Sony’s impressive line-up of lightweight and compact mirrorless camera for travellers makes it one of the best travel gear to have in 2020. It gives you the power of a DSLR camera without the bulk if you’re months on the road; backpacking or travelling to far-flung places in the world.
Sony has outdone itself with the Alpha series range further evolving what a tiny piece of machine can do to be a full-frame powerhouse. It is a strong contender among other line-ups but it wholly changes the game of what a lean machine and a strong line of APS-C interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras with rich feature sets can do to enhance your travel photography or videography.
I have travelled for months and have made it my go-to camera for portraits, landscapes, street and everyday uses. Sony follows the What You See Is What You Get philosophy really closely. The AF system is second to none on the newer 3rd gen systems. You will find a really sharp focus on the edge to edge focus points means tracking is fantastic for almost all situations.
Let’s start with the basics and a comprehensive overview of the advantages of choosing a mirrorless over DSLR as your go-to travel camera.
Why Pick A Mirrorless Camera and Not A DSLR?
Today’s mirrorless and DSLR cameras are proof that how far digital camera technology has come about, as both carry the ability to produce high-grade quality with incredible performance and convenience.
How do you decide between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR? It all boils down to weight, costs and convenience. Mirrorless cameras have the advantage of being compact, faster, lighter and better, but there’s access to fewer lenses and accessories. DSLRs have a wider selection of lenses and give you a higher advantage of focal length and aperture but they are more complex and bulkier.
With today’s technology and the amount of money spent in research, it would be insane to carry all that bulk with you when you’re backpacking and travelling across the world. Mirrorless cameras have changed the way we shoot, edit and share pictures and video.
The mirrorless cameras today don’t need a complicated optical viewfinder or a big mirror to reflect light, which means they can be a lot smaller and lighter. Autofocus comes in easily leading to very fast read times which means they are capable of achieving superior performance.
The fact is that the best mirrorless cameras now go head-to-head with DSLRs for features, power and performance, and in many areas they’re advanced. Compact system cameras (as they are also known) are smaller and lighter for travel, and more powerful and responsive for video.
Has Sony Always Outdone Themselves Compared to Nikon, Canon and Panasonic?
The impact Sony has had on photography over the last decade is unparalleled, and it is easy to see why Sony leads the pack with the most progressive brand that has invested in their entire range of mirrorless camera technology.
As of now, Sony has a strong line of APS-C interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras, from budget-friendly options to high-end cameras with rich feature sets. Even other cameras in the line-up like Canon, Nikon, Panasonic cannot compete with the range of lens selection (from bokeh to vintage lens) that is capable of getting outfitted on any E-Mount Sony cameras from Sigma to even Rokinon.
It took a little while for the big players, Canon and Nikon, to join the mirrorless party, but now they both have well-established ranges, however nothing beats the range that Sony has. From a price point of view and convenience, Sony wins for the number of native lenses available.
Does It Matter: A Full-Frame Vs APS-C Cropped Sensor Camera?
The most visible difference between full frame and crop sensor is their field of view. This means that if a full frame DSLR like a Nikon and a crop-sensor camera like a Sony take the same photo from the same distance, with the same lens and point of view, the Sony APS-C will capture a tighter field of view with a crop factor of 1.5X than the Nikon DSLR.
Full-frame refers to a sensor size that is equal to 35mm format, the main standard used since the beginning. It is the crème de la crème when it comes to capturing light and transitioning into a higher quality image in all instances. However, with that kind of money to spend on it from lenses to protective gear, it is far from the usual travel ideology of travelling light.
A cropped sensor camera, on the other hand, takes telephoto photography and photojournalism to new heights. It is super useful when shooting sports, wildlife, and other types of subjects where dangling a camera in front of your subject is not intimidating and allows for better connection between your subject, camera and you. That is remarkably impossible on a full frame DSLR camera!
The Sony Mirrorless Cropped Sensor & Full-Frame Camera Terminology
As technology gets updated and more streamlined, with every new update, it may seem confusing to understand the start and end of Sony’s mirrorless camera and full-frame line-up. However, it is easy to differentiate once you divide them into two categories the APS-C cropped sensor (a6x00 series) and the Full Frame sensor (a7 onwards).
It doesn’t seem like there is any end in sight for Sony’s mirrorless lineup, and each one has its own unique capabilities. So if you’re looking to be part of Sony’s ever-expanding camera family, how do you decide where you belong?
The Sony A-Series APS-C Cameras (A6000 - A6600)
It is interesting to note how the Sony A-series has quickly evolved to become the most popular travel camera series because of the right set of camera features at the right price.
Starting with the A6000, A6300 and A6500, these were three 3 most notable models starting with the entry-level camera, novice users and advanced users which were released between the year 2014 and 2016. Sony quickly decided to confuse everyone and introduce more recent models such as Sony A6100, A6400, and A6600 to replace each of those models but to this-date, people are still flocking to get their first range as they’re as good as new in terms of capabilities and price point.
The Sony Full-Frame Cameras (A9, A7, A7R, and A7S)
If you though the APS-C camera was confusing, wait till you take a look at the expanded models. The A9, A7, A7R A7S are all dynamic models, but each has unique advantages that may make it better or worse if you’re really picky about specifics.
All of these cameras all boil down to sensor resolution, which varies considerably from the 61 megapixels down to 12 megapixels. Do you really think you need all of this? If low-light, video capabilities are some of the finer areas where it is a deal-breaker than Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras might be for you.
For Sony A9, it is all about speed and precision. then this model is right up your alley. It is Sony’s fastest mirrorless camera, boasting 20 fps continuous shooting but for the rest of the A7 features, it all comes to dynamic range, ISO capabilities and the need for producing wonderful still imagery and beautiful videos.
While I love the greatest tech, I am all for buying a model from the prior generation, and your extra money can go into lenses and other accessories that make a bigger difference in the quality of your images.
The Ultimate Camera Adventure Kit: Which Camera Is The Best for Travellers?
Sony A6000: Entry-Level and A Great Start To Travel Photography
While the Sony A6000 was released in 2014, and has seen new entry points in the market, the Sony A6000 is still the most excellent entry-point into the world of mirrorless photography.
Some might have tagged it as the best travel camera ever to be made, I say this as a keen Sony A6000 user that it has an incredible autofocus systems that blends in 179 point focal plane phase detection and 25 contrast detect points together with 11fps burst shooting with focus tracking. I have taken some of the best landscape and portraits with this camera and even changed it up with a Sigma 19mm F2.8 wide angle lens to get the same quality as professionals would use.
This camera has nothing to do with age as it clearly doesn’t hurt its performance and the best part is that its price has been knocked down to a few levels. Bottom line, If you are looking to get into photography without shelling out 3-4 grand on a high-end DSLR, this is your way to go.
Sony A6500: The Next Best Travel Camera (If In Need of An Upgrade)
The A6500 sits at the top of the tree in Sony's APS-C series of mirrorless cameras, and it's a particularly strong camera for tracking moving subjects and video. What is great about this camera is the picture quality at a high ISO use for a somewhat compact camera using a crop sensor (APS-C) format.
For instance with a Nikon 800, you would have to use ISO 3600 whereas, with the Sony A6500, it can go way higher than that. The most important difference is the internal image stabilizer of the new Sony A6500 compared to its predecessors. It packs a punch and you won’t have those unsteady shots especially if you’re out there taking some video footage.
Sony A7III: The Anything But Basic Travel Camera
If nailing the shot and ensuring you’re all about the pixels game to take your pictures into print, then the Sony a7III is the right camera gear for you. Sony might call the A7III the basic model of its lineup, but it’s far from basic in my opinion. The 24MP backside-illuminated sensor brings along improved low-light performance and increased dynamic range compared to the already very capable A7 II.
The A7 III also stands strong in its video capabilities and shoots 4k videos where there’s no cropping or pixels blurred. In short, it has the best mirrorless autofocus system on the market, sharp, full-frame 4K video, high shooting speeds worthy of a sports camera, and excellent image quality.
It is also important to note that this is a camera where your travel load won’t become lighter. A full-frame camera comes with additional bulk from tripods to lenses making it really hard to travel light. Having said that, if you don’t mind sacrificing weight for the clarity and precision of your shots, then the A7III is yours.
Sony A7R IV: The No Holds Barred Camera
If you’re really serious about taking your travel photography skills to obscenely new levels, then the Sony A7R IV has no holds barred for the professional photographer. The Sony a7R IV is the latest in Sony’s full-frame mirrorless system and is a feature-full camera system designed for the serious photographer.
If you have been a life-long Canon fan, then this is one model that might make you consider making the switch. The A7R IV is more than a just a simple high resolution camera as it possesses enough processing power to capture full-resolution images at up to 10fps, offers fast real-time Eye AF focusing, well over 500 phase-detect AF points and 4Kp30 video recording with Eye AF.
This might seem like a lot of technicalities for the usual photographer, but the Sony A7R IV is one versatile camera packed to the brim with megapixels and if Nat Geo level is what you’re aiming for, this might just be the right investment for you!
Sony is constantly innovating with its new product line but one thing is for sure is that with the right tools and lenses combined with Sony’s mirrorless framework, you won’t go wrong with achieving your goals of getting the perfect travel shot.
To add to this list of Sony’s cameras, I often use a gorillapod and Adobe’s Lightroom to complete my travel narratives. Lightroom cleans up most of the flaws pretty well and having a truly light setup allows you to always upgrade to another lens down the line, if you grow dissatisfied with the main kit.
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