Showdown of the Sony 50mm Lenses. Which One Is Right For You?

A number of options are available when it comes to Sony 50mm native lenses, but which one is the right choice for you?

Sitting between wide-angle and telephoto focal lengths, 50mm lenses offer a lot of versatility. They are suitable for many different genres of photography ranging from landscape, portraiture, street, etc. Many photographers have lovingly dubbed their 50mm lens a “Nifty Fifty” as a result. 50mm lenses, particularly those with a maximum aperture of f1.8, also tend to be quite affordable as well. In fact, 50mm lenses tend to be one of the first that many photographers purchase after they’ve outgrown the kit lenses bundled with their cameras. If you’re just getting started with the Sony Full Frame Mirrorless camera system, here are four native E Mount 50mm lenses you should consider.

Sony 50mm F1.8

Pros

  • Pretty decent image quality
  • Affordable
  • Small
  • Fast to focus in good lighting

Cons

  • Autofocus is very slow in low lighting even with the a7r II
  • Autofocus is a bit louder than we’d personally like, though it’s still pretty quiet in real life use

With an MSRP of US $250, the Sony 50mm f1.8 is the most affordable lens on this list. It’s both compact and lightweight and produces overall pleasing results. The Sony 50mm f1.8 performs reliably for the most part, but temper your expectations when shooting in low light. If you frequently find yourself shooting in low light conditions, you may want to consider some of the options farther down on this list. Just be prepared to shell out extra money for them.

“Generally speaking in terms of nifty 50 lenses, you can’t really get much better here. Sony’s 50mm f1.8 is right up there with the Canon 50mm f1.8 in terms of image quality. It’s got great color output, is very sharp, has very little chromatic aberration (and even then you’ve really got to look for it) and bokeh that isn’t bad overall. For $250, it’s hard to beat.”

from our Sony 50mm f1.8 review

Sample Images

Buy Now: Around $250

Sony 50mm F2.8 Macro

Pros

  • Small size
  • Sharp image quality
  • Pretty darn close focusing range
  • Smooth bokeh

Cons

  • Loud focusing motors, so it isn’t so great for autofocusing video

For macro photographers shooting with Sony Full Frame Mirrorless cameras, the Sony 50mm f2.8 Macro is an affordable native option. While the Sony 90mm f2.8 Macro G OSS is certainly a superior macro lens, the 50mm f2.8 Macro costs half as much at just US $550. It’s compact, features a 1:1 magnification ratio, and produces sharp images with creamy bokeh. Hybrid shooters that shoot both stills and videos will want to look elsewhere though, as the 50mm f2.8 Macro’s autofocus motor is very noisy.

“The images from the Sony 50mm f2.8 Macro are sharp, but of any of Sony’s 50mm full frame lenses for the E mount this lens is the least sharp. It isn’t bad per se, but Sony has many other absolutely better options available. I can’t say this is a bad lens, but in my opinion it isn’t a super fantastic lens either.”

from our Sony 50mm f2.8 Macro review

Sample Images

Buy Now: $548

Sony 50mm F1.4 Zeiss

Pros

  • Incredible image quality
  • Great build quality
  • Wonderful colors
  • 11 aperture blades give you bokeh you’ll never stop drooling over

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Pretty big

For the photographer who must have the very best and has deep enough pockets, you can’t go wrong with the Sony 50mm f1.4 Zeiss. Its gorgeous color rendition, dreamy bokeh, and stellar build quality earned it our Editor’s Choice Award. Portrait photographers in particular will appreciate how well it renders skin tones. Note that the Sony 50mm f1.4 Zeiss is a rather sizable lens, but that’s to be expected due to its wide maximum aperture. Photographers preferring more compact options, however, will want to check out the next lens on the list.

“One of my favorite things about this lens is how it handles colors. For everyone who believes Sony colors are too vivid and almost like a painting, this lens will prove you wrong. This lens offers a tad less saturation than even the 85mm f1.4 G Master lens and far less than the 35mm f1.4 Sony Zeiss, comparatively speaking. If you like to shoot portraits and really care about skin tones, then this lens may be a must-have.”

from our Sony 50mm f1.4 Zeiss review

Sample Images

Buy Now: $1,498

Sony 55mm F1.8 Zeiss

Pros

  • Sharp images
  • Creamy bokeh
  • Weather-sealed
  • Smooth & large focusing ring

Cons

  • Lens hood adds a good amount of length to the front
  • No depth of field scale

Obviously, the Sony 55mm f1.8 Zeiss doesn’t have a 50mm focal length. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention it within this article. The Sony 55mm f1.8 Zeiss remains one of the most compact and well designed Sony Full Frame E mount lenses. In fact, the Sony 55mm f1.8 Zeiss also earned the coveted Editor’s Choice Award from us when we reviewed it back in 2013. It’s performance is on par with the 50mm f1.4 Zeiss despite letting in slightly less light. In exchange, the Sony 55mm f1.8 Zeiss is much more compact by comparison. Practically speaking, those five mm of extra focal range is negligible as well. It’s definitely worthy of consideration if you’re in the market for a (nearly) 50mm lens for your Sony Full Frame E mount camera, especially if you prefer smaller lenses.

“The Sony 55mm f1.8 is a strong entry to the FE line both in terms of design and optical quality. With a weather-sealed body and nine aperture blades, this lens is dense and sits comfortably in the hand.”

from our Sony 55mm f1.8 review

Sample Images

Buy Now: $998

Final Thoughts

When it comes to 50mm lenses for Sony Full Frame Mirrorless shooters, there’s a native option for everyone. Any of the lenses we’ve showcased here will make for a fine addition to your photography arsenal. It really depends on your specific needs.

If you’re working with a limited budget, the Sony 50mm f1.8 is an absolute bargain at only US $250. It’s compact, lightweight, and produces satisfactory results. Its low light performance can be a bit sluggish at times, so keep that in mind if you frequently shoot in low light scenarios.

For the macro photography enthusiasts out there, the Sony 50mm f2.8 Macro is an obvious choice. If macro’s not really your cup of tea, we’d suggest going with one of the other 50mm lenses on this list. The Sony 50mm f2.8 Macro is relatively affordable, sports a 1:1 magnification ratio, and can focus very close to your subject (0.53 ft / 0.16 m). Hybrid shooters will want to look elsewhere though, as the autofocus motor in the 50mm f2.8 Maco is quite noisy.

If money’s no object and you won’t settle for anything other than the very best, both the Sony 50mm f1.4 Zeiss and the Sony 55mm f1.8 Zeiss are worthy of serious consideration. We’ve already gone over the negligible difference with 5mm in focal range, and both lenses are incredibly sharp and render gorgeous bokeh. It really boils down to whether you want the extra 2/3 (roughly) stop of light that the 50mm f1.4 affords or prefer a lens that’s more compact like the 55mm f1.8.

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.