THE LOVE FOR TRAVELLING, THE PASSION FOR PHOTOGRAPHY (MADE IN MELBOURNE AND AROUND THE GLOBE)

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Guide to the best lenses for travel photography 2017

Guide to the best lenses for travel photography (April 2017)

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I have been asked many times what is the top travel camera “at the moment”. I was never asked however what are the best lenses for travel photography.

We spend lots of energy searching for a new travel camera, we go through websites, comparisons, features and obviously best prices.

And the lenses?

Whatever comes with the camera is fine.

I personally thinks it is a bit of a mistake and let me explain why.

The same camera with different lenses, at the same focal length, can perform really differently. Prof. Marc Levoy published an interesting lecture on lenses with examples of photos. By the way, this is part of an 18-lectures workshop from his original Stanford course, highly suggested to anyone.

Saving on lenses may under perform your camera. It’s a bit like buying a Ferrari and saving on the engine, maybe even downgrading to a Fiat 500 engine.

This is of course a bit of a drastic example but I wanted to just give an idea.

As a rule of thumb I usually suggest to spend as much money for your camera as well as for your first lens, in case this is an all round.

There is another good point about investing more in lenses.

Usually when we upgrade to an upper level camera we tend to carry with us the lenses we already have. That is why it is a good idea to be more selective in what we buy.

Bang Bao, Koh Chang

Bang Bao, Koh Chang. One of the fantastic photo locations of Koh Chang

Reference table best lenses for travel photography

If you are short in time, this is a quick reference table for the best lenses for travel photography, organised by manufacturer.

After the table I am going deeper on each needed category (all-round, prime, wide), explaining how to choose, what the lens will allow you to do and, most important, what to avoid buying, saving you money and time.

Type Brand Lens Name USA Australia Notes
All-Round Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS II USM $$$ Soon Full Sensor and APS-C, 4 stops IS
All-Round Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM $$ $ FS and APS-C, 3 stops IS, old model
All-Round Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM $$ $$ Only APS-C, IS not as good as 24-105mm
Prime Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM $ 25%OFF Must have for street and markets
Wide Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 AF II DG HSM $$$ $$$ Good $ compromise for super-wide lens CANON
All-Round Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR $$ $$ Entry-level all-round lens
All-Round Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED $$$ $$$ Great travel photography workhorse
All-Round Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED $$$$ 50%OFF Amazing and unique lens, 70mm may be not enough
Prime Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G $ $ Essential in the markets
Wide Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 AF II DG HSM $$$ $$$ Good $ compromise for super-wide lens NIKON
All-Round Fujifilm Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR $$$ $$$ In my opinion the best travel lens made by Fujifilm
All-Round Fujifilm Fujinon XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR $$ $$ Great super zoom, compromise with max variable aperture
Prime Fujifilm Fujinon XF 35mm F2 R WR $ $ Must have Fujinon prime
Wide Fujifilm Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS $$ $$ The widest angle made by Fujinon you can have
All-Round Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar $$$ 25%OFF A good compromise all-round
All-Round Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar $$$$ $$$$ The best all-round in the Sony line-up
Prime Sony FE 50mm F/1.8 $ $ At $200 this is a real bargain, small and good quality lens
Wide Sony FE 16-35mm F/4 Vario-Tessar $$$ $$$ A beautiful Zeiss lens that won't disappoint. Not that wide
All-Round Sony a6000 E 16-70mm F/4 Vario-Tessar $$$ $$$ Best for a6000 with eq.focal length of 24-120mm
All-Round Sony a6000 E 18-105mm F4 $$ $$ Wide eq.focal range at 27-157mm
Prime Sony a6000 FE 50mm F/1.8 $ $ At $200 this is a real bargain, small and good quality lens
Wide Sony a6000 E 10-18mm f/4 OSS $$ $$ Good quality and sharp
All-Round Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm 1:2.8 PRO $$$ %50OFF It is a 2013 lens, however still my favourite for travel photography
All-Round Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS Pro $$$$ $$$$ With an eq.focal length of 24-200mm it is an all-you-need lens
Prime Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm F1.8 $ $ Small and inespensive prime at a great max aperture
Wide Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO $$$ $$$ Perfect focal range for a wide-angle lens
All-Round Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 $$$ $$$ My travel lens for Panasonic cameras, not new however the best
All-Round Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 $$$ $$$ Most exciting Panasonic travel lens
Prime Panasonic Lumix G 25mm F1.7 ASPH $ $ Great max aperture for an equivalent 50mm
Wide Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH $$$ $$ Limited list of super wide angle from Panasonic

Lenses for travel photography

First thing first, this post is not really about wild life photography. In that case you would need zoom lenses, either for a safari or birds photography, or maybe a macro lens, in case you are interested to the “micro” world.

I own a few lenses that range from 12mm to 200mm focal length. I occasionally also review few zoom lenses on some trips, like the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm I had on a zoo safari trip.

What I have being noticing, along my last years of travelling, is that I probably just need 2 lenses in my trips, maybe 3 of them. Sometime even 1 is enough.

  • All round zoom lens
  • Prime 5omm
  • Super wide angle
Sunset at Pulau Padar

Sunset at Pulau Padar

All round zoom lens/wide angle

My favourite is the range 24-120mm or 24-105mm or even 24-80mm.

In this post I always talk about 35 mm equivalent focal length; you can read this Wiki post for more info in case you are not familiar with it

You will see later some lens suggestions based on the manufacturer, however, as a rule of thumb, the quicker is the lens the more photo opportunities you will have.

Possibly go for an aperture of f/2.8, or even lower. Unfortunately these are the most expensive lenses

Why do you want to do that?

Because with a smaller aperture value (bigger hole) you will :

  1. have a smaller depth of field, in case you like to make photos of travel details, and a nicer bokeh, which is the area out of focus in the background (in doing that you give more importance to your subject, think a portrait)
  2. allow more light into your camera (bigger hole), with the possibility to make photos even in low light environments without tripod.

Why having a zoom lens starting as wide as 24mm?

Because it is a nice wide angle to have for most of the travel photos, think panoramas or just even walking in the lanes of a city.

Why 80 to 120mm as the upper value of the zoom lens?

Because you will rarely use over that when travelling. It may happen of course and you may regret you do not have 200 or 400mm however sometime we need to take decisions and optimise on costs.

I prefer to invest on a better 24-120mm than an even wider 18-300mm which does not perform as well. It’s more of a quality over quantity. Beside, that kind of zooms tends to be quite heavy as well, something you would rather like to avoid when walking the all day with it.

I like to remind that we do have another natural zoom, our legs. Sometime we forget about that, we are a bit lazy.

Last important thing.

I always talk about equivalent focal length.

What does it mean? Well if you have a 50mm lens

  • on a full sensor camera, than the equivalent focal length is exactly the same, 50mm
  • on a APS-C sensor, multiply roughly by 1.5, and your lens is actually a t5mm (it’s in the range 1.5-1.6, based on manufacturer)
  • on a MFT sensor, multiply by 2, your lens is now a 100mm

As an example, if you have a Panasonic G85 (great camera by the way) with a MFT sensor, then I would probably suggest a 12-60mm lens, which is, in equivalent focal length, a 24-120mm.

Sunset on Mont Choisy Beach, Mauritius

Sunset on Mont Choisy Beach, Mauritius. Nikon D610, Nikkor 24-120mm 1:4G (24mm, 8 sec at f/10, ISO 100)

Prime lenses for travel photography

Prime lenses are the ones without any zoom, just one fixed focal length.

There are few benefits with the prime lenses:

  • cheaper
  • great quality
  • light
  • small

They do only one thing however they do it extremely well.

When I travel with the Nikon D610, I always have with me the Nikon 50mm 1:1.8. The quality is just outstanding. It’s super light and so small that I tend to forget it in my jacket.

When I visit markets or small lanes in a city for some street photography, I remove my 24-120mm and install this 50mm instead.

Suddenly people do not notice me, I become a tourist as many others.

With the all round lens, people look at me as a super pro and they become shy, they don’t want to be photographed, or even ask money for it.

When travelling, the smaller camera you have the easier will be to walk unnoticed. And being seen with a big, supposedly expensive camera+lens, can be a problem in some countries.

The alternative solution to an all round lens would be to have 3 primes that cover possibly the 24mm, 50mm and 100mm focal length

Quality wise may be probably the best solution however, when travelling, I do not think it is very practical to keep changing lenses.

Although very small, you always add a possibility that the camera, or the lens, may fall during the change. Dust may be introduced on the sensor as well.

I usually travel with the 24-120mm on and change it with the 50mm only when I know it works better (markets, lanes, street photography)

The meat market in Port Louis, Mauritius

The meat market in Port Louis, Mauritius. Nikon D610, Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8G (50mm, 1/640 at f/1.8, ISO 1600)

Super wide lenses for interiors, and not only

I have also a 12-24mm lens. It is considered to be super wide. Keep in mind that the human eye has a comparable focal length of around 43mm.

This is a lens I typically use for interior and architectural photography.

On a generic trip I usually leave it at home, however if I know I am going to visit some capital cities, I usually take it with me.

I like to use the 12mm in churches, galleries or tall building, when photographing from the ground level.

I use this wide angle also for some landscape photography, but only when my subject is actually in the foreground.

As an example, think a photo of a pier and you stand at the beginning of it. The pier will appear much bigger.

Historical Collins 333, the CBA Bank

Historical Collins 333, the CBA Bank. Nikon D610, Nikkor 14-24mm 1:2.8 (15mm, 1/30sec at f/2.8, ISO 1000, no tripod allowed)

Super zoom lenses

In most of the trips you will not need a super zoom lens (say over 120mm).

Personally I would suggest to buy it only if you will be in a safari or you plan to attend a sport event for which the super zoom is essential.

I always say to use our legs as a first form of zoom. They usually work pretty well.

The bigger is the zoom focal length, the heavier is the lens. If you are travelling, and carrying your bag, it will become a real pain, especially for your back.

Super zoom lenses are usually not allowed in stadiums or important sport events.

I have a 70-200mm which I take with me only if I am sure I will attend some local interesting events, this could be a polo game in Mongolia, as an example.

However, if you are attending a polo game in UK you will be most likely asked to not use your camera as they will believe you are a professional photographer and you would need special agreements etc.

A close-up of an elephant eye with an equivalent 200-800mm telephoto lens (Panasonic Leica 100-400mm)

A close-up of an elephant eye with an equivalent 200-800mm telephoto lens (Panasonic Leica 100-400mm)

Here below I have listed some of the best lenses for travel photography, or at least the ones I would not hesitate to buy, based on available budget of course.

Best Canon lenses for travel

It was a very hard call selecting the best Canon lenses for travel. For each lens I explain why you need it and if compatible with your Canon camera

When you look for a Canon lens you notice that, in the name, there is either an EF or EF-S.

Without going too much into the details, the EF-S lenses were created to work uniquely with Canon APS-C DSLR meanwhile the EF were designed for both, full sensor and APS-C.

If you have an APS-C DSLR and you are thinking to upgrade to a full sensor, sooner or later, it pays off to buy EF lenses. They are usually more expensive but you will be able to use them with your future DSLR.

In the last years, Canon has also introduced the EF-M lenses. These lenses can be used uniquely with the Canon Mirrorless cameras.

These are the Canon lenses that I would not hesitate to buy for my travel photography

All-round lens : Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS II USM

This lens has been designed for full sensor however, as we said, it can be used also on APS-C (remember that the focal length should be multiplied by 1.5-1.6, if this is the case)

Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS II USM

It has image stabilisation, for which Canon claims 4 stops of shake reduction. The EF 24-105mm is both dust-proof and moisture-proof

It is not a cheap lens however the quality is really outstanding. Check the best price in USA (soon in Australia too)

You can still find in the market the previous model, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, which is still a great lens however at a more affordable price. It provides less shake reduction, 3 instead of 4 stops and few other minor differences.

If in Australia, DWI is currently having a 50% discount on the old model (only few left).

All-round lens : Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM

The previous lens can be an expensive option if you have a Canon APS-C DSLR and you are not really sure you are going to upgrade your camera in future.

Also remember that because you are using an APS-C DSLR the equivalent focal length becomes approx 38-168mm, therefore you are going to miss out on the nice 24mm wide angle

The alternative is the Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM which works uniquely on APS-C DSLR. The equivalent focal length is approx 28-216mm that is really more than usually needed for travel.

Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM

It’s also a cheaper option than the previous lens however it is not a sealed lens, which for travel photography is quite handy to have, especially for the dust. The image stabilisation is also not as great.

The 24-105mm has better quality in the glass elements, based on Canon description, and it has a constant maximum aperture at f/4.

The maximum aperture of the 18-135mm changes, from f/3.5 to f/5.6, based on the focal length you use.

This lens is cheaper than the previous one, however it offers less quality overall. Check the best price in USA or Australia

If on limited budget, I would probably go for the old model of the previous lens, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM which you can find at a similar price as the 18-135mm.

Prime : Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

It is small, it is super light, it is an amazing quality lens….it is basically a no-brain Canon lens for travel to buy

This is a #1 Best seller in Amazon, and for a good reason. It’s rare to find a 5 stars rated lens, with over 1100 comments.

Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM

At just over $100 this is a lens to buy and carry with you everytime you are in a city or town. Are you planning to visit a market? Use this lens. Are you planning some street photography? Use this lens….and I could keep going.

It’s absolutely the best value for money lens you can have.

Check the best price in USA or in Australia, at the moment with a 25% discount

Super wide angle : Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 AF II DG HSM for Canon

This is what I use with my camera (although with a Nikon adaptor).

As I previously said, it is not a lens I would always carry with me. It is more for special occasions.

Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 AF II DG HSM

There are other quicker Canon and Sigma lenses, however they are move expensive, beside being quite heavy to carry around on a trip.

I cannot justify the much higher price for the limited usage of this focal range I do.

With a price below the $1000 mark, I am extremely happy of the results

Check the best price in USA or Australia

Summary table for Canon lenses for travel

Type Brand Lens Name USA Australia Notes
All-Round Canon EF 24-105mm F4L IS II USM $$$ Soon Full Sensor and APS-C, 4 stops IS
All-Round Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM $$ $ FS and APS-C, 3 stops IS, old model
All-Round Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM $$ $$ Only APS-C, IS not as good as 24-105mm
Prime Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM $ 25%OFF Must have for street and markets
Wide Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 AF II DG HSM $$$ $$$ Good $ compromise for super-wide lens
Kids walking to school

Kids walking to school (one of my first photos 🙂 ). Canon EOS 40D, Canon 18-200mm (18mm, 1/25sec at f/13, ISO 100)

Best Nikon lenses for travel

I have using this manufacture for a long time and choosing my best Nikon lenses for travel was not simple. My workhorse is the 24-120mm. I would never travel without it.

When you look into the Nikon list of lenses you will notice both AF-P and AF-S lenses. Sometime even the same lens is available in both types.

What is the difference?

The AF-P lenses have a pulse motor, so silent you will not even notice it, fantastic for video also because the autofocus is very smooth.

The AF-S lenses have a wave motor, still very quiet however just enough noisy you can hear it during videos. The autofocus is quicker, perfect for still photography.

You can read more details about the differences in this Nikon article.

The AF-S lenses have two practical switches on the lens itself. The AF/MF and the VR O/OFF. I use them quite a bit. I find them very easy to use, instead of going through configuration, as you need, instead, with the AF-P.

Not all the Nikon cameras support AF-P as they do not have a firmware to control VR and AF/MF. You may need a new camera firmware, if available.

Moreover there are FX lense and DX lense. The DX are usually cheaper and dedicated to the APS-C sensor cameras meanwhile the FX are more for the full sensor.

In saying that you could use :

  • a FX on a APS-C camera (remember the crop factor of approx 1.6x due to the APS-C sensor size)
  • a DX on a Full Sensor Nikon (the photo is automatically cropted by the camera)

All-round lens : Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

One of the newest and best entry-level Nikon lenses for travel photography dedicated to the APS-C sensor cameras.

It has an equivalent focal length of 28-88mm which is great for most the photography when you are travelling.

It is provided as a kit lens in some of the new models, which is really a good value.

There is only once issue. Be sure before you buy it, that your camera firmware does support it (it’s an AF-P lens) otherwise you will not be able to use autofocus.

Check the best price in USA or Australia (in Australia this lens is currently sold at just over $100!!)

Nikon-AF-P-DX-NIKKOR-18-55mm-f3.5-5.6-VR-min

All-round lens : Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED

This is my workhorse. I have bought it 4 years ago and I have abused it since. I can’t believe it is still alive and it works amazingly well. I dropped it also in a couple of occasions, sigh, but still there, working as usual.

It has a fantastic wide focal range, from 24 to 120mm. I have always experienced a nice contrast in my photos as well as sharpness and colors. And,as I said, it’s tough, perfect for travelling

It may be not the quickest lens in the Nikon market and if you want one I would probably suggest the NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, although over 50% more expensive, which I cannot justify for my travel photography.

The maximum aperture of 2.8 would help especially in the market and dark environment however in that cases I tend to use the 50mm prime (more on this later) which has a great advantage: it’s very small, especially if compared to these all-round lenses.

Check the best price in USA or Australia. At the moment Nikon USA is also offering a Certified Refurbished at almost 50% discount (it will go soon I suspect)

Nikon-AF-S-Nikkor-24-120mm-f4G-ED-VR-min

Prime : Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G

This is my second workhorse when visiting interiors like churches, galleries etc. and, generally speaking, in low light environments like markets

This is also an amazing lens for portraits.

My only suggestion with this lens is to practice with it before you start your trip.

When used at f/1.8 the depth of field is extremely narrow and it is easy to have some photos where your subject is not that sharp. We are talking of a DoF of centimetres. It took me some practice before I felt fully confident.

This lens is super sharp with an amazing contrast and great colours. On Amazon, it has a 5 stars rating out of almost 1500 comments. I take it as a good indication of a great lens 🙂 and not just my feeling.

It’s so light I usually forget it in my bag or jacket

Check the best price in USA or Australia

Super wide angle : Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 AF II DG HSM for Nikon

This is a lens I already highlighted in the Canon section.

It’s a good compromise of quality, price and weight. There are Nikkor alternatives, however they are much more expensive and, most important, heavier.

In saying that, if your travel photography has a predominance of interior and architectural photography, than the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G may be a more optimal solution.

Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 AF II DG HSM

With a price below the $1000 mark, I am extremely happy of the results

Check the best price in USA or Australia

Summary table for Nikon lenses for travel

Type Brand Lens Name USA Australia Notes
All-Round Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR $$ $$ Entry-level all-round lens
All-Round Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED $$$ $$$ Great travel photography workhorse
All-Round Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED $$$$ 50%OFF Amazing and unique lens, 70mm may be not enough
Prime Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G $ $ Essential in the markets
Wide Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 AF II DG HSM $$$ $$$ Good $ compromise for super-wide lens

Best Fuji lenses for travel

My favourite is the 15-55mm F2.8. This is one of the best Fuji lenses for travel and I will explain why. There are however others that I would definitely include in my list.

Also in the Fujifilm list there are two families of lenses: XF and XC

The XF lenses are built in metal and offer a larger aperture. They have an aperture ring (except the tiny XF 27mm f/2.8 pancake) and a switch for OIS. They are manufactured in Japan.

The XC lenses are dedicated to the entry-level market, built in plastic, offering smaller aperture and without aperture ring and OIS switch. Due to its construction (less “glass” inside) they are usually smaller and lighter. They are not built in Japan.

All-round lens : Fujifilm XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

This is a lens I reviewed few months ago and I absolutely loved it.

With an equivalent focal length of 24-84mm covers most of the travel photography needs.

It is a tough lens, weather resistant and dust proof, just perfect for any trip you have in mind.

The maximum aperture, f/2.8, makes this lens great also in low light condition

I can only suggest it. Read more details on my review

If you do not feel that the maximum focal length of 84mm is enough for your travel photos, you may have a look at the Fujifilm XF 18-135mm  which, with an equivalent focal length of 24-200mm covers really all you need. It’s cheaper, however you have to compromise with the maximum variable aperture of f/3.5-5.6

Check the best price in USA or Australia

Fujifilm XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR

Prime : Fujifilm XF 35mm F2 R WR

This is a lens I tested only for a couple of hours and I did not want to give it back to the Fujifilm guys. Hopefully I will be able to review it sooner rather than later.

I still remember the great speed and the sharpness in the produced photos. Best of all is the size and weight. Another lens you can forget in your jacket, so tiny

It is a 50mm equivalent focal range that you can use in low light environments as churches or markets. Together with a Fujifilm camera it makes such a tiny package that you will not feel noticed. Amazing for portraits.

This lens is a must have for your travel photography, full stop.

Check the best price in USA or Australia

Fujifilm XF 35mm F2 R WR

Super wide angle : Fujifilm XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS

This is the only super wide angle lens that Fujifilm offers.

There is actually a prime XF 14mm F2.8 however I do not think there is much gain if you already own a 16-55mm, otherwise it could be another option.

It is not a cheap or light lens being a premium gear with lots of “glass”. Again, if you love super-wide, this is the solution.

Check the best price in USA or Australia

Fujifilm-XF-10-24mm-F4

Summary table for Fuji lenses for travel

Type Brand Lens Name USA Australia Notes
All-Round Fujifilm Fujinon XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR $$$ $$$ In my opinion the best travel lens made by Fujifilm
All-Round Fujifilm Fujinon XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR $$ $$ Great super zoom, compromise with max variable aperture
Prime Fujifilm Fujinon XF 35mm F2 R WR $ $ Must have Fujinon prime
Wide Fujifilm Fujinon XF 10-24mm F4 R OIS $$ $$ The widest angle made by Fujinon you can have

Best Sony lenses for travel

I have organised for Sony two distinct sections.

  • A7 section with lenses built for the full frame sensor
  • a6000 with lenses built for the APS-C sensor. By the way, have a check to the latest Sony a6500 model. Really brilliant

In my opinion, nowadays Sony has some of the best cameras, both with the APS-C and the full frame sensor.

The dynamic range of luminosity and colours is just magnificent. Probably a notch over the competitors.

Best travel lenses for a7

This full frame sensor camera is one of my favourite. So small. Selecting the best travel lenses for a7 was however not that easy. I was able to trim down my list to just 4 of them.

The a7 camera itself is very light, especially when compared with other full frame cameras, perfect for travelling.

The lenses however tend to be slightly bigger and heavier.

This is a table of the suggested lenses for travelling and city exploration.

Type Brand Lens Name USA Australia Notes
All-Round Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar $$$ 25%OFF A good compromise all-round
All-Round Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar $$$$ $$$$ The best all-round in the Sony line-up
Prime Sony FE 50mm F/1.8 $ $ At $200 this is a real bargain, small and good quality lens
Wide Sony FE 16-35mm F/4 Vario-Tessar $$$ $$$ A beautiful Zeiss lens that won't disappoint. Not that wide
FE 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar

FE 24-70mm f/4 Carlo Zeiss, one of the best all-round travel lenses for Sony a7

Best travel lenses for Sony a6000

The a6500 is the newest in this happy family. The selection of the best travel lenses for Sony a6000 was based on quality and price. The result? A great gear package to use in any trip, long or just weeekend.

 

I am looking forward myself to review the Sony a6500 as soon as possible. The new touchscreen should improve the usability of this camera.

To be honest, nowadays we are used so much to the mobile phones that not having a touchscreen in a camera feels a bit weird.

This is a table of the best travel lenses for Sony a6000.

Type Brand Lens Name USA Australia Notes
All-Round Sony a6000 E 16-70mm F/4 Vario-Tessar $$$ $$$ Best for a6000 with eq.focal length of 24-120mm
All-Round Sony a6000 E 18-105mm F4 $$ $$ Wide eq.focal range at 27-157mm
Prime Sony a6000 FE 50mm F/1.8 $ $ At $200 this is a real bargain, small and good quality lens
Wide Sony a6000 E 10-18mm f/4 OSS $$ $$ Good quality and sharp
E 18-105mm F4

Sony E 18-105mm F4, a super versatile travel lens for Sony a6000

Best micro four thirds lenses for travel

I have organised the best Micro Four Thirds lenses for travel in two sections dedicated to Olympus and Panasonic.

Keep however in mind that these lenses are interchangeable on both brands cameras, either company’s lenses will work on the other’s cameras.

There are still few issues however that make more convenient to stay with the same brand. Without going into the details I may mention Image Stabilisation as one of them.

What I like the most of the MFT cameras is their size, small, light and still delivering great quality photos.

Best Olympus lenses for travel

In the Olympus world you can usually find two types of lenses, the M.Zuiko and the M.Zuiko Pro.

The Zuiko lenses were born in 1936, however the first field of usage was science and healthcare with precision microscopes and endoscopes.

It has been a long way since, and Zuiko is still delivering great quality lenses.

The Pro version is water resistant and it is made of sturdy and lightweight aluminium alloy, which make it great for travelling.

This is a table of the best Olympus lenses for travel

Type Brand Lens Name USA Australia Notes
All-Round Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm 1:2.8 PRO $$$ %50OFF It is a 2013 lens, however still my favourite for travel photography
All-Round Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS Pro $$$$ $$$$ With an eq.focal length of 24-200mm it is an all-you-need lens
Prime Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm F1.8 $ $ Small and inespensive prime at a great max aperture
Wide Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm F2.8 PRO $$$ $$$ Perfect focal range for a wide-angle lens

Best Panasonic lenses for travel

Panasonic has delivered an incredible line up of cameras and lenses in 2016. My favourite camera is probably the Lumix G85 which has in-camera and in-lens stabilisation (I was able to have sharp images at 1/2 second shutter speed).

Please note that at the present time, unfortunately there are just a bunch of compatible OIS lenses that work together with the IS of the G85 body. I am sure, however, that in 2017 Panasonic will update the firmware on the present lenses and they will introduce new lenses as well.

The Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 ASPH Power OIS, announced in January 2017 is probably the all-round that excite me the most of the MFT world. And this offer with tripod, filters etc should not be missed 😮

This is a table of the best Panasonic lenses for travel

Type Brand Lens Name USA Australia Notes
All-Round Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm F2.8 $$$ $$$ My travel lens for Panasonic cameras, not new however the best
All-Round Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 $$$ $$$ Most exciting Panasonic travel lens
Prime Panasonic Lumix G 25mm F1.7 ASPH $ $ Great max aperture for an equivalent 50mm
Wide Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm F4 ASPH $$$ $$ Limited list of super wide angle from Panasonic

Final thoughts

The great thing about technology is that it keeps updating and upgrading.

The surprising thing is that the gear cost does not increase that much, instead it tends to decrease.

I still remember my first digital compact I bought in London, the best in the market at 4MP. I paid it 1,700 British Pounds. With that money today I can buy a full sensor mirrorless or DSLR, or a used camera + lens gear kit and save money for a short trip.

Today we have such a great choice, so wide that it took me days and days to put together this guide.

My favourite lens?

It varies based on the camera however as a rule of thumb I usually invest for an all-round travel lens as much as for a camera. It’s always good to start with the right foot.

I would also personally never buy a camera gear kit as the lenses tend to be not as performing as the camera. I would buy instead the body and just one all-round lens. In a later stage I would add a fast 40-50mm prime (f/1.4 to f/2.8)

Enjoy your travel photography!!


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Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a cycling, movie and life style photographer with a big love for landscape & travel photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o

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    • Lenny
    • March 6, 2017

    Great work Stefano,
    love your style. Checked other posts as well and I will be back for sure.

    I am buying the Fujifilm X-T2 and I was wondering what lenses would you buy with a $1000 budget. Better if you can go under badget LOL

    Talk you soon

    • Hi Lenny,
      as I wrote in my post I still think that the Fujifilm XF 16-55mm is the must lens for travel photography. It goes a bit over budget at $1200 however it is really well worth the price.

      The alternative is the Fujifilm XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6. It’s a real all round lens however you will suffer a bit with the variable max aperture. Less creativity with wide aperture compared to the 16-55. It’s also quite an heavy lens but it comes at $900

      If you are ok with just primes, you could also go for a Fujifilm XF 23mm F2 R WR and a Fujifilm XF 50mm F2 R WR. They are both great lenses and you will keep them for a long while, even if in future you will update to a X-T3 😉

      Enjoy the X-T2, great camera 🙂

    • Jorge
    • February 25, 2017

    Hi Stef, awesome content here.
    I have a question that I do not see answered here.
    I am going on a safari trip. I need to buy a camera anyway so I thought that I have a good excuse now. I checked few zoom lenses and wow, they are very expensive.
    Do you have any favourite?
    Thanks
    Jorge

      • Stef
      • February 27, 2017

      Good day Jorge,
      indeed I have not covered any zoom lens. The main reason is that they are not usually needed in any “normal” trip. In this respect I would not suggest to buy and take one with you when you travel.

      However you are right, travel photography should include gear also for safari photography. I may write a post just for that, considering how long this article already is LOL

      On a safari you need a big zoom, very high focal length. Theoretically, the longer the better. There is just a small drawback with big zoom lenses, they are very heavy and expensive.

      If you are into a professional job, where you will likely sell your images to magazines and newspapers than I would suggest a full sensor camera (the likes of Canon 5D or Nikon D810) with at least a 600mm lens. Awesome combination, however super expensive and heavy to carry around.

      Based on your comment I guess you are not after a pro kit. I would never buy it myself just because too heavy to carry around.

      I personally think that one of the best solution is the Panasonic GX8 in combination with a Leica 100-400mm. Let me explain why.

      The Panasonic, as well as the Olympus, are cameras with a MFT sensor. This means that you need to multiply by two the zoom value to have the equivalent focal length you would have on a full sensor.

      Basically it means that the Leica 100-400mm works as a 200-800mm on a Canonn 5D, or any other full sensor camera. I used it on a zoo safari here in Australia and I was quite impressed by the quality of the photos. I could see some softness after 700mm but that’s pretty common with any lens in this price range.

      This would be my safari kit, also considering that the GX8 has in camera stabilisation, which comes very handy on such a wide focal length. You can shoot at 800m with a shutter speed of 1/200 sec and have sharp images.

      The other solution would be to use a Fujifilm X-T2 in combination with the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm.

      Keep in mind that the X-T2 uses and APS-C sensor and you need to multiply by 1.5 the focal length in this case.

      This means that the 100-400mm on the X-T2 has an equivalent focal length of about 150-600mm

      The X-T2 is an amazing camera, however it also comes at an higher price range

      I hope I was able to help.
      Cheers

    • Camib
    • February 20, 2017

    Hi Stef, I have a Nikon D5200 and I was thinking about buying a wide angle lens for more landscape photography and street too.
    On paper I like the SAMYANG AE 14 mm f/2.8 ED IF UMC . WHat is your opinion?
    Can I mount filters on it?
    Thanks
    Cami

    • Hi Cami,
      thanks for your comment 🙂

      I may start saying that a wide angle for street photography is quite unusual. I personally like to use a 50mm or 85mm equivalent focal length for street photography and usually this is the market standard.

      In saying that, photography is a form of art and there should be no limit to the own personal choice…..and like. You may actually get some interesting results. It will be an unusual choice that may give some innovative results.

      For landscape photography the wide angle is indeed a great choice especially when your subject is in the foreground, I am thinking, for example, about a photo of a shed with a great background as the red Aussie outback 🙂

      About the SAMYANG AE 14 mm f/2.8 ED IF UMC, this lens has no AF. This is not a huge issue for landscape photography. It is however for street photography. You really want a quick AF lens for that, otherwise it may be a painful exercise.

      Unfortunately there are no available filters on the market for this lens. This usually happens with wide angles. You can probably build one yourself but it won’t be the same.

      I personally do not like to use filters unless really super premium ones. Adding any glass on top of my lens is, at the end of the day, like adding another possible source of noise. I prefer to work on post and push highlights and exposure compensation on the sky.

      If you want to buy a lens for street I probably suggest you the Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM Art. It is a great value for money and on your camera will have an equivalent focal length of around 45mm, which is perfect. This lens as really a wide aperture and autofocus too. Great for street photography.

      You can use this lens also when you go in low light environments as markets etc. Great to take with you when travelling, very light.

      As an alternative I would try to go for a variable focal length like the Sigma 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM. With an equivalent focal length at 30mm street photography will look much better in my opinion.

      The just announced Tamron 10-24mm F3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD could be another option (max equivalent focal length is 36mm)

      I hope I was able to help 🙂

      Cheers
      Stef

    • Leo
    • February 17, 2017

    Hi Stef,
    thanks for the tons of info here. Still digesting them 🙂

    Contrary to what of the people do I was thinking to buy just 3 prime lenses (no zoom). They are lighter and better quality I think.
    I was thinking about a 24mm, 50mm and 100mm (or any other suggestion?)
    I’m planning to buy a Panasonic GX8

    Great work again.
    Leo

    • No worries Leo,
      indeed lots of information, hopefully I am able to help out..

      The GX8 is one of my favourite mirrorless camera in the market. tiny and light, amazing for travelling. Great choice!!

      prime vs. zoom lenses? what are better?

      This is another million dollar question, isn’t it?

      Quality wise I agree with you. Usually the prime lenses deliver better quality. They have only one focal length, that’s the drawback obviously, however they deliver big time.

      When travelling, though, having only prime lenses can be an issue. Let me explain.

      When in the city usually the prime lenses work just perfect. I usually have on the camera the 50mm and, when needed, I change it on the fly with the 24mm. I rarely need a 100mm in the city.

      When travelling, especially in dusty areas, this could be in the Aussie outback, in the American desert or in the dusty Angkor Wat, prime lenses are a bit of a pain. There is more need of different focal length along the day and keep changing lenses is not ideal. Beside taking time and possibly missing the moment you may run in the problem to introduce dust on the sensor.

      I also like to remind that changing lenses should be done in a comfortable position and make sure that the lenses are left in a stable place. If you start changing lenses quickly and, literally, on the fly you will end up, sooner or later, with a smashed lens.

      If possible, change the lens with the sensor facing the floor. You will be less likely to have dust deposit.

      I personally still prefer to have an all round (24-70 or 24-105 or 24-120mm) and a quick prime (50mm) for the markets etc (low light environments)

      Keep in mind that I always talk about equivalent focal length. The GX8 has a MFT sensor and you should multiply by two the focal length of your lens to have the equivalent value. As an example the 24mm works as a 48mm equivalent focal length (it’s not actually a wide angle)

      This lens, Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm F2.8-4.0, has just been announced and it does look awesome on paper. I am going to investigate with Panasonic if I can have it for few days. This is, in my opinion, the missing quick all round that Panasonic really needed. It works as a 24-120mm on a full frame camera which is really all you need.

      As an alternative I would go for these two prime lenses, to start with:
      > the Lumix G 25mm F1.7 ASPH, which works as a 50mm on the GX8
      > the Lumix G 14mm F2.5 II ASPH, this is a super tiny lens that you can literally forget in our pocket. It works as a 28mm.
      If you are not on the budget there is also the Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH. I tested it last year and I was really impressed, however it comes at a high price.

      Good luck with your choice. The most important thing is to get out and start doing some photos 🙂

      Cheers

    • Daan
    • February 11, 2017

    Hi Stef,
    am buying a Nikon D5600 however I am still undecided on the lens. I found a deal with a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G lens and another one with a NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G that gives me more zoom but it costs around 200euros more. At the same price as the 18-140 there is another offer for a 18-55mm & 70-300mm NIKKOR.
    Should I go for the 18-55mm or should I pay 200euros more and go for the 2 lenses package (or the 18-140)
    I am so confused ……please send me a feedback
    Regards
    Daan

    • Hi Daan,
      it looks like you have a big dilemma at the moment….and I fully understand it.

      Before I start with my suggestion let me introduce just a simple concept, the equivalent focal length.

      Your camera, Nikon D5600 has an APS-C (also called cropped) sensor. Because of that, the focal length of any lens you use, when compared with a full sensor or a film camera, should be multiplied by roughly 1.5.

      As an example, my camera is a full sensor D610. The same 50mm lens that I use on my camera would work as a 75mm on your camera.

      Why do I tell you that?

      Because in all my tutorials and workshop I usually suggest for travel photography one, maybe two, lenses. Add a third to carry around and your back will start feeling the pain LOL

      I usually suggest to have a good lens to cover the 24-70 or 24-105 range (I am talking equivalent). This is really all we need for travel photography, unless you go on a safari or you love bird photography.

      Now about your lenses.

      The 18-55mm on the D5200 has an equivalent focal length of 27-82mm which, in my opinion, covers 90% of any travel photography need.

      The 18-140mm on the D5200 has an equivalent focal length of 27-210mm which is great, even more zoom, however you end up with a bigger and heavier lens. Ask yourself if you really need 150-200mm zoom. I have personally rarely used it.

      The 70-300mm on the D5200 has an equivalent focal length of 105-450mm. It’s great for safari and bird photography, otherwise you will end up leaving it always at home or at the hotel room.

      In say all that I would personally buy only the 18-55mm if on the budget. That’s more than enough. I would use the $200 left (if you still want to use it for your photography gear) for one of the best lenses (and amazing value) built by Nikon, the 50mm f/1.8G. It’s a small lens with a wide aperture at f/1.8 that you can use in markets, street photography, low light environments and even night photography.

      I hope I was able to help

      Enjoy your photography

    • John
    • February 8, 2017

    I would like to buy a wide angle lens for my Nikon DSLR and I am still unsure if the Sigma 12-24 should be the one or …..I should spare some more money and buy the Nikkor 12-24mm
    What do you think Stef?
    All the best
    John
    PS Great work with both this guide and the travel cameras 😉

    • When I bought the Sigma 12-24 I was not sure myself if I was doing the right thing.

      Should I have bought the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G? In true honesty I had the Nikkor lens for 3 weeks and I tested through. It was a fantastic lens, however an expensive one as well.

      I went back to my photos and 90% of my shoots were landscape, with an aperture in the range of f/9-f/11. Why? Because this is what I usually shoot with such a wide angle lens.

      I also do some architectural photography, especially in the city, however in that case I use a tripod most of the time and again f/9-f/11.

      I did use f/2.8, on interiors where there was not enough light however I could still shoot at f/4.5 and an higher ISO.

      This is to say that for my travel photography I do not really need the f/2.8 for a wide angle lens and that is why I decided to buy the Sigma lens.

      Beside the Aperture difference, what else?

      I found the Sigma to have an excellent sharpness at the center at all focal lengths and apertures. The photo becomes a bit soft on the borders if used at large aperture or at 24mm, which is probably the weaker point of this lens.

      I usually use it at f/9 to f/16 range, just focus manually around 2 m and everything is clear and sharp in my landscape photo (hyperfocal point)

      The build quality is excellent, with most of the lens components in metal.

      Is the Nikkor a better lens? Someone would love to say “you get what you pay for”. I am more inclined to say that it depends on what you are looking for.

      For travel photography, with the lens used at f/9-f/16 and 12-20mm focal range, they both work in a very similar way and Sigma is my choice, especially considering the difference in price.

      If the 12-24mm is you main, or only, focal range that you use in your work than the Nikkor is a lens I would most definitely consider

      That is at least my 2c 🙂
      Happy photography 😉

Comments are closed.

Stefano Ferro
Stefano is a cycling, movie and life style photographer with a big love for landscape & travel photography. When in Melbourne, his hometown, you will see him cycling around at sunset or sunrise looking for the best spot for a photo of this beautiful city. It is quite amazing how much photography gear he can pack on his bike :o