Best of 2016: Sony Lenses


As a user of full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras, I was extremely happy with the batch of lenses the company released this year. It included a brand new G Master line that promises superb image quality; a trio of 50mm lenses each with its own unique flavor; and a great, compact telephoto zoom. Let’s take a closer look.

G Masters Lead the Way

The earliest and most exciting lenses of the year are undoubtedly the G Masters. Targeting the professional market, these dust- and moisture-resistant lenses aim to deliver high-quality images with high sharpness and smooth bokeh. This is done through a completely redesigned testing process from Sony and the use of a new extremely aspherical (XA) element to minimize aberrations.

My favorite of the bunch is the FE 85mm f/1.4 GM, the definitive portrait-length prime for the E-mount system. It is tack sharp, even wide open, has the super-shallow depth of field portrait shooters crave, and renders beautiful colors. It also features a programmable focus hold button and a manual aperture ring that can be de-clicked for video. An eleven-blade circular diaphragm further enhances the lens’s performance by almost guaranteeing smooth, round bokeh.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Lens

Moving onto the zooms, we have the highly-anticipated FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM, the new mid-range zoom. Professionals have been begging for f/2.8 zooms since about the time the first a7 cameras were released, and now they are finally here. The 24-70mm is designed to be a workhorse lens, and is outstanding optically. A Direct Drive SSM AF motor provides fast focusing while a hefty rubberized lens ring makes it feel good in the hand. If you want to know more, you can read our hands-on review of the 24-70mm and 85mm lenses, Sony 85mm + 24-70mm G Master Lenses Deliver Superb IQ.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens

The last of the G Masters to finally make it into the hands of shooters is the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS. The definitive 70-200mm for E-mount shooters, this lens offers a fast f/2.8 constant aperture, uses the latest optical technologies includes XA, aspherical, and ED elements, a fluorine coating, and a linear SSM focusing system. Optical SteadyShot compensates for camera shake, and it is compatible with the FE 1.4x and 2x teleconverters for creating a 98-280mm f/4 or 140-400mm f/5.6 optic.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens

A Trio of 50s

After going for years with just a 55mm sitting in the “normal” range, Sony has almost flooded the 50mm range this year with a budget FE 50mm f/1.8, a specialized FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro, and the high-end Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA, made in collaboration with Zeiss.

The first real full-frame E-mount 50mm was the nifty f/1.8 model. This compact lens is affordable and uses a tried-and-true design to provide outstanding optical performance. A very reliable lens, providing the “normal” perspective for which 50mm lenses are loved, this is a great first prime for anyone looking to upgrade from the standard kit zoom.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 Lens

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the Sony/Zeiss 50mm f/1.4. As we have come to expect from lenses badged with Zeiss’s logo, this lens is designed to be the flagship 50mm of the system. It has a fast f/1.4 maximum aperture for shallow depth of field and uses aspherical and low-dispersion glass to ensure optimal image quality. It also benefits from Zeiss’s T* anti-reflective coating and uses a ring-drive SSM AF motor. Along with all of this, it offers a physical aperture ring that can be de-clicked, dust- and moisture-resistant construction, and an eleven-blade circular diaphragm.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens

For the specialist of the group, we have the FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro, which offers life-size 1:1 magnification. If you like getting close to your subjects, this is the lens to get. It lets you focus as close as 6.3", meaning you can get mouth-watering shots of your food or stunning pictures of the butterfly that keeps visiting your garden. It is also very compact and features both a focus range limiter and focus hold button to improve your close-up focusing abilities.

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

Compact Telephoto Zoom

Sony’s full-frame E-mount line received a bit of extra reach this year, with the release of the FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS. This lens is compact, considering its range, and uses aspherical and low-dispersion glass to maximize image quality. A member of Sony’s G series, this lens is designed to create sharp, aberration-free imagery. It also uses an Optical SteadyShot system to stabilize your shots. Furthermore, it has a linear actual AF motor that is fast and quiet for use during stills and video.

Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS Lens

Have any favorite Sony lenses? Tell us about them in the Comments section, below.


Has anyone tried the a6500 with the adapter and the Sony 70-400mm lens?  If so, is it a good combo?

What is the lens in the first picture of this article (guy using a tripod)?

Thank you

 . . forgot to mention; one detail which I especially adore with the 90 macro, is something Sony nicked from Tamron; if you pull the focus ring toward you it switches from AF to MF, and, of course, vice versa. Slightly less contrast than the Zeiss Makro Planar, and f 2,8 instead of 2,0 , but the sharpness  matches the Zeiss with good measure.

Slightly surprised that you ignore the 90 macro. Works extremely well with the A6300, and is crisp as a razor. It is marked with a G, but I'm slightly confused; it is maybe not a G master? Does Sony differentiate betwen G and G Master?


Hello Odd,

These are all lenses that came out in 2016. The 90 Macro, while a spectacular lens and one of my personal favorites for my a7R II, didn't come out this year. Also, it is not technically a G Master, just a G lens. The G lens was Sony's original high-end lens range, but the G Masters sit slightly above them thanks to new technology and requirements. Both ranges are quite excellent.

Yes, Sony differentiates between G and G Master. G existed for many years, starting in A-mount lenses. G Master is for FE-mount, and is their professional branding.

The 90mm macro is a great lens, but I believe it was introduced in 2015.

Going for a mount and e mount lenses is a strange strategy, and not very good for people who have invested in the a mount system.  I have a series of a mount lenses, including the excellent 80-400mm, and hope Sony will remain comitted to the a mount system, especially in DX.  When will the successor of the a 77 m2 come out/  Will this be a worthwhile competitor to the Nikon D500 ?

Sony never made an 80-400mm.

Given that the a77ii just came out last year, it will probably not be soon for a successor.