Recommended travel lenses that are lightweight and waterproof.
Most photographers looking for a new camera, pay attention to fast focus and high image quality. Still, some strive for more, as they want to take pictures that could become the covers of magazines like National Geographic. For such professionals, I've prepared a review of good travel lenses which will help you take great pictures while traveling.
Choosing a travel lens is not an easy task. First of all, answer the question, what exactly you want to shoot and in what style. How much equipment you need and how much you can carry with you? In terms of versatility, a superzoom lens is the best choice for travel photography.
Mount: Canon EF | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: No | Min focus distance: 0.28m | Max magnification: 0.22x | Filter thread: 77mm | Dimensions (WxL): 103mm x 83.5 mm | Weight: 600g
⊕ Solid build quality
⊕ Nice colors and contrast
⊖ Less sharp compared to the latest version
This lens is quite sharp in the center even at open aperture (f/2.8), which does not improve much when you increase the f-stop number. The focal length is 16 mm. The full-frame angles are soft, when wide open (with a flat target due to the curvature of the field), and noticeably improve at f/5.6. This is a great lens for travel photography that is suitable for shooting in different styles.
Due to three aspherical lens elements and (for the first time in a wide-angle EF lens) two UD elements, you will get good optical performance. It is also waterproof and features a rear gel filter holder, the 11-inch focus and a circular diaphragm.
Mount: Micro Four Thirds | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Yes | Min focus distance: 0.2m | Max magnification: 0.11x | Filter thread: none | Dimensions (WxL): 78.9 x 105.8mm | Weight: 534g
⊕ Fixed f/2.8 aperture
⊕ Super-wide zoom styling
⊕ Manual focus capture
⊖ Without native filter support
⊖ Unclear angles at f/2.8
The Olympus 7-14mm offers no compromise on build quality like the other top PRO lenses. Its metal body protects it against moisture and dust. It matches perfectly a sealed housing, such as the OM-D E-M1. This camera lens for travel weighs 1.2 pounds and measures 4.2 by 3.1 inches (HD). While this weight is a bit heavy for a Micro Four Thirds lens, it works well for the E-M1, which has a deeper handgrip than most mirrorless options.
Mount: Nikon DX | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Yes | Min focus distance: 0.45m | Max magnification: 0.20x | Filter thread: 67mm | Dimensions (WxL): 76x89 mm | Weight: 420g
⊕ Reduces vibration
⊕ Solid build
⊕ Reasonably priced
⊖ Some distortion
⊖ Smoother edges at longer lengths
When you buy the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR, you get an easy-to-grip ribbed zoom ring. Zooming is smooth and enjoyable. This lens features an Internal Focus (IF) option along with a Silent Wave Motor that provides silent autofocusing. The lens weighs 14.8 ounces and is 3.5 by 3 inches (HD) in size. It has 67mm front filters and comes with the hood. At all focal lengths, the close focusing distance is 1.5 feet. When working at a close range, you can create a shallow depth of field with a small aperture. The Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR works with Nikon DX cameras and can be used with full-frame devices in a crop mode.
Mount: ALC-SH141 | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: Yes | Min focus distance: 0.38m | Max magnification: 0.24x | Filter thread: 82mm | Dimensions (WxL): 87.6 x 136 mm | Weight: 886g
⊕ Great sharpness in the center
⊕ No flare
⊕ Low central CA
⊕ Fantastic bokeh
⊖ Some edge CA
The Sony FE 24-70mm f2.8 GM is the best travel lens suitable for Alpha full-frame mirrorless cameras. With an f2.8 focal ratio, wide and short telephoto range, you get a versatile lens for portrait, event and wedding photography. The FE 24-70mm f2.8 lens was released in 2016 and immediately became one of the best Sony’s G-Master lenses. Just like its analogs, the Sony FE 24-70mm f2.8 GM is well-stabilized thanks to the camera body, and it comes with a focus-by-wire instead of a mechanically coupled focus ring. There is also a customizable button. You can assign different functions to it, such as AF-Lock.
Mount: APS-C | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: No | Min focus distance: 0.13m | Max magnification: 1x | Filter thread: 49mm | Dimensions (WxL): 69.2 x 55.8mm | Weight: 190 g
⊕ High image quality
⊕ Great contrast and color
⊕ Amazing bokeh
⊕ Autofocus is fast and precise
⊖ Poor build quality
⊖ Macro Lites go with restricted range
If you need to purchase one lens for travel photography, the Canon EF-S 35mm Macro is the widest, most compact, portable and cheapest APS-C format option. While one sentence fully describes the main advantages of the lens, there are several more, such as the hybrid IS system that works great for macro photography and the STM AF system, which is responsible for fast, smooth autofocusing.
Mount: Canon EF-S | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Yes | Min focus distance: 0.39m | Max magnification: 0.33x | Filter thread: 62mm | Dimensions (WxL): 70.7mm x 86mm | Weight: 430g
⊕ 11.1x zoom range
⊕ Maximum 1:3 macro enlargement
⊖ Optically stabilized
⊖ Some distortion
The Sigma 18-200mm lenses for travel photography aren’t perfect but deliver a decent performance. It is a portable device with an 11.1x zoom range, but like all models, it has drawbacks. You can hardly find a lens that covers the extreme focal range with a wide aperture and good build while being lightweight and cheap.
Mount: Micro Four Thirds | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Yes | Min focus distance: 026 m | Max magnification: 0.12x | Filter thread: mm | Dimensions (WxL): 73x88mm | Weight: 315g
⊕ Great image quality
⊕ No curvature of the field
⊕ Flare issues
⊕ Noiseless, speedy and precise AF
⊖ Poor light, if you compare it to the Olympus
The Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f / 2.8-4 ASPH is a 35mm lens for travel with a wide-angle zoom. This lens combines good optics with a sophisticated yet durable design. It is well compatible with Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras. The lens was created in collaboration with Leica. It combines aspherical and low-dispersion elements to deliver crisp images with controlled fringing and aberration. Thanks to the Nano Surface coating, the lens reduces flare and ghosting for enhanced contrast and accurate color reproduction.
Mount: Canon EF | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: No | Min focus distance: 3.5m | Max magnification: 0.21x | Filter thread: 49mm | Dimensions (WxL): 69.2 x 39.3mm | Weight: 159g
⊕ Value for money
⊕ Easy handling
⊕ Reasonably priced
⊖ Focus isn’t fast enough
⊖ Occasional flare
The Canon EF 50mm is a small lens for travel photography that is a must for any photographer. It’s affordable enough. For that price, you get a versatile device with high-quality optics, good bokeh, instant autofocus, and more. It’s much better than the previous 50mm f/1.4 version except for a maximum aperture. Due to its being lightweight, the Canon EF 50mm is the best travel lens for photographers who take photos outdoors.
Mount: Nikon F-Bayonet | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Yes | Min focus distance: 1.1 m | Max magnification: 022x | Filter thread: 58mm | Dimensions (WxL): 72x125 mm | Weight: 415g
⊕ Long telephoto range
⊕ Efficient picture stabilization
⊕ High-quality image
⊖ Narrow aperture
⊖ Poor manual focus performance
The Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 70-300mm f / 4.5-6.3G ED VR is an affordable camera lens for travel, that is suitable for DX-format SLRs. You get high-quality images if you don’t zoom in all the way. The main advantages are lightness and compactness. Although the DX Nikkor 70-300mm is a telezoom, the lens itself is small-sized and measures 4.9 by 2.8 inches (HW) when it is set to 70mm. It weighs 14.6 ounces. You can extend the barrel 3 inches more when it is set to the 300mm position. While this model doesn’t come with a hood, you can buy the HB-77 hood for an additional $30. A 58mm filter is supported by the front element.
Canon EF 16–35mmOur Choice
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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital EDProfessional
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Nikon AF-S DX NIKKORBudget
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As a rule, more expensive options deliver better performance, but they are often heavy, which is not very convenient for shooting while traveling. Users with a limited budget can find affordable lenses in this list.
Since not everyone can spend a lot of money on a new lens, I’ve decided to describe several options that are more available for everyone. If none of the lenses in this review are right for you, I recommend using the lens kit that came with your camera or going to the second-hand market on Amazon or eBay. You can find more detailed information about used equipment in the article about buying used photographic equipment. The Canon 70-200mm is a good zoom lens for travel photography that allows you to take long-distance photos of animals and is suitable for portraits due to its short focal length.
An aperture is a hole through which light enters the camera sensor, it is located inside the lens. A lens aperture can have different sizes, if a large aperture transmits a lot of light, then a small one lets less light in. An aperture is comparable to the human pupil. During daylight hours, the pupil becomes smaller, letting in less light. In a darker environment, in the evening or at night, the pupil opens wide to let in more light. The lens aperture number indicates how large the opening is, which in turn demonstrates how the lens will shoot in low light conditions.
The wide aperture also allows you to control the depth of field. You will need to read the depth of field guide to learn more. When you examine the characteristics of the lens, you will see the value for the widest aperture. It can be 2.8, 4.0 or 5.6. Alternatively, it can be written as f/2.8, which is the formal way of referring to aperture. The wider the hole, the lower the number.
Magnification is related to the focal length of a lens and measured in millimeters. Generally, the larger the number, the higher magnification, and the lower the number, the less magnification you get. Those who are accustomed to using point-and-shoot cameras, know that a focal length can be described in terms of optical zoom. For instance, a camera can have a 10x optical zoom, meaning that the difference between the maximum zooming out and the maximum magnification is 10x. In terms of focal length, every doubling of the focal length results in a doubling of the magnification.
A 100 mm lens makes objects seem twice as big as a 50 mm lens. However, focal lengths have different effects on different cameras. This is because cameras have different sensors that affect the focal length. Let’s consider the so-called crop factor on the example of the Canon DSLR camera systems. They offer two types of cameras, APS-C size cameras, such as the Rebel series, and full-frame size sensors in professional devices, like Canon’s 6D or 5D models.
Some Canon lenses work on both these camera systems while delivering different focal lengths. On full-frame cameras, the focal length will be as expected. For the APS-C system, the crop factor is 1.6 due to the smaller sensor. Thus, a 100mm lens with an APS-C size sensor will deliver the same image quality as a 160mm lens on a full-frame camera.
I recommend buying a UV filter that protects the front of your lens. It is also worth considering a polarizing filter or an ND filter. These filters are available in different sizes. To understand the size, please pay attention to the filter thread size on the lens, which is measured in millimeters. It is a measurement of the lens diameter.
When you are trying to attach a lens to the camera body, it should snap into place. Just like a puzzle piece, a lens must have the correct shape to fit into the right place and lock tightly. Besides, the electronic connections between the camera body and the lens must be compatible. This is necessary because a camera interacts with the lens when you adjust such parameters like aperture, focus and zoom. This entire process of installing a purchased lens into your camera is known as a lens mount.
Various camera manufacturers offer their own lens mount systems. When buying a lens, make sure to check that a lens is compatible with your camera mount. Companies often offer several mounts, depending on the type of camera you have, so that you can buy a lens that fits exactly. For example, Canon cameras are compatible with EF-S, EF, EF-M and RF mounts. Keep in mind that you need to make sure the lens has a mount that your camera supports. There are lenses that fit multiple mounts, for example, the EF lens is great for EF and EF-S mounts. However, an EF-S lens will only work with an EF-S mount.
A 55mm prime lens is more suitable for street and portrait shooting at close distances, while is not the best choice for travel photography. Thus, a 50mm prime lens will come in handy when you’re interested in taking close-range photos. If you enjoy long-distance shooting when traveling in mountains or forests, a 50mm prime lens won’t cope well with such tasks.
The bokeh option is visibly creamier with a 50mm lens. Still, the 35mm 1.4L is less heavy compared to 50mm 1.2L. Unlike the plastic 35mm 1.4L, the metal body of the 50mm lens gives you a great feel. Another important point to pay attention to when selecting between the 35mm and 50mm focal lengths is the crop factor.
A 35mm lens captures wider scenes. It works great for full-length and waist shots. As for a 50mm lens, it captures shoulder-length pictures with visibly creamy bokeh. Alternatively, you can use a 50mm lens to take wide-scene photos, but you will need to step back.
In my opinion, any lens from 28mm to 50mm works great for street photography. As a 35mm lens comes close to the normal human vision, it’s the most popular and widely-used one. A 35mm lens works perfectly for street photography as it lets users get closer to people and doesn’t cause the distortion if you compare it to the 28mm one.