One of the joys of travelling is discovering new, interesting, and beautiful places. It can be rewarding taking photographs of these places and landmarks, yet there are a lot of frustrations to overcome. Accurately capturing and showing the beauty of places you visit requires patience and experience; there are some fundamentals to adhere to. Of course, having the right equipment also helps. A good camera can go a long way in taking a breathtaking shot, and the right lens also contributes.
We’ll take a look at the 7 best travel lenses for Canon cameras, their key features, and how to choose between prime and zoom lenses.
Best Travel Lenses for Canon Cameras
1. Best Prime: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Why it’s great:
- Affordable 50mm lens with f/1.8 maximum aperture.
- Lightweight, portable and surprisingly sturdy.
- Excellent sharpness throughout the frame.
Canon has a wide range of 50mm ‘nifty fifty’ lenses and the f/1.8 STM is the cheapest of the current generation. It’s an upgrade to the ever popular f/1.8 II and has built upon the huge success of its predecessor. An STM (stepping motor) autofocus makes it quick and quiet to autofocus and the build quality is improved over the II. Image quality is incredibly good for a lens that’s so inexpensive thanks to the maximum aperture of f/1.8. Its compact size and light weight makes it an excellent choice of travel lens.
Videographers will be pleased with the STM in as it reducing the focusing noise considerably. You’ll be able to capture a wide range of shots with this 50mm lens, and once you reach f/2.8, image sharpness is very strong across the frame. Although Canon’s f/1.4 and f/1.2 50mm perform better, for the price of this lens you can’t go wrong. That’s why it’s our favorite in this selection of travel lenses for Canon cameras.
- Compared to the f/1.4 and f/1.2, there are some noticeable image defects such as lens flare and chromatic aberration.
- The STM improves autofocus over the previous generation, but it’s still a little slow.
2. Best Super Zoom: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
Why it’s great:
- Fantastic all-round performance across focal range.
- Wide-angle to telephoto zoom with constant f/4 aperture.
- Well-constructed and durable.
Our favorite super zoom lens for travel photography is the Canon EF 24-105mm. There’s a lot to like about this lens; it covers wide-angle to telephoto zoom, has a constant f/4 maximum aperture, and has fantastic optical performance. As it is part of Canon’s EF range, the build-quality is incredibly good; it’s sturdy and durable so you can take it with you anywhere. Autofocus is also very good and is helped out a lot by the manual focus ring. Overall there’s very little wrong with this lens, and travelers will enjoy its versatility and performance.
- At maximum zoom ranges, there is some noticeable chromatic aberration at the edge of the frame.
3. Super Zoom Runner up: Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens
Why it’s great:
- Affordable superzoom with 28-135mm focal length range.
- Smooth and consistent autofocus.
- Compact size, ideal for travelling.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive and carry-able superzoom for your travels, the Canon EF 28-135mm is a very good choice. Compared to a lot of zoom lenses on this list, the 28-135mm isn’t going to break the bank. Performance is very good though, and your travel photos will come out very well. It’s surprisingly light and compact, meaning it’s not going to weigh you down whilst you’re on the move. Features such as USM (Ultrasonic Motor) autofocusing and Image Stabilization will give you every convenience you could need.
- This lens isn’t weather-sealed, meaning you’ll have to be extra careful when taking it out into the elements.
4. Super Zoom Runner-up: Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD Lens for Canon
Why it’s great:
- Incredible 28-300mm focal length range.
- Vibration Compensation (VC) technology.
- Moisture-resistant build.
The huge range of the Tamron 28-300mm means you have a great amount of versatility with this lens. Almost every situation you encounter whilst travelling can be handled by this lens, and a host of features make it great to take travelling. Vibration Compensation means you can shoot from the hand and the lens will compensate for your hand movements. A moisture-resistant build means you can take it out in adverse conditions and still get a great shot. Tamron make some excellent travel lenses for Canon cameras, and this is perhaps their best.
- Manufactures’ own lenses aren’t much more expensive than the Tamron 28-300mm.
5. Super Zoom Runner-up: Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
Why it’s great:
- Excellent value for money and performance.
- Preforms well at a distance and close up.
- Image stabilization makes shooting hand-held possible.
Of all the lenses on our list, Canon’s EF-S 55-250mm perhaps offers the best value for money. Performance is incredibly good throughout its respectable focal length range. Its maxim aperture range of f/4-5.6 gives a good level of clarity and sharpness, and the STM autofocusing is quick and quiet. Image Stabilization means you can shoot without a tripod and still get fairly good results, giving you versatility whilst on the move.
- The lens mount is plastic and could be seen as a weak point.
6. Best Mid-Range Zoom: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 AF II DG HSM
Why it’s great:
- Fantastic zoom range of 12-24mm.
- Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces lens flare and ghosting effects.
- HSM (Hypersonic Motor) means focusing is quick and near-silent.
The rang of the Sigma 12-24mm gives and ultra-wide aspect, and on a full-frame camera offers a field of view of 122° to 84.1°. This makes it an ideal lens for capturing wide vistas in all their glory. Even with this hugely wide angle, there’s little distortion produced by this lens. Sigma have used a Super Multi-Layer coating on the glass to reduce unwanted effects such as flare and ghosting. Videographers will be pleased by the performance of the HSM autofocusing, which is barely audible but still very quick.
- It can be tough to fit filters to the front of the lens.
7. Mid-range Zoom Runner-up: Tokina AT-X AF 24-70MM F/2.8 PRO FX (for Full Frame)
Why it’s great:
- Excellent and affordable alternative to main brand competitors.
- Versatile zoom range with constant maximum aperture of f/2.8.
- Ultrasonic Autofocus motor.
Tokina have produced an affordable alternative to the professional-grade lenses of Canon and Nikon with similar focal length ranges. The versatile zoom and constant maximum aperture mean that you’ll be able to get a variety of shots whilst travelling, and they’ll all be of a high quality. Overall this is another good alternative choice of travel lenses for Canon cameras.
- As this is a professional-level lens, it will likely be out of the budget of the amateur photographer.
Best Travel Lenses for Canon Cameras: Prime vs Zoom
Although our list contains a lot of zoom lenses, there is also a very good prime lens too. Each has their merits, but which one is right for you?
One of the benefits of a prime lens and its fixed focal length is that it really gets you to think about the photos you’re taking. The lack of a zoom means you have to adjust your own position in order to get the right shot. This can help your composition a lot, and hopefully will improve your understanding of photography principles.
Another reason to choose a prime lens is the fact they often have a wider maximum aperture than their zoom counterparts. As we’ve mentioned, Canon offer apertures of f/1.2, f/1.4, and f/1.8 on their prime lenses. All of these are capable of capturing incredibly sharp images, even when there is little light. The wide apertures mean you can continue shooting from the hand in darker settings and still get incredible clarity.
Remember that the size of your camera’s sensor will affect the actual focal length that you get. On a full-frame sensor, what you see is what you get, so a 50mm lens will give you a 50mm field of view. However, on a crop-frame sensor, things are different. You have to multiply the number on the lens by 1.5 for Nikon and Sony and by 1.6 x for Canon. This means that a 30mm lens becomes 45mm or 48mm.
- Excellent for low light thanks to their wide aperture.
- Can help improve photography skills.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Inflexible with focal length.
- Lack of variety in types of images.
There are two types of zoom lenses; superzooms and mid-range zooms. Both have their benefits, particularly for travel photography.
Superzooms cover you for almost every eventuality. They can range from the wide-angle to the telephoto range, meaning that you can achieve a wide variety of shots without having to change lenses. They are usually available only on crop-frame and four-thirds sensors.
Mid-range zoom lenses sit somewhere between prime and superzoom lenses. Again, the benefits are in their versatility. They’ll often be of a high quality, which does mean they can be a little on the expensive side.
- Flexible, offering a wide range of shot types.
- Can be the only lens you take travelling, saving you the need to change lenses.
- Quality is often very good.
- Maximum aperture range is often lower, meaning they’re not great in low light.
- Optical quality often isn’t quite as sharp as prime lenses.