Which lens is best for travel photography?
Just as the holiday destination automatically determines the type of clothing, the perfect photography equipment will also depend on the destination, but above all on the activities planned during the trip. Professional photographers also know that a camera is only as good as its lens. When traveling, too, the right lens depends on the type of photography you want to do primarily: street photography, landscape photography, wildlife photography or underwater photography.
So you will take a different camera with you on a safari trip than when visiting Tokyo. But the best thing about traveling is known to be the surprises that await the explorer around every corner, and so it is advisable to be prepared for everything when it comes to lenses and cameras. If it is not already clear before the trip that you only want to take photos of insects, an all-rounder is also recommended when it comes to cameras and lenses.
What are your own requirements?
Travel photographers emphasize again and again how important it is not only to see the world through the camera lens and to be constantly on the hunt for the next subject, but to be attentive to the surroundings. It can also be good to make clear in advance what you want to do with the photos afterwards: Are they for a photo album with which you can share what you have experienced with friends and family? Should they serve as material for posts on social networks? Or are the images intended for professional purposes and should be printed in large format? You will find a suitable bag for camera and lenses here.
In addition to good and large cameras, the smartphone also has its place in travel photography and professional photographers also take photos with the smartphone. It only becomes difficult in high contrasts and poor lighting conditions. In the meantime, they often take just as good photos as common compact cameras and impress with their light weight and handy size. In addition, if in doubt, you probably just have your smartphone with you. However, advocates of the compact camera point out that it can help you focus on what matters most. The focus is more on the subject than on the camera and compact cameras are inexpensive, light and small.
The all-round lens
One of the classics in the field of travel photography lenses is a camera with 18-200 mm focal length and variable aperture, which is often referred to as a “travel zoom”. 16-300 mm lenses are also popular, the focal length of which is very variable and offers an option for almost every occasion. However, these lenses sometimes lack light intensity. Especially when weight plays an important role when traveling, you can get along very well with such a lens.
Even if a good zoom ensures that no picture will slip through your fingers, it is always exciting to challenge yourself as a photographer and get closer to the subject. Many experienced photographers report that the convenience of zooming quickly becomes lazy and they now prefer to “zoom with their feet”. Those who do without the zoom and work with fixed focal lengths often have to move closer to their subject, but often get sharper images with a higher light intensity. A disadvantage of the fixed focal length is that you may have to change the lens often.
A lens for every taste
The equipment and therefore the lens must correspond to the trip, so you will appreciate every gram less on your shoulders on a mountain hike, while the heavy telephoto lens pays off on a safari. When in doubt, it is better to use a camera that you know and can operate in your sleep, rather than having the latest and greatest with you. If you travel with expensive photo equipment, you should of course also think about theft and insurance. It is also worth looking around early for a good, waterproof camera bag or a good backpack for your photo equipment. You can read more about this topic here.
Since each type of photography you focus on while traveling has its own requirements for the right lens, here are a few of the most common types of photography with their specific recommendations for travel:
In landscape photography, the most important thing is a good wide angle and high image quality. Especially if the camera is to accompany the photographer on hikes, it is also worthwhile to pay attention to a particularly light lens. In addition, a good lens can be supplemented, for example, with a so-called ND filter, which enables good photos and beautiful long-term exposures during the day in complex light situations.
A telephoto lens can be worthwhile for photographing animals in the wild. Fast autofocus is also helpful when the animals are moving quickly. If it is also very quiet or silent, animals will not be frightened by loud focusing noises. It is also important to use a good image stabilizer so that the images do not blur.
Underwater and action photography
If you like to take photos or videos while traveling underwater or mountain biking or on a motorcycle, you should urgently get a waterproof, very resistant camera. The classics in this area are the small GoPro cameras in their waterproof plastic housing. The image quality will rarely be the same, but you can take a lot of photos or even a film so that you don't lose a moment in the middle of the adventure. Since the GoPro is very small and light and does not need any lenses, you can easily take it with you in addition to the other photo equipment.
In street photography, when it comes to lenses, weight and a discreet demeanor are particularly important. If street photography is clearly your hobby and you want to do just that while traveling, read here about the right lens for you.
Selfies are allowed
A lot of people don't like the idea of selfies. Perhaps this is due to the strangely bent arm and the strange angles that result from it, or to the selfie sticks that you usually get offered when you're traveling when you really don't need them. Whatever earned the selfies their bad name, solo travelers appreciate them.
Bloggers in particular, who travel a lot on their own but live from their face in the context of the report, often have a tripod with them in order to achieve better perspectives. For the self-timer, you no longer have to run or grin at the camera for minutes, because there are apps specially developed for this. An interval recording function, in which the camera automatically takes a photo every few seconds, can also be useful.
The right connection
The type of photography, the subject and your own preferences play an extremely important role in choosing the best lens in travel photography. At the same time, when choosing a lens, one shouldn't neglect which camera one might already have. Because the lens connection is specific for each camera manufacturer and has to fit.
Experienced photographers also know that in addition to the right camera with the right motif, many other aspects such as experimentation, attention to detail, and above all an attentive presence during the trip also play an important role. While everyone in the group may enthusiastically photograph the sunset, an attentive photographer may see the flamingo coming from the other side, perfectly lit in the last light of the day. The right lens is important for good image quality, but an attentive, empathetic photographer will take the best pictures!