Much like the basis for our previous Under $1,000 travel lens guide for the Fujifilm X-Series, Sony mirrorless shooters are also finding themselves flock to to E-Mount based cameras for travel purposes. The reasons are very similar to that of the Fuji’s, the cameras are small, light weight, and many of the lenses offer significant size savings over their full frame DSLR brethren.
Today we are going to be looking at some of the top Sony E-Mount compatible lenses for under $1000. So let’s jump right into it, but also be sure to check out our Sony Deals Page for any of these that may be on sale.
Sony-Zeiss E 16-70mm F/4
As far as travel lenses go, the Sony-Zeiss 16-70mm F/4 offers a great focal range for shooters who would like to have some flexibility while shooting. We would, however note that this is for Sony’s E mount (crop) cameras only, and not for use on the FE mount cameras (unless you want to shoot yours in crop mode).
Here is what we had to say about the Sony-Zeiss R 16-70mm F/4 in our official review back in 2014:
When the company sets out to make a Zeiss branded lens, you can often assure yourself that the quality of the images will be stellar. And that’s what you’re getting with this option. The 16-70mm f4 takes full advantage of the pixel for pixel sharpness that an APS-C sensor can offer to you and there is really very little that you’ll be able to complain about. This is a lens that we see lots of higher end enthusiasts going for, and they won’t be disappointed. The versatile focal length option of an equivalent of 24mm to 105 at f4 is truly appealing as a walkaround lens. Additionally, coupled with its small size and silent but fast focusing, you’ll really not have a lot of qualms. — Read our Full Review Here
Overall, as long as you are traveling to a location you expect to be fairly sunny and bright this will be a lens that can give you a lot of options on your trip. However, if you are planning to hit a location with lower light levels, or plan to do a lot of lower light photography then one of our other recommendations with a faster aperture is likely a better choice. You can grab the Sony-Zeiss over on Amazon here, just under our $1,000 limit at $998 (though can usually be had for cheaper when Sony lens sales are on).
Sony E 18-105mm F/4 G OSS
Another solid F/4 all-in-one type lens, this time minus the Zeiss co-branding, and for an much more affordable price. The 18-105mm F/4 G OSS offers image stabilization, albeit with the downside of being quite a bit bigger than its more expensive Sony-Zeiss counterpart. This is another lens that is meant for Sony’s APS-C mirrorless offering, but can be used on the A7 series if you don’t mind shooting in crop mode.
Here is what we had to say about the Sony E 18-105mm F/4 G OSS in our official review back in 2014:
Sony’s 18-105mm f4 G OSS is a lens that we didn’t think much of when it came in for review due to its large size. But after using it for a couple of photos, we fell in love. The image quality is really where you’ll become smitten with it. Rendering a field of view equivalent to 28mm to 160mm, it’s a lens that can be your everyday walkaround lens or an excellent option for folks travelling. — Read Our Full Review Here
Some may wonder why we would recommend both this lens and the 16-70mm in the same article, since this offers a wider focal range, image stabilization and the same constant aperture. Well, there are two reasons, for those who want to shoot wider the extra 2mm at 16mm of the 16-70mm makes a difference, as well as the size differences. The 18-105mm is cheaper, and has some advantages, but for some people the added size and bulk would not be ideal, and for them, the smaller 16-70mm may make more sense. You can grab the 18-105mm F/4 G OSS over on Amazon here, well under our $1000 price tag at just $598.
Sony FE 24-240mm F/3.5-6.3 OSS
Currently your best all-in-one option if you aren’t too concerned about size or a constant aperture on the FE mount (full frame, so you A7 series shooters) is probably the 24-240mm F/3.5-6.3 OSS. It offers a huge focal range, and F/3.5 is not bad at 24mm, though F/6.3 at 240mm could be challenging depending on your travel location.
Here is what we had to say about the Sony FE 24-240mm F/3.5-6.3 OSS in our official review back in 2015:
This lens is designed for the company’s full frame A7 camera bodies. It has weather resistance (splash and dust-proofing), a massive zoom range that is equally as massive as its size, and a metal exterior that adds to its beefy build quality. It isn’t a Zeiss lens–but rather a Sony G series lens that is aimed at those who reach for higher hanging fruit. — Read Our Full Review Here
Overall, if you could absolutely only take one lens and you needed a lot of flexibility on Sony’s A7 series cameras this one would be your best bet. We do, however, feel that there are better options if you can make the space for multiple lenses or compromize a little on your focal range. However, if you feel this is the lens for you, it can be had over on Amazon here, just under our cap of $1,000.
Sony-Zeiss FE 35mm F/2.8
If you aren’t so much needing a good all in one solution for your travels, or if you would like some compact primes to supplement your all-in-one pick, then the 35mm F/2.8 from Sony is a great choice that offers a faster aperture than any of the already mentions all-in-one zooms, great image quality and could easily squeeze into a daybag or a pocket to be pulled out when needed.
Here is what we had to say about the Sony FE 35mm F/2.8 in our official review back in 2013:
Though we have some qualms about this lens, we really can’t say that it is in any way a bad optic. In fact, it’s an incredible lens. On the A7 it will focus like a speed demon. On the A7r it will resolve more detail than your mom will want to see in her face. Then when you’re all done with that, you can take it out into inclement weather with no problems. Then there is your excellent color rendition and class leading sharpness. — Read Our Full Review Here
While at a disadvantage to all-in-ones in terms of versatility and convenience, primes like the 35mm F/2.8 offer a better image quality, vastly superior low light performance, and and much lighter, more compact footprint. You can pick one up over on Amazon here, again well under our $1,000 price cap at $798.
Sony FE 50mm F/1.8
Since we are mentioning some good primes for travel, it would be hard to argue against taking a nifty fifty along for the ride. Sony’s latest FE compatible prime lens the FE 50mm F/1.8 is both fairly compact and offers the excellent image quality and low light performance that you would expect from a budget 50mm option, for quite a nice price saving over the more expensive Sony-Zeiss 55mm F/1.8 option (which is also still technically under our $1,000 price cap).
From our Initial Impressions post earlier this year, our full review is still pending.
Considering that this is a standard Sony lens, you’re essentially slapping the lens on, focusing and shooting. It’s very straight forward as it has been with Sony’s products for a while. To that end, you may not even really be paying attention to the focusing ring unless your in DMF mode when shooting… the image quality is very impressive for a 50mm f1.8 lens. — Read Our Full Initial Impressions Here
At $249 US, this prime lens is the best deal we have mentioned today. Pairing this with the 35mm F/2.8 mentioned above would put you just barely over our $1,000 price cap and give you a pretty versatile – as far as prime kits go – setup for travel when you don’t expect or want to shoot anything extremely far off. If you do want one prime to go along with an all-in-one though, this is also a great option, and as already noted, very affordable at that. Grab one on Amazon now and have it tomorrow for just $249.
Wrapping It All Up
As we mentioned in the Fuji post, in the end it comes down to your priorities as a travel photographer. Are you looking for extreme versatility and convenience with a single larger, slower lens? or do you want a better image quality and versatility in lighting conditions, at the expense of having to change out lenses to change up your field of view? Regardless of what you decide, we have shared some great options for both preferences in the post above.
Also, as noted in the intro, be sure to check out out Sony deals page in case any of these happen to be on sale when you are looking to purchase.