travel lens selection

Discussion in 'Travel' started by kira_greene, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. If you were going to southern Germany for two weeks, renting a car, and were mainly interested in the Alps, the Black Forest, cathedrals, monasteries, castles, and quaint towns AND you were trying to pack lightly AND can't buy anything new (lens wise) which of these would you take?
    50mm 1.4
    75-300mm 4.5-5.6
    11-16mm 2.8
    18-135mm 3.5-5.6
    I am thinking two lenses is all I want to keep track of while traveling.

    Thank you in advance!
  2. 75-300mm and 18-135mm.
    Those cover everything that you will encounter. Shoot in Raw and use Digital Lens Optimization when you convert to correct for any zoom lens distortions.
  3. Just 2 lenses, I would take the 11-16 and the 18-135. If it was me, I would also add the 50mm since it's relatively light and small, and can be very useful in low light (inside a castle or monastery).
  4. I always include at least one prime in any selection.
  5. I would go for the 11-16 f2.8 and the 18-135. I would also be tempted to cram in the 50mm f1.4 but if it didn't fit I would leave it behind. But it really depends on your photographic style. The lenses you use at home will most likely be the same ones you will use most in other places. Which lenses do you think, from past experience, you would use most? Faced with an Alp or a castle which lens would you reach for? Have a good trip!
  6. grh


    I wouldn't pack light :)
    I'm guessing this is Canon? If this were Nikon I'd recommend renting an 18-200 if you have a crop sensor, and take the wide angle. Otherwise +1 on the 18-135 + wide angle. But I'd be tempted to take them all.
  7. Going a bit against the grain here - the 11-16 and the 50; at least that's what I would be doing.
  8. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    Assuming that you have a digital body I never seem to be able to go wide enough, especially in Europe, so the 11-16 would be a no brainier. Unless you want wildlife too, I think the 75-300 is a bit much. The 18-135 sounds like a good walk-about lens.
  9. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    Assuming that you have a digital body I never seem to be able to go wide enough, especially in Europe, so the 11-16 would be a no brainier. Unless you want wildlife too, I think the 75-300 is a bit much. The 18-135 sounds like a good walk-about lens.
  10. I suspect that you should bring the two lenses that you most typically use when you are not in Southern Germany. You know best what your shooting style is. I am fairly certain that you will be taking the same type of photos. You know best. Personally I would not take the 11-16 mm BUT that is because my style is not shooting wide, not that there is nothing wrong with shooting wide. It is just that I choose to not to. I would take the 50mm and the 18-135mm.
  11. Having just come back from China - which we did with a 18-200 - I'd suggest the 18-135 and the 11-16 also. There were some thing that the 18 low end just wasn't enough for.
    And yes - weight gets to be an issue when you have a backpack of supplies for a day out - wipes, sunscreen, medicines, bandaids, water, etc...
  12. For general urban/countryside travel photography, telephoto shots I've taken never seem to be my favorite images. The wide angle shots on the other hand usually seem to be more interesting and gripping. Everyone finds their own perspective, but for most people I think a sense of place and drama are more readily achieved with wide-normal lenses. I'd go with the general range zoom and the wide angle.
    But there are days or nights out that I just want to keep it totally simple and compact, so I always travel with my "party lens"--the 50mm (I call it that because I take it to family events and parties because it is so small and unobtrusive). I have a 35mm that I use as the small lens if I'm on a crop sensor body.
  13. Having just returned from that very region, I would take the weather into consideration. It was very rainy when I was there and when it wasn't rainy, it was humid. I found the humidity made long telephoto shots not as crisp as I would have liked them.
    I was shooting 35mm film and I found the 35mm-105mm range was the sweet spot given the conditions and the scenery.
    Your mileage may vary.
  14. From what I've seen from the region (not enough, but been there), I don't think I would miss a 75-300 a whole lot. In my view, the "must take" is the 18-135; between the 11-16 and 50mm, it's a bit a personal preference; I would certainly take the prime for the occassional shallow DoF and for church and monastery interiors. But some people always crave wider lenses - and then the 11-16 is the only proper answer.
  15. Thank you for all the great opinions!
    Y'all highlighted a few of the struggles I am having...originally I was planning on the 11-16mm and the 50mm and the 18-135mm. But, when I packed everything up, plus my film camera (Yashica Mat 124G), it got to be too heavy. Plus, I don't want to be changing lenses all the time. The 50mm is on my camera 90% of the time, and I really want the 11-16mm for the Alp landscapes and outer architecture of the cathedrals, plus it is fast enough to get decent interior shots...but I keep wondering, will I really regret leaving the 18-135mm?
    What I am thinking now is, omit the extra pair of pants and pack the lighter lens in my actual carry on bag, the one with the weight restrictions! :)
  16. Be daring and leave the 18-135mm. Sometimes being compelled to shoot with restricted lens options opens up a wellspring of creativity.
  17. LOL! Kyle...I will admit, I am seriously considering it! Your encouragement just helped me move a little closer to just bringing the 11-16mm and the 50mm! I mean, this trip is going to be a new "adventure" for I should be a little daring - yes? :)
  18. Definitely take the 11-16; I was just in Europe recently (Germany, Austria, Hungary) and the thing most people don't realize is that in the European cities, the streets are very narrow. If you are walking around in the towns you will need a seriously wide angle lens to shoot there. Then I'd take the 18-135 or the 75-300 as well. Me, I had a Tokina 12-24 and a Nikon 80-200; I did not miss the middle range at all but in hindsight I should have taken a 50 as well.
  19. Think 3 would be nice, in this order of priority: 18-135, 11-16, 75-300. So, leave the 75-300 home if you must. The 11-16 super-wide will be handy for the interiors.
  20. Sorry Kevin. Your advice is drastic and dogmatic.
  21. A 17mm... you mean the Canon TS-E? That's a $2300 lens. 90mm would be... I'm going to give Kevin the benefit of the doubt and guess he's talking about a Tamron macro instead of another Canon TS-E. At any rate, I agree with Mary in that I don't think it's very good advice.
    I'd pack the 11-16, particularly for those church interiors and for some landscape use, and the 18-135 for all-around usefulness. The 50mm if you like night shooting. But are you planning on putting all this in checked luggage? I don't think I'd do that.
  22. Kevin, I was trying to find some of your work, to see how great they are. LOL! Think they are better (and less "lazy") than John Shaw's, Franz Lanting's and, hmm... perhaps David Muench's too - who all use zooms these days?
    Oh I just checked out Andre Kertesz. He was born in 1894 and died in 1985. Great black and white work! Unfortunately don't think he had the opportunity to enjoy the benefit of well-made zooms in his productive years. I did note that he used Polaroids, too. Think he would have loved to check out today's zooms and digital cameras.
  23. Get over this flawed notion immediately and ask yourself if there is anything I have said that has a grain of truth. If nothing I have said makes any sense that's fine but it won't stop me from throwing you a life preserver when I see you sinking in icy seas. That's the type of gentleman I am.
    To each his own, and any of us may appreciate the life preserver! Regarding grains of truth: for some of us, grains are preferable to noise. I can feel where you are coming from, and for me, your statements add relevance to the discussion -- albeit for some people, relevant in a way not necessarily associated with casual tourism photography. I think that your bark does not necessarily include a bite!

    Having lived in Europe three times, I look back on the 35mm film photos from from those journeys, and the photos that mean the most to me are of people. Not candid street photography, but people I had met, or had come to know well.
    I have envisioned that the next time I travel to Europe, where I have family, I may bring an APS-C digital camera with a prime lens or two. But the camera I am more interested in carrying is a Twin Lens Reflex with a portrait lens, and B&W and color film. As an 80 year old gentleman photographer I know said to me, "a twin lens reflex is best for portraits, as you never loose sight of your subject". Additionally, the use of a waist-level finder allows less obtrusive interaction with your subject. Of course, a TLR is a good camera for general photography. One focal length, extended vision.
    I figure I can always buy postcards of the architecturally significant buildings etc. A true success to me is a nice portrait of someone local that I have befriended, or have gained permission to photograph.
  24. Mike Johnson: "Why 40mm?"
  25. Heavens, Kevin, if you are sure you actually know what Kertesz (by the way, his work is OK, though I prefer many other photographers' work - sorry) of yester-years' technology would do nowadays, then I rest my case. You are a "know it all". We know the type.
    Kira, as others have suggested, the 11-16mm and 18-135mm should do well for your two weeks in Germany. It will be a wonderful trip. Enjoy!
  26. I'd start with the 50mm 1.4 You're going to have some natural light situations (inside of a cafe, a church or museum, low-light at night) where you're going to want a wide-open aperture. Plus, it's really hard to beat a prime lens for a sharp image.
    After that, ask yourself what type of photography you're going to be taking. Lots of buildings or vistas...than something like the 18-135 would be good (more for the 18mm/wide angle element). But my first reaction was actually the 300mm. I was thinking of trying to grab images (the skiers on the slope, the couple at the cafe 100 yards away, the wildlife on the slope) that are just too far way for you to get close to. But ultimately, all of the recommendations so far are correct--for the shooter that made them. If you shoot buildings you'll want a wide angle. If you shoot street photography you'll want a mid-range zoom. Picking out details from the landscape or wildlife you'll want something longer than 135mm.
  27. Kevin, I think that what Mary means (by which, of course, you as a scholar will understand that I mean my own attempt to convey the meaning that I gain from what Mary wrote) is that not having a portfolio (or a body of work as an art critic - do you have a site for that?) makes it difficult to tell what your style or taste is or even whether you are coming from a knowledgeable position.
    If you gave us a link to your doctoral thesis or most recent book it would better help us to understand your position and how it informs criticisms such as Lanting and Muench being "misguided souls who have confused super saturated images with something that has meaning" and how your comment that seems to state that you would prefer a more literal palette and perhaps a bit less drama in your drama relates to a requirement that everybody be using only prime lenses.
    Kira, if you're still here, you can go ahead and ignore anything appearing after Mary's July 17 comment.
  28. Hello All,
    Thank you for your thoughts and advice. I will not be taking the advice of throwing out my lenses, zoom or otherwise.
    I definitely won't be checking my camera stuff - or anything at all, actually. :) Well, maybe a super cheap tripod, but if it gets lost/broken/stolen it will be more of a relief to be rid of it, so yeah, I might check that. Last time I checked a bag, it was lost, came back broken and had stuff stolen out of it.
    I think I have settled on the 50mm, 11-16mm (which I don't really count this as a "zoom" lens, I mean there's not a whole lot of zooming possible on that range!), and the 18-135mm.
    Christopher, I *am* bringing a TLR! I just got a Yashica Mat 124G and a boat load of 120 film for it - of course, I am worried that TSA will force me to x-ray my film. I plan on asking for a hand check for my film (and I don't go through the scanners myself) but have read horror stories about others' experiences with TSA and camera film hand checks. Naturally, my film is all lower ISO so I am really hoping to get a helpful TSA agent...hey! A helpful TSA agent, why looky there - a pig just flew past!
    Does anyone have tips for flying with 120 film?
    I was thinking only 2 lenses because the TLR makes the camera bag a little heavy. I can't put all of my gear in my carry on backpack as it would exceed the weight limit, so I planned for all heavy items in my personal all fits, but man is it HEAVY! :) Guess I will have to get a little creative with packing my backpack and personal item.
    Mary, thank you - I am looking forward to the trip and I appreciate all of your comments.
    I'm not sure what I will shoot a lot of...I very much like landscapes, architecture, and portraits. I thought I might try some street photography with the TLR and the character of the German streets. It will be an adventure, that is for sure!
    Thank you, I really do appreciate all of the advice. :)
  29. Christopher, I *am* bringing a TLR!

    Yes! I had skimmed that detail earlier, then lost it in the digital discussion. Good shooting to you, and I hope you will scan and post some medium format photos when you return!
  30. Thank you! I am so very excited about the Yashica Mat 124G - I can't wait to shoot with it! :) I shot a test roll to make sure it was working (it was an ebay steal) and I am so smitten with medium format! :) :) I will definitely try to get some uploaded when I get back - as long as my film doesn't get damaged from TSA's scary x-ray machines.
  31. ... as long as my film doesn't get damaged from TSA's scary x-ray machines.
    Kira, you're smarter than that -- don't let it happen. Here is an out-smart-them link for you:
    After reading the "Flying with Film" article, or other articles you find on line, you can search's Film and Processing Forum for tips and advice on flying with film. If the archived Film and Processing threads raise new questions, you can then start your own new thread on the F&P forum. wants you to shoot successfully!
  32. Kira said:
    . . . originally I was planning on the 11-16mm and the 50mm . . .​
    I think your initial instincts were right. I would take the 11-16mm f/2.8 and your fast, 50mm f/1.4. Personally, I rarely use telephotos when traveling. Sometimes I bring my 80-400mm for some compression shots, but those shots are always few and far between.
    On my next trip to Hawaii, I'm thinking of taking only two lenses for my full-frame body: 1.) Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM II; 2.) AF Nikkor 35mm f/2.0. The Sigma ultra-wide is slow, but I'll only be shooting daylight exteriors with it. The 35mm f/2.0 I'll use at the hotel for interiors, and low-light shots (I chose the 35mm f/2.0 over my 35mm f/1.4 mainly because it's so small). When I went to French Polynesia, I shot 99% of my images with a 20mm f/2.8 on a crop-body.

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