Best Travel Lenses for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Best travel lenses for Nikon 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 Nikon 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 Nikon DSLR cameras:

TitleBuy
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VRBuy Today on Amazon
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR IIBuy Today on Amazon
Sigma 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSMBuy Today on Amazon
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VRBuy Today on Amazon
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VRBuy Today on Amazon
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR IIBuy Today on Amazon
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VRBuy Today on Amazon
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VRBuy Today on Amazon
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8GBuy Today on Amazon
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8GBuy Today on Amazon
Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VRBuy Today on Amazon
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VRBuy Today on Amazon

All-Round Lenses

For APS-C Cameras (F Mount - DX)

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR

Image source: Nikon

Overview

If you have a camera with a DX mount and don’t want to handle too many compromises in a 1-lens setup we recommend you take this lens into consideration.

The focal length is 18-105 mm which translates to 27-157 mm on APS-C cameras. For most travelers, these end lengths will work in almost every situation. 

The lens is compact and relatively lightweight because of the plastic barrel and mount. It’s just 3.5 in (8.9 cm) in length and the weight is 0.93 lb (420 g). The disadvantage of this setup is that it’s not weather sealed.

Filter diameter is 67 mm and the minimum focus distance is 17.72 in (45 cm) which means that you can count it for some close-ups as well. The autofocus system is silent so it’s a good choice for video creators. As with most other Nikon lenses you can manually override autofocus without worrying that you will break the focus motor. The lens has an internal focus which means that it stays fixed and doesn’t rotate while focusing. It’s not the fastest autofocus system, but it’s fast enough.

It’s not a breathing-free lens, but you won’t suffer from it when you have enough light and shoot at wide-end even in low light. Image stabilization is solid, but not the latest generation, so it offers you 3 f-stops of compensation. When you shoot in low light at wide-end the outcome will be solid (not perfect because f/3.5 is not wide enough), but in longer lengths, you shouldn’t expect miracles because of its’ too narrow aperture.

Bokeh is good in terms of quality of background blurs at longer focal lengths because the lens has an iris diaphragm with 7 rounded blades. 

You will like that sharpness is almost constant throughout the whole range except the long-end which is noticeably softer. Of course, it doesn’t mean that the image is razor-sharp through the whole range. That means that the center of the image is pretty sharp but corners are a bit softener. The best sharpness (throughout the whole frame) is in the middle of the range when you keep the aperture between f/6.3 and f/8.

If your camera doesn’t have in-camera distortion correction (or if you shoot in NEF/RAW) you will notice some barrel distortion at the wide-end. We would say that barrel distortion is visible from 18 to 25 mm. On the other hand, pincushion distortion is visible in longer lengths (most visible between 80 and 105 mm). 

Vignetting is visible at the wide-end but you can reduce it if you close the aperture. The same goes for chromatic aberration which is visible at wide-end mostly. Flare is well-controlled and visible only when you put the camera directly toward the light source.

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:

  • Useful zoom range for most situations;
  • Relatively compact;
  • Great sharpness in central parts of the image;
  • Precise autofocus system.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Image stabilization is not the latest (3 f-stops of compensation while competitors offer 4-5 f-stops);
  • Plastic mount and barrel (you should be careful to not drop the camera);
  • Not weather sealed.
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II

Image source: Nikon

Overview

Some people say that it’s the best travel lens made for anyone who wants to carry just one lens. Others say that there are many compromises you need to make with a long-range lens. Actually, the truth is somewhere in between. This lens is not perfect, but when you take into consideration how much range you cover with it, all disadvantages drop into the water. To put it simply – this lens is not brilliant in any particular thing (except zoom range) but it’s good enough on all others. 

The focal lenght is 18-200 mm and it covers 27-300 mm on APS-C cameras. 

We can’t say it’s compact and lightweight even relatively, because it isn’t, but it’s not too big and too heavy. With a length of 3.8 in (9.6 cm) and a weight of 1.23 lb (560 g), it will for sure fit into your bag, and this single lens is definitely lighter than if you carry 2 or 3 lenses in a bag. Filter diameter is 72 mm while the minimum focus distance is 19.68 in (50 cm). Unfortunately, this lens is not weather sealed so if you use a weather sealed camera you should have in mind that the lens isn’t.

Autofocus uses the Silent Wave Motor and it ensures that it operates fast and silently. Also, the lens doesn’t rotate while focusing which is good to know if you attach filters (to avoid unwanted behavior of CPL or ND filters). 

Image stabilization is good and it consists of 2 modes: normal VR in 2-axis ideal for panning in videos, and active VR which stabilizes in 4-axis. In real life, it provides 4 f-stops of compensation. Low light performance is acceptable at the wide-end especially if you don’t avoid higher ISOs. However, for longer ranges, the maximum aperture will quickly drop to f/5.6.

If you are also going to use this lens for portraits and close-ups, bokeh quality is very good and background blur will be nice with the 7-blade circular diaphragm. 

Sharpness is solid if you take into consideration the extreme range. When we say solid we mean that at wide-end you will get sharp central parts of the image with almost all apertures, but corners will be soft till you close the aperture toward f/8-f/11. You can expect similar sharpness in mid ranges. At 200 mm sharpness is acceptable in the center, but corners are soft.

Distortions are expected for a super zoom lens like this. Barrel distortion is visible between 18 and 25 mm, while pincushion distortion is visible between 80 and 200 mm. Vignetting is visible on wide apertures. On the other hand, chromatic aberration is well-controlled. Lens flare is visible when a light source is on the front of you, but you can avoid it with a lens hood.

Samples

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

Pros for travel photography:

  • Extremely useful zoom range for traveling (focal range is equivalent to 2-3 other lenses);
  • Not so big or too heavy (it’s not a compact lens, of course, but it’s travel-friendly);
  • Good image stabilization with 2 modes (normal and active);
  • Good sharpness in the center parts of the image;
  • Built with good materials.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Soft images on telephoto lengths, especially corners;
  • Not so resistant to lens flare;
  • Not weather sealed.
Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM

Image source: Sigma

Overview

It’s an even more versatile lens than the previous Nikkor 18-200, at least in terms of range. The focal length for this lens is 18-300 mm which means that it’s 27-450 mm on APS-C cameras. 

It’s also a bit bigger and heavier than the Nikkor 18-200. Length is 3.99 in (10 cm) and weight is 1.28 lb (585 g). The filter diameter is 72 mm and the minimum focus distance is 15.3 in (39 cm). Unfortunately, this lens is also not weather sealed.

Autofocus is good with a good light. It’s fast, precise, and quiet considering it uses Hyper Sonic Motor. Unlike Nikon lenses, Tamron doesn’t offer a full-time manual override of autofocus. So, if you want to focus manually you will need to change the mode first

Image stabilization offers 3.5 f-stops of compensation. Low light performance is so-so at wide-end but the aperture is too narrow for good low-light photos at longer lengths.

Bokeh is not so beautiful regardless of the 7-blades rounded diaphragm, but you can use it for some close-ups and portraits and results are OK (nothing special, but ok). Sharpness is ok for a super-zoom lens. Corners are a bit softer on all lengths, but on longer lengths, the center of the image also slightly drops in sharpness. The best performance happens if you close the aperture a bit till f/8-f/11.

Barrel distortion is visible on the wide-end if your camera doesn’t have automatic correction enabled. Also at the wide-end, you can notice some vignetting. On the other hand, chromatic aberration is visible throughout the whole range (but it’s expected for any super zoom lens). Lens flare can be visible when direct light is in front of you, but in practice, it’s easily avoidable especially considering very good multi-layer coating.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on Pixel Peeper

Pros for travel photography:

  • Fantastic zoom range (16.7x);
  • Good sharpness through most of the range, especially in central parts of the frame;
  • Fast and precise autofocus;
  • Good materials;
  • Travel-friendly size and weight.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Bokeh is not a strong point;
  • No full-time manual override of autofocus;
  • Not weather sealed.

For Full-Frame & APS-C Cameras (F Mount - FX)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR

Image source: Nikon

Overview

If you have a full-frame Nikon camera (with FX mount) and want to have a single lens that will cover everything from wide to telephoto, this lens should definitely be on your wishlist.

On the wide-end, the lens starts at 28 mm and you can zoom in by 300 mm (on APS-C cameras it ranges from 42 mm to 450 mm). So, the usefulness of this lens is fantastic. 

Unfortunately, the trade-off you need to accept is that the lens is pretty heavy. With a length of 4.51 in (11.5 cm), it’s not on the big side, but the weight of 1.76 lb (800 g) moves this lens into the heavy-weight category. If you want to attach filters you should buy a 77 mm one. 

The minimum focus distance is 19.69 in (50 cm). Materials used for this lens are OK, even though the body is made mostly of plastic, the mount is metal. It’s worth mentioning this lens is not weather sealed, so if your camera is weather sealed, please don’t forget that this lens isn’t.

Autofocus uses Silent Wave Motor, so as the name describes the lens is quiet. It’s good in terms of speed. You can manually override autofocus anytime. You can notice focus breathing at longer lengths of range, especially if there is not enough light. 

Image stabilization works well as on other lenses with VR II technology, so it means that there is also active VR mode, besides normal mode. Image stabilization is capable of compensating 4 f-stops, so it helps in low light when you take photos of static subjects.

There are 9 rounded blades and this lens is capable of producing great bokeh when you zoom between 200 and 300 mm. So, for close-ups and portraits this lens works pretty well at longer lengths. The optical performance for such a long-range lens is solid.

Sharpness varies on different focal lengths. At the wide-end, the image is sharp in the center and a bit soft on the corners. This is especially noticed when you fully open the aperture. If you want to get the sharpness results you need to close the aperture till f/8-f/11. In the mid-ranges situation is similar and for the best results, you should close the aperture between f/8 and f/11. A significant drop in sharpness you will notice on telephoto lengths. Between 200 and 300 mm, the image is quite softer especially at corners and for best results, you should keep the aperture at f/10 and f/11.

Barrel and pincushion distortions shouldn’t be a problem with cameras capable of auto-correct in JPEG, but if you take NEF (RAW) images you will see a lot of them especially at wide-end and long-end. For a non-distortion image, you should aim to 35-50 mm lengths. However, even if you take photos in NEF/RAW you can easily fix it in Lightroom or other post-processing apps.

On the other hand vignetting is controlled very well, and you can see it at the wide-end when you open the aperture to the max. (f/3.5). If you close the aperture or zoom corner shading will be much less visible or even invisible. Chromatic aberration is present but you can easily fix it in post-processing apps. Lens flare is average, but if you want to minimize it, we suggest you buy a lens hood.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on 500px

Pros for travel photography:

  • Excellent zoom range for travel photography (10.7x);
  • Solid sharpness at wide-end and mid ranges;
  • Effective image stabilization in photo and video modes;
  • Good materials.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Not weather sealed;
  • Image is softer in corners at longer ranges;
  • Pretty heavy.
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4 G ED VR

Image source: Nikon

Overview

It’s another all-round lens option mainly intended for travelers who use Nikon (full-frame) cameras with FX mount. The focal length is very usable and starts at 24 mm, while you can zoom up to 120 mm (on cropped cameras with an APS-C sensor it’s 36-180 mm). So, the lens is pretty versatile in wide and mid ranges. 

Pretty much as Nikkor 28-300 this lens is a bit heavy. It’s not too bulky in terms of length – 4.07 in (10.4 cm), but it’s 1.57 lb (710 g) in weight. The filter diameter is 77 mm and the minimum focus distance is 17.72 in (45 cm). Unfortunately, this lens doesn’t have a weather sealed body so you should be aware of it if you have a camera with a weather sealed body.

Autofocus uses the Silent Wave Motor and it’s pretty quiet, precise, and quick in all light conditions. Also, there is support for full-time manual focus override when you are in autofocus (M/F) mode. 

Image stabilization uses the 2nd generation of Nikon’s VR technology which means that there are normal and active modes and it’s capable of compensating up to 4 f-stops. Low light performance is ok, but it’s clear that this lens is not intended for low light photography, considering the maximum aperture is f/4. The good side is that the maximum aperture is constant throughout the whole range.

The lens has 9 rounded blades diaphragm which ensures very good bokeh quality for portraits and close-ups. 

Optically, it performs excellent for an all-round lens. So, the overall sharpness is very good. Meanwhile, when you open the aperture at f/4 you will notice some softness, especially in corners. However, at the wide-end, the image is sharp throughout the whole frame. The best results you will get between f/8 and f/11. In mid-ranges, the sharpness is perfect even with an open aperture. On longer lengths (80-120 mm), sharpness drops and if you want to get a sharper image you should avoid using a fully open aperture (f/4).

If you have a camera with automatic distortion correction we suggest you turn it on, because this lens suffers from distortion. At wide-end barrel distortion is huge and pincushion distortion is noticeable even at mid-range. However, this lens doesn’t have too much corner shading/vignetting. You can barely notice it when the aperture is open at f/4 but it disappears when you stopping down to f/5.6. Chromatic aberration is also noticeable, especially at f/4. Flare and ghost control is just average, however, the lens hood is always recommended.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on 500px
Sample video
Video stabilization test

Pros for travel photography:

  • Good zoom range for a single lens setup (5x);
  • Constant maximum aperture (f/4) throughout the whole range;
  • Good sharpness, especially at wide-end and mid-ranges;
  • Effective image stabilization at both photo & video modes;
  • Good build quality.

Cons for travel photography:

  • A bit heavier;
  • If you shoot mainly in NEF (RAW) format or don’t have a camera with automatic distortion correction, count on them almost through the whole range;
  • The generally softer image at the long-end;
  • No weather sealing.

Wide Zoom Lenses

For APS-C Cameras (F Mount - DX)

Image source: Nikon

Overview

It’s one of the most common lenses you will get with Nikon DX cameras as a KIT lens. However, this lens is also useful and it is a great starting point in a 2-lens setup for travels especially considering that the lens is pretty compact and lightweight with a length of 2.6 in (6.6 cm) and a weight of 0.43 lb (195 g). The reason for it is because the lens is built mainly with plastic. However, for the lens of this price range, it’s not surprise that it’s not weather sealed.

The lens cover ranges from 18 to 55 mm (effectively you will get 27-82 mm). Filter diameter is 52 mm and minimum focus distance is 11.02 in (28 cm), so it’s not a macro lens, but you can use it for short close-ups (i.e. taking photos of flowers or so on).

The autofocus system is good and it uses Silent Wave Motor. Obviously, it’s not fast like on other more expensive lenses but it’s pretty accurate and practically silent. Need to say that there is no rotation of front elements while focusing or zooming, so you can use CPL filters without needing to adjust them more times. 

The image stabilization system is able to compensate up to 4 f-steps which is usable and standard with more expensive lenses. The lens is not bright, obviously, but you can use it for low light shoots when it is on the wide-end. The maximum aperture, in this case, is f/3.5 which is clearly not enough to get great low light images with low ISO values, but if you are comfortable using higher ISOs, you can use it even in low light conditions. When you want to zoom in, the maximum aperture quickly drops to f/5.6 and this is too narrow an aperture for low light shooting. So, low light shots at wide-end are so-so, but for longer lengths it is clearly a no-no.

The lens is equipped with 7 bladed diaphragms which in theory can enable good bokeh, but considering that this lens is too short at the long end (55 mm) and that maximum aperture is too narrow (f/5.6) you shouldn’t expect great bokeh quality. Of course, there will be some blurriness in the background when you shoot close-ups, but you shouldn’t expect great bokeh quality that you can get with lenses with longer end or wider maximum aperture.

For a KIT lens of that price, we can say that you will be pretty surprised with the sharpness of the image. Practically, sharpness can compete with more expensive lenses. The wide-end image is solid sharp even when the aperture is fully open, however, you will notice some softness at the edges. But if you stop down the aperture to f/8-f/10 even corners will become sharp. We can say that the same results you will get throughout the whole range as well.

On the other hand distortion control is not a strong point for this lens. Barrel distortion is heavily visible from 18-35 mm, after that the image will be without distortion till 55 mm where you can see some pincushion distortion. However, we recommend (if your camera allows it) to use auto distortion control features and get rid of them completely (at least in JPEG, while if you take RAW photos you can remove them easily in Lightroom/Photoshop or other post-processing software).

Vignetting is also visible, especially at wider lengths when you use wide apertures. However, if you stop down you will reduce corner shading or it will completely disappear. Chromatic aberration is also visible when you use longer lengths but it’s well-controlled at wider lengths when the aperture is fully open. The good thing is that lens flare and ghosts are reduced and much less visible even if a strong light source is in front of you.

Samples

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

Pros for travel photography:

  • Compact and really lightweight;
  • Good image stabilization;
  • Autofocus accuracy;
  • Sharp images throughout the whole range;
  • Almost silent autofocus motor.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Autofocus is not the fastest one;
  • Vignetting and chromatic aberration are visible;
  • Strong distortion at the wide-end;
  • Not so good in low light.

For Full-Frame & APS-C Cameras (F Mount - FX)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f3.5-4.5G ED VR

Image source: Nikon

Overview

If you have a full-frame DSLR this lens will suit perfectly because it covers a 24-85 mm range. On APS-C DSLRs it’s not so wide at wide-end but you will get a solid telephoto end (36-127 mm). However, considering that we already recommended a wide-zoom lens for APS-C DSLRs, we will focus on how this lens performs on full-frame cameras.

This lens is relatively compact unlike some other lenses on full-frame cameras. Its length 3.23 in (8.2 cm) and its weight is 1.07 lb (485 g). Filter diameter is 72 mm, while the minimum focus distance is 14.96 in (38 cm). It’s built with solid materials, but it’s not a completely weather sealed lens. However, the lens is sealed enough to prevent dust from getting inside, but it isn’t enough to call it weather sealed.

The good side is that the lens uses an internal focus feature and the lens neither extends nor rotates. Also, there is support for autofocus with manual overriding in M/A mode. Autofocus uses Silent Wave Motor which means that it’s quick and silent. Autofocus is pretty resistant to breathing so you don’t need to worry that you will get bad video due to constant refocusing in lower light conditions. 

Image stabilization is solid and enables you to compensate up to 4 f-stops. At wide-end in conjunction with image stabilization it can perform solidly especially if you are ok with a bit higher ISOs, but at longer lengths aperture is narrow (f/4.5) which limits low light capabilities.

Considering that the lens has 7 rounded blades diaphragm and can reach 85 mm it’s capable of making bokeh and separate subjects from the background in close-ups, but the quality of the bokeh is not fantastic because you are limited to f/4.5 as a maximum aperture at long-end. However you can improve it a bit when you try to be as close as possible to the subject, but it’s clear that this lens is not intended to make great portraits and close-ups, but to be good for landscapes/cityscapes and more general use.

Sharpness is generally very good throughout the whole range. The wide-end center of the frame is sharp, but the edges are quite softer. It can be improved if you stop down the aperture to f/8-f/11. On mid-ranges sharpness, the behavior is pretty much the same, but when you use the end of the range (between 70 and 85 mm) the image is a bit softer throughout the whole frame when the aperture is fully open. Again, you can prevent it if you stop it down to f/8-f/10.

Barrel distortion is pretty visible at wide-end and if you want to avoid it you should zoom to 35 mm. Pincushion distortion is visible on other focal lengths. In any case, we recommend you to keep on automatic distortion correction to avoid them at least in JPEG s. Vignetting is also visible especially at the wide-end while you open the aperture to f/3.5, but you can reduce corner shading when you stop it down a bit (f/5.6-f/6.3). Chromatic aberration is well-controlled as well as lens flare and ghosting.

Samples

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

Pros for travel photography:

  • Relatively compact;
  • Internal focus and zoom while the lens stays fixed (no rotation or extension);
  • Pretty useful range;
  • Fast and silent autofocus;
  • Effective image stabilization.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Edges are a bit softer at wider apertures;
  • Vignetting is visible at wide angles.

Telephoto Lenses

For Full-Frame & APS-C Cameras (F Mount - FX)

Image source: Nikon

Overview

It’s a very versatile telephoto lens suitable for both full-frame and APS-C cameras. It covers range from 70-200 mm on full-frame bodies or 105-300 mm on APS-C. The length is 7.05 in (17.9 cm) and the weight is 1.87 lb (850 g). Filter diameter is 67 mm and minimum focus distance is 39.37 in (100 cm). 

It doesn’t offer weather protection so we don’t recommend using it in heavy rain. For fully weather sealed lenses you should think about NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II which is bigger, heavier, and a lot more expensive. However, if you are comfortable with not using the lens in rain or snowfall it will work perfectly for you.

The autofocus system is very good in terms of speed and accuracy. Also, you can override manual focus in autofocus mode, and don’t need to worry if you broke the autofocus motor. When we mention autofocus motor the lens uses Silent Wave Motor and it’s quiet enough for video shooters. 

Image stabilization is excellent and offers up to 5 f-stops of compensation (a lot of competitor lenses offer just 4 f-steps of compensation). Also, there are 2 modes – passive and active. Passive is intended to stabilize vertical movements, while in active mode it corrects in 4 axes. Low light performance is just ok, but the good side is that you have a constant maximum aperture throughout the whole range.

Bokeh and background blurring is on excellent level. The lens has 9 rounded blades diaphragm which makes nice background blurring in close-ups.

Sharpness is another strong point of this lens. At the wide-end, it’s sharp on the whole frame even if you open the aperture to the max. At mid-ranges it’s still very sharp when the aperture is fully open (f/4) but you will notice that the image is even sharper if you stop down the aperture to f/5.6-f/6.3. At long-end it’s still very sharp, but you will notice some softness when you open the aperture at f/4, so it’s better to keep it somewhere between f/6.3 and f/8.

You don’t need to worry too much about distortion because newer DSLRs can correct it, but if you shoot in RAW and won’t correct the image automatically in post-processing software you will notice some barrel distortion at 70 mm and also some pincushion distortion at longer focal lengths. But as we said, most newer DSLRs will correct it automatically in JPEG mode while in RAW you can correct it easily in post-processing.

Also, the lens doesn’t suffer from vignetting and you can use filters without worrying that they will produce more vignetting, even on full-frame (FX) cameras. Chromatic aberration is also not a problem. Lens flare and ghosts effects are on the standard level that is expected for a lens that covers such a huge range. So, in most cases, if you pay attention to the lighting source’s position and especially if you use a lens hood, you won’t have problems with flare and ghosts, and you can control them easily.

Samples

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

Pros for travel photography:

  • Very useful zoom range;
  • Not extremely big and too heavy for a telephoto range with very good optical performance (much better than on entry-level telephoto lenses);
  • Sharp image throughout the whole range;
  • No vignetting;
  • Fantastic image stabilization.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Plastic barrel so you should pay attention to avoid drops;
  • No weather sealing.

Prime LensEs

For Full-Frame & APS-C Cameras (F Mount - FX)

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G

Image source: Nikon

Overview

The focal length of this lens is almost ideal for both worlds – on the full-frame you will get 50 mm, while on APS-C cameras you will get 75 mm. 

Also, it’s pretty compact and with a length of 2.07 in (5.3 cm) and a weight of 0.41 lb (185 g), it will easily become one of your main companions while traveling. So, there is no chance you won’t have enough space to keep this lens in your backpack when you want to get some nice background blur or fantastic low-light photos. Filter diameter is 58 mm while the minimum focus distance is 17.72 in (45 cm). The lens is made of plastic mainly, and it’s not weather sealed and those 2 are the only trade-offs.

Autofocus uses Silent Wave Motor which is accurate and silent and offers you to override autofocus in any mode. We need to mention that there is no image stabilization integrated. Low light performance is excellent considering the maximum aperture is f/1.8.

Of course, bokeh is also fantastic so with this lens you will easily isolate the subject from the background in any lighting condition. This lens is also very sharp so you can expect fantastic sharpness even when the aperture is fully open. If you stop down the aperture to f/2.8-f/5.6 its sharpness will be even better.

There is some barrel distortion but it’s easily avoidable with turned on automatic distortion correction in most Nikon cameras. Vignetting is almost invisible (and will completely go away when you stop down the aperture to f/4) so you won’t bother about corners shading. The presence of chromatic aberration is average and you can correct it easily. Nikon uses Super Integrated Coating to reduce lens flare and ghosting, so you can rely on that the lens is pretty good in terms of lens flare handling.

Samples

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

Pros for travel photography:

  • Very compact and lightweight;
  • Excellent in low light;
  • Bokeh is superb;
  • Very sharp even aperture is widely open.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Autofocus is not the fastest;
  • Not weather sealed;
  • No image stabilization.
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G

Image source: Nikon

Overview

Maybe 50 mm is not enough for you, especially if you use a full-frame camera. In that case, you can consider this lens which has the same low light capability and bokeh performance but will add 35 mm more in length – on full-frame this fixed lens covers 85 mm, while on APS-C it covers 127 mm. 

This lens is a bit bigger than Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G, but it’s still more compact than most wide-zoom lenses with a length of 2.87 in (7.3 cm) and a weight of 0.77 lb (350 g) The filter diameter is 67 mm and the minimum focus distance is 31.5 in (80 cm). Also, this lens is weather sealed while Nikkor 50 mm isn’t.

Autofocus uses Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor which ensures silent, fast, and accurate focus capabilities in all lighting conditions (including low light). The lens doesn’t extend nor rotate so you won’t need to readjust filters once you mount it. Also, it enables you to override autofocus anytime. Unfortunately, this lens doesn’t have image stabilization integrated, but low light performance is superb because of the maximum aperture of f/1.8.

Bokeh is also excellent due to the combination of 7 rounded blades diaphragm, the focal length of 85 mm, and a wide maximum aperture of f/1.8. Pretty much as Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8G this lens has excellent optical performance and the image is sharp throughout the whole frame. The difference in sharpness between apertures is really small, so you can be sure that images at f/5.6 will be just a bit sharper than at f/1.8. Barrel distortion is barely visible and even on RAW photos, it can be corrected with a few clicks.

Vignetting is visible when you open aperture to f/1.8 but it is easily avoidable if you stop it down to f/2.8. Chromatic aberration is well-controlled and the only potential problem is a longitudinal aberration which can be visible in some situations when you open aperture at max. But it’s normal for most fast prime lenses and competitor’s primes also suffer from it. Considering that Nikon added Nano coating lens flare and ghosting are well-controlled, but we can’t say that the lens is completely flare resistant.

Samples

Gallery of sample images on Photography Blog
Gallery of sample images on Onfotolife
Gallery of sample images on 500px

Pros for travel photography:

  • Fantastic focal length especially when the lens is attached to a full-frame (FX) camera;
  • Superb optical performance;
  • Top-notch sharpening;
  • Weather sealed.

Cons for travel photography:

  • No image stabilization;
  • Vignetting is visible when the aperture is fully opened.

Ultra-Wide Zoom Lenses

For APS-C Cameras (F Mount - DX)

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR

Image source: Nikon

Overview

For APS-C cameras you need to have a wider lens in order to get an ultra-wide-angle when converting it to 35 mm format. With this in mind, Nikkor 10-20 will suit much better for APS-C cameras because you will get 15 mm at wide-end. 

Also, the lens is travel-friendly with a length of 2.87 in (7.3 cm) and a weight of 0.51 lb (230 g). The filter diameter is 72 mm and the minimum focus distance is 8.66 in (22 cm). We need to mention that the lens is not weather sealed.

Autofocus uses stepping motors and it’s quick and quiet. The good thing is there is the internal focus which means that there is no rotation or extensions and the lens is more resistant to dust getting inside. Also if you use CPL or variable ND filters you won’t need to readjust them. 

Image stabilization offers 3.5 f-stops of compensation which is fairly good for an ultra-wide lens. Stabilization works pretty well for video shooters as well (theys will also love smooth focus transitions). The maximum aperture is a bit narrow and this lens will not suit well for handheld low light photos except you are comfortable with using high ISOs and getting more noise.

Bokeh is one of the things you won’t pay attention to much on an ultra-wide lens so we need to let you know that the lens uses 7 rounded blades diaphragm and if you want to take photos with the isolated subject and smooth background, we recommend you to take another lens.

The overall sharpness is pretty good. At wide-end when you shoot at f/4.5 (maximum aperture) you will notice that the image is a bit soft in corners, but if you stop it down to f/8 you will get the best results. Central sharpness is almost the same throughout the whole range. Mid-ranges lengths are almost equally sharp in the center and in corners, while at the long end (20 mm) corners are a bit softer even if you stop down the aperture.

Considering that barrel distortion is high at the wide-end we recommend you turn on automatic distortion correction on your camera. You will get rid of some of the wide angles as well (because the camera will crop corners a bit) but it’s a trade-off. Another way is to turn it off and manually remove distortion in post-processing. However, in the long end, there is no distortion at all.

Vignetting is visible at wide-end when you shoot with a fully open aperture, but you can reduce it when you stop down aperture or zoom in (or both). The level of chromatic aberration is about average on most of the range, but a bit stronger on the wide-end. On the other hand, lens flare and ghosting are controlled very well.

Last but not least we want to stress out that once you decide to buy this lens you need to pay attention if your DSLR camera is compatible with the AF-P system of this lens because on older cameras you won’t be able to use autofocus.

Samples

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

Pros for travel photography:

  • Very travel-friendly size and weight;
  • Internal focus (not rotation, no extension, no dust or air getting inside);
  • The overall sharpness is pretty good on most of the range;
  • Lens flare and ghosting are controlled very well.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Not weather sealed;
  • Too narrow maximum aperture for low light photos (especially at 20 mm);
  • The level of chromatic aberration is a bit stronger on the wide-end.

For Full-Frame & APS-C Cameras (F Mount - FX)

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR

Image source: Nikon

Overview

If you have a full-frame Nikon DSLR this is the ultimate choice for an ultra-wide lens. It covers 16-35 mm which is pretty useful. On APS-C bodies it’s cropped and covers 24-52 mm so it becomes a wide-zoom lens so we won’t cover how this lens behaves on APS-C (for APS-C Nikkor 10-20 we outlined previously would be a much better choice in terms of ultra-wide-angle). 

It’s not a compact and lightweight lens, but its performance justifies the size. Length is 4.92 in (12.5 cm) and weight is 1.51 lb (685 g). Filter diameter is 77 mm and the minimum focus distance is 11.02 in (28 cm). The lens is built with very good materials – there is a plastic barrel, but in combination with magnesium alloy and a metal mount. And this building ensures that the lens is fully weather sealed.

Autofocus performance is excellent in all aspects (speed, accuracy, and noise level) considering it uses a Silent Wave motor. There is an option to override autofocus manually without changing mode to manual. The lens is equipped with VR II image stabilization which compensates up to 4 f-stops. For low light, this lens is not great, but still solid. Meaning that f/4 is not as wide aperture as we would like to have in low light but the good thing is that the maximum aperture is constant throughout the whole range.

As always with ultra-wide lenses, bokeh is not something that should be a deal breaker, because these lenses aren’t produced to take photos of close-ups or portraits. However, this lens is equipped with a diaphragm with 9 rounded blades and can make some light bokeh, this lens is not made for portraits or close-ups, but instead to make great landscapes or architectural photography.

The most important point for its optical performance is an extreme level of sharpness. A wide-end even if the aperture is fully open at f/4 you will get a sharp image especially in the center. If you step it down to f/5.6-f.6.3 corners will become sharp as the center of the image. At mid-ranges you will get sharp center and corners in all apertures, while at the long-end center is a bit sharper than corners.

Barrel distortion is visible at the wide-end, when you zoom to 20-24 mm image will be without geometrical distortion, and after 24 mm till the long end, you can notice some pincushion distortion. However, if your camera is able to autocorrect it, just turn this feature on and you will forget about distortion. On NEF (RAW) photos you will correct it easily in Photoshop/Lightroom or whichever post-processing tool you use. 

This lens is also very good in vignetting control so the chance is that you won’t see any vignetting when you keep the aperture at f/8 or so. Chromatic aberration is also well-controlled, as well as lens flare and ghosting.

Samples

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

Pros for travel photography:

  • Fantastic optical performance;
  • Good image stabilization;
  • Very nice building materials;
  • Weather sealed.

Cons for travel photography:

  • Barrel distortion on the wide-end.

Conclusion

If you were in doubt about an ideal travel-friendly lens setup for your Nikon 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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