As we’ve seen with other makers it’s the less extreme focal lengths that are easiest to correct for image degrading aberrations. It will come as little surprise to learn that lenses in the 35-85 mm range consistently achieve high-image quality. However, that assumes a moderate maximum aperture.

Models with ‘fast’ maximum apertures are exponentially more difficult to design and manufacture. In order to reduce aberrations to an acceptable level they require a more complex optical construction with more elements and exotic glass types, all of which are reflected in the price.

At $1,426, Sony’s Zeiss branded 85mm f/1.4 is the best performing lens on the A77 and even outperforms the state-of-the-art Sigma 35mm f1.4 HSM A. In third place, with slightly higher sharpness levels than Sigma, is the modestly priced Sony DT 30mm f2.8 Macro SAM. In addition to the useful 1:1 (life-size) magnification macro feature, as the equivalent to a 45mm it would serve double duty as a standard or ‘normal’ lens. Although it has a ‘slow’ f2.8 maximum aperture, it’s still good value at $300.

Sony Planar T* 85mm F1.4 ZA14262615
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A Sony8992611
Sony DT 30mm F2.8 Macro SAM3002212
Tamron SP AF 60mm F/2 Di II LD [IF] MACRO Sony4992213
Sony DT 35mm F1.8 SAM3252113
Sony 35mm F1.4 G13692113
Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro6792113
Sony DT 50mm F1.8 SAM1502014
Sony 50mm F2.8 Macro5802012
Sony 85mm F2.8 SAM2492013
Konica Minolta AF 50mm f/1.42601915
Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Sony7251913
Sony 50mm f/1.4448199
Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2/24 ZA Sony12501810
Sony 300mm F2.8 G II7500178
Sony 500mm F4 G SSM13000159
Sony 28mm F2.8 2701511
Sony 20mm F2.87301411
 

The Tamron SP AF 60mm f2 Di II LD (IF) Macro and Sony DT 35mm f1.8 SAM, in fourth and fifth place respectively, are also notable for their reasonably modest price and good optical performance. While few macro lenses can boast of fast maximum apertures the Tamron is one of the exceptions, but bear in mind, though, it’s made specifically for APS-C size sensors with an equivalent field of view to that of a 90mm.

The Sony DT 35mm f1.8 SAM is another model made for APS-C size sensors and while it may not have the overall image quality of the Sigma 35mm f1.4 HSM A series lens, it’s a good deal smaller and lighter.

However, the best value in our prime database must be the $150 Sony 50mm f1.8 DT. As a small and lightweight equivalent to a 75mm this lens may still be on the short side for portraits, but it is sharp in the center.