When you only have a certain budget to play with, it’s always best to stick to the tried and tested. In the affordable lens category, in this case, Sony prime lenses under $250, this usually means prime lenses and the standard focal lengths of either 35mm or 50mm or are least hovering around these points. This is simply because these two viewpoints are the most versatile and prime lenses pour all their qualities into one focal length.
As we are focusing on the Sony platform this time around, the choices are a little thin on the ground in this price range. This is due to Sony focusing all its resources into the higher-end optics. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t good lenses under our budget range. In some cases, you will have to go a touch over in spending. Not by a large amount, but the results will be worth it.
1. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary (Overall Winner)
As we previously mentioned, options are thin on the ground from Sony in this price range, so we’ve had to opt for a third-party choice in the form of the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary. This option is a little over our price range, but for only a few dollars more, the results are worth it.
On full-frame cameras, the Sigma provides a slightly wider view than the standard of 35mm, and on crop sensor cameras, a 45mm equivalent focal length is achieved. One of the standout features of this lens is the f/1.4 aperture which makes it a great solution for low-light photography and very shallow depth of field images. This aspect makes it a great solution for portraits and the like, provided that you prefer more environmental type shots which also include a subject.
Optically, the lens is made up of nine elements in seven groups. Which includes two aspherical and one high-refractive index element to reduce lens distortion and aberrations and increase image clarity. It’s all topped off with a super multilayer coating to all lens elements to reduce the likes of lens flare and ghosting.
On the Sony platform, the lens is relatively sharp at f/1.4, but it really hits its sharpest by f/2.8. This makes the Sigma a very good all-rounder, with top quality optics at a relatively cheap price point.
For just a scratch under $250, the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 makes for a good all-purpose lens. On APS-C models the focal length comes in at 75mm, which is verging on the short telephoto range for adequate portrait images.
Typical of a good quality prime lens, the FE 50mm has a nice wide and bright f/1.8 aperture for shallow depth of field shots while also allowing in enough light for respectable indoor photography. Optically, the lens consists of one aspherical element, with a double-gauss optical configuration and a basic but efficient DC actuator autofocus motor. The lens is a very lightweight solution coming in at 186g, which should make it an excellent travel companion.
Image quality is very good throughout the aperture range and is relatively sharp in the center at f/1.8. It can also get quite close up to a subject with a minimum focusing distance of 45cm.
Considering the lens’ nominal price point, it delivers great value for money. The lens is only really let down by the slow autofocus, which just means it works the best for static subjects.
The Sony E 20mm f/2.8 is another lens that can just about be picked up below $250, depending on where you shop. The 20mm f/2.8 covers the wide-angle side of things while also providing a 30mm viewpoints on crop sensor camera bodies.
As the lens has a pancake design, it weighs less than a few atoms of hydrogen and is barely noticeable when strapped to any of Sony’s mirrorless cameras. This makes the lens a great travel solution and for those times when you really want to walk around as light as possible.
The lens features a reasonably fast f/2.8 aperture, which may not go as wide as the examples above. But it’s still respectable for low-light shooting and for producing great background blur or bokeh.
There is no faulting the lens for its image quality at this price point, with the three included aspherical elements performing a respectable job of producing clear and sharp images even at the widest aperture. The lens has a very good minimum focusing distance of 20cm which makes it a good solution for a whole range of subjects where you need a slightly wider viewpoint.
4. Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN Art (Budget Winner)
One example of a great value prime comes in the form of the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN Art. This is an older style Art series lens, which works great as an all-purpose lens with a relatively fast f/2.8 aperture.
Two aspherical elements have been included with a super multilayer coating on each element to increase image quality. The total weight comes in at 140g which is featherlight for this type of prime lens.
The autofocus motor is respectably quick but is not quite enough for video use. The smooth focus ring makes manual focusing very easy to hit the sweet spot for the likes of landscape photography. Overall, this is a very sharp lens where it counts, making it a good solution for everything from environmental images to highly efficient street photography.
Narrowing Down the Best Sony Prime Lenses Under $250
When you have to juggle under a certain budget range, the options become fewer. Fortunately, as shown by the Sony prime lenses under $250 above, these devices can still provide good quality in the right hands. It may also be surprising to some that a third-party lens is the number one choice, but this simply means that Sigma is producing great optics that at a high value for the money.
If you need a same-brand workflow, the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 can still provide great low-light capabilities, along with very shallow depths of field. Image quality is also great from this lens, but if you really want the most value for money and you don’t have any strict brand allegiance, the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN Art packs a big punch.