Which Lens for What? The Best Lenses for Travel Photography

Best Lenses for Travel Photography | World of Wanderlust
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It has been a while since I’ve covered the photography subject on my blog and as such, I’m finding myself inundated lately with photography questions! Particularly on the photo-sharing app Instagram, I am asked on a daily basis about what camera I use, lenses, photo editing tips and all sorts of photography-related questions you guys are itching to know!

So today I’m going to cover what lenses I use, as these are the best lenses for travel photography that I have found. All my recommendations will by for my two cameras (that I strongly recommend as an affordable and most importantly reliable option!): my Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II and my Olympus PEN EPL7.

For those who don’t already know, I used to use a heavy Digital SLR camera as I was led to believe that it was one of the best cameras in the business. Sure, it took great photos and sure… but it was also much more expensive, heavy, and difficult to use. Having no training in photography, I was in the market for something more simplified, a whole lot lighter and more compact. Thus I opted for the mirrorless cameras I use today and I have never looked back since.

Best Lenses for Travel Photography | World of Wanderlust

The Best Lenses for Travel Photography: What I Use

Over the past few years I have slowly but surely self-taught myself how to take better travel photos. Using lots of information found on online and more importantly with a lot of practice, I have found myself much more comfortable behind the camera in the last 12 months, armed with my tools of the trade (cameras, lenses, tripods, etc.) To help with your own travel photography aspirations, I’ve compiled a list of my current gear and what I use it for, when and why.


Olympus OMD EM5 MARK II with 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens

This photo was taken in Positano by my boyfriend, who gladly takes my instruction to “stand here, feet firm, up a notch” extremely well! Each time I get him to take a photo I adjust the camera settings to suit the lighting situation, set him up like a tripod, run in the frame and yell “I’m ready!” with great enthusiasm.

This photo (and most of my photos) was taken with my 12-40mm PRO lens. This is the lens that I use most frequently and only ever change if I’m going in to a unique situation requiring a long-range lens, wide-angle lens or playing around with my fisheye lens (all below!) If I could recommend just one lens above all others as the best place to start, this one is it.

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Quick Guide to Strasbourg France | World of Wanderlust Quick_Guide_to_Strasbourg_France

Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II with M.ZUIKO 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Lens (Wide Angle Lens)

Some situations call for a little more scope, especially when trying to get a lot in the frame without being able to stand back far enough (there was a river behind me in these photos – probably wouldn’t have worked out so well!)

I mostly use my wide angle lens in tight situations, such as shooting hotel rooms, church interiors, or in narrow streets like this one in Strasbourg. This lens is great for capturing more in the frame when you can’t manipulate the situation as much and I almost always have this lens on hand for trickier situations.

Wide angle lenses are also great for distorting close-up subjects, providing depth of field, and of course are great for capturing landscapes (which I also use it for on occasion!)

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Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II with M.ZUIKO 8mm f/1.8 (Fisheye Lens)

A lens I’d like to use more of is my fisheye lens, which I often use to take photos of buildings up close (it creates a really dramatic effect that you don’t get with the wide angle). I really love experimenting with this lens and find it works best when focusing on a subject close-up, as otherwise you lose the fisheye effect and it doesn’t appear nearly as impressive. Although this lens is more of an investment piece, I find it worth it as it makes otherwise plain objects much more interesting and unique to other traveller’s photos of the same object in question.

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Olympus PEN EPL7 with 14-42mm lens

This camera + lens combo is the most affordable option starting out and as you can see, still takes a really clear, clean shot. I mostly use my Olympus PEN for vlogging my travels (the flip down screen is such a boss), however I also use it for on-the-spot photos when I don’t have my other camera with me or the situation doesn’t call for it (like the snap below!)

Travelling in Canada Passport

Olympus PEN EPL7 with 14-42mm lens

As you can see this versatile little lens is great for quick photos on the spot, especially as both the camera and lens are really small and lightweight. I usually take this camera on the plane with me in case I feel the urge to take a photo (usually out the plane window or of my passport – ha!) This has been the closest lens I found to my beloved 50mm lens (on my previous DSLR) and I’m really happy with the Olympus equivalent as it provides a crisp, clear shot in seconds!

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Safari in Tanzania | World of Wanderlust Safari in Tanzania | World of Wanderlust Best Lenses for Travel Photography | World of Wanderlust

Olympus PEN EPL7 with 40-150mm lens

It might surprise you that I have taken all my safari photos with my tiny little Olympus PEN! As I couldn’t afford one of the huuuuuuuge pro lenses, I opted for the much cheaper telephoto option. From memory this lens is only a couple hundred dollars, which is really reasonable for the performance. I use this lens to capture sporting events and moving objects (like lions and leopards!)

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Best Lenses for Travel Photography | World of Wanderlust Best Lenses for Travel Photography | World of Wanderlust Best Lenses for Travel Photography | World of Wanderlust

Other Supplies

A few other supplies I would highly recommend are extra memory cards, extra batteries, and if you travel solo you’ll need a tripod! I use a gorilla pod and this little Manfrotto tripod. Both work a treat!


World of Wanderlust is a proud Olympus Australia ambassador! I can’t tell you how fond I am of these products and know you will be too.

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    Julia Bruns
    September 18, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Hi there Brooke! I’ve just discovered your blog today and I am completely in love. My dream in life is to travel and I’m embarking on my first really big adventure next year and visiting Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, albeit with a tour group, but still a wonderful opportunity. I am also a photographer and even though I have taken my equipment with me while on vacation, I’m rather nervous about how to plan day to day travel with such a large amount of gear. I have a sturdy and capable bag that holds everything that I need, but it’s a tad bulky especially with the tripod, and I’m always afraid of pickpocketing. Are there any tips that you could provide on how to pack and move around with your gear effectively while traveling? I will be doing a bike tour, a lot of walking, etc and want to be able to shoot freely without much issue. Thank you so much!

    Hani Calista
    August 30, 2016 at 4:26 am

    When I was in Uni, Nikon was my favo cz the result is really sharp picture and so many friends used Nikon so we could do lens exchange.

    Actually I’m not a big fan of Olympus. But some of my friends told me that the mirror lens is pretty good comparing to the DSLR one.

    August 26, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Great post Brooke!
    I’ve been wishing for a wide angle lens to use and would love to have a good fish eye lens as well. But you know how expensive they can get! So far I’ve been using the iphone 6s to capture panoramas, the quality is not too bad for a phone camera haha

    Which tripod do you use? Mine has more than 10 years and it’s a bit heavy and big (doesn’t really fit my backpack). Any suggestions for me?

    Thank you 😀

    August 25, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    First of all, congrats on the website, it’s really useful.
    Second, I’m super glad when I find people that use Olympus gear.

    Now, the question: do you ever feel like the e-m5 or the 12-40mm PRO are bigger than they should be for a mirrorless system (you already use the e-pl and the kit 14-42 and I think you can understand my concern)? Thanks!

    And just to share, my fav lens to travel (since I bought it) is the Leica 15mm F1.7 for m43. And the “creative” lens is the Oly 45mm F1.8 (this little guy is just brilliant!). And for fun, Fisheye 9mm F8 Oly lens cap.

    • Brooke Saward
      August 26, 2016 at 4:36 am

      Hey there,

      I actually find both are the perfect size for me – much smaller/lighter than DSLR and I get the same results (if not better now that I’ve learned my gear more!)

    August 24, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I was a little frustrated with which lenses to use and when. This helped a lot! 🙂

    August 24, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Hi Brooke. This post was so useful for me, I find myself getting so confused with all the gear! I’m feel I’ve got a good eye, but find it hard to match up that creative vision with my technical knowledge.

    • Brooke Saward
      August 24, 2016 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Rachel – hope this helps! I’m still learning every day so its great to share as we go along 🙂

    August 24, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Such a great post

    August 24, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    Good tips Brooke! I’m thinking of lighter options. Currently I’m using my SLR and its SO HEAVY OMG. Hiking with it is almost impossible (unless I’m travelling with the bf and he carries it for me hurhur). Will defo check these out!

    August 24, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you for this very helpful post Brooke ! I really want to get into professional photography and feel like I wouldn’t be valued as a professional travel photographer with a mirorless camera. So far I have only worked with DSLRs but they are so heavy to carry around, especially when you travel long-term like I do without a home base to go back to. The weight is the main reason why I’d like to go mirrorless. I’m really struggling… decisions, decisions !

    August 24, 2016 at 7:36 am

    This is really useful information for a new blogger, Brooke! I’m currently camera-less so rely on my iPhone, but when I have saved up enough pennies I know what I’ll be getting! I always love your photos, you definitely have mastered the art of travel photography I think!

    August 24, 2016 at 6:58 am

    This is so helpful, thank you! I’ve been thinking about the EM5 Mark II for ages, but after reading this I’m wondering if it’s really worth it over the EPL7? I wouldn’t be vlogging – just using it for photography. What are your thoughts? I have a DSLR but it’s just so bulky and cumbersome – I want to make the switch to mirrorless to eliminate the size and weight, but I’m not sure I’m ready to give up the viewfinder. Obviously that makes the EM5 II the better choice, but is it worth the extra price and weight for the viewfinder alone?

    • Brooke Saward
      August 24, 2016 at 8:21 am

      Hey Francesca! I use my EM5 nearly 100% of the time for photography – only really use the EPL7 for vlogging and with the telephoto lens as a cheaper way of getting long distance action shots (i.e. safari)!! For what you’re after I would strongly suggest the EM5 over the EPL7 (which is really just good for non-serious photography and videos) hope that helps! xx

        August 24, 2016 at 11:11 am

        Thanks Brooke, it does!

    Kamilla Haaland
    August 24, 2016 at 5:22 am

    Are you able to use the same lenses ta Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II and olympus Pen E-pl7?

    Sara Mcavoy
    August 23, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    I so wish I understood photography more! I’m only an expert on the Iphone haha!

    August 23, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    My favorite remains the zoom–I can crop or not.

    August 23, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Great article Brooke! I am still addicted to my DSLR, but I can definitely understand why you love this Olympus. The photos look amazing and I am glad that you found something that works for you. I also love how you showed photos with every lense! X

    August 23, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Love the info Brooke! I bought the EPL7 this spring and love love love it! I agonized for the longest time as to if I should just buy the newer Sony Rx100 model (my old camera was the RX100), or upgrade to the Sony a6000. Neither quite satisfied me, so I was just stuck. Your older camera blog posts turned me on to the Oly cameras [then I scoured the internet for other blog reviews…and watched as many YouTube videos as I could ], finally I took the plunge and am now a proud owner of a EPL7 with the M. Zuiko 12mm f/2.0 lens. So thank you for your help!

    • Brooke Saward
      August 23, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Ashley – trust me when I say it is my fave camera of its kind on the market – I’m sure you will love it! I have been using it for a couple of years now and it has been the most reliable little thing…. I’m so glad you took the plunge! xo

    Kristen @ Muddle + Joy
    August 23, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Mini-tripod was a gamechanger for me! I love that thing. Perfect for carrying in a large purse while traveling or daypack while hiking. It has made all the difference in my out-and-about photography.

    Also, it’s really interesting to see what lenses you’re using. It makes total sense to be using such wide angles for the land and cityscapes. Which lens do you find yourself using for your up-close pictures of food and whatnot? Great article! Thanks for writing.

    • Brooke Saward
      August 23, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      For food photography (which I’ll do a more detailed blog post on soon!) I use the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II with the 12-40mm lens. Thanks Kristen!

    August 23, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    I love your input about accessories. Which gorilla pod is pictured? I actually just purchased the E-PL7 after seeing your recommendation. I was looking at tripods and the smaller version of the gorilla pod only holds up to 11.5 oz and I think the E-PL7 weighs more with the battery and lens attached. Also, how does your E-PL7 last on battery life after a whole day of shooting? I’m going to Europe in September and will be using it daily.

    • Brooke Saward
      August 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Hey Michelle, I use the manfrotto most of the time and only rely on the gorilla pod if there isn’t a flat surface nearby! Mine is the minature gorilla pod but takes the weight of the EPL7 fine (sometimes requires a little balancing!) I don’t usually change batteries until 2-3 days of using it all day so in comparison I find the battery life amazing compared to other brands I’ve used in the past! I always pack a second (charged) battery in my handbag though 🙂