I recently went to a mirrorless camera. Am I crazy to think of bringing only one lens, a 16-50 for my nikon z50? We are off to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland next year. I am absolutely determined to travel light this time.
I take one lens for my Nikon crop sensor dslr - an 18 to 55 mm and I get really nice shots. I don’t need more than that one lens. If you want to spend money, Nikkor just came out with an 18 - 140 mm for the Z.
Thanks, Mary. I am really trying to pack light this time. LOL. I even bought a lighter suitcase that weighs half of the old one. And I went from my Nikon DSLR to a mirrorless camera. If I can keep it down to just one lens I will be on the right track. Sigh, now for the shoes!
Jackie, my husband has the full frame Z8 and carries a lot of different lenses, tripod, etc. I beg him not to take so much stuff but to no avail. A lot of the time my travel shots are just as good if not better than his. I refuse to be a pack mule.
Thanks, Mary. We are a few years older now (70s--hard to believe), therefore my determination to travel lighter than ever! I am worried that we will soon be ageing out of the RS market, and that would be a shame. For some reason, we are usually on the top floor of wherever we end up staying. Lugging the bag up the stairs is more of a chore than it used to. My DSLR and lenses took up half of my suitcase and added a lot of weight. Since we have been stuck at home since early 2020, I have had a lot of time to think things over and try to downsize. I can't begin to tell you how great it is to think about travel again. I sure hope our trip materializes. It is in September 2022.
I tend to haul only an 18-50 lens on trips, with a fairly light and small dSLR - it provides plenty of flexibility. I think you’ll be fine.
Depends on what you want to shoot. Will you want to do any of the following?
- bird photography, or animals in general
- sports events
- compress the perspective for instance on mountain ranges
- flattering portraits
- macro photography
- long exposures (requiring a tripod)
If you're not going to do any of that, why lug the stuff around that you are not going to use anyway.
You could also view it as a photographic challenge: I am only going to take this one lens along and really max out its possibilities.
I made my living as an industrial photographer for 40 years. Normal load for every assignment, everywhere, all the time was three Nikon F3 bodies and motors (later DSLRs) and at least eight lenses. I was delightfully surprised when I retired to discover my iPhone as the only camera I needed or wanted, everywhere, all the time. However, when traveling, I carry an iPod touch. That way I'm not pulling out and waiving my VERY IMPORTANT phone every time I want a picture.
The newer mirrorless systems are terrific travel cameras and you will need to take all the lenses and accessories (cards, spare batteries, tripod, stabilizer, drives, &c) that you want to have at your disposal for the level of documentation or creative photography you wish to accomplish. If you think you can do it with a single zoom, take a day to roam around your hometown and shoot everything you think you might while traveling: churches, museums, markets, candids, markets, scenics, selfies, timer-delayed shots, macros, panoramas, and get as arty as you wish. Study the camera's manual, watch any user videos you can find, and push the camera to perform all of its advanced functions including video, time lapse, GPS, underwater, whatever.
Try to objectively assess your results and decide if you need to carry more or less stuff.
I hear what your saying about "lugging all the camera gear". I took my Nikon with me on all my oversea trips for 7-8 years, but the last 2 years I've only taken my iPhone X and to be honest the quality is so good that unless your blowing the pictures up to poster size they are more than adequate. I'm going to get the new iPhone 13 because the picture quality is amazing for just being a smart phone.
Do I miss my Nikon? Yes, I do, it was like a good friend that went on many adventures with me but at 70years old I have downsized to just a backpack that weighs 17-18lbs and really love that.
take a day to roam around your hometown and shoot everything you think
you might while traveling
That is a fantastic idea, to take a test vacation in your home town and see what gear you are missing.
Definitely practice with that camera before your trip and learn it’s functions and capabilities. I would just add a polarizing filter, extra cd cards and a rain cover for the camera. 16mm will get you a wide shot and 50mm will get you in close. When I’m traveling, I like to be in the moment as well as taking photos so I don’t want to focus on gear. If you are just taking photos for the memories to go in a photobook or on FB or IG, this is enough. I have taken some great long exposure shots by simply finding an improvised “tripod” such as a bridge railing or a trash can. Be creative and improvise.
Great replies here!
a rain cover for the camera
You can even save weight on that. First off, a camera should be able to take a few drops of water. If the rain gets too bad, I usually use a rain cape that covers me and my camera. Or another really lightweight solution is using the ziplock bag you probably have in your carry-on luggage anyway: Put your camera in it with the lens facing out the open end, and a rubber band around the outside of the lens.
For the improvised tripod, there's an easy simplified version of the classic, the bean bag: Buy a small bag of dried beans or rice at your destination and fill a ziplock bag with those.
On the whole, I am inclined to say: If you can't say off the top of your head what you need the second lens for, you probably don't need it.
I too am in my 70s (soon to be 80s) and have enjoyed traveling with a lighter camera setup. However, I do find I need to cover from wide angle to short telephoto (120-150?). There are so many details that I want to isolate (church ceilings and paintings that you have to get farther away from to limit the distortion from shooting at an upward angle). You may want to consider carrying one more lens. I do not shoot Nikon and am not familiar with their lenses so I can not recommend a light telephoto.
The Ruggerd rain cover weighs next to nothing. It’s basically a clear plastic bag that covers your camera. You can get two for about $7.00. But, yes, in a pinch you can use a ziploc bag.
Thank you, everyone, for all of your replies. Lots of good ideas here. I definitely will go play tourist in my own town and shoot things that I might shoot on vacation somewhere else. Great idea! Since we are with RS groups most of the time, I have limited time to play with more artsy shots. I need time on my own for that. That does eliminate the need for things like a tripod and filters for slow shutter shots. Also, thanks for the info re the new lens. I will have a look. Birthday and Christmas are on the way. You don't know what it means to me to be excited about travel again, and have travel related questions.
I always pack along a full size Canon dSLR on trips, and have found that I mainly use a 10-22 wide angle and a 24-105 medium range zoom lens. Although that adds a bit to the weight, I will continue hauling that kit around as it allows me the flexibility to get the shots I want. On some trips I also pack a small travel size tripod.
When traveling light, I bring only my m4/3 12-32 lens OR my 18mm low-f prime. It depends on what I need the lenses for.
My iphone takes pretty reasonable outdoor shots, including panorama and macro/portrait. The camera is for what the phone can't do - extra crispness in a wide landscape, low ISO in dark buildings like cathedrals or for twilight city shots. My phone is my primary camera, my Oly is secondary, as backwards as that sounds.
It also makes a difference what the intent of the trip is. When we went to the canyons of the western US, part of the trip was dedicated to photography. I brought and used my tripod and multiple lenses, chose hotels that were well-positioned for sunrise photos, and set aside time each day to take pictures without my family. On a non-stop run through Europe, it may be more about capturing a moment or collecting snapshots.
For the locations you describe, I would probably bring the low-light prime, and rely on my phone for the landscapes. If you haven't tried out your phone's landscape option, practice a bit before you go.
A 16-50 is good, depending on your style. I personally prefer to do a lot of fairly wide angle landscapes and architecture so I don’t need a big zoom range. I’ve done only 16-50 and it worked well for me. But others do a lot of wildlife or details from a distance, where a 150 or 200 would be needed.
More important is the low light performance. You will likely want to take photos outside at night and in dark buildings like cathedrals. That’s what I’d try ahead of time. Walk around your town after dark, turn off most lights in your living room, go into a darker restaurant or church, and see how the lens does.
Full disclosure- in late 2019 I got an iPhone 11pro and now don’t bring my dslr on trips. I have not been to Europe since then (pandemic) but plan to only use the phone next time. It’s better than a dslr with kit lens, ideal is a full set of lenses, but that’s not practical for my purposes. I especially noticed that the phone is better at night than a basic lens. I used to carry a fixed lens 1.8/35mm just for nighttime/dark places.
More important is the low light performance. ... see how the lens
The lens can only do so much for low light performance, depending on how fast it is. A fast lens will, almost by definition, add to your weight.
The other two factors for low light are camera performance at high ISO (how much noise will it give you?), and, most important, stability. Back to the tripod, or to one of the makeshift solutions mentioned above.
I consider where I am going in my choice of lens. That being said I have pretty much reduced my travel lens kit to one lens, 15 to 85 for my cropped Canon. I love that lens! I have discovered in my travels I hate always having chosen the wrong lens that day so am continually changing lenses…I am over that for travel.
I too have shrunken my camera size to also having a compact DSLR, not mirrorless, but as I haven’t traveled yet I don’t know if I will like only having this new one…as I love how a larger camera fits in my hand, but it still has a full sensor (cropped) and the functions of my larger one.
So, no, I don’t think you are crazy for the choice of one lens!
I am still using my trusted crop sensor DSLR, now eight years old. Have pondered making the switch to mirrorless many times... but what's keeping me is the fact that this wouldn't save me nearly as much weight as I would have expected. The lenses are hardly lighter than my current lenses, and if I want to continue using any of these, I'll have to add an adapter. I wish there was a lightweight solution that would give me the quality and the options of a DSLR with different lenses!
I sold all of my old lenses and DSLR. My mirrorless came with an adapter so I could have kept my old lenses, but I found the adapter plus lenses heavy and awkward when I tried them out. The camera did not feel balanced in my hand. Since my main goal was to get rid of weight, I sold everything. I am really leaning toward upgrading my cell phone (I currently have iPhone 8) and just taking one lens for my camera, the 16-50mm. I have a very small tripod (I just upgraded the ball head), which I need to practice using, and a polarizer. Thanks, everyone, for all of the great suggestions. I need to practice some more low light shots. The gloomy winter days are soon here, so practicing in low light will not be a problem! And I love the idea of playing tourist in your own town! Thanks again, everyone, for all of your help.
Hey Jackie, we're also on a Sep (2022) GAS Tour. Let's hope: All's Clear 'til Trier. :)
Your Nikon z50 (Mirrorless) is a fantastic camera, it should reward you with some incredible photos. Regarding (camera) packing considerations, a couple years ago I decided that space now had the premium over lugging multiple lenses, filters and such. Bought a Sony RX100(VI) point-and-shoot. Its' 24-200mm zoom range and overall versatility [Raw and JPEG image formats; getting that bokeh in still images; hi-def 4K Video] were deciding factors in compromise to leave the DSLR at home while still getting great memories from our trips. Now we have room for that thing we can never find... ah, travel.
Hi Matt, We are on the GAS Sept 3-16 followed by Germany in 13 Days Sept 18-30. I am really looking forward to going places again!
We're a couple weeks behind you, Jackie... starting our GAS itinerary mid-month.
Have a great trip; make that two, with Best of Germany following your initial tour. Save us some schnitzel !!
Matt, My husband will try hard to find the very best schnitzel, but I am pretty sure there will be some left for you!
I posted in another thread that I only need an Iphone and, possibly, my Sony RX100 III. I have not taken my dslr kit on my last few trips.
After playing with some of the APSC and FF mirrorless cameras from Sony recently, I am seriously tempted to pick one up. The 16-50 on the z50 will have a focal range of 24-75. Pretty much ideal for a travel camera setup.
We just got back from Egypt and although I was glad to have my Nikon P1000 ( has a super telephoto), I only used it when we were cruising along the Nile. In all the tombs, you had to buy a photography pass to use anything but a cellphone. So my iphone was what I used a great deal of the time.
I realize many of you have DSLR cameras and are trying to decide about a lens for travel;. Let me echo a couple of others who have mentioned the Sony RX100 series. I have a Sony RX100 VII with 24-200 mm range and cannot say enough good things about this as a travel camera. It is expensive but it has excellent image quality, solid build, and fits in a pocket. Superb camera for travel. i even took it to Africa along with my Nikon P900 on safari (28-2000 mm) and came home with great shots on the Sony as well as the Nikon. Shoots raw as well. Easy menu and loads of shooting options as well as video capabilities. Taking it to Germany in December since no need for extreme zoom.