Here’s a list of the main lenses that have seen the most use used over the years in my adventure, outdoor and travel photography. They’ve all given me years of excellent service and pro quality imagery. I stand by each one and can recommend any of them as a great addition to your kit.

Although I use the Fuji X-T2 as my main camera now, I’ve made thousands of images with these Nikon lenses below, and I’ve also listed a Canon equivalent for each lens. In the end, it really doesn’t matter which brand you use, it’s all about your eyes and vision.

Fuji Lenses: Click here to see a list of the main Fujinon XF lenses that I use most with my X-T2, X-T1 and X-T10 bodies.

If you decide to purchase any of these lenses, click through the links to B&H or Amazon. It won’t cost you anything on your end, and I’ll get a small commission for the referral. Consider it your way of helping support this site and the effort that it takes to write these reviews for you.

If you can’t decide who to buy from, I’d go with B&H Photo. They have been in the photography business for more than 35 years and they are staffed with knowledgable sales people who are not on commission, and who are there to makes sure you get the right gear that will work for your needs. I recently took a personal tour of the store and sat down with people in the marketing department, and I can confirm that they’re indeed a great bunch of folks who are also passionate about photography just like you and me.

Support this site: If you decide to purchase any of these lenses, click through the links to B&H or Amazon. It won’t cost you anything on your end, and I’ll get a small commission for the referral. Consider it your way of helping support this site and the effort that it takes to write these reviews for you.

Nikon 14mm f/2.8 ED

This is the widest lens that I currently own and it’s been a favorite of mine for years. It’s a little on the heavy side, but it’s durable construction and ultra wide angle rectilinear view make it a great choice for capturing action really close up, showing a vast view of the scene or shooting in very tight quarters.

As with any wide angle lens, it’s a little prone to flare when shooting towards the sun. However, when compared to many other lenses in this category, it performs way better in this area.

Overall, the Nikon 14mm f/2.8 ED is an all-out professional quality lens that will give you nothing less than professional results.

Canon has the Super Wide Angle EF 14mm f/2.8L USM lens, which is comparable in quality and construction.

View the Nikon 14mm f/2.8 lens at B&H Photo and Amazon

View the Canon 14mm f/2.8 lens at B&H Photo and Amazon

Nikon 24mm f/2.8D

Also a longtime staple of my camera bag, I’ve owed my 24mm f/2.8D lens for fifteen years. It’s gone with me on every single adventure and I’d never ever think of leaving it behind. It’s a great compromise of view, size, weight and price, and it performs well in all situations.

I use the 24mm f2.8 lens for everything- action, landscapes, environmental portraits, aerials… You name it, if I’ve shot it, then I’ve probably shot it with the 24mm at some time or another.

Canon also has a Wide Angle 24mm f/2.8 lens. It’s very similar in size, weight and price.

View the Nikon 24mm f/2.8 lens at B&H Photo and Amazon

View the Canon 24mm f/2.8 lens at B&H Photo and Amazon

 Nikon 50mm f/1.8D

I’ve had a couple of 50mm lenses stolen over the years and I’ve replaced them every time. My current choice is the 50mm f/1.8D. It’s super lightweight, fast and does great in a variety of situations. It’s also relatively inexpensive.

The 50mm f/1.8 is a great travel lens and it rocks for shooting in low light or inside. I love it for people, portraits, still life, aerials, and general candid use, street scenes and editorial work. It’s the lightest weight lens I own and so it’s easy to take with me no matter where I go. I don’t use it often for sports and action, so when I do bring it out for that kind of work, it always gives me a fresh, unique perspective and look.

Nikon also has the new AF-S 50mm f/1.8G lens. It’s a great lens and features super fast silent wave motor focusing, but it’s a little heavier and costs almost twice as much. For most uses, I find the regular 50mm f/1.8 non AF-S lens works just fine. Canon’s version of the 50mm f/1.8 lens is very similar to the Nikon model.

View the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 at B&H Photo and Amazon

View the Canon 50mm f/1.8 at B&H Photo and Amazon

 Nikon 85mm f/1.8D

I’ve had the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 for a number of years now, and it’s my favorite short telephoto lens. It’s fast, light and sharp. It’s absolutely awesome for portraits because of the pleasing way that it slightly compresses the features of the human face. In fact, it’s considered one of the two ideal portrait lenses, the 105mm f2.8 being the other.

Because it’s compact, and because it nicely isolates subject matter against a blurred background, the 85mm f/1.8 lens is also great for travel photography, sports, action and landscapes. It really allows you to focus in on what your shooting and highlight one or two simple elements in the frame.

I can’t say enough good things about my 85mm lens, or fast short telephotos in general. I rarely leave the house without it. Canon also has an 85mm f/1.8 USM lens.

View the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 at B&H Photo and Amazon

View the Canon 85mm f/1.8 at B&H Photo and at Amazon

 

 

Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR

 

 

My new favorite glass. The new AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Telephoto Zoom is a fantastic lens. As an adventure photographer, it’s the lens that I’ve been dreaming about for years.

Throughout all my years as a pro, I’ve been lugging around my heavy 80-200 f/2.8 lens, which weighs 3 lbs. I rode with it on my bike over the highest passes in the world. I’ve taken it skiing on LONG Alaska mountain days. I’ve hiked peaks with it. Sure, it slows me down, but I just love the look and feel of shooting with a long lens. It isolates subjects so well and makes the pop against a soft background of dreamy bohek. You know, that “pro” look.

This new AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR from Nikon costs nearly a thousand dollars less than the new AF-S 2.8 version. It’s also considerably lighter, which makes it perfect for the backcountry. It’s even light enough for me to use one handed. Of course, this is nothing new for Canon users, they’ve had a lens like this for years, the 70-200mm f/4 IS USM.

After shooting for years with f2.8 lenses, I’m finding the one stop tradeoff to be a non issue for outdoor work. Add to that the fact that his lens has all the pro trappings of Nano Crystal Coating and ED glass elements, make no mistake this is a high quality lens all the way. I’ve even tested it on a D800E with superb results. Tack sharp, edge to edge.

If that’s not enough, I’m blown away by the VR capabilities on this lens. Although it won’t do much if your subject is moving, if you’re shooting still, you can hand hold this lens WAY slower than you could if it were non-VR.

View the Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR at B&H Photo and Amazon

View the Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS USM at B&H Photo and at Amazon

Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED

I’ve been using the 80-200mm f/2.8 lens ever since I turned pro fifteen years ago. In fact, I’m still using the same one that I bought in 1996. That alone is a testament to the quality of this awesome piece of glass. It’s outlasted 2 N90s, the D5, F100, D200, a D300 and I’m still using it every single week on my D700.

Put simply, the 80-200mm f/2.8 is my bread and butter lens. I’ve sold more photos that are shot with this lens than any other. Sure, it’s a heavy, but it’s built like a tank, it’s tack sharp and never lets me down, whether I’m shooting action, sports, adventure, people or distant landscapes. I’ve taken it around the globe and used it in just about every kind of situation.

The only reason that I’m not using the newer Nikon 70-200 f/2.8G ED VRII is because my 80-200 has not failed yet. If I had to buy a new one today, there’s a good chance I’d consider the 70-200 VRII, but for the money, you simply cannot beat the quality and versatility of the older 80-200 f/2.8. (It costs a thousand dollars less than the newer VRII model.) Check out my full comparison of these two lenses. This analysis applies to the Canon version as well.

Canon has the comparable 70-200mm f/2.8 Telephoto Zoom lens, as wells as the newer 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II image stabilization lens.

View the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D at B&H Photo and Amazon

View the Canon 80-200mm f/2.8 at B&H Photo and  at Amazon

 

 



Comments

Lenses I Use in My Adventure, Outdoor and Travel Photography — 22 Comments

  1. Fantastic round-up. It’s great to see that you have a few lenses that I also have, and that you are getting amazing photographs out of them. It gives me no reason to say that my equipment limits me in taking good photos. 🙂

  2. Hi Dan,

    Did you use the same set of lenses when you used your D300 as your main camera, or did you use any DX specific lenses?

  3. I still used the same lenses and with the same style during my D200 and D300 era. I didn’t buy any new DX specific lenses, I just made due with the crop sensor differences and reduced wide angle range. However, I did enjoy the increased telephoto range that the DX bodies gave my 80-200mm lens.

  4. Thanks Dan – appreciate your response. Am enjoying the site and am reading through a couple of your eBooks.

    I’ve got a D5000 at the moment so unfortunately can’t use older lenses in AF – am considering upgrading but stuck as to which way to go – can save up and go FX, can spend a good sum and go D7000 or spend a little and go D90… Or I could just stay where I am and maybe get a couple of the AF-S primes!

    Thanks again,

    Callum

  5. It’s very hard to find places where you can get a good and true account of lenses, but you have managed it.

  6. yeah Dan, good stuff, I’m basically trying to build up the same kit right now. I really like this selection of lens, with one super telephoto thrown on for wildlife stuff. But I’ll rent those for the foreseeable future.

  7. Great write up on your gear! I really like the way you add explantions on what you use each lens for. I am currently learning photography and have been reading, taking classes, practicing and learning from two friends that are photographers. I love it!!! I really like your work, although some it makes me feel very cold! I am not a big fan of cold weather (frost bite while in army). But your work is great!

    Thanks for letting me ramble.

  8. Hey Dan,
    Another quick question for you – do you have any mid-zooms or have you never bothered?
    I’m still thinking about getting a D700 and was thinking of getting the 24-70mm f2.8 but that’s going to be a pretty big hit to my budget. I’ve never seen you mention a mid-zoom so thought I’d ask – plus from what I see of you work it doesn’t seem to limit you – possibly the opposite!

    Thanks,
    Callum

  9. Callum, I haven’t owned a mid range zoom in a long time. I just have a fixed 50mm and an 85mm to cover that middle range. You’re right, the fast zooms are great, but they’re big and expensive, which is why I usually just carry the wide angle and one or two of the lenses I mentioned above. I lose a bit in flexibility, but gain in having a small lens on the camera at all time, as well as saving some money. Hope that helps. -D

  10. thanks for the lens recommendation. i was deliberating between getting the 14-24 or just the 24. by the way, i already have the 24-70. do you think it wise to get the 24 or should i go to the 14?

  11. Jojo, I use my 24 more often than my 14, and the 24 prime is just such a small, compact lens. It’s great for times when you want to go light and fast and not take the 24-70. The 14 is a pretty specialized lens and it’s much more expensive. If you don’t mind carrying the bigger glass, I’d probably go with the 14-24 to compliment what you already have.

  12. Thanks Dan – a quick comment – the Amazon 14mm link points to the 24mm lens. I thought I’d won bingo when I first saw the price 🙁

  13. Great write-up. Thanks Dan. I wished I’d discovered this blog earlier. I’m essentially into the same type of photography as you and must say, made pretty much exactly the same decisions as you regarding gear, based on cost, weight and size. I travelled a whole year (with a lot of trekking and climbing involved) with a DX body, a 16-35mm f2.8, a 50mm f1.8 and a 70-200mm f4. I seldom used the 50mm. When my kit was eventually stolen I bought Nikon’s D800 and got the 24mm f2.8 D (which I love), again a 50mm f1.8 (still useful when you need a fast lens), and the 70-200mm f4 VR. That covers everything I’m used to but would like to experiment with ultrawide and wilderness star trails. The 14mm f2.8 looks great, but I hear f2.8 may not be ideal for astrophotography (as they call it). Have you got any experience of the 20mm f1.8?
    Also, you mentioned you sometimes take a speedlight. Any circumstances when you wished you had two in the field instead of one? Thanks again.

  14. Joris, Thanks for the comments. No, I don’t have any experience with the 20mm f/1.8. I used the old Nikon manual 20mm lens a few times back in the 90s, and I loved it. Might be a really good way to go for a wide lens, because the 14mm is pretty heavy. Regarding speedlights, yes- depending on what I’m shooting, I sometimes take two flashes with me, just for more creative options. Adds weight, but you can get some really great results by adding that second speedlight! Take care. DB

  15. Hi Dan,

    Did you ever have the chance to try the Nikon 24mm 2.8D on the D750 before switching to Fuji exclusively?

    I’m contemplating whether to get the 24mm 2.8D (used) or the 24mm 1.4G or newly announced 24mm 1.8G.

    Optically the new G-lenses will (probably) be better, but of course in relation to price and weight the old D-version has the edge. And the Nikon D750 combined with a 24mm 2.8D would make a nice small package, which would be good for candid shots.

    What are your thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Mads

  16. Mads, I was a huge fan of the old Nikon 24mm f/2.8D. I never got a chance to try it out on the D750, but that’s the combo I’d be using if I hadn’t switched and sold all of my Nikon gear. The old 24D was nice and light, and fast enough for just about anything. With the bigger, higher MP full frame sensors, you might see a tiny bit of vignetting, but that’s easily corrected in your RAW processing software. The new 1.8 versions is pretty big and for fast outdoor/candid work, I wouldn’t want a setup that bulky. And the 1.4 version is even bigger and more expensive. I’d say give it a try.

  17. Pingback: 10 Highly Recommended DSLR Lenses | Dan Bailey's Adventure Photography Blog

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