It is 2021, and the talk of Sony A6000 and the entire A-series range accounts for the best mirrorless camera of all time. The camera even hosts some of the best travel lenses, whether it is a prime lens, zoom lens or an all-in-one lens.
From documenting wildlife, street life to even capturing portraits, I can see why the Sony A6000 has continued to surge in popularity even in the year 2020/21. With a price tag of under $500, the camera goes toe-to-toe with other DSLRs in the market and achieves the same kind of brilliance; all you need to do is to switch lenses and apply the rule of thirds to capture the best compositions of travel photography.
I have taken my trusty Sony A6000 in extreme weather conditions from -40 degrees deep in the Zanskar ranges of the Himalayas, to the deserts in Iran, canyons in Kazakhstan and mountain peaks in Kyrgyzstan; and it has never failed to document stunning narratives of the local people, constellations and high-altitude mountain ranges.
Understand Your Why: How To Choose The Right Travel Lens
In my previous post, I have published a guide to the best camera adventure kit and understanding how to pick the right camera for travelers but when it comes to finding the right travel lens, it is all about understanding your ‘why’.
If you’re a person who hates lugging around a lot of camera gear or constantly swapping lenses, you don’t want to carry a lot of lenses. At the same, you’d need shots that captures incredible detail, are sharp in imagery and do not appear grainy when zoomed in. It is the absolute worst feeling when your LCD screen dupes you into thinking that your camera is of the best, only when you transfer them and they appear ordinary, out of focus and blurred. This happened to me when I made my first rookie mistake of buying an Olympus camera; but when I made the switch to Sony A6000, quality was never an issue.
Your final decision of choosing the lenses of your choice takes a lot of consideration to understand your travel photography style. If you prefer a prime lens for landscape shots and do not mind zooming in with your feet for portraits or if you prefer an all-in-one lens for wide focal range and versatility, then the choice is yours to make after you’ve taken a thorough look at the range available here.
Even if you’re an ultralight traveler where weight is of a huge concern then picking a prime lens might work well for you, but if you know you can’t decide what you want and still want an upgrade from your kit lens, then an all-in-one Sony native lenses might be just the answer you’re looking for. Either ways, I’ll walk you through what I think works well for the adventurer who appreciates quality photos and wants to capture that essence in travel photography, be it for any of Sony’s A-series range from A6000 to A6500.
The All-In-One Zoom Lenses
Meet the jack of all trades and the most ideal one for all enthusiasts and travel photographers. Having the choice to use different focal lengths gives you the power of choosing your shots, adding variety to them and adjusting your frame so you don’t have to waste precious seconds to nail that picture-perfect moment.
If you are not too obsessed with sharp camera detail and wouldn’t mind doing a little post-processing after capturing your shot, then the all-in-one / zoom lenses are the best travel lens you can have for your A6000 or A-series range.
Sony Kit Lens E 16-50mm: The Best Starter Travel Lens
The kit lens has always been the best starter kit for travel photography. Many people might dissuade you and say that it is absolutely garbage but I have taken it on my travel trips and used the Manual focus and the pictures were of great quality. I started with the kit camera and it was a great all-in-one kit lens to carry around and document street life, people as well as the landscapes.
It’s amazing how it packs a lot of potential in this incredibly small and lightweight lens that makes it easy to carry around everywhere. It is also a greater starter kit and allows you to play around with the features without spending all that money on crazy amount of focal length like a telephoto lens, for instance. If you’re not aiming for moon shots, but want a great all-round starter, then this is the one for you.
Sony E 18 - 105mm F4 G OSS: For Travel Film-Making
This is basically a do-everything camera and is a real steal if you want something sharp, snappy especially when shooting fast-moving objects. If you’re moving up from the regular kit lens, the Sony E18-105mm makes shooting like a dream and at f5 it offers the perfect range for focal lengths.
It is also really good for videography with the zoom features making it as steady as possible if you pair it with a gimbal. It might not be razor sharp in terms of video quality, but you’ll hardly notice the difference.
Sony E 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 OSS: The Great Walk Around Lens
It is also the next great walkabout lens, but what makes it a great all rounder (eventhough very similar to the 18-105) is its compact body and its ability to join the wide side with its telephoto capabilities. At 135mm, it will provide a fair amount of reach if you want to zoom in.
It may not be fast enough for the fast-moving photographer but the image stabilization helps in keeping the photos sharp even when you need to slow down the shutter speed.
It is a great travel lens for your A6000 and even greater to lug it around with you everywhere!
Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3: The Wildlife Kind of Person
An avid sportsman or woman and a bird photographer would cherish having a lens like the Sony E 55-210mm. It takes ordinary zoom levels to a hyper-focused level where your subjects are far enough while allowing you a peek into their worldview and being able to capture just enough of their movement.
The lens also has built-in image stabilisation reducing blur when shooting at long range or in low light. Instead of a standard polygon-shaped lens aperture, this lens features a 7-blade circular aperture for more natural, rounded defocusing or ‘bokeh’. Basically, it does an excellent job when it comes to wildlife shooting or action sports.
Sony 10-18mm F4 OSS: For Shooting Sweeping Landscapes
The Sony 10-18mm f/4 is perhaps of the best E mount landscape lenses for Sony a-series users – especially for those who are all about shooting “ultra-wide”. The 10-18mm f/4 is razor-sharp in the center with only minor softening at the sides of the frame and the distortion is surprisingly minimal for a lens this wide.
You can use it for landscapes, architecture, streets and almost everything to give your shots some perspective and depth to the frame.
Tamron 17-70mm f/2.8: Great for anywhere and everywhere!
This is the newest of the range and has made quite the news around for its 4.1 times zoom ratio! It is quite phenomenal with wide-open focal lengths even near corners. For the price, you really can’t beat this range and it knocks it out of the park in terms of hitting the sweet spot, probably the best lens to replace with Sony E 18 - 105mm and even the entry-level Sony's 16-35 f/2.8 GM.
While it may be missing its optical lens stabilization you can pair this with a new gimbal from DJI RoninSC.
The tech features with Tamron tries to do away without in-body image stabilization and while shooting video it uses AI technology to further improve stabilization compared to other lenses. This feature is yet to be tested but beyond that, it provides excellent optical performance matching the latest high-resolution image sensors from edge-to-edge throughout the entire zoom range. I can’t wait to test it out!
**Note: to available in January 2021, will update this post with purchase links.
Today’s zoom lenses are capable of capturing some of the best crisp images. If there’s one thing you must know is that prime lenses have been around as long as photography was invented, and this has allowed camera manufacturers to improve it and give it the best image quality without any distortion.
The other major difference is weight and price with it being really affordable and allowing you to have that beautiful bokeh effect and giving you a good spin to travel photography as you zoom with your feet! I have been a great fan of prime lens and I think even if they’re not flexible, they make up for it in wider apertures and smaller f-numbers. Imagine being able to control that depth of field wild producing stellar photography without breaking your bank!
Sigma 19mm f/2.8: Great for City & Adventure Travelers
The Sigma lens continue to be a great share for Sony E-Mount lenses and they offer the best value for your money while delivering quality shots and stunning imagery at a fraction of the price. In terms of features, the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 offers all the basics that you need from a prime lens. The main exception is the lack of built-in Vibration Reduction, although the fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 makes up for this to a certain extent.
I have used this lens for even portraits / close-ups and it delivers sharp images without sacrificing quality. It's also great for capturing star trails and basically any landscape shots, people and even cityscapes.
Rokinon/Samyang 12mm f2.0: For Stargazers and Astrophotography
This has been one of the best lenses for star photography and has even been recommended in forums stating that their lenses often outperform many of the more expensive offerings from Canon or Nikon at a much lower price. With a super wide field of view of almost 99° and a fast f/2.0 aperture, it becomes the highest scoring dedicated mirrorless lens for any astrophotography.
Since it is a manual lens, it requires a little more tinkering and for those people who are well-versed with using manual lenses. Beyond that, it performs beautifully for those who are serious about taking their travel photography to insanely stunning heights!
Sigma 30mm f1.4 / Sigma 30mm f2.8: For Stunning Details in Travel Photography
For the price tag, both of these prime lenses - the Sony 30mm f1.4 and Sig,a 30mm f2.8 offer impressive imagery that is natural to the human eye. The colors and sharpness is phenomenal for a $200 prime lens. If you’re starting out, I would recommend this lens over any other Sony lens because of the quality of images. It’s amazing how Sigma have made it affordable for a high-performance lens.
This encapsulates everything you need to know about buying the best prime lenses when it comes to owning a Sony mirrorless camera. Most of these lenses have a way of capturing each story in a documentary-style making every moment unfold in unimaginable ways that’ll make your stories richer, immersive and downright memorable.
If you were going on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, what lenses would you bring with you? Tell me in the comments below!
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