(Disclaimer: This is NOT new information. I know many people choose to travel with only this lens, so this isn’t exactly unique to me. But I wanted to try my hand at explaining why and maybe convince some of you to give it a try!)
One of the hardest parts of traveling is figuring out what makes the cut into that carry on that you’re desperately trying to keep under the weight limit. And when you’re a person who carries a lot of their weight in photography equipment, that decision is even harder.
My current photography equipment includes:
Nikon D90 (My DSLR body)
AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8D (aka the nifty fifty)
AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm F1.8G
AF-S DX NIKKOR 018-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
The Nikon A90 (Compact zoom camera)
And my minolta film camera
But out of all of those things only two make the cut these days. For about 2 or 3 years now I have ONLY traveled with my Nikon D90 body and the 35mm DX F1.8 lens.
The Nikon D90 was released in 2008 making it just shy of ten years old. It is a cropped sensor, 12.3 megapixel camera with an ISO range of 200–3200.
If those numbers mean nothing to you, don’t worry. Just know that’s pretty standard. It fit into the Nikon lineup at the time as a camera that was more than an entry-level DSLR and less than a professional camera. Although as far as I’m concerned the only this thing camera wouldn’t be good for, would be printing photos so large they cover the sides of buildings. And that’s due to the cropped sensor.
In seriously ever other way, I love it. This camera is my child, it has been faithfully at my side everywhere from Italy, to Peru, to Canada, to Korea, and most recently Japan. It has never failed me.
But like any camera, it’s nothing without a good lens on it. And my go to lens, the only lens I travel with now, is the AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm F1.8G.
35mm is about the range that we usually see with our naked eyes. 10mm would be super wide-angle, and something like 100mm is really zoomed in. 35mm is comfortably in the middle.
I think it’s very easy to get caught up in thinking that you need lenses to cover all of your bases; the really wide shots, and the super zoomed shots, and everything in-between. But I think that unless there is a really specific look you’re going for, it’s really not necessary. And trust me, this will save you literally thousands of dollars if you can avoid it.
I have not had a zoom lens of my camera in about 3 years. I used one a little bit when I was in Peru the first time, but I haven’t used it once it Asia yet. And I don’t think my photography style has suffered.
In fact I think that I’m able to capture a much greater range of subjects at a higher quality because I choose to stick to one lens. I’m so comfortable with my 35mm now that I can imagine how the shot is going to look before I even pull the camera up to my eyes. I know when I’m going to need to open up the aperture super wide if it’s getting a little darker or I really want to blur out a background.
Let me show you some example to try to make my point clearer.
I’ve been to Machu Picchu twice. The first time while I was studying abroad in the summer of 2014 and I was still using the kit lens that my camera came with, the 18-105mm lens.
But when I went back for the second time I was using mainly my 35mm. At that point I still hadn’t completely committed to only carrying the 35mm. But looking through those photos I can tell which I used the 18-105 and which I used the 35.
Lets take a look.
(These photos are not exactly the same, nor where they taken in exactly the same place at exactly the same time. In fact they were taken years apart from each other. Therefore not a perfect case for comparison but I think you’ll be able to see what I mean.)
1.This first photo was taken with the 18-105mm lens. The lower quality lens. It’s not a bad picture, although it’s a little overexposed. But when you look at the next one you’ll be able to see that it obviously lacks the depth and the clarity that the 35mm can provide.
2.This one was taken with the 35mm. Because it’s just a fast lens it gives you the ability to blur out the background, which is a fabulous way to isolate a subject or give a photo a different feeling. The photo has a shallower depth of field and so the bricks are starkly in focus while the mountains fade into the background a bit.
Again this is not a perfect comparison, but hopefully you can see a bit of what I mean.
If you look through any of my blog posts from Korea or Japan you’ll see pictures taken with this lens.
I remember a long time ago hearing a photographer challenge people to try using only one lens, and at that time I thought there was no way I could do it. Now, I feel like there is no going back.
I hope this was helpful or interesting for some people! Thanks for reading!
4 thoughts on “The #1 Lens for Travel Photography”
I wish I could limit myself to one lens when I am travelling, but I always fall into the trap of bringing too many with me.
Well it certainly never hurts to have a back up. I just know personally it’s gets a little heavy for me to carry. Thanks for reading!
Great post! Thanks for sharing!