Best Travel Lenses for Canon DSLR Cameras

The best travel lenses for Canon cameras

Whether you are an experienced photographer or a novice, choosing the right lens setup for travel is always a challenge. Should you bring single all-round lens, two lenses or perhaps even more?

If you are an owner of a Canon DSLR camera (APS-C or full-frame), this article will help you pick the best lenses for travel photography.

We separated lenses designed for full-frame cameras from the APS-C ones, however, full-frame lenses are still compatible with APS-C cameras.

Table of Contents

P.S. If you don’t have a time to go through the whole article, below you will find quick overview of our favorite lenses for Canon DSLR cameras:

All-Round Lenses

For APS-C Cameras (EF-S Mount)

Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

Image source: Canon

Overview

It’s one of the most popular Canon all-round lenses for APS-C cameras because of its almost ideal focal length range. When you convert 18-135 mm into 35 mm equivalent you will get 28.8 mm to 216 mm which makes it a great travel lens to use it all the time. 

The lens is relatively compact and lightweight and it is 3.78 in (96 mm) in length and 1.13 lb (515 g) in weight, with a filter size of 67mm. It’s made of plastic but with a metal mount on the rear. Unfortunately, the lens is not weather sealed so you should be careful if you use it while it’s rainy or in areas with a lot of dust. It’s not a macro lens, but it can work very well in close up because the minimum focusing distance is 15.3 in (39 cm).

We especially like the nano USM autofocus system (it’s a combination of USM and STM) because it’s pretty fast for photos and almost silent which you will like when you make videos using the camera microphone. You can focus manually even if the camera is using autofocus mode. 

If you are a video creator you should invest in a power zoom adapter (PZ-E1) which enables you to control zoom using fingers. The zoom ring is comfortable and soft and you can override autofocus and control it manually even if you don’t switch to manual AF (the switch button is on the lens).

Optical image stabilization works very well for stills and it’s capable of compensating up to 4 f-stops. In video mode image stabilization also works – well because of the dynamic IS technology. If you like to take low light shots this lens will work solidly at the wide end because its maximum aperture at 18 mm is f/3.5, but at other lengths, it becomes slower because the maximum aperture becomes narrow (at 135 mm it’s f/5.6).

Overall the image quality is very good and the bokeh is OK for most non-pro travel photographers. The lens has an iris diaphragm with 7 rounded blades and if you want to isolate subjects with a blurred background you will have a very good blurring effect between 90 and 135mm. 

If you take into consideration that all-round lenses won’t be brilliant in sharpening in all focal lengths you will be pleasantly surprised because at 18 mm the sharpness is very good, especially in central parts of the image. The corners are softer but you can avoid it if you close the aperture and keep it between f/8 and f/11 to get sharp images.

You will notice that the barrel distortion is a bit higher in the wide end but most Canon cameras have built-in correctors for lens distortion so you can avoid it easily if you take JPEGs, but if you shoot in RAW you stick to 25 mm as the widest to avoid distortion. Vignetting can be visible in wide apertures but you can close the aperture to eliminate it. 

Chromatic aberration is most visible in the wide end (18 mm) and max. zoom (135 mm) but you can correct it easily in post-processing if it is too visible. In the end, we are very satisfied with how this lens controls flare effects which is a challenge for many all-round lenses with this focal length range.

However, if you consider getting a lens with extremely useful zoom range which can save a lot of your luggage when you want traveling, all disadvantages are minor because this lens will work very well in a lot of situations with few compromises.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Handheld video sample at max. zoom

Pros for travel photography:

  • Very good zoom range for any traveler who wants to carry a camera with a single lens attached;
  • Good sharpness especially in the center of the image;
  • Fast and quiet autofocus;
  • Solid low-light performance at the wide end;
  • Very good image stabilization in both photo and video modes.

Cons for travel photography:

  • A bit softer in corners when the aperture is open;
  • Not so good for low light in longer lengths because the maximum aperture becomes narrow;
  • Power zoom is available only with an external adapter;
  • Not weather sealed.
Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD

Image source: Tamron

Overview

If you want to have more than 135 mm in your all-round lens, you should consider this Tamron’s lens with an extreme focal length of 16-300 mm, which is an 8.8x zoom range. Of course, there are trade-offs you need to be aware of when you have this huge range with a single lens, but should you worry about them? We’d say, in many cases, you don’t need to worry. When you convert zoom range into 35mm standard it’s 25.6 mm on wide end till 480 mm when it’s extended to maximum. 

This is a relatively compact and lightweight lens, the length is 3.94 in (100 mm), the weight is 1.19 lb (540 g), and the filter size is 67 mm. The lens is made of very good plastic and it’s weather sealed. You will like that lens hood and lens caps are included, so you won’t need to buy them separately.

This lens uses Tamron’s PZD (piezo drive) autofocus technology which is fast but slightly louder than Canon’s USM autofocus systems. Also, you can adjust manual focus without the need to switch to manual focus mode. Furthermore, there is a very useful minimum focus distance to take macros – 15.3 in (39 cm).

Image stabilization (Tamron calls it vibration compensation) works very well. For stills, you can compensate 3-4 f-stops. In low light, this lens will work well in the wide end because the maximum aperture is f/3.5. But if you want to use longer zoom, the maximum aperture will quickly drop to f/6.3, so you need to rely on high ISOs or use longer exposures and tripods.

In general, image quality is good but you need to fit some trade-offs. The lens has 7 blades of the circular diaphragm and it makes a very good bokeh effect at longer focal lengths when the subject is close enough. So, with a bit of practice, you can take very good portraits or photos of isolated objects with a blurring background.

Images are sharper in wider focal lengths if you keep aperture somewhere around f/6.3 and f/8. Sharpness drops especially in corners when you use wide apertures, and it’s visible especially between 200 and 300 mm. However, if you keep the aperture somewhere around f/10 and f/12 you can get an acceptably sharp image. We’d say that the most trade-offs you need to accept are distortion. 

At 16 mm barrel distortion is pretty high and if you have straight lines in the frame you can edit it in post-processing. However, if you want to avoid it, you should stick a wide end somewhere around 20 mm. On the other hand in telephoto lengths pincushion distortion is visible. Vignetting is visible at 16 mm when the aperture is max. open (f/3.5), but if you close the aperture vignetting will disappear. 

Chromatic aberrations are another trade-off you need to accept. They are visible, but fortunately, they can be easily corrected in post-processing where needed. Luckily, the lens is very good in terms of flare effects which is barely noticeable.

In the end, for a lens with this zoom range, which can replace (with some compromises) 2 or 3 additional lenses, make your backpack quite lighter, enable you to shoot landscape photo, and then zoom in to a bird, without need to change the lens, all these trade-offs are acceptable.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Zoom test sample video
Image stabilization test sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Extreme zoom range (can replace 2-3 lenses with some compromises);
  • In wide end, it’s wider than most KIT lenses (24 mm);
  • Fast and quiet autofocus;
  • Solid low-light performance at the wide end;
  • Very good image stabilization in both photo and video modes;
  • Capable of producing sharp images at the wide end;
  • Weather sealed build;
  • Lens hood and lens caps are included.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Not so good for low light in longer lengths because the maximum aperture becomes narrow;
  • Lens distortions are visible, especially at the wide end;
  • Chromatic aberration is strong in longer focal lengths;
  • Hard to get sharp images after 200 mm.
Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

Image source: Canon

Overview

It’s another Canon all-around lens. Unlike the first one we overview above, this lens ends on 200 mm. When you convert it’s 18-200 mm into 35 mm format you get a very useful range from 28.8 mm in the wide end till 300 mm in max. zoom. It means that this lens can replace at least 2 or 3 lenses in your luggage (of course, with some compromises). The lens is 4 in (102 mm) in length and 1.32 lb (600 g). The filter size is 72 mm. The minimum focus distance is 17.71” (45 cm) which makes this lens usable for close-ups as well. The lens is built mainly with plastic and it’s not weather sealed.

You need to take into consideration that this lens is a bit older. Hence the lens is not the latest technology. So, there is no STM or USM focus engine, instead, there is micro motor autofocus. Focus is relatively fast but the mechanism is louder so we recommend you to use either an external microphone for videos or different lenses. Image stabilization is very good and it offers 4 f-stops resistance. For video creators, there are automated panning detection. The lens is not particularly good at night because the maximum aperture is too narrow in almost all focal lengths instead of the wide end. You can use f/3.5.

The overall image quality is good, or even very good. Bokeh is very good, so if you shoot isolated subjects in 200 mm or 300 mm you will get a lot of blurring. The main disadvantage of this lens is its sharpness. We can’t say it’s a soft lens in any situation – if you use it try to learn how to make sharp images. However, we were very satisfied with the sharpness at 18 mm.

We need to say that barrel distortion is huge at wide angles. Vignetting is controlled solidly, but chromatic aberrations are pretty high especially at the wide end. On the other hand, we are pleasantly surprised how lens flare is controlled and avoided in the result.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Handheld sample video
Another sample video in which you can hear how loud the lens is

Pros for travel photography:

  • Relatively compact;
  • Extreme zoom range (can replace 2-3 lenses with some compromises);
  • Solid low-light performance at the wide end;
  • Well-controlled lens flare & vignetting.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Soft images if you shoot at a wide end;
  • Loud autofocus;
  • Trade-offs in terms of image quality because of size.

For Full-Frame & APS-C Cameras (EF Mount)

Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

Image source: Canon

Overview

If you have a full-frame Canon camera, this lens will be a great choice for your main travel lens because it covers a very useful focal range from 28 mm to 135 mm. For APS-C cameras it may not be a good choice because on a wide end you get 45 mm which is not so wide, so if you have an APS-C camera we recommend you choosing lenses that start at 16 or 18 mm. We need to mention that the minimum focus distance is 19.69 in (50 cm) so it’s not a macro lens, and the filter size is 72 mm. 

This lens is relatively compact, 3.8 in (97 mm) in length, with the weight of 1.19 lb (540 g) and it’s built with very good materials, but it’s not weather sealed so you need to be careful and avoid rain and dust.

The lens is equipped with USM autofocus which means that it’s fast and quiet. Image stabilization is not the newest generation and you can count on 2 f-stops of compensation in most cases (newer IS systems are capable of 4 f-stops) and there is no panning nor tripod detection. The low light performance of the lens is solid at a wide end because of the wider max. aperture (f/3.5) but it drops when you use longer focal lengths (at 135 mm max. aperture size is f/5.6).

Overall image quality is very good, especially if you take into consideration standard issues on lenses with long focal lengths and make some effort to overcome them. If you like to take photos of isolated subjects or portraits you will probably be satisfied with bokeh when you are at 135 mm, with aperture to the max., and your subject is close. But you need to know that it’s not the lens that’s brilliant in background blurring especially when you don’t open the aperture or when the subject is not close or you use mid-range focal lengths.

This lens produces most sharp images somewhere between 50 and 80 mm and when you open aperture between f/8 and f/10. In the wide end (28-35 mm) the image is a bit softer in corners but the center is sharp enough. Barrel distortion is visible at 28 mm as well as vignetting, while pincushion distortion is visible in telephoto lengths. You can reduce vignetting if you close the aperture of course. 

Chromatic aberration is visible in both wide end and telephoto. Lens flare control is average and it’s a bit better in telephoto lengths, but we recommend you to invest in a lens hood in order to reduce flare when you have a direct light in front of you. In the end, we want to mention if you want to use this lens on an APS-C camera all of these things will be better because it uses the central part of the lens.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Very good zoom range for everyday use on travel;
  • Relatively compact size;
  • Fast and quiet autofocus.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Image stabilization is older and less efficient than on newer lenses;
  • No weather sealed.
Canon EF 24-105 mm f/4L IS II USM

Image source: Canon

Overview

If you have a full-frame camera and want to have a perfect all-round lens, this one will probably fit your needs because it’s one of the most versatile Canon lenses with great image stabilization, very fast focus, and useful zoom range.

24-105mm seems to be a good choice for many travel photographers. Of course, if you use it on APS-C body-wide end will not be as wide (on APS-C focal length is 38.4-168mm) but we have mainly full-frame camera’s users in mind for these lenses. 

At 24 mm you will get a very good focal length for landscapes and cityscapes, while at 105 mm you will get some telephoto capabilities. Of course, you won’t be able to shoot birds/animals or other objects from long distances like you would with a 200 mm lens, but if you want to shoot some “zoom in” details, portraits with a blurring background, or close-ups to emulate macro lenses, it will work for it.

The lens is mid-size in length – 4.65 in (11.8 cm) and a bit on the heavier side with its 1.75 lb (795 g) but it’s a trade-off for excellent optical performance you will get with this lens. Also, we want to mention that the minimum focus distance is 17.72 in (45 cm), and the filter size is 77 mm. Considering that this lens is L series Canon it’s built with premium materials and the overall look & feel of the lens is very professional. Furthermore, the lens is weather sealed (which isn’t the case with cheaper Canon lenses). Also, this lens comes with a great hood, so you do not need to buy one.

This lens is equipped with a USM autofocus system which means that you will get fast & accurate autofocus that’s also very quiet which means that video creators will also love this lens. Like on most other USM lenses you can override autofocus manually without the need to switch the selector to manual focus mode. The image stabilization system works very well and enables you to get 4 f-stops of compensation.

Image quality is excellent. If we need to outline any disadvantage it would be the maximum aperture of f/4 which is constant (that’s great) but f/4 is simply not enough for low light and you will need to set higher ISO values. This is also not a huge disadvantage if you put this lens on a full-frame camera because on most full-frame cameras you will get almost noise-free even with as high ISO as 6400, and significant noise will appear usually after ISO 12800. 

The reason for this is clear – if this lens had f/2.8 constant on the whole range, it would appear much bigger and heavier. So, the trade-off is clear and it’s not a huge disadvantage if you use this lens on a full-frame camera for which it’s intended.

For other aspects of photography, this lens is very good or even excellent. That’s to say, the bokeh when you shoot at 105 mm is nice because of the diaphragm with 10 rounded blades, so this lens can be used for portraits and close-up photos as well and you will get a nice background blur. 

The lens is pretty sharp throughout the whole range. At 24 mm you will get a sharp central part of the image as well as corners even with a fully open aperture, but the best sharpness you will get between f/8 and f/11. At 105 mm you can notice a slight drop in sharpness but it’s not something you should consider as a disadvantage.

Barrel distortion is visible at 24 mm and if you want to avoid it you should shoot at 35 mm. On the other hand, slight pincushion distortion appears at 100-105 mm. We also noticed a bit of vignetting which can be visible through the all range, but it’s more noticeable when you open aperture and shoot at 24-30 mm or 100-105 mm, than in other parts of the zoom range with closer aperture. 

The good things are that chromatic aberrations are less visible than on other all-round lenses and that the lens is almost flare-free, but it’s understandable if you take into consideration that this Canon L series lens is in a higher class than standard EF-S lenses.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Excellent image quality in all focal lengths;
  • Fast, accurate, and quiet autofocus;
  • Very good image stabilization for both photo & video;
  • Constant max. aperture through the whole range (f/4);
  • Lens hood is included.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Pretty heavy if compared with other all-round lenses;
  • A bit slower aperture;
  • Vignetting is visible not only at the ends of focal length.

Wide Zoom Lenses

For APS-C Cameras (EF-S Mount)

Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM

Image source: Sigma

Overview

Sigma 17-50 is one of the most popular mid-range zoom lenses. Its focal length is 17-50 mm, and you will get 27.2-80 mm effective (35 mm equivalent). The lens is 3.62 in (9.2 cm) in length and 1.25 lb (565 g) in weight with a filter diameter of 77 mm. Need to say that the lens is built of plastic and it’s not weather sealed. The minimum focus distance is 11.02 in (28 cm).

Sigma’s lens uses an HSM autofocus system which should be a pandan of Canon’s USM, but the focus motor is a bit louder on Sigma, and also Sigma’s autofocus doesn’t support manual overriding (that says you need to switch to manual focus to be able to adjust the focus manually, which is different from Canon lenses which enable you to adjust the focus manually even in autofocus mode). 

Optical image stabilization works very well and enables you to get 4 f-stops of compensation and it’s on the same level as on most Canon EF lenses. If you like taking low light handheld photos this lens will satisfy you because it’s fast enough with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout the whole range.

In general, this lens has great optical performance. Bokeh is very good due to 7 rounded blades and f/2.8 aperture so if you want to get a blurred background at 50 mm you can do so easily. Also, the lens is pretty sharp in almost the whole frame. Some softness is noticeable on corners especially at 17 mm with f/2.8 aperture. If you close the aperture to f/8 you will get sharpener corners, but if you close it more than to f/16 sharpness will become lower.

Barrel distortion is visible at 17 mm, however at 50 mm you will notice pincushion distortion. But they are easily corrected and are much lower than on all-round lenses with a much bigger zoom range. Vignetting is also barely noticeable at f.2.8 and you can remove it if you close the aperture. Chromatic aberrations are very well-controlled. Lens flare can be visible if you take photos with light in front of you, but you can easily prevent it with the lens hood.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Fast aperture in the whole range;
  • Excellent for low light & indoor photography;
  • Very fast and quiet autofocus system;
  • Very good image stabilization;
  • Sharp image in all focal lengths at even with max. open aperture;
  • Very good background blur, useful for portraits.

Cons for travel photography:

  • In some cases, autofocus is not as reliable as on Canon native lenses;
  • The plastic construction makes it feel cheap in hand;
  • No manual override of focus in autofocus mode;
  • Not weather sealed.
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM

Image source: Canon

Overview

This lens tries to reach the same photographers as previously mentioned Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM and we can say that these lenses are very similar (the most obvious differences are better build quality, 5 mm more in telephoto, 80 g more in weight, and slightly worse image stabilization). The focal length range of this lens is 17-55 mm (27.2-88 equivalent to 35 mm) and you can count on f/2.8 maximum aperture through the whole range

This lens is 4.35 in (11.1 cm) in length and 1.42 lb (645 g) in weight. The filter size is 77 mm as on other similar lenses. The case is built of plastic with a metal mount but feels much better and rugged than Sigma 17-50. However, like Sigma, Canon isn’t weather sealed as well. The minimum focus distance is 13.8 in (35 cm).

Autofocus is relying on the USM system, so it’s fast and quiet. Image stabilization is OK but it’s a bit older implementation so you can rely only on 3 f-stops of compensation (most other Canon lenses support 4 f-stops). For video creators, we should stress that this lens doesn’t support panning mode. However, this lens is fast enough and you will be able to use f/2.8 aperture whenever you want to take photos indoors or in low light.

In general, this lens is excellent regarding a lot of stuff. Bokeh is very good due to 7 rounded blades and f/2.8 aperture when you use it at 50-55 mm, so you can take great portraits at almost ideal focal length for this purpose. Sharpness is the same as on Tamron’s lens, so you can count on very good sharpness throughout the whole range. Even when you keep the aperture fully open (at f/2.8) the image is very sharp (a bit less than on f/4.0 or 5.6 but still it’s a very good result). If you keep the aperture between f/5.6 and f/8 you will get the sharpness images.

Barrel and pincushion distortions are visible, but not too much. If you want to get geometrically straight photos you should aim for 20-30 mm. Vignetting is visible only on the wide end when you keep the aperture fully open, in other focal lengths, and with a more closed aperture. Chromatic aberration and lens flare are well-controlled. You can see chromatic aberrations only at the wide end.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video
Low light sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Fast aperture in the whole range;
  • Excellent for low light & indoor photography;
  • Very sharp in whole focal lengths and at all apertures;
  • Focus is fast, quiet, and accurate;
  • Very good background blur, useful for portraits;
  • Good materials, almost premium feeling in hand.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Pretty heavy;
  • Image stabilization is not the latest implementation;
  • Not weather sealed.
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM

Image source: Canon

Overview

If you bought a Canon camera with a KIT lens the great chances are that the KIT is 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. With this lens, you get 28.8-88 mm equivalent to 35 mm. 

The best advantage of this lens is its compact size and the fact that it’s lightweight. With a length of 2.96 in (75 mm) and a weight of 0.45 lb (205 g), this lens is among the lighter and most compact zoom lenses on the market. The filter diameter is 58 mm. The lens and its mount are made of plastic so it is pretty vulnerable to accidental drops. Also, the lens is not weather sealed. The minimum focus distance is 9.84″ (25 cm).

This lens doesn’t have a USM autofocus system, instead, there is an STM system that is also silent and fast (but not as fast as USM). Optical image stabilization works in the same way as on most other EF-S lenses and provides you 4 f-stops of compensation. Low light performance is ok on the wide end but not excellent because the maximum aperture size is f/3.5. On longer focal lengths it’s a lot worse and the maximum aperture size quickly drops to f/5.6.

In general, this lens produces solid optical performance. It’s not a brilliant lens, it will provide you with a solid performance especially if you take into consideration the compact size and that you may get it with your camera. At least, it’s a good backup travel lens for most people.

Bokeh is relatively good due to 7 rounded blades but solid background blur will appear if you take shots of close subjects with background on distance. However, considering that the lens is not fast, you should do this when there is enough light. You will be pleasantly surprised with very good sharpness even at 18 mm. However, for the best sharpness, you should adjust the aperture somewhere between f/8 and f/10. 

Barrel distortion exists at 18 mm but starts disappearing at around 30-35 mm. On the other hand, pincushion distortion exists on the long end. Vignetting exists at the widest aperture, but it’s not a huge problem if you close the aperture to a narrow value. Chromatic aberration exists on some level on almost the whole range. On the other hand, lens flare is very well-controlled.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Very compact and lightweight zoom lens (almost as prime lenses);
  • Solid optical performance;
  • Quiet and fast autofocus;
  • Good image stabilization.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Plastic build and mount, so it’s very vulnerable to drops;
  • There is nothing in which this lens excels;
  • Not so good for low light especially in longer lengths.

For Full-Frame & APS-C Cameras (EF Mount)

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Image source: Canon

Overview

This is an excellent lens from Canon devoted primarily to owners of Canon’s full-frame cameras. The focal length is 24-70 mm on full-frame cameras, but if you mount it on an APS-C camera you will get 38-112 mm. The lens is 3.7 in (113 mm) length and pretty heavy with 1.77 lb (805 g) in weight. The filter diameter is 82 mm and the minimum focus distance is 14.9 in (38 cm). Build materials are very good and the lens has a premium feel in your hands, plus the body is weather sealed.

Like other Canon lenses, it also has a USM autofocus system, so the autofocus is fast and very quiet, plus you can manually override it without a need to switch the selector to manual focus mode. Unfortunately, this lens doesn’t have image stabilization, but if you have a camera with in-body image stabilization it’s not an issue.

The optical performance of this lens is excellent. The maximum aperture is f/2.8 on the whole range, so it’s fast enough for low-light photos. Also, the bokeh is great due to 9 rounded blades diaphragm and you can easily create blurred background when you shoot in the long end (at 70 mm) especially if the subject is close and the background is on the distance. 

Canon’s lenses in the L series are well known for their superiority, so with this lens, you can count on a great performance in all aspects. The lens is sharp in all focal lengths and all apertures. It means that even at wide and long ends when the aperture is set to f/2.8 you will get a sharp image from corner to corner.

Barrel distortion is visible at 24 mm and it’s the rule of physics for zoom lenses that can not be avoided, but it’s easily avoided if with a short zoom to 30 mm. The good thing is also that vignetting almost doesn’t exist on this lens, even if you use a filter on the lens. Some photographers notice vignetting at the wide end when they attach 2 filters on the lens (i.e. if you attach UV and CPL filters). 

Chromatic aberration is well-controlled and can be seen only at wide and long ends. Lens flare is also well-controlled and if you use a lens hood that chance is that it won’t exist when you shoot in front of the light.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Very useful focal length range for full-frame cameras;
  • The excellent optical performance in almost all aspects;
  • Sharp image from corner to corner;
  • No vignetting;
    Rugged build materials, premium feeling in hands;
  • Weather sealed body.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Pretty heavy;
  • No image stabilization;
  • Not so good focal length range for APS-C cameras.
Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 SP XR Di LD Aspherical (IF)

Image source: Tamron

Overview

If Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM is too expensive or too heavy for you, this Tamron lens is a great alternative. The focal length is 28-75 mm on full-frame cameras (44.8-120 mm on APS-C cameras) which makes it very useful for everyday use on travel. 

This lens is 3.62 in (9.2 cm) length and 1.12 lb (510 g) weight. The minimum focus distance is 12.99 in (33 cm). Unfortunately, this lens is not weather sealed and doesn’t feel as premium as Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, but Tamron’s lens is cheaper so it’s expected.

Autofocus is fast, but if you use Canon USM lenses you will notice that it’s a bit slower and this can make a difference in action photography, but in everyday use, we’d say you won’t notice a difference. However, the autofocus motor is quiet almost like Canon’s. The biggest difference when you compare it to Canon is that there is no option to manually override autofocus except to switch the mode from auto to manual focus. This lens also doesn’t have image stabilization.

In general, this lens is excellent in terms of optical performance. Considering that the maximum aperture is f/2.8 on the whole range, this lens is fast enough to make great low light and indoor photos. Bokeh is great due to the 7 rounded blade diaphragm so you can make a blurred background easily when you use the lens at 70-75 mm with close subjects. 

The sharpness of images is another strong point of this lens. To be honest, there is a difference if you compare it with Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM when the aperture is open at f/2.8 especially in corners. However, if you close the aperture to f/4 Tamron is sharp, it performs pretty much like Canon, especially in the center. At 75 mm the sharpness drops rapidly in corners, but the center is still sharp enough.

Barrel and pincushion distortion exist on the wide end and long end and they are average and easily corrected in post-processing. Vignetting exists in corners when the aperture is wide open, especially in wide and long ends. If you use this lens on an APS-C camera, vignetting won’t be visible in any focal length even if you keep the aperture at f/2.8. On the other hand, chromatic aberrations and lens flare are controlled very well (but regarding lens flare, it stills better to have a lens hood attached).

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Very useful focal length range for full-frame cameras;
  • Relatively compact and lightweight (for its class);
  • Fast enough, good in low light, max. aperture f/2.8 in the whole range;
  • Excellent optical performance.

Cons for travel photography:

  • No image stabilization;
  • Not weather sealed body;
  • The image is soft in corners, especially at the long end.

Telephoto Lenses

For APS-C Cameras (EF-S Mount)

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM

Image source: Canon

Overview

It’s another lens that often exists in the KIT package alongside the previously mentioned EF-S 18-55mm. This lens is equipped with a very good focal length range that starts at 55 mm and provides lengths up to 250 mm. When you convert it to 35 mm standard it’s 88-400 mm range. 

For a telephoto lens, its dimensions are pretty small – the length 4.37 in (11.1 cm), the weight 0.83 lb (375 g). The filter size is 58 mm. Build and mount are the same as on EF-S 18-55mm – plastic in full which means that they are pretty vulnerable to drops, so you should be careful with them especially if you shoot outside. Also, it is not weather sealed. The minimum focus distance is 33.46 in (85 cm).

The autofocus system relies on a STM motor so it’s quiet and fast (not as fast as USM). Autofocus can be overridden any time without the need to switch the selector to manual focus. Image stabilization is very good and it’s capable of making 3.5 f-stops of compensation. The low light performance of this lens is not so good because the lens is not fast (maximum aperture size varies from f/4.0 at 50 mm to f/5.6 at 250 mm).

In general, the quality of images produced with this lens is very good. Bokeh is good considering the 7 blades rounded aperture and long focal length especially if you take photos of close subjects with a distant background at 200-250 mm (with enough light, of course). To be honest, you won’t get anything close to prime lenses specialized for portraits, but it will be useful for most purposes, even better than you might expect from a KIT lens. 

Sharpness is not something this lens is famous for, so you should expect softer images if you open the aperture at the max. size. We recommend closing the aperture to f/8-f/11 if you want to get sharp images. Need to say also that between 200 and 250 mm you should get more softness.

Barrel and pincushion distortions exist – you will notice barrel distortion the most between 55 and 75 mm. On the other hand precious distortion appears after 100 mm. Vignetting is well controlled, but chromatic aberration is visible. Lens flare control is very good, but in any case, we recommend you buy a hood.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video
Another sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Compact & lightweight;
  • Extremely useful focal length range;
  • Good bokeh.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Plastic build and mount, so it’s very vulnerable to any drop;
  • Not so good performance in low light.

For Full-Frame & APS-C Cameras (EF Mount)

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS II USM

Image source: Canon

Overview

This is our recommendation for travel photographers who want to take great zoom photos and photos with fantastic background blur, but don’t want to walk around with too heavy and bulky lenses. On a full-frame camera, its focal length is 70-200 mm, but if you use it on an APS-C camera you will get 112-320 mm, so telephoto capabilities are very good. 

The lens is 39.37 in (17.6 cm) length and 1.72 lb (780 g) weight. It used filters with a diameter of 72 mm and a minimum focus distance of 39.37 in (100 cm). Building materials are excellent, the lens is made of magnesium alloy and is weather sealed.

Autofocus is fast and extremely accurate. The image stabilization system is rated to 5 f-stops of compensation by CIPA and there are 3 IS modes. The maximum aperture is f/4 in the whole range so it’s pretty capable of low-light telephotos (most cheaper telephoto lenses have a much narrower maximum aperture size from f/5.6 to f/6.3 in equivalent focal lengths).

In general optical quality is superb. Bokeh is one of the best, so you will be able to isolate the subject from the background near to perfect. The reason for it is not just focal length but also Canon’s 9 rounded diaphragm blades. The sharpness is also excellent, so you will get sharp images through the whole frame and at all focal lengths even if you open the aperture to f/4. 

Barrel distortion exists at 70 mm on the same level as pincushion distortion exists at 200 mm. But to be honest, those are minimal distortions and shouldn’t be considered disadvantages because there are no zoom lenses that don’t have them (it’s physics). Vignetting is well-controlled throughout the whole range and you can barely notice it at 70 mm. On other focal lengths, vignetting does not exist. Chromatic aberration and lens flare are also well-controlled.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Not so bulky for a premium telephoto lens;
  • Fast and accurate autofocus;
  • Fantastic image stabilization with 3 modes;
  • Almost without distortions;
  • Weather sealed body.

Cons for travel photography:

  • For some users, it will be too big to walk around with it.

Prime Lenses

For Full-Frame & APS-C Cameras (EF Mount)

Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM

Image source: Canon

Overview

It’s one of the most popular Canon’s prime lenses because of its size and performance. The focal length is 50 mm on full-frame or 80 mm on APS-C cameras. It’s a very compact and lightweight lens – 1.54 in (3.9 cm) length and 0.35 lb (159 g) in weight. The filter diameter is 49 mm and the minimum focus distance is 13.78 in (35 cm). Materials are OK, but the lens is not weather sealed.

Autofocus is an STM and it’s fast and quiet. There is no image stabilization integrated, but the lens is extremely capable to make great low light photos because of its maximum aperture of f/1.8 (if you have a camera with in-body stabilization even better).

The optical performance of this lens is excellent. If you take photos with an aperture of f/1.8 you will get fantastic bokeh and a diaphragm with 7 rounded blades will ensure that the background is a blur. Sharpness is also very good if you take photos at f/2.8 or f/4. To be honest, if you use f/1.8 the image won’t be as sharp as on f/2.8 or f/4, but it’s not a disadvantage because you will use f/1.8 when you want to get great background blur. If you want a sharp image even on corners you should stick the aperture between f/5.6 and f/11.

Barrel distortion is almost not noticeable, especially if you use an APS-C camera. Vignetting is well-controlled and can be visible when the aperture is wide open (f/1.8) on full-frame cameras, but will easily disappear if you close the aperture a bit. On the APS-C camera vignetting is barely noticeable even at f/1.8. Chromatic aberration is well-controlled as well as lens flare.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video
Another sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Very compact and lightweight;
  • Excellent optical performance;
  • Superb background blurring;
  • Very fast and excel in low light;
  • Very sharp even in corners.

Cons for travel photography:

  • No image stabilization;
  • Not weather sealed;
  • Plastic build and mount, so it’s very vulnerable to any drop.
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM

Image source: Canon

Overview

If you use a full-frame camera and 50 mm seems to be too short, you should think about Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM. As the name said, the focal length of this camera is 85 mm on full-frame cameras and the field of view is similar to when you attach a 50 mm lens on an APS-C camera. If you attach this lens to an APS-C camera you will get 136 mm. 

The lens is compact with 2.81 in (7.2 cm) length, but it’s a bit heavier than Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM with 0.94 lb (425 g) in weight. The filter diameter is 58 mm and the minimum focus distance is 33.46 in (85 cm). This lens is made of plastic materials, but with a metal mount, so the quality is good. Unfortunately, this lens is not weather sealed.

Autofocus uses a USM system so it’s fast and accurate. This lens doesn’t have image stabilization. But considering it’s very fast with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 and you will get excellent low light photos.

In general, this lens has excellent optical performance. Bokeh is great due to the diaphragm with 8 blades, so if you shoot portraits, this lens is ideal for you because you will get a nice blurred background. 

Also, another strong point of this lens is sharpness which is very good even in corners. A slight drop in sharpness can be noticeable when you open the aperture at f/1.8, but it’s not so important because you will open the aperture when you want to get a nice background blur. There is no barrel distortion, and vignetting is visible when you fully open the aperture. Also, chromatic aberration and lens flare are very well-controlled.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Excellent optical performance;
  • Superb background blurring;
  • Very fast and excel in low light;
  • Very sharp even in corners;
  • Fantastic optical performance and distortion control.

Cons for travel photography:

  • No image stabilization;
  • Not weather sealed.

Ultra-Wide Zoom Lenses

For APS-C Cameras (EF-S Mount)

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM

Image source: Canon

Overview

This is one of the best choices for travel photographers who have an APS-C camera because it’s pretty compact and lightweight and enables you to get a very good diagonal field of view of 107°30′ at 10 mm. The focal length range is 10-18 mm which is 16-28.8 mm on the APS-C camera. 

As we mentioned, it’s a compact and lightweight lens. The length is 2.83 in (7.2 cm) and it’s 0.53 lb (240 g) in weight and this ensures that you can carry it in almost any additional pocket in your bag. The filter diameter is 67 mm, and the minimum focus distance is 8.66 in (22 cm). The lens is made of solid plastic, but it’s not weather sealed.

Autofocus is using an STM system that is absolutely quiet and you will like it if you are a video creator because this lens is great for vlogging. As with most other Canon lenses you can adjust the focus manually even if you are in autofocus mode without the danger of messing up the autofocus motor. The lens is equipped with a very good image stabilization capable of compensating up to 4 f-stops. In low light, this lens is not brilliant because the maximum aperture size is not wide enough in the wide end (f/4.5), but in the long end is even worse (f/5.6).

In general, this lens is capable of producing great photos because of its optical performance. Of course, you won’t mind bokeh when you buy an ultrawide lens, so we will skip it completely. On the other hand, this lens will produce very sharp images in all focal lengths. The good thing is that great sharpness persists even when the aperture is fully open. However, if you want to get sharp corners you should stick to an f/8-f/11 aperture. 

Barrel distortion is visible considering the angles but if you shot at 18 mm distortion is gone. Vignetting exists but it’s pretty well-controlled. On the other hand, chromatic aberration is more visible through the whole range. Lens flare exists in mid ranges especially if you close the aperture. If you shoot at 10 mm you won’t probably notice any flare. However, a lens hood is recommended to avoid flare as much as possible.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Compact and lightweight;
  • Fast & quiet autofocus;
  • Very good image stabilization (subjectively it seems to work better because of ultra-wide-angle);
  • The sharp image through the whole range.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Not weather sealed;
  • Not so fast for low-light photos;
  • Plastic build and mount, so it’s very vulnerable to any drop.
Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

Image source: Canon

Overview

It’s an older but still very good ultra-wide lens. The focal length range is 10-22 mm which is 16-35.2 mm on the APS-C camera. The field of view at the wide end is 107°30′. This lens is also compact and relatively lightweight. The length is 3.54 in (9 cm), and the weight is 0.85 lb (385 g). The focus diameter is 77 mm, and the minimum focus distance is 9.45 in (24 cm). The lens is built with plastic, but with a metal mount and it isn’t weather sealed.

Autofocus is relying on USM and it’s really fast, plus you can adjust the focus manually anytime even if you don’t switch it to manual focus mode. However, if you are a video creator, you should know that autofocus in Canon EF-S 10-18mm is quieter, especially if you don’t use an external microphone. And also this lens doesn’t have image stabilization. Low light performance is not excellent, but if you shoot at 10 mm it’s acceptable because the maximum aperture is f/3.5.

We will skip the bokeh for this lens as well, and move to sharpness. This lens is capable of providing very sharp images. There is some softness in the corners, but you can avoid it if you close the aperture somewhere between f/8 and f/11. 

Barrel distortion exists at 10 mm and disappears up at 18 mm, but at 22 mm you will see a bit of pincushion distortion. Vignetting exists when you keep an open aperture, but if you close it a bit, it will disappear. Chromatic aberration also exists on some level. On the other hand, lens flare is pretty well controlled, but if you have a lens hood, we recommend you attach it on bright sunny days or direct light.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Very compact;
  • Fast autofocus;
  • The sharp image through the whole range.

Cons for travel photography:

  • No image stabilization;
  • Not weather sealed.

For Full-Frame & APS-C Cameras (EF Mount)

Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM

Image source: Canon

Overview

If you have a full-frame Canon camera, previous 2 lenses won’t fit it, but this lens is capable of enabling ultra-wide-angle to your camera. The focal length is 16-35 mm on full-frame cameras and provides you a diagonal field of view of 108° 10′. If you mount it on an APS-C camera it’s not an ultra-wide lens and will have 26-56 mm of focal range. 

This lens is 4.44 in (11.3 cm) length and 1.36 lb (615 g) in weight. Filter diameter is 77 mm and the minimum focus distance is 11 in (28 cm). If you like to shoot outdoor photos in different weather conditions it’s worth saying this lens is weather sealed.

It uses a well-known USM autofocus system with the ability to override focus manually when it’s set in autofocus mode. Also, this lens is equipped with image stabilization capable of compensating 4 f-stops. Low light conditions are not something this lens likes the most, but it will provide you with solid performance because in a whole range maximum aperture is f/4.

Considering this lens is L series Canon, you probably expect excellent optical performance – and you will get it. The lens is sharp throughout the whole frame, within all focal lengths even if the aperture is fully open. 

You can not avoid barrel distortion in an ultra-wide lens, so this lens suffers from it as well on some (low to medium) level at the wide end. At 22 mm, you will get geometrically straight photos, and after this length, you will start noticing a bit of pincushion distortion. Vignetting is very well-controlled, so we can not say that you won’t notice it at 16 mm with a fully open aperture, but if you close it a bit, vignetting will mostly disappear. Chromatic aberration is also very well-controlled, and the same is with lens flare.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video

Pros for travel photography:

  • Fast & quiet autofocus;
  • Very good image stabilization;
  • The sharp image through the whole range;
  • Excellent optical performance with minimal distortions, very well-controlled vignetting and chromatic aberration.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Not a lightweight lens;
  • Low light performance is solid, but not excellent.

Conclusion

If you were in doubt about an ideal travel-friendly lens setup for your Canon DSLR camera, we are pretty sure that now things are clear.

The first thing is setting out the priorities. So, if you prioritize having a lightweight set you should choose a single lens that is a jack of all trades but not excel in anything particular except to make your travel camera set compact and lightweight while at the same time cover long-range and virtually replace 2 or 3 lenses.

If you want the balance between the size of your set and the quality, you should think about packing 2 lenses. With this setup, you might cover pretty much the same range but also get fantastic quality in wide to mid-range in the first lens and combine it with a second lens for telephoto, great portraits, and background blurring options.

In the end, if you are looking for a travel lens setup without any compromises, you will probably pack more than 2 lenses in your bag. In this case, it all depends on your personal choice.

What’s your choice for the best travel lenses? Do you travel with a single lens, 2 lenses, or even more? Is there anything else we haven’t covered? Let us know!

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