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Must-have lenses for travel photography

Must have lenses for travel photography

It’s time to admit that I have a problem.

I just can’t help buying lenses. The high I get from purchasing and using a new lens is totally addictive! Better than doing heroin, I guess, but it’s still an expensive activity.

A few weekends ago when I was working in the Adirondacks, one member of the film crew had a fancy DSLR lens. I was jealous. Less than 2 weeks later, I made my way to a major camera store in New York City and dropped way too much money to acquire it.

Aside from travel, camera gear is the only other thing I regularly splurge on. Over the past 5 years, I’ve owned a total of 10 camera lenses for my DSLR + mirrorless cameras. 10! I haven’t kept them all – sometimes I’ll sell a lens when I buy a new one. My collection is currently at 5.

Seeing as I’ve tried and tested a huge variation of camera lenses, I thought I’d share which ones I think are best for travel. Here’s a few things to consider when looking at lenses for travel photography:

  • Weight: How heavy of a camera + lens combination are you actually willing to carry around? Some lenses are much heavier than others.
  • Photo quality: Are you looking for one multiple lenses to match each photography situation accordingly, or one lens that will do an ok job of all photography situations?
  • Use case: Are you taking photos for professional or personal use? If so, you’ll need to take that into account when purchasing a lens.

Fisheye smartphone lens, Pixter

fisheye

Lets start with the ultimate wide-angle – a Fisheye lens. I just got this Super Fisheye smartphone lens from Pixter which can clip on to your phone camera. Pretty neat, huh!

Benefits:

  • So light and easy to carry around, fits in nearly any small handbag or carry bag.
  • Don’t need to carry around an actual camera – just use your phone.
  • You can fit so much stuff in the frame!
  • The lens warps the photo to make it look super cool.

Downfalls:

  • It’s a little tricky to get in place as it has to sit exactly over the phone’s camera lens.
  • The image quality isn’t as good as an actual camera.

Fisheye smartphone lens, Pixter

Pixter Super Fisheye Lens

Photos taken with my Google Pixel + Pixter Super Fisheye lens

After taking this Super Fisheye lens on a July 4 camping trip with friends, I found it to be loads of fun to use! A few people asked me if they could try it out on their own phones, so I handed it around for everyone’s enjoyment.

I probably won’t use this smartphone lens for my professional travel photos due to the image quality, but I will definitely use it for the times that I just want some casual shots to remember my trip.

Pixter also have a bunch of other smartphone lenses and accessories – have a look through their website for more of their travel photography must-haves!

British Library, London

British Library, London – Taken with my 11-22mm lens

Wide angle zoom

In my opinion, a wide-angle lens is one of the most useful for travel, especially if you regularly photograph landscapes or architecture.

Benefits:

  • You can fit most of the scene in front of you into your photo. No need to take a panorama.
  • Great for selfies!

Downfalls:

  • Image quality is sometimes not quite as good as other lenses.
  • Photos occasionally look oddly warped when taken at a wide-angle.

I have a 11-22mm wide-angle zoom lens for my mirrorless camera that I use mostly for video, and sometimes for photography. I love the look of a wide-angle shot when it’s done right.

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland – Taken with my 22mm lens

Fixed length/prime lens

A fixed length lens, or prime lens, is one that doesn’t zoom in or out at all. It might seem silly to have a lens that doesn’t zoom, but a fixed lens can actually be useful for many photography situations.

Benefits:

  • Photo quality is usually the best on a fixed lens.
  • Fixed lenses are often lighter in weight.
  • They usually have larger apertures, which makes blurring out your background super easy.
  • The most basic ones are fairly cheap.

Downfalls:

  • Gotta use your feet to zoom in or out.
  • Less versatile than a zoom lens.

I used to have a 50mm f1.8 fixed lens for my DSLR which I used for portraits. It was so good! I recently sold it as I got a much fancier/really expensive zoom lens that I can use for portraits, but if you have limited moolah, then this one is the way to go.

I now have a 22mm f2.0 fixed lens for my mirrorless camera. Saying that I love this lens would be an understatement. It’s my absolute favourite! I use it as much as possible for photography, and then change to my other lenses only when the situation arises.

Coyote, Yellowstone National Park

Coyote in Yellowstone – Taken with my 55-200mm lens

Telephoto zoom

I would say that most travellers could go without a telephoto zoom lens, UNLESS you’re planning on photographing wildlife. For an African safari, this lens would be an absolute must.

Benefits:

  • You can get photos of things (like animals) that are not close to you.
  • It’s easy to get sneaky photos of people without obtrusively sticking your camera in their face.

Downfalls:

  • It’s a little trickier to focus your photos with a telephoto lens, you might need a tripod some of the time.

I have a 55-200mm telephoto zoom lens for my mirrorless camera. I’ve used it for capturing wildlife in Yellowstone National Park, musicians on stage at the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, and speakers at the New York Travel Festival. It’s been a handy lens to have, for sure.

South Beach, Miami

South Beach, Miami – Taken with my 15-85mm lens

All rounder

If you don’t want to carry around multiple lenses, then you can get one zoom lens that will cover most situations that you’ll encounter on your travels. These all-rounder lenses do tend to be larger and heavier than some others, BUT you’ll only have to carry around one lens instead of multiple.

I used to have a 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 lens for my DSLR. I used it on every trip I took for the past 3 years! I recently sold it because I decided to transition to a mirrorless camera for travel instead, but if you’re sticking with a DSLR then I would recommend this one.

Some other common all-rounder lenses for travel are the 18-150mm lens for mirrorless, or the 24-105mm lens for DSLR. These are both Canon lenses, but you can get fairly similar lenses for Nikon and other brands.

Lenses for travel photography

My current selection of lenses

There is no one answer for which lens you should buy for your travel photography as it really depends on what you will be taking photos of. But I hope this post has given you some inspiration on which lens or lenses might be the right ones for you!

*This post is sponsored by Pixter. I’m proud to be an honest and transparent blogger, so every opinion expressed on AGWT is truly what I believe in!

Are you considering any of these lenses for your travel photography? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!


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Ashlea Wheeler

Blogger & Photographer at A Globe Well Travelled
I'm Ashlea, an excitable Australian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

6 Responses to “Must-have lenses for travel photography”

  1. Esther

    Great post. As it happens, I was looking up lenses this morning. I have my eye on a 18-200 mm lense for my canon as I am juch such a lazy lense switcher. I hear good stories about this one, so I’m curious. How do you feel about sun caps?

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Esther! I’m sure the 18-200mm would be super versatile for travel. I don’t personally use lens hoods as I feel like they take up too much space, but some people use them religiously so I’m sure they come in useful!

      Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh yes, wide angle is a must for architecture! I took my wide angle lens to the Guggenheim museum a few weeks ago and it was the perfect choice for capturing the rotunda! Glad you agree, Charmaine 😀

      Reply

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