As one of the early innovators in mirrorless camera technology, Sony has led the way with their E-mount cameras for over a decade. Early on, of course, there were not very many lenses natively available for the E-mount, either full-frame or APS-C crop. (More on this in a minute!) However, that has changed dramatically in recent years.
During the past decade, Sony has focused heavily on adding new optics and innovative technology to their lens lineup. As a result, Sony’s line of zoom lenses in particular rank among the best available for photographers today. In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the best Sony zoom lenses to help you find the best lens to fit your particular photography needs!
The Difference Between APS-C and FE Models
Before diving into our selections, it is important to note that Sony sells two types of mirrorless cameras, and with them, two types or formats of lenses. You have the FE E-mount lenses, which are made for full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras, and the “regular E” E-mount lenses, which are made for “Super 35” (APS-C crop sensor) Sony mirrorless cameras.
A full-frame Sony sensor is, in fact, approximately the size of a 35mm piece of film, whereas APSC sensors are smaller, and require a crop factor of 1.5X in order to relate any focal length to what it would appear as on full-frame.
The APS-C cameras and lenses are more often used by hobbyists, enthusiasts, travelers, or vloggers, but also by professional photographers in some cases as they are indeed highly capable.
That said, while both Sony E and FE models have lenses for wide-angle, standard, and telephoto zooms, professionals tend to gravitate toward full-frame sensors and lenses for higher resolutions and more flexibility in terms of focal lengths and shallow depth of field.
Of course, many photographers start with a crop-sensor camera and later upgrade to a full-frame camera. So, in other words, if you’re getting truly serious about photography while working with an APS-C camera, you might want to consider buying FE lenses since they will cover your image sensor. The opposite is not the case; if you mount an E (APS-C) lens on a full-frame (FE) camera, there will be black circles around the edges of your images unless you crop to Super-35 mode.
To help you with your selections, we’ve segmented the top three choices for both E and FE models. This way, whichever Sony camera body you’re using, or hoping to own one day, you can find which lens suits your camera mount and your photography style best!
Zoom Lenses for Sony APS-C
When you purchase a camera with bundled lens, chances are your new lens is a standard zoom. A standard zoom is capable of capturing a moderate wide-angle view when zoomed out and enough capacity when zooming in for a portrait.
If you bought an APS-C model, your camera bundle may come with a compact 16-50mm retractable lens or the 18-135mm lens that provides a longer zoom ratio. Whatever the case may be, if you’re looking for an upgrade, here are some options you should consider.
When it comes to the best Sony zoom lenses, you’ll notice that some of their offerings have the letter “G” embedded in their name. The reason for this is because Sony’s G series are considered to carry its mark of outstanding image quality and superior build. The absolute top-of-the-line belongs to the full-frame G Master series; unfortunately there are currently no APS-C lenses with “GM” on them.
The Sony E 16-55mm is certainly a GM-level, professional lens with a constant f/2.8 aperture and amazing overall performance. The build quality is rock-solid, though not all-metal, and fully weather-sealed.
- Professional, GM-grade zoom in a compact G lens
- Perfect APS-C equivalent to the popular 24-70mm on full-frame
- Fluorine optical coating
- Weather-proof with dust and splash protection
- Quick and quiet autofocus
- Not optically stabilized
- Utilizes profile corrections to eliminate distortion
- Expensive “almost GM” price tag
For those who want a greater zoom range and stabilization, you can achieve that by sacrificing just one millimeter off the wide-angle end, and choosing the impressive Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8.
This is truly a flagship APS-C lens for Sony, with its constant f/2.8 aperture that offers one of the most impressive magnifications of any f/2.8 zoom ever made. Optically, it is going to provide beautiful images with professional image quality, and the VC stabilization ensures more “keeper” images, especially at 70mm in low lighting.
Physically, despite its minimalistic design and polycarbonate body construction, this lens is sturdy and fully weather-sealed.
- Professional f/2.8 aperture
- Impressive, unprecedented zoom range
- Excellent optical image quality
- Weather-proof with dust and splash protection
- Quick and quiet autofocus
- Relatively affordable (especially compared to full-frame and name-brand equivalents)
- Minimal physical controls (no AF/MF switch, no VC stabilization switch)
- Utilizes profile corrections to eliminate distortion & correct vignetting
Although this lens is a little expensive for a varialbe-aperture “kit” zoom, this reasonably-sized zoom with a rather wide range (Equivalent to ~28-200mm on full-frame) is one of the best that Sony has to offer.
It is relatively solidly built; though it may not be flagship quality, it is far more sturdy than entry-level options.
In terms of performance, this lens offers stabilization, a very wide zoom range, and surprisingly sharp images. Whether you’re capturing memories of a summer vacation or photographing a subject on the street, this lens has got you covered.
- Sharp image quality
- Minimal distortion and vignette
- 1:3:4 magnification
- 5x zoom power
- Great optical stabilization
- Dim, variable aperture
- Does not provide as wide-angle of a view as other options
- Not waterproof
- No dust protection
An impressive telephoto optic that offers considerable zoom range, especially when you remember to multiply its focal length by 1.5x to perceive its equivalent to full-frame. (In other words, this gives a viewing angle similar to a 105-525mm!)
This lens is both is a compact and heavy-duty lens that will get the job done. This lens is designed for APS-C models (such as the Alpha 5000) can also work for the full-frame, Alpha 7 and 7R.
This lens delivers a constant f/4 aperture, optical stabilization, and a 4.4x zoom that is impressive enough to use for daily photography, outdoor shoots, travel vlogs, and more personal use.
- Amazing optical stabilization
- Sturdy build with integrated hood
- Sharp images throughout the zoom range
- 4x zoom ratio
- Visible softness at edges
- Minimal distortion
Standard Zoom Lenses for Sony Full-Frame Mount
Most of Sony’s full-frame camera offerings don’t include a lens upon purchase. If you want to get started, you’ll need to discover what type of photography you’re going to embark on and start your research from that point.
If you’re looking to capture photographs and videos that range from portraits, landscapes, videos of professional quality, standard zoom lenses are the way to go. Here are some of our top picks.
This revolutionary lens is part of the top-tier G Master (GM) lens series. When it comes to photo quality, the Sony FE 24-70mm offers vivid and sharp images that professionals will love. Plus, its constant f/2.8 aperture is very beneficial for professional photographers who cover events such as weddings or celebrations in low light conditions.
When it comes to build, this lens is housed in a metal and polycarbonate barrel with full weather sealing. In addition, it has an integrated reversible lens hood with rubberized focus and zoom rings.
- Very sharp images
- Wide aperture f/2.8
- Solid build quality and weather-sealed
- Visible distortion
- No image stabilization
If you’re looking for a little bit more than a 24-70mm focal range, the 24-105mm zoom range is highly popular. One of the great things about this Sony lens is that it provides amazing image quality, on par with GM lenses, with a “G-series price tag”.
This lens is perfect for event photographers who shoot with more available light (as opposed to dimly lit indoor conditions), or of course outdoor landscape adventures, travel, or simply everyday casual day photography.
The in-body stabilization will keep both your photos and video footage sharp and crisp. Its lightweight body is made up of a polycarbonate barrel with textured rubber on the manual focus rings and zoom controls, and there are both autofocus and stabilization switches, plus a focus lock button.
- 4x zoom range
- Fast focus
- Built-in stabilization
- Constant maximum aperture
- Compact and lightweight
- Splash and dust protection
- Noticeable dim corners (when image correction is off)
- Visible edge softness (when shooting at wider angles)
- Slightly expensive (For an f/4 “kit” lens)
If you’re on the search for a budget-friendly, versatile and high-performing lens, the Sigma 24-70mm is a great selection. It delivers astounding sharpness, improved color accuracy, and clarity that can compare with Sony’s lenses, and it offers the coveted, fast f/2.8 aperture!
This lens works well with capturing images with natural lighting plus, you can exercise control over photo depth. When it comes to build, you’ll notice the brass mounting plate and the rubberized hood. It is also weather-sealed, making it a durable companion against rain and moisture.
- Super-fast and silent autofocus
- High-tech optical design
- Durable and superb build
- Pro-grade handling
- Heavy for standard zoom
- Noticeable distortion and vignetting without correction
RELATED READ: Is Sony’s E-Mount “Too Small”?
Wide Zoom Lenses for Sony Full-Frame Mount
Whether you are a professional landscape photographer or are someone who is seriously dedicated to capturing breathtaking scenes on various travels, a wide-angle zoom lens is ideal for your photography style!
With the help of a wide zoom lens, you can photograph more of the surrounding environment and choose from the variety of framing options that just aren’t possible with, and shockingly different from, most “normal” lenses. Here are our top choices for wide zoom lenses suitable for your full-frame Sony mount.
Capturing ultra-wide scenes such as vast landscapes or the night sky, without sacrificing their quality, can be overwhelming or impossible without the right tool. With the help of a Sony FE 12-24mm, details are never compromised. Even on high-resolution Sony sensors, you’ll be stunned by the sharpness (and unique perspective) that it provides.
The lens features an array of advanced optical designs that includes aspherical, XA, super ED, and ED elements. All of these are integrated to deliver accurate rendering, astounding sharpness, and amazing color accuracy.
- Vivid colors, sharp images
- Ultra-wide maximum viewing angle
- Robust build and weather-resistant
- Flourine coating for moisture protection
- Impeccable handling
- Hood isn’t removable
- Enormous, heavy
Carrying a heavy lens may not prove to be a great feat for professional photographers who like to move from one place to another. The good thing is, the Sigma 14-24mm is much smaller and lighter than most other ultra-wide zoom lenses, especially those that go wider than 16-17mm. Despite its relatively light weight and decently portable size, this lens delivers an incredibly wide field of view.
It features a brand-new optical design (totally different from the DSLR-made Sigma 14-24 HSM) that delivers stunning sharpness and other aspects of image quality.
- Super-fast and precise focus
- Lightweight and compact structure
- Weather, dust, and moisture-resistant
- No stabilization
- Omits filter threads
- Faint distortion and vignetting (using the profile will eliminate this!)
If you are an event photographer who deals with low-light or artificial lighting, the Sony FE 16-35mm lens will help you capture wonderful memories at both ultra-wide and medium-wide focal lengths, with its extension to the very popular focal length of 35mm.
Image quality is excellent throughout the zoom range, though mostly in the central part of the image frame.
In terms of features, its optical design incorporates two extra-low dispersion, two XA, and three aspherical elements to reduce chromatic aberrations and control spherical aberrations.
- Versatile wide-angle coverage
- Quick autofocus
- Crisp, sharp images
- Fixed f/2.8 aperture
- Dust and moisture resistant
- Focus hold button
- Edge softness at 35mm zoom angle
- Faint distortion
- Omits in-lens stabilization
- Dim corners (vignetting) at f/2.8
Telephoto Zoom Lens for Sony Full-Frame Mount
Professional photographers love working with telephoto lenses. After all, it helps elevate your photography both creatively and technically. However, there are more reasons why both professionals and aspirants love fiddling with a telephoto zoom lens.
With the help of a high-performance telephoto zoom lens, a photographer can create a dramatic effect through the subject’s relationship to its background. Furthermore, it improves the quality of portraits and emphasizes the dramatic blur of backgrounds. As such, a photographer can exercise the limits of his creativity to the fullest!
This brand-new optic belongs to the G Master lens series which indicates it is a true-professional grade zoom. Portrait, close-range sports, wildlife, and events photographers will surely delight themselves with this workhorse of a lens.
With its optical image stabilization, focus limiter and stabilization mode switches, focus hold buttons, aperture dial, and tripod collar, …this lens is built to deliver vivid, crisp, and sharp images in the most demanding conditions!
When it comes to build, you can expect nothing but the best quality. Its metal barrel is built for heavy-duty use and is finished in white (a common color choice for premium telezoom lenses). Of course, it is fully weather-sealed against moisture and other external elements.
- Astounding image sharpness in the image center
- Optical image stabilization
- Internal zoom
- Bright, constant f/2.8 aperture
- Rotating tripod collar and removable foot
- Teleconverter compatibility
- Heavy-duty construction
- Shows some distortion and other image quality issues in image corners
Another lens that is a contender to the telephoto zoom lineup is Sony FE 100-400mm. It is a member of the G Master lens and lives up to expectations with its array of features. It is regarded as one of the longest FE lenses available in the market right now and delivers amazing sharpness, astounding resolution, and amazing sharpness. This lens integrates two ED elements, Nano AR coating, and one super ED element.
What’s more, this lens is equipped with a Direct Drive SSM autofocus system as Optical SteadyShot image stabilization for outstanding performance at varying focal lengths. When it comes to build quality, this lens is known for its lightweight and compact design, at least for a flagship-grade optic. It is reliable, sturdy, and weather-resistant.
- In-lens stabilization
- Amazing telephoto zoom range
- Adjustable zoom tension
- Focus hold and limit tension
- Removable tripod foot
- Teleconverter compatibility
- Dim corners when shot wide open
- Does not deliver the brightest aperture
If you’re looking for a lens that doesn’t break your wallet (or your back) and offers an impressive telephoto zoom range in a compact package, the Tamron 70-300mm is a good option. This lens is ideal for any type of photography where you don’t want to compromise on image quality, yet you might be interested in saving a lot of space and weight in your camera bag. This lens is truly tiny!
When it comes to performance, its optical design offers impressive sharpness (and other aspects of image quality) throughout the entire zoom range.
Unfortunately, this lens lacks optical stabilization, which is a drawback especially at the telephoto end where the aperture is a relatively dark f/6.3, and where optical stabilization would be much more useful than sensor-based stabilization or IBIS.
- Useful zoom range
- Sharp, high-quality images
- Weather-resistant build
- Incredibly compact
- Missing optical stabilization
Conclusion | Best Sony Mirrorless Zoom Lenses
The future of photography continues to evolve, and we couldn’t be more excited to discover what’s in store! Whether you are engaged in wedding and portrait photography, wildlife, or landscape photography, there’s a Sony zoom lens that’s perfect for you.
Always keep in mind, of course, that you may want to “future proof” your investment by shopping for full-frame lenses, but at the same time, don’t buy a lens that is just too big and heavy for personal style as an artist!
We hope that our selections above help you make one of the greatest investments you’ll make in photography. If you have a favorite that didn’t make the list, share it with us in the comments below!