The best walk around lens depends on many factors, and the perfect walk around lens for one photographer is likely not to suit another photographer. I like to dabble in all types of photography, therefore I think the best walk around lens is the one that offers the largest focal range and will allow me to capture wide angle shots at the short end, as well as zoom in for frame filling shots from a distance. I appreciate this is a big ask, however there is a lens out there that fits the bill and that is the 28mm – 300mm lens (for full frame cameras) and the 16mm – 300mm lens (for crop sensor cameras).
The 28mm – 300mm is a versatile lens you can use to take photos of many different subjects in many different situations. If you want to capture ultra-wide angle shots, macro shots or lowlight shots the 28mm – 300mm lens is not for you. If you want a lens for just about anything else this lens is ideal, and using a 28mm – 300mm lens you will soon find that you will be able to have a crack at almost any shot and never miss an opportunity again.
Best walk around lens for full frame cameras
The best walk about lens for Canon full frame cameras has to be the Canon 28mm – 300mm F3.5 – 5.6L IS lens. First off, this is a large heavy lens, not to mention expensive and these are the two reasons that put most people off buying one. I have to admit that the size and cost of the lens almost put me off buying one too, however after a lot of research, deliberation and visits to the local camera shop to take some test shots I pulled the trigger and bought one, although it was a used model that was only a few weeks old and was in mint condition.
Like all Canon L series lenses the build quality of this lens is second to none and absolutely bullet proof. It is weather sealed and dust sealed and able to withstand a lot of abuse from both you, as the photographer, as well as Mother Nature.
The image quality is superb, and whilst many people comment it is not up to L series standard I totally disagree with this. This lens has a huge range of focal lengths so the image quality isn’t going to be on par with other Canon L series lenses, and to think it would be the same is pretty naïve. This lens does suffer some distortion at the long end, it does suffer some colour fringing and it does suffer softness at times, but these aren’t serious problems and they are easily rectified using some photo editing software. If you like to go pixel peeping you will see the flaws, likewise you will see the flaws if you blow the photos up to bill board size. All things considered, the image quality of this lens is awesome and, trust me on this, you will not be disappointed. If you sell your photos I can guarantee your clients won’t be disappointed either.
The image stabilisation works exceptionally well and enables me to take sharp handheld shots at slower shutter speeds. The autofocus of the lens isn’t the quickest, but then you do have to remember this is an all-round general purpose lens. The auto focus isn’t slow by any means, and it is more than quick enough for general photography, it’s just not real fast.
As previously mentioned, this is a big and heavy lens that is noticeable. I find in busy places, such as in towns and cities, it attracts a lot of unwanted attention, which I don’t really like. A lens jacket soon solves this problem. I have read reports that some people struggle carrying this lens around all day, and I have read reports some people struggle carrying it around during other pursuits (hiking, rambling, climbing etc.) however I have never found this a problem. I use a sling type camera strap (a Black Rapid) or I carry my camera/lens in a Lowerpro top loader bag when I am not taking photos, and I have to say I don’t feel the weight. When I am walking in the countryside, cycling or doing a bit of trekking I strap the Lowerpro top loader to my chest (using the optional chest harness) and I then have both hands free. Using the Lowerpro top loader, I always have my camera close to hand.
The Canon 28 – 300L is an expensive lens however it is worth every penny. It is also worth remembering that this lens is effectively two or three lenses in one, so whilst it is expensive, it is top value for money.
Sample images using the Canon 28 - 300
"Bee on thistle" "Wild meadow flowers"
Best walk around lens for crop sensor cameras
The best walk around camera for crop sensor cameras is the Tamron 16 – 300. Even though I shoot a full frame 6D with a Canon 28 – 300 L at home when I am on vacation I shoot a crop sensor Canon 7D with a Tamron 16mm – 300mm.
I typically use Canon lenses but since Canon don’t make a 16mm – 300mm, or anything close to this focal length range (the closest was 18mm – 200mm) I had no other choice but to look at what the third party lens manufacturers have to offer, which led me to the Tamron, and I have to say that I am very impressed.
The build quality of the Tamron 16mm – 300mm is very good and on par with non L series Canon lenses. The image quality (which, let’s face it is where it matters) is very good given the extreme range of focal lengths. Okay, the Tamron may not be the sharpest lens I own, but this is to be expected. This is not to say the Tamron is soft, in fact it is far from it. If you go pixel peeping on the computer you will see the flaws in the Tamron’s image quality, but in the real world who goes pixel peeping? You’ll have to trust me on this, the image quality is very good and you will not be disappointed. If you like to sell your photos to stock sites the image quality of the Tamron lens is more than good enough for saleable stock photos.
The Tamron 16mm – 300mm may not be the fastest lens out there but, once again, given the huge range of focal lengths this is to be expected. In good light you won’t have any problems keeping the shutter speed fast enough for sharp handheld shots. Besides, the Taron 16mm – 300mm has vibration reduction which works very well and also helps to ensure handheld shots are sharp.
One thing that did surprise me about the Tamron 16mm – 300mm is how small and light it is. For a lens with a focal length of 300mm (a whopping 480mm on the crop sensor camera) this lens is not only compact, but also lightweight. The lens barrel does extend as you twist to get the longer focal lengths so you need to keep this in mind to make sure you don’t bash the end of the lens in to something as it extends.
The Tamron 16mm – 300mm isn’t cheap but then for what you get it isn’t expensive either, and it is a good value for money lens.
Overall, the Tamron 16mm – 300mm lens is a great lens and one that I would definitely recommend for a walk about lens or a travel lens.
Sample images using the Tamron 16mm – 300mm
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.