Sony's A7 full-frame compact system cameras became an instant hit when they were launched back in 2013. However, a limiting factor of any star-quality system camera is the depth and breadth of lenses and accessories to back it up. Initially, the small selection of full-frame E-mount lenses gave a distinct lack of versatility, but it hasn't taken long for Sony to develop an enticing range of optics, many in partnership with the prestigious Zeiss brand, that enable the A7 to really take the fight to professional D-SLRs.
There are still a few holes in Sony's more specialist lens line-up. For example, there are no tilt and shift (perspective correction) or super-telephoto lenses. But for everything else, from wide, standard and tele zooms to high-class prime lenses, there's some seriously attractive glassware on offer, and here's our top picks right now. Keep in mind that these full-frame E-mount lenses can also be used on Sony's APS-C mirrorless models – we've put the effective focal lengths in brackets.
1. Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
This may only be a 'standard' zoom, but its quality is outstanding
Focal length: 24-70mm (APS-C: 36-105mm effective) | Aperture range: f/4 to f/22 | Autofocus motor: Linear stepping motor | Minimum focus distance: 0.4m | Maximum magnification factor: 0.2x | Image stabilizer: Yes | Dust/moisture resistant: Yes | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions: 73x95mm | Weight: 426g
Unlike most up-market zoom lenses for D-SLRs, this one has a widest available aperture of f/4 rather than f/2.8, which helps to make its size and weight a better match for the comparatively small A7 series bodies. As with most Zeiss-badged optics, the physical design looks minimalist, without any switches for auto/manual focus modes or on/of for the OSS (Optical SteadyShot) stabilizer. Even so, the metal lens barrels feel beautifully engineered and the build is dust/moisture resistant. Sharpness is good and very consistent throughout the zoom and aperture ranges although, like with the Sony 16-35mm lens in this list, the corners become a little soft at longer zoom settings. Colour fringing and vignetting are quite well controlled but distortion switches between fairly heavy amounts of barrel and pincushion as you extend through the zoom range. An A7 bonus is that automatic in-camera distortion corrections are available.
2. Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS
A high-quality telephoto zoom, ideal for action sports and wildlife
Focal length: 70-200mm (APS-C: 105-300mm effective) | Aperture range: f/4 to f/22 | Autofocus motor: Dual linear stepping motor | Minimum focus distance: 1-1.35m | Maximum magnification factor: 0.13x | Image stabilizer: Yes | Dust/moisture resistant: Yes | Filter thread: 72mm | Dimensions: 80x175mm | Weight: 840g
The no-nonsense design of many Sony E-mount lenses results in no on-board switches whatsoever, but the 70-200mm looks a more complex and sophisticated beast. Two rear-mounted OSS (Optical SteadyShot) stabilization switches select on/off and static/panning modes. A further two switches are on hand for auto/manual focus modes, and to lock out the close autofocus range below three metres. Unusually for this class of 70-200mm f/4 lens, there's also a set of three focus-hold buttons towards the front of the lens, plus a tripod mounting collar. The optical path includes plenty of premium glass, plus Sony's Nano AR Coatings. Sharpness and contrast are generally very good, although extreme edge and corner-sharpness drops off at 70mm when using an aperture of f/4, and at 200mm throughout the aperture range. Ultimately, this lens is a highly competent telephoto zoom with excellent handling.
3. Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS
This extra-wide zoom really takes the blinkers off A7 series photography
Focal length: 16-35mm (APS-C: 24-52.5mm effective) | Aperture range: f/4 to f/22 | Autofocus motor: Dual linear stepping motor | Minimum focus distance: 0.28m | Maximum magnification factor: 0.19x | Image stabilizer: Yes | Dust/moisture resistant: Yes | Filter thread: 72mm | Dimensions: 78x99mm | Weight: 518g
A big bruiser of an ultra-wide zoom, this lens boasts a large AA (Advanced Aspherical) element at the front, four further aspherical elements and three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements. It also gives you amazingly wide viewing angles at the shorter end of its zoom range, boosting the abilities of A7 series cameras for interiors and landscapes, and for exaggerating perspective. Autofocus is fairly quick and virtually silent, while the zoom and fly-by-wire focus rings offer smooth-action precision. Centre-sharpness is very good throughout the zoom and aperture ranges, although corner-sharpness drops off a fair bit between focal lengths of 28mm and 35mm, even when narrowing the aperture. The Zeiss T* coatings do their typically effective job of minimising ghosting and flare.
4. Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA
A small, simple yet highly effective standard prime lens
Focal length: 55mm (APS-C: 82.5mm effective) | Aperture range: f/1.8 to f/22 | Autofocus motor: Linear stepping motor | Minimum focus distance: 0.5m | Maximum magnification factor: 0.14x | Image stabilizer: No | Dust/moisture resistant: Yes | Filter thread: 49mm | Dimensions: 64x71mm | Weight: 281g
Based on Zeiss's Sonnar rather than Distagon design style, this lens is all about lightweight simplicity. Even so, it's beautifully built with the usual elegant look and feel to its metal body. It's great for half-length or full-length portraits, giving a fairly tight depth of field and pleasantly soft bokeh (quality of defocussed areas). It also makes a smart standard prime for everyday shooting, with wide apertures enabling fast shutter speeds in low lighting conditions. Centre-sharpness is generally very good indeed, although it does drop off a little at f/1.8. Corner-sharpness is less impressive, especially in the aperture range of f/1.8 to f/5.6, where it's below average for a standard prime lens. There's very little colour fringing, while distortion is practically non-existent. Overall, it's an ideal everyday standard prime that's well suited to a wide range of shooting scenarios.
5. Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS
Big-up the little things in life with this macro lens
Focal length: 90mm (APS-C: 135mm effective) | Aperture range: f/2.8 to f/22 | Autofocus motor: Direct Drive SuperSonic | Minimum focus distance: 0.28m | Maximum magnification factor: 1.0x | Image stabilizer: Yes | Dust/moisture resistant: Yes | Filter thread: 62mm | Dimensions: 79x131mm | Weight: 602g
At its closest focus distance, this 90mm lens gives full 1.0x macro reproduction, ideal for monstrous enlargements of tiny bugs and other small objects. Attractions include top-quality glass, quick and ultra-quiet autofocus, OSS (Optical SteadyShot) stabilization and a nicely rounded nine-blade diaphragm. Hands-on extras include an autofocus range limiter switch and a focus hold button. There's also a focus distance scale, although it's inactive during autofocus. A simple push-pull mechanism for the focus ring enables easy switching between auto and manual focus modes. Image quality and handling are excellent, and the lens isn't just a one-trick macro pony. The combination of a 90mm focal length and fairly fast f/2.8 aperture make the lens equally useful when you want to minimise depth of field for portraiture or still life, or you simply need the fastest possible shutter speed for freezing motion.
6. Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony's big new wide-boy comes up trumps
Focal length: 35mm (APS-C: 52.5mm effective) | Aperture range: f/1.4 to f/16 | Autofocus motor: Direct Drive SuperSonic | Minimum focus distance: 0.3m | Maximum magnification factor: 0.18x | Image stabilizer: No | Dust/moisture resistant: Yes | Filter thread: 72mm | Dimensions: 79x112mm | Weight: 630g
The first 35mm prime lens to be launched for full-frame E-mount bodies was the dinky little FE 35mm f/2.8, designed along Zeiss's Sonnar principles. The newer f/1.4 Distagon lens is massive by comparison, measuring 79x112mm and weighing 630g. However, it's two f-stops faster and has a much more sophisticated feature set. Unusually for an E-mount lens, there's a manual aperture ring. As a bonus, you can select one-third click steps or click-free rotation, the latter being ideal for shooting movies. Sharpness is exemplary, right across the whole image frame, chromatic aberration is only slight and barrel distortion is extremely low for a 35mm lens. It's arguably the best Sony prime lens for full-frame E-mount cameras to date, along with the more specialist 90mm macro lens.