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View Full Version : Lenses/equipment for DC trip?



Mr. Magoo
06-28-2007, 05:13 AM
Looks like we will be making a trip to DC in a couple of weeks.

I currently have just the 18-55mm DX kit lens for my D80.

We'll be doing the museums, monuments and possibly the national zoo. In what ways should I supplement my kit before I leave?

Some possibilities which come to mind:

18-70mm DX
35mm f/2 for indoor/night shots?
70-300mm VR
flash?

Based on its scarce availability and other issues (distortion, price, zoom creep) I think I've already ruled out the 18-200mm VR.

Thanks!
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tcadwall
06-28-2007, 06:33 AM
Well, the 18-200 VR will likely not be something you could get by then, but don't sell this lens short. For its range it is an amazing lens - period. There are of course some compromises with this much range, but this thing really does perform. I could go on and on about it - but for a vacation especially, this lens, while heavy, will save you having to switch lenses back and forth in the field, will mean you don't have to carry a bag with alternate lenses, etc. I just used this lens on a recent vacation and fell back in love with it. I switched back to my 50mm f/1.8 (3) times in a full week - and only one of those times was I happy because the low light performance was better, but the cropping required blew the resolution of the shots for the other two times.

90% of the time you won't notice the distortion, and unless you are shooting objects directly below you zoom creep wont affect you at all unless you are being careless with handling the camera in between shots. Besides, the zoom creep is not always there. It seems to hold pretty good most of the time and I have been using it for a year.

Anyway, I have sold a dozen or more 8x10s from my vacation, because they came out so well that people that I showed shots to wanted to purchase them. And then sometimes people I didn't even know saw them purchasing a shot, and asked if they could get one as well. All of these taken with the 18-200mm. Only one shot did I actually feel it was important to click the checkbox in Bibble to apply distortion correction - but then it was no longer noticeable. I also had to repair CA in a few high-contrast scenes. If that is all I have to do in post, then the lens is definitely not a distraction.

Sorry... Just think that lens is critiqued pretty rough in some forums when it is a very good lens - especially when compared to alternatives.

Mr. Magoo
06-28-2007, 07:05 AM
Well, the 18-200 VR will likely not be something you could get by then, but don't sell this lens short.

The local dealer may have it in stock, for a reasonable price. Last time I was walking through Best Buy they had 2 in stock, but they want $900.

One reason I am discounting it is the zoom creep. If I'm going to be walking around with a camera on my neck for 5 days, am I really going to want to deal with that? Does this bother you while on vacation?

The cheap 18-55 DX kit lens has served me well so far.

Am I going to miss not having the reach at the monuments or zoo?

Am I going to wish I had something faster (or better flash, where allowed) in the museums?
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tcadwall
06-28-2007, 07:54 AM
$900 is quite high - I agree with that! I got mine over a year ago. Just under $700 at a local camera shop - had to wait less than a week for it to get in (no-one else on the waiting list had actually plopped cash down on it so I got bumped to the top).

As far as reach, I can't answer that too well. It really depends on your style. For monuments, I find myself at the wide end. But, if I am getting a "snap-shot" of my kids in front of a monument, I find that often the zoom allows you to get a composition that you just cant attain without the longer end.

As far as a zoo goes, heck the longer the better 90% of the time. You will see more serious photographers with 10lbs of glass on a monopod with the body hanging off the back.

Museums. Sometimes flash is allowed, sometimes it isn't. a good flash with a bounce will really be good in a museum, but a lens with VR will help a lot too. Fast glass is good, but VR really does handle most of the challenges of non-moving subjects in low light. But heck, how many boring photos are you really going to be taking in a museum really?

This latest vacation, I carried the camera and lens in a 1-gal. ziplock when I wasn't shooting. (beaches/lighthouses - lots of blowing sand, and saltwater) But, when I was strolling along in a ready to shoot mode, I had the camera hanging around my neck. It became sub-conscious for me that the camera was hanging in a way that the lens wasn't pointing down. With a D70 (or D80) and bigger that probably won't be hard, a D50 or smaller might have too much front weight with this lens, and it might not hang that way easily and become a distraction. If you are going to tuck it under your arm, pointed downward, it will creep while you walk, but many (especially the heavy ones) zoom lenses will do this.

You didn't mention the 55-200mm VR, this lens does pretty well. It might be an option for you as it is cheap, has the VR, and performs well for the money.

Rooz
06-28-2007, 08:03 AM
Looks like we will be making a trip to DC in a couple of weeks.

I currently have just the 18-55mm DX kit lens for my D80.

We'll be doing the museums, monuments and possibly the national zoo. In what ways should I supplement my kit before I leave?

Some possibilities which come to mind:

18-70mm DX
35mm f/2 for indoor/night shots?
70-300mm VR
flash?

Based on its scarce availability and other issues (distortion, price, zoom creep) I think I've already ruled out the 18-200mm VR.

Thanks!

firstly i totally agree with tc's comments about the 18-200mm. it is an outstanding lens and i sorely miss it. the distortion is not only fixable in PP but barely ever noticeable, at least not in the 1000+ shots i ever took. zoom creep is also blown way out of proportion. its a super long range zoom, its going to creep thats the nature of the beast.

anyway if budget is an issue then the 55-200VR is the way to go, you really cant miss at that price. if budget is not a consideration then the 70-300mmVR is the one where the extra range will come in very handy at the zoo and for other longer range shots.

w/ regard to museums. i don;t think you have much to worry about. bump up your iso and make sure you turn NR onto high for anything over iso800. that plus your VR should look after you without needing the bulk/ weight of a flash. btw: the 50mm f1.8 will serve you well in this regard and its bloody cheap !!

coldrain
06-28-2007, 09:45 AM
For museums you generally need a wider zoom lens. And with ISO 400 and your kitlens you should be able to do well. Flash in museums? Forget about it. It almost never is allowed (because it is so annoying, having other visitors flashing their silly cameras all the time), and besides, it gives a lot of reflection problems with objects protected by glass.

For the zoo, you will want to have extra reach. So, I would think about getting a Nikon 70-300 VR. It will allow you to isolate animals from the surroundings, making for much more attractive photos. And for monuments, again the kit lens focal range seems to be fine.

If you have more money to spend after the 70-300, I'd think about exchanging the kit lens with a Sigma 18-50 EX DC Macro. It will give you a bit more light in museums when needed.

TNB
06-28-2007, 10:16 AM
Looks like we will be making a trip to DC in a couple of weeks. . . . We'll be doing the museums, monuments and possibly the national zoo. In what ways should I supplement my kit before I leave?
Unless the National Zoo has changed dramatically since I've been there it is a great zoo. However, there is a lot of foilage which means some low level lighting. Many of the museums also don't allow flash.

XaiLo
06-28-2007, 11:19 AM
70-300mm VR, I can easily see going for this one (sharper than the 18-200 @ 200mm and half the cost) 35mm f/2 or 50mm f/1.4 equally reasonable. for the price of one lens you'll gain two optically superior lenses. :)

Mr. Magoo
06-28-2007, 12:07 PM
Many of the museums also don't allow flash.

http://www.si.edu/visit/security_and_policies.htm

Flash allowed excepted where posted as not allowed. I haven't been since I was a kid. As I recall, Smithsonian wasn't boring at all (as someone else mentioned), but it was long enough ago I didn't even remember the photography policy.
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tcadwall
06-28-2007, 01:05 PM
as someone else mentionedThat was me. However, I didn't say the museums were boring... I have been there 3 or 4 times, and have found them very interesting... However, taking pictures of museum exhibits are not pictures that you can do much with. Print them and bore your friends, keep them on the computer and never really look at them, etc. A few of them may come in handy that is for sure when you are putting together a website or something (but there really might be some rules about copyright rules about using them, I am not sure), but other than that, they are honestly relatively boring.

While I agree (and did state earlier) that VR would be very useful in museum shots(it might be ALL that is needed), I also recommended bouncing a flash if you use one. There isn't a whole lot you can do if it is an exhibit behind glass (as pointed out), but if you were able to bounce off a ceiling or wall for other shots, it would work a lot better than a direct flash.

With regards to IQ on the 18-200mm I don't mean to mis-state that at 200mm it is tack sharp... it isnt. But the IQ is still better than shooting at a shorter focal length and cropping. IOW it isn't the best lens at any one focal length, but if you don't want to have to be switching lenses all the time, then it is a GREAT compromise. Heck even Rooz who had one and sold it for MUCH better glass, has stated that he wishes he still had it. It has a good place for many uses, because it is sharp enough... Actually you really have to pixel-peep or blow up an image to a large size to see loss of acuity at the longer end. If you are printing anything less than an 8x10 you wont see loss of IQ unless you just took a bad picture or are cropping.

That said, I have been less than happy with quite a few shots at 200mm when cropping or pixel-peeking - but I have to remind myself of the flexibility of the lens. For my business, I HAVE to have the ability to go from wide to tele quickly. Then when I look at the prints, I realize I was really being too hard on it anyway. It all comes down to what you need. Having the best quality is great, but having sufficient quality coupled with the flexibility of the 18-200mm range is the reason that this lens doesn't sit around on shelves. And I haven't had to clean my sensor yet after 10k+ clicks. Although that wouldn't be a very big deal (originally I thought that cleaning a sensor would be a big deal).

Mr. Magoo
06-28-2007, 01:19 PM
While I agree (and did state earlier) that VR would be very useful in museum shots(it might be ALL that is needed), I also recommended bouncing a flash if you use one. There isn't a whole lot you can do if it is an exhibit behind glass (as pointed out), but if you were able to bounce off a ceiling or wall for other shots, it would work a lot better than a direct flash.

So while I'll find one of Nikon's SB speedlights generally useful, it won't be so useful on this trip that I should rush out and get one right away?

I like to buy equipment at a slow pace so I can learn how to maximize each piece of gear. I already feel like I'm "rushing" to load up on extras for the trip, so if I don't *need* a flash, I'll skip it for now.
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tcadwall
06-28-2007, 01:57 PM
Well, using an SB600 or SB800 is pretty much a no brainer... No need to work on new skills. The only thing to know is when to use it direct and when to bounce it. Your image review will easily make that clear if you got it wrong.

I think if you don't have VR you need a flash more often. IOW - it would be very useful to have a flash, the on-board flash is good, but isn't nearly as good as an SB600/SB800 would be. If you have VR it isn't as dire of a need.

When I bought in, I got a D70s, SB600, 18-200mm VR, extra batteries, extra CF cards, cleaning kit.... All purchased as separate items not some gimmick bundle of less than 'hand-picked for me' things. I found them all quite easy to get used to. The flash has required less learning than anything else - thanks to the smart communication between the flash, camera, and lens. I still find it really kewl to zoom the lens, and hear the flash head zooming instantly to match the angle of view!

Bob_Benner
06-29-2007, 02:10 AM
You might actaully consider the Tamron 18-200mm also. I have found it to be pretty decent performer. I am actually selling mine since I now have my 70-200mm f/2.8VR. Drop me an email if you want to know the details.

PS check your private messages.

LR Max
06-29-2007, 06:02 AM
Get a flash. Either a SB-600 or 800. Probably a 600 since you probably aren't going to be controlling other flashes with it.

I recently got a SB-800 (I got it because I use it sometimes to control other flash units and the 5th battery). WOW. SIGNIFICANT improvement over ambient light. Blows fast lenses out of the water (imo) for low light photography of peoples. Its powerful and you can bounce light for a really great photo.

I suggest VR and a hotshoe flash. The 18-200VR is an excellent lense but I doubt you can get one on such short notice. The 70-300VR, while I do not own one, has recieved excellent reviews.

coldrain
06-29-2007, 07:36 AM
You are not allowed to use flash in museums, so why on earth get a flash???
Flashing in a museum will lose the whole atmosphere in light they try to create anyway. Have merci on your fellow visitors! (You must have noticed at times how irritaing flashing tourists are!)

And flashing in a zoo is also not done... poor animals.

So... forget about flash, and get a good tele lens for the zoo (Nikon 70-300 VR), with VR helping you in light collection, and 300mm in bring the animals closer. Not needed for the elephants, obviously.

And then, if you can spare more money, upgrade your kitlens to a Sigma 18-50 EX DC Macro (~$430), or get yourself a Nikon 35mm f2 (~$320).

And don;t be afraid to crank up the ISO to 400 or 800 in the museums, good noise reduction software (when needed) will give very good results.

tcadwall
06-29-2007, 08:49 AM
http://www.si.edu/visit/security_and_policies.htm

Flash allowed excepted where posted as not allowed. ...

I agree that flash is not preferrable in these situations, but if it is allowed, and it doesn't wreck the scene.... uggh sometimes people can be so harshly opinionated. I don't think anyone is saying that flash is the best alternative, just that it IS sometimes an alternative. Fast glass first, VR second, Flash third. That is my personal preference. Too bad I can't always make my wallet match my preferences.

Mr. Magoo
06-29-2007, 09:25 AM
I agree that flash is not preferrable in these situations, but if it is allowed, and it doesn't wreck the scene.... uggh sometimes people can be so harshly opinionated. I don't think anyone is saying that flash is the best alternative, just that it IS sometimes an alternative. Fast glass first, VR second, Flash third. That is my personal preference. Too bad I can't always make my wallet match my preferences.

I agree. I hate on camera flash because it general produces awful pictures. But I've seen (but not produced myself) great results with speedlights and bounce.

Even if my wallet was bottomless (it is not :-)), there is also the problem of not wanting to carry everything around all the time, especially while traveling on foot. (That's one reason the SB400 is interesting. It has a minimalist set of features, but is pocketable.)
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tcadwall
06-29-2007, 05:37 PM
Personally I wouldn't 'waste' my money on the SB400 when the SB600 is so close in price and eclipses in performance. Ok maybe not percentage-wise close, but morethan $100 worth of performance difference. Look at the stats on them, and their flexibility (the SB600 is MUCH more flexible and powerful). I don't know that the SB400 is going to be a huge step up from pop-up really. It doesn't get that far up from the lens

Mr. Magoo
06-29-2007, 07:19 PM
don't know that the SB400 is going to be a huge step up from pop-up really. It doesn't get that far up from the lens

But it is more powerful, and can bounce.

If I had a huge wallet, I'd buy the 400 and the 600, because the small factor is hard to ignore. When I buy a flash though, I'll probably skip the 400 and just get the 600 though.
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tcadwall
06-29-2007, 08:25 PM
But it is more powerful, and can bounceYes, but I don't think it rotates, and can not be remote controlled off the camera like the 600 if you later need that functionality. The D80 can control two sets of remote flashes using iTTL. But since the SB400 can't be controlled...

Seriously, when you are talking about a $100 difference - especially with a D70s or higher, it is well worth the $100 - it isn't THAT heavy... Heheh, but I do admit, with the 18-200mm and the flash, you know you are carrying a camera!

TNB
06-29-2007, 08:26 PM
If I had a huge wallet, I'd buy the 400 and the 600....
If I had a huge wallet, I'd just purchase several SB-800s. ;)

Mr. Magoo
06-29-2007, 08:53 PM
If I had a huge wallet, I'd just purchase several SB-800s. ;)

There comes a point where you'll have to hire someone to follow you around with the 2nd or 3rd bag of gear :-)
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TNB
06-29-2007, 09:06 PM
At the game I shot this past Monday, this is what I carried around: D200, D50, 70-200 F/2.8 VR, 17-55 F/2.8, 24-120 3.5-5.6 VR, 1.7x TC, SB-800, Quantum Turbo SC Powerpack, Manfrotto 680 Monopod, Expodisc, plus cleaner, blower, etc. All this either in a LowePro Toploader 75 AW bag or hooked in various pouches attached to a LowePro Deluxe Waistbelt. In retrospect, I could have left the D50 with the 24-120 mounted on it and the monopod at home. However, there has been occasion when I have switched to the D50 at a moments notice. I just usually try to go over prepared since it's probably better to have than have not. I've also seen some of the camera crews run around in teams of three.

LR Max
06-30-2007, 12:53 PM
If you want a 18-200VR, you can get one right now.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000BY52NU/kenrockwellcom

But be swift!! And yes, they are expensive but yes, they are WORTH IT!!