What Is the Best Prime Lens for Travel Photography?

Travel photography is a staple genre of the craft and one that most photographers try at some point. However, with such a broad scope and the many other genres that it encompasses, it can be hard to keep your kit bag light. So, what's the best prime lens?

There is, of course, no correct answer, only opinions. Zoom lenses are particularly popular as walkaround, do-it-all options, but if you prefer primes or you need faster glass, a prime lens might be your only option. You then have the difficult task of working out which focal length best suits your needs.

The nifty-fifty has always been a favorite of photographers from a range of genres, but for some (myself included), it's something of a half measure. What many travel photographers opt for instead is a wider prime and in this video, TKNORTH discusses his new favorite, the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. That is particularly wide and fast, which lends itself to versatility, with wider shots on the menu, but also close-ups of subjects with a narrow depth of field and good subject separation from the background.

I have used a 24mm f/1.4 before and though I didn't expect to enjoy it as I gravitate towards far longer primes, I had to concede that it wasn't short of creative applications. For me, the success of a prime that wide is its widest aperture being so wide; had it have been an f/2.8, I would have wholly disagreed with the sentiment of this video.

What prime lens do you reach for when it comes to travel photography and why? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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I find 24mm way to wide. To be honest 35mm will be bit more use I think if it comes to general purpose ....you can always pan for landscape....and it of course depends what camera you shoot....you can also crop when your camera delivers enough megapixels .

I'm going to agree. For me, a Fuji X-T3 shooter, my Viltrox 23mm f/1.4 (Full Frame 34.5mm Equivalent) is the perfect focal length for travel photography. Its versatile enough for everything that doesn't require a telephoto. If I was still shooting with Sony, I'd definitely get the Sigma 24mm.

Depends on camera and style. For crop sensor I use 24/50 combination, for full frame it’s 35/85.

No way, a 600mm F/4 is the one

I wonder for the various cute birds, has anyone found a way to convince them to volunteer for some portrait photos with a much shorter focal length, in return for compensation?

For example food, toys, or electronics?

A 24mm lens on crop body works well, but why the heck does it need to be f/1.4? This lens is nearly on par with Canon's 24-105 f/4 in terms of size and weight. Ok, travel preferences will vary.
The Canon 24mm f/2.8 is a nice pancake lens, making the entire setup look like a toy and less obvious.

Low light, subject separation.

You describe special cases, not general usage. Traveling requires flexibility.

Flexibility in what exactly? If you limited to take one lens only I dont think the pancake lens will do the best job. 24/2.8 yet on a aps-c is pretty much like smartphone photos... Only the quality on pixel level is better

Give me a nifty -50. I’ll stitch in photoshop if it’s not wide enough.

I agree with other posts that for FF 35mm is the best. A touch wide but not distorting with the ability to stitch together frames.

Have not quite figured out the need for fast glass in the digital times, except for the bokeh and narrow DOF. In the film days fast glass allowed for a faster SS to handle the motion of clicking the shutter hand held! Why a travel lens at one focal point and fast glass today! When one travels you never know what you will see/come across, so a telephoto is the best to have. In the Sony world (since '14) you have several 2470, 70200 (f/4,2.8) the best is the FE 24-240mm F3.5-6.3 OSS (360 in APS-C mode) it is wide but has reach and is OSS where primes don't. How many cameras have IBIS so why use a prime without IS, you will also need sticks (extra for travel). After 8 years with most every Sony prime and telephoto lens I carry everyday in a teardrop bag a A7iii with the 24-240mm and the surprise the APS-C E 1018mm f/4 OSS (15-27mm) that is also 12-18mm in full frame (18mm if remove the light shield) that uses screw on filters and both lenses have the Haida Filters adapter that I can use the Clear Night filter at night. Be truthful, how many travel with a backpack of gear or even one lens. As far a bokeh/dof it is where you set you focus and mode, and for clarity near and far you will set f/# 2 stops above wide open. Truth, Yes when I travel away from home I have all my primes and telephotos for planned captures BUT for the unplanned everyday drive/walkabout it is my Teardrop bag. Today it is SW that gets clarity and or bokeh in the end!!!!

I like the 40mm Zeiss Batis. It's got some macro capabilities, autofocus, lightweight and is fast enough at F2.

Articles like these always leave me wondering "Why?". The usual motivations for carrying a prime are improved clarity, less weight, faster lens. But, even a simple comparison of, say, the Sigma 24mm mentioned in the article versus, say, Canon's RF24-105mm challenges those benefits. The Sigma weighs a "svelte"1.46 pounds (665 grams), while the Canon weighs a "whopping" 1.54 pounds (700 grams). The Sigma spec's don't mention image stabilization, so presumably there is none. Compare that to the Canon's 8 stops of IS when mounted on a Canon R5, and the Sigma's f/1.4 doesn't seem so impressive compared to the Canon's f/4.. Improved clarity? The reviews of both lenses suggest that, if you can see the difference in clarity, you're probably looking fhrough a microscope. So, for 35 grams, would I ever really want to give up the reach of a 24-105 zoom? Not in my lifetime, where that extra reach has enabled me to capture images not possible with a 24 mm prime. .

for me in M43 land, I have the Oly 12-42, and I will always also carry the 20mm Pana. size and weight I don't even realize it's in the bag, 100g. speed is huge, 2.8 for the Oly zoom, vs 1.7 for the Pana prime.

no brainer really.

Define the type of travel photography?

If it's for weeks at a time in a far off land (like I do), then there is no single lens.
You need to build a kit that is light enough to get on the small turbo prop planes that get you out in the sticks.

I like shooting with 2x identical FF bodies at the same time.
Therefore I carry:

20/21 F2.8 for landscapes + light travel CF tripod.

35 F1.4 + 85 F1.8/F1.4 for 90% of the shots, one on each body.

70-200 F4 for the long end.

Everything has to be able to be carried on, especially batteries, so weight is the killer.

Well, I chose the Leica Q2 as best travel combination for me (enough MP to crop and wide enough), but before owning that I'd have chosen the Fuji X100F which I owned previously, so 35mm would do as well.

On the EOS R system I'd take the lightweight RF 35mm f1.8 IS macro lens, which is a hell of an allrounder lens, unfortunately not weather sealed. I guess you find similar options for nearly every camera system.



Unbelivable that nobody had mentioned 28mm...

Since I had an Old pancake Nikon 28mm, I've found it more organic and cinematographic than the 35mm, less wide than a 24mm, making composition less busy.

Your phone is the best choice for travel 👌

for M43, the 20mm 1.7 Panasonic is always in my bag. lens weighs 100g, and is 2.5" diameter, and 1" length.

absolutely tiny. sharpness is great, where it drops off is on the focus speed, it is slow to focus. any other aspect though, it shines.

I struggled with this recently on a trip to Hawaii. I love macro and wildlife photography, but this was a couples excursion, not exclusively a photography one. I settled for my Nikkor Z 40mm f/2 and a Nikkor Z 24-200mm f4-6.3.

For me the issue with just a prime is sometimes when I'm traveling with family, I want to crop close without dragging my kids/wife across the street or make them wait while I sneak to get close enough to wildlife. A variable zoom is great and compact - maybe not getting any professional wildlife shots, but sharp enough for myself.

I can never go without a prime though, because for human subjects I just can't go without the ability to customize my f stop at more usable levels to isolate depth of field and enhance sharpness by limiting ISO. Do I usually keep it at f/4ish? Sure. But do I take quite a few shots at 2 or 2.8? You bet.

While it is not a prime lens, it is a fixed lens. The Sony RX 10 IV is a 24 to 600 mm Zeiss lens that is by far the best camera and lens for travel photography.

35mm 1.4. You can sit directly across from the people you are traveling with and take an environmental portrait with the perfect amount of subject separation from the background and foreground. In a tight room, it may seem not wide enough but often, just put the camera against the wall and it usually works. It really captures the moment without the distortion of a 24mm. I find that 24mm really doesnt solve the problem of not having a wide enough lens in a small sapce. You will get distorted faces and the the atmosphereis will be altered by inaccurately representing the size of the room. Once in a while you do run into a large landmarks that just wont work with a 35mm but you can either bring a 16-35mm or a 24mm. Or simply use a smartphone because you probably don't want much or any background blur anyways in a shot wider than 35mm.

My SLR days go back to a Nikon FTn back in 1974. I traded it in for Hasselblad for weddings, but when I went back to 35mm, i chose the super small Pentax ME with a pancake 40 f/2.8. It had a belt clip. I took it everywhere! Best lens focal length ever. Fast forward nearly 50 years, Nikon released the Z 40mm f/2. On a Z5, it's hard to beat for a concealable travel camera. I ordered the 28 f2.8 for my Z50. 42mm equivalent with the crop. Hard to beat it now. Small and light. Crazy sharp since I'm not using the edges!