Sunday, March 6, 2016

My Mountain Backpacking Lenses For The Sony A7R2

Dale Matson

You might be saying, “Haven’t we heard from this guy before on this topic?” Yes you have. The answer depends on lens weight, quality and focal length.
There is no point going to the trouble of hauling a full frame camera up and down mountain trails (and off trails too) if the lenses are too heavy and/or too big. For example the Zeiss 21mm 2.8 is a great ultra wide lens but the size of the lens plus the weight of the lens and adapter of almost 2 pounds, makes it prohibitive. This lens is heavier than my sleeping bag and pad combined! It is also a manual focus only lens.

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Convict Lake 16mm

I use the native Sony Zeiss 16-35 f4 lens, which is autofocus; image stabilized, covers a wide range of focal lengths and weighs a tad more than a pound. This is a very important lens consideration when surrounded by mountains and lakes that are close.

Dusy Basin Trail 55mm

For a walk around lens, the native Sony Zeiss 55mm 1.8 is fast, lightweight, auto focus and compact, highly regarded and covers the middle focal length well. The IBIS in the Sony A7R2 makes this non-stabilized lens even better.

For a short telephoto prime lens, The new Zeiss Batis e-mount 85mm f1.8 is fast, image stabilized, autofocus, light and compact. It also gives the reach of a 135mm lens in cropped mode. Unless you are in bighorn sheep territory, this is enough reach.

 Zeiss Batis 85mm 

This combination of camera and lenses also allows me to eliminate the extra weight of a tripod and I can carry any combination of camera and lens in the Think Tank Digital Holster 10 on my belt. I however sew the belt loop closed because the Velcro closure on the belt strap will open up climbing off trail and the camera can fall off the belt.

So, there you have it. This is the 2016 plan for the mountains with hopes of new places in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Some of those places are off trail which gives me some pause but that is where the beautiful but less iconic shots are.       


  1. This is changed considerably for late 2017. I have the new model Sony A7R3 and the 16-35 2.8 GM. My second camera I carry is the Sony A6000 with the Sony/Zeiss 16-70mm f4 lens. I have the Sony 100-400mm GM but would not carry it backpacking. I would carry it on a day hike in the mountains if I anticipated the chance of seeing bighorn sheep. I do use it locally on hikes looking for birds. I still have the the Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8.

  2. I recently bought the Batis 25mm f2.0 to complement my Batis 85 1.8. If need be, these two lenses would be adequate for a mountain day hike. The 25mm lens is small enough that I can carry it in my pocket. I had the nice Batis 18mm 2.8 but because of its size, it required a lens carry pouch. Both the 85 and 25 are outstanding in sharpness and the 25 has very good color rendition. Even the 16-35 GM lens mounted on my camera fits "OK" in the think tank digital holster 10. The thing is, If I am going to invest the time and effort to hike deeper into the mountains and camp overnight, I want the insurance of the A6000 as a backup that can also use the full frame e-mount lenses. On day hikes where I am looking for SNBS, I carry my Sony 100-400mm lens with teleconverter in a day pack because I need to use trekking poles. If It is just a short carry/climb, that does not require trekking poles, I will carry the lens on a shoulder strap.