One of the questions I often see online is “What is the best travel lens is for the Sony A6000?” This includes the rest of the Sony Alpha series as well. (A6000, A6300, A6400. A6500, etc.) I figured I’d take a stab at answering that question! I’ve divided the post into prime lenses and the best all in one lenses for the A6000 (or others) as that’s often the first choice you have to make.
Whether your travel photography is predominantly in cities or in the wilderness there’s an option for you. This post outlines some of the best prime lenses and some of the best all in one lens options for the SonyA6000 series.
How to Choose a Travel Lens
As I’ve talked about in other posts, and in outlining my own gear choices, travel photography is a bit of a balancing act and really comes down to your personal preferences. You don’t want to bring so many lenses with you that you’re spending more time swapping lenses than enjoying the moment. On the other hand, you also need good, sharp lenses that can capture the memories of your adventures. Nothing is worse than getting home and looking through your pictures only to realize that they’re soft or out of focus, knowing that it would cost thousands of dollars and time you probably don’t have to go back.
The lenses you choose to take with you on your travels are a personal choice based on your own travel style and your photography preferences just as the way that everybody packs for a trip is different. I recommend that before buying anything the first question you seriously consider is if you think you’ll prefer prime lenses for their sharpness and low light abilities or an all in one lens for its versatility. If you’re not sure, it may be a good idea to rent or borrow a lens first and see how it handles at home before buying it and taking it abroad.
Another question to consider is where you will be using it and what you like to take photos of. Do you like large, dramatic landscapes? Colourful city action? Maybe you like to capture the local culture. Whatever the choice it will inform your lens preferences.
I should be clear that I haven’t tried all of these lenses (I’m not rich!), but I’ve scoured the web for recommendations for the best travel lenses for Sony Alpha cameras and put it all together, so let’s get into it!
All in One / Zoom Lenses
If you’re not convinced that you want to carry around and swap a group of prime lenses then an all in one lens is probably for you. If you think you’d like to take videos on your travels and suspect you’ll want to have different focal lengths available during those videos, same thing.
All of these lenses won’t be as sharp as an equivalent prime, and they won’t be as effective in low light, but this goes back to picking the lenses that fit your travel and photography style. Not everyone wants to be constantly swapping lenses. In general, people are too obsessed with theoretical sharpness anyways.
If you just want to take some good quality photos of yourself and your family and you don’t have aspirations to shoot for National Geographic, you will probably be more than happy with an all in one lens for your travel photography with any Sony 6xxx camera. While I went the prime lens route I think that most people fall in the zoom group or should at least start here.
Sony Zeiss 16-70 Vario Tessar F4 OSS
Quick to focus, sharp, a zoom with a variety of useful focal lengths, and all in a small package. What’s not to like? Here’s a well-done review where it’s run through the full gamut of tests.
Sony 10-18 f4.0 OSS Wide Angle
A popular native lens offering from Sony, this is a versatile ultra wide angle lens option. It would be perfect for photos when you are travelling in cities, and for sweeping landscapes.
It has autofocus and Sony’s Optical SteadyShot Stabilization allowing you to use slower shutter speeds at night. At F4.0 it is maybe a bit slower than some would like but still perfectly capable. This is certainly a wide angle lens worth considering for your travel needs.
Sony 16-50 Kit Lens
Many disparage the sharpness of the kit lens that comes with the Sony A6000, to the point where some say you should throw it out immediately but it actually can take some pretty good photos, especially if you’re not a pixel-peeper.
The lens is small and compact, to the point where you can practically fit your camera in your pocket when it’s attached. The focal range is perfect for a wide variety of travel photography so it certainly warrants consideration. They say that the best camera is the one that you have with you and that applies to lenses as well.
Sony 18-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens
Lens names sure are a mouthful, aren’t they? This is one of the most popular all around lenses for the A6000 and it would be great for travel photography. It’s bigger and heavier than the kit lens, but it’s much sharper and faster. Those that have this lens say that they almost never take it off their camera. Indeed, you could likely travel with this as your only lens.
It offers the perfect range of focal lengths and it’s fast enough at f4 throughout its range. Unless you’re a serious pixel peeper or you’re unfairly comparing it to prime lenses you’ll likely be very happy with its sharpness.
Sony 18-135 f3.5-f5.6 OSS
So many lenses with similar focal lengths! What’s the difference with this one? This is one of the latest additions to the Sony lens lineup and while at first glance, it seems very similar to the 18-105, it’s in a much more compact body. If you like the idea of an all-around lens but don’t want something that’s too big and bulky this would be a good upgrade from the kit lens.
Can’t decide between these two? Here’s a great comparison video of the Sony 18-135 and Sony 18-105.
Sony 18-200 f3.5-f6.3
If you’re looking for even greater variety in the focal lengths of your one lens solution this is an option to consider. To fit everything from 18mm to 200mm in one lens definitely comes with some compromises so it’s not going to be as sharp as the other lenses on this list. But what it lacks in sharpness it makes up in versatility and convenience.
If your travel photography preference is to have the sharpest, best lenses possible then you’ll probably be looking to pick up a series of Prime lenses. To be clear, there is still a compromise here as it can be a pain switching between prime lenses. Switching often exposes your camera’s sensor to potential dust, meaning you may need to clean it more often, or you may even decide that you need to invest in a second camera body.
If you decide that your preference is prime lenses you’ll have to learn to zoom with your feet! Prime lenses only have one focal length and because of that fact, manufacturers can optimize everything in the glass’ design to make the lens as sharp as possible. Prime lenses typically are able to provide lower f-stops for low light performance and that creamy bokeh look.
Rokinon/Samyang 12mm f2.0
This is one of my personal favourites and it’s a very popular lens for the Sony Alpha system. In fact, when I asked favourite travel lenses on a Sony A6000 Facebook Group it was the clear winner. It’s affordable and sharp beyond its price tag, great for landscapes.
It does not have Autofocus and is completely manual focus, but that’s not a huge drawback for travel photography with this lens as pretty much everything is in focus when it’s set to infinity. In fact, I pretty much just leave it at infinity and don’t have to worry about focusing. This lens is pretty much always on one of my cameras when my travels take me into the wilderness as it’s fantastic for capturing sweeping landscapes.
With a maximum aperture of f2.0, it’s perfect if your travels take you to the backcountry and you aim to try some Astrophotography. But don’t take my word for it, read the review at Lonely Speck where they are much bigger Astrophotography experts than I am!
Sigma 16mm F1.4 DN Contemporary
This lens wasn’t really on my radar until I posted in the Sony Alpha Facebook Group asking for opinions on the best travel lenses and it came up a couple of times as a recommendation. A little bit less wide than the Rokinon, it has autofocus and is also tack sharp. Again, it’s well suited for taking photos within cities, of vast landscapes, and even astrophotography.
Sigma 30mm f1.4, Sigma 30mm f2.8, or Sony 35mm f1.8
When looking for an everyday travel lens one of these three lenses will inevitably come up in your search. All three are similar enough that I’m grouping them together.
At around 30-35mm these all have a focal length that’s similar to what you see with the human eye so they’re easy to work with. My recommendation is the Sony because it comes in a much smaller package (important for travel) but you wouldn’t go wrong if you chose either of the Sigma lenses.
Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list. I personally think these are the lenses that warrant the strongest consideration but there are so many other options. With mirrorless cameras like the Sony Alpha series you even have the option to adapt legacy glass so there’s no shortage of lens options. Whatever you use, if you’re happy with the results, more power to you!
So there you have it, my recommendations on the best travel lenses for the Sony A6000 and the rest of the Sony Alpha series. Do you have a favourite that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments and I’ll check it out!