Here is a relatively compact kit for Canon shooters covering a wide range of shooting circumstances at very high quality. Perhaps not the usual picks, but each lens here has something special to offer.
While the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II is excellent, it is a large lens and especially for travel, lenses like the 24/2.8 and 40/2.8 have tons of appeal on a stroll around town or similar: stick one lens on the camera and the other in a pocket and you won’t stick out like a sore thumb with a huge monster lens. And better images will likely result from the restriction of a fixed focal length.
Canon 8-15mm f/4L
Who can object to an 8mm circular fisheye that zooms to 15mm full frame coverage with brilliant contrast? Especially for indoors and travel, there is nothing quite like the Canon 8-15mm, which deserves more praise than it’s received.
Canon 24mm f/2.8 IS
The Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS is a very strong performer with image stabilization. The f/2.8 aperture in a modern lens design has resulted in a high performance lens at moderate cost, and the IS feature extends the versatility. The 28mm f/2.8 IS is also excellent (and I expect the new 35/2 IS will be also, but the 40mm is so cheap and lovely that it’s a no-brainer).
Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens
The Canon 40/2.8 STM is a strong performer but where it really rocks is a visual rendition wide open that is reminiscent of my favorite Leica and Zeiss glass. Lovely, and it stays attractive stopped down 1/2/3 stops. (BTW, do not turn on vignetting correction, though mild, it is definitely part of the appeal!).
Now add in the fact that the 40/2 is dirt cheap and lightweight and tiny. It turns any Canon DSLR into a refreshingly compact system free of the usual lens protuberance. While a Canon 5D Mark III is relatively large, it’s an entirely different experience to carry it with the 40/2.8 STM compared to something like the Canon 35/1.4L or 24-70 zoom.
Canon 85mm f/1.2L II
The Canon 85/1.2L II remains my favorite 85mm lens. Big and heavy, but sharp wide open with gobs of defocus effect. Why f/1.2 instead of f/1.8? Because the f/1.2 is like nothing else.
With the weight saved on the 40/2.8 STM, the 85/1.2L II is tolerable.
Radically different alternative: Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 SL II APO-Lanthar, about $579.