What Lens Would Be Best For Travel With a Canon dSLR?

December 23, 2010 · 9 comments

As a long term traveller with a dSLR (a Canon 500D) it can be a difficult choice when it comes to camera lenses. Of course the biggest advantage of a SLR over a point and click is the ability to change the lens and adapt to circumstances to get the best possible image. Canon has this covered with the worlds most comprehensive range with their Canon EF Lenses. However they can be on the expensive side, but you do get the best possible quality for the money.

Most SLRs now come with a standard issue 18-55mm lens. They are OK but very average, you can of course get good shots with them but they are essentially the same as most point-and-clicks. Personally despite having a camera with interchangeable lenses, I stick with one. The reason being weight. Lenses being mostly glass, plastic and metal are very heavy and this is quite compromising for a backpacker.

Canon EF Lenses I’d recommend you think about your own desires first. Do you love close macro photography? Then maybe a macro lens would be suitable, to capture those small things everyone else misses. Unless you are very experimental, I’d ignore things like tilt lenses and fish eye lenses as they aren’t flexible in the amount of images offered.

Tele-lenses are something I like to play around with, but they are very heavy and limit you to being quite far away from your subject. Great for safari, or wide open areas, but not so good around a city. What kind of travel do you do and is the place you will most likely use your camera?

My personal recommendation is a superzoom lens. I know you can get superzoom point and clicks. But SLRs do dominate in this area. I use a Tamron 18-270mm lens, which is the biggest zoom range on the market covering close shots are distance shots. A Canon equivalent would be EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS or the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM which will take higher quality shots although within a smaller zoom range.

If I had the money I would be walking around with this image stabilised lens though! Capturing peoples expressions within a city, animals in their natural habitats and weather changes over landscapes, I believe this lens is one of the best on the markets for this use. Because of the high aperture rating (f/4) this means less shots are missed due to darker circumstances too (an issue I get on my current Tamron lens often indoors).

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Kieron December 23, 2010 at 4:00 AM

I agree with the superzoom lens recommendation – I use the Canon 18-200mm lens which barely leaves my camera as it’s great for most circumstances. The only complaint with this lens is the speed but that’s the price you pay I guess for such a versatile piece of glass.

I’ve also got a Sigma 10-22mm for landscapes and purchased myself the Canon 50mm f/1.8 for Christmas for indoors, night shots and portraits.
Kieron´s latest blogpost – Our moving experience and why you should declutter NOW!


AdventureRob December 24, 2010 at 8:44 AM

Yeah, love my superzoom, I get more use out of it then the standard 18-55mm.

I thought about getting a 50mm pancake lens for indoor use but not sure how often I’d use it. Although it makes sense for a few situations and isn’t a big weight burden.


ESCAdventure Travel December 31, 2010 at 11:39 AM

Consider the value of the superzoom. What will you be photographing at the 250 or 270mm setting? And how often. For this, often minimal value, the rest of your photo quality is probably more limited.

I go with a Canon 20mm f/2.8 primary, superwide angle lens. I was shocked at how great this is for most photography. Fast, clear, versatile with very little edge distortion- landscape, closeup, architecture- perfect. The downside- I also carry a Canon 70-300 f/4 for those few times I need to get close. The minimal space this takes is worth being able to get all my photos in exceptional quality.


AdventureRob January 3, 2011 at 2:00 PM

I use the max setting a lot 270mm on mine. It’s great for sitting back and getting the shots without revealing yourself to the subject (disturbing what you want to capture).

A fixed lens isn’t something I’ve experiemented with. But it certainly would be good to see how I cope with a nice small lens like that. It requires more movement of the photographer though. You’ve got a decent set up in my opinion. I personally struggle to justify carrying another lens (mostly because of the weight), which is a shame as its the biggest advantage of an SLR.


Daniel Shaw January 11, 2011 at 12:28 PM

I am going to buy one, i’ll let you know how what I think.


AdventureRob January 12, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Please do, I’ve been tempted recently, but would have to sell my Tamron first. The only criticism I have of it is a slow autofocus, the F speed is the same as the Canon, so no mega benefit there for me to swap.


Alicia January 13, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Oh Canon DSLR… this is my dream camera. Camera is a necessity for every traveler and it must be Canon DSLR. I have been saving for this for months now and hopefully I can get one by March.


Dave January 15, 2011 at 6:30 AM

Good tips! I have been growing my lenses over the years and believe that glass is the most important aspect of a camera. Bodies change but lenses can be in your kit for life. I am now carrying a kit that I love for my Canon 5D -16-35 L 2.8, 50 mm 1.4 and 70-200 L IS 2.8. It took a few years and a large investment, but I am very happy with the shots.
I used to carry around a Tamron and it is an excellent choice for travel photography as you don’t have the burdon of the extra weight of several lenses.
Dave´s latest blogpost – Magnificent Mountains


AdventureRob January 15, 2011 at 8:16 AM

Definitely the most important bit! I’d love some more, but find it really difficult to justify the weight (although the expense I can just about justify if I get use out of it). My only gripe with the Tamron is the slow autofocus, the photos come out in great quality from it.

Thanks for comment.


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