Quick Lens Evaluation - Photo Jottings

Quick Lens Evaluation

This page has not been updated for quite  a while, but does contain useful information for older lenses.

Below is a list of all the ‘a’ mount lenses I’ve reviewed, except the Konica Minolta versions of the Sony rebadges.  There are no mirrorless ‘E’ mount lenses listed here. I’ve included a quick blurb with my thoughts about each lens.  There is a link to the review in blue, and if you would like to check the price, or buy that lens, I’d appreciate it if you’d use the “Check price here” link to B&H Photo, that helps support this site. 

Keep in mind the thoughts below are mine, based on my particular use.  You may prefer a different lens for a different reason, or may not be so concerned about the negatives or positives I’ve given it.



Fixed length

16mm F/2.8 Fish-eye   This is a cool lens, and it works very well, although it’s not for everyone.  Never go anywhere with just this lens, the fish-eye effect gets old after awhile, and you’ll want a conventional lens to save your sanity.  Check price here.
16mm F/2.8 NEX  This is a very small wide angle pancake lens for the NEX system.  Soft along the image periphery wide open, but pretty sharp all over at F/5.6-8.  Check price here.
20mm F/2.8   A very good landscape lens, but watch your focusing as you stop down.  Out performs the CZ 16-35mm at 20mm when used carefully.  Check price here.
24mm F/1.8 Carl Zeiss NEX   A spectacular lens, even at F/1.8. Well worth the high price tag.  A great choice for the NEX-7.  Check price here.
24mm F/2 Carl Zeiss  Very sharp in the centers at nearly all apertures, plus low coma in the corners for good hand-held street shooting in low light.  Watch the mid-sections, they’re soft at large apertures.  Check price here.
28mm F/2.8   Sharp in the centers, but not nearly as good as the Minolta 28mm F/2 model along the image periphery.  Check price here.
30mm F/3.5 macro NEX   Excellent as a macro lens, but you have to get real close for 1:1 magnification.  The sides are a little soft at all apertures.  Check price here.
30mm DT F/2.8 Macro SAM   Very small macro, and very short distance to subject at close focus, which is a negative.  Works very well as a landscape lens, but requires perfect focusing for sharp shots.  A good lens for vacation, or to keep in your pocket on a hike or outdoor event.  Check price here.
35mm F/1.4 G    Fast wide angle, but F/1.4 is quite soft.  A good low-light street or photo-journalist lens.  Not a very good landscape lens as the image periphery is a little soft even stopped down, use the Minolta AF 35mm F/2 for landscapes, or if you’re going to use F/2 most of the time, where it outperforms the Sony 35mm F/1.4 G.  Check price here.
35mm DT F/1.8 SAM   In my opinion, is the best performance/price value in the Sony line-up.  Equals 52.5mm on an APS-C camera.  A great walk around lens because of light-weight, small size, good focal length, fast aperture, and sharp wide open!   Check price here.
50mm F/1.4   Good lens, and least expensive fast lens for Sony and Minolta.  Needs to be updated by Sony to correct for coma at large apertures.  For people using APS-C camera that will never upgrade to full frame, try the less expensive Sony 50mm F/1.8, although it doesn’t perform as well as the Sony 50mm F/1.4 in overall sharpness.  Check price here.
50mm DT F/1.8 SAM    Made for APS-C cameras only.  Works very well for the price.  Check price here.
50mm F/1.8 OSS NEX   A very sharp prime for the NEX system, on my recommended list. Check price here.
50mm F/2.8 Macro   Good sharp macro, but much more expensive than the 30mm macro above.  Also has longer working distance than 30mm, but shorter than the 100mm macro. Check price here.
85mm F/1.4 Carl Zeiss   A nice portrait lens, very pleasing bokeh.  Has a lot of axial color fringing at F/1.4-2.0, which is a little surprising.  Check price here.
85mm F/2.8 SAM   A very good alternative to the Carl Zeiss lens above.  Super sharp at F/2.8! Check price here.
135mm F/1.8 Carl Zeiss   A super lens, one of the very best Sony has to offer.  Very sharp wide open.  Makes a better portrait lens than the 85mm F/1.4 in my opinion.  Check price here.
135mm F/2.8 [T4.5] STF   This lens produces stunningly smooth bokeh, but is not very fast, only F/4.5.  It’s also manual focus only.  If you want speed in this focal length, get the much better Carl Zeiss 135mm F/1.8 above.  check price here.
100mm F/2.8 Macro    The most desirable macro lens in my opinion since it has a longer working distance.  Also good for product shots if that’s your thing.  Check price here.
300mm F/2.8 SSM G   The very best telephoto lens by far in this focal range, with unmatched image quality.  Also, the only lens that works well using the Sony 2.0x tele-converter.  Check price here.
500mm F/8 reflex   A good long telephoto lens if you don’t have much money.  Lacks contrast but provides good image quality for the price.  Discontinued in 2010.   check price here.
Tele-converters 1.4x, and 2.0x   These tele-converters only work on a few lenses, and the only one that works well on most lenses is the 1.4x based on my observations.  the 2.0x works well on the Sony 300mm F/2.8 SSM G.  Check price here 1.4x   2.0x
11-18mm DT F/4.5-5.6   A mediocre super wide angle zoom, not my favorite.  I prefer the sigma 10-20mm F/4-5.6 for better corner sharpness and slightly wider coverage.  Somewhat pricey for build quality and optical performance.  check price here.
16-35mm F/2.8 SSM Carl Zeiss   My favorite super wide angle lens.  Has great color and contrast, but is prone to ghosting when bright lights are near.  Much better overall than the Minolta AF 17-35mm F/3.5 G.  It’s a pricey lens, but worth it in my opinion.  Check price here.
16-50mm DT F/2.8 SSM   Is quite sharp at F/2.8, but F/4 provides a nice contrast boost.  Has excellent image quality across the whole frame at the longer end.  Very similar to the lens below, but is faster and has a slightly better build quality.  A ‘DT’ lens, so APS-C cameras only. Check price here.
16-80mm DT F/3.5-4.5 Carl Zeiss   If you like looking at your images closely, this lens is impressive.  It’s very sharp, even in the corners at longer lengths.  A great focal range I think.  Similar performance to the Sony 16-105mm and 16-50mm above.  A “DT” lens, so only for APS-C cameras.  check price here.
16-105mm DT F/3.5-5.6    Another very good lens, and very similar in performance to the more expensive CZ 16-80mm above, plus it provides a little more reach.  On the downside, it has more color fringing at the long end.  Worth the price.  Check price here.
18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 NEX kit lens   The first zoom for the NEX system.  Kit lens has the same optical qualities as the Sony DT 18-55mm lens.  Check price here.
18-55mm DT F/3.5-5.6 SAM kit lens   Much better image quality than the old 18-70mm kit lens, and a good deal in a kit.  If you use the old kit lens because it’s small and light, I’d be worth spending the money to upgrade to this lens.  Check price here.
18-70mm DT F/3.5-5.6 kit lens  The old kit lens for Sony and Konica minolta.  Was a decent lens on a 6mp camera.  Not available anymore, thankfully.  Buy the newer 18-55mm above.
18-135mm DT F/3.5-5.6 SAM lens   Nice focusing and good zoom range, sharp in the middle focal lengths.   Check price here.
18-200mm DT F/3.5-6.3   Was offered as a kit lens at one time.  Unless you get one cheap, I’d stay away from it and get the better 18-250mm.  check price here.
18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 NEX zoom  A super-zoom quite similar in optical performance to the “DT” 18-200mm directly above, but with a much better build quality, internal focusing motor and optical Steadyshot.  check price here.
18-250mm DT F/3.5-6.3   A good “do it all” lens.  Also know as a vacation lens because it’s probably the only lens you’ll need to take with you unless you’re critical about overall image quality.  check price here.
28-75mm F/2.8 SAM   This is the same as the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8, except Sony puts in SAM.  I found my Tamron model is slightly better at the longer focal lengths, and is much less expensive.  check price here.
24-70mm F/2.8 SSM Carl Zeiss   A very good lens, but very pricey.  Nice quiet SSM, bokeh and build quality.  Check price here.
24-105mm F/3.5-4.5    No longer offered by Sony.  This lens works well, and represents a very useful focal range.  Quite noticeable color fringing on the long end, and massive light fall-off at 24mm.  Used prices are cheap, making it a great value.
Telephoto Zooms
55-200mm DT F/4-5.6   Small and light with good image quality.  Worth it when included in a kit.  Check price here.
55-210mm F/4.5-6.3 OSS NEX  Good all around telephoto zoom, and is quite sharp at the long end.  Check price here.
55-300mm DT F/4.5-5.6  Does a nice job for the money, and is better than the 75-300mm at the long end.  APS-C cameras only.  Check price here.
70-200mm F/2.8 G SSM   Great build quality and very sharp stopped down some.  Nice bokeh for portrait work.  Works well with the Sony 1.4x TC.  Check price here.
70-300mm F/4.5-5.6 G SSM   Much better performance than the 75-300mm lens below, and better build quality too.  Check price here.
75-300mm F/4.5-5.6   A good lens for less than $200.  Poor choice for pixel peepers.  Check price here.
70-400mm F/4-5.6 G SSM   A super lens in both build quality and overall image quality.  Is much better than the Sony 70-300mm F/4-5.6 SSM G.  Pricey, but worth it.  Check price here.
Sigma, Tamron, Vivitar, and other lens reviews
Tamron 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di USD   Excellent image quality, and very similar to the Sony 70-300mm SSM G lens, but only half the price.  No focus hold or focus limiter buttons.  Check price here.
Tamron 70-200mm F/2.8 LD Di macro    Offers excellent image quality at a very affordable price.  the only drawback to this lens is the slow and outdated focusing.  Check price here.
Tamron 60mm F/2 Di II LD IF macro   Very sharp in the centers at F/2, great walk-around lens, and very sharp macro shots at F/5.6-8.  This lens is best used from F/2-F/8, as softening of the image is very noticeable at F/11.  Check price here.
Tamron AF 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di    Full frame lens.  A great lens at a great price, and seems a little sharper at the long end than the Sony 28-75mm F/2.8.  Check price here.
Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II   APS-C only.  Works very well, and would be a good alternative to the CZ 16-80mm.  Check price here.
Tamron NEX 18-200mm F/3.5-6.3 Di III VC   Works as well as the Sony version for less money.  As of the review date, the sweep panorama mode will not work properly with this lens, otherwise, it’s a good deal.  Check price here.
Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 EX DG OS HSM   Good build quality with a optical stabilization system that works very well.  This is an expensive lens, I’d prefer the Sony model for a little more money.  Check price here.
Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 HSM II EX DG Macro    Very good build quality, with focusing nearly identical to Sony’s SSM.  Image quality is very good, but watch poor Sigma quality control, I went through three lenses to get a good one.  Check prices here.
Rokinon 8mm F/2.8 fisheye    The best fisheye lens for the NEX system, or any Sony camera for that matter, it’s superb.  Check price here.
Sigma 19mm F/2.8 EX DN   Works very well at F/2.8, and would make a great low-light walk around lens.  Check price here.
Sigma 30mm F/2.8 EX DN   A sharp lens, but not great in all areas, would work well for video users.  Check price here.
Sigma 30mm F/1.4 EX DC   APS-C only, equivalent to about 45mm.  Pretty sharp in the centers, but image periphery is soft, even stopped down.  Check price here.
Sigma 8-16mm F/4.5-5.6 DC HSM   For APS-C cameras.  Super sharp at the wide end, and very good through the rest of the zoom range.  Great for artistic images and non-traditional views of urban environments.
Sigma 12-24mm F/4.5-5.6 (D) EX DG   For full frame, but works well on APS-C.  A really wide angle zoom, in fact, the widest available as of the review date.  know how to use this lens properly, otherwise, careless use results in bad pictures.  Check price here.
Sigma 10-20mm F/4-5.6 EX DC   Minimal ghosting and sharp corners makes this lens great for interior/Real estate photography.  Odd distortion curve at the wide end, so keep straight lines away from edges.  Great for interior/Real estate at the longer end.  Check price here.
Sigma 10-20mm F/3.5 HSM EX DC   Very sharp in the centers at all apertures and focal lengths.  Corners are quite soft at some focal lengths.  Simple distortion curve.  More color fringing than less expensive model above.  Great for interior/Real estate at the longer end.  Check price here.
Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8 AT-X Pro   Super sharp over the entire frame at the short end up to about 14mm, then it’s just average.  Great build quality.  Watch for poor AF and ghosting control.  Check price here.
Sigma 18-50mm F/2.8 EX DC Macro   For APS-C use only.  Works well, but maybe not quite as good as the Tamron above.  Check price here.
Sigma 105mm F/2.8 Macro EX DG   A good less-expensive alternative to the Sony macro, but watch Sigma quality control.  Check price here.
Vivitar 7mm F/3.5 fisheye   This inexpensive lens works very well, and provides a larger coverage area than the Sony 16mm fisheye mentioned above.  It’s a manually operated lens, but is super easy to use, set it at F/11 in good light, and focus it at infinity, and have fun shooting!  Check price here.
Vivitar 85mm F/1.4   Great image quality and price, but manual focus only, and requires exposure compensation.  Same as Bower, Rokinon, Samyang etc.  Check price here.
Sigma 85mm F/1.4 EX DG HSM   Very sharp centers from F/1.4 to F/8.  The sides are a little soft at really wide apertures, but sharpen up well a couple of stops down; the extreme corners are soft at all apertures.  A good alternative to the super expensive Sony CZ 85/1.4.  Check price here.
Minolta/Konica Minolta


Fixed length


24mm F/2.8   A good wide angle prime, but not my favorite.  Stopped down hard the image periphery is fairly sharp.


28mm F/2.8   The same as the Sony 28mm F/2.8, and much less expensive.  I’m not sure if the coating have been upgraded on the Sony though.


28mm F/2   One of the best wide angle lenses from Minolta.  Is almost flawless on an APS-C camera.  Massive coma on full frame at F/2-2.8.


35mm F/2   My favorite Minolta lens.  Is super good on full frame, and basically flawless on APS-C.  Less coma than 28mm F/2.


50mm F/1.7   This lens is ok for the price, but the F/1.4 version is much better.  For APS-C cameras, consider the Sony 50mm F/1.8 SAM.


50mm F/3.5 macro   A decent half-size macro, but for APS-C cameras, get the much better Sony 30mm F/2.8 full size macro.


100mm F/2   A very good medium telephoto fast lens.  I would prefer this lens over the 85mm F/1.4 for most work.


135mm F/2.8   Small and lightweight.  Sharp at F/2.8 in the centers, but has some veiling haze and color fringing.  No distortion on APS-C or full frame. Light fall-off is not a problem.  Overall, a very good lens for the money.


AF tele-converters 1.4x, 2.0x APO II   Less expensive alternative to the Sony versions.  These TCs do not support the “D” function on the newer lenses that allow TC attachment.


300mm F/4 APO G (HS)   Works very well for the price, and is fairly small and light-weight.  Has very noticeable color fringing along the sides on full frame.  I’d get the Sony 70-400mm instead of this lens.


17-35mm F/2.8-4 (D)   This lens turned in a good review, in fact I’d rather have this lens than the much more expensive “G” lens below.
17-35mm F/3.5 G   Has a good build quality and great handling, but has seen better days.  There is too much ghosting and the used prices are way too high.  Get the Sony CZ 16-35mm which is far better.
24-50mm F/4    Small and light, but so is the more useful 24-105mm F/3.5-4.5.  A lens that might have been good back in the day, but that day has passed.
28-75mm F/2.8 (D)   I think this lens is pretty much the same as the new Sony and Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8, and the used prices make it a great bargain.
28-70mm F/2.8 G   A nicely built lens, and doesn’t extend when zooming which makes it handle well.  Sharpness is about the same as the new CZ 24-70mm, but ghosting control is poor.
28-85mm F/3.5-4.5   I didn’t care much for this lens, so I decided to wreck it and report my findings.  I think the new 18-55mm kit lens is a better choice for APS-C cameras.
28-135mm F/4-4.5   This lens turned in a very good performance, especially for its age.  The wide end is a little soft around the edges, but centers are pretty sharp at all apertures and focal lengths.
35-70mm F/4   The original kit lens back in the mid 1980s.  Works well, but not really a good choice now days in my opinion.
35-80mm F/4-5.6 shutter cap  This is an awful lens, and would be a good candidate to tear apart on a rainy day just for kicks, (if you can get one for free).
Telephoto Zooms
70-210mm F/4 beercan   Good medium speed telephoto zoom.  Not as great as everyone thinks.  I prefer the 100-200mm F/4.5 below, and it’s only a third of a stop slower, big deal, that’s offset by a much smaller and lighter package.
70-210mm F/3.5-4.5   This lens works well at the long end, but falls very short in quality around 70mm.  Prices are cheap on eBay, but I’d go with the beercan above if you’re looking for a medium fast telephoto zoom.
75-300mm F/4.5-5.6 big beercan    Well built and reasonable sharp.  Is slightly better than the newer cheap version, but not worth switching, buy the new 70-300mm G lens from Sony.  
80-200mm F/4.5-5.6 shutter cap   A small and lightweight lens, but not a very good performer.  A better choice would be the Sony DT 55-200mm for APS-C users, or the lens above or below.
100-200mm F/4.5   My favorite Minolta zoom.  I like it better than the 70-210mm F/4 for reasons stated above.


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