Best Lens for Travel Photography

Attit Patel March 6, 2012 21
Best Lens for Travel Photography

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.


  1. Jade Johnston December 20, 2011 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    Awesome! i have the 50 mm one and Im going to look up the prices on the 16-35 mm one. I also want to get a fish eye lens. is that something you would recommend?

  2. Lisa March 2, 2012 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Great article

  3. DK March 13, 2012 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    I am going on my first photo adventure trip with G Adventures in May. I am taking the following lenses:

    17-40mm 4.0L (borrowing from a friend) – This is as wide as I can go and I will use it for wide shots.

    24-105mm 4.0L – every day lens

    50mm 1.4 – I agree with your comments, its light and good results

    100mm 2.8 macro – I am sure in the 2 weeks I will be travelling a macro lens will be useful.

    I do not own a telephoto zoom and dont have access to one at the moment. For nature based trips 70-200mm is a must. Maybe one of my next GA trips will be to Amazon and/or Gallapogos Islands ;)

    You should also mention that a tripod is very important for travel photography.

  4. Graeme March 14, 2012 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    First, always take a fast prime like a 35mm or 50mm

    If your going to Europe – Wide angle (around the 12-24 range) for capturing buildings etc. it very narrow there.

    If your going to Afica you want a lens that can do 200mm or longer and a fast lens (f2.8), also vibration reduction is a must if your not the steadies of shooters.

    Most other places need something mid-range, 70-200mm f2.8 is expensive but common price of glass to use to cover other things you may see.

    One final note – heading somewhere very dusty or wet, consider one of these water/shock/dust-proof cameras. Yes they are a point&shoot but they are less worry and hassle while traveling.

  5. Steph C. March 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Agreed! My fave lens right now is the 50mm, it’s so cheap yet amazing, and it’s more versatile than you would think, all you need to do is take the time to compose your image.
    The only Iens I would add there is a 70-200mm, but yet again we all have different styles and use our tools in different ways.

  6. Gary Arndt March 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    You have totally forget the 18-200 lenses which exist for both Canon and Nikon.

    If you can only carry 1 lens, I think that is the one.

  7. Attit Patel March 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Gary, I totally agree with you on the 18-200, but i hear the Nikon version is sharper than the Canon version.

  8. Greg Snell March 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    Attit, awesome info brother, thanks for sharing! Cheers from BA.

  9. Josef Kuzel March 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    I traveled the globe and i found with an SLR and the above lenses you should also consider having a pocket camera for peolpe and discret snap shuts. Many times people dont like to look into a 77mm or 82mm lens, smile.
    Yes many times a 4 section tripod is so important for evening shuts.

  10. Barry - Luquina Homestay March 30, 2012 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Thanks for this, perfect timing for me as we’re about to embark on a years travel! I have a Nikon D3000 with the lens it came with, and am looking at buying a Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 lens to take landscape shots whilst away. Any feedback on that plan before I take the plunge?

  11. Attit Patel March 30, 2012 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    hey Barry, as the Sigma is a good lens, have you considered the Tokina 11-16 2.8? This is an amazing lens which is slightly more expensive than the Sigma. Best part, sharp and consistant 2.8 shooting.

  12. Barry - Luquina Homestay March 30, 2012 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Thanks Attit, I hadn’t looked at that yet so will do so this weekend! Thanks for coming back to me, good work with the blog!

  13. Ana April 1, 2012 at 3:55 am - Reply

    I am going to Africa (Namibia, Botswana) in October, I just got a Canon EOS 1100D with a 18-55 lens. Should I exchange it for something on your list or supplement it with one or two other lenses? Thanks!

    • Attit Patel April 3, 2012 at 10:40 am - Reply

      Hey Ana, I’d say supplement it if you can. Especially for Africa, you should have a killer zoom lens. It might be worth looking into renting one.

  14. Margo April 7, 2012 at 2:06 am - Reply

    Love Love Love my new Canon 28-135!

  15. Vi May 14, 2012 at 8:15 am - Reply

    @Ana, check canon 70-300 lens. You definitely will need it on your safaris.

  16. Dave August 3, 2012 at 12:55 am - Reply

    For those using a crop sensor, the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 is stinkin’ wide and quite a bit cheaper than the 16-35L f/2.8. It’s not nearly as sharp, of course, and definitely not as fast. But given the cost difference (about 1/3 of the cost of the 16-35L), it’s a very good wide travel lens.

  17. John August 5, 2012 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    I love my Canon 24-105 on my 40D, and I’m always torn with whether to bring the 17-40 and/or my 100-400 (which is awesome for wildlife and long distance candids). I just picked up a used 5D mk II, so now I have to pick between bodies as well. Arrrrrgh! :-)

    • Attit Patel August 6, 2012 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      Hey John, there really is no decision needed, 5D Mark2! If you bought it, you should be using it.
      Unless you’re shooting where there is a lot of wildlife, I’d say keep the monster zoom at home.
      Take the 24-105 and the 17-40.

  18. Tito Slack August 13, 2012 at 10:05 am - Reply


    I travel with only my Nikon D80 and the Nikon 18-200mm VR lens and it suits pretty much every situation I encounter except for very low light scenarios.

  19. Aruna November 16, 2012 at 11:25 am - Reply

    I too like my Nikon 24-120 f/4 for traveling. Additionally I take the Nikon 16-35 and 70-300 for specific shots. These with the Nikon D700 made life easy with the Delhi-Kathmandu tour.

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