Many years ago (and I mean many many years ago) I owned a Sony NEX. That was the extent of my knowledge of the Sony E-mount. So when I got my hands on the Sony a7iii, I had much to learn. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t do the due diligence and I ended buying an APS-C lens (Sony Sonnar T* E 24mm f/1.8 ZA) for my full frame Sony a7iii.
Most. Expensive. Crop lens. Ever.
*cue slow clap*
To give you a helping hand and to hopefully steer you away from making the same $898 mistake, I am sharing the lens research that I went through when I was considering which lenses to buy for my Sony a7iii.
7 Best All-Purpose Sony Lenses
These, in my humble opinion, are the 7 best all purpose Sony lenses for your Sony Alpha full frame mirrorless camera (A7, A7ii, a7iii, a7R,, a7Rii, a7Riii, a7S, a7Si, a7Sii, a9):
- Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS
- Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Dii III RXD
- ZEISS Batis 25mm f/2
- Sony FE 28mm f/2
- Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM
- Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
- Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA
And here are my reasons why each of these 7 lenses made were included as the best all purpose Sony lenses – let me address each lens one by one.
Note – these are all based on personal opinion. Take it as you would with anything you come across on the Internet – with a truckload of salt.
Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS
I didn’t like this lens when I first got it.
It was sharp. It was quick to focus. It had great focal range coverage. But looking at the images on the rear screen of my Sony a7iii, I was left wanting more.
Then I realized, this was not an issue with the lens itself but rather, how Sony glass is in general.
You see, I was used to seeing a lot of contrast from my images. I typically photograph with a lot of Sigma Art primes with my Nikon D750. I wasn’t seeing the same level of contrast with the images produced with the 24-105G. Or perhaps, I wasn’t used to seeing images that weren’t shot with a wide aperture?
A few months later, I really enjoy using this lens – not so much for photography (I prefer using my existing Nikon gear for stills) but 100% for video work.
The range is so useful! Having 24mm and 105mm in one lens makes the 24-105G the ideal lens for run-and-gun situations. The OSS works great with the a7iii 5-axis IBIS such that I will deliberately handhold for video recording as opposed to using a monopod and/or gimbal.
The 24-105G focuses fast. It does so silently and ever so accurately.
What more could you ask of a lens?
But it is f/4 only!
Look, not everything has to be photographed with a shallow depth of field. And if you are someone who doesn’t need to have everything in the background blurred out, f/4 is not a bad compromise. Given how well the Sony a7iii performs at high to extremely high ISO ranges (6400-12800) and the fact that this lens with the camera can achieve focus quickly, low light situations are no longer an issue.
Many other people agree with my assessment as this lens is impossible to find in stock at the time of writing (late August 2018).
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Dii III XRD
This lens just makes sense as the perfect all-rounder. Essentially, if you had to pack one lens with your Sony a7iii on a holiday, this would be that lens. Wide enough for landscapes and long enough for portraits with bokeh.
I have owned the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 on both Canon and Nikon mounts. Truth be told, I have never liked them. I bought them because it was significantly cheaper than the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L or Nikon 24-70 f/2.8.
I also had a weird issue with the EF/F-mount Tamron 28-75mm lenses where the image stabilisation would interfere with the DSLR mirror slap, thus resulting in a distorted image output. It was weird and weirder still, I saw the same issue across two different mounts.
Anyways … the good news for you is that the Sony FE mount Tamron 28-85mm f/2.8 Dii III XRD does not have inbuilt stabilisation. It did however have an initial issue upon release but Tamron quickly acknowledged the issue and made a firmware patch to address the problem.
Cheaper by $1,400, the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 is a worthy alternative to the $2,200 Sony FE 24-70mm f.2.8 GM. And when compared to the 24-105G, the wider f/2.8 aperture can make a huge difference when photographing and/or filming in low light environments.
Are you likely to miss the 4mm towards the wide end of the lens? Probably not.
ZEISS Batis 25mm f/2
Zeiss glass has a reputation for extremely sharp optics – even all the way to the corners. And the ZEISS Batis 25mm f/2 does not disappoint.
It has super fast autofocus, incredible color rendition, has little distortion that is super easy to correct in LR/PS, and did I mention that it is extremely sharp – even all the way to the corners of each frame? Yeah, I think I mentioned that already.
The 25mm focal length makes it a wide angle lens, but not overly wide that you cannot use it for environmental portraits.
If you enjoy street photography, I think the ZEISS Batis 25mm f/2 is a good lens to consider. Personally, I don’t own this lens because I find anything wider than 30mm to a bit too wide for the stories I like to tell. And that one time I actually wanted a fast wide prime, I bought a crop lens ..
Extremely sharp optics does come with a hefty price tag though and that is why #4 is a more economical recommendation.
Sony FE 28mm f/2
This is the lens I should have bought instead of the Sony Sonnar T* E 24mm f/1.8 ZA. When paired with the Sony 21mm Ultra-Wide conversion lens (SEL075UWC), it transforms into a FE 21mm f/2.8.
Without a doubt, the ZEISS Batis 18mm f/2 and ZEISS Batis 25mm f/2 are the top of the range. But they come at a premium price tag. The Sony FE 28mm f/2 is a small and affordable alternative for your full frame Sony Alpha series.
It doesn’t have the metal build quality of the Batis but at a fraction of the price – it makes sense.
The Sony FE 28mm f/2 is one of the faster FE lenses. It will autofocus much quicker on the a7iii than on the older a7/a7rii models. On older models, autofocus speed and accuracy is significantly poorer in low light. But on the a7iii – even in low light, it shines.
Some people dislike cat eyes bokeh. I’m indifferent. From the sample images that I have look at, the bokeh looks pleasing for a wide angle lens.
For photographers who love backlit situations like me, the good news is that the Sony FE 28mm f/2 handles flare very well. And yes, distortion is prevalent as it is a wide angle lens. Correct it in post production! Easy fix.
At under $500, this is a fast and affordable prime lens you want in your kit.
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM
Ah the G-Master badge ($$$)
Imagine a list recommendation of all purpose Sony lenses if this gorgeous beauty were not included? It would be blasphemous!
But why does it sit at a low #5 when image quality, autofocus speed, autofocus accuracy, and build quality are all 5-starts?
Mainly due to its price tag. And let’s remember, this is a very subjective list based purely on my personal opinion.
Comparing the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Dii III XRD is similar to comparing a Toyota Camry with a Mercedes C63 AMG. Both are vehicles that will take you from A to B, both vehicles have the essential features, and both models can travel at speeds above 80mph. But similar to the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and the Tamron 28-75mm Dii III XRD, the reasons why someone buys a Camry versus a C63 AMG are vastly different.
If price is not an issue, you should consider the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. I don’t see how this lens could possibly disappoint you. It does everything a fast 24-70mm zoom lens should. Some reviews have made the weight of the lens as a negative – this doesn’t phase me one bit.
But personally, I’d pick up the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Dii III XRD and use the price difference to buy more gear.
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
I think I’m more of a 50mm guy as a walk around lens but I am probably in the minority, hence why I have chosen to include the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art as one of the 7 best all purpose lenses for your full frame Sony Alpha camera.
I have always loved the build quality and optical quality that the Art series has delivered, on Nikon and on Canon formats.
And luckily for you, the Sony FE version is no different.
Fast aperture for extreme bokeh and subject separation and fast autofocus – it is a photographer’s wet dream.
However, for movie recording using AF-C, I would stick to a native Sony FE lens instead (#4 – Sony FE 28mm f/2) for best communication between lens and camera and silent autofocusing.
Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
Nobody seems to mention this lens for some reason. I didn’t even know it existed until I started doing research for this blog post.
I did some digging around and the reviews were interesting to say the least. Owners either hated the lens or loved it. Let me explain.
The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS is not the sharpest of zoom lens. True to its focal length, it is an all-purpose lens that leans more towards a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none. Whilst it focuses quickly, the sharpness is nothing to write about and the bokeh left a lot to be desired. Stopping the lens down did not yield sharper images. Reviews indicated that the corners were noticeably soft at 24mm but got better between 35mm and 50mm. However, towards the tele end (70mm), once again, centre sharpness was decent enough but the soft corners were back, even softer than at 24mm.
But here’s the thing (and why the Sony T* 24-70mm f/4 OSS made it onto this list of best all-purposes Sony lenses), it is actually a solid lens. Not the best by a long shot but for an all-rounder, it ticks all the boxes.
If you are someone who prefers native Sony lenses but don’t want to fork out for the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS or the considerably pricier Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM, then the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS is a good all purpose lens to carry around with you.
Personally, I’d pick the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Dii III XRD for its bargain price, faster aperture, and overall sharpness at all focal lengths.