Lenses for travel photography (New Zealand)

Discussion in 'Travel' started by stevenseelig, Dec 12, 2017.

  1. Ed...an interesting perspective and a great picture.... the picture you showed was shot at 200mm. Would you have preferred something longer. The weight difference is pretty significant and when i test drove the Sony 100-400mm and found that handheld was doable but a challenge. It is also a bit slower on the long side.
  2. Compared to the Nikon 80-400 and Canon 100-400, Sony's 100-400 is a "light-weight" (by about 1/2 lbs); it's even lighter than any of the current f/2.8 70-200 lenses from Canon, Nikon, and Sony.

    This year in Canada, I used 300mm on a few occasions for landscape shots but hardly found a need for something even longer. The advantage of having a 100-400 over a 70-200 to me would be mostly with regards to wildlife shooting.

    BTW, Sony also offers a 70-300 for the FE mount.

    Oops, need to correct myself - sometimes even 500mm come in handy:
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  3. There were a several instances when something longer than 200 mm would have been welcome for the right juxtaposition between buildings and the mountains It's not always possible to get closer, to horses in a field for example. Swans migrate through Iceland, but I was never able to get close enough to flocks of these huge birds. 400 mm is at the brink of being limited by temperature induced distortion, but that's time and weather-dependent. I would have much use for 400 mm indoors, for video.

    I coud manage the added size and weight of the 100-400, compared to the 70-200/4, by omitting one lens from my backpack. Sony GM zooms are very sharp, comparable to most of my prime lenses, and more flexible. I was considering one this summer, but decided on an A9 instead. No regrets, but I have to wait for my funds recover.
  4. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Arguing this point re "the conceptualization around using primes in travel photography":

    I see only very limited gain, if any any at all in adding either a 24 to 70; 24 to 105 "just in case".

    In case of what? IF you have a 28 and 85, then 85 is practically naught difference to 70 and either only a small crop in post production to attain the FoV of 105, or a short few steps forward and slight perspective change. Any FL between 28 and 85 can be accommodated by either of the same means: albeit sometimes a trade off for the perfect perspective that you might like if you were shooting under 'controlled conditions'.- but crikey you are on holidays and not a $30,000 paid shoot.

    I also see little point in adding a 70 to 200 - if you think that you will want a longer FL, take a 200 Prime.

    My point is - it seems you want to have one foot in each camp, or as we say here 'two bob each way' - that's not a criticism per se, but I think that if you are serious about taking the plunge, then you must harness a bit of bravery and stick with the plan and choose one, two (or perhaps three primes) and field test your theories and learn from the experience.

    The point is, no matter what amount of gear that you take, there will still be a bunch of photos that you won't make - but it is pointless wasting time on those ones as they were never your in the first place.

    As Jeff Spirer stated above:

    "[ I ] Never had a problem, [ I ] just found the photos instead of struggling with carrying more stuff or changing lenses."
    Dieter Schaefer likes this.
  5. AFAIK, there's no 200mm prime for the Sony FE-mount (unless one adapts non-native lenses). While I agree with William's points, I am not sure I would pick a New Zealand trip to "harness that bit of bravery" - I would definitely "chicken out" and take the zooms and leave the primes at home; better "safe than sorry" (though 21, 28, and 85 should definitely enable some nice landscape and people photography). Or I might take the primes along and have the zooms as "fallback" in case the prime experiment fails (of course, the caveat is that given an easy way out one may not try hard enough).

    I think the "concept of using primes in travel photography" is rather simple: make the best use of what you brought and don't sweat what you can't get.

    I sometimes go out with nothing but one prime lens on the camera - after a while I tend to narrow in on those images I can do and tune out the ones that are unattainable. Naturally, one focal length may work better than another, but Steven already figured out that the 28 and 85 work well for him while the 55 does not.
  6. This sounds like a good strategy when traveling half way around the world, to an unfamiliar destination known for it's spectacular scenery.

    I no longer consider zoom lenses as a "backup" for primes. It's the other way around. Prime lenses are generally faster (aperture) than zooms, and have fewer elements. That said, many primes are much more complex than classic rangefinder lenses in order to reduce aberrations as much as possible. It is probably easier to design primes lenses with fewer internal reflections (flare), and more consistent color and rendition than zoom lenses. I resort to prime lenses when there is a specific challenge to resolve - shallow DOF, flare shooting into the light, and color rendition to name a few. My Basis 18/2.8 has very little astigmatism, which means starry landscapes have circular stars throughout the image area.

    Sony A7Rii + Zeiss Basis 18/2.8
    _DSC6229 8x10.jpg
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  7. I have to assume that is sarcasm?
    I think I have made it quite clear in my post that I don't consider a trip to New Zealand to be the occasion to "harness that bit of bravery".

    Like Edward, to me now primes are "special occasion" lenses; I definitely don't consider my zooms as "backup" for primes.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  8. There is a time and place for minimalism.
  9. While I much prefer shooting with primes, for travel to places I am not likely to visit again, I take good midrange zoom first and foremost (in my case a 24-120 f/4). It's not the best lens I have optically, not the one that excites me the most with its results nor the one I most like carrying around - but it's a lens that gets the job done, quite consistently and gives me flexibility to respond to situations I do not and cannot anticipate well (which is more or less standard the case on trips to new places). I may add a prime for low-light, or something wider or longer, but the bulk of the work will be that "boring" midrange zoom. So, as most above :)

    Then again, I don't fully expect to be very creative or original with these travel photos. I need to know a place better (return a couple of times) to get the more particular images out of it, at which point I'll take primes, and a lot less photos.

    Just don't underestimate the impact of seeing beautiful and exciting places for a very first time - the camera needs to get out of the way at times like that and let you capture what moves you in that very moment. You don't want to spend those moments changing lenses and thinking which focal length will go best.
    If you go with primes, I'd say 2 is the maximum, to make previsualisation (and reacting to the "new" scene) as easy as can be. Personally I'd go with 35 and 90/105mm, and indeed just accept that there are photos you cannot make.
  10. Steven - one more thing to note. As I've stated, I do prefer to travel with primes but my wife and I travel on our own and can take as mush or as little time at any location. As you mentioned, you're traveling with a small group so you may not get to spend as much time at any given spot. For that reason, you may actually be better off with a couple of high-quality zooms on this trip.
  11. I am from NZ. Landscapes you don't need F2.8 etc etc nor should you need F1.4 etc unless you wanna do real portraits and take the NZ location out of it. Personally I use a 18-35 and a 70-200. F4's. If you want a prime the F1.8 are not bad if you wanna do the occasional portrait like a 50 or 85.
    photo_galleries likes this.
  12. We've done a few summer trips drive down to the South Island which is where more tourists head to and the locals stay in the North Island larger cities to work which is less landscapy. I also done a winter weekend and a April trip (autumn/fall).

    Many people do take shots in blue skies mid afternoons. I find to get more intimate shots - sunrise, sunset and maybe away from summer because a lot of the parks are booked out with campervans and tents when the kiwi's go on their summer holidays. Esp in the New Year like Queentown it's party central so people get drunk and jump in front of your camera but then again, for landcape shots you should be outside of the main cities and towns.

    I think winter and spring is good. Fall is nice but the hills can be quite barren so the odd nice looking yellow tree, photos online can be deceiving. Falls are quite nice in Arrowtown with the maple leaves etc and autumn hills. If you want misty low clouds - maybe the West Coast from autumn to winter or ideally between autumn to winter. A recognised pro Andris Apse who lives there actually runs his photography workshops in the mouth of May.

    Then there is Mt Cook, Wanaka Tree, the waterfalls near Invercargil, the lighthouse at the top of the North Island, Cape Reinga, Nelson top of the South Island for the summery blue lakes etc ... and obviously there is Twizel, Tekapo and Queenstown/Arrowtown.

    Take insect repellent.
    photo_galleries likes this.
  13. Good to know. I'm headed to NZ from Sydney in mid-April and, unfortunately, will only have a couple of weeks. Our tentative itinerary: we plan to fly into Auckland and driving to Rotarua. From there, we plan to make our way down to Wellington, then fly to Queenstown. From there, we'll make our way to Christchurch before flying home.
    TBH, I'd be happy to just keep our itinerary to the South Island, but my wife wants to see Rotorua. We would also like to ride the rails: either the Northern Explorer and/or the Tranz Alpine. I realize the Coastal Pacific is still out of service.

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