Best lenses for Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras

For each of the categories below the winner was the lens which we found to offer the best combination of quality and value. We've also provided a more costly option for those with more to spend and, in some cases, a budget option.

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Best kit lens replacement

Standard (kit) zooms are just what they sound like - versatile, general-purpose lenses that start with a fairly wide angle of view and allow you to zoom in to a focal length traditionally used for portraits.

Our pick: Sony E 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 OSS

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The 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 OSS offers a significant boost in both 'reach' and image quality over both the 18-55mm and 16-50mm power zoom kit lenses. The lens is quite compact given its focal length, especially compared to its Nikon and Canon peers. While its maximum aperture is the same as both of the kit lenses, the 18-135's superior optics will produce sharper photos.

Also consider:

Money no object:
Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS

The Sony/Zeiss 16-70mm is an significant optical upgrade over either of Sony's kit zooms. It's well built and gives a well-proportioned combination with most Sony camera bodies.

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Best prime / single focal length lens

Prime lenses are just a single focal length; removing the complexity of a zoom often allows for these lenses to be smaller, lighter and sharper, while letting more light through and being more useful in dimly lit situations.

Our pick: Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN | C

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The 30mm F1.4 is the middle of a trio of well-priced fast prime lenses that works well on Sony's APS-C cameras. The 30mm lens is neither too wide-angle nor too telephoto, making it a good all-rounder. The F1.4 maximum aperture is great for low light work and for giving some control over depth-of-field.

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Money no object:
Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA

The Sony/Zeiss 24mm gives the hugely flexible 36mm equivalent field-of-view. The F1.8 maximum aperture is good in low light and can give some shallow depth-of-field.

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Best wide-angle zoom lens

Wide-angle lenses are often useful for taking photos of interiors, landscapes and architecture.

Our pick: Sony E 10-18mm F4 OSS

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The Sony 10-18mm F4 is a small wide-angle lens that pairs well with Sony's APS-C cameras. The provision of a constant F4 aperture and optical image stabilization go towards justifying its price.

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Money no object:
Sony FE 12-24mm F4 G

The 12-24mm is designed for full-frame cameras, so it doesn't go as wide as the 10-18mm. That said, optical performance within its range is very impressive.

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Best telephoto zoom lens

Telephoto lenses start out being fairly zoomed-in, and allow you to zoom in further so you can fill your frame with more distant subjects.

Our pick: Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS

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The 55-210mm is comparatively inexpensive way to add a lot of 'reach' to your Sony E-series camera. It's reasonably light but its F4.5-6.3 maximum aperture isn't going to be especially handy as light levels drop.

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Money no object:
Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS

The 70-200mm F4 is a significant step up from the 55-210mm, in terms of speed and image quality. It's a fast-focusing lens that lends itself to some sports shooting, without the weight or cost of a constant F2.8.

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Best portrait lens

Whether you're taking informal headshots or making a living shooting weddings, a fast prime, medium focal length lens is a must-have.

Our pick: Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN

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The Sigma 56mm F1.4 DC DN is a bright and affordable portrait lens for E-mount. It’s very sharp and has nice bokeh, making it something of a favorite in the DPR office. The Sony 55mm F1.8 is optically a touch better, and can be used on full-frame (albeit for a different purpose), but is less bright and significantly more expensive.

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Best value:
Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS

While the cheaper FE 50mm F1.8 lens is available, but we prefer the better-built, image stabilized 50mm F1.8 OSS. It’s APS-C only, so won’t suit anyone considering moving across to full-frame, but the inclusion of optical image stabilization might swing the decision.

An alternative:
Sony FE 85mm F1.8

The Sony FE 85mm F1.8 is comparatively affordable fast portrait prime. It offers a longer 128mm equivalent field-of-view on APS-C cameras, which some photographers prefer, particularly for tightly framed headshots. It’ll continue to work as a wider portrait prime if you switch to full-frame.

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Best macro lens

Macro lenses allow you to focus very close to small subjects, which is very handy for photographing flowers or bugs.

Our pick: Sony FE 50mm F2.8 Macro

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The Sony 50mm F2.8 Macro is optically superb. It's extremely sharp, and the 50mm focal length gives you a reasonable, albeit somewhat close, working distance. It's compact, light and affordable, so is our go-to choice for a macro lens for the system.

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Best value:
Sony E 30mm F3.5 Macro

The 30mm F3.5 provides the most cost-effective way of experimenting with Macro photography on the Sony E system. The short focal length means you have to get quite close to your subject, though.

Money no object:
Sony FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS

The 90mm F2.8 is an impressive, stabilized Macro lens. The longer focal length gives you a nice working distance, optical stabilization helps in handheld applications, and linear focusing makes manual focus easy.

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Best travel zoom lens

Telephoto lenses start out being fairly zoomed-in, and allow you to zoom in further so you can fill your frame with more distant subjects.

Our pick: Tamron 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 Di III VC

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Lenses with focal lengths around 18-200mm equiv. offer a tremendous degree of flexibility, from usefully wide-angle to impressively long reach. The compromise made to keep the lens small is a relatively small maximum aperture at the long end of the zoom. The Tamron version is the most cost-effective of these do-everything lenses.

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Money no object:
Sony E 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS

Sony sells several 18-200mm models, and It's the non-LE version that we think offers a little step up over the Tamron above.

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