Lens selection for travel and landscape photography


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Jul 26, 2013
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I am an amateur photographer about to travel through South America for a while, and need some advice on lens selection. I have a Sony a57 with the 18-55mm kit lens, and am looking to upgrade to something better. I will be backpacking so weight is very important. Really only have room for two lenses in my pack.

I have been looking at a few different lenses, but am having trouble deciding the best route to take. I really enjoy taking wide landscapes, and also like shooting the night sky. I also know that while traveling I will at some point need a longer range than 55mm.

The main one I am looking at is the Sony DT 16-105mm F3.5-5.6 Zoom

My question is, how wide should I go considering I have an APS-C censor? I don't really want a fish-eye type lens, but the 18-55 often leaves me wanting more. Should I look at something like a 12-24mm or 10-20mm? What aperature range should I consider? I'd really like to just get rid of my kit lens if possible, as I would like something that produces sharper images, but I also don't want to leave a range unaccounted for. I am looking to pick up a solid 70-200mm when the budget allows, but for right now, the wide angle seems more important for what I want to do. Am I wrong here? Should the 70-200mm be an essential lens in my pack? I would eventually like to get into outdoor sports photography (climbing, skiing, etc).

Anyone out there who also travels a lot and is therefore limited to what they can carry? What do you take with you? Which lens do you use most often?

Any advice on Sony vs Sigma vs Tamron?

Looking for any advice I can get, as searching for this information online can be overwhelming.

I don't have a huge budget, but prefer to spend a little extra if it is worth it. I have about $1000 to spend to get the best kit I can.

Thanks for any advice. Hope I didn't ramble too much.
Welcome to the forum.

If you want ultra wide angle (not necessarily fish eye), then I'd go for something starting in the 10-12mm range. I used to have the Canon 10-22mm and I loved it for landscape & travel photography. 16mm is only going to be marginally wider than your 18-55mm at 18mm.

Replacing the kit lens is often a good idea...but replacing it with something that has a lot more range, usually won't get you any improvement in quality. The best options for kit lens upgrade are usually lenses with a larger maximum aperture. 17-55mm F2.8 (or similar). The trouble is, those aren't great travel lenses in the sense that they don't have a great range of zoom and they are typically larger and heavier than the kit lens.

For travel, you really have to decide between weight and quality. I tend to travel with lots of heavy gear, and sometimes it's a pain. It might be worth looking at something like the 55-200mm because it's cheap and it will give you a decent telephoto range. Not pro quality, but that's the trade off.

If you can carry three lenses, I might go for an ultra wide angle (10-20mm) and 'fast prime' (50mm F1.8) and a telephoto (55-200mm or 70-300mm). Don't worry too much about the gap between 20mm and 50mm...it's only a couple steps forward or back.
I normally don't recommend lenses but your question is specific, so look at the equivalent of the Nikon 18-200, which on a full-frame sensor covers essentially the most used focal lengths, and even on a cropped sensor it's pretty close to the most used lengths. This is like three lenses in one and saves tremendous space and weight. It also means less gear to keep track of. It could essentially be the only lens you carry and still afford you a wide range of coverage. Is it as good as having three separate lenses for different purposes? No. But nobody with sharp skills will complain about a lens. It's not the tools that create the picture. To save even more money, look for a good used or refurbished one. There's rarely a need to buy anything new in photography because as I said, it ain't the tools. A new camera won't magically create a better file than a used one, as if somehow sensors and processors wore like cheap tires.
Thanks for the advice. I have been looking at the Sigma 18-200mm 3.5-6.3 lately, and seems this might be a good choice for the price. Anyone have any experience with this lens? Any risks to buying a used lens online? Found one of these for $200 used on amazon, and can get it new for $350 from Sigma.
Looking at the Tamron 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 XR Di II, and 18-270mm F3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD as well. Tamron over Sigma? Been reading mixed reviews, but looks like Tamron has the edge..
Have a look at the tokina 17-35
Sigma 10-20mm is cheap, really nice quality, should come in a Sony mount, and does exactly what you say you want (gives you way the hell more wide angle, not a fisheye, without gaps. You shouldn't really worry about gaps in your range, but all the same, this overlaps with a kit lens).

10mm is about as wide as you can possibly get without going into the world of fisheyes, as far as I am aware.

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