Choosing the best lens for travel photography will not only affect the quality of your images, it will also have a direct impact on the overall experience of the destination you’re photographing.

Our goal at The Adventure Junkies is to provide you with the best advice on travel photography lenses to help you pack the right gear for your next trip.

An ideal lens for travel photography has to be both light-weight and versatile. When packing your gear, keep in mind that you will be moving around constantly and carrying a lighter kit on your shoulders will make your photographic experience much more enjoyable.

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QUICK ANSWER: THE BEST LENS FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

  1. Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D
  2. Canon 16–35mm f/2.8L
  3. Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (Canon mount)
  4. Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (Nikon mount)
  5. Canon 100-400mm f/4-5.6L
  6. Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G
  7. Canon 35mm f/2 IS
  8. Nikon 35mm f/1.8
  9. Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 (Canon mount)
  10. Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 (Nikon mount)

 

 

 

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST LENS FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

PICTURE
LENS
BEST USE
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
LENS
BEST USE
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D
Overall
750g
$$$
5.0
Canon 16–35mm f/2.8L
Overall
800g
$$$
4.0
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
(Canon mount)
Landscapes
500g
$
3.0
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
(Nikon mount)
Landscapes
500g
$
3.0
Canon 100-400mm f/4-5.6L
Wildlife
1,500g
$$$
4.0
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G
Wildlife
600g
$$$
5.0
Canon 35mm f/2 IS
Cityscapes
350g
$$
4.0
Nikon 35mm f/1.8
Cityscapes
300g
$$
4.0
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
(Canon mount)
Budget
500g
$
3.0
Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
(Nikon mount)
Budget
500g
$
3.0

 

 

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY LENSES 101

 

6 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST LENS FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

 

1. FOCAL LENGTH

One of the biggest challenges of choosing a lens for traveling is finding one that covers an array of subjects. The importance of the versatility of a lens will allow you to focus on the type of subject that you are most interested in and also eliminate weight in your camera bag.

Before selecting the right lens, consider the possible scenarios you will encounter when traveling to your destination. Think about the location you’ll be visiting and the style of photography you’ll be shooting, and based on this select the type of lens that best suits your needs.

There are three types of lenses that will cover most of your needs while traveling:

 

WIDE ANGLE

Wide angle lenses are best used for interior, landscape and nature photography as the focal length is significantly smaller than average allowing you to include more of the scene in your frame.

 

TELEPHOTO

Simply put, a telephoto lens is a long lens that allows you to take photos of objects that are farther away without being intrusive. Telephoto lenses are ideal for portrait and wildlife photography.

 

MACRO

A macro lens is a close-up lens that gives a 1:1 reproduction. Best used for nature, portrait and abstract photography.

 

2. PRIME VS. ZOOM LENS

Continuing with the focal length, another variable to take into consideration when selecting the best lens for travel photography is understanding the difference between prime and zoom lenses.

 

PRIME LENSES

Prime lenses have a fixed focal length such as 35mm or 50mm.

The main difference between a prime and a zoom is that, with a prime lens, you will not be able to make the object appear bigger or smaller within the frame. You will have to be the one moving farther or closer to the object to obtain the desired result.

The advantage of prime lenses are that they are usually more compact and light weight making them ideal travel companions. They also offer maximum aperture options allowing you to shoot in low-light conditions and creating a shallow depth of field.

 

ZOOM LENSES

A zoom lens, has a variable focal length, like 18-50mm or 70-200mm. While somewhat heavier and bulkier, zoom lenses are more versatile and can cover much of the travel photographer’s needs from landscapes to even close-up pictures.

 

3. MAXIMUM APERTURE

The aperture defines the amount of light that is allowed onto the sensor and it is measured in f-stops (i.e. f/4 or f/16). It also directly affects the depth of field or, in other words, how blurry you want the background to be compared to the subject you’ve focused on.

When traveling, you will find yourself shooting at different times of the day and carrying a lens that lets more light in the sensor could make all the difference.

Fortunately, faster lenses have become more affordable and you can now find them with a constant aperture of f/2.8 for a reasonable price.

 

4. IMAGE STABILIZATION (IS)

You will have probably noticed that some lenses have the (IS) symbol written on the side. What does this mean? IS stands for Image Stabilization and, as the name implies, IS is a system built into the camera to help reduce the blurring of the exposure that is usually associated with shooting in low light conditions.

When traveling and, as mentioned earlier, you will most likely face situations where the light will be dimmer than usual. It could be a sunset out in the forest, a sunrise over a volcano or the Milky Way in the middle of the desert, and in any of these instances you will need to slow the speed of the shutter to let more light get in your sensor. With lower shutter speeds also comes the potential risk of getting some camera shake and ruining that special moment you had been wanting to capture for so long.

Having a lens with image stabilization, along with a tripod, will drastically reduce the appearance of blurriness in your photos allowing you to shoot in dimmer light conditions. So, when choosing the best lens for travel photography always be sure to find the (IS) symbol written on your lens.

 

5. WEIGHT

As a travel photographer you will be carrying not only your lens with you but also other equipment such as the body of your camera, a tripod, a flash, filters and even camping gear.

Keeping your backpack’s weight to the bare minimum is essential when traveling. Hence, the importance of choosing a light-weight lens that will cover an array of styles while you’re shooting your subject.

Ideally, try to keep the weight of your lens to 1lb (500mg) or less, especially if you plan on taking more than one lens with you on your trip.

 

6. COST

The cot of the lens is also a factor to take into consideration when choosing the right gear for travel photography. While lenses can be pricy, it is always best to invest more in your lens collection than the camera body.

Why? It is likely you will replace your camera body over time as manufacturers add new features to them every couple of years. Good lenses, on the other hand, tend to pass the test of time and remain part of your gear for several years. Invest money on a good lens that will last, at least, a decade.

Going back to the features mentioned earlier, prime and fast lenses will cost more but produce sharper results. Zoom lenses are usually more affordable but may not be as fast and tend to be bulkier as well.

At the end of the day and as, National Geographic’s contributing editor Jim Richardson mentioned, it all comes down to the style of photography you’ll be shooting while traveling, how willing you are to becoming a “pack mule” as he calls it, and how much money you can afford to invest in your gear.

 

travel photography lens must-have

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/twinsterphoto

 

LENS FOR TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY REVIEWS

 

1. BEST LENS FOR LANDSCAPES

TOKINA 11-16MM F/2.8 (CANON MOUNT)

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Outdoor and Landscape photography

LENS TYPE: Wide angle

WEIGHT: 500g

PROS: Affordable, versatile and constant f/2.8 aperture

CONS: A little distortion on the sides (minimal)

 

 

 

TOKINA 11/16MM F/2.8 (NIKON MOUNT)

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Outdoor and Landscape photography

LENS TYPE: Wide angle

WEIGHT: 500g

PROS: Affordable, versatile and constant f/2.8 aperture

CONS: A little distortion on the sides (minimal)

 

 

 

 

2. BEST LENS FOR WILDLIFE

CANON 100-400MM F/4-5.6L

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Wildlife, safari and adventure photography

LENS TYPE: Telephoto

WEIGHT: 1,500g

PROS: Sharp, fast focusing, image stabilization

CONS: Weight, price

 

 

 

NIKON 80-400MM F/4.5-5.6G

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Birds, wildlife, adventure, sports

LENS TYPE: Telephoto

WEIGHT: 600g

PROS: Excellent build, image stabilization, sharp

CONS: Price

 

 

 

 

3. BEST LENS FOR CITYSCAPES

CANON 35MM F/2 IS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Portraits, cityscapes, landscapes

LENS TYPE: Macro

WEIGHT: 350g

PROS: Excellent build, image stabilization, fast, constant f/2 aperture

CONS: Fixed focal, lens hood not included

 

 

 

NIKON 35MM F/1.8

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Portraits, cityscapes, landscapes

LENS TYPE: Macro

WEIGHT: 300g

PROS: Sharp, light weight, price

CONS: Cheap build

 

 

 

 

4.BEST OVERALL LENS

CANON 16–35MM F/2.8L

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Can be used for almost any style of photography

LENS TYPE: Wide angle

WEIGHT: 800g

PROS: Sharp, fast focusing, vibrant colors

CONS: Price, weight

 

 

 

NIKON 17-35MM F/2.8D

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Shooting practically any style of photography

LENS TYPE: Wide angle

WEIGHT: 750g

PROS: Excellent build, sharp, good zoom range

CONS: A little distortion on the edges

 

 

 

 

5.BEST BUDGET LENS

TAMRON 28-75MM F/2.8 (CANON MOUNT)

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Almost any style of photography

LENS TYPE: Macro

WEIGHT: 500g

PROS: Price, constant f/2.8 aperture, sharp

CONS: Cheap build

 

 

 

TAMRON 28-75MM F/2.8 (NIKON MOUNT)

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Landscape, cityscape, nature and outdoor photography

LENS TYPE: Macro

WEIGHT: 500g

PROS: Price, constant f/2.8 aperture, sharp

CONS: Cheap build

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