What is the best travel lens for Sony mirrorless

Finding the best travel lens that is cheap, rugged and portable is quite a challenge. Are you wondering what the best lens is for the Sony alpha series? Look no further, I will tell you all you need to know about the best travel lenses for mirrorless cameras.

When I travel I always bring a zoom lens. They are great for every situation and are responsible for framing all the good shots on your backpacking trip. However, prime lenses are great for travel photography too!

What is the best travel lens for Sony

There is always a lens better than the one you currently own. This is a good thing to keep in mind, else you go fully crazy on the latest lenses.

So what makes the perfect travel photography lens? There are a few things I keep in mind when deciding on the best lens for a trip:

The right size lens for your adventure

Since mirrorless lenses are really compact they are perfect travel companions. A camera like a Sony A6000 or A7s + a mirrorless lens weights about the same as a DSLR body alone.

Note: new to mirrorless? All you need to know about mirrorless cameras

The price you have to pay for a travel lens

If you want, you can spend $1200+ on a superior lens. but you have to ask yourself if that’s worth it for you. For me, a fair price for a travel lens is between $500 – $1000.

There are a lot of super sharp travel lenses available for a very cheap price.

Since the Sony alpha series is designed to fit Vintage lenses, you should have a look at the best vintage lenses.

Full frame VS crop sensor lenses

Full frame or Crop sensor comparrison

As you can see in the picture above a crop sensor does exactly what it says: it crops the photo.

If you buy a full frame lens and put it on a crop sensor camera it will change the focal length. For example, a 50mm Full frame lens on a Sony a6000 is now equivalent to a 70mm.

In general, it’s not worth it to buy a full frame lens for crop sensor cameras. However, if you own a Full frame camera ( with crop sensor mode like the A7 series ) it is sometimes worth considering to buy a crop sensor lens.

If you mount a crop sensor lens on a full frame camera, the focal range will stay the same.

Note: Using a crop sensor lens on a FF body will decrease the image quality.

What is the best frame size for travel

Even though I owned both an A6000 and a Sony A7s, and brought both, of them on my trips I still say it comes down to personal preference.

I love the look of images made on a full frame camera. On the other hand, the quality of cameras like the A6000, A6300, and A6500 is unbeatable for their size!

If I really had to choose, I would go for a full frame camera body because I love the look of full frame pictures.

Should you use a zoom or prime lens for travel

A big mistake people make when deciding on their travel lens is that they believe a prime lens is not versatile enough.

Prime lenses are in my opinion the best kind of travel lens and are good for a lot of situations. The downside is that you have to move to get the right shot.

A prime lens is in general sharper than a zoom and they often have a smaller form factor. Because of this, I believe primes are the best in a lot of scenarios.

So what about zoom lenses? Well, they are great too! Zoom lenses are ideal for travel because they are versatile. With a zoom lens, you will always be able to frame your shot.

The pro’s of a zoom lens

Sony makes a lot of good zoom lenses and they can be cheap too!

The thing I like the most about the mirrorless camera lenses is their size. A Sony body + lens is about equal the weight of a DSLR camera. This is especially the case with the zoom lenses in the Sony Alpha series.

The price of a native zoom lens from Sony is anywhere between

Note: Are you a budget traveler? This is the best zoom lens for your Sony mirrorless camera!

Top 4 best zoom lenses for travel

Here is a list of the top 4 mirrorless zoom lenses for travel and my personal opinion on them:

1. Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Lens

The Sony FE 24-240mm travel lens
The Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS lens

This is the absolute perfect travel lens for every situation! It’s a superzoom with a range between 24 and 240 mm. With this lens you will never miss a shot.

The price is also OK given that it is a high-quality Sony lens. Image quality for a zoom lens is more than respectable and sharp.

The only con that I can think of about this lens is its weight. Compared to other mirrorless camera lenses this one is a bit on the heavy side.

Note: Want to buy it, or know the price? View this lens on B&H photo

2. Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 lens

The Sony Zeis FE 24-70mm f/4 lens

Another travel lens dominator from Sony, the 24-70mm f/4 lens! Zeiss is a German lens manufacturer that is very well known in the photography world.

The 24-70mm range is a very popular one amongst all lens developers. Personally it’s my favorite focal range. Because of this the 24-70mm zeiss is in my list of best travel lenses.

Zeiss only makes premium lenses and that often means they come with hefty price. However, this lens in particular is cheap for what you get.

Note: Want to buy it, or know the price? View this lens on B&H photo

3. Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens

The best lens for travel the G master 24-70mm

If money is not an issue and you want the absolute best lens in the world, then the Sony G master is for you!

Although it comes with a price tag this lens is worth every euro for pro photographers. The quality of this lens is absolutely flawless.

Another thing I like about this lens is the constant aperture of f/2.8. This is an absolute killer lens for situations during the day as well as at night. Read my guide about low light photography.

Note: Want to buy it, or know the price? View this lens on B&H photo

4. Sony 18-105mm F4 G OSS (crop sensor)

Sony travel lens 18-105mm G master zoom lens

It is important to say that this is a crop sensor lens! This means you can use it on the Sony a6000 series and on your a7 series when you use it in crop mode.

I was skeptical about buying this lens in the beginning because I was not sure how it would perform on my a7s. But I can tell you now, it is amazing!

When I got the lens I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. It performed very well even when using a full frame in crop mode. One thing you should know if you use your FF camera in crop mode your pictures will be 12mp maximum.

This lens has a power zoom, this means it will be a motorized zoom mechanism. This is the same as in the sony a6000 kit lens. For me, it took some time to get used to but it works fine in the end.

The lens is one of Sonys premium lenses in the G category. Normally these lenses cost a fortune but this one is actually really cheap!

Note: Want to know more about this lens? View the most recent price here

The advantages of a prime lens

The best thing about prime lenses is their image quality. The sharpness of the photo’s taken with a prime is most times better than with a zoom lens.

Most prime lenses come with a wide aperture like 1.8 or lower. This allows you to take photos with the background out of focus and a lot of bokeh.

Prime lenses can get really expensive but on the other side of the spectrum they can be very cheap too! The cheapest native prime lens for the Sony Alpha series starts at $200 USD.

Top 3 best prime lenses for travel

Here is a list of the top 3 travel prime lenses for mirrorless cameras and why they are the best:

1. FE 50mm F1.8

Sony 50mm prime travel lens

This prime travel lens is great to take with you on a trip. It’s small, doesn’t weight much and is available for a cheap price! The quality of the pictures is definitely better than expected compared to the money you pay.

The FE 50mm from Sony has a maximum aperture of F1.8 which makes it the perfect lens for night photography.

I really like the vocal length of 50mm because you can use it in almost every situation. The only time I would not use a 50mm is for astrophotography.

Note: Absolute no-brainer, everyone should have it! Get it on B&H

Sony FE 85mm F1.8

Sony 85mm prime travel lens

Another great lens from Sony them self. The 85mm is a bit more expensive then the 50mm but still worth all the money!

The vocal range of 85mm is perfect for almost every situation. Photo’s taken with this lens just look simply amazing. The only time I would not use this lens is in some street photography scenarios.

Note: This lens is great for travel photography so don’t wait and buy it now

Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens

Sony G master 24mm best prime travel lens

If your budget can afford it, the 24mm GM lens is absolutely an overachiever! The image quality of this lens is absolutely perfect and spot on.

I love the vocal range of this lens, 24mm for me is perfect in every scenario. The f/1.4 makes it a great lens at night too!

Note: Can you afford it? check the price, and buy this amazing travel lens!

Aperture, sharpness, and focus

These 3 specs are good to keep in mind when buying a travel lens. However, it is important that you don’t lose yourself in chasing “the perfect travel lens”.

Keep in mind that companies like Sony and Zeiss use these specs as a marketing tool. I often find that the results in the real world are most times not as noticeable as manufacturers say.

what is the best lens aperture for you

What is the influence of aperture and exposure

For me, the right minimal aperture for a lens would be 4 or lower. If you do a lot of night photography aperture is an important spec.

The wider your aperture the more light comes into the camera.

If you take a lens for travel you most likely want something versatile. A lens that is good at day as well as in dark situations.

If you really want to get the most blur as possible in your photo, go for a prime lens with an aperture of 1.8 or lower. If you can afford it low aperture prime is a great secondary lens.

Should you buy a manual or autofocus lens

A lot of lenses come with autofocus. And although it’s a nice feature to have, it’s not always necessary.

If you are going to use your lens for filming you don’t really need autofocus at all. It’s something you have to get used to and knowing how to use it will give you an advantage in the long run.

A lot of vintage lenses are perfect for travel since they don’t cost much and have a good build quality.

The only time I would advise you use an autofocus lens is when you are doing street photography and you take lots of pictures from different moving subjects.

The sharpness of your travel lens

Finally, the last spec you should be looking at when buying a travel lens is the sharpness.

For me as a passionate hobby travel photographer sharpness is NOT the most important. Of course, pictures should be sharp but I believe if you are just taking photo’s for fun, you will not notice the difference.

Sharpness is often what you pay for and the price of a sharp lens goes up really fast.

Before you buy a lens it’s always smart to check how the travel lens’ performance is. A good site is this topic

Conclusion

There are a lot of option when it comes to buying the best travel lens. When I go to another country I always bring one prime and one zoom.

For my prime lens I like the 24mm vocal range the most. The zoom lens I bring is somewhere in the range between 18-105mm.

If you are serious about buying an expensive lens for travel note that there is always a chance your lens will get damaged or in the worst case even lost. Check what your travel insurance covers and buy accordingly.

Final note: I spend a lot of time writing this article. If you enjoyed reading it, show your appreciation by posting a comment below! 🙂

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Daan Liberta

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Hello digital people,

My name is Daan a 23 year old Digital Nomad and creator of this blog! If you like the things I write about please read this first: