Sony’s latest E-mount mirrorless cameras like the Alpha a6500, a6300, and a5000 are renowned for their compact size and impressive image quality. Many are offered with kit lenses like the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6, which is a fine option for getting started. However, the 11 E-mount lenses below offer superior optical performance and produce far better images, no matter whether you’re an amateur photographer or seasoned veteran. Certain models are pricey, but there are good E-mount deals to be had with many of the lenses from both Sony and Sigma. Keep in mind that Sony E-mount lenses have a crop factor of 1.5x, and you’ll often see us list the 35mm equivalent for reference. For more information, see our E-Mount lens buying advice below the picks.
Category: Wide angle
35mm equivalent: 15-27mm
Weight: 7.9 oz.
What we like: Lightweight and sharp.
What we don’t: Expensive.
We considered putting a travel zoom or prime portrait lens at the top of this list, but the Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS is the best of the bunch. It’s sharp, has minimal distortion, focuses quickly, and weighs only 7.9 ounces, which is considerably lighter than comparable lenses for digital SLRs. If you shoot landscape photography, this is the top wide-angle lens for Sony E-mount cameras, and we think the best overall.
What are the shortcomings of the Sony 10-18mm? We don’t love the maximum aperture of f/4, but the lens does have Sony’s OSS image stabilization to help in low light. As is common with lenses on this type, you can expect some distortion and particularly at the wide end. And the lens is rather pricey at around $850, although that is on par with other wide-angle zooms.
See the Sony 10-18mm OSS
35mm equivalent: 24-105mm
Weight: 10.9 oz.
What we like: Extremely versatile and great image quality.
What we don’t: More than double the cost of most E-mount cameras.
For those who can afford it, the Sony 16-70mm f/4 is one of our favorite lenses for Sony mirrorless cameras. All you have to do is buy a camera body, add this lens, and you’ll have superb image quality from 24-105mm for everything from landscapes to portraits (this makes it a terrific travel option too). The long name is a result of Sony’s partnership with Zeiss, which is most obvious in the T* coating that results in great clarity and color. The biggest downside of this lens is its cost, which at nearly $1,000 is more than a camera body like the a6300. If you want to go cheaper, the Sony 18-105mm below isn’t quite as good optically but has a longer range and is just over half the price.
See the Sony 16-70mm OSS
35mm equivalent: 52.5mm
Weight: 5.5 oz.
What we like: The leading E-mount 50mm equivalent.
What we don’t: Prime lenses of this focal length usually are cheap, but not this one.
Everyone who shoots portraits needs a quality 50mm lens, and the Sony 35mm f/1.8 is just that (or very close to it at a 52.5mm equivalent). This prime lens is sharp, performs well in low light, and has OSS image stabilization. It’s true that the 35mm f/1.8 is expensive compared to similar 50mm DSLR lens options from Nikon and Canon, but that’s not uncommon in the mirrorless world. Another E-mount lens to consider in this focal length range is the Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8, which is even sharper than the Sony 35 f/1.8 but a bit too pricey for our tastes.
See the Sony 35mm OSS
35mm equivalent: 27-158mm
Weight: 15.1 oz.
What we like: More reach and cheaper than the Sony 16-70mm f/4.
What we don’t: Heavier and doesn’t go as wide.
The 16-70mm f/4 above gets much of the hype as the top travel zoom for Sony’s APS-C mirrorless cameras, but the 18-105mm f/4 is a worthy alternative at a lower price point. We like the additional reach at 158mm vs. 105mm, although you do sacrifice a rather handy 3mm at the wide end. But perhaps most importantly, this lens is considerably cheaper at around $600 instead of $1,000.
In terms of optics, the 18-105mm is sharp, focuses reasonably well, and has the same f/4 maximum aperture and OSS image stabilization as the 16-70mm. If you want a versatile zoom lens to pair with your Sony mirrorless camera without breaking the bank, this is the ticket. However, one downside is the weight: 15.1 ounces makes it the second heaviest lens on the list behind only the 18-200mm.
See the Sony 18-105mm OSS
35mm equivalent: 82.5-315mm
Weight: 12.2 oz.
What we like: Lightweight for a telephoto zoom.
What we don’t: Low light performance.
There are few E-mount lens choices at the telephoto end of the spectrum, and this model has the farthest reach with an equivalent of 315mm (second is the 18-200mm below with an equivalent of 300mm). The Sony 55-210mm OSS is available in many of Sony's mirrorless camera kits, or you can buy it on its own for around $350 (it’s a much better value as part of a kit). The only thing to complain about here is low light performance with a maximum aperture of f/4.5, but you do get OSS image stabilization. Perhaps we will see a faster E-mount telephoto lens down the road, but until then the 55-210mm is keeping most photographers happy.
See the Sony 55-210mm OSS
35mm equivalent: 27-300mm
Weight: 18.5 oz.
What we like: Versatility.
What we don’t: Feels bulky on Sony’s smaller E-mount cameras.
We understand the draw to all-in-one lenses. Instead of buying and carrying multiple zooms or primes, one lens with a range from wide angle to telephoto can do it all. They aren’t, however, the best option from an image quality perspective and lag behind purpose-built lenses at their respective focal lengths. The Sony 18-200mm does capture sharp images, comes with OSS for when natural light is low, and is faster than the 55-210mm above. But we still favor going in a different direction, and particularly when you factor in the size and weight of the Sony 18-200mm at 18.5 ounces. Mirrorless cameras are supposed to feel small, and that is difficult to achieve with a lens of this size attached.
See the Sony 18-200mm OSS
35mm equivalent: 75mm
Weight: 7.3 oz.
What we like: A better price point than the Sony 35mm above.
What we don’t: Autofocus can hunt on occasion.
Don’t be fooled by the 50mm designation: this lens is equivalent to 75mm on a 35mm camera, making it ideal for close-up portraits. Having said that, the Sony 50mm f/1.8 is sharp all the way to the corners, strong in low light with a maximum aperture of f/1.8, and comes with image stabilization. This lens is great for kids and people photos and is one of the best values of any Sony E-mount prime. You can even use it for macro photos—the lens isn’t built for that purpose, but its minimum focusing distance of just over a foot makes it a viable macro option.
See the Sony 50mm OSS
Category: Wide angle
35mm equivalent: 18mm
Weight: 9.2 oz.
What we like: Sharpness and low light performance.
What we don’t: Pricey for a prime lens.
With a focal length equivalent of 18mm, the Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 is for serious wide-angle photographers. For those who don’t know, Zeiss makes some of the premier glass on the planet both for consumer and industrial use, , and the company’s lenses are extremely popular among photograph enthusiasts. The Touit 12mm f/2.8 offers better low light performance than the Sony 10-18mm f/4 above by a full stop, excellent sharpness, minimal distortion, and superb color rendition. Keep in mind that 18mm is fairly wide, so if you’re not a wide-angle specialist, it may make more sense to go with the Sony 10-18mm or a zoom like the Sony 16-70mm above.
See the Zeiss Touit 12mm
Category: Wide angle
35mm equivalent: 28.5mm
Weight: 4.9 oz.
What we like: A great value at under $200.
What we don’t: Not as compact as the Sony 20mm f/2.8.
You have two lens options in this focal length range: the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 and the Sony 20mm f/2.8. Both lenses are lightweight, sharp, focus quickly, and have the same maximum aperture. We prefer the Sigma simply because it’s about $150 cheaper. The ridiculously low profile of the Sony 20mm is nice—it's less than 1-inch thick and only 2.3 ounces in weight—but the Sigma is no slouch at 1.8 inches and 4.9 ounces. If the physical difference is important to you, grab the Sony. Otherwise, the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 is a better value.
See the Sigma 19mm
35mm equivalent: 90mm
Weight: 6.5 oz.
What we like: One of the sharpest lenses on this list.
What we don’t: No image stabilization.
With impressive optical performance and a relatively low price tag, there’s not much to dislike about the Sigma 60mm f/2.8. This lens is best suited for close-up portraits with a focal equivalent of 90mm, and does everything relatively well. It’s sharp, focuses quickly, and can produce a shallow depth of field and good bokeh. One consideration is that the lens does not have image stabilization, but you won’t need it too often with a maximum aperture of f/2.8.
See the Sigma 60mm
35mm equivalent: 36mm
Weight: 7.9 oz.
What we like: Exceptional image quality.
What we don’t: No image stabilization.
The Sony Vario-Tessar 16-70mm above may be more versatile, but if you want top-notch image quality at a 35mm equivalent focal length, the 24mm f/1.8 Zeiss Sonnar is one the best E-mount lenses on the market. It’s tack sharp, great in low light, focuses quickly, and produces impressive bokeh. Nearly $1,000 is a lot to spend on a prime lens, but if 35mm is your focal length of choice (it’s perfect for street photography and travel) this lens is well worth considering.
See the Sony 24mm
- Crop Factor and Focal Length Equivalent
- OSS Image Stabilization
- FE-Mount Lenses on E-Mount Cameras
Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras have a 1.5x crop factor, meaning that a 50mm lens will behave like a 75mm lens would on a 35mm camera. The history behind crop factor is long, but what you need to know is that lens focal lengths are described using 35mm film as the reference point. Because the image sensors on Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras are 1.5 times smaller than a 35mm camera, you multiply the listed focal length of the lens by 1.5 to determine its equivalent.
If you are an experienced photographer or have used a full-frame camera before, crop factor can be very helpful in choosing lenses. For example, the Sony 10-18mm wide-angle lens is equivalent to 15-27mm, which actually is much more useful than the listed range (10-18mm would be ultrawide on a 35mm camera). Because of the importance of focal length equivalent in choosing lenses, we’ve provided it both in the product specs and our lens comparison table.
Many of Sony’s E-mount lenses have built-in Optical SteadyShot (OSS) image stabilization (you’ll notice the OSS moniker at the end of the lens name). This technology is similar to Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) and Canon’s Image Stabilization (IS) in that the lens itself helps to offset camera shake in subpar lighting conditions. Essentially, a floating element in the lens shifts according to movements, which can be particularly helpful when using bulky telephoto lenses. This differs from in-camera image stabilization, which occurs when the sensor itself undergoes a similar process. The new Sony a6500 currently is the only Sony E-mount camera to offer in-camera image stabilization (it’s also available on Sony’s full-frame a7 series).
OSS image stabilization is helpful in that it can help make certain tricky hand-held photos in low light possible. A tripod is the more surefire solution, but OSS definitely is an upside to any lens, and especially heavy models with long zoom ranges.
The truth is that the number of Sony E-mount lens choices is limited compared to Nikon’s DX or Canon’s EF-S collections. Accordingly, some people use an adapter for lenses they already own or even wish to buy. There is a range of adapters to choose from, including budget models that don’t connect well to the camera’s autofocus to pricier models that perform much closer to a native lens.
For example, for Canon EF-S to Sony E-mount, the Metabones Smart Adapter allows you to use your existing lenses with full functionality (or close to it). The much less expensive Fotodiox Lens Adapter works on Sony E-mount cameras but you can expect autofocus to be noticeably slower. Video and action shooters should beware when using cheap adapters as the autofocus speed likely will disappoint.
Given the cost and technical challenges of adapters, we tend to think of them more for full-frame cameras than APS-C cameras. First, the cost of the adapter is significant relative to the cost of the lenses (the Metabones adapter currently is more than $600, for example). And the weight and bulk of many DSLR lenses will be noticeable on Sony’s relatively small mirrorless camera lineup. Grab an adapter if you absolutely need it, but we prefer going with Sony’s native lenses or third-party models with E mounts.
Sony makes a number of FE-mount (full frame) lenses for its a7 series cameras. Are these lenses compatible on E-mount cameras without an adapter? The short answer is yes. Sony’s FE lenses are compatible on the E-mount cameras without an adapter. However, FE lenses are quite expensive and beyond the price range of many people who buy APS-C cameras. In addition, FE-mount lenses generally are heavier and bulker than E-mount lenses, which you’ll notice even more on compact and lightweight cameras like the a6500 and a6300. On full-frame cameras like the a7R II, Sony actually reinforced the lens mount, and those cameras were much larger to begin with.