Travelling light – squeezing the most from the least

Whether you are just starting out in photography or are a seasoned veteran, you probably have an interest in knowing how to get the most versatility out of the least amount of equipment.

The simplest, most compact combination of equipment that gives maximum capability per ounces is a 35mm camera with its standard (50mm) lens. But today with so many fascinating zoom lenses available, some photographers replace the fixed length 50mm lens with a zoom in the same focal length range. One of the most useful of these zooms is the 35-70mm, supplying some leeway on both sides of “normal” while adding little to size and weight. If more reach is desired, a 35-105mm zoom can be used without increasing bulk too much. If the extra size and weight are no problem, a 45-135mm zoom will provide even more magnification at the same 1:3 ratio.

Sometimes a two lens outfit furnishes a great deal more scope without adding much to weight and bulk. A 135mm unifocal lens along with the normal 50mm lens takes in a broader range of subjects than just the normal lens alone. If your interests lie in covering more than the normal view rather than less, try teaming a 28mm wide angle lens with your 50mm lens. however, since a fixed length 28mm lens is small and light, you may even want to include all three lenses in your compact arsenal. With capabilities ranging from 28mm through 50mm to 135mm, you should be able to photograph 95 percent of all the subjects you are likely to encounter.

Two zooms can give extreme versatility. They are heavier and bulkier than two unifocal lenses, but they allow many more choices of magnification. An outfit consisting of a camera, a 28-50mm zoom and a 70-140mm zoom provides coverage from moderate wide angle to moderate telephoto (a 5:1 focal length ratio) with only a small gap in the middle. Since neither of the lenses is especially large, all three items are easy to carry. Another choice of two zooms might be a 28-80mm combined with an 85-300mm. both of these lenses are bulkier than the 28-50mm and 70-140mm zooms, but they provide a focal length ratio of nearly 11:1 with almost no gap at all in the coverage! There are, of course many other possibilities for a two zoom outfit (or one zoom and one unifocal), depending upon factors such as weight, cost and whether you favor the wide angle or the telephoto range.

To avoid buying or carrying longer lenses, tele-extenders can be used. A 2x extender will double the focal length of any lens, and a 3x will triple it. There will be substantial sacrifice in lens speed (two stops and three stops respectively) and a small loss in image quality but savings in weight and bulk more than make up for it. In addition, if close ups are planned, you needn’t include a separate macro lens. A zoom with close focusing capability or a set of close up lens attachments will serve the purpose and save place.

If a tripod will be needed for your travel photography, get the smallest and lightest unit that will still do the job. Remember, a tripod needn’t be fancy or expensive, but it must be sturdy or there is no point in using it.

There is another practical approach to travelling light. Just pack a minimal outfit and spend your time only on those subjects that best suit your equipment. Avoid anything that would be better served by lenses and accessories left at home. There is never time enough to take all the desirable pictures anyway, so concentrate on the most appropriate subject matter and avoid the necessity of traveling like a pack horse.

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