If you’re looking for the most compact and worry-free way of traveling with your camera, it’s best to get an all-around zoom that will allow you to shoot pretty much everything.
This includes indoor shots, groups, environments, landscape, streets, people, animals, food and much more. By carrying only one lens, you don’t have to switch between different lenses in order to capture a shot, thus saving a lot of time for one-time situations.
Even if you already own a couple of lenses, you’ve probably already felt like using only one lens every now and then.
Best Canon All-Around Travel Zoom Lenses:
Best Canon Wideangle Travel Zoom Lenses:
Best Canon Prime Travel Lenses:
How to Choose an All-Around Travel Lens:
Let’s go through the 4 most important factors.
This is what makes a lens all-around; the more zoom, the more versatile it is. Traveling is such a broad term and you want a lens that allows you to capture every moment regardless of where you’re at.
Full Frame: 24mm to 120mm range.
APS-C: 18mm to 100mm
The reason why APS-C users should get wider lenses is because an APS-C sensor has 1.6x crop factor, which means that any lens you use will actually look as if it’s 1.6x longer. Read more about the crop factor here, but this is all you should know anyways.
Zooms perfect for traveling have aperture sizes from f/4 to f/5.6. Sometimes you’ll see a third stop smaller or bigger values, but generally speaking this results in best combination of price, quality and reach.
You can not expect a super zoom to cost less than $1000 and have an aperture f/2.8. Not only would it be expensive, it would also be big and heavy so that would be pointless for most people.
More expensive lenses have fixed apertures so even if you zoom all the way, the opening doesn’t get smaller (an example is the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM). Cheaper ones usually stop down by 1 f-stop. When shooting indoors, you’ll definitely have to raise the ISO if the light is bad, but if you have a new DSLR then you can confidently shoot at values around ISO 3,200 – 6,400.
- In short, f/4 to f/5.6 are perfectly good for zooms, while f/1.8 to f/2.8 is the standard for prime lenses.
This is a must in our opinion!
For traveling or hiking, Image Stabilization is extremely handy. If you’re tired after walking for a long time, you won’t be as stable as you normally would. Lenses with IS in this age can help up to 4 stops!
You also won’t always have the time to setup a tripod, if you’ll decide to take one with you anyways. At 105mm length, you can shoot with a shutter speed of 1/8 instead of 1/125 and still get a usable shot. One thing to note though, IS does not stabilize moving subjects, only a fast shutter speed does that. IS only compensates for your movement in all directions, and it’s useful to have it turned on even if you don’t feel like you need to.
Size & Weight
Perhaps the most important question you should ask is how light and small does the lens need to be.
If you don’t find your current setup heavy at all (that includes the camera, backpack etc.) then every lens on our list will be good. However, if you already feel tired or that owning a zoom would only reduce the amount of time you take your camera with you, then by all means get a compact prime lens.
Best Canon All-Around Zooms in 2017:
If you want one lens to do it all, an all-around zoom is your best option.
1. Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
The Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM comes as a kit lens for many Rebels, so chances are you probably already have it.
If not, and you got the 18-55mm, the 18-135mm is far more versatile. In terms of image quality, images are slightly sharper and there is less chromatic aberration visible. It also beats it at around 50mm, where the 18-135mm displays more contrast and simply looks better. Both lenses are absolutely fine when it comes to optical quality, and in many cases won’t be that different, but it helps knowing that by having more zoom, you’re not losing the quality!
The biggest difference is of course the zoom range. While the 18-55mm can do street, indoor and casual stuff, the 18-135mm can do all of that and then portraits, concerts, sports, action, animals. Okay it sounds like we’re saying that you can’t shoot portraits with the 18-55mm; that’s far from true. What we’re saying is that the extra focal length will make it much more easier, and better looking, to get those shots.
Two very cool features are the Image Stabilization that helps up to 4 stops. Having IS is crucial for traveling because you never know how dark it’s going to be, and when you need to shoot without a tripod, 4 stops is a difference between shooting at 1/125 versus 1/8! For indoors and night time, this is excellent. Do remember that IS does not freeze motion though, it only compensates your movement if you’re not still enough.
Then there’s the STM. It stands for Stepping Motor, and it’s how the lens focuses. Its quick and accurate, even in low light. Of course most lenses tend to hunt in bad light and you will experience it with the 18-135mm IS STM, but it performs rather well here. Because the STM is silent, it’s also great for video auto focusing.
It does weigh more than twice as much as the 18-55mm, but it’s still nothing heavy at 16.9 oz (480g), which is why it’s a perfect companion if you want a lot of reach without breaking the bank and your back. It only fits on APS-C cameras where the field of view is equivalent 28-216mm lens.
2. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM
For full frame DSLRs, the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM provides the best combination of reach and quality.
On an APS-C camera it will be too long, but on FF the 24mm length is great for landscape, indoors and architecture. The lens has good quality at all lengths, but being an all-around zoom, it does show a fair amount of chromatic aberration in corners. It’s more or less optically similar to the lens above, just with more contrast towards the telephoto end.
By far the best feature, especially if you plan on recording videos, is the fixed f/4 aperture at both 24mm and 105mm. If shooting in low light, the 1 f-stop difference compared to f/5.6 can make a big difference if you’re trying to freeze a moving subject. Image Stabilization will help up to 4 stops with this lens too!
Since you’ll need to carry the lens, here are the dimensions: 3.3 x 4.6″ (83.5 x 118mm) and 28.1 oz (795g). Not heavy, but not the lightest lens either. It’s actually a tad heavier than the first 24-105mm, but the weight difference isn’t anything to be concerned about in this case. They both accept 77mm filters and their front element does not rotate, which is great for use with polarizing filters.
Being an L lens, the 24-105mm is weather-sealed. If you know you’ll be shooting outside in all sorts of conditions, it’s worth it.
Auto focus is quick and accurate thanks to the Ring USM. Fast enough for sports and animals, and it also features FTM to focus manually if hunting occurs. In case you don’t need that much reach, we also recommend you to check out the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM. Cheaper, lighter, same image quality, just might not be as useful for traveling to some because there’s 35mm lens length covered.
Best Wide All-Around Zooms:
A lot of photographers prefer wide zooms when traveling. They’re better suited for capturing landscape, indoors, streets and basically showing the entire place rather than isolating your subject.
You can check out all of our Canon wideangle lenses we recommend here, but the two below are excellent for hiking and traveling.
1. Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM (APS-C)
The Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM is your widest Canon zoom if you’re using an APS-C DSLR. This means any camera between the Canon T6 and 7D Mark II.
When mounted, its field of view is equivalent to a 16-29mm lens on full frame, and that’s the wide angle range most landscape photographers use anyways. It’s great for architecture and indoor photography too, and it’s an excellent compact lens to take with you when travelling.
Optically, it performs very well and delivers sharp images. It replaces the 10-22mm, an older but more expensive lens, and they both have identical image quality. The 10-18mm also incorporates an STM type motor for more silent focusing, making it great for video shooters relying on silent auto focus.
It’s got great image quality, sharpness and contrast, which is quite impressive considering the lens is super affordable. It replaced the 10-22mm, a more expensive lens with identical image quality. The 10-18mm now uses STM (Stepping Motor) to achieve silent and accurate focus, which makes it great for video recording as well as photographing fast subjects.
If you’ve never owned a wideangle zoom before, you should get the 10-18mm, it’s fun and extremely wide.
2. Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
The Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM is our most recommended lens if you’re looking for the best value for your money and are mainly shooting landscape/cities/static subjects.
There’s also an f/2.8 version, but it’s much more expensive and does not come with IS. Yes, f/2.8 is bigger, but you won’t always be shooting at f/2.8, especially if you’re trying to get more in focus. In such situations, IS will help a lot more simply because it provides ~4 stops of stabilization (for example, you can shoot at 1/15 instead of 1/125).
It’s also lighter and smaller than the relatively heavy f/2.8 version, and every ounce helps when traveling for a long time. Because of its great focal length, it’s a perfect combo with any Canon full frame DSLR.
Image quality is absolutely stunning, it’s sharp in the center and corners and is simply outstanding for the price. Canon’s recent wideangle zoom lenses have been nothing short of amazing. It’s also the lightest of all 16-35mm lenses, including the Tamron (nearly half the weight).
Simply put, if you require a wide zoom for mainly outdoor work but will happily rely on IS when indoors or shooting with slow shutter speeds, this is your best choice. Even on an APS-C camera, where the field of view is equivalent to 25–56mm, it serves as a great all-around zoom that’s not too heavy. It just won’t be as wide as the 10-18mm above of course.
Best Prime Lenses for Traveling:
They’re smaller, lighter, cheaper and have bigger maximum apertures. The only trade off is there’s no zoom, but not everyone sees this as a disadvantage.
1. Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM (APS-C)
It looks funny, but the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM is a “pancake” lens designed for the APS-C mount. It’s like the popular 40mm f/2.8 but with the crop factor in mind.
It’s so short you’ll often think you’re shooting with the body cap on. If you dislike carrying around a lot of lenses, or just want something super small to go with your DSLR, this is the best option.
Image quality as with most prime lenses is great, colors and contrast are also excellent for a lens that costs less than $150. On top of that, the STM technology is great for recording videos as it’s silent.
Mounted on APS-C it’s equivalent to a 38mm lens, and that almost makes it a normal/standard rather than a wideangle lens, but the length and f/2.8 are great for nature, traveling, indoor and low light situations. It displays so little distortion it’s hard to notice, especially when stopped down to f/4.
2. Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM
For full frame users wanting a pancake lens, there’s the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM. It was the first Canon pancake and is extremely popular because the size, price and quality combo is great.
If you’re not satisfied with even the smallest zooms, then the 40mm is literally your lightest option. You’re probably thinking there’s no sense in buying a cheap pancake to mount it on an expensive FF camera, but this lens is far from cheap when it comes to image quality.
It’s usable at f/2.8 and delivers very sharp, good looking images with rich colors and contrast. You could easily mistake for a lens that costs 10x more.
The 40mm f/2.8 has barely any visible distortion so this is also not an issue, nor is chromatic aberration. You will notice some vignetting if photographing a bright background with f/2.8, but it can easily be fixed and is understandable at this price.
If you record videos the STM technology is good so you don’t accidentally get any noise from the focusing on your videos. Dpreview gave it a 84% score and also recommends it to those looking for a compact lens.
3. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
You will find the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM in almost all of our lens guides. Because of its large aperture and 50mm focal length, it’s perfect for both APS-C and FF portrait shooters. Plus, it’s so damn cheap.
Why the 50mm? It was released in 2013 and replaces the old, also cheap 50mm f/1.8 II, but comes with improved build quality, quieter AF and less optical issues. It costs around $125 yet the quality of this prime is far beyond how little you pay for it. There’s also a Canon 50mm f/1.4 that costs 3x more, but with the new f/1.8 we don’t find the extra price to be worth it (same focus speed, same quality).
With an aperture of f/1.8, you can really blur the background and make your subject pop. The longer your focal length, the further away from your subject you need to be, which also makes the depth of field even shallower.
In most of our shots the lens performed really good completely wide open, with little to no chromatic aberration. Stopping down to f/2.2-f/2.8 makes everything even better, but you can easily use it at f/1.8 for low light situations, or blurring the background. Concerts, weddings, everyday stuff, indoor action, you name it.
If you ever plan on recording videos as well, you’ll be happy to know that the STM technology, combined with a DSLR that has Dual Pixel AF technology, makes videos look awesome thanks to accurate AF.
Just like its predecessor, the new 50mm is extremely light and small; 5.6 oz (159g) and 2.7 x 1.5″ (69.2 x 39.3mm). Hands down the best bang for the buck from Canon.