In thinking about the best lens for travel photography, there are certainly a lot of possibilities. On the one hand, a lot of photographers love something like a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G IF-ED zoom lens because of the versatility of focal length that it offers.
On the other hand, plenty of photographers prefer a larger zoom – something like a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM – for added options when it comes to taking wide-angle to telephoto images.
Another popular option is to go prime, like a 50mm f/1.4. But as Julia Trotti explains in the video above, there’s a strong case to be made that the best lens for travel photography is a Canon 35mm f/1.4 L USM.
Let’s explore a few of the reasons why a 35mm prime lens is such a great choice for photographing your travels.
A 35mm Prime Lens Captures Wide-Angle Shots – But Not Too Wide-Angle
As Julia points out in her video, when you’re traveling, one of the most common subjects for photos is the landscapes you encounter.
And when you photograph landscapes, a wide-angle lens is ideal.
What’s nice about 35mm photography is that it’s wide, but not too wide. That is, rather than distorting the landscape like an ultra-wide-angle lens would do, a 35mm lens pretty much captures the landscape as you see it with your own eyes.
That means that the images you take with a 35mm lens look right and are comfortable to view.
Granted, if you use a 35mm lens on a crop sensor camera, that view will be restricted to a more standard focal length. But, still, even on a crop sensor camera, a 35mm lens is a great choice for travel photography.
What is a 35mm Lens Good For? Portraits.
Just because 35mm prime lenses are great for landscapes doesn’t mean that they’re a one-trick pony. In fact, as Julia points out, a 35mm lens is a great portrait lens, too. One of the primary reasons for this is because you can take environmental portraits of your subject that includes more of the scene with them in the photo.
That is, rather than getting up-close for a headshot or half-body shot, a 35mm lens enables you to get a full-body portrait while also capturing the scenery around the model. When you’re traveling, having the ability to capture people and places in the same shot is extremely valuable.
And, as noted earlier, you’ll get that wide-angle view without the massive distortion that you get when shooting with a wider lens.
35mm Prime Lenses are Typically Small and Light
When compared to other prime lenses like a 50mm f/1.4 or a 85mm f/1.2, a 35mm f/1.4 is comparatively small and light. That’ll come in handy over and over again as you travel because the last thing you want to do it feel bogged down by a ton of heavy gear.
The smaller form factor is great for working your way through crowded streets while the lightweight construction will be much-appreciated as the hours and hours out exploring go on. And, since it’s such a versatile lens, you can head out from the hotel and take nothing but your 35mm f/1.4 with you. Talk about travelling light!
35mm Lenses + Filters = Perfection
As great as 35mm lenses are for travel photography, if you pair them with high-quality lens filters, you get an even more robust result.
Think about it…
When you’re photographing landscapes while traveling, how often do you encounter bright skies above darker landscapes? Short of bracketing your exposures or blending multiple exposures, you’re either left with a sky that’s well-exposed and a landscape that’s too dark, or a landscape that’s well-exposed and a sky that’s too bright.
If you use a graduated neutral density filter, though, that problem is solved in-camera. Since the top of a graduated ND filter is darkened, it blocks out some of the light from the bright sky, allowing your camera to capture the breadth of the dynamic range in the scene.
That means that you can get a single photo that’s well-exposed throughout right then and there, with no need to process the image for exposure levels later on. And when you use high-quality graduated ND filters like those from Formatt-Hitech, you get even better results.
That’s because Formatt-Hitech isn’t messing around with how they construct these filters. Take their Firecrest Ultra Soft Edge Grad as a perfect example. This thing is available in densities from 1 to 5 stops so you’re sure to get the precise amount of light-blocking power you need.
Additionally, these professional-grade filters are bonded to protect the coating of the filter, which gives it enhanced durability over the long-term. That means that when you invest in one of these filters, it’ll last you a good, long while. As if all that isn’t good enough, Formatt-Hitech’s Firecrest Ultra filters are made with a lap and polish technique, which gives the filter superb neutrality, clarity, and sharpness.
In other words, by using a graduated ND filter, you not only can capture better-exposed photos, but photos that are clear, sharp, and have tons of impact, too.