Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I have recently purchased a Canon 5D Mark II, which is quite a step up from my previous 450D. I am hoping to purchase some lenses that would be most versatile primarily for travelling photography (Europe), keeping in mind I will be carrying them with me everywhere I go. I am hoping to purchase 2 (3 at the most) lenses, that are middle of the range in cost (I'm not a professional). I'm hoping I could get some suggestions on what 2-3 lenses individuals would pick if in my circumstance. And any thoughts on whether I should consider lenses from the Sigma range.

I am also hoping to purchase a suitable flash. I have never had the need to purchase a flash before so I have no idea where to start. I don't expect I will need to use this very often however would like the option available when required. Any advice on purchasing a flash would also be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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possible duplicate of What lenses would best comprise a travel photography kit? –  mattdm Aug 21 '12 at 3:47
    
What lenses do you own at present? –  Edd Aug 21 '12 at 7:16

2 Answers 2

I used to own a Canon 5D MII for the longest time, and upgraded to the 5D MIII recently. You won't be disappointed, it's a beautiful machine.

  • When I'm low on space, I usually travel with one lens, the Canon 24-105mm f/4.0 L IS USM kit lens. It's a great all-around lens with a satisfying focal range, nice build quality, L glass, and it's stabilized. The only downside is that it's a f/4.0, therefore it doesn't perform that well hand-held in low-light (say at night, at concerts, bars or venues). You can get it around $1100 new I think, $800 used.

  • If I have a bit more space, I also carry the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM to solve the aforementioned low-light problem. I love ambient light and I try not to rely on a flash. The 50mm f/1.4 is a good prime lens, small, and very "fast" (in terms of aperture). At about $350, it's a great value. It eats light, letting you pretty much shoot in the dark. It's also small and reasonably light, not a bad choice if you are into street photography. It's not an L quality lens, her sister the f/1.2 is, but that's 4 times the price, ouch.

I'll mention my other 2 lenses.

  • The Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM is hands down my favorite lens as far as image quality is concerned. It's also the most expensive ($1700 back then), the longest, and the heaviest. The bokeh on this lens is wonderful. It's great for action/sports lens, really fast (f/2.8), and features two stabilization modes. It is built like a tank and weights as much. Many people ditch the 24-105mm f/4.0 kit lens and buy both the 24-70mm f/2.8 L and the 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS to cover a nice 24mm to 200mm range at f/2.8.

  • The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM is a good wide-angle lens, L glass, I use it primarily to explore abandoned buildings where light isn't always available, capture tight spaces or large structures. Not a cheap lens either ($1500).

As I mentioned above, I don't use flash very often, but I own a Canon Speedlite 580EX II and used to own a Canon Speedlite 430EX II. I would recommend the latter, unless you really need the extra features in the 580EX.

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Given the mention of travel in the question, I'd suggest the f/4 equivalents of these f/2.8 suggestions, i.e. the 70-200 f/4L IS USM and 17-40mm f/4 USM. Both a little smaller/lighter/cheaper than their f/2.8 counterparts, with similarly excellent image quality. The 70-200 especially is a big weight difference. –  drfrogsplat Mar 31 at 4:07

If you see yourself doing a lot of landscape shot during your travel, consider the 17-40mm lens. It is relatively cheap, light, and has a good wide angle.

I would highly recommend the 50mm f/1.4 as well. I use it on a cropped body, but I feel a 50mm is best used on a full frame for the best versatility. ( I have a film camera with a 50mm f/1.4 and it is great for many situations )

If you cannot give up on the tele end, apart from what sebastien.b has suggested, you may consider the 24-70 , 70-200 combo (very heavy tho)

For flash, I would highly recommend the 430EX II, I have the 580EX II but sometimes when all I need is some fill light, I do wish I have a lighter more portable flash. I have more than once given up on bringing a flash simply due to the size and weight of the 580EX II. I have also brought my flash to a travel and left it in my luggage for the entire trip because I was simply carrying too much.

If you rarely need the power of 43GN, I would even recommend the 320EX. The video LED light is very handy for videos too.

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