What is the ultimate Sony FE (full-frame, E-mount) wedding lens?
As a generalization, the above list is sorted in performance and price descending sequence.
Images captured at weddings become some of the most cherished memories of those involved, and those contracted to photograph these events are expected to deliver high-quality results regardless of the circumstances encountered. Weddings are one of the most common paid gigs photographers can find, and that fact helps justify the purchase of quality, reliable gear, and the lens kit is one of the big keys to successful wedding photography.
Not everyone photographs a wedding the same way. I prefer a photojournalistic wedding photography approach mixed with the classic portraits, and this wedding lens recommendations list reflects this. Zoom lenses allow a wedding photographer to quickly respond to the action taking place while providing for compositional variety and different perspectives. All this without intruding on the event.
Traditional/formal wedding photography may be done just as easily using two or three prime lenses. Prime lenses can also serve well for backup purposes (never rely on a single lens, camera, flash, or anything else for photographing events as important as a wedding), and they can add a different look to the mix of results.
A wide range of focal lengths is often needed for a good wedding shoot - meaning more than one lens.
Since the ambient lighting is usually very dim at indoor weddings, fast (wide aperture) lenses and image stabilization are best. While f/2.8 is typically the slowest (most narrow) aperture I recommend a wedding lens have, though image stabilization can make slower lenses work if the subject is still. Image stabilization will not stop subject motion, but the wedding ceremony itself (with mandatory flash-less photos) is generally composed of near-motionless people. IS will allow some extra depth of field (narrower aperture) while shooting handheld. Adding a flash will allow action-stopping f/4 shots at the often-even-darker reception venue.
If working with multiple camera bodies or there is adequate time for lens changes, fast prime lenses are an excellent choice for wedding photography. Their wide apertures allow lower ISO settings, faster action-stopping shutter speeds, and more-diffusely-blurred backgrounds in a package that is often smaller and lighter than the closest zoom equivalent.
While fast-focusing lenses are always better than slow focusing lenses, most of the action at a wedding is not usually going to stress AF speed performance in a lens. AF precision is always a top requirement, especially so with the shallow DOF delivered by wide aperture lenses.
I'll start the recommended Sony wedding lens list with the trinity of Sony f/2.8 GM zoom lenses and follow with some useful prime lenses.
The Best Sony Full-Frame Wedding 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.
The Ultimate Telephoto Zoom Lens, Impressive Image Quality, Lightweight, Professional-Grade
The 70-200 f/2.8 image stabilized lens is one of the most critical zoom lenses in most photographers' kits. Professionals and amateurs alike typically have this lens in their hands with high frequency. Professionals use it because there is no better lens available for many jobs, and amateurs use it additionally because this is the longest focal length available in an affordable, conveniently-sized f/2.8 lens.
This completely professional-grade lens has impressive image quality, fast and accurate AF, and Optical SteadyShot in a solid, weather-sealed, fixed-size body. The wide f/2.8 max aperture allows action to be captured in low light and, combined with the telephoto focal lengths, allows the background to be blurred away. An added benefit is that this lens performs well with teleconverters, a great option for when you need even more focal length. This lens is not inexpensive, but the version II lens is impressively lightweight.
Ideal Focal Length Range, Wide Aperture, Great Build and Optical Quality
While this lens is relatively large, heavy, and expensive, it makes up for those shortcomings by covering an ideal-for-portraits focal length range typically requiring two lenses. The speed of focal length access is an image quality factor. Having instant access to disparate focal lengths enables fleeting opportunities to be capitalized on. Thus, by its focal length range alone, this lens has the potential to capture a superior set of images from an event.
Despite the long focal length range, the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD Lens avails an ultra-wide aperture that is the widest or nearly so among zoom lenses at all focal lengths. The image sharpness produced by this lens will seal the deal for many portrait photographers.
Sony's Best Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens
A large percentage of weddings are held in an attractive venue, and photographing the place itself is on the wedding photographers' to-do list. The FE 16-35 f/2.8 GM is the Sony ultra-wide-angle zoom lens you want for that requirement. It is an excellent choice for a wide variety of uses, including this one. The image quality it creates is impressive. The lens is well built and includes weather sealing. Those photographing in dark environments will find the f/2.8 aperture advantageous.
The Made-For-Portraits Lens
Sony calls the lens "The ultimate portrait prime," and it is hard to argue against that statement. I've used wide-aperture 85mm prime lenses entire senior portrait shoots, and the results this combination provides are outstanding. There seems to always be enough ambient light to use this lens handheld.
The Right Focal length, Ultra-Wide Aperture, Excellent Image Quality, Relatively Compact and Light, Affordable
The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art Lens is an aesthetically-beautiful, optically and physically high-performing lens in an ideal portrait focal length and aperture combination with a relatively small size, light weight, and low price. This lens delivers very sharp imagery, potentially with a strong background blur, without the burdensome size and weight of its predecessor and competitors, and with an affordable price.
The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art Lens is a smart choice for portraits and other 85mm needs.
Impressive Image Quality, Extremely Wide Aperture, Useful Portrait Focal Length, GM Professional Grade Build
The 50mm focal length is advantageous for the portraiture required at weddings, and it was only a matter of time until Sony included a 50mm lens in the GM family. Offering that focal length and an ultra-wide aperture combination in the flagship lineup seemed a no-brainer.
"Speaking as an optical designer, it's no exaggeration to call this lens the pinnacle of the G Master series, with the ultimate in resolution and bokeh." [Atsuo Kikuchi, Sony]
Price is the only hurdle keeping the FE 50mm f/1.2 GM out of lens kits. However, because this focal length and extreme-wide aperture are so useful, it makes sense to ensure the best quality lens providing such is in the kit. The Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM Lens is that lens.
Useful Focal Length, Wide Aperture, Compact Lens, GM Quality, Moderate Price
The FE 50mm F1.2 was the first Sony 50mm GM lens, and the FE 50mm F1.4 was not far behind, bringing this ultra-popular focal length and aperture class into the professional GM lineup. The Sony ZA version of this lens set the performance bar high, but the Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM Lens cleared it.
This lens provides excellent f/1.4 image quality, and the Dual XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors deliver impressively fast and quiet AF with the accuracy needed to realize the potential image quality. This professional-grade Sony G Master lens is compact and lightweight, with a moderate price.
The utility of 50mm and f/1.4 in a high-performing package will make this lens one of the most used in the kit.
Useful Focal Length, Wide Aperture, Quality Build, Affordable Price
While the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG DN Art Lens is not quite as sharp as the Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM Lens, it offers the same focal length and aperture combination for a noticeably lower cost.
Remarkable Image Quality, Relatively Compact and Lightweight, Affordable, GM Professional Grade Build
Portraits do not always require telephoto focal lengths, and this lens's 35mm angle of view combined with the shallow f/1.4 depth of field can create outstanding portraits.
Offering the extremely popular 35mm focal length and ultra-wide aperture combination in the flagship GM professional-grade lineup seemed a no-brainer. The other no-brainer, at least to many, is the decision to purchase this extremely high performing, relatively compact, lightweight, and affordable lens. Its review-time best seller ranking attests to that statement. Just get this 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. This lens is a great low-budget choice that is easy to carry through long events.
Compact, Light, Sharp, Affordable, Slightly Shorter Focal Length Range
Tamron continues to produce great mirrorless lenses, and the 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD Lens is another big hit. Though this lens's focal length range falls short of the competing 70-200mm models, the range it does provide is perfect for the portrait photography required at weddings. This lens providing great image quality. The compact and light weight will be appreciated during long wedding shoots. That the price is affordable is welcomed by everyone.
Visit the Sony Lens Recommendations page for more recommendations.