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What camera and lenses I took to Europe

I just got back from the Rick Steve’s 14 Day Best of Europe Trip, which was my first tour and trip to Europe. Prior to the trip, I read a lot of the posts on this forum regarding what size camera to take and which lenses. I ended up taking my Canon DLSR with 24-70 mm lens, 35mm 1.4 lens, 16-36 mm lens, and a flash. I was able to fit all of this in my PacSafe camera bag. It was a little bit heavy, but I was able to carry it around on the walking tours without any real problems. I was worried that I was taking too much equipment, so at the last minute I left my tripod at home. If I was going to take just one lens, I would take the 35mm 1.4 since it would be good for indoor/outdoor/night photos.

I ended up using the 24-70 for general walking around shots. The 35mm was good for inside museums, restaurants, and night shots. I didn’t use the 16-36mm in France but used it in Lauterbrunnen for some landscape shots. In Munich and Italy, it allowed me to fit the entire buildings and plaza’s into the frame, so it was worth bringing.

We went to the Palace of Versailles prior to the tour starting. The palace and grounds are so beautiful, I got a lot of great shots. Same thing for Lauterbrunnen. I left the hotel around 7:30 am in Venice and got lots of nice shots without tourists in them. The only people out at that time were other hard core camera people. We were at the Roman Forum late in the afternoon, which resulted in some great shadows on the buildings.

In hindsight, I should have taken my tripod, since it was hard to find people sometimes to take photos of my wife and me. I thought, my 70-200 mm lens wouldn’t be that useful on the trip, but it would have been nice to use for taking shots down the canals in Venice or details of buildings.

I saw a lot of tourists with DLSR’s and I even saw a number of tourists that brought more camera gear than I did.

Finally , I made 3 Costco photo books with the photos from the trip.

Posted by
5504 posts

Is your DSLR a full frame 35 mm equiv or APS-C sensor?

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks Ray, maybe next time I will take two camera bodies!? Maybe my wife can carry the other one. I had the camera on a wrist strap. I was either taking pictures or it was in the bag.

Edgar - yes it was a full frame dslr.

Posted by
30971 posts

Shaun,

I also travel with a Canon dSLR and find that I use two Lenses the majority of the time - 24-105 and a 10-22. I found on my trip this year that the wide angle was used far more than on previous trips. I have taken a Tripod in the past, but not for a few years in order to try and keep the weight down. I've tried to use stationary objects to rest the camera for night shots, but that method never seems to work as well.

Posted by
683 posts

I was happy to see your post! We are taking the 21 day tour next spring and I am still contemplating what lenses to bring. I have a crop sensor, the Canon 70D so my lenses will give me a little extra zoom......I love my 24-105 f4 but it's heavier than I like (esp with the tendonitis I have acquired in my right elbow). It did take great shots at our local art museum, though and was better than expected in those low light situations.

Was planning on using my Sigma 17-50 f2.8 for my walk around lens but it doesn't have the zoom I would like. I will definitely bring my Canon 10-18 f4.5-5.6 for those wide angle shots.......

Can't decide if I should bring my upgraded kit lens (it goes to 135mm).....will I be sorry I don't have the ability to zoom more than my walk around will allow......

Will probably throw in the light 50 mm f2.8 lens. I really don't want to be swapping lenses out a whole lot. I also have a PnS I could bring which would help with the zoomING situations. We've never been to Europe before and taking pictures is a huge love of mine. I will absolutely bring my dSLR on my rapid strap!

I was wondering about my gorilla pod. I have the heavy one which will accomodate my camera......trying to decide if it's worth lugging around.

Posted by
16 posts

Ken,

Just curious, what trip did you take this year where you used the wide angle most of the time?

Posted by
16 posts

I would take either your Sigma 17-50 or the Canon 24-105. If you bring the Sigma your 50 mm seems redundant since both are 2.8 and you have the 50 mm covered already. Unless you really like that lens. Also bring the 10-22 if you like wide angle shots.

Only you know what kind of pictures you like to take. I used my 24-70 with a full frame for the walk around lens, which is probably the same as your 17-50 with the crop factor. Only I couple of times it would have been nice to get a close up of a gargoyle or getting a shot of my wife standing on canal bridge in Venice. Even without these couple of photos, I still have a lot of good photos from the trip to remember it by. You could always bring you PNS for the backup camera or to give you more reach?

Must of the time I would only take two lenses and the camera with me. Don’t tell anyone, but I left the other lens in the hotel room. Either in the safe or the luggage if the room didn’t have a safe. Also the Europeans have this custom of leaving the hotel room key with the front desk when you go out. The hotel key had a big paper weight on it so it would have been hard to carry it anyway. I wasn’t really worried since Rick Steve’s uses small family run hotels, they seemed to know all the hotel guests and what rooms they were staying in. There was no other traffic going in and out of the hotels.

Rome day 12 – Is a long day, since you arrive in Rome after lunch, check into your hotel then go to the Colossuem, Roman Forum, Pantheon and then if you choose to do the after dinner walk to Trevi Fountain (under repairs) and the Spanish Steps. Our guide Jennifer also took us for gelato(yum!). We didn’t get back to our hotel room under after 10 pm.

I was able to take pictures everywhere except for the Sistine Chapel and the Orsay. If the museums/palace had paintings, fabric, rugs, you couldn’t use a flash.

I don’t know about the Gorillapod. You cannot use tripods in the museums. The tour group is always on the move so you really don’t have a lot of time to set up a shot with the tripod. If I did bring the tripod, I would have only it used it when we had free time or our pre-tour site seeing.

Make you sure to bring all the electrical plug adapters – I had three - France/Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. I presume your Canon 70D charger is like my Canon one and can convert the voltage.

Hope that helps.

Posted by
4689 posts

Lately here's what I've been taking:

Canon 5D Mark II (full frame DSLR)
Canon 24-105mm L lens
Canon 70-200mm L lens (the "cheap" one - only f/4.0 with no image stabilization)
1.4X extender for above lens
Canon 17-40mm L
Cheap compact aluminum tripod
Canon Powershot S110 P&S

I use the 24-105mm maybe 80% of the time. However, I consider the 70-200mm essential now, because I love to zoom in on the clocks up on those big clock towers in Europe and also on small statues high up on buildings that you normally can't get close to. The 70-200mm is super sharp also, even with the 1.4X on it. I've been quite happy later to have some of those nice close-ups that many others can't get.

I also like to shoot wide landscapes and have been glad I had the 17-40mm on occasion, but I've not used it too much the last few trips so I'm thinking of leaving it home in the future. On the other hand, it is kind of a spare lens in case my 24-105mm dies. I had a lens fail on me a few trips ago though not that one. I'd die without a wide lens of some sort. Even at 40mm I can shoot a lot of things and just crop later and use the 70-200mm for other things, so it would be frustrating but I'd survive.

Posted by
30971 posts

Shaun,

"Just curious, what trip did you take this year where you used the wide angle most of the time?"

This year I was in Germany (Dresden, Munich), Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Italy (with a brief trip through Switzerland).

My Camera is a 7D, so it's an APS-C crop sensor, which means a slightly higher range for the 24-105 Lens. I tend to use the wide angle more inside Museums, Churches, etc. but I've been using it more for exterior shots as well, such as in piazzas. I've had really good results with the 10-22 over the past few years, and it's produced some really nice images. With the two Lenses I typically carry when touring, I tend to choose the one that provides the range I need to frame the shot.

Posted by
2229 posts

Interesting reading, Shaun, thanks for posting. I was very happy with my new 16-85 zoom for my Nikon DX format (crop sensor) DSLR this year, it was a perfect range for me. I also brought a 35mm 1.8 which allowed me to occasionally carry just that-a lot smaller and lighter, less obtrusive for people and street scenes. Two things I did not use that I brought: rotating polarizing filter and mini tripod.

Happy shooting!

Posted by
4689 posts

Wow, Dave, I can't imagine living without a polarizer or a tripod of some sort. I used both almost every day on my last trip to Europe. On a clear day with a blue sky, a polarizer makes a huge difference in the light. Different strokes for different folks, I guess...

Posted by
2229 posts

Andrew, I am working the polarizer in to the routine a bit. I had gotten it just before our trip this year, and was really not up to speed on using it effectively yet. As for the tripod? I thought I would, but just didn't.
I'm very happy with the results, though; always more to learn.
Cheers!

Posted by
4689 posts

Dave, if you are ever shooting landscape pictures with a blue sky and clouds - or in general just a really sunny day - try the polarizer. It can make the difference between a picture that looks "flat" and one that "pops." It will bring out the puffy clouds in the blue sky. But you have to know how to use it. A polazier blocks light coming into the lens at an angle. If you are shooting into the sun it will have no effect. Rotating a circular polarizer changes the angle and thus how much light is filtered.

I tend to leave the polarizer on all the time outside on a sunny day, because it usually improves pictures if not makes them much better. But it does reduce the amount of light coming into the lens, so it works best on sunny days with plenty of light. And it can ruin pictures in some cases. On wide shots a polarizer can highlight an uneven sky and make it look ugly. Or it can make blue water look black. Fortunately, with digital you can shoot as many as you want, with and without it or with the polarizer backed off, then later pick the best shot later. Sometimes when I'm shooting and in doubt I shoot both ways - and most of the time, I choose the polarized shot afterward.

The tripod obviously is useful for long exposure or low light shots, but I find it helps me frame shots more carefully even when there is plenty of light and I don't really need it. (I'm talking about landscape shots probably not shots walking around a museum or something.) But I'm talking about a compact full-size tripod, not a pocket-sized mini-tripod, if that's what you were talking about. Those minis are a pain to use and useful only as a last resort. I have used them though. You should get a remote shutter release (wired or wireless) as well if you are going to do long exposure shots. You can use the camera's timer too but I find that too frustrating to use regularly.

Posted by
2229 posts

Thanks Andrew, and yes, that's my understanding of how it works. I had the opportunity to work with the polarizer a bit at the harbor here in Ventura before our last trip, with white docks and boats, blue sky, and reflections of sun off the water in late afternoon. It really calmed down the reflection and gave a vivid look, very useful.
I don't get too complicated with my photography, and prefer to keep it simple without a lot of accessories, crazy processing and all, I use plain-old iPhoto. I have been really happy with the "IQ" and color rendering ability of my Nikon, and though I regretted not using the filter, I still came away with some great sky and landscape shots. We spent a great day in Gordes and Roussillon with the most incredible light and a sky to go with it-very exciting indeed to be there on that kind of day.
I know it would have helped me in Paris, what with all the white buildings and river shots.

I know what you mean about a tripod, too, it can really slow one down, in a good way, and we get a better look at the frame. As it is I get my exercise on trips by running to catch up to my wife after stopping to shoot photos-a tripod would mean separate vacations, I'm afraid ;-).

Thanks for sharing.

I'm heading to Italy shortly and my husband and I are both committing to taking only ONE lens.He carries the Nikon D7100, and I have the Nikon D750, and we're both taking our 18-300 mm lenses. We have wonderful lenses that I carried all through Ireland a couple of years ago (70-200, 14-24, 105 macro, 50mm etc) but this year, we're going to travel light. We'll see. I'm betting one of us tries to sneak at least one lens into our bags before we leave... I might add the macro for it's specialized function...but I'm really hoping to just use the one lens.

Posted by
5437 posts

Dave -- gorgeous shot, thanks for sharing!! And love your comment that your use of a tripod would necessitate separate vacations for you and your wife since you would be on such different schedules!!

Fascinating discussion, thanks for opening it Shaun. I don't have anything near as nice or interchangeable lenses or anything, but it's still fun to read what folks are up to.

Posted by
1406 posts

from what I've heard, most people find they use a wide angle more than a long zoom, unless you're on safari.

Posted by
683 posts

I just returned from our 21 day tour. I brought my 17-50 mm 2.8 and my wide angle lens. I haven't checked out all the data but I would venture to say I used each lens about 50% of the time.......

Posted by
2 posts

I used to be a full time pro photographer. I've had to travel regularly with 50-150 pounds of camera gear. I've also taken my DSLR on a lot of personal trips, but I find that outside of a few more involved things that I like to shoot the DSLR just becomes dead weight and I end up mostly just snapping quick pics on my iPhone.
A good compromise I've found is to get a smaller mirrorless camera. These are the ones that essentially have a DSLR type sensor, but use a smaller lens. Some of them have interchangeable lenses that are actually quite good. I picked up a Canon EOS-M2 with two lenses for under $500 while in Japan and it's a really good balance of size and features. Sony and a few other makers also have some good ones.
The bottom line is that you still get the controls of a DSLR, but it's small enough to carry in a jacket pocket and so you wind up taking it everywhere and using it a lot more.