It’s fair to say that the 50mm focal length is one of the most commonly used. Often referred to as a standard focal length, a 50mm lens provides a view of the world almost identical to what the human eye sees which can be used for many different types of photography. In reality, some prefer a slightly wider or narrower viewpoint, but as a general consensus, you can’t go wrong with a 50mm lens.
In this roundup we are focusing on the best Sony 50mm lenses, covering the native E-mount variety, rather than those that require an adapter. The simple reason for this point is because of the extra cost of adapters. Additionally, a native mount lens should work straight out of the box.
This brings us to the specific aspects to look out for in a good quality 50mm lens. A fast and bright aperture is a must, usually f/1.8 or wider for low-light conditions and a narrow depth of field. Manual and autofocus abilities are also needed for the likes of architecture and landscape work, while a fast and quiet autofocus system goes a long way for capturing fast-moving subjects.
Then there is the issue of cost with a Sony 50mm lens. As the 50mm focal length is a popular choice, there is a good variety to choose from, but not all are made equal. Price can be a dictator of quality, but there are also nifty fifties out there that provide great quality for the money. Therefore, let’s check out the prime candidates in this category and what they can provide.
1. Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA (Overall Winner)
It’s not a huge surprise that the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA has claimed the overall winner spot, due to its overall rounded abilities. This lens features a fast f/1.4 aperture, stellar optics, and a build quality to last the ages.
The optics are built around the Zeiss Planar optical concept, with 12 elements in nine groups and the renowned ZEISS T* anti-reflective coatings. Special lens elements have also been included, consisting of ane Advanced Aspherical (AA), one aspherical, and one extra-low dispersion element. Autofocusing is handled by the Super Sonic Wave Motor (SSM) system, plus an eleven-blade circular diaphragm, de-clicked aperture ring, and fully weather-proofed lens barrel.
This lens is ridiculously sharp throughout the aperture range and produces sumptuous images with a high degree of contrast, color, and depth. Bokeh is creamy and smooth, with the f/1.4 aperture, providing loads of light gathering ability.
This isn’t a cheap lens and it’s not exactly lightweight. This means on the likes of an a7 camera body, the FE 50mm is going to be very front heavy, but the resultant images more than make up for the awkward weight.
The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 is actually the cheapest lens on this list, and for those who want a very cost-effective 50mm lens for the Sony platform, this lens is a good starting point.
This lens works equally well on full-frame and crop sensor cameras, providing a 75mm equivalent focal length on the latter. The autofocus system on this lens is efficient, yet it isn’t the quietest in the world. The f/1.8 aperture is fast enough for general usage and provides a reasonable amount of low light operation and a nice shallow depth of field.
This lens isn’t going to compete with its more expensive counterparts, but it does provide respectable optics for its price point.
Having the ability to shoot in Macro mode, along with standard images is a great bonus from the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro. The macro abilities provide a 1:1 magnification ratio with a close 16cm focusing distance. Above and beyond the usual 50mm workings is a focus range limiter switch and focus hold button for stopping the autofocus at a designated point.
The lens barrel has been dust and moisture-sealed for added protection with the whole lens feeling well built and of fine quality. Although the lens doesn’t go as wide as other lenses on this list, it performs respectably in low light and with good quality bokeh.
The autofocus system isn’t the fastest which is a common point with macro lenses. For general image quality, the lens provides vibrant colors with plenty of detail.
In total, the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro provides very good image quality for the price point and for those who want to capture the small things in life.
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens is a solid performer for other camera makers and is no different for the Sony platform. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is typical of the Arts series, being large and heavy at 815g, but you cannot fault its overall sharpness levels.
The internal optics comprise of three Special Low Dispersion (SLD) elements, one aspherical element, and a Super Multi-Layer Coating wrapped around a Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) lens barrel.
At f/1.4 sharpness is wonderful across the frame, with low amounts of vignetting and coma being evident. Bokeh is reasonably good, just not to the smoothness levels of the top offerings. But, where this lens shines is in its overall sharpness throughout the aperture range, that’s if you don’t mind the bulk and weight of the thing.
While the Voigtländer APO-LANTHAR 50mm f/2 may not be the most obvious choice on this list, this lens provides excellent sharpness and contrast and is one of the best around for chromatic aberration correction.
This lens is manual focus only, featuring five partial dispersion and two aspherical elements, wrapped around a floating elements system. An impressive 12-blade rounded diaphragm has been included, providing excellent bokeh and defined sun stars when stopped down.
Although this lens doesn’t go as wide as some other offerings, the manual offerings would suit the likes of landscape photographers, and it’s compact and lightweight enough for easy travel. It may be a costly lens, but in the right scenarios, it’s a wonderful performer.
We had to drop a ZEISS offering into the mix here as the company has enjoyed a fruitful linkup with Sony for many years. Plus their lenses produce excellent images for the Sony platform.
This lens is manual focus only with a Planar optical design, ZEISS T* anti-reflective coating, and a fully weather-resistant body. The lens is small and lightweight and although it may need stopping down for the ultimate sharpness, it will work wonderfully for applications such as landscapes.
Standout features of this lens include high contrast levels and wonderful looking sun stars. However, the lens displays above-average levels of vignetting and average bokeh.
7. Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE (Budget Winner)
The Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE provides solid optical quality for the money, with a fast f/1.4 and solid build quality. Three aspherical elements are included in the lens design along with an Ultra Multi-Coating and integrated autofocus motor.
The autofocus system on the Samyang is fast and accurate, while also being quiet enough for video shooting. Central sharpness at f/1.4 is good, but there is evidence of edge softness. Stopping down to f/4 will produce the best results. Images are returned with vibrant colors and plenty of punchy contrast, along with bokeh effects that look very respectable for the price point.
This is quite a large lens, which means it’s not the most applicable for travel, but in all other respects, the Samyang delivers respectable quality for the price.
Summary of the Best Sony 50mm Lenses
As previously mentioned, the 50mm lens can be used in such a wide variety of scenarios, from landscapes to portraits, and everything in between. From the list above, there should be a Sony 50mm lens to fit your price point and also your particular shooting scenario.