When us photographers are talking about standard focal length lenses, we are usually describing either a 50mm or 35mm version. A 50mm prime (no association with Optimus Prime from the Transformers movies) is the most common, with the 35mm providing a slightly wider angle.
Many prefer the 35mm focal length as it’s not just a good all-rounder, but it’s also highly useful for the likes of landscape photography. In today’s rundown, we will be focusing on the best Sony 35mm lenses.
Sony has a good deal of quality glass available for their cameras, both from Sony themselves and third-party makers. Which version you choose can be largely dependent on the subject matter.
Portrait or wedding photographers need excellent bokeh quality, which means an f/1.4 or f/1.2 lens is needed. Landscape photographers will need something with the lowest lens anomalies and ridiculous sharpness at f/8 and above.
There’s also the consideration of cost. As 35mm lenses are so popular, there are great budget options available, going up to the very expensive. Generally, the higher the price, the better the quality, but there are also examples that provide great optics for the same cost as a kit lens.
1. Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art (Overall Winner)
It almost seems counter-intuitive to recommend the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art lens over Sony’s own offerings. But you won’t be surprised by how sharp this lens is at f/1.2.
The Sigma is designed for Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, along with APS-C models, providing an equivalent 53mm focal length. Three special low-dispersion and three aspherical elements have been included.
The lens features a Hyper Sonic Motor with full-time manual focus override, plus a manual aperture ring, which can be de-clicked for video use. The lens has a higher than normal 11-blade rounded diaphragm for extra smooth bokeh, all wrapped around a weather-resistant lens barrel.
This lens has ludicrously smooth bokeh at f/1.2, with only slight amounts of vignetting. Sharpness is truly wonderful from f/1.2 up to f/11, and although there is evidence of purple fringing at f/1.2, it’s completely eradicated by f/2.
This is a large and heavy lens, weighing in at 1090g, with a just-as-hefty price tag. In terms of ultimate quality, the f/1.2 workings are as fine as you can get for an E-mount camera.
2. Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony and ZEISS have enjoyed a long-lasting lens relationship, which means that Sony users always have access to some of the most sumptuous glass around. The FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA is a worthwhile inclusion as it provides a fast f/1.4 aperture, along with the renowned ZEISS T* anti-reflective coatings.
The lens itself features one advanced aspherical and two aspherical elements, with a Super Sonic wave autofocus motor and a manual aperture ring. This lens is more reasonably weighted than the Sigma above at 630g, but also comes with just as high of a price tag.
Due to the lens’ ultimate field curvature, it’s not the greatest for shooting at infinity. There have also been reports of inconsistent copies throughout the examples. But in every other respect, this is an extremely high-quality 35mm lens with plenty of resolving power.
3. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
If you don’t need the ultrawide aperture of the Sigma f/1.2 above, then the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art still provides exceptional quality at a far more affordable price. The standout feature of this lens is its well-balanced workings and very little downsides.
The optics comprise of one FLD, four SLD, and two aspherical elements, along with a Super Multi-Layer coating and a Hyper Sonic Motor with full-time manual override. The lens barrel isn’t fully weatherproofed, but it is made from a Thermally Stable Composite material, which should be tough enough for regular use.
Chromatic aberration, or purple fringing, can be seen at f/1.4, but quickly goes away by f/2, while other lens anomalies are well controlled throughout the aperture range. This lens may not have the ultimate resolving power of the f/1.2 version, but considering its price point, it provides a lot of functionality and quality.
4. Sony FE 35mm f/1.8
Generally, you buy into a lens for specific purposes, but if you need something that is more of an all-rounder, then the Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 can fit the bill. The lens has a very usable f/1.8 aperture and while it doesn’t excel in any one area, it’s one of the most rounded on this list.
The lens has a very simple design, with the unique feature of a focus hold button that can be customized to many different exposure settings. A linear autofocus motor handles autofocusing duties, and the dust and moisture sealed lens barrel means it’s highly useful in all weather.
On the downside, the lens can suffer from chromatic aberration with the aperture wide open, along with evidence of vignetting. But the autofocus is very fast and accurate, with very good manual focus accuracy for an AF lens.
5. Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE (Budget Winner)
If you need a low-cost 35mm solution that still provides good optics, the Samyang AF 35mm f/2.8 FE is a worthy entry. Weighing in at a meager 85.6g, this lens is probably the lightest solution for travel purposes or for the very discreet photographer.
The f/2.8 aperture is still very good in low-light conditions, it’s just not up to the same amount of light gathering as an f/1.4 or f/1.2 version. Lens anomalies such as chromatic aberration and flaring are well-controlled, with a reasonably fast autofocus system.
The lens barrel may not feel as well built as the rest, but for the cost, this is a great lens for traveling as light as possible or when you want the most bang for your buck.
Which Sony 35mm Lenses Are Best for You?
All the lenses we have listed above are native 35mm lenses that also feature autofocus. There are, of course, other native lenses without AF and adapted manual focus lenses available, but for the most rounded feature set, autofocus and optics are key.
As lenses can be used in such a wide variety of shooting scenarios, there will always be examples that don’t fit the common criteria, but some photographers swear by. However, for the finest optics and most rounded features, you can’t go wrong with the likes of the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art.