LaDawn and I begin our travels around the globe in just about a week. This time we’re heading to South America for about a month hitting Lima, Peru; Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley; the Amazon River for a Piranha Pedicure – OK, just kidding about the pedicure.
We return to Sedona, AZ for about a week for a photography conference and then back to South America for another few weeks exploring the Galapagos Islands. These South American visits are both “bucket list” trips and we are really looking forward to them. And… I will be
my favorite travel lens for the entire trip.
My Favorite Travel Lens – Tamron 16-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro Lens [link]
I know, I know – that is a mouthful of a name for this lens so how about I just refer to it as my Tamron 16-300mm lens for the rest of the article. Sure, I carry a few other lenses in our travels but this lens is my absolute FAV.
Here’s why I like to travel light. I seldom travel with my Canon 5D Mark 3 (never did upgrade to the Mark 4). I’ve always liked my Canon 7D Mark 2 and have been using it as my primary camera for my weddings and travels. The main reasons – it allows me to travel with lighter optics when considering various international travel/weight restrictions. And, the “frame rate” rate is 9.5 FPS vs. 6 FPS for my 5D Mark 2. When shooting wildlife, this faster FPS is a necessity. There are other reasons too which I can easily cover in a future article or two.
But now let’s get back to my favorite lens – the Tamron 16-300mm – the image stabilized macro lens. As a Canon shooter, my go-to lens has been Canon’s 18-200mm IS lens – it’s a good all around lens and worked fine for most shooting situations. I just always wished it was a bit wider and just a tab longer.
After doing a little research last year, I saw that Tamron had some interesting zooms in their APS sized lens arsenal, in particular, their 16-300mm lens and their 18-400mm lens, and I decided to explore further. I already was set in the long lens department going all the way out to 600mm so that sort of reduced the need for me to acquire the 18-400mm version even because of it’s long reach. Like I said, I wanted a little more on the short side of the zoom range.
What I liked about the 16-300mm lens was that it was just a bit wider than my old standard Canon 18-200mm lens. OK, your saying – “What, just two silly millimeters wider?” Come on DAZ, give me a break…. But wait, a silly 2mm difference translates to an additional 8 degrees of wide-angle wonderfulness – many times just enough to make or break the photo. Think in terms of a 35mm full frame optic – 18mm on an APS size camera is equivalent to 28mm on a full frame camera. 16mm on an APS size camera is equivalent to just under 25mm on a full frame camera. To me, that’s a big difference! Add to that the 300mm Tele reach and I’ve got pretty much a universal optic attached to my camera. So How Universal Is The Lens Really? Last year we traveled nearly two months around the Mediterranean countries – Spain, France, and Italy; crossed the Atlantic on a cruise ship; and traveled to Mexico for three more weeks.
I gave my friends at Tamron a call and asked if I could test drive their 16-300 lens – they were very gracious to oblige me. Over nearly two months of our travels, I took 8770 photos all of which were shot on the Canon 7D Mk2. 7320 of those images were made with Tamron 16-300mm lens – that’s 83.5% of all the images I made in two months of shooting – sounds kind of universal to me.
When I analyzed it even further I found that out of all my images, I made nearly 25% at the 16-17mm and 201-300mm settings. That percentage represents images I could not have gotten with the reduced zoom range of the Canon 18-200mm lens – like I said, I love this lens! This lens simply makes travel photography fast, fun, and efficient!
Let’s Take A Look At a Few Images At 16-17mm
I’ve been making a big “fuss” about the wide angle benefits of this lens. Let’s take a look at some of the images I would have missed with a slightly longer (less wide) lens (i.e. 18mm lens).
Whether it’s photographing wine cellars in Spain, scenic views for the top of Montserrat, vineyards in France, fresh markets in France, picturesque towns in Cinque Terre, the tight spaces of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, or beautiful sunsets in Cabo, Mexico; this lens captured exactly what I was looking for compositionally and esthetically. And, I loved that no lens changes were involved.
Now Let’s Take A Look At a Few Images At 201-300mm Within the zoom range of 201-300mm, I was easily able to capture a lot more images without a lens change. I hardly ever carry a lens longer than 200mm because they are so inconvenient for our travels, size, weight… So, the greater than 200mm Tamron range gave me that much more versatility in my shooting easy and simply.
Although I’m a wide-angle fanatic, I still like my macro images, birds in flight, my “reach out and touch somebody” candid’s, distant landscapes and seascapes. Check out the images below to see what I mean.
And All the Other Images In-between Like I said earlier, about 25% of the images I made with this lens were at focal lengths shorter or longer than what I would normally use with the standard Canon 18-200mm optic, so, as it turns out, that’s a very important option for me and why I think this is such a fantastic lens, especially for traveling.
For all the images I made at the other focal lengths, I found the lens fast and easy to work. Build quality is decent, color is great, sharpness is just fine, and focus is reasonably fast. One note here – when shooting birds in flight, I wish it was just a bit faster in acquiring focus. For just about everything else it was just fine.
So in addition to the images I shared above let me show you a few more images that I think capture the essence of what a travel lens is supposed to do for you, mainly keep lens changes at a minimum, be able to compose and shoot an image quickly, maintain excellent color and focus, and be image stabilized sufficiently to be able to take images in reduced light situations.
Here we go…
This first image illustrates the benefits of the image stabilization with this lens. This image was made at 1/15 second in a very dark wine cellar in Spain. Everything is plenty darn sharp for my purposes.
I even found myself able to capture images at even slower shutter speeds if I was especially careful in how I held the camera and lens.
I love these next two images as well. When traveling on cruise ships, LaDawn and I enjoy the entertainment on board these amazing ships. Last Fall we made the first trans-Atlantic crossing of the Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world. These ships are simply spectacular in every respect and, in spite of the 6,000 plus passengers on board, it just does not feel crowded. Nevertheless, the entertainment and shows are “first class”.
The first image above is from the stage show “Hairspray” – a fun theatrical romp if there ever was one. The second from another great show on the ship entitled, “Flight”. This lens lets me capture as little or as much of the shows as I wanted because of it super wide zoom range.
This next shot is from the ship’s ice show, another entertainment experience not to miss when cruising on Royal Caribbean’s “Oasis” class ships.
These next two images below give you a clear understanding of the zoom range and capabilities of this lens. Both images were made during our travels through Cinque Terre, Italy.
The first images show the scene of the terraced vineyards on the side of the hill at 16mm. Look for the tiny structure in the distance about half way up the hill – I’ve boxed it in. Now, look at this second image of that structure itself taken at 300mm. You can barely find it in the first image but this Tamron lens sure pulls it in for its close-up.
The list goes on and on. Here are a few more photos from our myriad travels from Europe, USA, and Mexico over those two months.
The Tamron lens was the perfect solution for our adventures capturing sunrises to sunsets and about everything in-between.
I find the Tamron 16-300mm lens the ideal lens for travel, or really just about any casual photographic need. It is the lens that spends most of its time locked onto my Canon 7D Mark 2 for just about everything we do photographically. The zoom range is just about perfect for all my photographic needs whether that be travel or a quick assignment for any of the various civic duties I’m involved in.
But most importantly, it is now going to be one of my go-to lenses for wedding photography. That’s right, I can think of no other lens that will give me the versatility in shooting that this lens will give me on the job. Reducing the need to change lenses will definitely give me the opportunity to capture more of those special moments that unfold over the course of the wedding day. I can’t wait to give it a try at my next wedding!