More Praise for the “Travel Lens”

This image didn't succeed because of my lens choice. The lens was just a tool in the tool box. The most important factor for this image was being at the right place at the right time, and being willing to get out of my car and shoot it despite traffic and the cold.
This image didn’t succeed because of my lens choice. The lens was just a tool in the tool box. The most important factor for this image was being at the right place at the right time, and being willing to get out of my car and shoot it despite traffic and the cold.

My wife Abby and I just returned from our 12th anniversary vacation. We had a great time, and made a lot of great images. Most of those images were made with a lens that has become indispensable for travel, the so-called “walk around” or “travel” lens.

There are a number of iterations of this lens for the various formats (seniors sizes.) In my case the Nikon D7100 sensor is 24mm x 15mm, so my travel lens of choice is the AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G II. On other occasions (and for Abby on our most recent vacation), we use the Fuji HS30EXR “crossover” camera with a non-interchangeable 4.2mm-126mm, which performs a very similar role. For Nikon’s 24mm x 36mm sensor, there is a 28-300mm fits the same role.

The more I use the Nikon D7100 paired with the AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G II for travel photography, the happier I am with them.
The more I use the Nikon D7100 paired with the AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G II for travel photography, the happier I am with them.

In summary, we ask a lot of this class of lenses: be a good wide angle, be a good telephoto, be lightweight, be convenient. In exchange, there are some things we don’t ask of these lenses and they can’t deliver: no large maximum aperture, not very sharp wide open, not quick-focusing enough for sports, and so-on.

Our friend Scott Andersen adopted a slightly different philosophy for travel and hiking, electing to carry more equipment for more specialized work. He joined me for a long hike on this most recent vacation, and carried a Tokina 11-20mm, a Nikkor 50mm, a Nikkor 18-140mm, and a Nikkor 55-300mm, obviously hoping to take advantage of the different strengths of each lens.

If broad overviews are you thing, the 18mm end of the 18-200mm can deliver. Compare this image to the next one, made from the same spot with the same lens...
If broad overviews are you thing, the 18mm end of the 18-200mm can deliver. Compare this image to the next one, made from the same spot with the same lens…

Only you can decide what you like to shoot and what you need in your bag, but I strongly recommend a lens like the 18-200mm for travel, hiking, casual street photography, and more. If I were going to Europe for a month, for example, I would bring this lens and maybe my AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 for the occasional low-light scenario.

Finally, a lot of internet forum members, and I, urge anyone in a lens-buying mood to consider that if paying for more lenses means going on fewer trips or seeing fewer things, that’s probably a mistake. Sitting at home with eight lenses will never be as satisfying as spending ten days on the road with one lens and your imagination.

This image of Candlestick Tower at Canyonlands National Park in Utah was made at the 200mm end of my 18-200mm "travel" lens.
This image of Candlestick Tower at Canyonlands National Park in Utah was made at the 200mm end of my 18-200mm “travel” lens.
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2 Comments

  1. “This image didn’t succeed because of my lens choice”, very direct and honestly stated. Much depends on our willingness to leave patterns of physical and social comfort.

    For me more than often the trick is, be where the image is.

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  2. I have one of these lenses as well (I forget exactly how it came to me) and I have not only gotten much use out of it, but need to remember to use it more often.
    You bring up some interesting points. First is, number of lenses in the bag. It’s not possible for me to get the maximum use out of all of them, even on a strenuous, photo-heavy trip. So which ones would I narrow my selection down to if I had to take only a couple? Right now, I’d say the 10-24mm Tamron b/c I’m digging the wide-angle look, and for variety, I’d take my 70-200mm Nikkor f/2.8. I think those two would give me a nice range and selection of focal lengths. But I like what you say about grabbing that super-fast 35mm, which is also a go-to lens for me. It’s great in low-light and convenient to use.
    Another is, trade-offs. ” … be a good wide angle, be a good telephoto, be lightweight, be convenient. In exchange, there are some things we don’t ask of these lenses and they can’t deliver: no large maximum aperture, not very sharp wide open, not quick-focusing enough for sports, and so-on.” I’ve found that if I make these types of compromises, I make a good lens choice that covers all my needs (depending on the assignment).
    Much food for thought here.

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