These are the best lenses for travel and documentary photography

Apr 5, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

These are the best lenses for travel and documentary photography

Apr 5, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Traveling and taking photos is bringing to of the most wonderful things together. Photographer Mitchell Kanashkevich has been capturing his travels for years, ending up with plenty of award-winning photographs. In this video, he shares his thoughts about the best lenses for travel and documentary photography. Would you agree with his choice?

YouTube video

Of course, this topic is fairly subjective and depends on the type of travel photography you want to shoot. Also, it depends on whether you shoot with a full frame, an APS-C body or Micro 4/3. While just one lens would be too limiting, you sometimes must limit yourself to only one, for whichever reason. In this case– which one should it be? Here are Mitchell’s thoughts on the matter.

Lenses for full-frame cameras

In Mitchell’s opinion, a go-to lens for full frame cameras should be a 24-70mm. In his case, it was a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 while he used Canon gear. Here are some equivalents for other camera models:

According to Mitchell, this is the most versatile lens for travel and documentary photography, as it lets you go between wide and tight shots with the single lens. If I were a full frame user, this would also be my choice. Also, with the aperture of f/2.8, you can get a very shallow depth of field. This is useful in portraits and in low-light situations.

On the minus side, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 doesn’t have in-lens stabilization and it’s rather heavy and bulky. If you don’t have in-camera stabilization, this can make it difficult to take perfectly sharp photos. Also, with the bulkiness of the lens (and the full-frame camera), it’s hard to be discreet, which some photographers might see as a problem.

Panasonic Lumix Micro 4/3

Mitchell has decided to switch to lighter gear, so he is now shooting with Panasonic Lumix Micro 4/3 system. In this case, he doesn’t recommend a 24-70mm equivalent (12-35mm), and there are a few reasons for it.

First, there’s a 2x crop factor, which he finds problematic in terms of aperture. When you multiply the maximum aperture, f/2.8 by the crop factor of 2, you get the images that look as if they were shot at f/5.6. Another problem is the size because he doesn’t see this lens as too discreet. While the 12-35mm f/2.8 is still a versatile lens, Mitchell wouldn’t make it his first choice with the Micro 4/3 system.

But which lens is his first choice when it comes to the Micro 4/3 system? It’s a 30 or 35mm equivalent prime. Mitchell’s first lens of this kind was an Olympus 17mm f/1.8 (34mm equivalent). Today he uses Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7. He points out that you can shoot all kinds of situations with such a tiny lens without interrupting the moment. A small lens like this keeps the spontaneity of the scene. On the minus side, it is limiting because the focal length is fixed. But you can always try and turn it into your advantage.

Lenses for APS-C cameras

With APS-C sensors, the crop factor is 1.5 or 1.6 rather than 2. You’ll get a shallower depth of field and slightly better low light performance than with the Micro 4/3. Still, it’s not the same as with the full frame cameras. On the other hand, you’ll still have a versatile lens that can cover you in all kinds of situations. Here’s the list of 24-70mm equivalent lenses for various APS-C bodies:

Finally, here are a few more 30 or 35mm equivalents for different camera systems:

As I said, this topic is subjective and we all have different styles and preferences when it comes to travel and documentary photography. Although I prefer primes, I still use the 18-55mm kit lens when I travel. I know it’s not the best lens there is, but for my needs, it gives me the versatility I like to have while traveling and when I want to pack light.

What’s your favorite lens for travel and documentary photography? If you had to limit yourself to only one, which one would it be?

[Best lens for travel photography (2018) | mitchellkphotos]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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12 responses to “These are the best lenses for travel and documentary photography”

  1. Вергунов Сергей Avatar
    Вергунов Сергей

    50 mm.

  2. North Polar Avatar
    North Polar

    So the key photo has nothing to do with the article, interesting. The 14-24mm f/2.8, 50mm prime, and 70-200mm f/2.8 aren’t mentioned. Especially since the photographer is/was a Cannon shooter.

  3. Natty Dread Avatar
    Natty Dread

    a 20mm on fullframe

  4. Adrian J Nyaoi Avatar
    Adrian J Nyaoi

    24 -70mm vr/is

  5. Mike Downey Avatar
    Mike Downey

    12-100 Pro on Olympus E-M1.

  6. Alexandre El Ayoubi Avatar
    Alexandre El Ayoubi

    For travel i go with the 50 1.4. Light/cheap and versatile

    1. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      I would love to try the Sigma version of this range…

  7. Sebastian Bundyra Avatar
    Sebastian Bundyra

    Kit lens 18-105

    1. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      I would love to try that lens… I have the 18-55mm and the 55-200 combo…. plus what i believe so far a mistake in purchase the 18-35mm 1.8 Sigma Art… (does not calibrate properly) but both kit lenses have been paying my bills for over 5 years now.

  8. Erin Avatar
    Erin

    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BEST LENS, PERIOD.

  9. Frank Nazario Avatar
    Frank Nazario

    I’ve been using the 18-55mm Nikon kit lens now for over 4 years… amazing value and whatever the lens does not give me in the photo i compensate in post… just shoot raw.
    It took me a couple of years to understand that even though we might look at the convenience of better bodies or faster lenses the truth is that if the subject or story is not there the photo is just a snapshot.

  10. Bipin Gupta Avatar
    Bipin Gupta

    The Author agrees this topic is subjective, Also Photogs have different styles, genres and ideas on their Travels. I am an avid Travel Photographer – no claims to being a Pro, just a good or OK Amateur. I have traveled almost all over the world and have experience on a FF and APSC Gear. Also I am a zoom enthusiast because as I aged I decided to use less of my Legs 11 and more of my zoom. My Lenses for the APSC are the 10-20, 16-50, 55-300 + a good 1.4 and 1.7x TC. I use some of the fastest lenses available as I may be shooting indoors a lot in Cathedrals, Museums, Towers etc. Europe’s narrow roads huge squares and giant spires almost always need a 10-20 zoom. Where I need to Travel light I will carry the 10-20 + an 18-135 zoom and the 1.7x TC. For the FF DSLR my choices are the 15-30 + 28-105. I might replace the 28-105 at times with the 24-70 mm.