Any good photographer knows that although the body of your camera provides the basis for amazing photography, the lens is really what makes or breaks the entire experience. Camera bodies can come and go, but lenses can stay with you forever. The lens is what actually captures the light, lines, shadows, and so forth, at the end of the day. That’s why, especially for travel photography, the lens you decide to use can be critically important.
It can be hard to find reliable information online regarding on-the-go lenses. But, as travel photography grows in popularity, more people want to get their hands on the best travel lenses available at their disposal. Now, there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to all of your travel photography needs, but we can take a stab at making recommendations based on our past experiences.
As always, factor in where you are visiting, the trip you are taking, and the gear you are willing to carry along for the ride. Bringing no more than two lenses per trip is our top recommendation given safety and weight-carrying demands. Let’s break down our favorite travel lenses:
When it comes to traveling, things can get pretty versatile. Although you might plan on getting a specific landscape shot, along the way, you might find yourself capturing entirely different images. That’s where the 24-70mm comes into play. As an all-around lens that can excel at landscape, street, fashion, portrait, or any other kind of photography. The 24-70mm is the catch-all solution to every travel trip.
Although 24mm isn’t quite 16mm for full frame perspective, it’s still enough to give you a viewing angle of 84 degrees, providing a wide angle without too much unwanted distortion. You can also close in on your subject with that 70 mm - capturing it all with one great lens.
If you have to pack just one lens with you out on a pretty adventurous day, we’d recommend this one. It’s the comprehensive solution to any day’s itinerary.
At the perfect size and mm length, many people consider the 35mm to be the most versatile focal length in the game today. 35mm can grab you a stunning street shot, landscape, and everyday sharp images. Even better, 35mm wide apertures are also able to handle indoor lighting and dark/night scenes more accurately than other lens alternatives. On the downside, the lens may feel limiting when it comes to range.
The 50mm is a classic go-to for many travel photographers. Get one that’s equipped with a large aperture for creamy backgrounds and soft bokeh. A top quality 50mm can give a natural look to images with close-to-no distortion. Additionally, 50mm are noted for their speed, as well as quality, which makes them a good choice for you if you are looking to grab quick shots on the move.
Most photographers know that 85mm is one of the best portrait photography lenses in the game today. But, when you look a little closer, this lens actually excels at building and street-style photography, adding depth and closeness to detail that you didn’t know was possible on anything but human faces. Adding a layer of zooming into detail that isn’t possible with a 24-70, the 85mm is a perfect option for a traveler exploring cities, communities, and places with tinier details, as opposed to the big, open landscapes and nature settings.
Our Final Verdict
As you can see, our top four lens recommendations all bring a different pro and con to the table. If possible, carrying two at a time will help you to keep all bases covered. However, we know that’s easier said than done, which is why we’re going to discuss our final verdicts below:
• The All Around Answer: 24-70mm. If you’re looking for one lens that can do it all, is lightweight, and generally affordable, the 24-70mm is the all-in-one answer. Never compromising on quality, this lens can keep up with a packed schedule.
• The Prime Lens Answer: If you want a prime lens, we recommend opting with the 35mm for total quality in the finished results.
• The Two Pair: If you are willing to carry two lenses with you out in the field, we recommend pairing the 24-70mm and the 85mm. The 24-70mm will provide you with stunning all-around photography every minute of the day, while the 85mm will step in for the finer details. After hiking a mountain, whip out the 85mm in the city for a creamy close-up.
• The Prime Pairing: If you want two prime lenses, opt for the 35mm and the 85mm. However, make sure the lenses come with wide apertures to capture silky backgrounds and smooth bokeh.
So, before you set out on your grand adventure, take some time to reflect on your itinerary. How much walking and climbing will you be doing each day? Will it be mainly based on cities or landscapes? Will your days consist of both nature and city settings? Do you prefer to have more than one lens option with you out on the road? Once you answer these questions, you will be able to select the right travel lens pairing for the adventure ahead.