Travel photography is a highly rewarding pursuit, but if you’re serious about getting the best shots, it pays to carry the right equipment, including a lens that can handle a broad range of travel subjects: astrophotography, architecture, landscapes, people, food, and more.
That’s where this article comes in handy. Below, I use my experience as a professional travel photographer to rank the 10 best travel photography lenses on the market in 2023, including options for plenty of budgets, brands, and camera systems (including models for the latest and greatest mirrorless lineups).
So whether you’re new to travel photography and looking to purchase your first lens, or you’re a travel-photography veteran looking to invest in some pro-quality glass, this article will give you everything you need to get started.
Let’s dive right in!
1. Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 S
The Z 24-120mm f/4 S is our all-time favorite travel photography lens – and for a whole host of reasons, too. For one, it provides an impressive range of focal lengths, which is perfect for those seeking a single high-quality lens for all their travel needs. At 24mm, you can capture beautiful travel landscape shots; at 50mm, you can shoot portraits; and a 120mm, you can capture detailed photos of distant landscapes and architectural features.
The 24-120mm f/4 S is impressively sharp, so even if you’re hoping to create magazine-quality files or large prints, it’ll be up to the task. And while the lens only features an f/4 maximum aperture, this should be enough for all but the most demanding conditions, especially if you’re willing to carry a good travel tripod.
The elegant and attractive design, compact size, and solid build make it a great choice for amateur and pro-level travel photographers alike. It’s not the cheapest lens on the market, but the price is reasonable compared to f/2.8 alternatives, and you certainly get a lot for your money.
2. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
Regarded as one of the heavyweights of the photography manufacturing industry, Canon offers some of the best travel photography lenses on the market – including the impressive EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM, an absolute travel classic that combines a versatile zoom range with built-in image stabilization.
This lens is great for all-around shooting; it covers a broad range of focal lengths, and you can capture everything from expansive cityscapes to architectural details, which makes the lens suitable for travel photographers of all stripes. No, it can’t quite go toe to toe with the Nikon Z 24-120mm f/4 in terms of versatility, but the price is significantly less, and the extra 15mm on the long end won’t make a huge difference for most shooters.
The 24-105mm f/4 boasts impressive sharpness, though the f/4 maximum aperture isn’t as fast as f/2.8 options (and therefore less than ideal for astrophotography and handheld photography in low light). But if you’re in need of a do-everything lens for serious travel shooting, the 24-105mm is a great pick.
3. Canon RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM
If you are using Canon’s latest mirrorless cameras – such as the EOS R5, R6, or R7 – then the RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM is a great introductory lens, particularly if you travel frequently and wish to minimize gear weight. This handy little unit is remarkably compact, and you can slip it in a bag, a backpack, or a purse without issue (though you’ll want to make sure you protect it from bumps and scrapes!).
The lens is also excellent for travel shooting thanks to its expansive focal-length range and outstanding versatility; with wide, standard, and telephoto focal lengths, you can capture pretty much any subject, including landscapes, cityscapes, detail shots, and street portraits.
The 24-240mm is also reasonably well priced, making it a decent choice for beginners (compared to other RF-mount lenses, anyway!). Unfortunately, the lens does include some disadvantages – the maximum aperture is relatively narrow for low-light shooting, the optics aren’t on the same level as Canon’s L-lens lineup, and no lens hood is supplied – but if you’re looking for a do-everything lens to get started with travel photography, it’s a solid choice.
4. Nikon Z 24-200mm f/4-6.3 VR
The Nikon Z 24-240mm f/4-6.3 is a solid mirrorless lens for travel photography; the zoom range makes it capable of handling nearly any situation, and the quiet autofocus is great for capturing people and even wildlife unobtrusively.
The lens boasts plenty of travel photography possibilities thanks to its impressive portability and great design. Optically, expect to capture clear, sharp, and vivid images at every focal length, though you may encounter some softening toward the image corners.
The weather sealing prevents dust and moisture from entering the lens, and even serious travel photographers will appreciate the wide-to-telephoto zoom range, ideal for pretty much any type of travel photography, including landscapes, architecture, flowers, portraits, and more. The variable maximum aperture isn’t great for folks who often work handheld in low light, but you can handle most difficult scenarios by carrying a tripod, so this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.
5. Sony E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS
Sony offers an excellent lineup of APS-C mirrorless cameras, many of which are perfect for travel photography thanks to their compact size and impressive image quality. Of course, every travel camera needs a good lens, and the Sony 18-105mm f/4 is our first choice; it combines solid build quality, great optics, and a good price for an all-around impressive package.
While not a superzoom, the lens spans an impressive 5.8x zoom range from ultra-wide to short telephoto. It works especially well for street photography and even landscapes, where you can zoom in and out to frame shots accordingly, though it’s certainly a capable portrait and architecture lens, as well.
Autofocus is smooth and quiet, plus the lens also boasts Optical SteadyShot technology, which reduces camera shake and prevents blur when working handheld in low light. The f/4 maximum aperture isn’t ideal for shooting in the dark, but it’s not terrible, either, and even serious shooters will manage to make do. Finally, the lens is a Sony pro-quality lens, yet despite the excellent image and build quality, it’s surprisingly affordable, so it’s a good pick for serious photographers who are on a budget.
6. Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS
The Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS is an impressive all-around lens for travel photography; use it to photograph landscapes, architecture, people, and even (at 135mm) the occasional wildlife. Note that the lens is compatible with Sony’s E-mount APS-C mirrorless cameras but will not give great results on Sony full-frame models.
One of the lens’s key features is the built-in OSS (Optical SteadyShot) technology, which is great for low-light handholding. And if you frequently capture detail shots, you’ll love the short minimum focusing distance. The 18-135mm is lightweight and compact, too, which makes it perfect for the amateur photographer in search of a first travel photography lens. You can easily store it in a backpack or bag, and thanks to its small size, you can leave it on your camera for days of shooting and you’ll hardly even notice.
It’s not the most optically impressive lens, and the variable maximum aperture is a bit of a letdown, but for casual travel photography, the 18-135mm is certainly worth a look.
7. Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 WR LM R OIS
If you’re a Fujifilm shooter, then look no further; the XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 is one of the best travel lenses on the market, and it’s certainly an outstanding option for Fujifilm camera users. It’s great for capturing a wide range of travel subjects, from landscapes and cityscapes to wildlife and people, while the 5-stop image stabilization will keep you shooting crisp handheld shots in low light.
You can get in close to your subjects thanks to a short minimum focusing distance (always handy for detail shots). And solid weather resistance, not to mention impressive image quality, are both welcome features of this amazing lens. As with a number of other models on this list, the variable maximum aperture is somewhat limiting, and the lens is on the expensive side, but the great optics and useful focal length range make this handy lens our favorite Fuji pick.
8. Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 OIS
If you’re a Panasonic shooter, then this 12-60mm f/2.8-4 lens is one of the best travel lenses you can buy; it delivers a superb focal-length range on Four Thirds cameras, spanning from 24mm to 120mm. You’ll get plenty of travel photography opportunities, and you can expect to capture breathtaking wide landscapes, standard street shots, and even mid-telephoto portraits. Thanks to the telephoto reach on the long end, you can even zoom in to highlight specific features, or you can hunt for architectural abstracts and the like.
This lens is lightweight, compact, and delivers sharp image quality even at 60mm. And don’t forget about the built-in image stabilization, which lets you shoot in low light without a tripod, always helpful for travel shooters. Unfortunately, the maximum aperture does narrow as you zoom from 12mm to 60mm, but you can still work with a decently wide f/4 aperture, even at 60mm.
9. Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM
The Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 is a great travel lens for Canon and Nikon APS-C users, and it boasts an impressive combination of features, from a lightweight, compact design to an expansive zoom range. The price is highly reasonable for beginner travel photographers, too, which makes it a great budget lens (especially compared to standard Canon and Nikon options).
Note that the Sigma 18-200mm is designed for APS-C DSLRs, so you can expect focal-length reach spanning from around 27mm to 300mm, which is absolutely outstanding for basically any type of subject, be it landscapes, portraits, street scenes, or wildlife. You’ll also like the included lens hood, which lets you block out sunlight in impressive conditions for improved optical performance.
And although the lens is missing weather sealing, the built-in image stabilization offers improved performance in low light and is ideal for nighttime street photography, interior scenes, and more.
10. Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di III VC
If you need a versatile travel photography lens for Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras, then check out the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3, which offers an impressive zoom range for landscapes, cityscapes, architectural details, people, and pretty much everything else.
The built-in image stabilization system will keep your photos sharp in low light, while the advanced design delivers extraordinary image quality (even if sharpness falls off toward the telephoto end of the zoom range). Often lengthy zooms like this one suffer optically, but we’re quite impressed overall by its capabilities, and it offers enough detail for printing and high-quality displays.
The lens body is lightweight and compact, so you won’t feel weighted down by gear as you shoot, and the price is highly affordable – in other words, it’s yet another outstanding option for travel photographers on a budget.
The best lens for travel photography: final words
Ultimately, the best lens for travel photography depends on your camera setup, your image requirements, and what you plan to shoot. At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice – and as long as the lens you choose is compatible with your camera system, covers the zoom range you require, is within your budget, and delivers the right image quality, you can’t go wrong.
So good luck choosing a travel lens!
Now over to you:
Which lens will you purchase? Which is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!