My ideal lens travel set-up (possibly)

Weight is your enemy

When I first transitioned from my Nikon D750 to the Fujifilm system, my main goal, as many others have experimented, was the search of lightness and mobility.

I was really happy with the results of my Nikon, it is an outstanding camera. As a matter of fact when I traveled to India I took the D750 and only one lens, the awesome Sigma 35mm Art f/1.4. (we are talking full-frame here) Yes that’s right, I went into a 5 week’s long trip with only one lens. When Covid was still not a thing I used to travel as much and as light as I could. Just one small carry-on bag and my camera in a separate bag. But even with that, that set-up I’m talking about set me to a 755 g for the Nikon plus 665 g for the lens alone !. So yeah that was 1,420 kg for one camera and one lens. Far from ideal for a light traveler !

Of course you could use a zoom lens that covers various focal lengths ,every camera and lens brand offer them, and they can be a good alternative, not necessarily adding to much weight to the combo, although if you want good glass and wide apertures you’re in for consequent added weight.

Personally though, using a zoom lens is not an option I favor because I rather have better image quality and the greater aperture possible in order to capture as much light as I’m able to.

Fuji great lenses and extensive line-up

It is, indeed, a very good exercise to use one and only lens and zoom with your feet, as they say in the photography blogs 😉 But you know, the human nature is quite complex and soon I started to feel I was quite limited, especially when you travel to some far-away destination that probably you won’t return to again.

So when I switched to Fuji I started to look for other lenses that could suit my travelling needs and style and this what I have settled to for the moment being :

My set up

Fujinon 23mm f/2

You can read my review and see examples here. It is the 35mm full frame equivalent. If I only had to take one lens for travelling this would be it. It covers 90% of my needs. It’s my all purpose focal lens It might be different for you, maybe you need something closer, or farther.

Why the f/2 version ?

  • It’s weather sealed, It’s the only one in my list. If conditions get difficult I still can rely on this lens to go out and shoot whatever the weather or dust.
  • It’s very small and light, it weights nothing attached to my camera so I’m not lazy to take it out for every occasion and it’s size makes it quite discrete when on the streets.

Fujinon 35mm f/1.4

Sometimes you need a faster aperture, specially if you like night street photography, or inside buildings. This lens is also small and light. The only con is that it’s not weather resisting, but I’ve used it in not so ideal conditions and if you take good care of it you can get away with it. This lens is very well known for is beautiful rendering, almost classical. This lens is a 50mm equivalent in full frame

When I use it ?

  • In difficult light conditions.
  • When I want to get closer or focus on a smaller part of a scene or details.
  • When I want to make portraits of people.

Fujinon 14mm f/2.8

This lens is a gem. It’s also an older fuji lens (like the 35mm f/1.4). It’s optical quality is outstanding, with no distortion and great sharpness across the frame at almost any aperture. It’s a 21mm equivalent in full-frame.

Why 14mm ?

  • Again the size and weight are very reasonable for such a great optically performing lens. For sometime I considered the 16mm f/2.8 which is even smaller and lighter but I didn’t feel the 16mm focal lens was wide enough for me and certainly the optical quality is miles away in my opinion.
  • In urban environments and inside tight spaces this lens is very useful. It’s outstanding for architectural photography.
  • On the other hand you can use this lens for great landscapes, sometimes it’s even too wide for that (you just have to make sure that there’s no foreground or that you have something interesting to put as a foreground).
  • You can even use it for some street photography (notably in very crowded environments) and for some “macro” photography because it’s very short minimal focal distance.

Inconvenients

Of course, such a setup might not suit everyone. The major drawback I can think of is that you can find yourself swapping lenses quite often and this can turn out to be quite problematic especially if you find yourself in difficult or harsh terrain and weather conditions. As a result some people, when travelling, will favour using a zoom lens like the 16-55 mm F2.8 LM R WR (weight: 655g) or the 16-80mm f/4  (weigh: 440g) which give the benefit of not fearing to miss a shot while on the road. If you can live with a bigger and heavier lens attached all day to your camera then this might be a good and convenient solution for you.

Conclusion

This would be my ideal travel setup. I must say that the ideal setup has to be the one you happen have with you and use in real conditions. As for me, I happen to own those three lenses, that’s also why it is ideal for me, because I already have it, this is a really important point. I try to use what I have in my hands, and try hard to fight against G.A.S.

Because of the actual pandemic situation I am yet to test it in a real world travel, but I’ve been using these 3 lenses on an almost daily basis in my everyday life so I’m totally familiarised with their virtues and shortcomings.

On a final side note, the added weight of these 3 lenses amount to a mere 602 g which is still 63 g less that the sigma 35mm alone that I used as the unique lens when I traveled before. Not bad uuh ?

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