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Buying any lens is a big deal because you want to be sure you get something that helps you take better photos.
But when you're looking for the best lenses for travel photography, the stakes are a bit higher...
Well, once you head out on your travels, it's a little hard to change your mind about the lenses that you've brought with you!
That being the case, it's necessary to do your due diligence and ensure that you pick up the very best lens for your travels.
Fortunately, we have experts like MitchellKPhotos to offer some advice regarding the best travel photography lenses.
In the video above, Mitchell draws on his expertise to provide a number of high-quality recommended lenses that will take you places on your travels.
Below, I've provided a few features you should look for in the ideal travel photography lens and provided links to some recommended lenses as well.
Editor's Tip: Not sure what lens to add to your bag next? Learn why a 50mm lens is a good choice for any photographer.
What to Look for in a Travel Photography Lens
Though every trip is a little bit different and each photographer has slightly different needs, there are a few features that are vitally important for any travel photography lens.
Size and Weight
When you're traveling, you don't want a 14 pound 600mm super telephoto lens to lug around...
Instead, you want a travel photography lens that's easy to pack and carry around. That means finding something that's got a relatively small form factor and which doesn't weigh a ton.
This is important not just from the perspective of being able to fit all your gear in your bag, but it's also important from the perspective of meeting airline bag size restrictions.
Naturally, you don't want to lug a big, heavy bag around, either, so you want to maximize how much you can carry by opting for lighter weight lenses.
As an aside, not only do you want a smaller, lightweight lens, but you also don't want to take every lens you have in your kit.
The more gear you take, the more gear you have to carry, to lose, or to get stolen!
In this case, less is often more, so opting for a solid lens or two is usually best.
Because you'll only be taking a couple of lenses on your trip, you want to be sure that you've got something that can be used from sunup to sundown, indoors and out, and everywhere in between.
To accommodate those low-light shots indoors and out, you need a lens that's got a wide maximum aperture.
By taking a f/1.4 lens, for example, you're better equipped to take photos in museums, galleries, and other indoor locations in which a flash might not be allowed.
Paired with boosting the ISO, you can take high-quality low-light shots without having to slow the shutter speed down or dealing with the possibility of camera shake.
Granted, f/1.4 lenses can be quite spendy, so if that's something that's out of your budget, get the fastest lens you can afford (many f/1.8, f/2, and f/2.8 lenses are priced very well).
Versatility is the name of the game for travel photography lenses.
As I noted earlier, taking a 600mm super telephoto lens on your trip is silly (unless you're only photographing wildlife, I suppose) not just from a size and weight point of view, but also from a versatility point of view.
On your travels, you need a lens that can accommodate landscapes, portraits, architecture, and everything in between.
Additionally, you need something that can be used from near the subject, far away, in bright light and in low lighting as well.
For many travel photographers, this means having a single zoom lens that has a wide focal range to accommodate everything from close up portraits to distant landscapes.
For other travel photographers, that means taking a couple of versatile prime lenses.
Perhaps for you, a good zoom lens and a good prime lens is the way to go.
Of course, the lenses you choose will depend on where you're going and the subject matter you intend to photograph, but there are a few lenses that Mitchell recommends above all others...
Best Lenses for Travel Photography
As noted above, there's no "perfect" lens for every single travel photographer.
However, there are some that stand head and shoulders above the rest as the best options for most travel situations.
Best Travel Zoom Lens for Full Frame Cameras: 24-70mm
The best thing about at 24-70mm lens is its versatility.
On a full frame camera, you can shoot wide-angle to short telephoto, which means you can photograph just about any subject with this single lens.
Some versions of this lens have a nice, wide aperture, too, so they can accommodate low-light shooting as well.
Many 24-70mm lenses (like the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 shown above) are also small and lightweight, so they're easy to carry around and won't draw too much attention when you're walking the streets of a foreign city taking photos as you go.
Best Travel Zoom Lens for Crop Sensor Cameras: 17-55mm
Since crop sensor cameras have a smaller sensor than a full frame, they increase the effective focal length of the lens that's used with the camera.
For example, on a full frame camera, a 50mm lens behaves like a 50mm lens.
However, that same lens on a Canon crop sensor camera might behave like a 75mm lens, an 80mm lens, a 100mm lens, or somewhere in between depending on the crop factor of the camera.
That being the case, it's wise to opt for a zoom lens in the 17-55mm range because once crop factor is factored in, you get roughly the same focal range as a 24-70mm lens.
Again, the range of focal lengths that these lenses offer is ideal for traveling because many of your subjects will be ideally suited for wide-angle to short telephoto lens work.
Though cameras often come with kit lenses that are in this focal range, it's prudent to upgrade your kit lens with something else that's faster. The Canon 17-55mm f/2.8, for example, is a nice choice for upgrading your kit lens.
Best Travel Prime Lens: 35mm
Whether you have a full frame camera or a crop sensor, a 35mm lens (like the Canon 35mm f/2 shown above) is a great option for travel photography.
These lenses check all the boxes when it comes to travel photography lenses - there are small, lightweight options that are fast and versatile.
You can use a 35mm lens for taking portraits of locals on the street, wide shots of nearby landscapes, photos of the night sky, daytime shots of architectural gems, and virtually anything in between.
In fact, a 35mm prime lens is one of the best walkaround lenses you can have in your bag, simply because of the incredible versatility of this focal length.
Just zoom with your feet to change the framing of the shot, and you can probably get away with using a 35mm lens - and only a 35mm lens - most days that you travel.
Editor's Tip: Not sure what all those numbers mean on your lens? Learn how to read the markings on your lens.
Buy Pre-Owned Travel Photography Lenses
As noted earlier, fast lenses tend to be pricey, which is why you should strongly consider buying a pre-owned lens.
Finding a high-quality used lens allows you to get more lens for the money without breaking the bank.
That, in turn, means that you might be able to get two used lenses for the price of one new one, which is a nice tradeoff!
Additionally, you can always sell your old lenses and use the money you make to finance your travel photography lens purchase.
Just be smart about where you buy and sell your lenses, and you'll find that it makes the job of finding travel photography lenses much, much easier.