The amount of times i’ve been asked what’s the best lens for travel photography is so large i’ve stopped trying to keep track. The reality is there is no right one. The question to ask is how many lenses would you travel with. Myself, at least three. Always!
The reality is, there is no such thing as the perfect travel lens. There are shit ones, there are good ones and there are great ones. But it’s hard to imagine just traveling with one. Most people who are serious about travel photography will probably say the same thing, until someone comes out with a 8mm-400mm 1.0f lens (the perfect lens for travel).
Travelling with just one lens really could limit you. Taking a telephoto zoom lens like a 70mm-200mm will essential prevent you from taking stunning super wide landscapes. A wide angle lens like a 10mm-55mm will not cut it for you if you’re in Africa, the range on there is no where near enough. Normal range like a 24mm-70mm is great for wondering the city streets, and provides good balance, but still will lack what a wide lens and a telephoto lens can do. They are good all purpose lenses.
The following are staples in my camera bag, no matter where i’m going. Note I shoot with Canon, so sorry to all the Nikon users.
24-105L f/4 – This is such an easy to use lens. It has a really great range for travel photography. It’s an L series lens, so you know that the construction is awesome, but at a cost of course. It’s got great image stabilization and a pretty fast autofocus. This is a great lens to have on most of the time.
16-35L f/2.8 – This lens is a monster! The 82mm barrel (told you it’s a monster) is huge. This ultra wide-angle has a constant f/2.8 which make it a great lens to use when it’s getting dark. This one is a must have for anyone into landscape photography. You want too avoid shooting people with this lens at 20mm or less. People will look weirdly distorted at the edges of the frame.
50mm f/1.4 – Why take a portrait lens on the road? Simple. Although this is my primary studio lens, for now, it is also a great lens for travel. The super shallow depth of field makes image background look super blurred and gorgeous. When stopped down to about f4 images are so sharp you’d think the lens cost thousands of dollars. Great thing it doesn’t. This is my go to lens when photographing people, anywhere!
In the end, if you want great images, there is no way you’ll get them with just one lens. When traveling, you have almost no idea what situations you’ll be presented with. Mother nature also has a way of complicating things.