Sony 18-135 f3.5-f5.6 E Mount Lens for Travel, Landscape and Street Photography
The Sony 18-135 f3.5-f5.6 OSS E mount lens has definitely become my favourite lens for travel photography. In fact it’s a perfect companion to my Sony a6300. It’s beautifully made, lightweight, fast to focus and it’s very sharp. Having a variable aperture means we can have a very useful zoom range in a fairly small and lightweight package.
I know that a lot of people may struggle to decide whether to purchase this lens or the very good Sony 18-105 f4 G. I compared both of them here: Sony 18-135 f3.5-f5.6 OSS E Mount Lens vs Sony 18-105 f4 G Lens
As a result of the above tests I ended up selling my 18-105.
What makes a good travel photography lens?
When we talk about travel photography we’re often referring to a collection of genres. Travel photography will often embody landscape photography, street photography, architectural photography and portraits. It can be a tall order finding a lens which will cover all of those subjects. A standard kit zoom for example generally won’t go beyond around 75 mm, which can be a little short at times. Thanks to the focal length of the Sony 18-135 f3.5-f5.6 lens we’re afforded an equivalent field of view of 27-202mm owing to the APS-C ‘crop factor’. This means the lens is quite well suited to portraiture as well as ‘walkabout’ stuff. An ideal travelling companion to a lens like this would be a fast prime offering between 30 and 50mm FOV. For me that would be the excellent Sigma e-mount 30mm f1.4 (which is probably the sharpest lens I’ve ever owned).
Are superzoom lenses ideal for travel photography?
You may be wondering why I’m not recommending a ‘super zoom’ lens for travel and street photography. This generally means a lens which covers a range from around 18 mm up to something like 300 mm. The answer is that I’m yet to encounter a half decent wide to tele super zoom. A year or two back I reviewed the Tamron 16-300 and the Tamron 18-400. I found both lenses optically unacceptable, even for photographs intended for web use. Similar lenses are made by Sigma, Canon and Nikon. There is a night and day difference in quality between a lens of that type and the Sony 18-135 f3.5-f5.6. The compromise is that you give up the enhanced zoom range. However I would rather have an optically superior mid range travel lens than a distinctly mushy super zoom. Many of my competition and distinction images are gathered during my out and about musings - I’ll take great optics over the latest sensor any day.
Incidentally, if you’re a micro four thirds user, the Panasonic 14-140ii lens is a great choice.
Sony 18-135 f3.5-f5.6 Lens Field Review at Hastings Pier
For this particular outing I found myself on the Sussex coast. As I often do in fact. I’ve photographed hundreds of seascapes and coastal structures over the years. I have a particular liking for piers. With that in mind we headed to Hastings. But I have to say I found it impossible to warm to Hastings Pier. I know it won an architectural award but I can’t help feeling it’s trying to hard to be something it isn’t. It seems a little out of place, pretentious even - a little at odds with the town. I like large expansive spaces at times but I would also expect a ‘destination pier’ to at least have some decent facilities. Whilst the architect gave with one hand it appears the local council took with the other.
When we visited Hastings Pier early in 2018 we found two basic cafes, and I do mean basic. After doing our usual thing of seeking out some fish and chips we promptly left the fish and chip kiosk. It was filthy beyond measure and the habits of the servers were a little alarming. Nor were there any toilets. Yes, you heard that correctly. We had to walk nearly half a mile to find one basic and rather dirty facility on the seafront (with no lock). Having grown used to well serviced seaside towns like Worthing, Littlehampton, Brighton, and Eastbourne it was a bit of a shock to get through a morning in Hastings. I found myself wishing I’d taken a picnic and a potty.
All that said, photographically speaking Hastings seafront is very pleasant. You’ll find plenty of photo opportunities and it was a good place to test out my new lens.
Here are a couple of examples with cropped sections:
What do I look for in a travel lens?
My ideal travel lens covers a useful focal range, exceeding the usual 75mm FOV offered by many standard kit zooms. It must be lightweight with excellent sharpness through the majority of the frame. Superzooms lenses offer enhanced reach, but at the cost of sharpness. They often suffer from slow or inaccurate autofocus, and chromatic aberration. Best avoided.