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Sony FE VS E Lenses. What’s The Difference Between These SEL Lenses?

Here’s a quick summary of what you need to know about Sony FE and E lenses and the differences between them.


  • FE and E lenses are both lenses that are made for Sony’s range of mirrorless cameras with the Sony E-mount.
  • FE lenses are designed for full frame Sony cameras with the Sony E-mount.
  • E lenses are designed for crop sensor (APS-C) Sony cameras with the Sony E-mount. 
  • You can use FE lenses on both full frame and crop sensor Sony mirrorless cameras. However, there will be a crop factor of 1.5x applied when using an FE lens on a crop sensor Sony E-mount camera.
  • You can use E lenses on both crop sensor and full frame Sony E-mount cameras but there will be a crop factor of 1.5x applied.
  • Sony FE lenses tend to be more expensive, have wider maximum apertures and have better image quality. 

Sony E lenses tend to be more affordable, have narrower maximum apertures and not as good image quality.

What Is An SEL Lens? 

SEL stands for Sony E-mount Lens and they are a range of lenses that fit Sony cameras with E mounts.

Hasselblad E-mount cameras are also compatible with these SEL lenses.

What Is A Sony E-Mount Camera? 

Sony E-mount cameras are MILCs (otherwise known as mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras) and are not to be confused with A-mount cameras which are older Sony DSLRs/DSLTs which they don’t make anymore. 

An example of one of the most popular Sony Mirrorless Cameras out there right now is the Sony A7 III.

What Types Of SEL Lenses Are There?

Within the SEL lenses, the main things to note are lenses that are denoted with the following:

  • FE
  • E (also just known as e-mount) 

What Does FE Mean On Sony Lenses?

The FE lenses are lenses that are designed to be used with E-mount cameras which have full-frame sensors. 

Full frame sensors tend to have a size of 36mm x 24mm which is roughly equivalent to 35mm film from back in the day.

Examples of full-frame E-mount Sony cameras include:

In short FE lenses are made for full frame Sony e-mount mirrorless cameras.

Related Post: What Is The Difference Between Crop Sensor Cameras VS Full Frame Cameras?

Can I Still Use A FE Lens On An Aps-C E-Mount Camera? 

Yes, it is possible to use an FE lens on an APS-C (crop sensor) E-mount camera, but you have to remember that due to it being a crop sensor camera that there’s gonna be a crop applied to the FE lens. 

The reason for the crop factor is that the image circle of the FE lens is too large for the APS-C sensor E-mount camera. So, the camera will need to crop the image to fit the smaller sensor size.

The crop factor on E-mount APS-C cameras is 1.5x, so a 20mm FE lens will have an equivalent focal length of 30mm instead (20×1.5=30). 

What Is An E Lens?

While FE lenses are specifically designed for full-frame cameras, E lenses are designed for APS-C cameras like the following: 

E lenses will tend to be cheaper than FE lenses because they will be geared towards crop sensor (APS-C) cameras.

APS-C cameras are more on the ‘beginner’ to ‘enthusiast’ level of consumer, where you don’t necessarily need all the expensive components such as full weather sealing.

Anytime you use an E lens there will be a crop factor of 1.5x applied.

Can I Use An E Lens On A Full-Frame E-Mount Camera Like The Sony A7 Or Sony A7s? 

Yes, you can use standard E-mount lenses that are designed for APS-C cameras, on full frame E-mount cameras. 

However, the full frame camera will need to be put into a crop mode where only part of the full frame sensor is used, so the camera automatically compensates for the lens and adds a crop. 

Here’s a graphic below showing why there is a crop applied because the image circle of a Sony E lens is too small for a full frame sensor.

graphic showing how the image circle of a sony e-lens is too small for a full frame sony image sensor so must be cropped to aps-c sensor size
Sony E-lens image circle graphic

This is because the E lenses have an image circle which is not big enough to cover the whole area of a full frame sensor in a Sony camera.

Instead, the E lens’ image circle only covers part of the sensor so you have to downsize it to the sensor size of an APS-C (crop sensor) Sony E-mount camera.

The crop as mentioned before is 1.5x.

So if your lens is 20mm and is an E lens made for APS-C it will look like a 30mm whether you put it on an APS-C or a full frame camera.  

This is not recommended because you are not using the full capabilities of the full frame sensor.

If you do have a full frame camera, then buying an FE lens is a better option in terms of image quality.

What Is The Crop Factor On Sony E Lenses?

The crop factor when discussing Sony E lenses is the same whether you are using an APS-C camera or if you’ve placed an E lens designed for a crop sensor on a full-frame camera. 

The crop factor on Sony E lenses is 1.5x. 

Quick Compatibility Chart

Here’s a quick graphic of a table showing you the compatibility of Sony FE and Sony E lenses when put on either a crop sensor or full frame sensor Sony E-mount camera.

graphic of Sony FE and e lens compatibility chart with crop and full frame sensors
Sony FE / E Lens compatibility chart graphic

Are FE lenses better quality than E lenses?

Canon and Nikon lenses designed for full frame cameras will always be the best in their line up in terms of quality – this pattern also applies to Sony.

FE lenses will tend to be of higher quality in terms of the materials used and the build quality in general.

While Canon has high-end lenses like the L series, Sony’s best lenses will be found in their G and GM (G-master) series lenses. 

Compared to E lenses, FE lenses will tend to have:

  • Higher maximum apertures
  • Better optical quality
  • Better build quality

…and higher price tags!

Should I Buy an FE or E lens? 

While you can use both types of lenses on all types of E-mount, each type of lens has its own pros and cons. 

In general, FE lenses are better in the long run and tend to be of higher quality and more suited to professionals.

They work well on both APS-C cameras as well as full-frame.

If you are using an APS-C camera now, but think you will be investing in a full frame in the future then investing in a good quality FE lens can be good since they will last you a long time. 

E lenses will be great for beginners because they are generally more affordable.

Another situation where E lenses could be better is if you want something very wide angle since FE lenses that are wide angle can be especially expensive.

But remember that whatever lens you get, you should take good care of them the best that you can.

You can quite easily reduce the lifetime of a good quality lens if you don’t take care of it right.

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