Sharp and light for landscapes

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by johnfarrar, Aug 31, 2011.

  1. I'd appreciate your thoughts. What should go into a kit for landscapes that fulfills the criteria of being sharp, lightweight, and covering the focal length range 20 to 135 (at least!) on FX? This is easy to do if weight is not an issue, but for 6 hour mountain days, with bag, filters, tripod and food/clothing, weight really is an issue. How to carry it is sorted - but what should I be carrying? So you have something to react to, I'll be taking the following to Scotland's mountains and coast for a month soon: D700 with 20/2.8 AIS, 35/2 AFD, and 75-150/3.5E. Can I do better? And how would a DX shooter solve this problem?
  2. As a DX shooter, for me its a D200, 12-24mm f4, and a 28-105mm f2.8-4. Not the sharpest lenses, but not heavy and with the DX crop coming from the center on the image circle and stopped down to the sweet spot (f8-f11), I bring back plenty of sharp images from the field. Given my current financial situation, this lineup works for me.
  3. For DX and one lens I would take 18-200 VR.
  4. For DX, in my view, the nicest landscape lens is the 16-85VR. The 2 extra mm at the wide end help a lot (versus all the 18-xxx lenses) and keep my usually from bringing also a 12-24. It's a bit expensive for what it is, but it's very sharp, also wide open. If you really need wider than the 24mm equivalent, then yes the 12-24 has to come too, and that adds quite a bit of size and weight.It's not the lens I like most, but in a case like this, it would be the only one I'd bring.
    For FX, I doubt whether it's easy to find lighter and/or smaller than the lenses you mention; the 24-120 f/4 VR, for example, isn't all that small and light. for landscapes, those will do perfectly well too, I think. You could consider the Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5, which is a lot smaller. Smaller than the 35 and the Series E zoom - that's going to be tough. Maybe the 85 f/1.8 or a 105 f/2.5 for the long end instead?
  5. 20mm f/3.5 Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 50mm f/2.0 85mm f/1.8 105mm f/2.5
    Its what I would carry for DX or FX and then I might also bring along my 4X5 with a couple of lenses. And yes I am used to feeling like a pack mule when I go out in the field
  6. On DX, I'd I'd get the 16-85 zoom and just crop in at the long end. Although I think the D700 rig you describe above would be pretty great, too.
    If "sharp" is a critical concern, I would not consider the 18-200, which I've owned and loved, but is soft beyond 100, especially on 10+MP.
  7. What about replacing your 20 and 35 with a 17-35/2.8?
    You could thought a 50mm/1.8 in the bag and you will have a lot covered.
    But I think you'll be carrying 300gr. if you follow my idea. Not very a very good advice I think ;P
  8. It's a tricky thing, balancing weight vs. glass, and it really depends on your way of working. Assuming you're taking and using a sturdy tripod and shooting stopped down, a 24-120 VRII and perhaps a 20mm would do.
  9. Just a quick shout out for my D700's lens cap: 28-200 f/3.5-5.6 G. Small, light, optically decent if you don't push your luck. I have a 14-24 when I need wider, but I admit I'm tempted by 20-24mm small primes for portability. I could just crop from my 8mm Sigma fish-eye, though (which *is* small).
  10. I prefer 20mm and 35mm with a 55mm Micro-Nikkor for mountain travels. The 35mm stays on my camera most of the time. I have a 20mm f3.5 AIS, it's tiny and sharp. Perhaps an 85mm f2.0 AIS, or the aforementioned 105mm, would complete your set. The 85mm f2.0 AIS is compact and fairly light.
  11. I know it's not lightweight, but it's the one of two lenses I carry when shooting landscapes:
    24-70m f/2.8 Sharp, Fast, and Heavy...
    If this isn't to your taste, any old lightweight 28-70mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 should be fine assuming you're shooting at f/8 - f/11.
  12. Well, I've been slowly developing my FX mountain kit and here's what I'd suggest:
    16/3.5 or 16/2.8 fisheye - in the mountains this can really be used effectively, especially if wanting to shoot stars at night. The f/3.5 is a better lens, but very hard to find.
    20/2.8 AIS or AF-D. Small, light, decently sharp wide open - great stopped down, but with some complex distortion. Not the best for ghosting, but it's OK. Did I mention it was small and light?
    24-85/3.5-4.5 AFS. Very good lens on FX and all that you could want stopped down a bit. Lightweight and makes a good all-around mountain lens.
    If not into the zoom, then 50/1.8AFS + 80/1.8D should be a good replacement. Both are excellent on FX, not very heavy nor large.
    For 100mm+ I'm not sure, other than perhaps the 135/3.5 AIS, 105/2.5 AIS, or the 200/4 AIS.
  13. your current kit seems about right. stick to what you have.
  14. I sometimes do trips on mountains up to ~14,000 ft.. When I do, I even cut off part of the handle of my toothbrush to save weight! For mountain hiking or other times weight is the biggest issue, I take the very light but sharp Nikon 18-55mm VR and 55-200mm VR. Two lenses, compact, and light. The problem with the single focal lenses is they are made mostly of metal and you need several of them to round out a kit. The plastic zooms beat them in weight and convenience (less fumbling in a pack to dig out the right lens.) If did a lot of this kind of alpine hiking I would buy a Nikon D5100. I have a D300 but leave it home and take the lighter D80.
    Kent in SD
  15. Eric Arnold [​IMG], Aug 31, 2011; 07:17 p.m.
    your current kit seems about right. stick to what you have.​
    Agreed. I assume you're using a tripod, and landscapes don't tend to move much, aside from relatively close trees on a windy day. Those lenses are all great between f/5.6 and f/16 (combined), so I wouldn't worry about buying more. You'll get much better photos using the money to rent a bike or take a train to get somewhere else than you would buying another lens.
    But if money is no issue, and you have a few weeks to get used to new gear, I like the 24-120G. It's big and heavy and only has a max aperture of f/4, but it is only one lens, it's sealed, and it's excellent at the apertures you're likely to be using.
  16. I mainly do landscapes, while I have not done mountain expeditions, I am v weight adverse. I go overseas with 6kg and under 2kg for the camera stuff.
    I can't afford FX and use film, but in terms of FX, I have been thinking about 20/4 that Galen Rowell used, and the Series E lenses which Thom Hogan said they were v good, they have a 28mm and a 100mm. I find that 2 primes are more than enough for me when you have to compromise and dumb it down.
    But then again Galen has used a 28-70/3.5-4.5 and a 80-200/4-5.6 which I had before as well, not as good as the 2.8 AFD which I also had but the slower lens was still v good in its own right. FWIW. And, right at the other end I have seen others using Digital Hasselblads. So horses for courses.
    For DX, wide angle is pretty much just zooms and then you could get a 85 or a 100 odd prime I guess.
  17. The older AF 18-35mm (Not f4 AF-S that's HEAVY!) is pretty good stopped down to f8, not very fast, but it doesn't need to be!
    The 35-135mm AF (mkII) pretty much duplicates your 75-150mm E; it is a little heavier but leaves no focal 'gap' and is sharp enough at f8/11
    Both FX, of course....and pretty in-expensive too...;-)
  18. I shoot for a living in the high country, a lot of mountain / landscape lifestyle imagery that includes spectacular scenes
    of lifestyle / star shots at up to 14,000 feet. Yesterday I did a 16 hour day and 18 miles of fast and light. We produced
    many great advertising images of backpacking, climbing, trail running and peak bagging at up to 13,000 feet, the entire
    take was over 800 images, a darn productive day.

    While I do own and use pig heavy zooms like the 14-24, 17-35 and 70-200, I don't usually use them in this kind of
    shoot due to their chest pouch nose weight and size, they are overkill and a good shooter can work much faster
    zooming with his boots than zooming with a big lens that sticks out too much.
    So I used a Fuji X100, D700, 16 2.8 fish, 28/2 AIS, 50/1.8 series E and the incredible 75-150 3.5 series E that we both seem to have.

    I say pass on all this heavy zoom advice, add a clean but cheap 50/1.8 and you are good to go.

    I used the 28/2 and 50/1.8 the most yesterday as I shot anywhere from wide open to fully closed down to get motion
    blur. I also stitched a few shots from the 28 since my Xpan was in the shop for maintenance.

    Keep it light, many people don't and they simply miss a heap of shots becuse they make the photo gear the priority
    when the activity it self is what is leading to truly great photographs.
  19. Thanks everyone for the responses. They're hugely helpful, first in giving me some comfort that what I've been and will be using is fairly sensible, and then in giving me something to think about when NAS strikes. When I used DX I paired a 10-20 sigma with the 28-105 and that worked quite well, including for the occasional close-up (a 3T or 4T on the 75-150 does that for FX). I'll now have a think about the 85/1.8, 24-85/3.5-4.5, 35-135 AF (but 685 g!) and 80-200/4-5.6. But although the sloppy zoom is a hassle, the 75-150 E never ceases to impress with what it delivers. Would there were a good, light 20-35 to pair it with - I guess the 18-35 AF is the closest. Thanks again.
  20. For FX shooters, I highly recommend grabbing an old Nikon 28-105/3.5-4.5. You can pick one up for $150 in excellent condition. I re-discovered this lens that sat on my shelf for years when I upgraded to the 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200 2.8's. Let;s be honest - those 3 are the Trinity of sharp glass. But last year I had a job in the Middle East and the thought of carrying those behemoth's in 12 hour, 110+ degree desert conditions made no sense.
    Grabbed my 20/2.8, the 28-105 and dragged along my 70 -300. Most days, the 70-300 never left the room. Just too heavy to carry for the occasional times I needed more than 105. You will not believe how sharp the 28-105 is - just a marvelous lens and at the price, you just cannot beat it. The 28-105 + 20 weigh less than the 24-70 alone.
    These were all shot handheld with the 28-105.
  21. John--
    I owned the Nikon 18-35mm and used on an F100 and briefly on D80. While it's reasonably sharp in the center, there is noticeable barrel distortion at the wide end. Of course, I tend to shoot a lot of subjects with straight lines in them that makes that a problem. In the mid 1990s the lens was a decent budget choice, but has since been surpassed as aspherical elements etc. have been designed into lenses better.
    Kent in SD

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