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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.