Going to Europe ... only with my 50mm lens!

Discussion in 'Travel' started by grant h, Dec 7, 2005.

  1. I am planning on attending a 14-day small-group ( <12 people)
    European tour with my wife. I consider myself to be a
    beginner/hobbyist photographer. My current equipment consists of a
    Canon Rebel T2 and EF 50mm f/1.8 lens. Since this will be a
    vacation (or should I say holiday), my wife does not want me spend
    the whole vacation looking through the camera and changing lenses.
    This doesn't mean I don't plan to take an artistic approach to shoot
    architecture, historical buildings, narrow streets, archways,
    national landmarks and some landscapes (Swiss Alps). Another factor
    is, I don't want to hold up group (there will be times for self
    exploration however). My wife will be carrying a Canon SD400 5MP
    digital for the standard post card shots.

    So to the question ... is it a mistake to only bring my 50mm lens or
    should I give in a take a midrange zoom (28-105mm f/3.8-5.6)?
    (assuming I want minimal equipment, i.e. one lens).


  2. I think some people take too many lenses when traveling (guilty) ,but to only take a 50mm lens to Europe is like taking a hotdog to a steak fry,you will kick yourself over and over if you do.
  3. I think it will be worth bringing along another lens too, if I had too chose probably something on the wide end. It really doesn't take more than a few seconds to change the lens.

    I had to make similar choices when going to Japan and not once was I sorry that I brought along an extra lens.

    Have fun,

  4. 28-135 IS, little more range for getting shots of architectural details (which I like) and better lowlight capability
  5. i am a travel photographer...as a hobby. my kit is 24mm, 35-70 and a 135mm. i use the 35-70 the most. i put the 24mm on all the time. and the 135 sees the smallest percentage of use time. i also shoot medium format with the same equivalent focal lengths (3 primes, with teh 50mm taking the place of the zoom). i do not think i could live with out all three ever, but that is just me.

    the 50mm is small, take it for sure. if you only take one please post on how you did. have fun.

  6. I believe that art is defined by limitations. We place limitations on ourselves and these force us to become more creative in an attempt to overcome them. So, from that perspective, you will certainly learn from the experience. On the other hand, I agree that you will probably spend the whole trip kicking yourself. The first time you see a huge plaza that you just can't get wide enough for or some beautiful detail on a church that you can't zoom if for, you're not going to be a happy camper. I would really reccomend a 28 mm (or so) and then a mid level zoom. You don't have to take them both with you all the time!
  7. If you take a look at


    you may find a


    which would be a good 'one lens' rule for your wife and give you a little variety over shooting day in and day out with a 50mm lens. (A circular polarizer filter would not hurt to take on the trip as well.)
  8. My late uncle went around the world several times (courtesy of the US Army) with only a normal lens and brought back fascinating photographs. It can be done if you want to make a challenge out of it.
  9. One is enough and 50 will do it. However, I tried this for one day in Amsterdam once and discovered that to get some of the city square shots I wanted to frame, I was backing completely out of the square. 50 was just not wide enough; great for people shots though. So, after that experience I would always want to have a 35mm lens as well. Some here would argue for a 28 or 24/5 for the same reason. But definitely take the 50.
  10. I think if you do you will take some of the best photos you ever have taken.
  11. My advice, take your zoom!
    It covers from small wideangle (for architecture, buildings, landscapes to small tele to capture people and details.
  12. I'm a great fan of just taking one lens and thinking in 50mm terms. But..... This is a big trip. How are you going to capture the splendour of a medieval cathedral on 50mm?? This trip is too important, so either take a midrange zoom and a beanbag (old sock that you fill with rice) for internal shots, or at least a 28mm prime to go with your 50mm.
  13. one lens is a cool idea, and although I'm a great fan of the "normal" 50mm lens on a film body, I would take a 35mm lens if I was doing only one lens. It's the lens they put on all the point and shoot cameras that don't have zooms and there is a good reason for that. It's THE walk around lens as far as I'm concerned. Wide enough for a lot of landscapes, architecture, groups of people....but close enough to normal to do single person, "intimate landscapes" (ie groups of trees, stream close ups, etc).....

    spend the money and buy a fast one.........like a f/2 and it will also serve as a great low light lens. And most can focus close enough that you can get fairly close for those small detail shot.

    Canon's 35mm f/2 doesn't have USM, but neither does your 50mm f/1.8, but it would be much better optics than that 28-105 f/3.8-5.6....if you want a decent zoom in that range, buy the 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 USM

    anyhow, both the 35mm f/2 and the 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 USM are about $230 US....and I think either would be a slightly better choice than the 50mm. Which is not a bad choice, 50mm is great focal length and I go out with it as my only lens a whole lot.......I just think that the 35mm lens as your only lens would be a better choice. The zoom idea is ok, but just not fast enough for those night shots or interior shots. I only mention it because the one I mention is a much better zoom than the one you have in mind, should you go that route.

    hope that helps.....by the way, I appluad your decision to take only one lens.........wish the hell I could do it more often ;o)
  14. Hello,

    I have to say that I agree with almost everything Thomas wrote. If you only want to take one prime lens, then I would suggest a fast 35mm lens. If you want to take two primes along, then the 50 and either a 28 or 24. Don't get me wrong, I love my 50, and it might force a certain creativity, but in most of Europe a wider lens is nice.

    However, if you are going to have constant access to your wife's digital camera with zoom, then perhaps the 50 will make for an interesting photographic experiment/project. By the way, while I do not have any experience with that particular digital camera, you should not underestimate the results possible with a 5 MP camera -- and this from a devowed B&W film user.

  15. You should never forget that focal lengths are more about different perspective than about angle of view. Different focal lengths not only take closer or farther pictures, they take different pictures. Lens quality is also more important than focal length. I used to own a 28-90 zoom and a 50 f1.8. I used to come back from trips with good pictures at 50mm and lousy ones at 28, 35, etc. I sold the zoom and bought a 24mm lens. I totally agree with the guys who advise to take a 50 and a 24mm lens. I have made a trip to the Greek Islands with this combination (I took also a 70-200 zoom). I sometimes felt the need for a 35mm in the future, but in any particular moment in the trip I regreted not having brought any different lenses. Have a good trip and happy shooting!
  16. "my wife does not want me spend the whole vacation looking through the camera and changing lenses"

    I knew a man who's wife didn't want to move back to the city. He found one that did.
  17. Hi,

    I went Europe with my 24mmf2.8 and 50mmf1.8. Both of them come in real handy indeed for the indoor shots. I had also bought a 28-200f3.8-5.6 along just in case, didn't really tell my wife about it though. Bad choice, and heavy. No external flash = no need batteries = lighter bag. =) I guess if you want to travel light, just bring your 50mm, plus one wide angle lens. Enjoy your trip... One more thing, bring more rolls of film, as it's relatively costly to get extra rolls of films or slides in Europe.

  18. I did Berlin and Florence with just a 50/1.8, over the course of 3 weeks. I have absolutely no regrets, and I recommend you go for it. I had previously done Spain with a 28-105/3.5-4.5, but honestly, I feel there is simply no comparison to the 50. Sure, you limit yourself, but no matter what lens you take, there will be limitations. I don't like carrying a tripod, so a fast lens is a must, hence the 50. I wouldn't trade the focal length variety for f-stops, personally. That's why I went with the 50. Like any lens, it forces you to make a choice about what you shoot, and that is often a good thing. Have fun!
  19. Thanks for all of the insight and replies! My wife has a decent enough eye to get the zoom shots on her digital (35-105mm f/2.8-4.9 3x equivalent), so I am leaning towards bringing along a 28mm f/2.8 (shhhhh, she won't even know it's in my pocket) :). Oh, the 28mm is on the Christmas/January Birthday wishlist, so I will get it before our trip. I was considering a 28-105mm zoom, but I think my wife's digital can produce similar results. I am more of a big picture/wide angle guy anyway. Thanks for all the input!
  20. You can always pack both lenses, but just decide to take one or the other out each day. That might add some variety to your experience.
  21. ted_marcus|1

    ted_marcus|1 Ted R. Marcus

    I think a 28-105 lens would certainly be more convenient, though slower and less sharp. On my last trip to Europe I used a 28-105 lens with a very light 22-55 to supplement it for wide-angle shots. Tyrannical limitations on airline carry-on bags made space and weight an important consideration. You can't get much lighter than a 50mm lens, and the speed can be an advantage for interior shots. It wouldn't be a mistake at all to lighten your camera gear to a bare but very useful minimum.
    I took a number of European vacations as a teenager in the 1970s, shooting Kodachrome slides with a Pocket Instamatic 60 that had only the equivalent of a normal lens. I didn't know about fancy things like zoom lenses then (and they weren't common even for 35mm SLRs), but I didn't feel limited. A few of those many slides were decent images. I have some of those pictures here. You might perhaps find them helpful examples of what a relative beginner can do with a normal lens.
  22. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    My first trip to Europe was an SLR (Spotmatic) and 50mm only. I took lovely shots, but I admit I really didn't know quite what I was doing.

    Since then I've made three more trips, two camera bodies, 4 (or more)lenses a tripod....

    With ASA 400 film you will be pretty happy with the 29-105 unless you are shooting inside with no flash rules-then you will pine for a fast lens. You will certainly get sharper photos with the 50mm hand-held, but there really are times when you will miss the other perspective.

    All that said, I had a lot of fun with the 50mm alone. I wish I could go back to those days!
  23. I went to London and only took a 19-35mm Af and a 28-105mm. I woudl of been dead with a 50mm as my only lens.
  24. Europe is small and crowded compared to America. A wider lens than a 50 is nice, esp. if you are in a hurry. A 28 or 24, depending on your personal preference, is fine, and may work as the only lens. During my last travels I sometimes only took a Contax G with a 28 or a Rolleiflex TLR with a 50mm equivalent fixed lens and felt fine. But in my experience the further the lens is from 35mm, the more time one needs to take a picture.
    The 28/50 or a 24/50 combination would be sufficient, esp. given the fact tat you travel not for photographing purposes. Bring also a (very small) tabletop tripod for some church / night shots, you will not regret it.
  25. I also agree that 50mm force you to be creative, however for situations 50mm is not wide enough you can shoot 2 or more pictures and stitch together later.
  26. Thinking about all the places in Europe I have been to I reckon that I would have lost a lot by not having something in the 24-28 range available ( and I am not only talking about buildings and cities here ).

    If it has to be one lens then for me it would be a zoom ( as quick a one as possible ) in the 24/28 to 85/105 range - a little compromise on quality ( depending on the film used ) but a big gain in coverage.
  27. Always bring a spare lens (and perfect would be a spare camera as well).
    The one time I didn't that lens broke down one week into a 3 week trip to an area that's now pretty much inaccessible to tourist (central Asia, way too dangerous now that the KGB no longer rules with an iron fist).
    If there hadn't been someone else in our tourgroup using the same model camera I had who was willing to lend me a lens for the trip I'd have no photos at all.

    That lens was a 50mm f/1.4 b.t.w ;)

    So take both lenses, and just consider one to be an emergency backup. Myself I'm all for primes (though I don't like the 50mm) so I'd keep that one on the camera and the zoom in the bag for emergencies.
    In your case you might also take out the zoom when you run into situations where the POV of your single prime is simply impossible.
  28. Since you want film: consider the Olympus Miyu 35mmf2.8; it's very small and light and allows you to shoot 800ASA w/o a flash. They're very cheap now and this means you can take your one lens (the zoom), have a w/a and a second body. I used to carry one on my belt and it flips out in a second. enjoy your trip.
  29. wow, popular thread!

    I think the answer to this really depends on how you take photographs. I've found over the years that the travel photographs (of mine) which I like most aren't the ones where I had the 28mm - which could include all of a square or a cathedral - those pictures ended up being straight, dull shots of squares and cathedrals that anyone could take. I started off with a 28-85 zoom for travelling, but found myself always trying to 'fit everything in' whenever I came to frame a shot, ending up with these dull, boring pictures.

    Recently I started taking my 35-70 lens instead (which is also smaller, lighter, and better) and my pictures improved noticeably; instead of fitting things into the frame all the time, I started getting a little more creative.

    In August I went to Vilnius, Lithuania, and because it was a short trip (a long weekend) I decided to just take a 45mm/f2 lens. I ended up taking far more shots than I usually do, and I really like more of them than I usually do. There isn't one straightforward snapshot of an entire cathedral or a square, because, knowing that I couldn't fit these subjects into the frame, my eyes were always looking for other opportunities. And instead of constantly zooming in and out trying to find the best composition, I'd know immediately what would work with the 45mm perspective and just walk closer or further as necessary.

    Having said that, last month I visited Athens and a couple of Greek Islands, again with the 45/2... and wished I'd had my 35-70 with me. When I got my photos back... I loved them all, and was glad I'd taken my 45. But at the time, I was in 'postcard' mode and kept getting frustrated with not being able to get wide-shots of the coastlines and sunsets. I'm glad I didn't though, because if I wanted shots like that I could have just bought postcards - having the 45mm made me think less about how to take the obvious shots, and more about what shots to take.

    It's true what they say about standard lenses - using one really does improve your photography. Having said that - as i said above, i find that using a zoom makes all my pictures dull; if you don't suffer from my affliction :) you might be better with the zoom. But I'm happy with my standard lens - and I find that it's a LOT lighter to carry (not that my zooms are that big, but there's a significant difference), and i enjoy using it more.
  30. "I ended up taking far more shots than I usually do, and I really like more of them than I usually do"

    "made me think less about how to take the obvious shots, and more about what shots to take"

    I second. That's all.
  31. The 50 f/1.8 is a nice lens for traveling, but like others said before me, I would consider taking also a wider lens. Usually I take every lens I got + tripod + backup camera on my trips (body building is also among my hobbies :), but when I'd like to travel light, the lenses of choise are 50 f/1.8 and 24 f/2.8 (great for architecture, but you have to be careful with the perspective).<p>I use a film camera BTW.
  32. I agree with your wife mostly, keep it simple. But I would add a 28F2.8 lens to that kit for "vistas".
  33. Europe is small and crowded compared to America. I've read this a number of times in travel threads and it always cracks me up. Don't let ideas like this affect your lens choice.
    However, if you can bear to carry two lenses, I would suggest a wide-angle as well as your 50. The 28mm would be good. The combined weight would be less than a 28-105 zoom, and the lenses would be faster and probably sharper.
  34. I was just in France/Italy recently and I took a 35-70 and 17-35. I used the 35-70 the most, but I definitely needed the 17-35. I left my 80-200 and 105 macro at home with the tripod, which was a smart move. I would recommend you take a wider lens. You won't hold up the group changing lenses as groups tend to move rather slow anyway. It doesn't take long to change a lens and you will kick yourself if you don't have what you need. Have fun!
  35. Go with the two primes and have fun, keep it simple.

  36. I'm sure others have said this, about you NEED a wide angle lens in Europe. So, for a film SLR:

    28-105 USM II 3.5-4.5 (quality lens, but the least expensive of the 3)

    28-135 USM IS

    24-85 USM

    Basically, a lens with 24/28-XX(X). And a zoom will give versatility, but a prime 24mm or 28mm, might suffice. (I would strongly suggest you get a zoom, IMHO)

    Safe travels,


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