What is the ultimate Sony general-purpose lens?
What is the ultimate Sony APS-C general-purpose lens?
As a generalization, the above lists are sorted in performance and price descending sequence, though other factors must be considered.
Nearly everyone needs a general-purpose zoom lens — also referred to as a standard/normal zoom lens or a walk-around lens.
Typically, this is the most important lens in your kit. You leave this lens on your camera for everyday needs. With this lens, you photograph your family and all of life. You capture events with this lens. You travel with this lens. You hike with this lens. This lens is responsible for the preservation of your most precious memories.
Because this lens will probably be your most-used, because this lens will capture what is most important to you, and because the quality of the lens makes a huge difference in your photographs, I highly recommend buying the highest quality standard zoom lens you can afford.
A critical factor in lens selection is the focal length range, and I consider the heart of the general-purpose focal length range to the angles of view provided by the approximately 28-70mm focal length range on a full-frame camera. Here is a focal length comparison illustrating a superset of the suggested minimum range:
Here are my recommendations.
The Best Sony Full-Frame General-Purpose Zoom Lenses
Ultra-High-Performing General-Purpose Zoom Lens
Because of its remarkable capabilities and features, the Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM II Lens is the go-to lens for many, including the most advanced professionals. The most-needed focal length range is fully covered, with outstanding image quality included.
The wide f/2.8 max aperture advantages this lens for stopping action in low light, making it an ideal choice for photographing action sports and low light events. The f/2.8 aperture is also useful for creating a strong background blur, allowing the subject to be isolated from a distracting background.
This lens's autofocus system performs excellently, and the wide aperture enables reliable low light AF performance.
The Sony "GM" build quality ensures enduring performance from this relatively compact and lightweight lens.
Excellent Image Quality, Close-Focusing Capabilities, Excellent Build Quality, Great Focal Length Range, Fast Autofocus, Optical SteadyShot, Weather Sealing
Though it lacks the wide f/2.8 aperture, the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens adds significantly to the long end of the general-purpose focal length, and it also adds Optical SteadyShot. Lighter weight, smaller size, and lower price are additional advantages this lens has over the Sony FE f/2.8 lens, and somewhat surprisingly, the f/4 lens is slightly sharper in most comparisons. The optical performance combined with the rest of this lens's features, including good weather-sealed build quality, make it a prevalent standard zoom lens choice.
Compact, Lightweight, Great Focal Length Range, Affordable, Good Image Quality
The 20mm ultra-wide-angle focal length holds a big advantage over the 24-something mm standard zoom lens options, and this lens sometimes allows one less lens in the bag. The 20-70mm F4 G is compact and lightweight, making it a pleasure to hold and use, even for hours at a time. Weather resistance means that a bit of rain won't ruin the day.
The affordable price makes the Sony FE 20-70mm F4 G Lens a solid choice for a general-purpose lens.
Incredible Value, Excellent Image Quality, Great Design and Build Quality, Compact, Lightweight
It is not often that I recommend choosing a camera to gain access to a lens, but the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III VXD G2 Lens is such an incredible value that this is one of those unique scenarios.
For a very low price, this lens provides a wide f/2.8 aperture over the entire focal length range.
From an image quality perspective, this lens rivals even the best Sony standard zoom lenses.
Everyone can appreciate the small size and light weight of this lens, and Tamron's (USA) 6-year warranty is unsurpassed.
While I prefer the 24mm focal length to be available on my general purpose lens, this lens's overall package makes me willing to overlook that aspect. The Tamron 28-75 is simply a great all-purpose lens and a great deal.
Strong Value, Solid Performer
The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens, with a focal length range that encompasses the most-used angles of view, is a great all-around lens choice. This lens is well built and functions as beautifully as it looks. With a wide aperture, the 24-70 DN Art lens is ready to tackle low light scenarios, and the image quality this lens produces is very sharp, especially for the low price.
Nice Image Quality, Great Value, Nice Build Quality, Compact, Lightweight
As the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens is added to the recommendations list, it is the smallest and lightest Sony-mount lens covering this focal length range. When those attributes are important, this also affordable lens gets the nod.
Tiny, Ultra-Light, Affordable, Very Good Image Quality, Short Focal Length Range
The Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens first arrived as an affordable kit lens, but this lens's performance exceeded expectations for such. This tiny ultra-light lens is ready to go everywhere you go, without holding you back in any way. The FE 28-60 is a great option to have in any kit, including alongside other general-purpose lenses.
APS-C General-Purpose Lenses
Those with an APS-C format camera do not need the wider image circle provided by a full-frame lens. With a smaller image circle requirement, APS-C lenses can be smaller, lighter, and less expensive. Thus, it makes sense to match the lens to the camera.
The selection of APS-C format normal zoom lenses is somewhat limited for Sony camera owners.
Here is the APS-C 18-50mm focal length range illustrated:
Compact, Light, Well Built, Affordable, Great Image Quality
Nearly everyone needs a general-purpose zoom lens, and the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 DC DN Contemporary Lens is an outstanding choice for APS-C camera owners (and not a bad choice for full-frame camera owners willing to work within the smaller image circle).
The advantages of a smaller image circle are reduced cost, decreased size, and a lower price, and the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 DC DN Contemporary Lens embodies those attributes while still providing a zoom range, wide aperture, and impressive image quality. This is an attractively designed lens with an especially-valued focal length range.
If those attributes do not attract your attention, that this is the review-time best-selling APS-C zoom lens should.
Other Important general-purpose Lenses
While the general-purpose/normal/standard zoom lens is going to get the most use by the typical photographer, a kit of lenses will work best for most. Here are the most-recommended next-lenses to buy: