Pack the primes or go with a decent tele? Travel quandary...

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by oli_sones, Apr 23, 2017.

  1. I'm heading to India in July and want to take my trusty F100 with me. I haven't done much travelling with the F100 other than some city breaks but want to make sure I take advantage of all the (hopefully) great opportunities India will give me shot-wise.

    I've read a lot of different opinions about what people might take with them on such a trip, but I can't decide between taking three primes I have (24mm f/2.8f, 50mm f/1.8, 85m f/1.8 - all AFD) or investing in a decent wide tele to cover everything. We won't be travelling about a huge amount, but lugging lenses and kit in 38c heat doesn't fill me with joy....

    Does anyone have any sage advice based on experiences with film kit in such a situation?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Shorter prime lenses are ideal for walking about town, taking shots of people, shops, etc. They're small and light. My preference would be a fast 35 mm lens, possibly 28 mm, but your 24 or 50 mm would work. For general photography, including landscapes, a mid-range zoom is best. My choice is a 24-70/2.8, but an 18-200 or 18-300 is a good one-lens-fits-all option, but rather slow at f/5.6 at the long end. ISO 400 film is the most flexible choice.
  3. I've been on both sides of the fence on this one. What I've evolved to is thinking zooms are the best option for travel. The less I carry, the more fun I have. The less I have to fiddle with changing lenses etc., the fewer shots I miss. If the F100 will function with the Nikon 24-120mm f4 VR, that's the lens I'd pick up on ebay, or the Sigma 24-105mm f4. Add a 35mm f1.8G (or the new Tamron VC version) and you should be covered. I would bring lots of film--might have some difficulty finding it there. I'd also bring a small back up camera on a trip like that.

    Kent in SD
  4. On a film camera traveling that far I opt for the 24-70 2.8 and get your negatives processed and scanned along the way Its getting harder to find film processors and scanners.They probably have lots of Fuji Film in india.
  5. Thanks Kent. I'm wondering whether limited myself to an f/4 lens as it might not give me the enough in terms of aperture when using, say, 400 iso film. That said it's probably the best of both worlds. There is the older 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6D but I can't imagine half a stop is going to make much difference at that stage?
  6. ISO 400 is a little hot for bright sun, outdoors, and slow for dimly-lighted interiors. ISO 800 (or more) is too contrasty and grainy for good landscapes, so I I find 400 is the best overall compromise. It's hard to change film mid-roll on the fly, and you always lose at least one exposure. That's what makes film photography fun and challenging ;)

    One advantage of film is that you can stop down to f/22 before diffraction affects the results (exceeds the resolution of film)
  7. MANY years ago, my 3-lens kit was 24/2.8 + 43-86/3.5 + 80-200/4.5
    Today, I would go with a lighter 2-lens kit; 24/2.8 + 35-105 (or 35-135).
  8. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    My kit was similar to Gary's, but I always have a fast 35 or 50. Particularly good for evening and night shots as well as indoor. Nowadays it is usually 2 bodies, 18-35, 24-120 and either 55 1.2 or 50 1.4. Last trip I dragged along an 80-400 which I rarely used. Won't do that again except for car trips where I can bring whatever I want.
  9. It's nice to have a walkabout zoom even if you take the primes as well (I usually take a 50, whatever else I have). I always liked the 28-105 on the F100 (at one point Nikon even sold it as a kit lens with this camera). It's a very decent all-rounder that won't feel like a burden by midday the way the 24-70 might, and you can pick one up for under $150 on ebay.
  10. I guess it's making sure you have a fast prime as you say Richard in order to get those extra stops when the f4 zoom doesn't do the trick in low light. I'm hoping the light in India will be suitable to pair a 400 iso with an f4 zoom (perhaps the 28-105).
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  11. You can always stick a polarizer on if using ISO 400. I routinely use a polarizer for daytime shots anyway. As for the older 24-120 f4 vs. newer 24-120mm VR, the newer lens is sharper, and it has VR. I find VR pretty useful (unless using a tripod for most shots.)

    Kent in SD
  12. Shooting street stuff in film days I had two lenses: 35 & 135 IIRC. The longer one used the most because I liked the perspective and it allowed me a bit of anonymity when shooting people. When I couldn't get back far enough or was shooting someone who knew I was shooting them then the shorter got pulled out. I was mostly shooting Kodachrome 50 w/ F, F2, OM1, OM2. From memory this kit worked out quite well. I'm old and my memory tends to forget negatives though.

    Today (digital) my 24-70 is my primary walking around lens though street shots will still be 135, 200, or, if Nikon will get the FL version out, 300.

    Second the polarizer (B&W Kaesemann).
  13. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Never been to India, have no plans to go, though a magnificent civilization. My guess is that the light early and late will be fantastic. In eminent physician I know, on the second speaking engagement there, brought all his own food and drink as he had been deathly ill after the first visit. No insult intended -- the same thing can happen here -- your system is generally o.k. with your own country's bugs.
  14. I have a standard go everywhere bag that's been much the same for a very long time. Two bodies, usually an F4s and an N90 along with 28, 85, 80-200/4.5 and a 300. This can get a bit heavy so I have a smaller bag that carries a single body with 28 and 85. I rarely miss a shot because I'm not carrying the right lens though I've missed a few while messing with the gear instead of using it. I would take a 28 everywhere and a single longer lens that will do what you need it to do. If you want to just use a single lens go with an 18-75 or the 24-120 will do well.

    Rick H.
  15. Personally . . . I would bring as much with me on the trip as I could get onto the plane with and then select the kit that carry each day based on how I feel and what I will be doing that day. Around the cities and villages, the fast primes will be great and something like the 24-80f2.8 when you are out doing landscapes or only want to carry the body with one lens. I would hate to be that far from home and not the lenses that I need to get the quality that I desire.

    For myself . . . I would be lost, anywhere, without my 80-200f2.8!

    This partly, of course, depends on how often you travel or expect to travel to this location.
  16. Unlike a home kit, a non-pro travel kit is a compromise based on many variables.
    • How long are you going to be traveling?
      • A 20 pound camera bag might be easy to carry for a few hours. But everyday for 14 days, and it could start to feel REALLY HEAVY.
    • What mode of transportation?
    • Any luggage or carry restrictions?
    • Rules at the destination country?
      • By this I mean carrying too much gear/film could result in them classifying you as a professional, then they may hit you with "do you have the proper permits, to shoot as a pro?"
      • When I traveled back in the 70s, I carried a body + 4 lenses + 2 or 3 bricks of film (40 or 60 rolls) + flash. With all that, I definitely did not fit the profile of the average tourist. What tourist carries 40 to 60 rolls of film? Today that 2,160 frames fits into 1 or 2 large SD cards.
    • Age / physical condition.
      • Today, I cannot carry the same 20+ pound camera bag that I so easily carried in college.
    • Climate at the destination. Heat and humidity will sap your energy a lot faster than being in temperate climate.
      • In the heat and humidity of Florida, just carrying a body + 1 lens was difficult, because I was so worn down by the heat and humidity.
    • How much walking will you have to do? The effect of weight increases the farther you have to walk.
      • I have gear that I use at home or within 100 feet of my car, because it is too heavy or bulky to carry for any significant distance.
    • Do you have someone else that will carry some of your gear, or do you have to carry everything yourself?
    • Expected weather; hot/cold, dry/wet.
      • There were times that I wish I had a Nikonos (underwater camera), because it was RAINING so much.
      • Really cold weather can cause your battery to weaken faster.
      • Handling metal in really cold weather is difficult on your hands, cuz it sucks the heat out of your hand. You may need gloves. My fingers got so cold that I lost feeling, and had to do everything (including loading film) by sight.
      • Handling metal in HOT weather is difficult on your hand, cuz the hot metal burns your hand. Again you may need gloves.
      • You need to know how to safely move your gear from the COLD outside into a warm building, and the reverse from a cold/cool building out into a hot/humid outside, to prevent damage from moisture condensation.
    • Some specific requirements and considerations:
      • Lens related
        • Will you have wide scenes?
          • You can always crop into a wide image, but you cannot create what isn't there.
        • Will you have tele scenes?
        • Will you need a super tele? Do you REALLY need the super tele?
          • If you are bird watching or shooting a rocket launch or surfing, YES you probably do. A 135 or 200 would be too short for the small/distant subject. IF that is an IMPORTANT part of your trip.
        • Will you need the flexibility of a larger/heavier zoom, or can you do with smaller/lighter primes?
        • Are you going to do close ups that you need a macro lens?
        • Will you need a FAST lens, then which one (wide, normal or tele)?
          • If you have a DSLR, you can compensate to some degree, by cranking up the ISO level.
        • Do you NEED the larger/heavier FAST lens, or can you do with the smaller/lighter slower lens?
          • Example 70-200/f2.8 AF VR vs. 70-200/f4 AF VR vs. 80-200/f4.5 manual
        • How many lenses can you carry/fit into your bag?
        • Are there any lens trade-offs?
          • Example, lens X is bigger and heavier than 2 (or 3) smaller lenses.
      • Tripod
        • Will you be taking time/slow exposures, and need to bring a tripod? Night work also requires a flashlight.
        • Will you need to take/buy a Carbon Fiber tripod, for its lighter weight and ability to handle in COLD or HOT temp. Or can you make do with your aluminum tripod?
        • Will your tripod fit into your luggage? And leave enough room for your clothes and other stuff.
      • will you need to bring a flash? If so, how much power will you need?
        • More power = more weight and bulk.
      • do you need to bring filters?
      • How many shots do you expect to take.
        • film
          • You need to take/buy enough film.
            • I carried 40-60 rolls, and that took up a fair amount of space. Going to digital gave me back all the space that those rolls of film took up.
          • Do you process there or bring it all home to process?
        • digital
          • Do you have enough memory cards?
      • etc . . .
    Other comments
    • I carry almost ALL my gear. I did not leave EXPENSIVE camera gear in the hotel, while I was out playing tourist.
      • I would leave a $50 tripod in the hotel room. I would not leave a $800 Gitzo with a $400 head in the hotel room. So I travel with an inexpensive/low cost tripod.
      • I left the extra film in the room.
    • I put the 80-200/4.5 into the hotel safety deposit box (not the dinky box in the room) when I went out for dinner/evening stuff.
    There is no one ideal solution for everyone. We all have our individual requirements, and travel and destination requirements.

    Today I would carry a DSLR (D7200) with a wide range zoom (18-140) and that would be enough for 95% of what I would expect to run into.
    With my prior DSLR (D70) I would carry its normal range zoom (18-70) + longer zoom (70-210).
    This is a massive reduction in load (both bulk and weight) compared to what I carried before.
    And yes this is a compromise and I accept it, to fit into MY requirements and limitations.

    Last edited: Apr 26, 2017
    oli_sones and Sandy Vongries like this.
  17. I do travel assignments now and then and I would bring the following, swap logical digital bodies in if that is in mind:

    Leica M6 w/ 35mm 1.4 asph, 28mm 2.8 asph.
    Nikon FM3A or F100 with a Zeiss 50/2 Makro, 105mm 2.5 AIS.

    The reason for primes vs zooms is two fold for me.

    1. If a lens gets wet, soiled or damaged to the point that until I can properly clean or repair it and it is unusable, I have other lenses to use to get the shot. Zoom lenses are all your eggs in one basket, it gets soiled or breaks down, you are done, that is bad news in a place like India.

    2. Zoom lenses are always larger and sometimes very much so, can make a person feel intimidated like you are zooming in close to them even if set at the wide end. Also, they are often associated with being "Pro" equipment making them the target of a thief and can even cause access issues in some places like concerts, art galleries and churches for the same reason.

    I have several zooms I use for different tasks but primes are by far my go to, I see better with them, rely less on the gear and more on my mind's eye.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2017
  18. Thanks for all your replies so far - some great information and guidance! I have ordered a 24mm-120mm f/4 VR for the F100. With that I'll take my 50mm f/1.8 and possibly another prime - the 24mm f/2.8 perhaps, although keen to look at maybe at a 35mm as the only prime and leave the other two at home. I've also got an Olympus Stylus Epic which I will take as I love it for quick shots.
  19. I'd take the 50 1.8 and the 24-120 then, the speed and size difference is big. I have the 24-120, it is a real nice lens especially for the price, not terribly heavy, just the biggest 24mm or 120mm F4 you will ever use.

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