It’s all organised for your trip. Flight tickets are in the bag. Clothes in the rucksack. Now, which lens should I take? If you are not sure, because you have so many things to see and do, then a standard-range zoom is probably the way to go and the Fuji XF 16-55 f/2.8 is a great lens to have, if you own an X Series Fujifilm camera.
Balcony with view (handheld 1/17sec at f/3.2, 16mm ISO200)
Let’s go back to the great question.
Which lens is best for travel or city photography?
Easy quick question, very complicated long answer.
When visiting a new country, or city, there are so many photography opportunities.
If it’s raining I usually try to shoot interiors (wide lens) or I play with water reflection. In the middle of the day I explore markets and shopping areas for some street photography (35-50mm quick lens). For sunset and sunrise I look for some nice viewpoints. I may need the zoom for some details or action photography. And what about the night photography. Gee, a long day of work LOL
I love primes (lenses with single focal length). Why? Because I have the best quality together with the best value. There is only one issue, the legs are my zoom and sometime they are not long enough.
Beside, I have to carry and change them through the day. Sometime I decide to leave 1 or 2 in the hotel room, with the risk that I won’t find them again. Yeah, security is always an issue and I don’t usually go to the 5 stars hotels, not to say they are less or more secure.
If you have followed me on other posts, you may already know that I usually shoot with a Nikon D600/610.
In the previous years I have tried a few Nikon lenses on my trips however somehow I tend to always go back to the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8 which is now my main travel photography lens, the must have.
For a weekend away this is the only lens I take.
Street Photography at the Exhibition center
If I travel longer I also take the prime 50mm, just because it is very small and unpretentious when I explore the market and the local alleys, lanes and streets.
It’s a workhorse. It produces some amazing photos, on pair with my prime. It’s weather sealed and it covers 95% of my travel photography opportunities.
This lens is not cheap and it’s not lightweight. I need to carry around almost 2kg, when mounted on the D610. But, as I love to say, no pain no gain…..or maybe not?
I believe that the standard-range 24-70 zoom is the most useful lens in the everyday travel photography. It covers most of the needs.
Back to the original short question
Which lens is best for travel or city photography?
A standard-range zoom, 24-70mm, or similar. Especially when you keep travelling and moving.
If you have some cash to invest and you want carry a second lens, I would go for a 35-50mm prime.
The Melbourne marina (6sec at f/8, 16mm ISO200)
Fuji XF 16-55 f/2.8 for travel
A couple of weeks ago I had the Fujifilm X-T1 for a run, actually quite a long run. I enjoyed it so much that I am still “forgetting” to give it back.
Lens wise I asked for the standard-range zoom Fuji XF 16-55 f/2.8 (equivalent 24-82.5mm focal length, when mounted on the X-T1). All the photos in this post were made with this gear
I have been staying in Melbourne in these days, waiting for my next trip in Queensland.
I have been living in this city for over 10 years but when I have a camera with me I find always something new, or different, to photograph.
It was actually great to compare the Fuji XF 16-55 f/2.8 with my Nikon lens.
The first thing I noticed was the difference in weight, almost half. And a similar cut also applies to the price, which is fantastic.
The weight of this lens is 655gr. This is a number that can leave you open mouth for two opposite reasons.
- wow, it’s heavy. You would have this reaction if you are used to deal with typical mirrorless cameras and lenses. The camera, Fujifilm X-T1, is actually lighter at 440gr. There is lots of glass in this lens (17 elements in 12 groups, see specs and graphs on Fujifilm website) and physics dictate a greater size. The amazing quality comes with some more grams. Personally it’s a compromise I am happy to accept
- wow, it’s light. You would have this reaction if you are used to deal with DLSR. I think I have a good eye, or at least a reasonable one, and I could not not notice a difference in photo quality between my Nikon and this lens.
Night photography on Princes Bridge
So I started with few photos inside my studio. I took a first shot of a small plant next to my chair. Wow, I was amazed by the sharpness of the details.
I was at the same time ashamed by my lack of tidiness. So much dust on the leaves that I did not realise….well it’s actually micro dust…I will clean it later LOL
1:1 crop, very sharp. I definitely have to clean the plant :)
In the test above I also tried to zoom in, focus, and change the zoom ratio. The focus was kept quite well even if I changed the focal length on course (I locked the focus AF-L). For the photo above I used an aperture of f/2.8 which would have easily highlighted possible issues, with such a limited depth of field.
I was out for some night photography and I was again happy with the details and sharpness of the photo.
Night photography at the pier (17sec at f/8, 16mm ISO200)
Going on a 1:1 view I could slightly notice some noise, nothing significant. I believe this is a side effect of the sensor heating up. I will investigate more on this. Nothing related to the lens, just my curiosity.
Another important fact is that I found the Fuji XF 16-55 sharp along the entire focal length range without compromises in the photo corners.
The Fuji XF 16-55 does not have OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), however this did not affect my shooting.
Let’s say straight away that focus is quick and silent, and this is what you want when doing travel photography. Being invisible. Without any noticeable noise.
When in manual, the focus ring is silky smooth and easy to work with.
Can you ask more?
Not really, this is a professional lens which delivers
Sunset on Southgate, Melbourne, with the helicopter surprise (1/400sec at f/2.8, 16mm ISO 200)
Sometime you need to be lucky in photography. Having a great sunset happens on a regular basis. Having an helicopter landing just at the right time is more unusual.
When I saw the helicopter I started running to reach quickly the photography location and at the same time I set all the rings and dials to freeze the helicopter and use a low ISO. I love working with all these analog dials on Fujifilm. Menus take more time.
There are few other things I should mention about:
- I did not notice any distortion or vignetting issues with any of my photos
- The lens hood is included in the package. It may help with the flare, mostly at 16mm, and as bumper if you walk in busy locations, like street markets.
- I found the zoom ring very smooth and the aperture ring easy to operate with the stop clicks
- the Fuji XF 16-55 is water resistance
If you are looking for only one lens to have for your travel photography and you have an X Series Fujifilm camera I would definitely suggest this lens. It will last for many many years.
At the moment Amazon has a great discount on this lens, not to be missed. If you are in Australia, Camera House is currently offering a $200 cashback which is taking down the Fuji XF 16-55 lens to a crazy price
Support MEL365. Shop in US with amazon.com. In Australia Ted’s Cameras or Camera House
I spent the all day in the city and I did not plan to stay for the night as well. No tripod, ugh. Increased the ISO to 6400 and shooted at f/2.8, 1/25sec. Happy with the photo quality and sharpness
Window to the cooking room, Movida. Again withouit Tripod, 1/25sec at f/2.8, 16mm and ISO 6400
Interior photography with some interesting lines
Princes Bridge from below; it reminds me Paris a lot (2sec at f/8, 16mm ISO 200)