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Best Travel Lenses For Each Camera Mount

Experienced travel blogger Ben Kepka shares his recommendations for the best travel lenses in each camera mount.

|  AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED in Interchangeable Lenses
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Choosing a good travel lens can be a very important decision - you need something that's versatile, lightweight and isn't going to compromise too much on image quality. When travelling, you might not want the hassle of changing lenses all the time - and a good quality zoom lens can give you a good range for shooting pretty much any subject on your travels. 

Best travel lenses

Making the right decision - choosing a travel lens

Making the decision can be hard and so we've spoken to Ben Kepka, an experienced travel blogger who's photographed many awesome places in his time. He's even ventured into Chernobyl to capture some amazing and haunting urban exploration photos. Ben blogs on his website, Cultured Kiwi

Ben has been a photographer for 15 years, specialising in travel for photography for 8 of those. His passion began while traveling around New Zealand. "As soon as I left NZ I began to document locations and places and thinking about how to capture a set of images to show a location, rather than one singular image.", says Ben.

Ben primarily uses a Canon 5D Mark III with what he calls the 'Holy Trinity' of lenses, Canon 16-35 f/2.8 II, Canon 24-70 f/2.8 II and Canon 70 - 200 f/2.8 II. However he does also shoot mirrorless when taking a large kit is an issue, opting for a Fujifilm X-T1

"Mirrorless cameras are great! They are much lighter and more advanced (technologically) than my old Canon 5D mark iii. However, I find that a lot of the full frame lenses that are coming out for these cameras are around the same size as they are for the DSLR cameras."

We asked Ben the ultimate question on everyone's mind here - can you legitimately swap to a mirrorless camera and get shots that are just as good? Ben thinks that you can, but there are some limitations. Whilst the bodies are lighter and more technologically advanced, the lenses tend to be just as large as those for DSLRs, adding to the bulk. He also thinks that mirrorless cameras can sometimes lack the robustness of DSLR models when shooting in all weathers.

So what's the most important factor in a good travel lens? Ben says that this has to be versatility. "If I were just to have one lens when traveling (and money wasn't an object) it would be a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. This allows you plenty of light and a fairly versatile zoom range. Lenses with a zoom range larger than this will typically have to sacrifice the amount of light allowed in. Conversely, if you'd like to have the maximum amount of light into the lens (wide open aperture e.g. f/1.4) you'll end up with a prime lens, with no zooming capability. The 24-70mm is the perfect compromise in each direction.", explains Ben.

"If I were just to have one lens when traveling (and money wasn't an object) it would be a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens."

Ben has put together a list of his favourite travel lenses for 5 popular mounts - Micro Four Thirds, Fujifilm, Sony, Canon and Nikon. To create the list, Ben and his fellow travel photographer friends reviewed each system and looked at what the most popular lens choices were for their photos. "With the smaller sensor cameras, we found that the larger zoom range lenses perform at a similar level as the equivalent standard zoom lens. While the aperture is lower, there is a lot more reach at the telephoto end. In our view, this made the sacrifice in aperture worth it overall.", says Ben.

 

Ben's Top 5 Travel Lenses

 

For Micro Four Thirds: Panasonic Lumix 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. HD

Ben says this really is the best travel lenses for the Micro Four Thirds format, thanks to its wide focal length range and excellent image stabilisation technology. It's compact, lightweight and affordable. Any minus points? Well, it's made of plastic which might put some off and it can struggle in contrasting light situations. 

Buy this lens on Amazon UK    Buy this lens on Amazon USA

 

For Fujifilm: Fujinon XF18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
Ben loves this Fujifilm lens for its flexibility. Despite it having a slower aperture than some on the list, image stabilisation and sharpness of images make up for this. It's lightweight, waterproof and weather resistant, as well as being well made and durable. But the slow aperture can impact its ability to shoot in low light. 

Buy on Amazon UK    Buy on Amazon USA

 

For Sony FE - Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM
Ben says this is one of the best lenses available for travel photography, and it has a really popular focal length for travel photographers. It is a fairly expensive and heavy lens compared to some, though.

Buy on Amazon UK    Buy on Amazon USA 

 

For Canon - Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II

EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
Another option with the favoured focal length for travel photographers, which also offers spectacular sharpness and colour rendition. It's got water resistance, weather protection and the circular 9 blade diaphragm ensures lovely bokeh. It is on the expensive side though and some would argue that build quality is lacking for the price. 

Buy on Amazon UK    Buy on Amazon USA

 

For Nikon - Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED

AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED
 

Ben says if you can afford this lens, you should go for it - it's worth the investment and uses the best of the technology out there to take high quality images. It has effective VR, and amazing clarity and sharpness. The only things that might put you off are the high price point and the weight - it's quite heavy for a travel lens. 

Buy on Amazon UK    Buy on Amazon USA

 

Ben with Canon Camera

Ben's top 3 tips for aspiring travel photographers:

  • Details. Remember when traveling that the details are as important (if not more important) than the grand vistas. Most new photographers will come away with a folder full of wide-angle open vistas, no details. Walk right up to people, places and details, get close and document everything. It is these details that make up the grand vista.
  • Take photos at sunrise and sunset. In the height of summer, this can really be a tall order. But, you can always have a lunchtime nap when the light is harsh. Trust me, in 5 years time when you look back at those photos, you'll forget being tired but those beautiful golden light photos will live on forever.
  • Rent a car and travel beyond where the plane lands. City escapes sound great, but all of my best photos have come from the journey. Book some places to stay close to areas that you want to photograph. Wake up, photograph those spots, head home for some breakfast then spend the day exploring and traveling to the next location. Check in, drop your things in the hotel, then head out to photograph your next big location. The journey is the destination.

 

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Comments


mille19 13 13 United Kingdom
23 Jan 2019 1:12PM
What about Pentax ?
I'd go with the DA18-135mm or 20-40mm Ltd

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23 Jan 2019 5:41PM
Given the high ISO performance of modern cameras, like my Canon 200D, I think a large zoom range is the more versatile. Especially if you cheat a bit on the original outline and carry a nifty fifty (or it's equivalent) in your pocket. The f1.8 aperture on my STM version gives plenty of scope for out of focus backgrounds and you can zoom with your feet. Personally, I use a Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 Macro for my 'single-lens' travels. I know it's not quite as good as the 18-300, but it's smaller and lighter. I can also recommend the Canon 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 STM if you plan to include video as it is a better match for the focussing of Canon cameras.
abuford 11 United States
24 Jan 2019 8:09PM
my go to lens for sony is the 24-105 f/4 - it is light, great zoom range and takes tack sharp photos - took it on a hiking trip in estes park, co and hardly every took it off
MentorRon 1 101 Canada
27 Jan 2019 12:49AM
I see no Sony "A" mount listed. I have the Sony SAL-18135 which I purchased within days of getting my SLT-a58 with the 18-55 kit lens, which had misaligned elements (Sony said it was "within spec"). The 18135 got good reviews everywhere on the web, and they were correct. It has the advantage of having pincushion etc eliminated by the built-in camera processor.
27 Jan 2019 8:35PM

Quote:What about Pentax ?
I'd go with the DA18-135mm or 20-40mm Ltd


And for the K-1 either the DFA24-70mm F2.8 or DFA28-105mm F3.5-5.6 Both excellent performers.

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