- All the Lens Mount Labels
- Sony E vs FE Lenses - the Main Difference
- Other Differences to Check Sony E vs FE
- Some Lens Examples
- Final Thoughts
- The Best Zoom Lens for Sony a6000
- Three Sony FE Lenses You Need in Your Bag
- Should You Buy a Sony a7r iv Used?
- Which Sony Camera for Photography Is Right for You?
- Should You Get a Full Frame or Crop Sensor Camera?
- 4 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Used Lens
Sony mirrorless cameras are some of the most popular and capable interchangeable lens cameras ever made. From entry-level to full-fledged professional models, and in two different formats, Full Frame and APS-C, Sony has multiple cameras from which to choose.
The lens options and the nomenclature used for Sony camera lenses can be somewhat confining, though, such as Sony E vs FE lenses, Sony A lenses, and cinematography lenses.
We’ll explain the differences and show a sure-fire way to keep it straight with Sony E vs FE lenses, plus a great way to save money on Sony cameras and lenses (my favorite online platform, MPB).
Table of Contents:
All the Lens Mount Labels
Photo by delihayat via iStock
Hold on to your hat! We’re taking a trip in the wayback machine again.
The story of Sony digital cameras actually begins with Minolta, a brand that was one of the top Japanese camera brands and was well respected in the industry, being partnered with Leica for several camera designs in both SLR and rangefinder cameras.
Minolta made 35mm SLRs with a lens mount called MC/MD. Minolta was an early leader in 35mm autofocus SLRs with a camera line called Maxxum that had a brand-new lens mount, the A-mount.
After the initial success of Maxxum cameras, Minolta entered into a partnership with another camera and electronics company, Konica. By this time, digital photography was becoming a bigger focus than film photography, and Minolta had some interesting entries in digital cameras.
Some more business deals happened until Sony took over the photography line of stuff that had the Minolta brand. Sony was a giant in electronics in general and in advanced video technology, so it was not a surprise to anyone when Sony led the charge for professional-quality mirrorless cameras and also entry-level and intermediate-level mirrorless cameras.
The design of mirrorless cameras is substantially different from cameras with a mirror box, so a new lens mount was created, the E-mount. In addition to lenses being listed as E-mount, they also made lenses labeled Sony FE-mount.
So, to round them all up, Sony lenses and cameras can currently be found with different mounts and labels. PL lenses are used by Sony professional video cameras. A-mount lenses are used on DSLR-style cameras. Finally, E-mount or FE-mount lenses are used on Sony mirrorless digital cameras.
Sony E vs FE Lenses - the Main Difference
Now we’re at the Sony E-mount vs FE-mount lenses and wondering what the differences might be.
The mounts of these lenses are identical physically and electronically. And yet, we have Sony FE vs E lenses.
Here is the primary difference: E-mount lenses are designed to cover the APS-C format, while FE-mount lenses are designed to cover Full Frame format sensors.
This is where I get my surefire way to tell them apart, Sony E vs FE lenses. ‘F’E lenses are made for ‘F’ull Frame cameras, and E lenses are for the crop format APS-C. Please note that with other brands, this labeling trick may not hold true, so just use it with the Sony brand.
Other Differences to Check Sony E vs FE
Sony E vs FE lenses will fit and work on any Sony mirrorless camera with the E-mount, regardless of format. What happens when an E-mount lens is mounted to a Full Frame format camera is that the camera is triggered into recording files with an APS-C-sized portion of the Full Frame sensor.
Conversely, mounting an FE-mount lens on an APS-C format won’t adjust the sensor at all, but that lens focal length will now have a crop factor to consider. The focal lengths don’t change, but since the APS-C format is smaller than Full Frame, a crop factor exists compared to Full Frame.
Crop Factor is an interesting and sometimes confusing part of digital photography. In simplest terms, using a lens on a smaller format will have different magnification than on Full Frame.
Sony APS-C cameras and lenses have a crop factor of 1.5X compared to Full Frame. A 100mm lens on a crop sensor Sony will behave similarly to a 150mm lens on a Full Frame camera. The focal lengths don’t change, just how the lens is seen by the two formats. It’s meant for comparison purposes only.
Some other differences have nothing to do with Sony E vs FE lenses as far as format compatibility, but with special characteristics, maximum lens aperture, and build ruggedness.
Sony has a partnership of sorts with Zeiss for creating lenses that are among the sharpest of their kind. Sony brand lenses can come in kit-level, intermediate-level, and professional-level with quite a lot of overlap of intended levels and use for some lenses.
Some Lens Examples
Photo by Korey Peterson via iStock
With all of that history and technical discussion under our belts, here are some Sony lenses to consider for the formats and camera types.
For all of these, I’m linking to the online platform MPB for prices and availability. MPB is one of my preferred ways to pick up high-quality cameras and lenses. MPB specializes in pre-owned gear, which means lower costs for you.
You can further reduce the cost of the Sony E or FE lenses you purchase by trading in your gear. It’s a simple process that involves shipping your items to MPB (they pay for shipping!) and using your credit towards a new-to-you lens.
MPB has a rigorous system for ensuring they only sell excellent gear. Each item is inspected and given a clear, detailed, and accurate description. Likewise, MPB offers a seven-day return window and a six-month warranty on virtually everything they sell.
Below are a few of MPB’s Sony E vs FE lenses.
SONY FE 12-24MM F/2.8 GM
At this focal length range, you would think the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM was an APS-C format lens, but it’s made for Full Frame! That’s really wide without being fisheye! The fast maximum aperture is nice, too.
Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS
The Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS is an attractively priced normal range zoom lens for Full Frame. Excellent sharpness and very close focusing.
Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM
With amazing bokeh in a nifty fifty for Full Frame, the Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM lens is fast enough to give you a very fast sweet spot aperture, plus it’s super sharp.
Samyang 12mm f/2 NCS CS
Very fast and very wide, the crop format wide-angle Samyang 12mm f/2 NCS CS lens is surprisingly affordable and a fine performer.
Sony E 16-55mm f/2.8 G
It’s always advantageous to have some extra lens speed in your pocket. This Sony E 16-55mm f/2.8 G normal range zoom lens has a fast maximum aperture, close focusing, and is very small and light for matching with Sony Alpha APS-C cameras.
Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS
The Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS lens speed may be a little limited, but this lens gives a lot of telephoto punch and does so in a compact, very balanced package. Like all Sony lenses, this telephoto zoom is sharp as a tack.
Photo by structuresxx via iStock
The question of Sony E vs FE lenses has an easy answer. Plus, looking for these lenses means you’re already using some of the top cameras around for APS-C and Full Frame format. Check out what else MPB has that can save you money on cameras, lenses, flashes, and other accessories.