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Finding the best Sony lens can be difficult as there are now many of them. Ben Griffin talks about his favourites, having used many of them with his trusty Sony A7RII.

Sony has been ruffling feathers since the compact, full-frame A7 came along. In hindsight, it was a flawed camera, particularly where aftermarket lens support, autofocus and user-friendliness were concerned, but it showed the benefit of sticking a big sensor in a smaller camera. Something its competitors were slow to replicate.

Then along came various upgrades, including the more video-focussed A7S and A7SII (still waiting on the A7SIII) and the more photo-friendly A7R, A7RII, A7RII, A7II, A7III and A9. The issues of the past rapidly fading into view with each new camera release.

If anything, the problem of having so few lenses to choose from is now the opposite. It can be daunting and time-consuming to do your research, to say the least, given that there are now so many.

Best Sony lens for the Alpha cameras

This is especially true when you consider that just about every lens ever made can be adapted for the Sony A7 cameras. Old Leica R stuff (similar quality to M but cheaper), for instance, works a treat. As does Canon lenses, Russian Helios glass and whatever else you can find.

I will be exploring some of the best vintage lenses you can stick in front of a Sony A7’s full-frame sensor in a future article, but in this article I’m sticking to first-party Sony E mount offerings. Mainly because these are designed to work specifically with a Sony camera and are therefore capable of the best performance.

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Best Sony lens: Sony FE 85mm 1.8

85mm is a wonderful focal length for portraiture and this mid-range offering is actually the third sharpest E mount lens tested by DXO. In some respects, such as centre sharpness and flare resistance, it’s actually better than the F1.4 G Master yet considerably cheaper.

It can blur the background in a very pleasing way and when used in Super 35mm mode or on an APS-C it becomes a suitably zoomy 130mm, which means you can be far away from your subject. That can be good at, say, weddings where you want to avoid attracting attention.

As Ken Rockwell said in his review, the original 1.4 G Master arrived and was snapped up by keen professionals who worried little about its huge price and huge size. Two or so years later, the arrival of the 85mm 1.8 has made it possible to get similar performance with fewer drawbacks.

At the expense of 25 per cent more background blur at 1.4 versus 1.8, you get a far lighter, optically similar, smaller, distortion-free, quick-to-focus portrait monster that still works well in low-light conditions.

Sadly, the focus ring is of the electric kind, which means it’s less controllable than a mechanical equivalent for video. Although that is the case for a lot of Sony offerings and modern lenses in general.

With that said, the Sony 85mm 1.8 has a button for switching between autofocus and manual focus. Plus you can always slow the autofocus speed down if you want to transition between subjects without the movement being too jarring.

£529.99 | Amazon UK

Best Sony lens: Sony FE 28mm F2.0

Best Sony lens: Sony FE 28mm F2.0

For years I’ve been raving about this lens and, thanks to approval from cinematography veteran, Philip Bloom, it seems I was onto something. This £300-odd lens really is a fine choice.

For starters, the 28mm focal length is suitably wide without being so wide that you end up with unwanted stuff in your shot.

Critics will tell you 28mm is not wide enough for landscape, which I disagree with. It can work nicely, given that it manages impressive sharpness across the frame.

Using the Super 35mm mode, which uses a smaller part of the sensor, you have a ‘nifty 50mm’, which works for portraiture and street photography.

Its relative fast autofocus time and in-built image stabilisation and an F2.0 aperture, meanwhile, makes it good for low-light conditions.

It also makes no noise when focussing, which helps with filming and recording live audio, and it has a pleasing bokeh even when at F2.0.

Usefully, the colours and bokeh matches well with my Leica glass, which is a plus for filming. It’s also well-built, flare resistant, weighs next to nothing and makes your Sony A7 camera as pocketable as it can be without sticking a much less practical pancake lens on.

Speaking of which, it can be adapted with two fish-eye lens attachments although my experience with these is limited at best so I’ll avoid talking about them much. But they’re worth mentioning should you want extra versatility and an even wider field of view.

Where the Sony 28mm F2.0 falls down is that a £370-odd lens (the price was £230 not that long ago!) has some limitations. There are sharper lenses, there are lenses with better edge to edge consistency and there are times when it frustrates.

And yet, it’s a lens that stays attached to my camera more than most. For filming myself in a car, it’s light and wide enough to keep my face in focus. It lets me pocket my A7RII and has ensured I’ve missed very few shots. And that in photography is half the battle.

£374.58 | Amazon UK

Best Sony lens: Sony FE 16-35mm f2.8

Best Sony lens: Sony FE 16-35mm f2.8

While you can go for other wide-angle zoom lenses, the 16-35mm G Master is an absolute beast. Sharp as a tack and capable of capturing any landscape in immense detail, this is an easy choice for landscape and travel types.

It also works brilliantly as a vlogging lens because the focal length is wide enough to capture your face and show your surroundings to viewers.

This is not a cheap lens, but it’s also not a big lens and that makes it great if you’re travelling and can only take one lens. Sure, portraits would suffer but then Super 35mm reduces that issue at the expense of resolution.

35mm can actually be rather striking and the F2.8 aperture provides enough bokeh and separation between your subject and the background.

For me, the 85mm for portraits and close-up filming, the 16-35mm for landscape and the little 28mm F2.0 for car interior shots is all I ever need for my YouTube videos. Still, that’s three lenses so maybe consider the following lens is space and weight is of the essence…

£1,949 | Amazon UK

Best Sony lens: Sony FE 24-105mm F4

Best Sony lens: Sony FE 24-105mm F4

At the budget end of the spectrum of zoom lenses is the 18-105mm F4.0, a lens with a less dark-friendly aperture than the G Master but a cheaper price, lower weight, more versatile focal range and similar sharpness.

Being weather sealed is another big plus, as the 28-70mm G Master lacks this feature. That and the fact if it did break – based on its quality there’s no need to worry – you could more easily replace it without going bancrupt.

In terms of image quality, DXO never got round to testing this lens before it went mobile phone crazy. But I suspect it would be rather close to the 24-70mm G Master, which scored 26 in sharpness (in comparison, the 85mm 1.8 above scored 40).

One negative I have noticed, beyond the stock limitations that kept me from buying one for a while, is that there have been some quality problems. Reports of some lenses exhibiting unwanted image problems were numerous and Sony took a long time to acknowledge the quality control issue

Perhaps it was limited to a few rare cases because, of course, someone with a bad lens will be more vocal than someone with a good one and that a few forum posts is hardly indicative of all lenses produced. But it’s worth bearing that in mind in case you get a duff example.

If you do, Sony will take the lens back and repair or give you another. So just be sure to test the lens thoroughly before you stick with it.

£1,121 | Amazon UK

Best Sony lens: Sony FE 24-70mm G Master F2.8

Best Sony lens: Sony FE 24-70mm G Master F2.8

Heavy, expensive and will make your Sony A7 camera front-heavy, the Sony 24-70mm G Master is a commitment in multiple ways. But as zoom lenses go, it’s incredibly sharp. Sharper than some prime lenses, in fact (but not any on this list).

Lugging this beast around will give you incredibly strong arms, but then it does make you feel like a professional if such a thing bothers you. It is also of very high quality and the zoom ring is smooth.

Being F2.8 throughout the entire focal range is another plus, as it ensures good depth of field at all focal lengths and the separation between your subject and is decent. Not the sort of 3D pop seen when using Zeiss glass, but close enough.

Colours are good, too, although I find Canon and Nikon equivalents a little warmer before editing. Not that any photographer with this lens would only shoot JPEGs, if only because the RAW files provide so much flexibility in terms of adjustment and recoverability of poorly exposed areas.

The argument against this juggernaut of a lens is that for similar money you could buy two or three sharp, if not sharper prime lenses for the same price, reducing the weight of your camera bag in the process.

In some respects, I think that is the better option although there are times when it’s nice to know the lens on your camera can deliver fantastic image quality and you never need to worry about swapping to something else and risking contaminants getting onto your sensor. That’s where this particular G Master excels.

£1,749 | Amazon UK

Best Sony lens: Sony FE 90mm Macro F2.8 G OSS

Best Sony lens: Sony FE 90mm Macro F2.8 G OSS

For getting up close and personal, as in really up close and personal, you need a macro. The sort of close that lets you see the individual elements of an insect’s wing. Providing you can capture the photo before whatever buzzes off.

That’s where the Sony FE 90mm comes in, the sharpest E mount lens DXO has ever tested and an absolute beast if macro photography is your bag. Not just a one-trick pony, it can do portraits very well, too, should you need extra justification.

Perhaps the biggest plus of the 90mm F2.8 G OSS is that is easy to use. From the focussing and swapping between auto and manual focus, it’s all a doddle with very few drawbacks, which is unusual for this kind of lens.

Focussing is silent, too, which means it will work nicely for video in situations where you want to record sound as you film. Going between the extremes of focus more quickly could be quicker, but then the accuracy in between makes up for it.

£900 | Amazon UK

About The Author


Ben Griffin is a motoring journalist and founder of the website and YouTube channel, A Tribe Called Cars. He is also a contributor at DriveTribe.

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