The best lenses below $499 for the Sony a7 series v1.1

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You can easily spend a fortune on lenses for your Sony a7 but you don’t have to. These 34 lenses all cost less than $499 and give you great image quality on your Alpha.

There are certainly other lenses which would deserve a spot in this list but we only include lenses we have used ourselves, so please don’t take it personal if we haven’t included your favorite lens.

We changed the format a bit from our other guides: For each lens we have summarized the defining strengths and weaknesses. We hope this will make it easier to decide for yourself, if the lens could fit your needs.  Please make sure to check out our in-depth reviews for a much more detailed discussion of each lens.

Voigtlander 5.6/12 M39

Compared to the DSLR lenses (like the Samyang 14mm 2.8) this lens is ridiculously small. This is a lens that will always easily fit into your bag, which is great if you not intend to shoot this wide on a regular basis. With the filter adapter it is even possible to use standard 77mm filters.

You should be aware of: The corners never reach excellent levels, huge vignetting, slow, not a good match for A7r.

175g + adapter | ~$450 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

buy from ebay | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Samyang 2.8/14 

The Samyang 2.8/14 is a great choice for astro and landscape because good copies are sharp across the frame from f/2.8 with very little coma and no other lens in this price league comes close to it’s performance.

You should be aware of: Using it for architecture is annoying because it has very strong mustache distortion which is very hard to correct even with profiles and Bastian had to test 5 copies to find one which was well centered.

570g (E-mount version) | $300 | sample images

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Canon new FD 20mm 1:2.8

For landscape photography the Canon nFD 2.8/20 is the sharpest affordable 20mm lens you can buy and outperforms the many times as expensive FE 4/16-35 in this aspect.  

You should be aware of: The Canon isn’t well suited for astro and reportage style photography because it is pretty soft at wider apertures with strong vignetting and nervous bokeh.

305g + adapter | $160 | full review | aperture series | sample images

buy from ebay.com | ebay.de | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Canon new FD 24mm 1:2.8

The Canon nFD 2.8/24 is a solid choice for landscape photography while being very affordable and rather small.

You should be aware of: It feels a bit flimsy and for good across the frame performance you should stop it down to f/8. Flare resistance isn’t the best.

240g + adapter | $65 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

buy from ebay.com | ebay.de | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Sony FE 2/28

I like the FE 2/28 so much because it is such a versatile lens. The focal length is very universal, the bokeh is great, it is sharp where it matters and still it is small and affordable.

You should be aware of: The FE 2/28 has very strong distortion and for many images you need to activate the lens correction in you raw converter which costs some sharpness. It also has quit a bit of axial CA and manual focus sucks (as with all the other Sony FE lenses).

200g | $448 new | full review | aperture series |  sample images

buy from  amazon.com |  B&H photo   (affiliate links)

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Voigtländer Ultron 2.0/28

Very small, nice Bokeh, great sunstars, wonderful build quality, stopped down sufficiently sharp even in the corners.

You should be aware of: The FE 2/28 is a strong competitor and it has huge field curvature and even some color cast in the corners on some cameras (see review), minimum focus distance without helicoid adapter is rather high for a 28mm lens.

244g + adapter | $400-500 (used) | full Review | aperture seriessample images

buy from ebay | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Pentax K 3.5/28

This Pentax comes quite close to being the perfect landscape lens because it is sharp, flare resistant, smallish, well built and affordable. If you find one buy it.

You should be aware of:  It will be hard finding one. Oh and it only has 5 aperture blades and isn’t very fast.

261 g + adapter | $100 | review | aperture seriessample images

buy from ebay.com | ebay.de | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Canon FD 35mm 1:2 (convex)

A lens with a wide range of applications and good performance in most aspects, a little on the heavy side. Decent close up performance due to floating elements. Not radioactive 😉

You should be aware of: It is quite large and heavy for a 35mm lens and the flare resistance could be better. Bokeh can be funky.

370g | $130 | noland.photos short review  | aperture seriessample images

buy from Ebay.com | Ebay.de | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate link)

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Canon TS 2.8/35

The most affordable Tilt/Shift lens you can buy with a solid performance.

You should be aware of: It is quite big and the tilt’s correction isn’t very precise and sharpness suffers if you shift it more than 6mm.

550g + adapter | $400-500 (used)  | 35mm Canon FD comparison | sample images

buy from Ebay.com Ebay.de | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Minolta MD Rokkor 35mm 1:2.8

The Minolta MD 2.8/35 is small, affordable and it performs on a very high level. 

You should be aware of: Flare resistance isn’t the best.

170g + adapter | $55 (used) | aperture seriessample images

buy from ebay.com | ebay.de Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Sigma 2.8/50 Macro

An affordable 1:1 macro with a solid performance.

You should be aware of: Build quality is inferior to that of other manufacturers and it has only 6 aperture blades.

310g + adapter | $ 70 |  sample images

buy from ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate links)

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Sony FE 2.8/50 Macro

The Sony FE 2.8/50 Macro is the perfect match for your Alpha: It is very light, performs well and is still somewhat affordable.

You should be aware of: AF is quite slow, has only 7 straight aperture blades and the working distance at 1:1 is a whopping 4.5 centimeters.

236 g | $499|  review | aperture seriessample images

buy from amazon.com | B&H photo  (affiliate links)

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Olympus OM 3.5/50 Macro

A tiny but well built macro lens with good performance.

You should be aware of: Performance is best at a reproduction ratio of 1:10, weaker at the maximal reproduction ratio of 1:2. Only 6 aperture blades.

200g + adapter | $ 60 | sample images

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Minolta MD Rokkor 35-70mm 1:3.5

A handy lens which can compete with good primes from 40mm onward and it has a 1:4 macro mode.

You should be aware of: At 35mm it has stronger distortion and soft corners and at f/3.5 it isn’t too sharp with nervous bokeh which is a bit limiting. Flare resistance could be better.

365g + adapter | $ 100 | review | aperture series 35mm 50mm 70mm sample images

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Zeiss C/Y 3.4/35-70

The ultimate zoom for landscape photography: It is basically a stack of good primes and it outperforms many prime lenses. Additionally, it has got a handy macro feature.

You should be aware of: It is a push-pull zoom and operation isn’t too pleasant.

475g + adapter | $ 300 | Review coming up in 2017 | comparison with FE 1.4/35 and 1.8/55

buy from Ebay.com | Ebay.de | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Canon nFD 1.4/50

As far as classic normal lenses are concerned the Canon nFD 1.4/50 is the best performer at f/1.4 and also the most affordable one. My recommendation for first manual lens.

You should be aware of: Even though it outperforms other normal lenses it isn’t that sharp at f/1.4 and the bokeh is on the nervous side. Build quality could be better.

235g | $50 | full review | aperture series | sample images | MTF Diagram (FD Version)

buy from ebay.com | ebay.deSony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Zeiss C/Y 1.4/50

The Zeiss C/Y 1.4/50 has by some margin the best flare resistance of the classic normal lenses Phillip has used and build quality is very nice. It’s performance ist excellent from f/5.6.

You should be aware of: It has only six straight aperture blades which is detrimental to the bokeh and it is quite a bit more expensive than other 50mm lenses which are as sharp. It still can show some flare.

290g+ adapter | $ 240| review | aperture series  sample images

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Minolta MD 2/50

A great lens for landscape and architecture photography: It costs almost nothing, is free from distortion and loCA, has the most even sharpness of any classic 50mm lens Phillip has used and weights very little.

You should be aware of: It doesn’t feel very solid, other normal lenses have smoother bokeh and flare resistance isn’t too god.

150g + adapter | $ 30 | review | aperture series  sample images

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Minolta MC Rokkor 55mm 1:1.7

The Minolta MC 1.7/55 has very good bokeh for a normal lens, costs very little and yet it is small and well built.

You should be aware of: Other classic normal lenses are sharper, have more contrast, focus closer and are less susceptible to flare.

230g + adapter | $ 30 | review | aperture series  sample images

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Canon FD 1.2/55

I was surprised by how sharp this lens is, it outperforms almost any other classic normal lens in this aspect and is still cheaper than about any other f/1.2 lens.

You should be aware of: It is very large even for a f/1.2 normal lens and bokeh is quite nervous.

565 g | $150 | Phillip’s images | aperture series
full resolution collection | comparison with Minolta 1.2/58sebboh’s images | comparison with other normal lenses at f/8 | flickr pool

buy from ebay.com | ebay.deSony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm 1.2/50

This is a little more expensive than the Canon 1.2/50, but has some advantages. It’s compact, much lighter, has lovely bokeh in many situations even wide open (though like any classic 1.2 it can get funky at just the wrong distance) and is very sharp stopped down. It can even do nice clean sunstars. Perhaps its most appealing feature is surprisingly good performance at close distances, very useful for portraits. 

You should be aware of:  It’s getting to the top of our price range. It’s also not to be confused with the earlier, but similar looking, OM 1.2/55 which is less sharp, less contrasty, and has – er – distinctive bokeh .

285 g | $400 | David’s review

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Minolta MC 1.2/58

Still my favorite normal lens because it is the best mix of sharpness and bokeh Phillips has come across so far.

You should be aware of: Wide open it is soft and bokeh isn’t too smooth either so this aperture is of limited use, yet you pay many times as much for it than for other normal lenses and it is also significantly heavier and flares easily.

478 g + adapter | $ 400 | review | aperture series  sample images

buy from ebay.com | ebay.de | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Voigtländer Color-Heliar 2.5/75

This lens is absolutely tiny and lightweight and has stellar sharpness across the field stopped down. Capable of absolutely first rate results. It even has nice bokeh.

You should be aware of: A little SA wide open and the contrast is therefore notably lower at this aperture. Contrast is never super high, but sharpness is. Less good on APS. Is a Leica Screw Mount lens, so you will need a screw mount to M mount adapter before attaching it to an M to E helicoid, which we recommend for this lens if you want to be unconstrained by MFD taking portraits. Also available in SLR mounts as SL model, but these are heavier so less recommended, though cheaper.

230g | ~$300 

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Sony FE 1.8/85

The used prices of this lens have come down to a point where it fits into that list. The lens is well built and balances very nicely on every E-mount camera. Optically, this is the sharpest 85mm lens under 499$ that performs also very well in almost every other category. Furthermore, it has silent and fast autofocus which is handy in many situations, especially at 85mm. The price/performance ratio is very good.

You should be aware of: Although the bokeh is good in most situations, it is not as spectacularly smooth as the bokeh of the Tokina 2.5/90 or the Samyang 1.4/85.

371g | ~$499 (used) | full Review | FE 1.8/85 vs. FE 1.4/85 GM | aperture seriessample images

buy from Ebay.de | Ebay.com (grey import/used) or from  Amazon.de | Amazon.com (new)

Samyang 1.4/85

It shows a little less optical errors than many fast legacy lenses, has very smooth bokeh and it is even cheaper brand new. Wide open great for shooting portraits under available light.

You should be aware of: Never gets as sharp as other 85’s, build quality isn’t very good.

480g | ~$290 new | comparison with other 85mm lenses |  photozone review on Canon FF 

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Samyang 85mm 1.4 @ 2.0 freelensing

Jupiter-9 2.0/85

My favorite among the Jupiter lenses: because of the Sonnar design very soft bokeh, 15 rounded aperture blades for round circles of light even on stopping down, very cheap/light/small.

You should be aware of: flare resistance, no click stops, gets never as sharp as more modern lenses in the corners

318g + adapter | ~$145 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

buy from ebay | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Tokina AT-X 2.5/90 Macro

One of the sharpest lenses Phillip has ever tested. It also has very smooth bokeh (often referred to as “Bokina”), is pleasant to handle and can be used for a wide range of applications. One of my favorites.

You should be aware of: The coatings aren’t  very effective, especially with larger bright areas there is significant veiling flare.

530g + adapter | $ 200 | review | aperture series  sample images

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Canon nFD 2/100

This lens combines nice bokeh and brilliant sharpness across the frame stopped down. The most amazing fact about this lens is it’s tiny form factor in regard of it’s bright aperture.

You should be aware of: Chromatic aberration control wide open could be a little better.

 445g | ~300€ | aperture series | user review (German) user review

buy from Ebay.com | Ebay.de | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Minolta MD 2.5/100

Phillip’s favorite allround short tele because it is very sharp from wide open with excellent bokeh but also a very capable landscape lens

You should be aware of: Contrast at f/2.5 is lower, CA is moderate and it flares very easily.

310g + adapter | $ 150 | Phillip’s review 

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Zeiss Sonnar T* 3.5/100 (C/Y)

This lens combines great sharpness across the frame even wide open with a very flat focal plane and lovely bokeh. Furthermore, it has the great Contax build quality and is very light. It’s one of the all time keepers in Jannik’s bag.

You should be aware of: It has “only” f/3.5 and unspectacular sun stars.

285g + adapter | $ 250 |  sample images | aperture series | full review

buy from Ebay.com | Ebay.de | Sony E-mount adapters (affiliate links)

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Minolta MD 4/75-150

A very small and affordable zoom which is sharper than the many times as expensive Sony FE 4/70-200 G.

You should be aware of: At 150mm the corners suffer and it has quite a bit of axial CA. The zoom range is of course quite limited and veiling flare can be an issue.

445+ adapter | $ 40 |  sample images

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Olympus OM 2.8/100

Absolutely tiny lens, with a solid performance for a fair price.

You should be aware of: It has a rather long short focusing distance of 1 m. Avoid the older version without multi coating.

230g + adapter | $ 80 | sample images

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Samyang 2/135

Outstanding performance in every regard. One of the few true APO-lenses, sharp like a razor blade. Even the quality control seems to be more consistent compared to the 2.8/14 or the 1.4/85.

You should be aware of: It’s a brick of a lens.

830g + adapter | $400 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

buy from Amazon.com | Amazon.de | Ebay.com | Ebay.de (affiliate links)

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Canon nFD 2/135

A very sharp lens with very nice bokeh. It’s a cheaper (but slightly inferior) alternative to the Samyang 2/135 with better build quality and nicer focusing.

You should be aware of: More chromatic aberrations wide open than the Samyang 2/135, not the best minimum focusing distance

660g + adapter | $250 | aperture series

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Canon new FD 2.8/135

A small, sharp and very affordable lens with smooth bokeh.

You should be aware of: Build quality isn’t the best and it has rather strong axial CA.

395g | $50 | Phillip’s review

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Nikon Ai-s 180mm 2.8 ED

Very nice and soft bokeh, great build quality. Sharpness except for the extreme corners (ok at f/11 on A7rII) very good as well.

You should be aware of: very front heavy and therefore not the greatest handling.

800g + adapter | $350 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

buy from ebay | Nikon adapters (affiliate links)

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Canon EF 4/70-200 L

I would prefer it over the FE 70-200mm 4.0 any day. Even taking an adapter into account it costs significantly less and Bastian couldn’t really find any fault with this lens that would spoil the game for him.

You should be aware of: for decent AF you need a decent adapter which will set you back ~200-300$. Corner sharpness wide open at the long end isn’t great, neither is flare resistance.

705g + adapter | ~$450 | full Review | sample images

buy from ebay | Sigma MC-11 AF adapter (affiliate links)

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Minolta MC 4/200

A very sharp lens which can be had for very little money.

You should be aware of: It displays quite a lot of axial CA and is rather slow to focus. The short focusing distance of 2.5m can also be limiting.

520g + adapter | $ 35 | sample images

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Canon FD 4/300 L

The Canon is one of Phillip’s favorites: It is very sharp, has nice bokeh and it is easy to focus.

You should be aware of: It can show some axial CA wide open and flares easily. While it is small for a 300mm lens it is still a substantial lens.

1060g | $350 | full review | aperture series | sample images

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Phillip’s favorite kit of <$499 lenses

I have a wide selection of lenses in my cabinet so that I can match my lens selection to what I plan to shoot but if I was allowed to keep only 4 of my < $499 lenses it would be these.

Each of these lenses performs great as a landscape lens stopped down to f/8 but they also have a very pleasant character wide open and allow me to play with shallow depth of field.

Bastian’s favorite kit of <$499 lenses

I started using an E-mount camera because of size and weight in the first place, so I concentrate more on small and lightweight M-mount lenses here.

This is a great setup for travel and street photography. The Voigtlander 2.0/28 is a versatile allround lens, wide open nice bokeh for environmental portraits and stopped down great sunstars and sharpness for cityscapes. The Jupiter-9 is your lens for more intimate portraits and shots of details with very soft bokeh. The Voigtlander 5.6/12 will round things up with some crazy perspectives.
My setup consists of just three lenses so you might have some cash left for the great Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter* (affiliate link) which can be used with all of these lenses.
These 3 lenses together will only weigh ~840g, about the same as a single Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art 😉

Jannik’s favorite kit of <$499 lenses

In these costy days, we sometimes forget that good lenses don’t have to be very expensive. One great thing about the E-mount is the possibility to mix lenses with different mounts to do some “cherry picking” between the camera systems.

This is a budget but great performing landscape kit. These lenses are not that big and the cover the most important focal lengths in decent quality. With the Contax 3.4/35-70 and the 3.5/100, two of my absolute favorite lenses are in that kit.

David’s favorite kit of <$499 lenses

Hard choices! The thing to remember is that for this price point we can get enough good glass that our ability to get good images is not much less than if we spent ten times more money. So how to choose?

I think we need at least one reasonably fast lens to capitalise on the bokeh possibilities of our full frame camera. I would normally choose a fifty for this, but I’m going another way with fifties so I’ll take the Canon nFD 2/100. Fast, sharp, a bit of CA to clean up but f2 gives great bokeh on a full frame sensor. For a fifty I’m going to take a modern lens: the Sony 2.8/50 macro. This lens is remarkably sharp at landscape distances for a macro, it’s extremely light which makes it a hikers friend, and has superb macro IQ. The fly by wire focus in macro is slow but accurate. The eye AF works well for portraits, even if the general AF is not great. For a wide it’s hard to go past the FE 2/28, despite the MF experience. But we could save money by getting one of the classic 28s, and be very little worse off, except perhaps for environmental portraits.

I should say that it’d be very hard to go past the Zeiss Contax 35-70 f3.4! Originally it was on my list, then I changed it, and back again!

And finally this list is what I would take if I could have only three: that’s very different from ‘favourites’ in some other sense, perhaps less useful but more exciting lenses. This is my Sensible List!

Honorable Mentions

We have no personal experience with these lenses but because of reports from reliable sources we are pretty sure that they would deserve a place on this list. When we manage to find the time to test them ourselves we will most likely add them.

  • Voigtlander 3.5/20 – Very small and by f/8 it seems to be a good performer with modern coatings.
  • Olympus OM 3.5/21 – A well performing and very small 21mm lens. Avoid the older non MC versions.
  • Canon EF 2.8/40 Pancake – Affordable, small and optically very capable.
  • Voigtlander 2.5/75 – Quite small and a good performer
  • Canon EF 2/100 – A very attractive portrait lens with AF (via suitable adapter)
  • Nikon Ai-S 2.5/105 – Often considered to be one of the best ~100mm lenses

Lenses which didn’t qualify

  • Sony FE 3.5-5.6/28-70 – The performance is decent for a kit lens and it is very versatile but the performance isn’t quite good enough to make it to the list.
  • Jupiter-12 2.8/35 – better suited for film cameras.
  • Sony FE 1.8/50 – The optics are solid but the AF drive is a crude joke for that price.
  • Jupiter-3 1.5/50 – Small, fast and affordable but wide open too busy bokeh for my taste.

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The Team

The team, that are three gearheads Bastian, Jannik and Phillip from Germany who all like to use manual lenses.

96 thoughts on “The best lenses below $499 for the Sony a7 series v1.1”

  1. Good summary, guys. The personal experience is also a nice touch.

    My choices would be:

    Olympus OM 21mm f/3.5
    Contax G 45mm Planar
    Contax G 90mm Sonnar

    I know the Contax G adapter are viewed with some suspicion and/or frustration, but the glass is still really great!

    And I’ve found the Olympus does a nice job head to head against the Canon FD 20mm, but at such a smaller size.

      1. My copy on the OM Zuiko 3.5/21 back in the day of film had a *lot* of CA; but people speak so well of it in the more demanding digital realm with 1:1 peeping that it makes me wonder if there was something wrong with mine back in the 80s!

  2. Sweet.. thanks for the recommendations. I prefer to shoot manual when possible and have been looking for cheaper non-Sony glass for when I make the jump from APSC to fullframe soon. And these’ll make use of Sony’s IBIS.

  3. Good article, some great lenses on there. I never got along with the FD 20mm, but didn’t spend a ton of time with it. The Contax G 90 deserves honorable mention at least. It’s sharper across the field than the Nikon 105/2.5, color and contrast between the two are similar.

    When you guys run out of lenses (yea right) you should check out some of the older M42 Super Takumars. Small & light, they remind me of a lot of RF lenses, just with a longer adapter. Stopped down they seem like real strong contenders, but need to do more side by sides with them.

      1. Never had the Contax G90 or 85mm 2.8 – but I love my shabby Sony 85mm 2.8 SAM with the same optical formula for portrait.
        Never really tested it myself outside of practical use – but most reviews are impressed and I once read a test comparing it to the Zeiss 85mm 2.8 – which only found slightly higher contrast on the Zeiss, probably due to better coatings.
        Native AF on Sony via Adapter is great – but MF is of course not that good given the all-plastic body and slim focussing ring.

    1. yes, the OM 24/2.8 is far better than the expensive OM 21/3.5, and has lesser CA. A real gem is the OM 28/f/3.5, very even across the frame and excellent sharpness at f/5.6…8. Its super super tiny and costs almost nothing. Get the newer MC Version.

      1. I own a MC 2.8/24 and like it, especially for the small size.

        I also own a 3.5/28 and while it is surprisingly sharp the single coating is annoying. I kept my eyes open but never found a MC copy.

        1. I’m pretty sure there never was an MC 3.5/28 OM; the f3.5 was replaced with the 2.8/28 at about the time they started multicoating. I don’t know what the 2.8/28 is like – never had one – the internet scuttlebutt is that it’s not as sharp as the older 3.5, which may (or may not) be true.

  4. This is more of a Good Enough but Loved Anyway List of optics – really appreciate the honest remarks for us as constant buyers. It will doubtless create an even greater lust for vintage manuals, which is one of the most noble humanitarian efforts on earth today.
    Any interest in the M42 Takumar lenses? I have several of the ‘better’ ones and they easily perform on a par with some/many of the one mentioned here. I noticed Fuji is also not on the list. Is there a dissent on Japanese lenses here? Just asking…
    Thanks again for a large effort on a favorite subject!

    1. You can be certain that we will have plenty to criticize when we create the “The very best lenses for the Sony a7 series” article. We don’t want to sell lenses we want to give you a good basis for an educated buying decision.

      Neither of us is too interested in M42 lenses but we have little experience with them. I am currently working with some Minolta MD and Olympus OM lenses.

  5. Great list. I test for IR and try to only keep lenses that do well. I have test more than a 18 standards and only the Konica 57mm shoes no hot spots. Have not tested the Nokton or the zeiss – though the Yashica c/y failed badly.

  6. Thank you awesome list! What about the contax 80-200 f4? I hear it is on par with the Canon 80-200 L and it’s cheaper at around $200.

    1. Yes, actually it is missing in that list. I have one of them here and also an aperture series and sample images. Will add that lens to the list when I find some time. It has decent corners stopped down and nice contrast. I didn’t find the hotspots in my images, need some additional testing.

  7. I love the Minolta MD 100mm f/2.8 macro and also the Minolta MD 70-210mm f/4.0 “Beer Can” You can find both of them used for less than $400

    Very nice article and lists !

  8. I have the Minolta Rokkor MD 35mm f2.8 but find my Pentax smc-a 35mm f2.8 sharper and more resistant to flare. I also have an smc-a 50mm f1.4 which is my sharpest old prime. My other favourite is the Helios 44-2; not sure if I was just lucky to get a good copy but it”s my favourite lens.

  9. It’s not realistic to expect all perceived favorite lens to get Phillips attention, just the better ones, hopefully. The learning process is where the greater value lies.

    The Reeve contingency does one thing so well, making awesome images with any lens to shoot with!

  10. Thanks for this wonderful website !
    My best combo if I want autofocus with override, is Viltrox adapter and Canon EF 40/2.8 STM. Small, cheap and works perfect at all settings on A7.

  11. Hi, I really like and appreciate this list. Got some of the lenses from the recommendation and did produce some really nice pictures.

    What about Canon FD 135mm 1:2.5 S.C. ? I have just recently bought it for £50

  12. my list would be
    olympus zuiko MC 24/2.8
    pentax K 28/3.5
    canon FDn 35/2.8
    nikon AIS 50/1.8 long nose
    vivitar series 1 90/2.5
    The total cost is still under $499 🙂

      1. Thanks.

        If possible, please review the Nikon 50/1.8 AI or AIS long nose.
        It is super sharp. I found it sharper in the center than the Pentax FA 50/2.8 macro, which is known to be the sharpest Pentax lens. The Pentax macro is sharper at the corners, but the Nikkor catches up from f/8. So I sold the Pentax.
        The Nikkor also beats the Olympus Zuiko 50 1.8 “made in japan” version, which is also excellent in performance and more compact.
        I found the Nikkor to be a perfect all-around 50mm.

        1. I bought the Minolta MC 50/1.4 and MD 50/2 based on your recommendation. I love how the 50/1.4 renders, better than the Nikon 50/1.8.
          The MD 50/2 is sharper at f/2, but the MC 50/1.4 at f/2.4 would match it at f/2. At f/2.8, they are equal. f/4 and beyond, the MC 50/1.4 is sharper at midframe and corners.
          Overall, I am not as impressed by the 50/2’s performance.
          I like the MC 50/1.4 a lot. It will replace the nikkor. 🙂

          Thank you for your great recommendations.
          I am still waiting for your Olympus 24/2.8 review.

    1. That’s not poor, we simply can’t know all lenses out there and it wouldn’t be authentic if we would recommend lenses that we don’t know. Luckily for you, I have just received the Hexanon’s 3.5/28, 2/35, 1.8/40, 1.4/50.. So maybe they will make it to the list soon.

    1. I had both, FD (had ‘new’ FD) 85/1.8 has less flaws, has more modern look and is sharper. The jupiter has more character (more glow, specific against light, warm colours).
      Bu they both are quite cheap, it’s a good idea to check them by yourself, FD and m42/m39 are very versatile adapters;)

  13. Did you try the sel50f18f. With the firm ware upgrade? For $200 (often on sales) this is a great native lens option for landscape. It is extremely sharp stopped down.

  14. I love your reviews and articles, guys. Thank you for your work. I have the fe 28 and really love it, was excited to see it make the cut.
    Here’s A few favorites from my collection:
    Canon fl 55mm f1.2
    Leica Summicron-r 50mm f2
    Tamron adaptall 01a 35-80mm 2.8-3.5
    Nikkor-h 85mm 1.8
    Konica Hexanon 135mm f3.2
    You really seem to love the c/y zeiss 100mm 3.5 from what I’ve read, might be on the short list.

  15. Thank you for your time, testing and writing! Your reviews are one of my favorites.
    The only lenses I miss are the gems of Carl Zeiss Jena (35 f2.4, Pancolar 50 f1.8, Sonnar 135 f3.5 )!
    Greetings from the baltic sea, Reinhard!

  16. Jannik,

    I am also a big contax zeiss fan (35-70 and 50 1.7) and am looking for an affordable wide angle lens. I was wondering if there was a reason you did not choose the 28mm f2.8 mmj given the inclusion of two other contax lenses? Do you not think that it is worth the $200-300? I am looking for advice.

  17. Hi Phillip. Great write up and overview on so many great and affordable lenses. I am starting to shop for an A7s and thinking about my kit when I came across your post. It was nice seeing many familiar images of yours’ from “the old days” when I could still access FM. Cheers! Jacob.

  18. Hi Phillip,

    I really enjoy your blogs and reviews. Those give me many insights since I’ve just changed to A7II. Since many of your reviews are talk about landscape photography, do you have any lens recommendation for event photography?

    Cheers!
    Ed

      1. Hi Phil,

        Thanks for replying. Have you compared it with Canon 27-70 f2.8 L series + metabones adapter? Will the AF performance be much different? as I can spend lower bucks on that set 😉

        Cheers!

  19. Hello !! And first, thank you for your great site !! I am a little confused about what to do. I have recently sold my A6000 and will very soon buy me a new A7 II. The lenses on this site, are they all fullformat, and can I use them on a A7 II without any adapters, og does the lenses that comes with an affiliate link need that special adapter to work with a A7 II ?? If I use an adapter, i will loose some of the fullformat specs. right ?? Sorry about my bad english, I`m an confused Norwegian 😉 Is there by your knowledge a site on the net, that tells what fullformat lenses from other lens producers you can use without any kind of adapter. I know that Sony lenses has the FE marking, but what marking does all the other lens producers use that makes their lensen fit exactly on a A7 II camera ?? Is there a list out there that can tell ??

    1. Hi Arne,

      in this list only the Sony FE 2/28 and Sony 2.8/50 Macro will fit your camera without an adapter. Every lens listed here is a full frame lens but you do not lose fullframe capabilities if you use an adapter.

  20. Hi, I notice CONTAX Vario-Sonnar T* f/3.4 35-70mm have the new version: CONTAX 28-70mm, what is your choice if you only can have one lens?

    1. I’d choose the 35-70mm for it’s optical performance and the macro feature although I’ve never tried the 28-70mm

  21. I love your site!

    I have tested several lenses on Sony A7rii, and now Im comparing 135mm lenses for landscape and portrait. To my surprice, I have found two excellent lenses for landscape, Konica Hexanon 135mm f3.2 and Voigtländer Super-dynarex 135mm f4 (dkl mount) and for portrait Canon fdn 135mm f2 is superb. I also use these lenses with Techart pro leica m adapter, to gain autofocus, the tiny Voigtländer is a gem when shooting people at distance.

  22. Canon FD 1.2/55 prices seem to have gone up quite a bit over the last year or so. I almost bought one last Christmas for $140 and now it’s challenging to find one under $200. You might get lucky on an auction but the trending buy it now price on ebay is $219.

  23. It would be interesting if you started playing with some of the Tamron Adaptall-2 / SP range as there are some very interesting zooms and primes, almost all well within this price range.

    There is the cheap, wonderful and plentiful SP 90mm f2.5 1:2 Macro (I got mine for £35), the extremely compact and sharp SP 24-48mm f3.5-8 zoom (less than £100) and the heavy, but incredibly well built and sharp SP 80-200mm f2.8 LD (£150-250).

    Another great little lens is the Super Takumar 35mm f3.5 – the final Super Multi Coated version. Small, light, cheap and beautifully made. Taken some of my favourite photos with this lens.

    Another very versatile lens that I’ve always kept nearby is the Canon FD 100-300mm f5.6L – which has a Fluorite and UD element, meaning CA control is very good, it focuses down to 1m @ 200mm, making it a useful near-macro lens for butterflies and dragon flies etc, and it is still sharp at 300mm. Light and relatively compact, it is almost always on my A6000, whilst my A7ii has a wide lens on it.

    I have Flickr galleries of images taken with all of these lenses – or visit my website.

    1. Either they are to expensive to be featured on this list (4/180 APO, 2.5/125 APO), we didn’t hear enough good things about them to give them a try (2.8/28) or they seem like good lenses but not so attractive that we did bother to get them. Especially the 1.4/58 seems to be a little better than your average normal lens but it only comes in F-mount (wrong focus direction) and it is a bit expensive.

  24. So, getting all your experiences together, what are your general assessments and characteristics for each mount?

    The idea behind this question is that maybe I rather would stick to one lens line for consistency in handling, build and rendering rather than just mix and match different mounts.

    Maybe you can come up with something like “Contax lenses are generally very sharp, high contrasty and have good coating but are also quite expensive and their 6 bladed aperture makes bokeh harsh” or “OM lenses are generally very small and cheap, but usually only provide mediocre image quality and usable sharpness only hard stopped down” … Don’t know.

    1. Pretty difficult – if possible at all – to give a decent assessment here,
      especially as the design principles of certain manufacturers have changed over time.

  25. This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read about lenses. Very thorough and complete. These are the cream for me as a rookie. I need to bookmark your article.

  26. Hi guys…thanks for the excellent article. I’ve used adapted lenses from time to time with “dumb” adapters.

    Manual focus is fine with me, but I’d REALLY like EXIF data to be passed, so that I can later know what aperture I used (and what lens I used) for a given image.

    I’d love to see a list of recommended lenses…in this same less-than-$499 price point…that can be adapted to Sony FE, that will pass EXIF data.

    I know of course Sony A and Canon FE can be used, but I’m looking for more like the older/used/classic/small lenses…Minolta…Contax…Zeiss…Voigtlander…Jupiter.

    Thanks…

  27. Hello to Phillip and the team. Currently obsessed with your blog so thanks for putting so much time and effort into it. Excited about getting going with a few legacy lenses!

    Wondering if you could offer some advice – if you only had $500 to spend on lenses what would you get to round out a solid kit? I currently have an A6300 with only a Samyang 2/12 and Sigma 1.4/30. Im a relatively inexperienced hobbyist that mostly shoots nature, landscapes, and casual portraits. Just getting a bit lost down the rabbit hole of primes vs zooms and pixel counting etc. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

  28. A couple ideas from your list I’m looking at…
    – Canon nFD 1.4/50 (~$150)
    – Minolta MD 3.5/35-70 (~$150)
    – Minolta MD Rokkor 2.5/100 (~$200)
    – Canon nFD 4/80-200 L (~$350)

    Im thinking I just go with the 3.5/35-70 and 2.5/100 and hopefully pick up the 4/80-200 in the future for a bit more reach…but would love to get some ideas for alternatives or any advice in general!

      1. Ok thanks, I thought that might be the case 😉 I guess I’m just finding it’s a bit overwhelming trying to figure out what direction to go in when first starting out, especially when resources are limited. Perhaps that should simply be part of the fun.

        Anyways thanks again for creating such a great resource.

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