In this discussion, I will review the best Sony lenses to take your landscape photography from concept to craft.
I am split between the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G and the Sony FE 24mm f/2.8 G in this category. They’re both excellent lenses considering the price point. However, the 24mm is substantially more affordable than the 20mm f/1.8 G.
Unlike with most lenses, it won’t help to go by the maximum aperture of the lenses – f/2.8 and f/1.8, respectively. You’re not going to need a fast, wide aperture for landscape photography. Invariably, your photos will be shot with an aperture between f/6.3 and f/11.
Most inexpensive lenses start to show signs of refraction when they’re stopped down further than f/11. So, f/11 is the watershed between what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G
A 20mm lens offers an angle of view of 94 degrees and promises more than what a standard kit lens can capture. The f/1.8 aperture promises to capture a lot of light, and wider focal length lenses offer a larger depth of field (DoF). That translates to a slightly larger DoF for the 20mm f/1.8.
The construction of the lens includes 14 elements arranged in 12 groups. These elements include two advanced aspherical elements and three extra-low dispersion elements.
The first set of elements takes care of spherical aberrations, and the second set of elements takes care of chromatic aberrations. Together these elements ensure that the lens produces sharper results and better color contrast.
Additionally, the lens features a nano AR and fluorine coating that ensures that the lens is able to handle the effects of harsh lighting, something that landscape photographers often encounter. The result is better contrast when working in backlit conditions.
The lens weighs a little more than 370 grams and is a lightweight addition to your full-frame mirrorless camera. It’s built compact, and Sony states that it’s weather resistant.
The physical aperture ring on the lens ensures that it’s easy to change the aperture right from the lens body without having to take your eyes off the viewfinder.
Normally, the aperture ring makes a clicking sound, but you can de-click it, and then it will turn smoothly. This comes in handy when shooting videos.
There is no built-in image stabilization. But as a landscape photographer, someone who would be shooting with a tripod setup for the most part, I don’t think that’s an issue. In any case, the lens is compatible with Sony’s body-based image stabilization system.
Let’s talk about autofocusing first.
Autofocusing is instantaneous. No complaints there. There is, however, a focus breathing issue, but this will likely not hinder still photographers.
I like the chunky manual focusing ring that sits up front near the front element. The thing I like about this lens’s manual focusing ring is its smooth linear response.
That said, I did notice significant focus breathing issues when rocking focus. This is something that video makers should take note of, but it won’t affect still shooters.
Wide open at f/1.8, the lens produces excellent, sharp results. That said, the corners are a bit softer compared to the center of the frame. Stopping down the lens, however, produces better sharpness at the corners and, with it, better contrast.
As a landscape photographer, the only apertures I would be concerned about are between f/7.1 and f/11. This is what is mainly used for shooting landscape photography. In that range, the lens is very sharp.
Sony FE 24mm f/2.8 G
This is a compact and functional lens designed for full-frame Sony E-Mount mirrorless camera systems.
Both the Sony FE 24mm f/2.8 G and the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G I mentioned above are G lenses. They don’t come with the same build quality as G Master lenses. There are some obvious cost-cutting when compared to something like the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 G Master.
The construction of the lens is mostly plastic. Despite that, it feels solid in the hands. The metal lens mount and the weather sealing around it promise that the lens will be able to handle the vagaries of nature.
This is an extremely lightweight lens. It almost feels like nothing is attached to your camera when you mount it. If you’re planning for a long day of photography and are happy with a fixed focal length, the Sony FE 24mm f/2.8 G is a great choice.
The lens features a total of 8 elements arranged in 7 groups. That includes three aspherical elements and one extra-low dispersion (ED) element. The first of those elements takes care of the effects of spherical aberrations. The second controls the effects of chromatic aberrations and color fringing.
There is a physical aperture ring on the lens. This allows you to change the aperture of the lens on demand. The aperture ring on the lens can be smoothly turned when needed by de-clicking it.
Let’s talk about autofocusing now. There are two linear autofocusing motors in this lens powering the autofocusing performance. Real-life performance is fast and accurate.
The manual focusing ring sits right at the edge of the lens (towards the front element). The manual focusing ring turns accurately and smoothly.
The one thing that may be a cause for concern is that the lens shows a huge amount of focus breathing. For video shooting, this will be an issue.
The lens is very sharp in the middle of the frame. If you’re using the lens with a high-resolution camera, you will be able to capture a lot of detail. The corners are the problem areas. Wide open the results are softer than the performance at the middle of the frame. Stopping down the lens improves corner sharpness by quite a bit.
Purely in terms of image quality, I think I am split between the 20mm and the 24mm. They’re equally good. But when it comes to a larger angle of view, the 20mm trumps the 24mm.
Plus, the 20mm offers a slightly larger DoF, which is handy when shooting landscape photography.
Having said that, the 20mm is slightly ahead of the 24mm in terms of center and corner sharpness. Wide open, both lenses are sharp in the middle, but remember, the 24mm can open up only to a maximum of f/2.8, and at f/2.8, the 20mm is sharper at the corners than the 24mm.
It boils down to two things – whether you need that extra 4mm worth of focal length that will capture a wider perspective, and whether you need that extra wide-open aperture. And of course, there is the question of whether you’re willing to pay a few hundred dollars extra for that benefit.
Sony FE 20-70mm f/4 G
I have picked only one option here, and the lens is very versatile. It offers a broad focal length range of 20 to 70mm meaning that you can use this lens for subjects beyond landscape photography.
In terms of focal length for landscape photography, the best range is between 20 and 35mm. I am not suggesting that you can’t shoot landscape photos with a 70mm focal length mounted on a full-frame camera. I have taken photos of mountain ranges with a telephoto lens (300mm+) and long lenses allow for fantastic background compression. That said, it’s not always the preferred choice for a focal length. The reason being, when we speak of landscape photos, we generally think of wide-open vistas and dramatic landscapes with a large DoF.
There are 16 elements arranged in 13 groups. These elements include three ED elements for suppressing chromatic aberrations. There are two AA (Advanced Aspherical) elements and one ED aspherical element.
These two elements are in place to counter the effects of spherical aberrations and ensure that the lens can produce accurate rendering. Additionally, the ED aspherical element can suppress chromatic aberrations, which supplements the performance of the ED elements.
In real-life situations, such as when shooting in harsh lighting conditions, I have seen the lens control these issues admirably. So you can comfortably shoot with the sun directly in the frame or when the subject is backlit.
In terms of weight, the lens is only 488 grams. It’s lightweight and shouldn’t weigh you down as you navigate treacherous trails chasing the perfect picture.
Sony does mention that the lens is weather sealed. If you look at the mounting area, you can see the rubber gasket that keeps the moisture and dust at bay. Weather sealing is sometimes underrated when it comes to landscape lenses. But I have experienced on multiple occasions how useful it can be in the field.
Both the zoom ring and the focus ring are well-damped and respond well to torque. There is a thin aperture ring on the lens that allows for swift aperture changes. The default setting is clickable, but if you turn it off, the aperture ring turns smoothly without making those clicking sounds – perfect for video work.
The lens features twin XD linear autofocusing motors. These motors offer a very smooth and fast autofocusing performance.
As you can imagine, this lens isn’t designed specifically for landscape photography, but landscape photography is just one of the many genres for which this lens is useful. Portrait photography is one of those genres where a fast autofocusing performance will come in handy.
For photographing landscapes, though, it’s not that important.
Image sharpness is what matters at the end of the day when it comes to deciding whether one should go for a particular lens or not. So, let’s quickly check the lens’s image quality.
Wide open at f/4 and shooting at 20mm, the lens produces excellent sharpness in the middle of the frame. Corners, however, are not that sharp. Stopping down the lens to f/5.6 improves corner sharpness.
The same story repeats itself when the lens is zoomed all the way to 70mm. Center sharpness is much better off the bat, wide open. The corners are a little softer but improve again when you stop down the lens.
Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM
For the mid-range landscape photography category, I have chosen the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM. This is a G Master lens with excellent build quality, something we have come to expect from G Master lenses.
The 24mm is an excellent focal length for shooting landscapes. Plus, if you’re into travel photography, the 24mm can also shoot great wide-angle destination shots.
Additionally, you can use this lens for shooting tight spaces, like churches and small wedding venues. This is a great lens for shooting architectural photos as well.
But let’s move on to its application to landscape photography.
The lens features 13 elements arranged in 10 groups. There are two XA elements used in the construction of the lens.
The XA elements are more complex and time-consuming to manufacture when compared to standard spherical lenses and can suppress the effects of spherical aberrations better than standard aspherical elements.
Additionally, there are three ED elements. These are in place to suppress the effects of chromatic aberrations and color fringing.
On top of that, the lens also features a nano AR coating that further cuts down on the effects of reflections, glares, and flares, especially when working with direct light.
The lens weighs a shade under 450 grams. There is a lot of plastic in the design of the lens, but it’s good-quality plastic.
It needs to be mentioned here that the lens is marked as weather sealed. If you turn over the lens and look at the rear end, you will notice the rubber gasket that’s in place to prevent moisture and dust from seeping inside the camera.
The lens’s design and handling are similar to some of the other Sony E-mount prime lenses I mentioned here.
The aperture ring on the lens is thin, and it’s set to click by default. You can, however, de-click it, and that ensures that it has a smooth transition when changing the aperture.
The manual focusing ring sits at the front of the lens. The ring is very smooth to turn. You can flick the Auto/Manual focus switch to transition from Auto to Manual and vice versa. There is also a focus hold button that comes in handy when you want to lock focus for those focus and recomposition-type shots.
Autofocusing is very fast but I have seen faster. Then again, this lens is aimed at landscape, architecture, and other genres where you don’t need lighting-fast autofocusing performance.
There is one area of concern, though, and it would affect videographers more than still photographers. There is a lot of focus breathing with this lens.
The sharpness right in the middle of the frame is good. The corners are a bit softer than the center of the frame. Stopping down the lens even by two-thirds of a stop significantly improves the corner sharpness. Chromatic aberrations also get suppressed significantly at f/2 and beyond.
I have noticed a bit of chromatic aberrations at the center of the frame. I’m unfortunately not sure if this is a problem with the particular copy of the lens that I have tested or a general problem.
Sony FE PZ 16-35mm f/4 G
The Sony FE PZ 16-35mm f/4 G is a very versatile lens with a focal length that’s perfect for landscape photography. I would say that the 20-28mm focal length range is the sweet spot for landscape photography.
I feel that this lens is perfect for landscape photographers who also shoot a bit of street photos on the side. The 35mm focal length can be used for environmental portraits as well as for wedding photography, while the other end of the focal range is ideal for landscapes.
The lens consists of 13 elements arranged in 12 groups.
The weight of the lens is only 353 grams. For a lens that offers such a versatile focal length range, this isn’t that heavy. I can live with that weight strapped onto a Sony full-frame mirrorless camera with no issues.
The metal mount of the lens is very well made, and there is a rubber gasket that seals the lens from nature’s vagaries. I don’t think the lens will have issues withstanding moisture and dust when out in the field.
There is a physical aperture ring on the lens that allows the photographer to change the aperture straight from the lens barrel. The aperture ring, by default, makes a clicking sound when you turn the aperture ring.
As with many of the other Sony lenses we have discussed here, this lens also comes with a click-on/off button. Once de-clicked, the lens ring turns smoothly.
One of the features of the zoom mechanism is that it’s internal, which means the barrel length does not change as the lens zooms in or out.
For video makers, this segment brings good news. The lens shows very little focus breathing. This is excellent compared to some of the other lenses that I have listed here.
Wide open at f/4 and 16mm, the lens produces very sharp results in the middle of the frame. So much so that you can make out individual rocks on a beach. If center sharpness is all you need, then this is a superb lens.
Over the years, I have tested and used many lenses, which means I have had the privilege of working with a lot of different equipment. Very few lenses are as sharp at the corners of the frame as they are at the center.
The reason I say this is because the Sony FE PZ 16-35mm f/4 G isn’t any different. Wide open, the corners are not as sharp as the center, although the contrast is better.
I tested the sharpness quotient by stopping down the lens, and needless to say, performance improved by a bit. Although, I have seen better corner sharpness.
More than anything, the lens’s power zoom feature makes this a novelty. It reminded me of the zoom feature on Nikon’s prosumer-level bridge cameras, such as the Coolpix L120, which I used for many years. It’s eerily reminiscent of how the zoom function worked, except for the lever that controlled the zoom functionality. Even the “W” and “T” marks are very familiar.
But the main benefit of the power zoom function is that it’s compatible with some gimbals, making it suitable for use with stabilization systems.
Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 GM
I have already discussed the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G, and the Sony FE 24mm f/2.8 G. This particular lens is a premium alternative and offers excellent image quality, handling, and ergonomics. Not to mention the fact that this is a GM lens and therefore comes with the promised assurance of superior build quality.
The 14mm is a fantastic option for shooting landscape, architecture, and interior photos. Purely in terms of landscape photography, the lens offers a wide angle of view of 114 degrees, allowing you to capture a wide panoramic vista of the surrounding scene.
Additionally, a lens like this is a fantastic option for anyone looking for a solution for shooting astrophotography, weddings, architecture photography, and a bit of everything in-between.
One aspect of wide-angle lenses that I need to mention here is peripheral distortion or lens distortion – which is huge for this lens. You will find that tall buildings or any perpendicular structures closer to the edges of the frame appear to be leaning inwards. This is something that cannot be avoided.
Wide-angle lenses are not designed for capturing bokeh. Despite that, if you get in too close to a subject, you can get a decent background blur.
But that’s not the focus of this discussion. If you’re shooting landscape photography, ideally, you would want to capture a wide image that’s sharp from the center to the corners.
The lens features a total of 14 elements arranged in 11 groups. This includes two XA elements in the lens, along with three extra-low dispersion elements.
The lens is made of good-quality plastic and feels very solid in the hands. I would say that it lives up to the reputation of Sony’s GM lenses. That includes weather sealing which is evident when you look at the back of the lens. The lens mount area comes with a weather-sealing gasket.
Further, the lens weighs 460 grams. This is reasonable for a prime lens. That said, it balances well with a full-frame Sony mirrorless camera. I don’t mind taking this lens on a trail or navigating a mountain path to reach a prime photography spot.
I often use ND and other filters for my landscape photos. I am sure many of you do the same. I need to mention here that there are no options to use a front screw-in filter. You can only use a rear gel filter with this lens. There is a provision for that at the back of the lens.
There is a dedicated aperture ring on the lens that ensures that you can adjust the aperture without having to take your eyes off the viewfinder. The layout, buttons, and dials on the lens are positioned well and feel natural to use.
The manual focusing ring is very smooth and turns responsively. The autofocusing performance of the lens is also very fast and reliable.
There is, however, a lot of focus breathing, and that could be an issue for videographers.
As always, image quality is the ultimate test of a lens’s suitability.
Straight away, the lens is very sharp wide open at f/1.8. The contrast is also quite impressive. Sharpness at the corners of the lens is a tad soft. Having said that, once you stop down the lens, sharpness and contrast improve at the corners.
When testing the lens, the sharpest corner results were achieved within the aperture range of f/4 and f/11. Beyond that, lens diffraction sets in, and the overall image quality again becomes softer.
I noticed some vignetting issues. This was evident when photographing the sky in the upper corners, with the image looking a little darker at those corners. Although this isn’t a major issue because vignetting can be corrected during post-processing, this is something that you should keep in mind and make the necessary adjustments either in-camera or when post-processing.
Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM
The 12-24mm and the 16-35m are two of my favorite zoom lenses for landscape photography. I often use them interchangeably. Although, I feel the 16-35mm is more versatile because the 12-24mm is a bit too wide on the wide-angle side.
At times it captures way more than I originally envisioned, and then, I have to crop the irrelevant portions of the image.
The 16-35mm is a more practical choice for me. However, I am not suggesting that the 12-24mm isn’t a great lens. It’s a fantastic lens, and architecture, interior, and astrophotographers will find the lens perfect for their line of work.
Plus, if really wide panoramic vistas are what you’re looking for, then you can’t go wrong with the 12-24mm. That extra 4mm of wider focal length makes a really big difference.
This 847-gram hefty piece of optical marvel consists of 17 elements arranged in 14 groups.
There are three XA extreme aspherical elements and one standard aspherical element. Additionally, the lens features two Super ED elements.
Being a G Master lens, it comes with excellent build quality and the promise of a weather-sealed construction.
One of the things about the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM that I like is that it comes with a fixed barrel length. This means that the barrel length does not change when you zoom in and out. I have always been wary of lenses that extend when zooming. These are highly susceptible to sucking in dust, especially when out and about in nature.
Like any other ultra-wide angle lens, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM has a large bulbous front element that is susceptible to knocks, dents, and scratches. That’s precisely why they have provided a built-in hood.
The problem with this is that there is no option to use a screw-in filter.
You can, however, use a drop-in gel filter, and there is a provision for the same at the rear of the camera. But more than the inability to use a screw-in filter, I think what really bothers me is that I can’t use a polarizing filter.
This is where the 12-24mm loses out to the 16-35mm (to be discussed after this).
Autofocusing on the lens is powered by an XD linear motor system that uses four autofocusing motors. It’s snappy and really pleasing to use. For the purpose of shooting landscape photography, though, you don’t need such fast autofocusing performance.
Having said that, a lens is rarely used for a single purpose. So, if you’re interested in shooting things like wide-angle action photography like skateboarding or skiing, you may like the fast autofocusing performance that this lens offers.
The manual focusing ring is smooth and turns responsively. It’s also well-damped.
The image sharpness of this lens is something that Sony can be proud of. Center sharpness is fantastic wide open. Corners are slightly softer in comparison, but not as much as I have seen with other wide-angle zoom lenses. Of course, if you need to get a bit more sharpness across the frame, all you need is to stop down the lens.
One of the things about ultra-wide-angle lenses is that they stretch things toward the edges of the frame. So straight lines are leaning inwards, and also, there are lots of converging lines when shooting in cramped spaces. You won’t face that problem outdoors unless there are powerlines or trees at the edges of the frame.
Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM
I would say that the 16-35mm is the more practical choice for landscape photography. The sweetest focal length range for me is 20 to 24mm, and the 16-35mm covers that focal length range.
But even if you wish to shoot other genres like interior, architecture, and astrophotography, there wouldn’t be much of an issue. The 16mm focal length with its 107-degree angle of view gives you a wide perspective of the scene.
There are 16 elements arranged in 13 groups. These elements include two XA elements and three standard aspherical elements. Additionally, there are two ED elements in the lens.
There is a weather-sealing gasket on the rear lens mount, and that’s evident when you turn the lens around and look at the back.
This is a Sony G Master lens and therefore comes with solid build quality. The zoom and the focusing rings are very smooth to operate.
The lens feels very reassuring in the hands. It’s made of plastic, but it’s a very good quality plastic for sure. The lens weighs 680 grams, which means it’s slightly on the heavier side.
That said, it balances well if you use the lens with a full-frame professional Sony mirrorless camera like the a7R V.
The lens extends when you turn the zoom ring, so this isn’t an internally zooming design. But as the lens is weather sealed, I presume that there is no risk of dust being sucked in when in use out in the field.
Autofocusing on the lens is powered by two Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM) motors. This motor is very fast but not as fast as the XD linear motor system on the 12-24mm f/2.8 lens that uses four autofocusing motors. However, for landscape photography, I don’t think that would be a problem.
Wide open at f/2.8, the lens produces excellent sharpness, which is comparable to the 12-24mm f/2.8 reviewed above. I would rate the 12-24mm slightly ahead in terms of center sharpness. But to the untrained eye, there is practically no difference.
Having said that, interestingly, the 16-35mm f/2.8 GM is slightly sharper than the 12-24mm f/2.8 GM at the corners. So, I think if you’re in that 16 to 35mm zone where you need a very sharp lens, I would recommend the 16-35mm.
But having said that, the difference is marginal, and you have to consider that the 12-24mm offers you a larger angle of view as well as a larger DoF. Also, this difference is more noticeable when the lenses are used at their widest aperture settings.
If you stop down the lens, sharpness and contrast, do improve a bit. The same story continues as the lens zooms to 24mm and then to 35mm.
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