Lens selection help needed - hiking in varied conditions


Elite Member
May 21, 2001
I hike a lot, often in blowing sand, snow, or rain. Thus, for both weight reasons and camera body contamination reasons, I can't really change lenses mid hike. The hikes are often in dark slot canyons where lighting is quite tricky (nearly fully dark or in terrible light directions). Also, since it will get banged up and may one day be dropped into a pool of water, I don't want to spend thousands of dollars.

I have a Canon EOS Rebel SL1 and am an beginning photographer. So far, I've tried hiking with the kit standard lens (EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM) and the kit telephoto lens (EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM). By far, my wife and I prefer the photos from the telephoto lens. Hands down. But it just doesn't work well in cramped quarters like a slot canyon which might be only a foot wide. So, I think I am ready for a lens upgrade.

Statistics of my photos that I have liked:
  • 19.8% were at 18 mm. Meaning that a wider lens may have been wanted, but was not available.
  • 25.5% were at 55 mm. Meaning that I wanted more zoom with the standard lens, or a wider shot with the telephoto lens.
  • Only 3.6% were above 135 mm. Meaning that I either don't use or don't like the photos with too much zoom.

  1. Should I just replace the standard lens with similar one that is better? A quick search on Canon's website shows the EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM. That should be a far better lens, especially in low light. But it would probably be too heavy for long hikes (15+ miles, with lots of elevation gain). Also 34% of the photos that I really like that I've taken are at 55 mm or more zoom, so I would be unable to take a third of photos that I like with just one lens.
  2. The EF-S 17-85mm f/4.0-5.6 IS USM came next on my search. It should allow me to take more photos that I want with just one lens. But with a larger f-stop, heavier weight, and a further close focus length, would I actually like it?
  3. Finally, I thought of the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM. The majority of my telephoto shots were at 135 mm, so that would cover almost everything that I need. The f-stop is the same as my current standard lens that it would replace. The only drawback from the specifications would be more weight.
I'm open to non-Canon suggestions or even suggestions outside of my initial Canon search results. Thanks for any help.
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Oct 9, 1999
I run a nikon DSLR setup but my go to low light lens is my 35mm f1.8. Primes are lighter and more durable than variable zoom lens, also cheaper, you may want to look into one for this application. For low light you really want lowest fstop you can afford, it lets in the most light. My 35mm is one of my cheapest lens but also one i use alot, ive likely taken half of the pictures ive ever taken with it. My most used lens are the 35mm and my 70-300 zoom.


Diamond Member
Jul 29, 2000
Unfortunately, the kit lens will be the lightest and one of the smallest lenses you will ever have for your camera. They make them entirely out of plastic other than the lens elements to save cost, but people don't realize that kit lenses are actually really sharp and great lenses. The only reasons to upgrade from the kit lenses are as you've seen wanting other focal lengths or wanting better photos at night or indoors where a lens with a bigger aperture will greatly help.

One thing I will caution about is that in addition to the weight added with those lenses that cover more focal lengths, there are also major compromises made to cover that much range. So you're getting an optically inferior lens in addition to a heavier lens just for the benefit of not having to change lenses. If you care about maximum sharpness, refer to sites like dxomark.com and photozone.de for lens tests.

Maybe you just need to look into some safer methods for changing lenses. A messenger style bag will allow you to change the lenses inside the bag if it's big enough. There's also other types of bags you can change your lenses inside. Otherwise just good practice when changing lenses can go a long way. I don't let being outside get in the way of changing lenses. There's things you can do like turn your back to the wind, learn how to swap the lenses quickly, point the camera down when changing lenses, and have your wife help you by holding the second lens and remove/replace lens caps while you're removing the lens. Basically just minimize the time the lens is off the body or uncapped.


Elite Member
May 21, 2001
Primes are lighter and more durable than variable zoom lens, also cheaper, you may want to look into one for this application.

Maybe you just need to look into some safer methods for changing lenses.
If I were to add one lens to the hike and take one kit lens, which should I do?

My uneducated guess is to take the kit EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens that we like the photos from and add the EF-S 24 mm f/2.8 STM lens as it is cheap, small, light, and would be able to get the wide shots that the kit telephoto lens cannot (38.4 mm equivalent to a full frame camera).

I could instead get an EF lens, but don't I lose most of the light on my smaller image sensor and add unnecessary weight/cost?


Super Moderator
Jun 20, 2006
I'm not sure if the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 does this but have you considered bracketing your shots and then combining them? On a gorilla pod or braced it can be a good way to deal with really high contrast situations. Occasionally I've even had decent success hand holding although exertions from hiking can make this more problematic

Here are some of the straight handheld bracketing shots I've taken in very high contrast situations.


I've had some not turn out as well but I've only recently started trying handheld bracketing. If I can get it to work it should help a lot during our hikes. Another option is trying to brace on my wife's shoulder or head
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Diamond Member
Feb 22, 2001
Buy a Panasonic G85 with the kit lens and be done.

It covers FF equivalent 24mm to 120mm - both wider (great for slot canyons) and zoomier than your current lens.
Both body and lens are weather resistant.
It has killer stabilization in body and on the lens. This will make it so you can handhold in more situations, mitigating a tripod in many low-light conditions (great for slot canyons).

Regardless of what you're doing, if you haven't tried creating panos, you should. They're a great way to get wider when your lens physically cannot.

The Panasonic will be ~100g heavier than your current setup - but you might save weight because you could possibly leave the 55-200.
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