Due to popularity of my guide for micro 4/3 lenses, I’ve decided make a similar guide for Sony NEX users. This is a list of what I believe are the best lens choices for Sony NEX mirrorless system and is based mostly on my personal experience. Lenses that I reccomend in this article are the ones I allready own or the ones I would buy for my personal use without hesitation.
RECCOMENDED PRIME LENSES FOR NEX
1. Rokinon 8mm F/2.8 Fisheye
This is the only third-party lens I will recommend at his time so let’s start with it as it happens to be the widest lens available for NEX at his moment. Rokinon 8mm is a fisheye lens which gives you a recognizable distorted effect. It is perfect for unique interior or landscape shots perspective, but you can use it any way you like: my favorite non-landscape use of fisheye lenses is for funky portraits.
This is manual focus only lens, so please keep this in mind before buying it. Still, don’t be afraid; since fisheye lenses have big depth of field, you can set it to F/8 for daylight shooting, preset the focus at infinity and everything from around 1m to infinity will be sharp.
2. Sony SEL16mm F/2.8 + VCL-ECU1 UWA
Yes, I do recommend 16mm pancake. Please keep reading before you dismiss me as a lunatic. 16mm lens got some bad reviews in the very first days after the release but they were probably based on bad pre-production lens samples. Nevertheless, Sony responded very soon and somewhat changed optical formula and the result is very usable lens.
SEL16 pancake provides a field of view like 24mm lens on FF camera and it is appropriate for landscape or indoor shots. Combined with ultra wide angle adapter you get an equivalent FOV of 18mm what is perfect for unique landscape shots. I own 16mm and VCLECU1 ultra wide angle adapter for three years and assure you it is very capable combination. UWA works so well on 16mm pancake that I’ve heard speculations Sony designed them as a single lens and divided them in half before release. It is sharp enough for most normal use applications across the frame (only corners get a tad softer at larger aperture) and light fall-off is also under control. Still beware: UWA can produce ugly flare if the sun is in the frame at certain angle.
3. Sony SEL 20mm F/2.8
NEX 20mm pancake is the lens I think Sony should have released in 2010 instead of 16mm pancake. It has an equivalent FOV like 30mm lens on full-frame camera. This is ideal focal length for everyday shooting, walk-around or street photography. Due to small size, NEX will be almost pocketable with this lens. It is not the cheapest lens nor has the fastest aperture but has very good optical performance and is very small and light.
4. Sony 35mm F/1.8 OSS
NEX 35mm lens has an equivalent FOV like 50mm lens on full-frame. This is focal length that will allow you to take all sorts of images from portraits, street photography and landscape up to smaller subjects (it is not a macro lens though!). If you ask any photography veteran, this is the lens you should start to learn photography with. SEL 35 has excellent optical qualities and built-in optical stabilization.
5. Sony 50mm F/1.8 OSS
NEX 50mm F/1.8 lens is the best choice for portrait and low light photography. It has a three and a half stops light gathering advantage over SEL16-50 or SEL18-55 kit lenses at identical focal length what makes a huge difference. Due to large aperture, you can also get shallow depth of field and nice bokeh. Optical steady shot is built in.
RECCOMENDED ZOOM LENSES FOR NEX
1. Sony SEL10-18 F/4 OSS
Sony NEX 10-18 F/4 lens is an ultra wide zoom particularly practical for landscapes and interior shots. It has 15-28mm FOV (in 35mm terms). Optical stabilization (OSS) is built in and you get a lens hood as a part of the package. Besides excellent optical performance this lens is interesting for its portability: it weighs only 225 grams which makes it the lightest ultra wide zoom on the market.
2. Sony 18-55 F/3.5-5.6 OSS
NEX 18-55 lens is a standard kit zoom lens which comes with many NEX cameras. It has average optical performance but is still better than many kit lenses on the market. You get the lens hood with it, optical stabilization is built-in and the build quality is surprisingly good (metal mount and body).
Many people might be tempted for 16-50 which has similar optical performance and is twice smaller but I would not want to have it because of its motorized zoom control. Mechanically linked zoom on 18-55mm is faster to use, less complicated and doesn’t drain the battery. Also, you cannot attach a lens hood to 16-50 lens.
What about telephoto lenses?
Well, NEX system still lacks a good telephoto lens, at least in my opinion. You could get a relatively good and affordable 55-210, but it is far from impressive and has slow aperture F/4.5-6.3. Also, there are several 18-200 variants from Sony and Tamron but they are too big and heavy for small NEX bodies.
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