When Sony first jumped into the mirrorless camera arms race, their initial lens offerings were rather expensive. This was not only to show off the best possible optics available but also to take advantage of all that extra resolution. Now there are more affordable and budget-conscious solutions on the market, which is why today we are looking at Sony prime lenses under $500.
When we are on the search for good lenses for the Sony platform under $500, the top choices usually come under the prime lens category. Pouring all the optical qualities into one focal length ensures the best end results. A prime lens may not give the focal length versatility of a zoom lens, but it will provide that extra sparkle of sharpness and a generally wider aperture.
1. Sony FE 28mm f/2 (Overall Winner)
As prime lenses are our focus today, we could’ve easily shoved in a 35mm or 50mm in the top spot as these two focal lengths are generally considered the most versatile. However, surprisingly or not, the Sony FE 28mm f/2 is the one we have chosen for its overall levels of sharpness and the extra touch of width given by the 28mm over a 35mm.
The optics comprise of two extra-low dispersion, three aspherical, and one advanced aspherical element to correct for all those lens anomalies. The linear autofocus motor does a very professional job of keeping everything quick and silent.
The f/2 aperture may not be as wide as other prime lenses, but it’s still respectably fast. Being a more wide-angle lens, detail in the depth of field is more important, and this is where the lens really holds its own.
Images at f/2 have good center sharpness with f/4-f/8 providing the most definition. The lens provides a 42mm viewpoint on crop sensor cameras which makes it a great focal length for general use.
If you need a prime lens with a little extra width and bags of quality for the price. The FE 28mm f/2 is a prime candidate. Pardon the pun.
Diving into more traditional focal lengths, the 35mm f/1.8 OSS delivers a 52.5mm viewpoint on crop sensor cameras, making it ideal for general usage. The lens benefits from a wide f/1.8 aperture, which works great in low light levels and for shallow depth of field portrait work.
The optical arrangement of eight elements in six groups contains one extra-low dispersion and two aspherical elements to remedy any lens artifacts. An image stabilization system has been included for steady handheld shots and low shutter speeds.
One of the initial benefits of this lens is that it only weighs 154g. This minuscule weight makes it a good solution as an everyday lens and from f/2.8 and up, images are pin sharp. The 35mm f/1.8 OSS also works very well in low-light conditions, making it a good solution for interior shots.
You cannot go wrong with the overall versatility of a 50mm prime, with the 50mm f/1.8 OSS covering everything we need in this department. The lens provides a fast f/1.8 aperture and, just like the lens above, has built-in image stabilization covering the low-light and shallow depth of field areas.
This 50mm lens benefits from weighing just 202g, making it a very lightweight solution for everyday use. On APS-C format cameras, the focal length comes in at 75mm which gives it that extra length for the likes of portrait work or simply tighter angle.
If you need to venture into low-light conditions, the stabilization system coupled with an in-camera version gives plenty of handheld stability and respectable shutter speeds.
A pancake design of lens is just like a normal lens in all its workings but looks like it’s been squished in a compactor. This also makes them some of the lightest lenses you will ever own, in this case, weighing a mere 69g.
Somehow Sony has managed to cram in six elements in six groups, with a reasonably fast f/2.8 aperture and three aspherical elements. The lens has a reasonably close focusing distance of 20cm, making it a good solution for capturing the smallest of subjects without having to buy a macro lens.
This lens provides more width than any of the options above, which means at a push, it could be easily used for landscape shots. However, the lens works at its best as a general all-rounder for the likes of street photography and other situations where you need more width than the options above.
5. Sony E 30mm f/3.5 Macro (Budget Winner)
If you need a lens that comes at a nice cheap price, while still providing good quality optics, the E 30mm f/3.5 Macro is a good choice. On crop sensor cameras, the focal length comes in at 45mm, which is verging on the standard of 50mm. This focal length allows the lens to be used in all sorts of photography scenarios.
The lens features a very useful macro mode with a true 1:1 magnification ratio and a very close focusing distance of just 9.5cm. This in itself is a cost-effective way to capture very small subject matter with a respectable amount of detail for a very low price. In most cases, you will need to use a tripod to get extremely close to your shooting matter, which means the macro mode works it’s best for more static subjects.
For the sharpest results, images are sharp in the center of the frame at f/3.5, with the whole frame being tack sharp from f/5.6-f/11. This lens may not ultimately be able to compete in definition with the examples above, but considering its overall price point and the fact that it doubles up as a macro lens makes it the most cost-effective on this list.
Narrowing Down the Best Sony Prime Lenses Under $500
As shown by the examples above, it’s entirely possible to buy into a good quality prime lens for the Sony platform when you’re juggling with a budget of $500. The lens you choose will ultimately come down to the scenes you prefer to capture and your own preferred viewpoint.
The Sony FE 28mm f/2 arguably contains the best quality glass and provides slightly wider angles than the standard of 35mm. Then again, if you need the most rounded focal lengths, you can’t go wrong with either the 35mm or the 50mm, especially for a lens under our price point.