Great Combinations - Canon for Travel Photography

I am constantly asked the same question that I asked myself ten years ago:  "If I only have enough money to buy one camera and one lens, which combination would bring me the best results?"  The question needs to be answered with a question:  "What do you want to shoot?"  The answer to that is usually quite difficult for someone who is just planning on buying a first dSLR and lens, but often, people do have an inkling about what they want to shoot.  When I first bought a film camera in 2002 and had $1100 or so to spend, I knew I could buy a very nice Nikon F5 and one lens and break the bank, or buy an excellent Nikon F100 (a fantastic camera) and perhaps a better lens.  The key is coming up with the combination that fits your budget and gets you the quality you want.  We are, therefore, starting a few "Great Combinations," the name altered from the Charles Dickens' novel but with equally high hopes at producing a match:  between you and your next camera kit.

To start off, we'll look at a brand and genre, and we will later explore other brands in this genre as well.  Say you just want to take film portraits in black and white and you like the square format.  Well, most people would steer you to a Hasselblad.  In this article, we will look at the travel genre (since the weather is warming) and will start with Canon, knowing that we will highlight the Nikons ASAP.  Travel photography is a mixture of wide angle landscape-type image, close-up portraits of interesting people, and perhaps interior shots of churches, temples, or restaurants.  It's a a bit of a hodge podge as a genre, which is why it is interesting to consider seeing that we are limited to one camera and one lens.  For some help from the audience, we have already posed this question to our Facebook readership and received a reasonable response.  Overwhelmingly, the answer was the Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-70mm f/2.8 USM lens (with the Canon 5D Mark III close behind).


Canon 5D Mark II or Mark III. The Canon 5D Mark II has been an extremely popular camera among users with its video capabilities and relatively affordable price for a full frame sensor. The full frame sensor may not be as important in travel photography as it would be in landscape photography, but of course the full frame is very nice to have, as a smaller sensor will "crop" the image of a similar full-frame camera. The full frame sensor continues to keep the angle of view on all of the lenses, but a cropped sensor adds a factor of 1.3 to 1.6 depending on the sensor. (Say, for example, placing a 50 mm lens on a Rebel gives an angle of view similar to a 75 mm lens, while it remains a 50 mm angle of view on a Canon 5D Mark II.) For travel photography, therefore, it is an extra luxury to have the full frame sensor for tight spaces, homes, or landscapes that are often encountered in travel photography. The 3.1 fps of the Mark II is usually adequate for most subjects in travel photography, and the Mark III's doubled speed can only make the upgraded model more appealing for moving subjects in the field.

Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8 USM. The readers overwhelmingly picked a high-quality zoom lens that covers a little wide angle through a focal length that is reasonable for a portrait. This range of focal length makes the 24-70 mm f/2.8 a great single lens for the traveler. In addition, its fast aperture (up to f/2.8 can often be wide enough to help in low light situations and can offer a decent bokeh (background blur) at f/2.8 for portraits. The lens, while not ultrawide for the ultimate landscapes and not long enough for very tight portraits, is an excellent all-around lens.

Package Price: $3598 (with the Mark II)
Package Price: $4798 (with the Mark III)


Canon 7D. Some readers chose the Canon 7D, which is an excellent choice for both image quality and video quality as well as speed in terms of frames per second. The real main difference between the 7D and the 5D Mark II is the size of the sensor, and a few details. Remember that some genres prefer a cropped sensor (such as some wildlife photographers) who prefer "longer" lenses that are magically created when the sensor is smaller. Those traveling in areas with wildlife, therefore, such as Africa or the Amazon or India may very well enjoy the smaller sensor when their lenses such as the 18-200 become a 28-300. Few on a smaller budget would disagree with its price as well.

Canon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS. Those who chose this lens were certainly going for the same appeal as those for the 24-70mm: they wanted a range of focal lengths to have the flexibility in a variety of situations. Some will immediately ask, "Isn't this far greater range of focal lengths (18-200mm) much better than simply 24-70mm?" It depends on what the photographer wants. The great difference inevitably affects the quality of the lens, as the prime example being the prime lenses themselves. Fewer elements inside the lens, coupled with the construction, can usually make the fixed lens (one focal length such as 35 mm) the sharpest lens with the most contrast. The better (and usually higher priced) zoom lenses have multiple coatings to improve the optical quality in a situation where many lens elements are needed to make the zoom. In addition, this lens has a reasonable lowest aperture at f/3.5 when it is wide, and this is reflected of course in the price. The combination of this body and lens will still make great images and was a good choice from those wishing to spend a bit less on a travel kit.

Package Price: $2299


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