If you need an ultra-wide lens for the likes of landscapes or architectural images, Sony has managed to cram the majority of its offerings in the high price bracket range. But that doesn’t mean you can’t snag an affordable lens that contains highly usable optics. Sony ultra wide-angle lenses under $500 are fewer in number, with a little leeway needed in focal length.
To stay under this budget, we have to include some third-party options. Not just for variety sake, but also to show that if you step outside the Sony arena there are some great wide-angle lenses to be picked up, which can provide heaps of optical qualities at a fair price.
1. Sony DT 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM
The Sony DT 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM is a do-it-all lens, covering the very wide to short telephoto range. The lens is designed specifically for A mount cameras, providing an equivalent 27-202.5mm focal length with the variable aperture range of f/3.5-5.6.
To cover such a long focal range, the lens contains 14 elements in 11 groups, with the addition of one extra-low dispersion and two aspherical elements to correct for the usual amount of lens anomalies. The SAM bit of the name comes from the Smooth Autofocus Motor which in reality, is respectably fast and only missed a beat a few times in very low-light conditions.
This lens provides reasonable image quality throughout the focal range and when it is fed with enough light, can provide a good deal of sharp detail. This lens would work the best for those who want a general all-round lens, who shoot in the wide-angle range from time to time.
2. Sony FE 28mm f/2
The usual case when choosing a good wide-angle lens on a limited budget is to pile all your resources into a prime lens. This is usually to ensure the best final results, although you will be limited to one focal length. The Sony FE 28mm f/2 is the closest to the wide-angle zone, which still comes under the $500 budget, while also providing top-quality optics.
One of the benefits of using a prime lens is the extra-wide aperture, which in this case comes in at f/2, which will work great in low-light conditions. Two extra-low dispersion, three aspherical, and one AA element have been included in the optical mix to correct for the most likely lens aberrations. The linear autofocus motor is reasonably quick to lock into focus while also featuring manual override.
This lens has very good center sharpness at f/2 and produces its sharpest results across the frame at f/4. Also, as the Sony FE 28mm f/2 only weighs 200g, it makes for a very good lens for all-day use, with an extra-wide viewpoint.
3. Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary
The Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary is a good example of when the range of choices is expanded to third-party lens makers, which can open up stellar optics at a great price. The Sigma also covers the widest viewpoint on this list, while also having a 24mm focal length on crop sensor cameras.
This lens also benefits from a very wide and bright f/1.4 aperture, which doesn’t just work well in low-light conditions, but gives a very shallow depth of field. To maintain overall optical quality, the lens contains 16 elements arranged in 13 groups, including three F Low Dispersion, two aspherical, and two SLD elements. Plus, a super multi-layer coating has been applied to all lens elements to cut down the effects of lens flare and ghosting.
Considering that the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN is aimed at the midprice range, it provides excellent image quality, even at f/1.4, with the sharpest results across the frame coming in at f/2.8.
4. Tamron 20mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2 (Budget Winner)
Another example of a third-party prime lens which is far from cheap in its optical qualities is the Tamron 20mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2. This lens boasts a fast f/2.8 aperture, which can also double up as a macro lens providing a 1:2 reproduction ratio and a very close focusing distance of only 10.92cm.
Internally, the lens comprises three LD and one molded glass aspherical element, with a BBAR coating applied to each to maintain overall image quality. The OSD stepping motor provides fast autofocusing, with full-time manual override. All wrapped around a weatherproofed construction and weighing in at only 221g.
Being such a lightweight lens, the Tamron 20mm f/2.8 is a fine accompaniment to the likes of the Sony a7 III, providing a very balanced overall package. In terms of sharpness, the Tamron provides plenty of detail at f/2.8, with tack-sharp results coming in from f/4-f/11.
The lens also works reasonably well as a macro lens, especially with its close focusing distance. But it wouldn’t take the place of a more dedicated 1:1 macro offering. However, as a wide-angle lens, it packs in loads of quality for its asking price.
Branching Out on Sony Ultra Wide-Angle Lenses Under $500
We picked the Sony DT 18-135mm as our number one choice as it provides the best overall usage, while also covering the wide-angle focal range. If you need a general all-rounder lens, then the 18-135mm provides sharp detail at a very competitive price.
However, if you don’t mind straying into the third-party camp, the Sigma 16mm is a fantastic lens for the price. The Sigma offers the widest viewpoint in our shortlist and, due to its very wide f/1.4 aperture, it’s extremely capable in low-light conditions. This makes the lens not just a good solution for landscape and architectural work, but also a good solution for night photography.
If you don’t mind sticking with third-party lenses, then there are a few other options available that are equally as capable. One lens which offers ultra-wide-angle views without diving into fisheye lenses is the Samyang AF 14mm f/2.8 FE. This lens has wonderful optics for the price, while also featuring autofocus. The company also offers an 18mm f/2.8 version, which comes in at just under $300 at current market rates, with excellent optics and a fast autofocus system.