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Best Lens for Travel Photography Guide

Exploring the world through photography is a joy for many travel enthusiasts, allowing them to capture memories and share their experiences with others. Whether venturing into the bustling streets of a city or trekking through breathtaking landscapes, it’s essential to have the right lens for the perfect shot. This essay discusses the factors to consider when choosing the ideal travel photography lens, including focal length, aperture, size, and weight. In addition, it will delve into the debate between prime lenses and zoom lenses, popular lens choices for different camera systems, essential lens accessories for travel, and tips for taking better travel photos.

1. Factors to Consider in Choosing a Lens

Introduction to Travel Photography Lenses

Travel photography is a broad genre that encompasses various styles, including landscapes, street photography, and portraits. As an enthusiast or hobbyist in this field, you will likely find yourself shooting in a wide range of environments and conditions. Choosing the right lens for travel photography can be challenging, considering the numerous factors you need to take into account. This article will analyze critical factors such as focal length, aperture, size, and weight when selecting the best lens for travel photography. Additionally, we will discuss the importance of versatility in lenses to handle multiple shooting scenarios during your travels.

Focal Length

One of the most critical factors to consider when selecting a lens for travel photography is the focal length. This refers to the distance between the lens and the sensor, which affects the magnification and angle of view in your images. A wide-angle lens, typically with focal lengths between 14mm to 35mm, will give you a larger field of view, making it ideal for capturing landscapes and architectural shots. A standard lens, ranging from 35mm to 70mm, offers a more versatile range, suitable for various scenarios such as street photography and casual portraiture. Lastly, a telephoto lens, usually from 70mm and above, allows you to zoom in on distant subjects and create a shallower depth of field, perfect for detailed shots and portraits.


The aperture of a lens refers to the size of the opening that allows light to enter the camera. It is expressed as an f-number, such as f/2.8, f/4, or f/5.6. A lower f-number means a larger maximum aperture, which enables more light to pass through the lens, resulting in better low-light performance and a shallower depth of field. When selecting a lens for travel photography, it’s essential to consider the aperture, as you may find yourself shooting in various lighting conditions, from bright sunny days to dimly lit interiors or night scenes. A lens with a wide maximum aperture, like f/2.8, will help you capture sharp, well-exposed images even in low-light conditions.

Size and Weight

When traveling, it’s crucial to consider the size and weight of your equipment. Carrying heavy photography gear can cause discomfort and limit your mobility, making it challenging to explore and capture your destination’s beauty. Moreover, larger lenses can draw attention, making it harder to take candid shots or blend in with the local environment. Compact, lightweight lenses are more travel-friendly, allowing you to move around with ease and keep a low profile while shooting. Mirrorless cameras and pancake lenses can be excellent choices for travelers as they offer quality results without adding much bulk to your bag.


As a travel photographer, you may encounter various shooting scenarios, from street scenes to sweeping landscapes and close-up details. Therefore, versatility is a critical factor to consider when choosing a lens for travel photography. A zoom lens with a wide range of focal lengths can offer the flexibility to handle multiple situations, allowing you to capture different subjects without constantly changing lenses. For instance, a 24-70mm or 18-135mm lens can cover a majority of standard shooting situations while still offering reasonable portability for traveling. Alternatively, you can also carry two or three prime lenses with different focal lengths to cover your bases while maintaining high image quality.

Introduction to Travel Photography Lenses

As an enthusiast or hobbyist eager to become skilled in travel photography, it’s essential to understand the factors that contribute to the perfect travel photography lens. The best lens for your needs depends on several factors such as focal length, aperture, size, and weight. Additionally, prioritizing versatility ensures that your chosen lens can handle a wide range of shooting scenarios you may encounter during your travels. By considering all these factors, you’re sure to find a lens that will help you capture unforgettable memories on your adventures.

A camera surrounded by different lenses to depict choosing the best lens for travel photography

Photo by we_are_rising on Unsplash

2. Prime Lenses vs. Zoom Lenses

Prime Lenses vs. Zoom Lenses for Travel Photography

Once you’ve determined your essential needs and preferences, it’s time to delve deeper into the two popular lens choices for travel photography: prime lenses and zoom lenses. Each type of lens comes with its unique advantages and disadvantages, and understanding these differences is crucial when choosing the right lens for you. In this article, we will compare image quality, speed, weight, and price between prime lenses and zoom lenses while also highlighting situations where each type may be more suitable for travel photography. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision on the perfect lens for your needs.

Image Quality

Prime lenses are known for their excellent image quality. They have a fixed focal length, which means that they are optimized for a specific shooting distance. This allows them to have fewer moving parts and can result in better image quality compared to zoom lenses. Prime lenses generally produce sharper images, better contrast, and more accurate colors. Furthermore, they often have better low-light performance, which can be especially useful when traveling and photographing in various lighting conditions.

Zoom lenses, on the other hand, offer more versatility in terms of focal length. With one zoom lens, you can capture a wide range of subjects from varying distances. However, this versatility can come at the cost of image quality. Zoom lenses typically have more moving parts and can sometimes produce slightly softer images compared to prime lenses. That being said, recent advancements in lens technology have narrowed the gap in image quality, and many high-quality zoom lenses can produce excellent images suitable for travel photography.


A fast lens is essential when capturing images in low light or when trying to freeze motion. Prime lenses generally have a larger maximum aperture, enabling them to capture more light and perform better in low-light situations. This also allows for faster shutter speeds, which is essential for capturing fast-moving subjects or creating a shallow depth of field.

Zoom lenses typically have smaller maximum apertures, especially at the telephoto end of their focal range. This means they may not perform as well in low-light situations and may require longer shutter speeds or higher ISO settings. However, some high-end zoom lenses do offer fast maximum apertures, albeit at a higher price point.

Weight and Size

Travel photography often involves long hours of walking, hiking, or exploring new environments. Therefore, weight and size become important factors to consider when choosing a lens. Prime lenses, due to their simpler design and fewer moving parts, tend to be lighter and more compact than zoom lenses. This makes them a popular choice for photographers looking to travel light and minimize the size of their camera gear.

Zoom lenses, with their added versatility, tend to be larger and heavier than prime lenses. This is especially true for lenses with larger focal ranges or fast maximum apertures. However, some photographers may prefer to carry a single zoom lens instead of multiple prime lenses, which can also save on weight and space in a camera bag.


When considering the cost, prime lenses often come out as a more budget-friendly option. High-quality prime lenses can be relatively affordable, especially compared to zoom lenses with similar image quality and speed. However, keep in mind that if you require multiple focal lengths, the cost of purchasing multiple prime lenses can add up.

Zoom lenses, with their versatility and convenience, tend to be more expensive than prime lenses, especially for high-quality options with fast maximum apertures. But the cost may be justifiable when taking into account that one zoom lens can cover a range of focal lengths that would otherwise require multiple prime lenses.

Which Lens is Best for Travel Photography?

Choosing between a prime lens and a zoom lens for travel photography largely comes down to personal preferences and shooting styles. For those who prioritize image quality, low-light performance, and lightweight gear, prime lenses may be the better option. These lenses enable photographers to move quickly and capture the essence of a location without the need to change lenses frequently.

On the other hand, if flexibility and convenience are more important, a high-quality zoom lens could be the best choice. Zoom lenses allow photographers to adapt to varying situations and capture different types of shots without carrying multiple lenses.

Ultimately, the ideal lens for travel photography depends on the individual photographer’s needs, budget, and preferences. Both prime and zoom lenses can excel in different situations, with the final decision often coming down to personal shooting styles and what one prioritizes in their travel photography experiences.

A photo of a camera with a prime lens and a camera with a zoom lens to visually represent the differences in lens choices for travel photography.

Photo by jenwe on Unsplash

3. Popular Lens Choices for Different Camera Systems

Exploring Popular Lens Choices for Travel Photography

As travel photography encompasses a wide range of subjects and situations, selecting the right lens for your camera system becomes crucial. In this article, we’ll explore popular lens choices suited for various camera systems, such as DSLR, mirrorless, and point-and-shoot cameras. Additionally, we’ll provide recommendations for different price points and explain why these lenses are ideal for travel photography, taking into account the considerations mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Popular Lenses for DSLR Cameras
  • Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM: This wide-angle lens is great for capturing landscapes and architecture. The image stabilization feature helps to reduce camera shake, which is essential for handheld shooting. It is relatively affordable, making it a good option for enthusiasts on a budget.
  • Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR: With a broad focal range, this lens serves as an all-in-one option for travelers who want versatility without changing lenses frequently. The vibration reduction feature ensures sharp images even in low-light situations. Although it may be a bit pricey for hobbyists, the convenience and quality make it worth the investment.
  • Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM: This lens offers a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout its focal range, providing excellent low-light performance and depth-of-field control. Compatible with both Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras, it’s a more affordable option for those wanting better image quality without the hefty price tag.
Popular Lenses for Mirrorless Cameras
  • Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS: This lens provides a versatile focal range, making it suitable for various shooting situations, such as landscapes, portraits, and street photography. Optical SteadyShot (OSS) helps minimize camera shake, ensuring sharp images. It’s a cost-effective option for Sony APS-C mirrorless camera users.
  • Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH: With a 10x zoom range, this lens is an excellent option for Micro Four Thirds camera users who want a versatile option for travel photography. It incorporates POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) technology to minimize blur. Priced reasonably, it’s suitable for hobbyists and enthusiasts alike.
  • Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS: This standard zoom lens offers a relatively fast aperture and optical image stabilization, making it ideal for low-light situations and handheld shooting. While it may be a bit pricey, the consistent image quality and range make it a worthwhile investment for Fujifilm X-series mirrorless camera users.
Lenses for Point-and-Shoot Cameras
  • Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II: This camera features a fast f/1.8-2.8 lens with a 24-100mm equivalent focal range, enabling quality images in various shooting scenarios. Its compact size and excellent image stabilization make it a popular option for travel photography.
  • Sony RX100 VII: This camera offers a 24-200mm equivalent focal range with a fast f/2.8-4.5 aperture, suitable for a wide range of subjects. Additionally, it has built-in optical image stabilization, making it perfect for capturing sharp images on-the-go.
  • Panasonic Lumix ZS200: With a 24-360mm equivalent focal range, this camera is perfect for those who want an extended zoom range in a compact setup. The built-in 5-axis hybrid O.I.S. ensures that your images are crisp and clear.

Travel photography is a fantastic way to capture the essence of your memorable journeys and hone your skills as a photographer. Choosing the best lens for travel photography depends on several factors, such as your camera system, budget, and personal preferences. This article will help guide you through the process of selecting the ideal lens by considering important aspects like focal range, aperture, image stabilization, and price. Remember, the key to becoming skilled in travel photography is to focus on practicing and enjoying the process of capturing your unique experiences.

A DSLR camera and lenses, a mirrorless camera and lenses, and a point-and-shoot camera with the caption 'Popular Lens Choices for Travel Photography' written on a blurred background

Photo by thombradley on Unsplash

4. Essential Lens Accessories for Travel

Essential Lens Accessories for Travel

Once you have chosen the appropriate lens for your travel photography, it’s important to invest in the right accessories to protect and maintain your gear. Quality lens accessories not only safeguard your investment but also ensure optimal image quality throughout your adventures. In this section, we’ll explore some essential lens accessories that every budding travel photographer should consider, including lens filters, hoods, and cleaning tools.

Lens Filters

Lens filters are thin pieces of glass or plastic that can be attached to the front of the camera lens. They are designed to protect the lens from dust, scratches, and other damages while ensuring that your images are of high quality. There are several types of filters, each serving a unique purpose:

  1. UV Filters: As the name suggests, ultraviolet (UV) filters help block and reduce the effects of UV light on your images. This is particularly useful when shooting outdoors, as UV light can cause a bluish haze in photos. UV filters also protect the lens from scratches, dust, and smudges.
  2. Polarizing Filters: These filters help reduce glare and increase color saturation in your images. They are particularly useful for photographing water, foliage, and similar reflection-prone surfaces. By reducing reflections and enhancing colors, polarizing filters can significantly improve the overall quality of your travel photos.
  3. Neutral Density (ND) Filters: ND filters allow you to control the amount of light entering your lens, enabling longer exposures and better control over depth of field. These filters are beneficial for taking pictures in bright conditions, such as capturing the motion of waterfalls or the movement of clouds.
Lens Hoods

Lens hoods are accessories attached to the front of the lens to block stray light from entering the lens. By minimizing lens flare and eliminating unwanted highlights, lens hoods are integral in maintaining optimal image quality. They can also protect your lenses from accidental impacts and fingerprints. When shooting in crowded tourist areas, having a lens hood can be a lifesaver in protecting your precious gear.

Cleaning Tools

Keeping your lens clean is crucial for ensuring top-notch image quality. Travel photography often exposes your equipment to dust, dirt, and other elements that can negatively impact your images. Investing in the right cleaning tools, such as microfiber cloths, lens cleaning solutions, and air blowers, is essential for maintaining your lenses and ensuring the best image quality possible.

Regularly cleaning your lens with a microfiber cloth can prevent dirt and smudges from causing permanent damage or affecting your images. Using an air blower helps to eliminate dust and debris from the lens surface safely. A high-quality lens cleaning solution designed specifically for camera lenses should also be used to prevent damage from chemicals found in regular cleaning products.


In conclusion, becoming a skilled travel photographer involves investing in essential lens accessories such as lens filters, hoods, and cleaning tools. These accessories not only improve the quality of your travel photographs but also protect your camera gear. By understanding and utilizing these accessories, you will be on your way to capturing stunning images that truly embody the essence of your adventures.

A camera, lens filters, lens hoods, and cleaning tools arranged on a wooden table, ready for travel photography.

Photo by jakobowens1 on Unsplash

5. Tips for Taking Better Travel Photos

Understanding Your Chosen Lens

As a follow-up step, it is essential to understand the capabilities and limitations of the lens you’ve chosen for your travel photography. Investigate its focal length, aperture range, image stabilization features, and autofocus system. Gaining familiarity with your lens will enable you to make informed decisions about camera settings and shot compositions during your travels. Remember to experiment with your lens before embarking on your trip, which will help you make any necessary adjustments or determine if you need a different lens to achieve your desired shots.

Master the Camera Settings

Knowing the right camera settings for various shooting conditions is essential to capture stunning travel photos. The aperture affects the depth of field in your images, so for landscapes, a narrower aperture (higher f-stop number) will allow for more detail throughout the scene. Conversely, using a wider aperture (lower f-stop number) will help you create a shallow depth of field, which is ideal for isolating subjects in portraits or street photography.

Shutter speed is another crucial camera setting to understand, as it determines the length of time your camera sensor is exposed to light. Faster shutter speeds can freeze movement, making them ideal for capturing fast-paced action or reducing camera shake. Slower shutter speeds can create motion blur, which may be useful in certain creative situations, such as capturing the movement of water or clouds.

Lasty, don’t forget to adjust your ISO settings according to your shooting conditions. Higher ISO values can help you capture images in low light situations, but they may introduce noise to your photos. Aim to keep your ISO as low as possible while still achieving proper exposure.

Focus on Focusing Techniques

Sharp focus is essential for capturing stunning travel photos. Spend some time learning about the various focusing modes your camera offers and how they pair with your chosen lens. For fast-moving subjects, such as wildlife or action shots, consider using continuous autofocus (AI Servo or AF-C) to track your subject and maintain focus.

For portraits, landscapes, or more controlled settings, single-shot autofocus (One Shot or AF-S) might be sufficient. Additionally, don’t be afraid to use manual focus when needed, as this can grant you more control over your final image. To ensure tack-sharp focus, use your camera’s focus magnification feature or use the “focus and recompose” method where you lock focus on your subject and then recompose your shot.

Compose Your Shots Creatively

A compelling composition can elevate your travel photos from merely good to truly stunning. Keep the Rule of Thirds in mind when framing your shots, as this can help create balance and visual interest. Experiment with different perspectives, such as low angles, high angles, or even shooting through objects, to add depth and dimension to your images.

Don’t hesitate to include foreground elements and leading lines to draw the viewer’s eye through the scene. Another way to improve your compositions is by utilizing your lens’s unique qualities, like employing a wide-angle lens to emphasize the vastness of a landscape or using a telephoto lens to compress distance and bring distant subjects closer.

Maximizing Your Lens’s Potential on the Go

Traveling inevitably comes with unpredictable situations and variable lighting conditions. To maximize your lens’s potential during your journey, always be prepared to adapt to these changing circumstances. Carry a small travel tripod or monopod to help steady your camera during long exposures or low light situations, especially if your lens doesn’t have built-in image stabilization.

Keep a lens cloth or cleaning solution with you to maintain your lens’s cleanliness, as dust, moisture, or fingerprints can negatively impact your image quality. Finally, remember that practice makes perfect – take advantage of the unique opportunities your travels provide and keep shooting, experimenting, and learning. The more photos you take, the more skilled you will become in utilizing your chosen lens to capture unforgettable travel memories.

A person holding a camera and taking a photo of a beautiful sunrise over the mountains.

Having an appropriate lens for travel photography can transform your adventures into stories worth telling, with images that evoke the emotions, beauty, and culture of the places you visit. By considering factors such as focal length, aperture, and personal preferences, one can make an informed decision between prime and zoom lenses. Additionally, investing in essential lens accessories such as filters, hoods, and cleaning tools not only protects your gear but also optimizes image quality. Ultimately, combining these factors with a solid understanding of camera settings, focusing techniques, and composition will empower you to capture stunning travel photos that will remain dear to your heart for years to come.

Originally posted 2023-06-21 02:32:08.

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