I have always preferred full frame cameras and the only APS-C cameras that I have owned were the ones that I bought at the beginning of my photography journey (Nikon D40, Nikon D70, Nikon D70s, Nikon D90, Nikon D300). My first full frame camera was the Canon EOS 5D.
When doing research for this blog post, I realized that most articles focused on full frame users. My interpretation based on existing blog posts were that most authors saw APS-C cameras and corresponding crop lenses as being cheap. Perhaps I was seeing what I was wanting to see. But I felt an urge to create an article that would benefit those of you who have a crop sensor camera, even if it were just a simple list of the best Sony lenses for those of you who want to venture out into the wilderness to capture stunning landscapes.
As always, I am not a professional lens reviewer. I’m not even a lens reviewer! Everything you will read here is purely based on my personal opinion. So with that said, let’s get started!
The Sony a6500, a6300, and a6000 are Sony’s line of consumer-level mirrorless digital cameras. They each have an APS-C (crop sensor) that comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The a6500 is no slouch and many a wedding videographer has the a6500 as their backup or b-roll camera.
Personally, I don’t think I will ever buy a crop sensor camera mainly because my photography and film making is for commercial purposes. This means that I am willing to pay high ticket prices for the right tool. But that’s just me. I know that many of you coming across this article have no intention of being a professional photographer – you just want to enjoy photography. So I am here to help.
In this blog post, I will reveal which 3 lenses are the best for landscape photography for the Sony a6500, a6300, and a6000.
To skip the preamble, click here to jump straight to the list of the best APS-C lenses for landscape photography.
For those new to photography, let me define some foundational things first.
What is the difference between APS-C (crop) and full frame?
I spent an hour researching, writing and deleting what I had written so I decided to look for some good explanations on YouTube. This video explains the technical difference between APS-C and full frame the best.
And since ZY Productions was doing such a good at explaining complicated concepts and jargon into easy-to-understand language, here is another video that is related to the current subject matter: why crop lenses do not work on full frame cameras.
What are the advantages of APS-C cameras?
Based on my research, I found two key advantages of APS-C cameras.
- Cost: crop cameras and lenses tend to be cheaper than their full frame counterparts.
- Size and weight: a smaller sensor usually means a smaller form factor for the camera which in turn, typically results in a lighter camera. The benefits of a smaller and lighter camera is less strain on your neck, shoulders and/or arms when you carry it all day. Plus, a small form factor takes up less space in your bag (or allows you to use a smaller bag).
Here is a random (but extremely intellectual) video re: depth of field
The theory discussed in the following video went straight over my head but for some of you, maybe you will find it interesting if not entertaining at the very least.
My definition of landscape photography
Not all landscape photos are taken using a wide-angle or ultra-wide-angle lens. Some landscape photos require a telephoto lens. For example, I stitched a panorama of Yosemite Valley with 24 vertical images taken with a 35mm lens. I also photographed Half Dome using a single 35mm lens as well as 85mm. There is no such thing as a focal range for landscape photography. It all depends on the subject matter and what you wish to convey with your photograph.
Typically speaking however, most regard wide-angle lenses as the choice for landscape photography. Wide apertures are generally unnecessary as most landscape photos are taken in good light (hand-held, mounted on a tripod) or done so with a long exposure. And if you made it through the video above, you will appreciate why a wide aperture is not necessary for images where you want maximum depth of field.
For this reasons, the following recommendations are based on ultra-wide to wide-angle lenses for your Sony APS-C camera.
The best landscape photography lenses for the Sony a6500, a6300, and a6000:
- Sony Vario-Tessar T* 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
- Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS
- Sony E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS
Why the Sony Vario-Tessar T* 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS is the best landscape photography lens for Sony a6500, a6300 and a6000
This is the crème de la crème of wide-angle lenses for Sony APS-C cameras. Small and compact and sporting a ZEISS badge, reviews online are glowing for this lens. Given that it is a wide-angle lens, barrel distortion is most prominent between 16mm and 18mm. Also at 16mm is where the worst corner sharpness is seen. By stopping the lens down to f/11, corner sharpness improves. Stopping down beyond this introduces diffraction.
For those of you who like to do stitches, I should note that there is no AF/MF switch on the lens. You will have to control this on your Sony a6500, a6300, or a6000.
With a 35mm equivalent range of 24-105mm, the Sony Vario-Tessar T* 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS is more than just a landscape photography lens. With it’s mid-telephoto reach, this single lens is the perfect all-purpose lens for your Sony a6500, a6300 or a6000 making it my top pick as a landscape photography lens for Sony APS-C cameras.
Why the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS came in second best
This is wide. How wide? Ultra-wide. And if you like having a sweeping landscape in front of you, then perhaps this Sony E-10-18mm f/4 OSS with very fast AF acquisition, a solid metal construction and 5-stops of image stabilization is for you.
Is the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS sharp?
Yes. Yes it is. Like all lenses, sharpness across the frame is best when stopped down to f/8.
How is the distortion?
Well, this is an ultra-wide-angle lens so the warping of objects near the corners is going to be there.
Originally, this was going to take the #1 spot given that it does offer a very wide field of view. But give the focal range is limited to 35mm equivalent 15mm to 27mm, I decided to give the mantle to an all-rounder. Feel free to disagree.
Last but not least is the Sony E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS
Most reviews that I read rated this lens (Sony E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS) as the crème de la crème all-in-one zoom lens for Sony APS-C cameras. And whilst I do not disagree with this opinion, I specifically wanted to provide three landscape photography lens options for Sony a6500, A6300 and a6000 camera owners.
The Soy E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS has an impressive range but optically, it shares the same characteristics as other zoom lenses. That is, centre sharpness, even when wide open, is great but corner sharpness improves only when stopped down to f/8.
Given that the lens is significantly bigger and subsequently heavier than the Sony Vario-Tessar T* 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS, I relegated this lens to the third position.
Can I use a full frame Sony E-mount FE lens for landscape photography on an APS-C body?
There is nothing stopping you from doing this as all Sony e-mount FE lenses are backwards compatible with Sony APS-C cameras such as the a6500, a6300 and a6000. However, you’ll be paying a premium and losing out on the wider field of view due to the crop factor. But if you intend on upgrading to a full frame Sony mirrorless camera in the future, it may make sense to invest in a full frame Sony E-mount FE lens first.
This was probably one of the reasons why I never like APS-C cameras much. I found that premium wide-angle lenses to be limiting compared to on full frame format.