Top 10 Lenses for Disney Photography
I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently from readers getting started in Disney Parks photography who want to expand beyond their kit lens and want to know what the next “best” option is for their DSLR. This isn’t an easy question to answer, as every photographer’s interests vary, but I always try to give a couple different options. I thought it would be useful to expand upon this a bit with a blog post in which I rank 10 such options.
For starters, I was going to title this post: “Top 10 Lenses for Disney Parks Photography on a Budget,” but then I realized everyone’s idea of budget photography varies. I preface with that because these lenses are not the absolute best options out there, but instead they are the best value for the money. I’ve focused on third party options (with one exception), as I’ve found those always offer the best bang for buck. I think these are the 10 best values for Disney Parks photography.
With the first party options, you’re paying a premium for the name. Now, the reason that “name” can command premium prices is because it usually comes with higher quality and reliability, but the gains are typically disproportionate to the added costs.
Finally, you’ll note that some of these lenses are for “full frame” and some are for “crop sensor” cameras. If you don’t know which type of DSLR you have…there’s a 99.76% chance you have a crop sensor DSLR.
10. Tamron 18-200mm – This makes the list for two simple reasons: price and utility. It beats out a lot of competitors, including its more versatile cousin, the Tamron 16-300mm solely because of price. I’ve tested a lot of these all-in-one lenses, and am really hesitant to recommend any of them because they are a compromise lens. You give up image quality and aperture in exchange for a lot of zoom range. If you want a light camera bag or a decent “backup” lens, this is a good option, but I would not buy one of the more expensive ones. At only $200, this lens represents good value, and allows you to save more money on lenses that will enable more creativity and better quality photos.
9. Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 – I expected this lens to be total garbage. At less than half the cost of the (excellent) Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC–which itself is significantly less than the Nikon and Canon alternatives–that would certainly make sense. However, image quality is strong, and the f/2.8 aperture is awesome to have. Still, this is a compromise lens (albeit to a MUCH lesser degree than the Tamron 18-200). What you compromise here is a little at the wide end, image stabilization, and a bit of quality. I would recommend this for full frame shooters on a budget or crop sensor photographers who have an eye on upgrading to full frame in the near future. If you’ll be shooting with a crop sensor camera for a while, that 28mm minimum is going to be really restricting.
8. Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 – This is the budget full frame or “future proofing” crop shooter ultra wide angle option. For a <$350 lens, it delivers shockingly high quality results. The perceived downsides are not much of a big deal: it’s manual focus (super easy on a wide angle) and it doesn’t have any zoom (90% of the time, my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 is on 14mm), which probably scares away some newbie photographers, but this is a sleeper favorite of many ultra wide angle fans. Now, I would never trade my beloved Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens for this…but that lens also costs $2,000, so this is a slightly cheaper option. 😉
7. Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 – I love my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d save the money and get the Tamron (a lot of people actually think the Tamron is the better lens–not just the cheaper lens). Either version–with or without VC–is a great lens, but if your budget allows, I’d definitely go for VC as it really comes in handy with telephoto lenses like this. I am finding more and more creative uses of the 70-200mm lens, and as I wrote in my Using Telephoto Lenses in the Disney Parks, it’s not just about the zoom. Plus, this is another full frame lens, so it’s great for “future proofing” if you are thinking about going full frame someday.
6. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 – I can’t speak to the newer, more expensive “Art” version of this lens, but the original flavor is a Disney photography powerhouse. Great for dark rides, fun for environmental shots or creative depth of field ‘detail’ photos, and even good for crisp starbursts in night landscapes. The original did have quality control issues (which I’ve heard the Art version corrects), so I wouldn’t buy used. I also might consider skipping this and getting the Sigma 18-55mm f/1.8 if your budget allows, even if that one isn’t quite as “bokehlicious.” Read my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Review w/ Photo Samples.
5. Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 – This is the fisheye lens I used to develop my iconic style (that might sound really full of myself, but I don’t mean it that way). I loved this fisheye for crop sensor shooting so much that I kept using it when I upgraded to full frame until I preordered the Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 last fall when it was announced. This lens is beyond fun, and would be the #1 lens on this list but for the fact that it’s probably wise to do the “responsible” thing and get more versatile lenses first. If you’re irresponsible like me…get this lens early on. Read my full Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye Review for more photos and thoughts.
4. “Nifty Fifty” 50mm f/1.8 – Only since moving to full frame have I become a fan of this lens. For crop sensor cameras, it felt like an awkward focal length, especially for Disney photography. I still think that’s true, but…it only costs $100 and is high quality. That price tag is pretty compelling. Personally, unless money were extremely tight, I would not get this. It does enable some really nice looking shallow depth of field shots, but it boxes you in creatively. However, if buying this is the only way you can get an f/1.8 (or faster) lens, definitely get it. You’ll see why once you do some shooting at f/1.8.
3. Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 – A good compromise from the Sigma 18-35mm if you want more zoom and don’t need the f/1.8 aperture. More importantly, it costs a little over half as much as the Sigma. It’s a matter of personal preference (and budget), but I think the Sigma 18-35mm is worth it. It’s effectively multiple prime lenses in one, and really opens some creative doors. Read Our Full Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 Review w/ Photo Samples.
2. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 – Yes, this lens will set you back $800. It’s worth every penny. While I really liked the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 when I had it, I always also carried the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 because I felt the Tamron was a bit lacking in the depth of field department. This lens does not have that issue, and effectively replaces both of those lenses, plus the “Nifty Fifty.” In my Sigma 18-5mm f/1.8 Review, I discuss why I think this lens is especially well-suited to Disney photography, making it a great pick. There are cheaper “compromise” options, but if you want to get serious about Disney photography, save your money and get this lens. You will not be disappointed. Read Our Full Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Review w/ Photo Samples.
1. Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 – Part of why I made the leap to full frame was for the exceptional Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, but before it, this was my most used lens. While I have no regrets with the Nikon 14-24mm (have I mentioned that I love this lens?), I think the Tokina comes close to rivaling its quality…for about $1,500 less money. (Unfortunately, camera gear is a game of diminishing returns on the higher end.) With an aperture of f/2.8, the Tokina is fast enough to use hand-held at night or on dark rides, and its image quality is stunningly sharp. If you are into photographing the architecture of the parks, this is the lens for you. Read Our Full Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Review w/ Photo Samples.
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If you’re looking for other photography equipment recommendations or photography tips in general check out a few of my top photography blog posts. The best place to start is my Ultimate Disney Parks Photography Guide. Some additional posts you might enjoy:
Best Books for Improving Your Photography
5 Indispensable Tips for Better Vacation Photos
Infrared Photography Guide & Tips
Choosing the Best Camera Bag for Travel
If you enjoy these Disney photography posts, please help me out by sharing them with friends or on social media. Thanks!
Do you have any favorite lenses that are good values? Any lens you’re considering that’s not listed here? Other questions? Any recommendations? Share any thoughts or questions you have in the comments!
I would recommend the following Lense . Canon Full Frame lense list.
Canon 16 35 2.8 ii
Canon 16 35 2.8 iii
Canon 24 70 2.8 i
Canon 24 70 2.8 ii
Canon 28 300 3.5 5.6 night shot will be tricky will need to use higher ISO. still a fantastic lense.
I did own Tokina Lenses. I would stay away very slow focus speed.
my suggestion is from my lsit above for full frame and Crop sensor.
Tokina is mostly for Crop sensor camera.
The Canon 28 300 3.5 5.6 is very versatile lense.
wide to telephoto lense.
I shoot full frame Canon 5D MARK III
again the above are my recommendation
I would leave my primes at home in case of damage or bumped by the crowds.
Thanks Tom, I have taken your lens suggestions on both the Tokin 11-16 and the Sigma 30. Both great lenses and I have used them a lot. I understand why you have switched from the Tamron 17-50 to the Sigma 18-35, however in my use the 35mm just isn’t enough reach. I was wondering what’s your opinion of the Sigma 17-50? I have read many reviews which compare the Tamron 17-50 VC to the Sigma 17-50 OS. I can see that the VC version of the Tamron is not very sharp at all but it looks like the Sigma is as sharp and clear as the non-VC Tamron. I like the idea of vibration control or optic stabilization even with a short focal length lens and being able to stop down some. I have found I use it a lot with my Tamron 18-270. I am trying to break away from just using the 18-270 almost all the time. I think that a 17-50 will work for me most of the time on my D7100 as I shoot just about everything from sporting to family to landscapes. Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks again for all of the advise and blogs you and Sarah do they are very insightful.
I actually have a question for an ideal leans for food photography. Especially for indoor restaurants where lighting can be hit or miss. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III — thank you!
This “Disney tourist blog” is an amazing blog for a photographer. Tell more about Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 as its Price, quality and more.
I’m not sure whether I should take my D810 + Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8
or go lightweight with D3200 + Nikkor 18-200 VR + 35mm G f/1.8
I actually have a question for an ideal leans for food photography. Especially for indoor restaurants where lighting can be hit or miss. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III – thank you!
This “Disney tourist blog” is an amazing blog for a photographer. Tell more about Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 as its Price, quality and more.
Ive got some good results with the tamron sp 35 f1.8 on a d7200 (about 52mm on FX).
This is great amazing pics thanks for sharing with us
I am going in just a weeks time and I am currently shooting with A Sony A6000 and a Sigma 30mm 1.4 Contemporary. I am planning on renting a lens tho I can not decide on what to get.So as you are a Disney vet which focal length would be most useful 18-105,10-18,or 16-70 all are F4 and stabilized. In your opinion which would be best to take.
I really liked this post, have read many of this sort but this seems to be the best till now.
Thanks Tom for the helpful info on lenses and tips for photography at Disney…I find the info to be very valuable.
Out of the lenses you have listed (or don’t have listed)…..if you were me, a mom of three kids under the age of 6… with a full frame Nikon (a friend who is a photographer talked me into a full frame even though I am a total amateur) which 1 or 2 lenses do you recommend having at Disneyworld? My goal is to have a versatile camera mostly taking photos of the kids (documentary style). I’m planning on bringing my 50mm f1.4 but I’m open to suggestions1
Anyone have any suggestions on a great Disney park lens for general use and something good for dark rides? I have a canon 70D and need some advice with this crop sensor body
I would start with canon 50mm 1.8 – its great for low light – if you can afford the 50mm 1.4 that’s even better. I have the canon 70d and paired with the 50mm 1.8 it did pretty well – you’ll probably still need to pump up the ISO tho. Just do some PP in LR to reduce noise.
Very informative blogs Tom.
Phenomenal read. Trust you get various responses as I endeavor to add to my photography capacities I need to scrutinize connections from people that I can trust. I value your aptitudes and you haven’t lead us wrong yet. Greatly refreshing Tom for this one.
Awesome read. Trust you get numerous reactions as I attempt to build up my photography aptitudes I want to peruse examinations from individuals that I can trust. I respect your abilities and you haven’t lead us wrong yet. Much appreciated Tom for this one.
Extraordinary read. Trust you get numerous reactions as I attempt to add to my photography abilities I want to peruse correlations from individuals that I can trust. I appreciate your aptitudes and you haven’t lead us wrong yet. Much appreciated Tom for this one.
Good article about photography particularly for Disney world… i think Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens would be a gr8 decision for better Clarity and shooting.. isn’t it,..?? a debt of gratitude is in order for sharing such a useful article..!!
Good article about photography particularly for Disney world… i think Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens would be a gr8 decision for better Clarity and shooting.. isn’t it,..?? much obliged for sharing such a useful article..!!
As somebody who *did* go the Tamron 70-200 2.8 VC course, I’ll include a few provisos… I in the end sold off my Tamron 70-200 2.8 VC for the Nikon 70-200 2.8 VRII. The sharpness on the Tamron VC was amazing as publicized — it’s at any rate as sharp as the Nikon VRII. Self-adjust was likewise practically identical to the Nikon in both pace and precision — the Nikon VRII AF might be a hair speedier however in the event that so it was scarcely detectable. So why did I offer the Tamron then?
Two issues that for me were major issues:
1) The Tamron VC self-adjust would at times simply quit working altogether for no clear reason. Typically this was highly involved with making a move photographs in burst mode (i.e.: when you truly require the self-adjust to work since you would prefer not to miss “the ideal minute”). The best way to get the self-adjust to work again was to kill the camera, separate the lens, re-connect the lens, and play Judas on — not something you need to be disturbing with highly involved with shooting live activity.
2) This issue was less continuous however ostensibly much more terrible in light of the fact that it would bring about your shots being totally hosed and you wouldn’t think about it until checking your photographs taken afterward — once in a while, for no evident reason, while utilizing this lens my camera would deliver extremely underexposed (to the point of fundamentally simply looking dark) pictures amidst a burst, regardless of no progressions to camera settings and nothing being on “auto.” My conjecture is by one means or another the opening on the lens would breakdown and incidentally go from f/2.8 to f/22 or something thusly. This is the main lens that is transpired with and it transpired over various cameras (my D610, D750, and D810 all displayed this).
It’s conceivable I simply had a terrible unit, in any case I sent the lens into Tamron three times to have it overhauled. Every time I got my lens back rapidly and at no charge, and they guaranteed me everything was in legitimate working request, however every time the same issues would show once more. In the long run I just surrendered and changed to Nikon, and I’ve had no issues following.
One all the more thing important — just the VC variant of the Tamron 70-200 2.8 lens should be as sharp or more keen than the Nikon 70-200 2.8. AFAIK, the Tamron 70-200 without VC, while still an awesome lens (particularly for the cash) has not been examined or inspected as being in any event as sharp as the Nikon 70-200 2.8, however it is the following nearest outsider lens.