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Can a photographer travel with only one lens?

Updated on October 22, 2013
Photography by Edward M. Fielding
Photography by Edward M. Fielding | Source

New Canon 35mm f2 IS

  • Newly designed wide-angle single focal length lens
  • Rear focusing system and ring USM for fast autofocus
  • One Gmo aspherical lens element achieves high image quality with improved performance in the periphery
  • Optimized lens coatings and lens placement ensures exceptional color balance while minimizing ghosting and flare
  • Optical Image Stabilizer provides up to 4 shutter speed stops of correction.

Best Price on the new Canon 35mm f2 IS

  • Sharp at f2 - sharper at f4
  • Vignetting but can be fixed easily with software
  • Image stabilization - fantastic for video
  • Almost instant focusing 2 feet plus
  • Close focus ablilities
  • Price drop (now around $550)

Can you just take one lens on vacation?

We're headed off to Maui, Hawaii this Christmas for a vacation and I've been debating with myself on which camera gear to pack. After considering zooms, ultra-wide angles and of course the favorite excuse to buy a new lens - the vacation, I settled on the idea of packing light and just bringing a single prime lens. Crazy? Well, maybe but here are my thoughts on the advantages.

Less Gear to Haul

Captain Obvious would point out that bringing a single prime lens on vacation would mean less gear to haul. Not only for the lens but for the accessories that go with it. Only one set of filters would be needed and I'm certain I'll be wanting a polarizing filter and a set of ND or Neutral Density filters to blur waterfalls.

Less gear means:

  • Less hassles at the airport
  • More room for things like snacks, iPad etc
  • Less gear to watch and keep track of
  • Lighter pack for hiking around
  • Less hunting around in your pack

Less Gear to Get Stolen

All of the guidebooks on Hawaii mention that you don't want to leave any valuables in your car. They seem to have the occasional smash and grab type of crime in the isolated parking areas. So I know that every piece of gear I bring has to come with me. I can either leave extra gear in the hotel room or simply just pack the minimal.

Besides theft, there are other concerns of course. Having a lens roll off picnic table, forgetting a lens in the excitement of the moment or dropping a lens while changing lenses.


If I'm traveling alone I can't take all of the time in the world to photograph. But when traveling with friends and family, the reality is that people are waiting for you to finish up and catch up. Slimming down the gear to one lens saves time because you are not spending any time trying to find a safe place to swap out lens or enlisting a family member to hold a lens.

Dust and Mositure

Maui's environment can go from hot beachs to cold mountaintops and from dry dessert like conditions to the rainforest. Having one weather sealed lens means never exposing the inside of the camera to the elements. Having a prime means not pumping in dust from zooming a lens.

Prime vs. Zoom

I have a "L" lens for my Canon EOS 6D, a 24-105 f/4 zoom but I haven't been all that happy with it under all conditions. At the far end its kind of mushy and needs a lot of light to get shutter speeds fast enough to eliminate and camera shake.

A fast prime lens will give me sharper images, better low light abilities, better depth of field as well as being smaller and lighter.

Walking around with the 24-105 L garners a lot of unwanted attention while the smaller prime will allow for more stealthy photography.

Why I'm bringing a 35mm

I settled on the new Canon 35mm IS f/2 as my single prime lens to bring on this trip. The 35mm format is great for storytelling. Just a bit wider than a standard lens (43 mm on a full frame or 35 mm camera is considered THE standard even though that exact focal length is very rare to find in a lens), the 35mm allows one to include part of the environment in to the frame. That's why the 35mm has been a favorite of photojournalists.

This focal length is also perfect for taking video as its the preferred focal length of cinema and this lens has stabilization which is a must for hand held video.

The f/2 fast aperture plus the stabilization means this lens will be able to handle all kinds of lighting situations from bright sun to indoors and nighttime.

Not wide enough? Well, I did consider a 28mm but in reality since I'm bringing a travel tripod along, I can always shoot multiple exposure panoramic and stitch them together when I get back for super wide shots.

Overview of the Canon 35 f/2 IS - note price has dropped on this lens


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