Sony’s A7 Series full-frame mirrorless cameras are an instant hit amongst travel photographers who need the quality imagery that full-frame DSLRs produce minus the bulk associated with it. The only limiting factor it had when it was released in 2013 was the selection of lenses it needed to compete with already established brands such as Canon and Nikon.

The limited variety of FE lenses made it a deal breaker for most travel photographers who need the versatility and coverage of various zoom and prime lenses. However, it didn’t take long for Sony to come up with a wide selection of optics for the A7 Series such as the Alpha A7R III (and the venerable Sony A7 III) to win the hearts of many travel photographers, myself included.

Here we will cover the best travel lenses for the Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras. Several factors go into our picks. Resolving power and resolution isn’t the only and main factor we use to determine the best “travel” lens. Things like weight, price (especially if you’re a budget traveler), and how convenient it is to use the lens should be taken into greater account. So, with that in mind, let’s get to it.


The Best Sony E Mount Lenses for Full-frame Cameras


Sony FE 24-240 mm f/3.5-6.3

Sony FE 24-205mm

MSRP: $900
Type: Wide-Telephoto
Weight: 27.6 oz.
Filter thread: 72 mm
Pros: Huge coverage for travel and can be your one and only lens
Cons: Not the sharpest lens

Most professionals will balk at this lens. Regarding optical performance, it’s not the best in the market. There are some distortions at certain focal points, and the auto-focus isn’t the fastest. That’s not the fault of the manufacturer or the engineers that designed the lens, it’s just the laws of physics that optics such as these can’t break. What you’re gaining in weight savings and convenience you are going to sacrifice some quality.

How much of a sacrifice? Not so much! The majority of my top selling stock photos are shot with the 24-240 mm, and it’s the lens I pick up most to compose a shot before switching to a different lens (if I do). This lens will allow you to travel light and shave off lots of weight from having to carry multiple lenses. You would have to pixel peep a lot to tell a shot taken from this lens vs. a shot that was made from a $3,000 prime lens. In most, if not all, situations this lens is more than adequate enough. The no-frills and functional use of this lens make it a favorite and top choice for travel photography.

Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3

Image Quality3
Weight and Size5
Convenience5
Autofocus3
Ergonomics4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony FE 24-105 mm f/4

Sony FE 24-105 mm f/4

MSRP: $1,398
Type: Wide-Telephoto
Weight: 23.4 oz.
Filter thread: 77 mm
Pros: Huge coverage, an all-in-one lens with a constant f/4 aperture that is sharp at all corners
Cons: Doesn’t cover as much as the 24-240 mm

This lens will make a perfect one and only lens in your bag if you want to go ultralight travel with decent coverage. It’s not the fastest lens, but the constant f/4 aperture means you can retain the same brightness and speed across all focal points. The optics on this lens isn’t too shabby either, and it keeps the sharpness on all four corners.

You’ll be torn between this and the Sony 24-70 mm below or the Sony 24-240 mm above. As it stands, it’s the one in the middle and rightly so – it’s sharper than the 24-240 mm but slower than the 24-70 mm below. If you can’t see yourself shooting above 100 mm and don’t need the extra stop then this lens is a no-brainer – It can quickly become your one and only go to lens for travel.

Sony FE 24-105 mm f/4

Image Quality4
Weight and Size5
Convenience4
Autofocus4
Ergonomics5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony FE 24-70 mm f/2.8 GM

Sony 24-70mm f2.8

MSRP: $2,199
Type: Wide-normal/Portrait
Weight: 31.25 oz.
Filter thread: 82 mm
Pros: Very sharp images for a zoom lens and great for videos
Cons: Limited coverage, heavy, and expensive

If image sharpness is the top criteria you’re looking for in a travel lens, then look no further. A wide-normal zoom in the 24-70 mm range with sharp optics is a standard option among Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Sony tried with the Sony 28-70 mm f/2.5-5.6 and the slower Sony 24-70 mm f/4, but both aren’t up to snuff with the any of Canon or Nikon’s offerings.

With the Sony 24-70 mm f/2.8, Sony has upped the ante on the important focal range of standard zooms. Such high-quality glass also comes with a high price tag associated with it. It’s about $600 more than Nikon’s 24-70 mm f/2.8 ($1,797) or Canon’s 24-70 mm f/2.8 and also more massive at 31.3 oz. You will have to judge for yourself if the slight advantage in sharpness is worth the weight and extra costs. It is also worth noting that you can use Nikon and Canon lens through the use of an adapter on Sony full-frame cameras.

Sony FE 24-70 mm f/2.8 GM

Image Quality5
Weight and Size3
Convenience4
Autofocus5
Ergonomics5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony FE 16–35 mm f4 ZA OSS

Sony FE 16–35 mm F4

 

MSRP: $1,349
Type: Super Wide-Telephoto
Weight: 18.3 oz.
Filter thread: 72 mm
Pros: Great wide angle coverage and reasonably lightweight
Cons: Some distortions and slower than the optically superior f/2.8 version

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm f/4 Zeiss Lens is a great choice for a wide-angle zoom lens. It’s getting heavy competition from the new kid on the block, the Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM, but it’s much lighter and less expensive than its new brethren. If you’re not shooting the Milky Way at night or don’t need the extra stop at f/2.8, then you can’t go wrong with the standard f/4.

The lens is sharp at all corners with a little bit of distortion – as what comes typically with super-wide angle zoom lenses like these. You would be hard pressed to find the Sony f/4 lacking in performance – It can efficiently produce professional quality images. If you’re hand-holding with your camera, you might do better with the f/2.8 version – which is an optically superior lens. However, you would have to be willing to fork an extra $800 or so and put some extra weight in your luggage.

Sony FE 16–35 mm f4 ZA OSS

Image Quality4
Weight and Size5
Convenience3
Autofocus4
Ergonomics4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM

 

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

MSRP: $2,198
Type: Wide-Telephoto
Weight: 24 oz.
Filter thread: 82 mm
Pros: A flagship super-wide angle lens with superior optics
Cons: Heavy and expensive

The Sony  16-35 mm f/2.8 is the best super wide-angle zoom in existence. If you have an extra $2,000 to spare and don’t mind the carrying a behemoth, then you can’t go wrong with this optic. It offers consistent performance across its constant f/2.8 aperture. As part of Sony’s G Master series, the 16-35 mm f/2.8 is the top of its class with fast and quiet autofocus and weather sealing. It’s perfect for lowlight and astrophotography, with excellent coma performance.

Would you take this lens versus the smaller f/4 version above? Indeed, you’ll be torn apart fussing at all the minute details and differences. The f/2.8 is a sharper lens and gives you an extra stop. But, it will cost you an additional $800, weights you down more and will take over more space in your bag. You would also need to fork up for bigger filters as the thread mount is at 82  mm. For travel, I would say the f/4 is good enough but if you can fork up the extra money go for the f/2.8 – Being able to shoot astrophotography is a bonus.

Sony FE 16-35 mm f/2.8 GM

Image Quality5
Weight and Size3
Convenience4
Autofocus5
Ergonomics5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

 

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

MSRP: $249
Type: Normal Prime
Weight: 6.6 oz
Filter thread: 49 mm
Pros: Very sharp, very fast, very light, and very cheap
Cons: Limited in its use and coverage

Everyone should have an affordable, reliable, and fast lens like the Sony FE 50 mm f/1.8. A 50 mm f/1.8 is cheap to produce, and all the major camera manufacturer has one. This is Sony’s version, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s great for capturing normal everyday things like a stroll down a street in Paris or capturing fast-moving street scenes in New York’s Central Park.

This tiny lens delivers massive performance for a fraction of the price. The autofocus is fast and very quiet, allowing you to capture scenes in silence and obscurity. There’s no degradation in performance regarding contrast and sharpness when you shoot wide-open at f/1.8. There’s some slight vignetting unless you stop it down to f/2.8, but it’s not an adverse effect. This would make a perfect companion lens for travel as it fast, quiet, and very compact.

Sony FE 50 mm f/1.8

Image Quality5
Weight and Size5
Convenience3
Autofocus5
Ergonomics5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Tamron 28-75 mm f/2.8 Di III RXD

MSRP: $799
Type: Wide-Telephoto
Weight: 19.4 oz.
Filter thread: 67 mm
Pros: An inexpensive lens with superior optics, fast, good wide angle and regular coverage
Cons: Doesn’t bear the Sony G brand name and limited coverage for travel

You might have some hesitation with using third-party lenses, but you owe it to yourself to check out the competition. I’m a Tamron convert. The brand has consistently delivered excellent optics at a fraction of the costs vs. brand names. Before Sony’s release of their flagship 16-35 mm f/2.8, I’ve been using the Tamron A-mount SP 15-30 mm f/2.8 Di USD Lens with an integrated electronic adapter. The lens is sharp and considerable cheaper than its brand name counterpart. The Tamron 28-75 mm f/2.8 is no different here compared to the 24-70 mm Sony.

The lens features a constant f/2.8 across all focal range making it great for low light situations. It’s also got a quite autofocus motor. While the Tamron 28-75 mm f/2.8 is explicitly made for Sony E mount cameras, it can fit cropped APC-S cameras with a 42-112.5 mm equivalent focal length range. The lens is also built for the rigors of travel with moisture-resistant fluorine coating to protect against dust, dirt, smearing, and weather sealed. The under $800 price tag means you’ll have more money for travel.

Tamron 28-75 mm f/2.8 Di III RXD

Image Quality5
Weight and Size5
Convenience4
Autofocus4
Ergonomics4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony Distagon T* FE 35 mm f/1.4 ZA

Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA

MSRP: $1,599
Type: Prime Wide-Angle
Weight: 22.3 oz
Filter thread: 72 mm
Pros: Sharp and very fast
Cons: A heavy prime lens that’s a little limited in its coverage and use

If you like fast and super sharp primes, look no further than the Sony Distagon T* FE 35 mm f/1.4. ZA. This Zeiss branded optics is very sharp across all corners even shot wide open. Furthermore, It’s designed so that the aspherical elements ensure minimum aberrations. The lens has a quite and high-speed internal motor for the focusing system and has a manual aperture ring made for photographers who shoot videos.

It’s tough to come up with something bad to say about the Sony Distagon T* FE 35 mm f/1.4 ZA. It’s a loaded lens that’s made for professionals and serious hobbyists alike. However, it’s a little on the heavy side due to it being 2 stops faster than the lens it replaced, the Sony Sonnar T FE 35 mm f/2.8 ZA lens below. Besides that, at 35 mm the lens might be a little limited in its use for travel compared to a zoom lens like the Sony FE 24-70 mm f/2.8 GM. It’s also a behemoth, but if you have a spare room in your compartment, it’s a worthy addition to your arsenal.

 

Sony Distagon T* FE 35 mm f/1.4 ZA

Image Quality5
Weight and Size3
Convenience3
Autofocus5
Ergonomics5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Sony 35 mm f/2.8 Sonnar T FE ZA 

 

Sony 35 mm f/2.8 Sonnar T FE ZA

MSRP: $799
Type: Prime Wide-Angle
Weight: 4.2 oz.
Filter thread: 49 mm
Pros: Very portable and lightweight without sacrificing optics
Cons: Limited coverage and not as fast as the f/1.4 version

Manufactured by esteemed optics maker, Carl Zeiss, the Sony 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar T FE is an outstanding performer even with its miniature size. This lens can fit anywhere, it’s lightweight and fast without sacrificing the optics. It comes with three double-sided aspherical elements the minimize aberration. Fantastic contrast and resolution are sustained throughout all the image corners and at all apertures.

You will have a hard time picking not picking this lens over the heavier but much faster Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm lens above over this one. For travel, you might just enjoy this lens more for its light and very compact design even though it’s limited in its application due to it being a prime. If you’re in a big crowded city, this lens knows no bounds and just fun to shoot with.

Sony 35 mm f/2.8 Sonnar T FE ZA 

Image Quality5
Weight and Size5
Convenience3
Autofocus5
Ergonomics5
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

 Sony 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 GM

Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM

MSRP: $2,498
Type: Super Telephoto
Weight: 49.3 oz
Filter thread: 77 mm
Pros: Huge telephoto coverage and reasonably light
Cons: The bulk and coverage may be only ideal for specific occasions

The Sony FE 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 bears the “GM” G Master line-up from Sony. This lens fills the missing gap that professional sports and action photographers have been clamoring for. Unlike most lenses of these type in the DSLR domain, the stabilization motor is built inside the camera body, not the lens itself which is a huge bonus. If you pair it with teleconverters like the Sony 1.4x or 2.0x you can get even more reach.

For travel, you may not need such a long lens in your arsenal, but if you shoot wildlife and are often far away from your subject, this lens would be a serious addition. It will open up more framing and composition options for you. If you happen to have the Sony 24-105 mm, then the Sony FE 100-400 mm would be perfect for your line-up. An addition of a super wide-angle like the Sony 12-24 mm f4 G lens below would make it complete.

 Sony 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 GM

Image Quality5
Weight and Size3
Convenience4
Autofocus5
Ergonomics4
Where To Buy: Amazon | B&H Photo

Considerations For A Travel Lens

Prime vs. Zoom

It’s a matter of preference and what kind of subjects you shoot. Zooms are very convenient and can take on a variety of focal lengths that prime lenses can’t. However, zoom lenses tend to be slower, bulkier, and heavier than primes. If you find yourself shooting at a specific focal point than any other then perhaps a prime is ideal since you get the added benefit of a few stops in speed and likely much more superior optics. For travel, it would be hard to beat a nice zoom lens with massive coverage.

Brand Name vs. Third Party

Tamron and Sigma are the most well known third-party lens manufacturer. They’ve been in business for many years, and it’s the testament to the fact that they give Brand Name optics like Sony a run for their money. They tend to be cheaper with the same features and optics. With that in mind, don’t just blindly assume that Brand Names are always going to be superior.

Adapters

The mirrorless design of the A7 cameras allows a short flange distance between the sensor and the rear lens element. This means that adapters can be created to allow almost a limitless line up of lenses, both from Sony and other manufacturers, are adaptable on the A7 series. I’ve used Canon, Nikon, and Sony A-Mount lenses using adapters with great results. If you already have a line of lenses from other mounts, you should consider going the adapter route.

The Future for Sony Lenses

There are still a few things that Sony needs to fill-in, such perspective correcting (tilt/shift) lenses category – I know it’s very specialized, but T/S lenses are something I truly enjoyed using in Canon and Nikon’s systems. One can use such lenses in travel architecture and composing panoramic and composite images.

Perhaps in time, Sony will plug up those missing holes but for everything else. Sony got it covered with its growing selection of super-wide zooms, standard and telephoto zoom, and quality prime Zeiss lenses. Using adapters with full Auto capabilities also add various line up from other camera systems into the mix.

Now that you know which lens to get check out my guide on the Best Full Frame Travel Cameras.

 


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