Sony FE lenses: A comprehensive and independent guide

Choose the right lens for your Alpha with the help of our independent knowledge based on in-depth reviews.

We are a team of four photographers who all use the FE system and this blog is focused on lens reviews. So we have an in-depth knowledge of these lenses because we use them but also because we have reviewed most of them in detail. We are also independent from any lens manufacturer and when you check our reviews you will see that we do not hesitate to name any shortcomings of a lens.

In this article we only list lenses which have electronic contacts to communicate aperture and focal length to the camera. There are also quite a few lenses which have an E-mount but no electronic contacts. Most of these are SLR-lenses with a modified mount and  we decided against covering these because we think that most of them are not very attractive lenses. We do however cover the Laowa 2/15 and Mitakon 0.95/50 because those are attractive lenses for some photographers.

All native full frame lenses for the Sony FE mount (as of August 2017)

  • Voigtländer Heliar Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 (manual focus)
  • Sony G 12-24mm F4
  • Voigtländer Heliar Ultra Wide 12mm f/5.6 (manual focus)
  • Samyang AF 14mm F2.8
  • Voigtländer Heliar Super Wide 15mm f/4.5 (manual focus)
  • Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM
  • Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS
  • Zeiss Bastis 18mm F2.8
  • Tokina Firin 20mm f/2 (manual focus)
  • Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 (manual focus)
  • Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM
  • Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70 mm F4 ZA OSS
  • Sony FE 24-240 mm F3.5-6.3 OSS
  • Zeiss Batis Distagon T* 25 mm F2
  • Sony FE 28 mm F2
  • Sony FE 28-70 mm F3.5-5.6 OSS
  • Sony FE 28-135 F4 G OSS
  • Sony Distagon T* FE 35 mm F1.4 ZA
  • Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 (manual focus)
  • Sony Sonnar T* FE 35 mm F2.8 ZA
  • Samyang/Rokinon FE 35mm F2.8
  • Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
  • Samyang/Rokinon FE 50/1.4
  • Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
  • Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 (manual focus)
  • Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro
  • Sony Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1.8 ZA
  • Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS
  • Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS
  • Sony FE 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 G OSS
  • Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM
  • Sony FE 85mm F1.8
  • Zeiss Batis Sonnar T* 85 mm F1.8 OSS
  • Zeiss Loxia 85mm f/2.4 (manual focus)
  • Sony FE Macro 90 mm F2.8 G OSS
  • Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS
  • Zeiss Batis Sonnar T* 135 mm F2.8 OSS
  • Sony FE 100-400mm f/4-5-5.6 GM OSS

Bonus coverage:

  • Laowa 15mm 2.0 Zero-D (manual focus, not yet on the market)
  • Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 (manual focus)

Announced lenses not yet on the market

  • Voigtlander Ultron Classic 35mm F1.4 (manual focus)
  • Voigtlander Ultron Aspherical 40mm F1.2 (manual focus)
  • Voigtlander Macro 65mm F2 (manual focus)

Legend

  • G – Sony’s equivalent to Canon’s L is used for high quality lenses with superior optical performance
  • OSS – “Optical Steady Shot”: Sony’s marketing name for lenses that feature an image stabilizer.
  • ZA – Lenses which have been developed in cooperation by Sony and Zeiss and are produced by Sony. The outer barrel is made from metal which looks nice but scratches easily.
  • GM – Stands for G-Master, this is used for Sony’s highest quality lenses (a step above the ZA lenses).
  • (manual focus) – Completely manual lenses. You need to use the focusing ring and the aperture ring on the lens to focus and set the desired aperture value. Exif data is still submitted though.

The lenses in detail

Voigtländer 5.6/10 (manual focus)

voigtlander hyper wide heliar 10mm 5.6 review sample
Sony A7rII | Voigtländer 10mm 5.6 HWH E | f/16

One year after release this 10mm lens is still unique as it is the only non-fisheye lens offering this enormous field of view. You might need to up your composition skills to get the best out of it though. The corners show significant vignetting even stopped down and the resolution in the corners isn’t that great. Apart from that the optics are very fine, especially considering the small size of the lens. On top of that you get great build quality, very good flare resistance and beautiful sunstars.
Length: 68.5mm |  Diameter: 67mm | Weight: 375g | Filter Thread: none | Price (August 2017): 1080€/1099$
Review | Sample images | Samples in full resolution | ebay.com (affiliate link) | amazon.com (affiliate link)

Sony G 4/12-24

I really try to avoid marketing speech but this time it is fair to say that with this lens Sony has redefined what a wideangle-zoom can do. At half the weight of comparable SLR lenses it is sharper than the competition an outperforms some excellent prime lenses. Downsides are the lack of a filter thread, not well defined sunstars and not that great flare resistance.
Length: 117.4mm  Diameter: 87mm  Weight: 565g Filter Thread: /  Price (August 2017): 1999€
MTF-graphs at lensrentals.com | Comparison with most other E-mount lenses | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Voigtländer 5.6/12 III (manual focus)

Sony A7II | Voigtländer 5.6/III E | f/8

The Voigtländer 5.6/12 III sits in every regard right between the Voigtländer 5.6/10 and the Voigtländer 4.5/15. Its corner sharpness is a little better than the 10mm’s and a little worse than the 15mm’s. The quality control of the 12mm lens seems to be more reliable than the 15mm’s. I’d recommend that lens if the 10mm is too extreme or has too weak corner performance for your needs. 12mm is still an extremely wide focal length and the small dimensions of the lens are very welcome.
Length: 74mm |  Diameter: 67mm |  Weight: 283g | Filter Thread: /  | Price (August 2017): 849€/$
Comparison of the three Voigtländer UWAs | Jannik’s Samples | ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Samyang FE 2.8/14
The rather affordable Samyang offers AF and a relatively fast speed but it does not deliver the same corner sharpness as the manual version of this lens. So you carry the weight for the fast aperture but it won’t perform well as an astro lens. I find it hard to recommend because the aperture is of limited use and Samyang has a reputation for unreliable lenses.
Length: 98mm | Diameter: 86mm | Weight: 505g | Filter Thread: / | Price (August 2017): $629
Review | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Voigtländer 4.5/15 (manual focus)

sony a7s milaneo voigtlander 15mm 4.5 e super wide heliar milaneo blue hour
Sony A7s | Voigtländer 15mm 4.5 SWH E | f/11

The outer apperance is very similar to the 10mm and 12mm lenses. The 15mm offers the best across frame sharpness of the 3, but the corners still need stopping down to f/11 to look best.
It also shares the high vignetting with the other 2, but luckily the good flare resistance as well.
It seems at least the first batch had some issues with uneven corner sharpness, better check this before buying.
Length: 67mm |  Diameter: 66mm | Weight: 294g | Filter Thread: 58mm | Price (August 2017): 779€/799$
Review | Full resolution samples | ebay.com (affiliate link) | ebay.de (affiliate link)

Sony FE 4/16-35 ZA OSS

Not as small as the manual SWA-primes nor cheap the FE 4/16-35’s strength is its versatility combined with excellent center sharpness from f/4 and good corners stopped down. Downsides are not too definied sunstars and occasionally problematic flare behavior. A clear recommendation if you want to be flexible.
Length: 98.5mm  | Diameter: 78mm  | Weight: 518g | Filter Thread: 72mm | Price (August 2017): $1348
Phillip’s ReviewAmazon.com | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate links)

Sony GM 2.8/16-35
This lens has just been released at the time of writing. From what I see initially,  the lens performs just in line with the other spectacular Sony GM lenses. Central sharpness seems to be quite comparable to the Sony FE 4/16-35 ZA but the edge sharpness seems to be significantly superior. Coma control at 16mm wide open is good but not flawless. The bokeh looks smooth, but the Sony 2.8/24-70 GM seems to be even better. The lens is big but still a little smaller than I would have expected. Probably the short flange distance is beneficial in that regard. The lens is very expensive.
Length: 122mm  | Diameter: 89mm  | Weight: 680g | Filter Thread: 82mm  | Price (August 2017): 2699€/$
Review at Uncle Ken |  Thread at Fred Miranda | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Zeiss Batis 2.8/18

carl zeiss batis 18mm 2.8 sony a7s astro astrophotography astroscape coma milkyway milky way star stars
Sony A7s | Batis 18mm 2.8 | f/2.8 | ISO6400 | 20s | panorama from 4 shots

A great lens without any real weakness with great resolution across the whole frame already wide open. If I had to name a downside it would be the not so great manual focus experience.
If you are looking for a wide angle lens with maximum image quality and you want AF this lens is for you.
Length: 80mm | Diameter: 100mm | Weight: 330g | Filter Thread: 77mm | Price (August 2017): 1499€/$
Review | Full resolution samples | amazon.com (affiliate link) | ebay.com (affiliate link) | amazon.de (affiliate link)

Tokina Firin 2/20 (manual focus)

Tokina’s first lens for the system shows very good sharpness across the frame from f/2, decent bokeh and generally good handling. Downsides are not that well defined sunstars and sometimes weak flare resistance. Because of its solid performance and its speed the Tokina is an attractive lens for the price, the slower Loxia 2.8/21 has the edge for landscapes but it is significantly more expensive.
Length: 82mm  | Diameter: 69mm  | Weight: 492g | Filter Thread: 62mm | Price (August 2017): $799
Phillip’s Review | Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)(affiliate Link)

Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21 (manual focus)

Sony A7II | Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21

The Loxia is one of the whole team’s favorite lenses and the perfect landscape lens in our opinion. It features great sharpness and contrast, CA-control, top-notch flare performance and beautiful sun stars. It has also  decent close up qualities and good bokeh. The lens is a built to highest standards like all Loxia lenses. The lens was the first lens where the advantages of the short flange distance for wide angle lenses became visible.
Length: 72mm  | Diameter: 62mm  | Weight: 394g | Filter Thread: 52mm | Price (August 2017): 1485€/$
Our Review  | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Sony GM 2.8/24-70

Sony A7II | Sony FE 2.8/24-70 GM

The GM 2.8/24-70 is the ideal no-compromise jack of all trades and behaves pretty much like a long black pipe full of f/2.8 primes. It is equally useful for landscape, portrait, documentation and also for action applications. It is very sharp (except for 70mm corners at f2.8), offers a very useful range of focal lengths, very good bokeh and impresses also in almost all other categories except of the average flare performance, where it can’t compete with the best primes. I also liked the silent and fast autofocusing and the very robust build quality. The relevant downsides are the huge price, weight and size.
Length: 136mm  Diameter: 88mm  Weight: 886g Filter Thread: 82mm  Price (August 2017): 2057€/$
Our Review | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Sony FE 4/24-70 ZA OSS

This lens did not live up to the expectations raised by the Zeiss branding and pricing because corners at 24mm are soft and not great at 70mm either. In between it is a good performer with good sharpness and high contrast. Distortion is quite pronounced and bokeh on the busy side. We can’t recommend it for landscape photography but for applications where the soft corners do not matter it will usually perform quite well and it is quite small and light for a standard zoom.
Length: 94.5mm  | Diameter: 73mm  | Weight: 430g | Filter Thread: 67mm | Price (August 2017): $1198
Phillip’s Review Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Sony FE 3.5-6.3/24-240 OSS
A typical super zoom lens: Very good performance in the center at the wide end with soft corners and softer as you zoom in. Distortion is very high. At 800g it isn’t light either so we would prefer a good bridge like the RX-10 or Panasonic TZ1000 to have a very versatile on-lens-solution.
Length: 118,5mm | Diameter: 80,5mm  | Weight: 780g  | Filter Thread: 72mm  | Price (August 2017): $853
Review | Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Zeiss Batis 2/25 T*


An almost ideal moderately fast 25mm lens. Actually it’s branded as 25 because that’s what Zeiss does, but in fact without distortion correction our guess is that it’s wider than 24mm, and even with correction it’s much closer to 24mm than 25. It’s quite  good and unusually uniform wide open, and with surprisingly good contrast. It rapidly gets tack sharp across the field as you stop down. It has superb flare resistance, though the reasonably defined 18 pointed sunstars are not to everyone’s taste. The bokeh – which some might care about in a fast lens that could be used for images of people in context – is generally very nice. For busy backgrounds like foliage a couple of meters behind portrait distance, however,  it can be a little nervous. Still, I don’t know a lens with better bokeh in this speed and focal length. Not everyone will like the typical Batis manual focus experience, but AF is swift and silent. A great lens though not cheap, and if this a focal length that you want covered by a lightweight moderately fast prime, it’s a superb choice.
Length: 78mm  | Diameter: 92mm  | Weight: 335g  | Filter Thread: 67mm | Price (August 2017): 1299€
Amazon.de (affiliate Link)

Sony FE 2/28

This very affordable lens does come with a few compromises like softer corners at wider apertures and very strong distortion but these are far outweight by its many desirable properties like smooth bokeh, good sharpness in the center from f/2 and across the frame by f/8 as well as the small size.
There is also a wide-angle converter which turns it into a 2.8/21 and a Fish-Eye converter which turns it into a 3.5/16 but both are quite heavy and do not improve the image quality.
Length: 60mm | Diameter: 60mm | Weight: 200g | Filter Thread: 49mm | Price (August 2017): $448
Phillip’s Review | Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Sony FE 3.5-5.6/28-70 OSS

Sony A7 | Sony FE 3.5-5.6/28-70

The kit lens of the Sony A7 series cameras is a practical but not stellar lens. First of all, it is small, light, focuses quitely and is convenient in usage. It performs decent in documentation scenarios when a zoom is needed and is a good companion for a manual prime setup for tasks like that. The edge sharpness of the lens lacks significantly behind the better FE lenses and doesn’t really improve when stopped down. The bokeh is nothing to rave about either. Nevertheless, the system is not blessed with other cheap and competent alternatives, the Sony FE 4/24-70 doesn’t perform much more convincing either and the lower price of the kit lens is a serious point.
Length: 83mm  Diameter: 73mm  Weight: 295g  Filter Thread: 55mm  Price (July 2017): 250€/$ used
Review | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com| ebay.de (affiliate links)

Sony FE PZ 4/28-135 G OSS
This is a lens optimized for filming. We do not film so we won’t rate it. Since it is very large and heavy we see little reason to use it for photography.
Length: 165mm  | Diameter: 102mm  | Weight: 1215g  | Filter Thread: 95mm  | Price (August 2017): $2498
Review |  Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Sony FE 1.4/35 ZA

Sony A7R | Sony FE 1.4/35 ZA

The Sony FE 1.4/35 ZA was the first lens that introduced Sony’s no comprise approach. It is a large, heavy and expensive lens but impresses optically in most categories. I like the decent sharpness wide open (although I saw a midzone dip), the low distortion and the quiet and fast autofocusing. The most impressive aspect of this lens is the bokeh. It has a magically smooth transition zone between sharp and unsharp areas and a smooth rendering in general, although it is does show longitudinal chromatic aberration and onion rings. The really problematic aspect of this lens is that it is almost impossible to find a well centered sample. Nevertheless, this is the way to go if you need a very fast native 35mm lens.
Length: 112 mm Diameter: 79mm Weight: 630g Filter Thread: 72mm Price (August 2017): 1410€/$
Review at admiringlight | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Zeiss Loxia 2/35 Biogon T* (manual focus)

sunstar sun sunburst blendenstern diaphragm stroke 10 7 8 14 18
Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/11 | 10 straight blades

The optical formula of this lens is based on a rangefinder lens from the ZM line. While it is a stellar performer stopped down with extraordinary contrast and beautiful sunstars the sharpness wide open isn’t exactly something to write home about and the bokeh is rather nervous at medium distances.
Great for stopped-down work, not so great for street photography or reportage, unless you like this type of bokeh rendering.
If you want one try getting a used one in good condition, as, unlike with other Zeiss lenses, there is a significant price difference.
Length: 66mm | Diameter: 62mm | Weight: 340g | Filter Thread: 52mm | Price: 1139€/1149$ (August 2017)
Review | DatasheetSample images | Amazon.com (affiliate link) | ebay.com (affiliate link) | Amazon.de (affiliate link)

Sony FE 2.8/35 ZA

A tiny lens with surprisingly good performance, from f/2.8 it is very sharp across the frame and bokeh is quite good as well. I was a bit disappointed with the rather average flare resistance and it also shows very strong vignetting. If you can compromise on speed and can live with the very high price it is certainly an attractive lens.
Length: 36.5mm | Diameter: 61.5mm | Weight: 120g | Filter Thread: 49mm | Price (August 2017): $798
Phillip’s ReviewAmazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Samyang/Rokinon FE 2.8/35
The new Samyang is the smallest native lens. It is not quite as good optically as the FE 2.8/35 but still a solid performer. There are various reports about loud and unreliable AF though which make it appear less desirable.
Length: 33mm | Diameter: 61.5mm | Weight: 86g | Filter Thread: 49mm | Price (August 2017): $320
Amazon.com | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Sony ZA 50mm f/1.4
This is the fancier brother of the Sony 1.4/35mm. It shares most of the strengths of the shorter sibling but cures most of its weaknesses. First of all, quality control seems to be greatly improved, I have read no reports of frequent decentering so far. Furthermore, this lens is on of the sharpest 50mm lenses on the market, its central sharpness even surpasses the Zeiss OTUS 1.4/55 lens although the latter has the edge in the midzone. The bokeh is smooth and chromatic aberrations are very low. High vignetting wide open is the only bug (feature?) of that lens.
Length: 108mm  | Diameter: 84mm  | Weight: 778g | Filter Thread: 72mm  | Price (August 2017): 1450€/$
Review at admiringlight | MTF chart at lensrentals | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com| ebay.de (affiliate links)

Samyang/Rokinon FE 50mm f/1.4

Samyang’s first attempt at creating an AF lens is a fast normal with the smoothest bokeh of all the available normal lenses for the FE system remains quite affordable. Sharpness is not on the same level as the ZA lenses and it shows really strong CA. There are also reports about it freezing cameras and the AF is not without issues as well. Since it is quite heavy and Samyang lenses have had reliability issues we find it hard to recommend it.
Length: 98mm | Diameter: 74mm  | Weight: 585g | Filter Thread: 67mm  | Price (August 2017): $544
Sample images | Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7

The 1.8/50 offers solid optical performance. Compared to the much more expensive 1.8/55 you have to deal with softer corners at wider apertures and less smooth bokeh as well as weaker flare resistance. But apart from that performance is quite good. The biggest issue with the lens is the really s l o w AF drive. You won’t be able to follow a slowly moving person with it. If you can live with that limitation you might consider it but we find it hard to recommend it as a general purpose lens.
Length: 60mm | Diameter: 69mm | Weight: 186g | Filter Thread: 49mm  | Price (August 2017): $248
Phillip’s Review | Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links) (affiliate Link)

Zeiss Loxia 2/50 Planar T* (manual focus)

Zeiss Loxia 2/50 | Sony a7 | f/2

The optical design of the Planar is based on an older range finder lens. Compared with the 1.8/55 it shows somewhat softer corners and much less smooth bokeh. It is still one of the sharpest normal lenses ever built,  though, and it has the advantage of very nice sunstars compared to other 50mm lenses. If you enjoy manual focus more than AF we can recommend it, but the 1.8/55 is the better general purpose lens.
Length: 60mm | Diameter: 62mm | Weight: 320g | Filter Thread: 52mm | Price: $949 (August 2017)
Our Review | Datasheet | Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro

Optically this is a lens without serious faults. It is very sharp from wide open at any distance with good but not spectacular bokeh. Every other aberration is well corrected but one aspect which can be annoying is that it only has only 7 slightly rounded aperture blades which is quite detrimental to the bokeh if you stop down which you will often do with a macro. Another issue is the slow AF drive which will limits its usefulness as a general purpose lens. The eyeAF mode, however, works surprisingly well at wide apertures, which mitigates this problem a bit in the portrait context, so if your usage is MF for macro and eyeAF for portraits, the AF may not be so troubling.
Length: 71mm  | Diameter: 72mm  | Weight: 236g | Filter Thread: 55mm  | Price (August 2017): $498
Phillip’s Review | Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Sony FE 1.8/55 ZA

Sony A7R | Sony FE 1.8/55

The Sony FE 1.8/55 was one of the first FE lenses and still reflects what has drove so many people towards the system. It is small, light, well crafted and focuses very fast. The lens is already very sharp across the whole frame wide open, has got a very flat field and quite low coma. It is one of the few lenses that I would use even wide open for occasional landscape shots (in dim conditions). It get’s a moderate boost in sharpness and a bigger boost in contrast when stopped down to f/2.8. The transition zone of the bokeh is quite smooth although the background blur can show cat eyes and quite strong LoCA wide open and onion rings at all apertures. Vignetting is quite pronounced as well. I think it is a very competent landscape lens and a decent portrait lens as well and therefore very versatile. The used prices have fallen quite a bit in the last months, it is definitely recommended.
Length: 70.5mm | Diameter: 64.4mm | Weight: 281g | Filter Thread: 49mm | Price (August 2017): 839€/$
Our Review | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Sony FE 2.8/70-200 GM OSS
Although it is still a solid performer a comparison with CaNikon’s competing lenses shows that the Sony does not compete on the same level which is quite disappointing if you consider the really high price. The bokeh can be quite busy as well, one reason is that it uses aspherics which is very unusual for a tele zoom. If you need a fast tele zoom it is without alternative and results will be good enough for most applications but it is clearly the weakest of the GM lenses so far.
Length: 200mm | Diameter: 88mm | Weight: 1480g | Filter Thread: 77mm | Price (August 2017): $2598
Review | Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Sony FE 4/70-200 G OSS

A  sharp lens until 135mm but at 200mm the corners suffer wide open and stopping down to f/8 improves them to decent but not great levels. CA correction is really good and bokeh mostly smooth. All in all a good and versatile lens but it takes up quite a lot of space in your camera bag.
Length: 175mm | Diameter: 80mm | Weight: 840g | Filter Thread: 72mm | Price (August 2017): $1498
Review | Amazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Sony FE 4.5-5.6/70-300 G OSS

The Sony FE G 4.5-5.6/70-300 is a lens that combines a useful zoom range with quite small size and moderate weight. It is decently sharp until 200mm and has got attractive closeup capabilities at the long end. Unfortunately, the sharpness decreases at the long end (which is probably the selling point of the lens) and the bokeh can be harsh in demanding scenarios. Nevertheless one of the more attractive travel options.
Length: 144mm  | Diameter: 84mm  | Weight: 854g | Filter Thread: 72mm  | Price (August 2017): 1253€/$

Review | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate Link)

Sony FE GM 1.4/85

Sony A7II | Sony FE 1.4/85 GM

The GM 1.4/85 is “the lens” if portrait or shallow depth of field photography is what you like. Sharpness across the frame is already very high wide open and crisps up even more slightly stopped down. The bokeh is the quality of the lens that is hard to describe and special. It has a very smooth transition like the Sony FE 1.4/35 ZA and the roundest bokeh balls wide open (although not perfectly round). LoCA and vignetting are visible wide open but nothing to worry about, flare resistance is quite good although veiling flare can be visible when the sun is just outside of the frame. The autofocus is hearable and not the fastest. Some people say that it is very noisy but they have probably never used a screw-driven AF lens. Build quality and features are as good as it gets, a very useful lens pouch is included as well. The lens is big and heavy but significantly smaller than other fast modern 85mm lenses like the Sigma Art 1.4/85 and the Zeiss OTUS 1.4/85. Don’t look any further if you need a high end 85mm portrait lens, it is one of the special lenses in the system.
Length: 108mm  | Diameter: 90mm  | Weight: 820g | Filter Thread: mm  | Price (August 2017): 1668€/$
Review | Jannik’s samples | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com |ebay.de (affiliate Link)

Sony FE 85mm 1:1.8

Sony A6500 | Sony FE 1.8/85

The FE 1.8/85 is the budget 85mm option although that doens’t mean that you have to make too many compromises. It is already very sharp wide open over most of the frame and excellent stopped down. The bokeh is quite smooth and has less pronounced cat-eye effect compared to the Batis but never reaches the quality of the GM’s bokeh. Vignetting is typical for such a lens and longitudinal chromatic aberrations are quite well controlled. Unfortunately, the lens can show a significant amount of purple fringing wide open in high contrast situations. The flare performance can be problematic when the sun is directly in the frame. The very fast autofocus qualifies it for indoor sports and subject tracking, it is the best native 85mm lens for that application. The build quality is decent. All in all a smart choice regarding its price and the small dimensions.
Length: 82mm | Diameter: 78mm  | Weight: 371g | Filter Thread: 67mm  | Price (August 2017): 649€/$
Our Review | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 T* OSS

Sony A7II | Zeiss Batis 1.8/85

This was the only 85mm lens in the FE lineup for quite some time and it is still an attractive option. The lens is very sharp, even wide open. The colors and the contrast of the lens are more intense in comparison with the FE 1.8/85. Furthermore, the lens features OSS which can be especially welcome in the first generation A7 bodies. It is quite well corrected for all kinds of chromatic aberrations and has got very good flare performance. The downsides are the harsher, cat-eye affected bokeh and the high pincushion distortion that has to be corrected in the postprocessing. It is quite a bit larger and weighs more than the FE 1.8/85. Regarding the price difference, I’d recommend to think twice if you need the advantages of the Zeiss. If so, I’d probably recommend to buy it used.
Length: 81mm | Diameter: 92mm | Weight: 475g | Filter Thread: 67mm | Price (August 2017): 1199€/$
Review | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com |ebay.de (affiliate links)

Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85 T* (manual focus)

loxia zeiss 85mm 2.4 carl sony a7r ii review comparison
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4

An often falsely underrated lens as it is one of the few lenses with extraordinary performance across the whole frame even wide open on a 42mp camera. Most optical errors including CA and loCA are very well corrected, bokeh is soft and without any onion ring issues. The flare resistance is neither bad nor perfect, the sunstars are quite nice. Regarding its specifications it is quite heavy though and considering the strong competition in the 85mm realm not a cheap lens by all means.
Nevertheless: if you strive for optical perfection and you don’t mind focusing manually this lens might be for you.
Length: 95mm | Diameter: 63mm | Weight: 494g | Filter Thread: 52mm |Price (August 2017): 1399€/$
Review | Sample images | Full resolution samples | Amazon.com (affiliate link) Amazon.de (affiliate link) | ebay.com (affiliate link)

Sony FE 2.8/90 G OSS Macro


A versatile and optically excellent lens with very good sharpness at longer distances and excellent sharpness up close. All aberrations are well corrected and bokeh is pleasantly smooth. The rather large volume and somewhat cumbersome manual focus are the only significant drawbacks. The price is quite high if you compare it to similar lenses from other manufacturers and the lens is often decentered.
Length: 130,5 mm | Diameter: 79mm | Weight: 602g | Filter Thread: 62mm | Price (August 2017): $1098
ReviewAmazon.com  | Amazon.de | Ebay (affiliate Links) (affiliate Link)

Sony FE GM 4.5-5.6/100-400
The Sony 100-400 GM is the latest addition to the Sony telezoom lineup. It seems to be a very competent lens and is not only good at the short end but also at 400mm. According to the first tests, the lens features good control of chromatic aberrations and decent but not spectacularly smooth bokeh. The lens has got nice close up capabilities. The good optical quality, fast autofocusing and the optical stabilization make this lens very versatile, it is probably the best native telezoom lens for landscape applications and is also also applicable for a variety of other subjects like sports, portrait, studio. The physical dimensions of the lens are large but typical for a lens in its class.
Length: 205mm  | Diameter: 94mm  | Weight: 1395g | Filter Thread: 77mm  | Price (August 2017): 2899€/$
Sony 100-400 vs. Contax 100-300 | Amazon.com | Amazon.de | ebay.com | Ebay.de (affiliate links)

Sony FE GM 2.8/100 STF OSS
A specialist lens with STF-Filter for special bokeh. This filter will swallow 75% of the light so the amount of light transmitted to the sensor will be the same as with a f/5.6 lens while DOF will be similar to that of a f/4 lens but it makes for super smooth bokeh unlike any conventional lens. For a weight of 700g and a price of nearly $2000 you get excellent sharpness, minimal vignetting and almost no CA. Build quality seems to be a bit behind the expectations. The GM STF 2.8/100 has a very narrow range of applications when you want limited bokeh of excellent quality and here it excels. Usually the GM 1.4/85 will be the more attractive option.
Length: 118mm  | Diameter: 85mm  | Weight: 700g | Filter Thread: 72mm  | Price (August 2017): $1498
Review | another Review | Amazon.com | Ebay (affiliate Links)

Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 APO


This lens is pretty much optically impeccable. It’s sharp at every distance, aperture and location in the field. It’s very good against the light, and it has breathtaking colour correction. It’s likely the most well-behaved FE lens you can buy. The question is not “do you want this lens?” but “do you want an f2.8 135mm lens?”. If you do want a 2.8/135, and you can comfortably afford the substantial price of admission, then buy it. If you don’t want a lens of this specification, perhaps because you don’t care about compactness much, and really love the bokeh of faster 135mm lenses, then its near optical perfection is irrelevant .
Length: 120mm  | Diameter: 99mm  | Weight: 614g | Filter Thread: 67mm  | Price (August 2017): 1999€
Our Review | Amazon.de (affiliate Link)

Laowa 2.0/15 FE Zero-D (manual focus)

laowa 15mm 2.0 fe venus optics review architecture
Sony A7rII | Laowa 15mm 2.0 Zero-D | f/8.0

This lens is not quite on the market yet, but as we have already reviewed a final production sample we decided to inclusde it here.
What seprates this lens from the Voigtlander UWA lenses mentioned above is the wide aperture and the minimum focus distance of just 0.15m, but also the lack of electronic contacts and therefore exif data.
Image build and build quality are good and there is no real showstopper we managed to find.
Length: 83.0mm |  Diameter: 77mm | Weight: 520g | Filter Thread: 72mm | Price (August 2017): 850$
Review | Sample images

Zhong Yi Mitakon 0.95/50 (manual focus)

mitakon 50mm 0.95 zhong yi optical dark knight speedmaster a7 series a7rii a7r2 a7rm2 a7s sony e-mount fe
Sony A7s |Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95 | f/0.95

What separates this lens from the competition is the staggering maximum aperture of f/0.95, and that at an affordable price point. Unlike many older fast lenses the bokeh is smooth and often very nice. This lens does not come without flaws though: the performance at medium distances is sufficient, but not so great at closer distances. With the sun inside or near the frame you will often find huge artifacts and encounter significant loss of contrast.
Still, if you are a lover of thin depth of field photography you should definetly take a closer look.
Length: 87.0mm |  Diameter: 72mm | Weight: 780g | Filter Thread: 67mm | Price (August 2017): 930€/850$
Review | Sample images | Amazon.com (affiliate link | ebay.com (affiliate link) | amazon.de (affiliate link)

Manual lenses

Almost any lens can be adapted on the Sony a7/a9 series. We have a guide to very affordable (<$99) manual lenses and one for still affordable (< $499) lenses and also a Manual Lenses on the Sony a7 series Beginner’s Guide.

If any questions remain unanswered don’t hesitate to leave a comment 🙂

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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.

24 thoughts on “Sony FE lenses: A comprehensive and independent guide”

  1. Sony FE 4/70-200 G OSS – need English translation.
    Please, delete this comment and the previous one. It’s just – I hope helpful – info for you.

  2. Thanks!

    A very nice summary. I always gets happy when I see that there is an update to this site. You always do such a good job with the reviews and test lenses in a way that I haven’t found elsewhere, like checking flare in depth. And the images that comes with the reviews are always very good as well.

    There are some other lenses available in FE-mount that you didn’t mention. Brian Smith has made a very good list of all available FE-lenses, see here: briansmith.com/sony-a7-a7r-a7s-lens-guide/

    He also keeps an E-mount adapter list updated which complements your extremely fine articles on that matter: briansmith.com/gear/sony-lens-adapters/

    Best regards from Sweden!
    /Anders

    1. Hi Anders – we drew a different line than Brian. We only included lenses with electronic coupling except of two lenses (Mitakon 0.95/50 / Laowa 2/15) that we see as so good/special and unique to (F)E-Mount that they are worth mentioning. Furthermore, we don’t have broad enough video competence and therefore don’t comment on the Fuji/Zeiss/Sigma Video lenses. Regards, Jannik

  3. Thank you very much for this nice summary based in your experience . I was thinking to order the loxia 21mm when I saw your comments and other reviews about the sony FE 12-24 . If the size doesn’t matter is the image quality of the FE 12-24 close to the loxia 21mm ? I know philippe has a preference for the FE 16-35 f/4 how you compare it to the FE 12-35mm. Thank you a lot Guys.
    Nabil

    1. First of all, the 12-24 focal range is quite different to 16-35. The latter is a versatile lens and suitable for documentary photography as well, the 12-24 is a more specialized lens. Optically, the 12-24 seems to perform a bit better than the 16-35, especially towards the corners.

      At least in my case, the 12-24 (despite of all optical excellence and convenience) could never replace the Loxia, because of:

      – weak flare performance
      – no filter thread
      – odd sun stars

      Regards, Jannik

    2. As far as sharpness is concerned the Loxia and the 12-24 are very close which is an astonishing feat by the 12-24. The Loxia offers less distortion, better flare resistance and nicer sunstars but not better sharpness.

      I find it very hard to compare a 12-24 to a 16-35. The 12-24 seems to be the sharper one though.

  4. Mammoth undertaking! Well done guys!
    I couldn’t agree more with that statement about ZA lens finish, “The outer barrel is made from metal which looks nice but scratches easily.” (So does the Batis finish BTW)
    After 6 months careful use with the ZA 55/1.8 and already that body has picked up more marks than my much used, 45 year old, Minolta MC (scalloped focus ring) 58/1.2. What a backward step. Fashion design over practicality!

    1. Sad but true – you can’t imagine how disappointed I was when I got the 4/16-35 and scratched it already after 2-3 uses. That was by far my most expensive lens at that time. I’ll get the 1.4/50 ZA today and hope that the scratch resistance has improved in the meantime.

      I am always astonished that most of my Contax lenses look still almost like new. I have the impression that the glass scratches more easily than the Contax painting 😉

      Regards, Jannik

  5. Thanks for the list. Nice work. Loxia 21, Loxia 85, and Batis 18 are my favorite. Please include the Laowa 12mm if you are going to include the Laowa 15mm version.

    1. It is also a DSLR lens with just a built-in adapter.
      But we might include it when we got the chance to test the shift converter.
      Until then you can check out our review of a prototype of that lens.

  6. Very interesting reviews. Thank you for sharing!
    I have a question which no one has answered so far everywhere on the internet: how is the 16-35 GM compared to Batis 18 and 25mm? I have both the Batis-es, but consider to replace them with the GM.
    After reading your praise for the 12-24 I am now a little torn… I love its size/weight and that it doesn’t extend like the GM. But it doesn’t take filters.. I don’t use them so often, but especially for landscape and long exposures in daylight – it is an important aspect.

    1. Hi Stefan, I didn’t use the 16-35 GM and the Batis 25 so far, so I can’t give you a detailed answer. Nevertheless, I think that the GM could be a smart choice over the Batis primes. Sharpness seems to be on a very high level and the GM 16-35 is smaller than the GM 24-70. I’d expect the highest drawbacks in the flare performance. I think you should know if you need a 12-24 or a 16-35 lens, they are quite different tools.

  7. Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM versus F4 ZA OSS.
    Having the F4 version and mostly in landscape photography would it be worth to go for the f2.8.
    Must say that I’m mostly using this lens at f8.0 or f11 on my A7R2.
    Will there be any noticeably difference ?
    One advantage could be to have the f2.8 at 16mm in order to leave my Samyang 14mm home for astrophotography to reduce the carry-on weight when traveling with an airplane.

  8. Just had a 2nd go at comparing the “new” FE 85/1.8 with my Batis 85, (on A7), and I’m ready to sell…..not the FE, but the Batis!
    I didn’t expect that! (My 1st copy of FE was soft/glowy at F/1.8, but I knew from reviews, that the FE was better than that, so I found another. That is a problem with FE lenses, in my experience, much more copy variation.)

    In nearly every comparison the FE equaled the Batis, and in several I preferred the FE…even for flare control, (I really didn’t expect that either!) More veiling flare from the Batis, which is very hard to deal with in Lr etc.
    Not a lot of difference in “sharpness”, but the Batis has a rather warm, “muddy” look in comparison, whilst the FE is cooler and IMO “cleaner”, with an altogether “lighter” touch. e.g., Shadows block up with the Batis, whereas there’s much more shadow detail with the FE.
    Really the only ways I found the Batis better, was in build quality, and a slightly faster AF response.

    Of course, my Batis may not be the very best copy, but it is well centred and as sharp as the FE, so it can’t be a very bad one either…and perhaps I’ve managed to find a very good copy of the FE!

  9. Great info, gentlemen. Thank you for putting this together. I hate to lug the Sony f4 70-200mm G around when I travel. A light wight lens between 70-200 would be an ideal replacement but the Batis 135 is US$2000. I tried the Leica Elmar 135 f/4 with an adapter. Not sure if I want to fuss around with setting the IBIS every time I put it on the A7RII.

    Cheers,

    Douglas

      1. Thank you Bastian. I decided to get the Contax 135mm f2.8 Sonna and the Techart. Hope it’s good for landscape. The lens is so cheap that If it doesn’t work out, I won’t lose much.

        Cheers.

        Douglas

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