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I am traveling to Mauritius next month. I am an amateur photographer. I have a kit lens - 18-55mm and a zoom lens 55-300mm. I have found the zoom lens extremely useful, especially when shooting wildlife and birds; but I have also experienced that changing the lens is cumbersome and sometimes you tend to miss certain events while you are anxiously changing lenses. I recently bought a 50mm F1.8 lens based on several suggestions on the internet that it's a versatile lens. I want to know whether it's a safe bet to just travel with one lens.

  • Take a look at this question: photo.stackexchange.com/q/21163 – Esa Paulasto Aug 16 '15 at 13:40
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    Take all of your lenses. There's plenty to shoot on Mauritius at all kinds of focal lengths. – Blrfl Aug 16 '15 at 15:06
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    Also worth considering that we buy lenses to USE them not for them to sit at home gathering dust! Is there a real reason why you aren't planning to take all your lenses? – James Snell Aug 17 '15 at 17:11
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I have also experienced that changing the lens is cumbersome and sometimes you tend to miss certain events while you are anxiously changing lenses

That's something that you can improve by training it. A good large bag can also help, because it allows you to carry the lenses without caps1. This makes changing lenses less cumbersome:

  1. take old lens off
  2. put old lens in bag
  3. get new lens out of the bag
  4. attach new lens

I want to know whether its a safe bet to just travel with one lens.

Depends on what you consider "safe". From your question it sounds like missing a shot is what you are most afraid of. So here's a little thought on what images you will miss when only bringing one lens:

  1. 18-55mm:
    • you will miss all the shots with focal lengths from 55 to 300mm
    • you will miss all the shots with aperture values below 4 (or whatever your kit lens has) down to f1.8 at 50mm focal length
  2. 55-300mm:
    • you will miss all the shots with focal lengths from 18 to 55mm
    • you will miss all the shots with aperture values below 4 (or whatever your kit lens has) down to f1.8 at 50mm focal length
  3. 50mm:
    • you will miss all the shots with focal lengths from 18 to 49mm and 51 to 300mm,

Will missing all these images counterbalance the shots you missed while changing lenses? That's a decision you have to make on your own. I doubt it.

I highly advice against leaving any of your lenses at home, because you could miss a shot while changing lenses. If you encounter a precious moment, ... click did you hear that? That was the shutter button of your camera. There wasn't even time to finish that sentence that I started, because your instincts took the shortcut to take the image first and ask questions later, because if the moment's gone, it's gone. Would that other lens in your bag be technically better suited for the situation? Maybe yes, but not being mounted to your camera diminishes that advantage to 0.

Some rules of thumb:

  • Changing lenses is optional. Not bringing additional lenses makes changing lenses impossible.
  • The right camera is the one in your hand. Maybe that other lens would improve the image. Guess what? So would a better camera. And spreading some flash equipment across the scene for some nifty lighting. Everything looks better at sunrise/sunset, so while changing lenses you better also turn back time.
  • You missed a shot? Get over it. It happens to all of us. The field of view of a human is roughly 135°, so you are missing almost 2/3 of everything around you for your entire life. So the next time you miss a shot due to a lens change, think about why you made that lens change? Right, to better adopt to the change in environment, which should yield some improvement of the shots you are going to take in the near future.

1 in general, the conditions you face will allow you to do this. A good bag should provide enough protection. I don't think you are going through a sand storm in the desert. And yes, this can damage your gear, just like using it. I have seen people doing this with gear that had the same price tag as yours, just with an additional 0 at the end. You have to figure out for yourself where you draw the line between protecting your gear and the protection getting in the way of your photography.

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In my opinion, lens changes get easier with practice, but if you really want a way around this, get/rent a second body. :) I personally keep myself from feeling stressed about lens changes by using the body cap, so I don't feel rushed to keep anything from accidentally falling into the camera body while changing lenses.

Which or how many lenses you want to bring are up to you and your personal preferences for what/how you plan to shoot, how much gear you're happy to lug about all day, and which gear you feel comfortable "risking" under travel conditions. Everybody's boundaries for these things are different.

OTOH, your particular lenses are all relatively small, light, and inexpensive. You're not lugging a prosumer full frame with L lenses and a supertelephoto along for the ride. So, for a lot of folks, what you've got is a good lightweight travel kit. Others might opt for an 18-200 superzoom, or possibly just the fast prime and the 10-18 ultrawide. It really all depends on what you plan to shoot.

If you find that your 55-300 is your most-used lens and you aren't planning on shooting any indoor or night shots, then it could make sense to bring it alone. But also realize that travel photography, by its very nature, also means you'll be shooting subjects you don't typically shoot at home. If you plan to shoot portraits or indoors or at night without a flash or tripod, then a fast prime can be useful. If you plan to shoot a lot of landscape or cityscape shots, then the 18-55 can be useful, too.

While you can certainly get away with a single lens, it does immediately set a limit before you've even left the house on what/how you can shoot. For Mauritius, I'd typically be thinking of a lot of landscape and a little street shooting, so I'd probably have a fast prime, and an ultrawide zoom, if I weren't just using my X100T. If I were going for the birding, I'd be hauling my 50D+400/5.6L, but that's me and my gear. You are not me. What do you want/expect to shoot?

As someone who lives in a tourist beach spot, I can also say that I find UV filters (and knowing how the waves are behaving) to be incredibly handy at helping protect my front elements from ocean spray/sand. If you're a UV-filter-scoffer, you may wish to consider these are not your usual shooting conditions and what sand and salt water can do to electronics gear. I also tend to carry a bottle of fresh water and a microfiber towel with me at all times to wipe my hands clean of spray/sand before handling any camera gear, if I'm beach shooting. And all lens changes happen in the bag on my hip.

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...and if you HAVE to travel with a single lens due to packing/luggage constraints then you should definitely consider purchasing a 28-135mm, 28-200mm or 18-250mm, etc. focal length lens. As others stated the more lenses you can bring the better, depending on what types of photos you want to shoot. If you are traveling with others (children, teens, a group of friends) keep in mind you might not have a lot of time to dedicate to yourself - meaning time to really concentrate on shooting, swapping lenses, tripod work, etc. This is where a single lens that covers a broad focal spectrum (e.g. 28-200mm) will pay dividends during a vacation. If however you have plenty of time to spend shooting then take 2-3 of your lenses minimum. You will absolutely need the kit lens for shooting closer subjects/general city photography.

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If travelling to a location like Mauritius is a special opportunity for you, most definitely take all three lenses! I'm pretty sure you'll be glad you did.

How you'll use them depends a bit on what your goal is and what you like to shoot. If (like me) you just want to take the best pictures you can of whatever opportunities present themselves, then you're best off keeping the kit zoom on most of the time as a default, and changing lenses only when there is an opportunity where another lens would be better and you have the time, or when you're planning to do something where you know the other lens will be better overall.

An example might help illustrate: I went to La Gomera for 2 weeks recently and took a set of 3 lenses very similar to yours, and I'm very happy I did.

  • The kit zoom stayed on for most of the time and took the great majority of all photos, since it's the most versatile for your typical holiday shots: landscape and street photography. The prime would have been a considerably worse choice, since zooming with your feet is rather dangerous when you're hiking steep mountains.
  • I changed to the prime lens a few time to take portraits.
  • I changed to the telezoom once to shoot an eagle, but then it stayed too distance for a good shot.
  • On two occasions I took only the prime: for a fire dancer show and for photographing the night sky. Got really awesome pictures, thanks to the big aperture!
  • And I kept the telezoom on during a whale watching trip, taking some really spectacular closeup shots of dolphins (and one whale).
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Which lens do you use the least? Take that one, and just that one. It will force you to use it, and get familiar with it. I find that as long as I have a choice of lenses, I tend to switch to the ones I'm familiar with instead of forcing myself to learn the one I'm not.

Don't worry about missing shots — as null pointed out, no matter what lens you take, you'll miss shots that don't fit that lens. And if you take all of them, you may miss shots while changing lenses, and miss photos that require a lens you don't have, in the first place.

As this answer points out:

[...] Don't worry about missing shots: we're surrounded by missed photographs all the time, and it's impossible to take even a fraction of them no matter what equipment you have. Every real-world camera and lens restricts the infinite possibilities in some way. Focusing on what the gear you have with you can do actually frees you up to take real photographs from that vast infinity.

  • To me, this advice makes more sense for everyday shooting. When you pay umpteen dollars and precious vacation days to carve out a week or two in an exotic locale, bringing the least appropriate gear means you're far more liable to kick yourself later for having missed those once-in-a-lifetime shots. I shot Antarctica with only a 50/1.8 II (+OM-10. Film days), because that was all I had. Trust me, I would not want to be doing that again, and I still kick myself. – inkista Aug 17 '15 at 21:29
  • Antarctica is more exotic and perhaps harder to go to than Mauritius. Saying you should take all your lenses because you paid a lot of money and precious vacation days is backward. You should take them only if they help you, rather than obsessing about missed shots. For example, if I had only the telephoto lens the OP mentions, I might seek out more opportunities for photos that match that focal range. If I had all my lenses, I might instead switch lenses and grab the low-hanging fruit and move on, missing those other shots. You're also forgetting about missed shots due to changing lenses. – Vaddadi Kartick Aug 18 '15 at 1:40
  • @KartickVaddadi, I don't agree with you. Why want you to let your favorite lens at home ? If you want to get familiar with the "forgotten" lens, use it at any other moment... or sell it. To me, It's not about missing shots but about taking the ones you want... and not feeling sorry because all your shots are worthless. – Olivier Aug 18 '15 at 18:56
  • This makes no sense at all. You own those lenses because they help you, so of course you shoould take them all when you go on a trip where the location itself is a rare opportunity. Forcing yourself to learn is a good thing, sure, but this is the least appropriate time for it. – Michael Borgwardt Aug 18 '15 at 19:52
  • I don't agree that "all your shots" will be worthless because you're using a different lens. And this is not a trip to the moon, to worry so much about missing shots. If the author said that the PURPOSE of going to Mauritius is to take photos, then I might agree with you that he'd want to take all his lenses. Since the OP did not say that, one lens is fine. I'm not convinced that that will result in tons of missed opportunities, any more than one would miss opportunities by having the wrong lens on at a given time and not realising to switch, or miss a shot while swapping lenses. – Vaddadi Kartick Aug 19 '15 at 1:24

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