Thomas Lohr's picture

Backpacking through South-East Asia: zoom vs primes


I'll be travelling to Thailand and Vietnam and plan on doing some documantary and street photography work and need some advice on what equipment to take with me.

Since I'll be backpacking, size and weight are quite an issue and I already decided to leave the 70-200 at home (what a shame). I got some great results with my D750 and a Sigma 28mm 1.8 and my FM2 with a 50mm 1.8 (lenses work on both bodies) when I was in Paris, however the two bodies were quite cumbersome at times and my Tamron 24-70 could replace this setup, making the kit even smaller and lighter (+more versatile).

However, my main concerns against the 24-70 are that it is to big for street photography and that it wouldn't survive the travel since it's build quality is not quite as reassuring as a nikon 70-200's is for example and I would have no backup.

Any suggestions on that or travel photography tips on those countries in general?

Thanks in advance, cheers from Austria!

Log in or register to post comments


Jayson Cruz Santiago's picture

My travel kit was a 28-70 for a long time. It works. Ive also done a trip with just a 50mm. Bottom line, whatever you have you will learn to work within its restrictions. preferably I would have a 24-70 and a 10 or 15mm, something wide just in case, but if you can only take one lens, 24-70 works. As far as street photography is concerned, you learn to pretend to be photographing other things, you'll make it work. My Tamron has lasted me through several trips, wouldn't worry too much about build quality.

Thomas Lohr's picture

Thanks for your reply! The 24-70 it'll be then, I guess. Concerning street photography - you are quite right, and even with a 28mm 1.8 the D750 isn't really a small camera..

Jayson Cruz Santiago's picture

When I went to Nepal i last February I hauled around 4 lenses but only changed out the 28-70 once for my 15mm. I could have saved myself the hassle and just taken that. Im sure you'll do fine with it.

Jayson Cruz Santiago's picture


I've worked as a PJ and Travel fotog for decades and I've learned the hard way that cheap glass will fail. It will fail at the worst possible time. And it will be very difficult to get repaired "out there". That being said my goto glass for a F&L (fast and light) kit is the Nikon 24-70 f2.8. The new VR one is much tougher and I find that it has just enough reach for actualities, wide enough for most 1to1s, and is the perfect balance on the D5. Rarely do I need something wider than 24mm. The next must have is the Nikon 70-200 f2.8. Also tough as nails and the just enough reach to keep me out of harms way. More and more I find I'm using -read filing, the 7. That is the iPhone 7. Small, fast, light weight, very inconspicuous, and great image quality.

Thomas Lohr's picture

Great images! That's quite the type of pictures I hope to achieve. I'm also quite fond of the 24-70 2.8, yet I feel the Tamron 24-70 is more like a 24-55 or 60mm, especially at close focusing distances. If it falls apart I finally have a reason to get the Nikon version and take a 50mm with me as a backup ;)

Jose Ribeiro's picture

Backpacking with D5 and 24-70 VR, is crazy! APS or mirrorless with 18-105mm and a small carbon fiber tripod is the best for traveling light. Nikon is to big and heavy. Sony A6500 & 18-105mm F4. Tripod only needed if you dol blue hour photos. And iPhone 6 or 7. If you like Macro just take some add on lens and don't forget polarized and ND filters.

Thomas Lohr's picture

Thanks a lot for your contribution! I totally agree with you. While it might have been the case that you need (semi-) professional (D)SLRs/rangefindes for great travel images, I am seeing more and more people achieving great results with mirrorless systems. However, I could imagine battery life being an issue?

Kev Sidford's picture

Having travelled around the world from South Africa to Iceland and from Ecuador to Mongolia. I would suggest taking both your 28mm prime and the 70 - 200mm. If your gear hasn't failed you then what makes you think that it will fail on a trip. I would suggest taking loads of small SD Cards and a pile of Silica Gel packs.

Thomas Lohr's picture

Thanks for your input! 28+70-200 is an interesting combination I haven't conidered yet! The problem here is, I've used the Tamron 24-70 for portraits and stuff, that didn't involve rough backpacking and tropical climate.