During 2021, Sony released some amazing lenses for its full-frame mirrorless cameras. Apart from a missing 85mm F1.2 lens (which hopefully will appear in 2022), Sony now offers a comprehensive range of lenses with superb performance. I’m often asked for lens recommendations so, in this post, I identify my favourite nine Sony lenses and provide some sample photos. My blog posts of sample photos for specific lenses have proved very popular, and this post brings all the lenses together in one place with links to reviews from well-regarded reviewers. My recommendations cover focal lengths from 12mm through to 840mm (with a 1.4x extender).
To identify the best lenses for yourself, you will need to consider many different factors, including your budget, the type of photography you do, your camera(s) and the final output of your work. I enjoy capturing a wide variety of images in the best quality possible using Sony A1 and A7R IV cameras so that photographs (mainly displayed on a 5k monitor) are as close as possible to the images seen in real life. While the lenses below may not necessarily be the most appropriate choice for you, I hope the guide is useful. I start with lenses with the longest focal length.
1. Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens (with and without 1.4x Extender)(about £1600)
Sometimes, the ultimate in reach is essential to get the job done as subjects (such as wildlife) are just too far away. For example, the Moon – which seems to be a popular subject taken with camera phones and posted on social media – is over 384,000 km from Earth. You really need the longest focal length you can get in order to reveal the amazing details on the Moon’s surface, which are impossible to see with the naked eye. The Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G lens is a surprisingly affordable, and yet very sharp, option.
Weighing 2115g, I prefer not to handhold this lens and it spends most of its time on a Gitzo carbon fibre tripod. The 600mm reach can be further boosted through the of Sony’s 1.4x (about £500) and 2x (also about £500) teleconverter lenses or extenders. While the 2x teleconverter can boost the focal length to an impressive 1200mm, there is a noticeable price to be paid in terms of image sharpness. In comparison, any quality degradation with the 1.4x teleconverter is not really noticeable, and yet the resulting focal length – 840mm – can be useful. The photograph below shows a single capture of the Moon using the Sony 100-400mm lens with 1.4x teleconverter. Given that no processing (such as the use of stacked images) has taken place, captured detail is impressive.
For many high-resolution samples, visit my Sony 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G Sample Images Gallery.
For detailed reviews of the Sony 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 GM lens, visit:
Sony 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 Review by The Digital Picture. “All of this lens’ positive features combined with the reasonable price created an instant hit.”
Sony 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 Review by Amateur Photographer. “Sony has pulled it out the bag. Not only have they made a phenomenally impressive telephoto zoom that’ll whet the appetite of wildlife, aviation and sports photographers around the world, it’s offered at a price that represents great bang for your buck.”
Sony 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 Review by Dustin Abbott. “If you need longer reach for your photography, and can manage a bit of weight, the 200-600G is an easy choice. This is the kind of lens that many of us wanted from Sony, and they have delivered a winner!”
Sony 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 Review by Digital Camera World. “It picks up the baton from the prestigious FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens, extending the telephoto reach by 50 percent, with virtually no compromise in all-round performance.”
2. Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens (about £2150)
If you want longer reach than the Sony 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II lens (discussed below) but still want something handholdable, look no further than the superlative 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM lens. I have found that this lens performs admirably for many types of photography, including fast-moving sports (such as Formula 1), wildlife and air shows. As long as there is sufficient light, this lens captures a huge amount of detail with Sony high-resolution cameras, such as the A1 and A7R IV. Often, getting in closer to a subject increases impact and this lens may provide the opportunity to transform your photography by filling the frame with a subject, without compromise.
There is so much to like about this lens if you have a decent amount of light available. I take a lot of photographs in low light and, when I purchased this lens, I wasn’t sure if I would use it much because of its modest F4.5-5.6 aperture. In reality, I have used the lens more often than I was expecting. For some subjects, you simply cannot get close enough with something like a 70-200mm lens. This lens has opened up a huge array of fun photographic opportunities.
Weighing 1395g, it is light enough to be used handheld and offers excellent sharpness and rapid autofocus performance. This is not a perfect lens, however. Bokeh with some subjects (e.g. grass) can sometimes look rather messy and busy. Also, it is not a low-light lens so you need to shoot in bright conditions (usually outdoors) to avoid high ISO settings. However, given the right subject and lighting, this lens can capture amazing images.
For many high-resolution samples, visit my Sony 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM Sample Images Gallery.
For detailed reviews of the Sony 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM lens, visit:
Sony 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS Review by Dustin Abbott. “An indispensable lens if you need versatile reach for sports or wildlife photography.”
Sony 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS Review by ePhotozine. “The Sony website claims that this lens has ‘stunning’ sharpness, and I have to concur. More than capable of doing amazing things for wildlife and sports photographers. Editor’s Choice.”
Sony 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS Review by The Digital Picture. “It seems politically correct to say that the gear does not matter, and I totally agree that the skill of the person behind the camera is very important, but the gear definitely matters a lot as well. The Sony 100-400mm lens goes far to make both the person behind it and the subject in front of it look amazing.”
3. Sony 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Lens (about £2600)
One of the most exciting developments recently in the Sony lens line-up has been the update to Sony’s original 70-200mm F2.8 lens in the form of the new Sony 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II lens. In my previous Canon days, Canon’s 70-200mm F2.8 IS II lens was my favourite lens, and always seemed to be attached to my camera due to its performance and versatility. I’m sorry that Sony’s first 70-200mm F2.8 lens did not really do it for me. It is not that it is bad in any way but more that it doesn’t really stand out against Sony’s best lenses. However, I am pleased to report that the new 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II lens is much more special.
Firstly, Sony has managed to substantially reduce the weight of the new lens, making it much easier to carry. The new lens weighs 1045g, which is considerably less than the 1480g of the older lens. Secondly, the autofocus of the new lens is something to behold in terms of speed and accuracy. Pairing the new Sony 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II lens with the Sony A1 camera results in superb autofocus performance. Thirdly, the new lens is incredibly sharp. Fourthly, when the lens is used at its longest focal length (200mm), it can deliver very pleasing bokeh when fully open (F2.8). This is a very versatile lens, being great for portraits and sports photography (where a very long reach is not required). The lens can be used with Sony’s 1.4x and 2x extenders to provide greater reach.
For many high-resolution samples, visit my Sony 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS II Sample Images Gallery.
For detailed reviews of the Sony 70-200mm F2.8 GM II lens, visit:
Sony 70-200mm F2.8 GM II Review by Imaging Resource. “Delivers incredible image quality. The lens is sharp at F2.8 from 70mm to 200mm.”
Sony 70-200mm F2.8 GM II Review by Camera Labs. “Improves on its 5-year old predecessor to become not just the best quality telephoto zoom for the Sony mirrorless system, but arguably the best overall on the market.”
Sony 70-200mm F2.8 GM II Review by Amateur Photographer. “Performs exceptionally well, producing sharp images at both ends of the zoom range. There’s beautiful bokeh and background blur on offer, as well as crisp detail and sharpness and, combined with a fast and reliable focus system, you get impressive shots time and time again.”
4. Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM Lens (about £1600)
While 85mm is often deemed to be the best focal length for portraits, the 135mm focal length is extremely popular among portrait photographers, and I’ve found that this focal length is extremely useful for taking candid shots. It allows you to stand further away from the subject so that they often do not notice you taking a photograph.
The Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM lens is astonishingly sharp and is perfectly suited to high-resolution bodies such as the Sony A7R IV and the Sony A1. While at face value an aperture of F1.8 does not sound as impressive as F1.4 or F1.2, it is important to realise that subject isolation and bokeh are also determined by the focal length of the lens. With 135mm, an aperture of F1.8 is capable of achieving exceptional subject isolation. The Sony 135mm F1.8 GM lens combines exemplary resolution and sharpness while delivering buttery-smooth bokeh in out-of-focus areas.
For many high-resolution samples, visit my Sony 135mm F1.8 GM Sample Images Gallery.
I think the Sony 135mm F1.8 GM is an exceptional lens for photography assignments such as weddings, outdoor events and stage photography. Before Christmas, I took some musical theatre shots and I cannot think of a more perfect lens than the Sony 135mm F1.8 GM for this application. The F1.8 aperture allowed low ISOs (100-200 ISO) to be used to minimise noise, while the lens captured exceptional amounts of details with Sony A1 and A7R IV cameras. Furthermore, the bokeh produced was just sensational, imparting an incredible artistic and professional look to all the images. For the money, I think the Sony 135mm F1.8 GM lens is a bargain.
For detailed reviews of the Sony 135mm F1.8 GM lens, visit:
Review of Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM Review by Amateur Photographer. “By any sensible measure, totally spectacular. Indeed it’s difficult to imagine how a lens could perform much better optically.”
Review of Sony 135mm F1.8 GM Review by Camera Stuff Review. “This is one of the sharpest lenses we have ever tested in this range. The bokeh is beautiful, especially at full aperture”.
Review of Sony 135mm F1.8 GM Review by Dustin Abbott. “The combination of great autofocus, amazing sharpness (even at F1.8) and lovely bokeh makes this a tremendous tool to put in the hands of a portrait photographer.”
5. Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM Lens (about £2100)
If I was to pinpoint the most exciting lens in Sony’s line-up, I’d probably say the Sony FE 50mm F1.2 lens. This lens is a technical marvel, achieving an F1.2 aperture in a lens with such a small form factor. The lens weighs a very reasonable 778g. In the absence of an 85mm F1.2 lens in the Sony line-up (for now), this lens provides the ‘wow’ factor for portraits, and complements the Sony 135mm F1.8 GM lens (described earlier) perfectly. Before Christmas, I took some photographs of a stage show, and the Sony FE 50mm F1.2 lens proved to be perfect for this application. Using an aperture of F1.2, I was able to minimise noise by using 100-200 ISO while achieving incredible subject isolation and buttery-smooth bokeh.
What makes this lens stand out from so many other lenses is the way it combines exceptional sharpness (and it is incredibly sharp at 100% even on the Sony A1 and Sony A7R IV cameras) with soft, dreamy bokeh enabling it to create an almost surreal effect but one that is based on exceptional resolution. This lens truly allows you to differentiate your photos from the crowd and there are absolutely no resolution compromises for that beautiful bokeh. I believe the Sony FE 50mm F1.2 lens will go down as a classic. It is a formidable lens for full-body portraits, weddings, indoor and outdoor events and stage photography.
With an F1.2 aperture, this lens is able to deliver usable photographs in ridiculously low light levels, and gives even more flexibility than F1.4 or F1.8 lenses. So, whether you are photographing dark interiors (such as museums), or stage events, the lens really delivers. The Sony line-up desperately needs an 85mm F1.2 lens to provide longer reach.
For many high-resolution samples, visit my Sony 50mm F1.2 GM Sample Images Gallery.
For detailed reviews of the Sony 50mm F1.2 GM lens, visit:
Sony 50mm F1.2 GM Review by The Digital Picture. “Excellent value for those looking for the ultimate image quality”.
Sony 50mm F1.2 GM Review by Dustin Abbott. “An amazing lens for portrait lens and anything else you would capture with a 50mm lens.”
Sony 50mm F1.2 GM Review by Camera Labs. “Razor sharp on the focused areas but pleasingly smooth on the blurred ones.”
Sony 50mm F1.2 GM Review by Digital Camera World. “Autofocus is fast and deadly accurate, while image quality is epic in every respect.”
6. Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM Lens (about £1500)
35mm is a very popular focal length for many photographers as it most closely resembles the field of view seen with the human eye, although I find that I use a 24mm focal length more often. When Sony launched its 35mm F1.4 GM lens, it gave photographers a rare combination of razor sharpness and buttery smooth bokeh. In his review, Dustin Abbot said the lens has “that magical blending of sharpness and softness that few but the best lenses achieve”. The Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM lens is surprisingly compact and light for the performance on offer, and weighs 524g. For many photographers, I suspect this lens will be their most-used lens.
Photographers often talk about the character of a lens, and Sony lenses are typically known for their high resolution and sharpness rather than for imparting any particular character on an image. I find that images taken with the Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM lens have a noticeable look to them, which I think is due to the particularly smooth bokeh, which works well with portraits.
For samples, visit my Sony 35mm F1.4 GM Sample Images Gallery.
For detailed reviews of this lens, visit:
Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM Field Review by Dustin Abbott. “Excellent wide open sharpness across the frame. Beautifully soft bokeh”.
Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM Lens Review by The Digital Picture. “Just get the Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM lens”.
Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM Field Review by DP Review. DP Review Gold Award.
Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM Review by Camera Labs. “A perfect example of how far lens design and construction has come in even the last five years.”
7. Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM Lens (about £1300)
Looking back through my favourite photos, I have been surprised by just how many have been taken with the Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM lens. This is a great value lens and absolutely delivers the goods in terms of sharpness and low light performance. At the price, it’s a bargain.
The 24mm focal length is very useful, giving plenty of space around objects, and I’ve found it suited to capturing a wide range of subjects, including environmental portraits and food. For such a wide-angle lens, the bokeh is excellent. With an aperture of F1.4, it’s great in low light. With its relatively small size and low weight (445g), the Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM makes a perfect travel lens and ends up on my camera a lot of the time. In his review, Dustin Abbott says, “The Sony 24GM is a lens that I wish more manufacturers would use as a blueprint. It’s not a small lens, per se, but rather a great balance of size to quality and performance.” This lens is what mirrorless should be about in my opinion.
With a 35mm lens, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to fit an entire subject in the viewfinder and a 24mm lens may avoid that eventuality. Given the excellent resolution on offer, it is always possible to crop images from this lens to match the view provided by a 35mm lens. On my travels, often I will pack the Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM lens and leave my 35mm lens at home.
For samples, visit my Sony 24mm F1.4 GM Sample Images Gallery.
For detailed reviews of this lens, visit:
Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM Review by Dustin Abbott. “Excellent balance of size to performance.”
Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM Review by Ephotozine. Editor’s Choice. “Superb performance and handling make the Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM an ideal ultra-wide lens.”
Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM Review by Camera Labs. “In my tests, the Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM was a winner.”
Sony FE 24mm F1.4 GM Review by The Digital Picture. “This lens is compact, lightweight and relatively affordable with the very impressive image quality, especially at F1.4, sealing the deal.”
8. Sony FE 14mm F1.8 GM Lens (about £1400)
In 2021, Sony launched its incredible FE 14mm F1.8 GM lens. Compared with the Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM lens (discussed below), the new Sony FE 14mm F1.8 GM lens has two advantages. Firstly, it has a wider aperture (F1.8) making it better suited to low-light conditions when you do not have access to a tripod. Secondly, it is significantly lighter and smaller – weighing just 460g compared with 847g for the Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM lens. I’ve found that the FE 14mm F1.8 GM makes a superb travel lens, and is particularly adept at capturing low-light scenes handheld such as church interiors, for example.
It’s a truly wonderful lens and the pricing is reasonable. According to The Digital Picture, “The Sony FE 14mm F1.8 GM is one of those lenses that makes one grateful to be photographing at this time. Those photographing architecture, real estate, large products or other subjects in a confined space, those photographing the great outdoors, including landscape and night sky photography, and those who simply want to get creative with ultra-wide angles will want the Sony FE 14mm F1.8 GM lens in their kit.” The lens won the EISA Best Product Award for Wide Angle Lens 2021-2022.
For samples, visit my Sony 14mm F1.8 GM Sample Images Gallery.
For detailed reviews of this lens, visit:
Sony FE 14mm F1.8 GM Review (Dustin Abbott). “The Sony FE 14mm F1.8 GM is an amazing lens.”
Sony FE 14mm F1.8 GM Lens Review (The Digital Picture). “While the Sony FE 14mm F1.8 GM is not an inexpensive lens, it is great value.”
Sony FE 14mm F1.8 GM Lens Review (Camera Labs). “The optical quality is excellent with sharp details across the frame and attractive rendering in blurred areas, while focusing is fast, smooth and silent.”
9. Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Lens (about £2900)
Sometimes, you just need the smallest focal length possible to capture a scene (such as a small room, for example) and the Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM lens is an outstanding, albeit expensive, option that offers a valuable range of focal lengths from 12mm to 24mm all in one lens. For each of these focal lengths, it can compete head-on with the relevant fixed focal length lens in terms of performance, which certainly helps to justify the price.
Once upon a time, I wasn’t keen on ultra-wide lens but they have definitely grown on me as they can provide a really interesting perspective. However, getting the best shot can take time, particularly to ensure verticals are straight and vertical! This year, I was asked by friends to photograph their house to help them sell it. For internal architecture shots, a lens going down to 12mm focal length can be incredibly useful or even essential (to capture small rooms).
In the past, I’ve been quite disappointed with many ultra-wide lenses because they have never looked that sharp to me. However, lenses do not really get sharper than the Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM lens although the price tag is high. In the centre of the frame, the lens is razor sharp even fully open at F2.8. While this lens is expensive, it is outstanding. Dustin Abbot describes the lens as a “technical masterpiece”. According to The Digital Picture, this lens “will be found critical to architecture, real estate and serious landscape photographers”. Weighing 847g, the lens is not particularly light, but you will be rewarded with excellent image quality and focal length flexibility. For me, owning this lens is about having the option of going down to 12mm and the fact that there are no compromises to be made in image quality.
For full resolution samples, visit my Sony 12-24mm F2.8 GM Sample Images Gallery.
For detailed reviews of this lens, visit:
Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Review by Dustin Abbott. “It has a great build, excellent autofocus performance, and fantastic optics.”
Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Lens Review by The Digital Picture. “Though expensive, the Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM lens is simply an outstanding lens in nearly all regards, with very impressive image quality topping the list.”
Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Review by Camera Labs. “It’s a lens for those who demand the best performance and have the budget to pay for it.”
I hope you have found this guide useful. Purchasing multiple Sony lens can be very expensive but I believe that spending money on the best lenses can be a wiser strategy than spending money on upgrades to camera bodies. The true cost of their ownership may be significantly lower than you think. I have found that high-quality lenses generally keep a great deal of their value over many years, while benefitting all the photos you take. With rampant inflation, you may actually find that a lens keeps pace with inflation better than keeping your cash in a savings account with low interest rates. Furthermore, there’s always the option of renting lenses.
At the end of of 2022, I will update this article to reflect any changes and additions.