Sony has certainly been shaking up the mirrorless camera world since their early offerings. The company crams in tons of professional-level features into a very compact camera design, which has quite frankly been making other camera makers jealous.
To show off the ultimate resolving power of these cameras, equally high-end optics were needed. This essentially meant that affordable lenses were out of the question at the early stages, but now that times have moved on it’s entirely possible to find Sony zoom lenses under $500.
The company still has a preference for their higher-end optics, but as shown by the examples below, budget zoom lenses are out there. It’s just that they are few and far between. So, if you’re on a limited budget and you need a good lens under our proposed price point, these Sony zoom lenses under $500 will still provide top quality, while also covering the most usable focal lengths.
1. Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS (Overall Winner)
If you’re going to put all your eggs in one basket for a good quality zoom, the Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS represents very good value. This lens covers the most useful of focal lengths on a full-frame camera while providing a longer reach of 42-105mm on crop sensor versions. This focal range will cover the standards of 35mm and 50mm, and also dips into the medium telephoto zone for the likes of portrait work, short distance sports, and wildlife shots.
The optical arrangement of this zoom lens comprises of nine elements arranged in eight groups. The optics are accompanied by one extra low dispersion and three aspherical elements for reducing lens artifacts and increasing image clarity. An internal focusing mechanism keeps everything at the same length, while the linear autofocusing motor is respectably fast and efficient in this price range.
A basic optical stabilization system has been included, which does a fine job of stopping camera shake, along with keeping shutter speeds high in low-light conditions.
Although the lens has a variable aperture, it’s reasonably fast in good light conditions, and the overall image quality is very good for the price band. This lightweight zoom may ultimately be a kit lens for the likes of the Sony a7 II, but as far as build quality and results go, it’s far more capable than its moniker would suggest.
It was only a few years ago that finding an all-encompassing Sony zoom lens for under $500 was almost impossible. While there are options to use a lens adapter and bolt on Canon glass or other third-party optics, there’s nothing like the peace of mind going with same-brand optics brings. The Sony E 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS represents a very affordable zoom that has respectable image quality and a reasonable price point to match.
The lens is designed specifically for the APS-C-format, providing an 82.5-315mm equivalent focal length, making it a very good option for those who want to cover the medium telephoto range for the likes of wildlife and sports shooting.
The optical arrangement within the lens consists of two extra-low dispersion and two aspherical elements. These reduce chromatic aberration and lens distortions while also improving overall detail and clarity. The lens comes with image stabilization, which when used with the camera’s own built-in version, is a great way to keep everything steady at the longer focal lengths.
This lens is its sharpest at the wider end of the range, and as long as you stop down to f/8, it’s relatively sharp in the center at the longer focal lengths. Image detail, color, and contrast are respectable for the price point, which is the main takeaway message here.
This isn’t a cheap lens, but rather a zoom that will act as a good all-purpose solution, especially for those who are initially experimenting with the longer focal ranges before diving into more expensive Sony lens options.
3. Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS (Budget Winner)
The zoom options above cover the standard focal lengths and the telephoto range, but what if you need something a bit more wide-angle? This is where the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS comes into play, providing a 24-75mm equivalent focal length on APS-C-format E-mount cameras.
As the lens has such a flat design, it only weighs 116g, making it a great travel companion or for those into more discreet street photography. As with the other lenses above, the aperture is variable, but is still very usable in the real world in good light levels. Somehow Sony has even managed to fit an image stabilization system into this compact lens.
As with any kit type lens from other mirrorless camera makers, its ultimate results depend on the user and this lens is no different. As a general-purpose walkabout lens, it definitely fits the bill. It also represents very good value if you have it bundled as a kit lens with the likes of the Sony a series cameras.
Once you get to know this lens and its workable zones, it’s a very good lens for the money. It’s obviously not going to compete with more expensive glass, but for a pancake-like design, it makes for a very lightweight solution.
Focusing in on the Best Sony Zoom Lenses Under $500
As you can see from the Sony zoom lenses under $500 above, the options of zoom lenses for the Sony platform may be limited, but they do cover the most useful focal length bases. In this category, there are considerations such as variable apertures and a lack of overall weather-proofing, but as general-purpose optics, they still provide great value for the money.
In reality, these types of zoom lenses generally suit two types of photographers. Those who are starting out and need a cost-effective zoom lens that they can experiment with until investing in a more expensive solution. Then there are those who simply want a good value zoom, no matter their experience levels, which provides reasonable optics for the most value-conscious price. Either way, all the Sony zoom lenses above should tick the boxes of good quality optics in exchange for a meager amount of money.