Top Quality FE Lens Sets

I've now had several years experience with the Sony FE system, and with quite a few Sony FE cameras (mostly A7 Mark IV, A7R Mark IV, A1, and A9). I've also had a chance to use virtually all the Sony lenses and a number of third party ones, so it's time to start thinking about "rationalizing the bag." 

bythom sony lenses

Originally I started with an f/4 lens set (16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm). My rationale was basically buying into Sony's "smaller, lighter" suggestion. I was looking for a basic lens set that was compact and light for travel. Frankly, I've now abandoned that approach. First and foremost was that the 24-70mm f/4 lens is, well, quite a disappointment, particularly considering that Zeiss's name is on it. The old 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is in that disappointment category, too, so it can't sub in. The 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 is a mess of compromises. 

It wasn't until the 24-105mm f/4 came along that the mid-range got to be a reasonable, quality, travel choice for me. So for a three-zoom travel kit, here's where I am today (links are to my full reviews):

(Set cost: US$5500)

There's not a dud among those. All very compelling lenses. And if you don't need the longer telephoto range, just sub in the 70-200mm f/4, which is a very competent performer. Some of you might opt for the fast Tamron set, instead, but I don't like the transition points (28mm, 75mm). I also don't see the versatility in 28-75mm I do in 24-105mm, particularly considering just how good the 24-105mm lens really is. 

Technically, though, you're leaving a little bit on the table optically in return for some savings in size, weight. Plus, of course, you're not at f/2.8, which depending upon what you shoot, you may need. Thus, you probably want to know what I consider the "best" zoom set is. That would be a kit like this:

(Set cost: US$9500)

No questions in my mind that those make a high quality set that can go up against any other makers'. But you've upped the cost, size, and weight. Make sure you really need what these lenses deliver before jumping in fully. 

Lately, I've been considering the following bag:

(Set cost: US$8100 w/ f/4 wide)

That fits a little bit better with my regular types of photography (nature, wildlife, sports). As you'll see with the primes, below, I could also easily add one or two small primes for low light shooting to my basic f/4 travel bag, too. Note that some might sub in the very-good-but-not-excellent 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 at the long end.

What about primes, you ask? Well, here things get more interesting. I can vouch for the Sony 90mm f/2.8 as your macro choice. Nothing really beats it at the moment; the recent Sigma 70mm just doesn't have enough working distance for versatility, though it can match the acuity. You'll end up blocking more light from the subject at 1:1 with the Sigma.

From there you now have Samyang, Sigma, Sony, Tamron, and Zeiss primes to consider for the rest of your options. The two (mostly) overlooked bargains are the Samyang 35mm f/2.8 and the Sony 85mm f/1.8. Two excellent lenses at relatively low prices for what they are. Samyang has a similar 24mm f/2.8 that is also good, but Sony's recent additions to their lineup now give us a 24mm f/2.8G I like better.

Here's my current choice of primes:

  • Sony 14mm f/1.8G
  • Sony 24mm f/1.4GM
  • Samyang 35mm f2.8
  • Sony 50mm f/1.8
  • Sony 85mm f/1.8 
  • Sony 135mm f/1.8

Plenty of other options now exist, though, so take your time perusing the prime options.

Yes, quality lenses are expensive. When you're buying US$2000+ camera bodies (e.g. A1/A7/A9), you really should be providing them the best optics up front, though. You wouldn't put beater tires on your Ferrari.

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