ever be disappointed. And if that’s all that you need, you don’t need to look beyond this lens.
Getting away from the center of the frame, you will see the image get a bit soft. But the degree of softness does not sway me from my opinion of the lens. It’s worth every dollar.
Best Medium Telephoto Zoom Lens for Everyday Photography
3. Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II
The need for an everyday zoom lens, something like 70-200mm, cannot be overstressed. Versatility is key for the amateur and pro alike. You need a lens that can shoot excellent images and retain a wide-open aperture no matter the focal length. The 70-200mm is an ideal choice.
This particular lens comes highly rated as one of the sharpest zoom lenses in the Sony lineup. It has a fixed aperture of f/2.8 across the lens’s focal length.
Let’s talk about the construction of the lens. The first thing that needs to be considered is that the lens is built to last. It consists of a combination of plastic and metal composites and yet feels solid in the hands.
The design includes two aspherical elements and one extreme aspherical element. This ensures that the lens can suppress the effects of spherical and chromatic aberrations without any issues.
It weighs 1045 grams, which is surprisingly lightweight, considering the zoom range and the fact that this is a well-made lens. I love lightweight lenses for everyday use.
I am not WWE material and I think many photographers would prefer not getting a workout in every time they take a photo. So, a lightweight lens sounds like a great idea, especially when shooting throughout the day.
The aperture control ring is among the many small additions to the lens that I like. Not many modern lenses come with a physical aperture control ring, and this is useful for changing the aperture settings without taking your eyes off the viewfinder. The aperture ring can be de-clicked for video shooting. But for still shooting, you may prefer audio confirmation of what’s happening.
The lens comes with a rotating tripod collar. This helps with compatibility as part of a tripod-based shooting system. It comes in handy when shooting landscape photography or studio-based portrait photography.
However, the tripod collar is incompatible with an Arca-Swiss tripod system. You can always use a quick-release plate and use the lens with traditional tripods. But for better convenience, you must get a separate tripod collar that works with this system.
Autofocusing is powered by a new technology that Sony rates four times faster than traditional lenses. The zoom technology is internal, ensuring the lens’s barrel length remains the same across the zoom range.
Personally speaking, I don’t like lenses that extend either when zooming or when you’re focusing. I know that many of the lenses come with weather sealing, but these areas are still highly susceptible to dust and moisture ingress. I am happy that the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II has an internal zooming design.
Having shot a few wedding photography assignments, I know this is an interesting application area for the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II. Wedding photographers often work with extremely tight schedules and they use two sets of bodies with different lenses. These are usually a 24-70mm and another 70-200mm to cover the entire focal length from 24 to 200mm with a fixed aperture. For this purpose, the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II is a great lens.
The autofocusing performance on the lens is fast due to the four linear motors that move the autofocusing system. But what matters is if the system is reliable in locking focus, and I am happy to say that it has never failed me.
Best Wide Zoom Lens for Everyday Photography
4. Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM
There are a bunch of options in this segment, including both OEM and third-party lenses. But I’m confident in my pick – the 16-35mm f/2.8 GM.
I may have a slight bias, as this lens is perfect for the type of photography work I do. So, I was leaning toward this lens from the start. But the second reason for my choice is that this is a highly rated lens, rated higher than the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II by DxOMark.
This is a pricey lens that may be beyond the reach of amateurs or hobbyists just getting into landscape and nature photography. There is a cheaper f/4 PZ (Powerzoom) version of this lens you can look at if you think that this lens is a bit too overpriced for your budget.
The 16-35mm is an excellent focal length because it covers a sweet spot, so to say, in terms of focal lengths ideal for landscape and nature photography.
Considering that you have a fixed aperture across that focal length, if you want to use this lens for shooting videos, you don’t have to bother changing exposure because the maximum aperture stays the same across the focal length.
The real-life applications of this lens go beyond just landscape, nature, and video shooting. You can also shoot weddings and other events. It may not be as versatile as the 24-70mm, but it’s still useful, especially in the 24-35mm focal range.
You can also shoot environmental portraits with this lens, capturing the subject in the middle of the frame and their immediate surroundings. Of course, the 16-35mm also works as a street photography lens.
The lens has 16 elements arranged in 13 groups and 11 rounded aperture blades. The lens has two extra-low dispersion elements, three aspherical elements, and two XA elements, as well as a Nano AR coating.
The lens elements ensure that the lens can handle the effects of spherical aberrations that reduce contrast. These elements help focus the light rays to a location on the focusing point at the back of the camera (sensor/image film), thereby improving contrast and image sharpness.
The nano AR coating helps suppress the effects of flares and ghosting and further improves the sharpness and contrast of the lens. A fluorine coating also ensures that the lens’s front element is easy to clean in the case of dirt, dust, or grime build-up.
Two extra-low dispersion elements ensure that the lens can handle the effects of chromatic aberrations.
The 16-35mm does not come with image stabilization. However, I am not too bothered about it. First, the lens has too wide a focal length to make the lack of image stabilization a big deciding factor. If you shoot at a minimum shutter speed of 1/16 sec at the wide open (1/35mm at the tele-end), your images won’t have any image blur.
Secondly, modern Sony cameras have a 5-axis sensor-shift image. This ensures that all compatible lenses are automatically stabilized. So, the 16-35mm will also be automatically stabilized when paired with such a camera.
The lens is very sharp at the center of the frame. Wide open at f/2.8, the lens can produce excellent contrast and sharpness. This goes for all focal lengths from 16mm to 35mm. Stopping down improves the overall sharpness of the lens a bit, but not much.
Best Macro Photography Lens
5. Sigma 105mm f/2.8 DG DN Macro Art
If you’re interested in macro photography and you have one of Sony’s E-mount mirrorless cameras, chances are that you’ve been looking at two lenses – the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 DG DN Macro Art and the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS.
I was torn between these two lenses and finally chose the Sigma over the Sony. There are a few reasons for that. First, Sigma’s focal length is 105mm, making it more suitable for my work. I love photographing creepy crawlies and other small bugs, and a longer focal length ensures that I can leave some space between myself and my subjects and not scare the living daylights out of them.
I also like the large, chunky manual focusing ring at the lens’s front. As a macro photographer, I prefer not to use autofocusing. I am not saying that I don’t use it, but the whole point of shooting macro is that I can fine-tune the focusing to where my heart desires, and only manual focusing allows me to do that with any degree of accuracy.
When shooting with autofocusing, especially when zeroed in on an area of the subject that lacks contrast, autofocusing does not have the same degree of accuracy as it does when shooting high-contrast scenes.
Speaking of autofocusing, Sigma’s Hyper Sonic motor powers the AF technology on this lens. This is an excellent autofocusing technology and is very accurate.
I need to mention that although this is a macro lens designed for close-focus work, this lens is also useful for shooting portraits. The focal length of 105mm is excellent for the genre.
Let’s look at the lens design. The lens has a total of 12 elements arranged in seven groups. There is one special low-dispersion element in the lens. This element ensures that the lens can handle the effects of chromatic aberrations and color fringing, producing sharper and more contrasting results.
The lens also features a super multi-layer coating. This coating is in place to reduce the effects of lens flares and ghosting. Wide open lenses are prone to lens flares and ghosting, especially when the light is harsh. This coating ensures that this is suppressed and helps to capture contrast in the images.
The fact that this lens is weather sealed also is a huge plus point for me. For shooting macro photos, I often venture outdoors in inclement weather.
It’s not always possible to keep a tab on local weather forecasts and sometimes gloomy weather is exactly what you need to create the perfect shot. Having weather sealing means you don’t have to worry about a little bit of rain or a dusty environment playing tricks with your equipment.
My favorite process to shoot macro photos is on a tripod and with manual focusing. But sometimes, I do use the hand-held method for a quick shot or when using a tripod may not be feasible. For situations like this, image stabilization comes in handy. Unfortunately, the lens features no image stabilization.
If you need in-lens optical image stabilization, you can take a look at the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS. That lens comes with a built-in optical steady shot.
Plus, it works in tandem with the camera’s body-based image stabilization (sensor-shift type) and produces excellent stabilization results for sharp hand-held photography.
In any case, this lens would be compatible with any Sony camera that has IBIS (in-body image stabilization).
Best Lens for Sports and Wildlife Photography
6. Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS
I was split between the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS and the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS – two lenses that have the perfect focal lengths for shooting sports and wildlife photography.
Of course, if budget isn’t a concern for you, pros use two top-of-the-line primes like the Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS and the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS. But let me warn you that these extremely pricey lenses are out of most photographers’ reach.
Lenses such as the FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS and the FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS are more “practical” options. For this discussion, I chose the 100-400mmf/4.5-5.6. Here are my reasons:
The major reason is that, though the 200-600mm has a longer zoom range, there are some deal-breaking caveats. The maximum aperture of the 200-600 starts at f/5.6 and drops to f/6.3 at the tele-end. The maximum aperture of the 100-400mm starts at f/4.5 and drops to f/5.6 at the tele-end.
But in the 200-600mm, the maximum aperture of f/5.6 only extends to 300mm. If you rotate the zoom ring beyond this, the maximum aperture drops down to f/6.3. So, basically, it’s an f/6.3 lens beyond 300mm. Whereas with the 100-400mm, you get f/5.6 all the way up to 400mm.
Both the 200-600mm and the 100-400mm are compatible with Sony’s 1.4x and 2x teleconverters. That gives both lenses an extended focal length.
With the 2x teleconverter, however, the maximum aperture drops by 2 stops. With the 1.4x teleconverter, the maximum aperture drops down by 1 stop. So, the maximum aperture of the 200-600mm becomes f/13 at the tele-end.
Comparatively, the maximum aperture of the 100-400mm drops down to f/11 at the tele-end. It’s not a huge difference, but that’s a lot on the smaller end of the aperture chart. Ideally, I will not be using either lens with a teleconverter because the drop in aperture is a huge factor affecting the kind of photography that these lenses are meant for. You cannot maintain a fast shutter speed with such small apertures.
A longer focal length is ideally suited for photographing birds, wildlife, and sporting action. These subjects are difficult to reach, which means you have to shoot from a distance and, therefore, need a longer focal length.
The 600mm focal length seems like a better choice, but from the perspective of someone who has extensive experience with a 600mm lens – it can get very difficult to track a subject with a longer lens. Especially when birding, if the subject is moving very fast, the small angle of view means you can only see a tiny part of the scene.
Looking through that small angle of view from the viewfinder can be a nightmare when trying to keep the subject in the middle of the frame. I am not discounting the 600mm altogether. It’s vastly too useful to be belittled by my statements. It gets close to your subject like no other lens can. For stationary subjects like a lion or a herd of elephants at several hundred yards, it’s still a superior choice to the 400mm.
A smaller, more manageable focal length, like 400mm, is better for fast-moving subjects.
In terms of construction, the lens features a total of 22 elements arranged in 16 groups. These include two extra-low dispersion elements along with one Super ED element. These elements control chromatic aberrations.
Apart from that, the lens also features a nano AR coating. This coating is present to ensure that the lens can handle the effects of ghosting and flares. Both the ED elements and the nano AR coating produce better contrast and image quality.
The lens features nine rounded aperture blades. Producing beautiful, soft bokeh or out-of-focus background effects is easier with long lenses. And when the lens comes with nine rounded aperture blades, the quality of that out-of-focus effect becomes even better. It can be perfect for shooting portraits. The 100-400mm is also useful for shooting portrait images, especially in the 100-150mm focal length range.
I know many of you would be thinking, all that said, what’s the image quality like? Does it even make sense to invest in a lens that shoots at the most at f/5.6? My answer is that the overall image quality is great.
I didn’t have a reason to complain about the focusing accuracy, the image quality, or the lack of sharpness. And to answer the question of whether to invest in an f/5.6 lens, unfortunately, as mentioned above, the alternatives are beyond the reach of a majority of photographers.
Read More: Best Sony Lenses for Sports Photography