Before heading off on our 2-year around the world adventure I wanted to make sure I had the right camera gear. Choosing the right camera gear for travel is easier said than done. If I had the money I would have splurged on a Leica M9 and a couple of Leica lenses and called it good. Since that wasn’t an option, I had to find the perfect gear that would be lightweight, affordable, and produce sharp, vibrant photos.
After considerable research I purchased a Nikon D7000 DSLR camera with the 18-105mm VR kit lens. Shortly after buying the camera I took it on a trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua where I took some pretty good photos. The camera worked great, but I wasn’t happy with the 18-105 VR lens. The pictures were too soft and the distortion was awful.
After reading every lens review I could find, I decided to buy the highly recommended Nikon 50mm f/1.8D prime lens, aka the “Nifty Fifty.” It was cheap, small, lightweight, and took super sharp photos. Unfortunately, on a DX sensor, the 50mm was like a 75mm telephoto and was too tight for the type of photography I wanted to do. I also found a huge limitation with the lens and found that it was worthless stopped down below f/8.
You can read about the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D problem here
I spent 2 years buying and selling lenses before I finally found the perfect combination to take traveling around the world. And these would be:
- Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
- Tamron AF 90mm f/2.8 SP Di macro
- Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 AF-D
All of these lenses are great, but there is one lens that is on my camera 95% of the time, and that would be the Nikon 18-55 VR. I never thought that I would get such great shots from a cheap, plastic lens as this one.
After reading several reviews stating that the Nikon 18-55 VR was really sharp, I was skeptical. I decided to purchase it anyway and try it out. If I didn’t like it, I could easily sell it for about what I bought it for. The reviews were absolutely correct and this lightweight $200 lens is great. The photos are sharp, the colors pop, the distortion is easily corrected in Lightroom or Capture NX2, and the image stabilization is a huge benefit. And the best part, I can easily carry it on my camera all day long and the weight and size is not a bother. This is truly a great travel lens.
Sample images from our travels using the 18-55 VR lens:
I just bought the Nikon D3100 and I am pretty sure this is the lens that comes on it. I love it and even in Auto cannot believe how great the pictures are!
For a kit lens, it takes amazing photos. The 3100 is a great little camera. Have fun with it.
Melissa - The Mellyboo Project says
Wow- that shot of the Eiffel Tower at night is beyond incredible. I’m currently looking into upgrading my Nikon d40x to the D600 and I swear by my Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens. 🙂
Thanks! The D600 looks like a great camera and moving to full frame would be nice. I have been drooling over the Nikon D800E, but still happy with my D7000 for the moment and think it is still a great travel camera.
The Nikon 18-200 VR is a great lens, but for travel I think it is too heavy to walk around with all day. Even my 18-105mm VR was too heavy and big. Plus…. ready for this…. the much cheaper 18-55 VR lens I discuss above is sharper!!!!
Jim Kissel says
My go-to combination for vacations is the D5600 with the newer compact 18-55 lens. It’s the lightest and easiest combo to carry around next to a tiny sensor pocket camera or phone. In the past I’ve carried around a D7100 with the 18-200DX or 18-140DX, but discovered a couple of things, first the weight became unacceptable over long periods of time, and second, most of my most valued photos were in the range of the 18-55! You want to enjoy your vacation, not spend it fumbling with cameras and lenses. Save your heavy zooms and wide angles for pure photo expeditions, where the joy of working with the equipment is part of the prime goal. When you’re just out to see the world, keep things simple and light. You won’t regret it.