Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

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darrenhaken
darrenhaken Regular Member • Posts: 301
Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

I am trying to understand whether a telephoto lens is a good range to have for travel - something like 70-200 or 70-300. 1.8 primes.

Some photographers I follow take some really nice telephoto shots but I have tended to shy away from buying one due to the weight and size of lugging them around.

I currently travel with a 16-35, 24-105 and a couple of light.  I even wondered if I should even ditch the mid-zoom and pair the 16-35 with a telephoto.

Not that we can travel right now but I am being hopeful I might get a trip by spring somewhere!

If anyone has images to share where the telephoto really shines do share.

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alcelc
alcelc Forum Pro • Posts: 14,923
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?
2

Not wishing my gear will slow me down, or become a burden on my travelling, whereas I can still fully enjoy photographing, it is a main reason I go for crop sensor system.

Currently I am very happy with M43 as long as working within the 1~2 stops disadvantage on the size of the sensor (vs APSC/FF), and I won't print larger than A4, nor crop heavily in post.

I use Panasonic G85, 15 f/1.7 for low light shooting (eq to 30 of FF on AoV), ultra wide angle 7-14 f/4, 12~35 f/2.8 as general walking around lens, plus a 45~150 f/4-5.6 of 200 gram only for the long reaching. My total setup is merely around 1.5Kg only. I still manage to carry all of them on my shoulder and walk under high 30°C for half day shooting...

My wife uses a Panasonic GX85 and a 14~140 f/3.5-5.6... around 700 gram only....

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jkjond
jkjond Forum Pro • Posts: 10,167
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?
3

Brilliant if you don't mind the inconvenience when not photographing. I ended up compromising and now only take my M4/3 on holiday with 12-150 (24-300 equiv). But I still enjoy dedicated days of full kit and tripod. I definitely take more long shots with my lightweight kit than I would with my heavy gear.

Some samples from a few days in Scotland this year. I think these will all be zoomed in, I may have to edit the selection. Bear in mind the 50% crop factor of the 4/3 body.

Plus one taken at the full 150mm (300 equiv) from home where I used to shoot exclusively with my old Nikon D300 but am more likely to reach for my Olympus these days.

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peter826 Contributing Member • Posts: 668
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

When I bought my first interchangeable lens camera (an A7R), I went for a couple of years with just a 16-35 and a 70-300.  I didn't shoot in between.  I've since added a 28-75, though I notice I don't use it much.  Perhaps a 50mm prime would be better.

Regardless, I wouldn't be without my 70-300 on any trip, and I often lug a Sigma 150-600 with me as well.  I think some of us "see" in telephoto and like those longer focal lengths.  Great for picking out details, also great for compressing a scene.  I'd insert some examples, but apparently the "Insert image from Web" feature still doesn't work.  Sigh.

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darrenhaken
OP darrenhaken Regular Member • Posts: 301
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

peter826 wrote:

When I bought my first interchangeable lens camera (an A7R), I went for a couple of years with just a 16-35 and a 70-300. I didn't shoot in between. I've since added a 28-75, though I notice I don't use it much. Perhaps a 50mm prime would be better.

Regardless, I wouldn't be without my 70-300 on any trip, and I often lug a Sigma 150-600 with me as well. I think some of us "see" in telephoto and like those longer focal lengths. Great for picking out details, also great for compressing a scene. I'd insert some examples, but apparently the "Insert image from Web" feature still doesn't work. Sigh.

Any 70-300 you'd recommend on the Sony system? Assuming you're still using it that is.

I had actually toyed with replacing my 24-105 with a telephoto and travelling with a gap in the middle like you (maybe filled with a prime).

Can you try and describe the type of environments or shots where you'd decide to switch from your 16-35 to the telephoto?

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mfinley
mfinley Senior Member • Posts: 4,916
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?
1

darrenhaken wrote:

I am trying to understand whether a telephoto lens is a good range to have for travel - something like 70-200 or 70-300. 1.8 primes.

In short F yes!

One of the reasons I chose to buy into the Olympus m43 system was they have 2 pro zoom lenses the 7-14/2.8 and the 12-100/4. They are rated as some of the sharpest lenses in the m43 category you can buy, and with just 2 lenses I'm covered from 14mm-200mm.

That is the ultimate travel system in my opinion: 1 excellent weatherproof body, 2 excellent weatherproof pro lenses. Perfect combination for travel photography, small footprint, high-quality and versatility.

I also purchased the 300/4 which gives me the ultimate reach out and touch it lens for travel, however, I only take that on trips that will have wildlife I want to capture.

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peter826 Contributing Member • Posts: 668
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?
1

darrenhaken wrote:

peter826 wrote:

When I bought my first interchangeable lens camera (an A7R), I went for a couple of years with just a 16-35 and a 70-300. I didn't shoot in between. I've since added a 28-75, though I notice I don't use it much. Perhaps a 50mm prime would be better.

Regardless, I wouldn't be without my 70-300 on any trip, and I often lug a Sigma 150-600 with me as well. I think some of us "see" in telephoto and like those longer focal lengths. Great for picking out details, also great for compressing a scene. I'd insert some examples, but apparently the "Insert image from Web" feature still doesn't work. Sigh.

Any 70-300 you'd recommend on the Sony system? Assuming you're still using it that is.

I had actually toyed with replacing my 24-105 with a telephoto and travelling with a gap in the middle like you (maybe filled with a prime).

Can you try and describe the type of environments or shots where you'd decide to switch from your 16-35 to the telephoto?

I have the Sony 70-300, and I like it very much.  Not too large, not too heavy.  It has OSS so its easy to shoot handheld even at 300mm.

I think most would use the longer focal length for animals, details, etc.  When looking at my landscape and travel photos, I think I am using it more to compress a scene, and make the background look closer/larger in relation to the foreground.  This would be an example:

Michigan City, Indiana

Clearly I could take a photo of the lighthouse with a shorter focal length (this photo is at 546mm), but if I did so, you would probably not be able to see the Chicago skyline in the distance.  Using a longer telephoto lens gives you this sort of perspective, and I think makes the photo much better.

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RetCapt Regular Member • Posts: 412
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

Sometimes I need the reach for the shot I want.    For me it is essential equipment.

darrenhaken
OP darrenhaken Regular Member • Posts: 301
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

peter826 wrote:

darrenhaken wrote:

peter826 wrote:

When I bought my first interchangeable lens camera (an A7R), I went for a couple of years with just a 16-35 and a 70-300. I didn't shoot in between. I've since added a 28-75, though I notice I don't use it much. Perhaps a 50mm prime would be better.

Regardless, I wouldn't be without my 70-300 on any trip, and I often lug a Sigma 150-600 with me as well. I think some of us "see" in telephoto and like those longer focal lengths. Great for picking out details, also great for compressing a scene. I'd insert some examples, but apparently the "Insert image from Web" feature still doesn't work. Sigh.

Any 70-300 you'd recommend on the Sony system? Assuming you're still using it that is.

I had actually toyed with replacing my 24-105 with a telephoto and travelling with a gap in the middle like you (maybe filled with a prime).

Can you try and describe the type of environments or shots where you'd decide to switch from your 16-35 to the telephoto?

I have the Sony 70-300, and I like it very much. Not too large, not too heavy. It has OSS so its easy to shoot handheld even at 300mm.

I think most would use the longer focal length for animals, details, etc. When looking at my landscape and travel photos, I think I am using it more to compress a scene, and make the background look closer/larger in relation to the foreground. This would be an example:

Michigan City, Indiana

Clearly I could take a photo of the lighthouse with a shorter focal length (this photo is at 546mm), but if I did so, you would probably not be able to see the Chicago skyline in the distance. Using a longer telephoto lens gives you this sort of perspective, and I think makes the photo much better.

That is a brilliant photo

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Gloomy1 Regular Member • Posts: 488
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?
2

I won't post the images again but in this recent post all but 1 of the images were shot with a Sigma 100-400. Telephotos are good for picking out detail in a view or allowing you to change the relationship between foreground, midground and background by stepping back and zooming in and thus compressing the elements together. Whether the images are worth the size and weight is up to you to decide. Ken

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/64664205

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darrenhaken
OP darrenhaken Regular Member • Posts: 301
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?
1

Gloomy1 wrote:

I won't post the images again but in this recent post all but 1 of the images were shot with a Sigma 100-400. Telephotos are good for picking out detail in a view or allowing you to change the relationship between foreground, midground and background by stepping back and zooming in and thus compressing the elements together. Whether the images are worth the size and weight is up to you to decide. Ken

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/64664205

Would a 70-200 offer some of the photographic properties you've mentioned or should I really be considering a 100-400 range?

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darrenhaken
OP darrenhaken Regular Member • Posts: 301
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

Gloomy1 wrote:

I won't post the images again but in this recent post all but 1 of the images were shot with a Sigma 100-400. Telephotos are good for picking out detail in a view or allowing you to change the relationship between foreground, midground and background by stepping back and zooming in and thus compressing the elements together. Whether the images are worth the size and weight is up to you to decide. Ken

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/64664205

Lovely photo by the way

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Gloomy1 Regular Member • Posts: 488
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

Darren I was frustrated by frequently shooting at 200mm and wanting more which was why I moved from Nikon to Sony as Nikon 200-400 lens is incredibly expensive and heavy and the 200-500 is just incredibly heavy and the Sigma 100-400 is not much heavier than the Nikon 70-200f4 and the shutter shock with the Nikon with a D810 can be terrible so I can't hand hold it. Whether you need anything longer than 200mm is difficult to say. I like long lens landscapes but using it can be frustrating with atmospheric conditions often blunting sharpness. With my posted Bassenthwaite shots the softening atmospheric conditions are part of the charm but even in Cumbria heat shimmer is often all too evident. If you haven't used 200mm then you may find it long enough, perhaps 70-300. Good luck with your search. Ken

Derwentwater and it wasn't hot at all

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darrenhaken
OP darrenhaken Regular Member • Posts: 301
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

Gloomy1 wrote:

Darren I was frustrated by frequently shooting at 200mm and wanting more which was why I moved from Nikon to Sony as Nikon 200-400 lens is incredibly expensive and heavy and the 200-500 is just incredibly heavy and the Sigma 100-400 is not much heavier than the Nikon 70-200f4 and the shutter shock with the Nikon with a D810 can be terrible so I can't hand hold it. Whether you need anything longer than 200mm is difficult to say. I like long lens landscapes but using it can be frustrating with atmospheric conditions often blunting sharpness. With my posted Bassenthwaite shots the softening atmospheric conditions are part of the charm but even in Cumbria heat shimmer is often all too evident. If you haven't used 200mm then you may find it long enough, perhaps 70-300. Good luck with your search. Ken

Derwentwater and it wasn't hot at all

Thanks for all the input Ken.

On the Sony system, I had narrowed it down to the Tamron 70-180 f2.9 or the Tamron 70-300 4.5-6.3.

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mfinley
mfinley Senior Member • Posts: 4,916
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

darrenhaken wrote:

Would a 70-200 offer some of the photographic properties you've mentioned or should I really be considering a 100-400 range?

Perhaps this graphic will help you a little bit. This image represents the 'average' photography usage of lenses. As you can see the wider end and the longer end has less usage than the middle, but the usage is slightly skewed to the wider side of focal lengths.

What it demonstrates is the farther from the normal lens focal length be it wider or longer, the less usage there tends to be. There is less usage with a 300mm versus a 200mm versus a 100mm and so on.

You have to interpret and apply your personal photography to this 'average'. For instance, someone who shoots a lot of wildlife or sports their personal curve would be highly skewed to the right side or telephoto side, a portrait photographer would be skewed to the short telephoto...

This curve is more typical of the travel photographer who is considered a more averaged user of the focal range due to the combination of a wide variety of subject matter you encounter, but again it's going to be varied by the photographer's personal style and what they like to shoot and how they see the world.

One thing you can do since it seems like you don't have a lot of experience shooting longer lenses and are trying to get a mental picture of what can be accomplished with them, is to go through the treads of this forum and look at the images posted, hover your mouse over the pictures and the exif data will pop up and you can see the focal length of the lens used in the image.

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darrenhaken
OP darrenhaken Regular Member • Posts: 301
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

mfinley wrote:

darrenhaken wrote:

Would a 70-200 offer some of the photographic properties you've mentioned or should I really be considering a 100-400 range?

Perhaps this graphic will help you a little bit. This image represents the 'average' photography usage of lenses. As you can see the wider end and the longer end has less usage than the middle, but the usage is slightly skewed to the wider side of focal lengths.

What it demonstrates is the farther from the normal lens focal length be it wider or longer, the less usage there tends to be. There is less usage with a 300mm versus a 200mm versus a 100mm and so on.

You have to interpret and apply your personal photography to this 'average'. For instance, someone who shoots a lot of wildlife or sports their personal curve would be highly skewed to the right side or telephoto side, a portrait photographer would be skewed to the short telephoto...

This curve is more typical of the travel photographer who is considered a more averaged user of the focal range due to the combination of a wide variety of subject matter you encounter, but again it's going to be varied by the photographer's personal style and what they like to shoot and how they see the world.

One thing you can do since it seems like you don't have a lot of experience shooting longer lenses and are trying to get a mental picture of what can be accomplished with them, is to go through the treads of this forum and look at the images posted, hover your mouse over the pictures and the exif data will pop up and you can see the focal length of the lens used in the image.

What an incredibly helpful answer, thanks for taking the time to write it.

I was attracted to the telephoto as two photographers work I follow online use a 70-200 to pull off shots I've normally never taken myself.

Normally it's a candid portrait in a scene with nice compression or to get a tighter shot of a landscape/cityscape.

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mfinley
mfinley Senior Member • Posts: 4,916
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

darrenhaken wrote:

I was attracted to the telephoto as two photographers work I follow online use a 70-200 to pull off shots I've normally never taken myself.

Normally it's a candid portrait in a scene with nice compression or to get a tighter shot of a landscape/cityscape.

Right, that sounds like the routine use of a travel photographer's typical usage for telephotos. I would advise anyone who is truly interested in being creative and expanding their vision of converting the 3D world to the 2D world photographically during travel to provide themselves with a swiss army knife of lenses over the complete focal range learn to be like a golfer and understand when to use the wedge and when to use the 9 iron. I think the majority of photographers understand when to use a driver versus the putter, but they don't understand when to use a 3 iron versus a 5 iron.

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MOD rick decker Forum Pro • Posts: 17,427
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

The first version of this lens which I have is a very good lens. With an add-on collar, front and back cap it weighs 3lbs 2oz. The newer DN version is even better. It definitely is worth considering for travel. It is a great "reach" to have available. Price is right also.

For those that are interested here is a sample gallery by focal length, full-size:

https://pbase.com/sigmadslr/100400_5063_c

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CameraCarl Veteran Member • Posts: 7,554
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

I googled "landscape photography with a telephoto lens" and got 1.3 million hits. You ought to try it and read some of the articles that result. Suffice it to say that I always travel with a telephoto lens and never regret having taken it along.

Bobthearch
Bobthearch Veteran Member • Posts: 9,819
Re: Are telephoto lenses good for travel?

I would not want to travel without a long-ish zoom lens.  Wildlife, portraits, architectural features, geographical features, cultural events, or even news events.  It's the best way to photograph people, if you're into that, without being intrusive or obvious.

A hot air balloon rally, 240mm on a crop sensor.

The only prime lens I regularly travel with is an 85mm macro.

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