When we were tasked with finding the best Sony zoom lenses under $250, we had to narrow our focus far more than usual. Sony optics are generally in the higher price range and as we are only looking at zoom lenses today, we can’t opt for the usual prime lenses in this category.
This means, to snag an affordable zoom lens that falls within our budget, we have had to get a little creative and include options that can be picked up either used or refurbished.
Buying a used or refurbished lens is a bit like buying a used vehicle. To make sure you’re getting good lenses, they are best bought from a reputable source and it takes a keen eye to make sure everything is in order. However, from personal experience, if you shop wisely, there’s no reason why you can’t pick up a refurbished lens which is in great shape for a lot less money than the asking price of a brand new unit.
The DT 55-200mm f/4-5.6 SAM II is designed specifically for the Sony A mount, providing a healthy equivalent focal range of 82.5-300mm. This lens also has a variable aperture, but goes slightly wider than the lens above, providing slightly better low-light capabilities.
To maintain overall image quality, one extra-low dispersion element has been included in the optical arrangements of 13 elements in nine groups. Also included is the SAM autofocus motor, which may not be as quiet or rapid as the examples found on more expensive lenses, but is still very efficient, making it one of the top Sony zoom lenses under $250.
On the whole, the 55-200mm is a good lens for everyday use, providing a step up in quality from the average kit lens. The image quality is respectable for the price and the long zoom range is a good choice for anything from scenic shots to close-up wildlife photography.
Next up is the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS. This little pancake lens is another example of top-quality glass which originally cost around $300, but can now be easily picked up as a lens under our proposed budget. Designed specifically for crop sensor cameras, the lens has an equivalent focal length of 24-75mm, covering the most useful viewpoints.
The variable aperture ranges from f/3.5-5.6 and to help reduce the usual amount of lens anomalies, an extra-low dispersion and four aspherical elements have been included in the optical mix. Even with the lens’ diminutive dimensions and weight of only 116g, it somehow manages to cram in an image stabilization system, which works extremely well for hand-held photography.
This lens provides wonderful, sharp images in the middle of its aperture range and performs far better than the price would suggest. The Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS would be an ideal choice for those who want to travel extremely light, with the extra facility of image stabilization.
4. Sony E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS (Budget Winner)
For a lens with such a cheap price tag, the E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS has a lot to offer those who are looking at their first zoom lens. It provides a 27-82.5mm equivalent focal length on APS-C cameras and, with its very light weight of only 194g, makes for a nice all-day travel solution.
Just like the rest of the Sony zoom lenses under $250 on this list, it has a variable aperture of f/3.5-5.6 and even houses a very usable image stabilization system. Autofocusing on this lens is respectable for the price, with full-time manual override when you need to practice in this area. The lens is also reasonably good at providing smooth background blur, or bokeh, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a lens at this price point.
Essentially, if you’re on a very limited budget and need a zoom lens to cover the most useful of focal lengths, the Sony E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS is a reasonable first step into a cost-effective zoom lens.
Diving into the Best Sony Zoom Lenses Under $250
When you have to stick to a limited budget, lens choices tend to dwindle. But as shown with the examples above, you can squeeze some quality examples into our budget range without the limitation of features.
If you need a zoom lens that covers some very useful focal lengths with quality optics, the 55-210mm is a good choice for the price and also offers image stabilization. On the flip side of that coin, if you want the most for your money, then the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS is probably the most cost-effective choice for the Sony platform.
On the other hand, if you’re able to shell out for a more expensive zoom lens, a few more options can be laid on the table. One zoom lens that has always been a firm favorite is the 24-70mm, which covers the most-used focal lengths, while also providing wide-angle views.
One lens that is just a touch over our budget is the Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS. This lens provides quality optics for the price and, although it has a variable aperture, it features image stabilization and is a good quality step up from the average kit lens.