Travel Tech – Zoom Lens Choice

To travel light every item in your luggage must have multiple uses and for the dedicated DSLR camera users amongst us that means you need a good zoom lens. My Canon 20D arrived with the standard 18-50mm zoom lens, functional for general duty but requires the photographer to get close to the subject.

A popular choice for a longer focal length zoom is 70-210mm or 300mm, a great choice for amateur sports photographers or other activities where you cannot get close to your subject. In combination with the 18-55mm zoom lens, a photographer has most of the focal range required any situation.

The first time I travelled with this combination I became frustrated with a continual need to swap lenses as I moved from close up subjects to distant subjects. I also started to compromise my shots to avoid a lens change and lost opportunities to capture better memories. I resolved to find the perfect travel zoom lens.

Consider the following points before choosing your lens:

Focal Length. On a typical trip you will photograph buildings or scenic vistas, the people around you and subjects separated from you by a barrier. To capture a picture of Mt Rainer or St Peters you’ll need a short focal length of no more than 28mm. To bring the action a little closer you need at least 100mm.

Weight. Remember you’re travelling light but a quality lens is usual worth toting an extra few ounces and I would trade focal length for quality at the same weight.

f-stop (speed). A fast lens gives you more opportunities to capture that shot despite the failing light or stop the MotoGP action at Assen this summer.

Price. We all have a budget but money spent here could be the difference between fuzzy memories or the brilliant poster print of the Cinque Terre on your wall.

I finally settled on a Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, and over 80 percent of my travel photos are now taken with this lens. Cost prevented me buying a faster L Series lens but it stills has image stabilisation rarely lets me down when I can pry it off my daughter’s Canon Digital Rebel.

See the results for yourself here.