Which prime for Himalaya on D700?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by sunray|1, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. Hi there,
    Going trekking in the Everest Region in Nepal, coming in from the east (Salpa Arun valley).
    Have done the usual circuits (Annapurna, Langtang, Everest) in teahouse style before, but never with a digital camera.
    This time I'm thinking of bringing my D700 (using solarpanel and extra batteries). I will be carrying my own backpack with clothes and sleeping bag for three weeks so I want to keep it light as possible, the D700 and solarpanel already weighing in. Also, I want to keep it simple and train myself to be more creative with just one lens.

    But which one lens to take? I know many think the 24mm is good for landscapes/nature but that's one I don't have.

    My collection of primes is: 20mm 2.8AFD, 35mm 2.0AFD, 50mm1.4AFD, 85 1.4AFD, 180mm 2.8AFD, 28mm series E, 100mm series E...
    Which one to bring? Thank you for your recommendations!
  2. 28 and 100. They're both tiny, and you'll appreciate having a choice.
  3. Knowing my shooting style and preferences, I would select the 35mm f/2.
    What have you used during your other climbs when you only wanted to carry one lens?
  4. Hi John and John :)
    Purely size/weightwise the 28+100 were indeed what I was thinking of.
    I just wonder what peoples opinions are on the different perspectives/angle of view in a mountainous surrounding.

    When I was there before I used one of those yellow weatherproof Minolta's with a 35/50mm switchable lens and the other times a Yashica T5 with 35mm lens. I was not really into photography then and just made do with what I had ;-)
  5. Ray, instead of 28 + 100 I'd take 35/2 and 100. I dunno how heavy is 28 but 35/2 AF-D is only 205g and I do not think you save a lot going for the 28. I have to reasons for recommending this switch:
    1. It is good to have an AF lens... you may not have all the time the right situation to do MF. With an AF lens mounted on D700 you can take a picture just with one hand...
    2. 35/2 AF-D is one of the best lenses for documentary work on FX cameras up to 12MP. Close focus, fast and precise AF, sharp across the frame at f8... everything you need in such as situations.
  6. Ray -
    I spent time in the Annapurna and Langtang regions of Nepal. Based on that experience and from mtn settings here in the US, I recommend going with a wide option and a telephoto option. I would pick the 20mm and the 180mm from your lenses.
    With a gun to my head and only one lens to bring, I would go with the 35 like John.
  7. Thanx Mihai and Chip,
    Good points...I actually use the 35 quite a lot -often together with the 85- when travelling/walking around town or shooting social events.
    The 20-180 combo has crossed my mind as well, but they are both lenses I find myself switching a lot with... I mean they don't sit on my camera a whole day, 20 being too wide at times, 180 being too narrow the other moment...
    (20-50-180 is my holiday 3 lens combo when I don't have to walk too much or can leave one in the hotel though)

    That 35 keeps coming back as a single lens option indeed...
  8. I applaud the minimalist goal and I think there would definitely be something liberating about a "one lens" trip. The 35 would be a nice all purpose focal length, but one of my favorite things about the Himalayas is the immense scale of those mountains. That's why I would tend to pick a wider focal length, but you could probably achieve the same effect by doing panos with the 35.
    BUT - I really like having telephoto for mountain shots, so why not use this opportunity to add a lens to your collection?? I have a 75-150 that I use on my D200 and it is fantastic. Very compact, and it would be more flexible than a telephoto prime. An alternative might be the el cheapo 80-200 AF that I have read good things about.
    Have a great trip!
  9. I think I'd go with 20, 50, 180.
  10. Interesting question! I went on a trek from Tumlingtar to Makalu base camp via Shipton Pass in '92. In the Barun Valley going up to Makalu base camp the vistas were very wide and the valley broad. In 2001 I went to Mera from Lukla and the valley at Tagnag was very different and narrow, with the peaks rising up sharply. A wide angle would have been nice in either place ,especially in Tagnag. The 20,50 and 180 sounds about right. Does the solar panel weigh less than a bunch of batteries? The link is to a panorama from above Tagnag and below Mera Pass:
    Have fun! I'm jealous!
  11. Hi Ray. Rent the 24-70. You wont beleive the photos you come home with. A little heavy.So what. Good luck.
  12. Definitely going to need something wide...20mm is a must.
  13. Although I am not generally a fan of superwides I remember being in Zion National Park and thinking that the 17-35mm was not wide enough on a D3. And these were just tiny bumps compared to what you will see - admittedly these tiny bumps were pretty close together though. Certainly the 20mm and after that I would personally take the 35mm as well.
  14. This is coming from a novice excited about a recent discovery that might be obvious to everyone else, but bring a circular polarizer (see, for example, here). I only recently got one and was amazed at the difference outdoors.
  15. Hey Ray,
    If I could take only one nikon lens with me and it was a prime I would take the 24mm f2.8. BUT, I would check and see that the AF 24mm if the same optical formula as the classic 24mm 2.8
    FWIW. I think Galen Rowell shot a lot with the 24mm 2.8 in that area and his photos turned out very nicely.
  16. I'm jealous. If I were going I'd definitely bring more than one lens. My favorite is the AF 80-200/2.8; it weighs 1.3 kg, but I have dragged it pretty much everywhere (hiking, skiing, climbing). The AF 20-35/2.8 seems like a good option for panoramas and interior shots: 660 grams. Just bring one set of clothes.
  17. It depends on the sort of photographer you are, not on where you are going...
  18. I would consider something like a 24-120 or even a 14-24.
  19. Creativity comes from the mind, not camera gear. A single focal lens is limiting/restrictive and I think hampers shooting. I would take a D5100 with 18-200mm VR for the lightness.
    I'll also mention that if you use a polarize at high altitudes, the sky turns nearly black. I'm a polarizer "addict," but rarely use them above 10,000 ft.
    Kent in SD
  20. I've always felt that one-lens trips were good ideas if you are going some place that you can easily visit again. I'd hate to miss a great shot on a once-in-a-lifetime trip because I couldn't the framing right. I understand the weight problem, but i just wouldn't feel good without taking at least 2 lenses. If it were me, I'd take the 20, 50, and either the 100 or 180. However, if you think you might need the reach of the 180 without the wide aperture, you might look at picking up a 200/4. They can be had for less than $100 in AI/AIS mount, are much lighter than the 180/2.8, and are excellent performers.
  21. Hi Ray,
    Have a great trip! I do like traveling with primes, the 35 and 85 would be my choice. However, for this perhaps once-in-a-lifetime trip, I would leave the heavy D700 home and take a mirrorless camera - the new OMD EM5 with the 12-50mm lens are both weathersealed. By using one lens, you would prevent dust from getting into the camera. I would also put either the tiny 14/2.5 or 20/1.7 in my backpack as a spare in case the zoom lens gets broken. The camera will be out shortly and has everything you need to bring home decent quality images. You can not always "zoom with your feet" on mountain trails and the 12-50 provide the equivalent of a 24-100mm range, which should meet 95% of your needs. Frame tightly and compose in camera. Are you taking a tripod?
  22. Sorry for my ignorance of the DLSR world (I am still a MF/film user): do advanced DLSRs (D700,..) have a ~focus on the hyperfocal distance function (assuming the AF lens can be piloted by the camera)?
  23. Ray, enjoy your trip. I have been in the Himalayas a couple of times with digital cameras (Mustang, Ganesh Himal). I have my doubts about the solar panels, AFAIK they can barely charge a mobile phone and don't supply enough energy for camera batteries. Nowadays batteries last many shots so I would bring a few and a charger. I expect most teahouses to have electricity at least a couple of hours a day.
    With regard to camera/lenses I have been an avid fan of primes in the good old film days but switched to zooms with digital. I assume you'll be going in spring, a bit early to invest in a EVIL system. I'd bring a zoom or if you insist on primes, a 28 or 35 wideangle an a 85 or 100 mm tele. Alternatively you may hire a porter to carry your clothes/sleeping bag/etc. That will give you more freedom WRT the camera stuff and at the same time you make a small but extra investment in the local economy.
    I'm preparing for a full trek in Ladakh in summer. I'll be taking the EOS 5D + 24-105 lens, that's for sure, the rest (2nd body, other lenses, flash, tripod) is still optional.
    Remember, YMMV.
  24. I too, have been to the Himalayas a couple of times (on the Tibetan side, though), and have, on every occasion, found the widest possible lenses seeming impossibly narrow. The wider the better, in my opinion (in those surroundings, that is). However, flexibility is even more crucial. Sometimes there are just things that would be lovely to photograph with a tele-lens. I usually take two cameras with me, one fitted with a wide zoom, and one with a tele zoom (I find, that I am simply missing more shots if I have to change lenses). IF, however, I were to choose a single prime lens from your line-up, I might also venture with the 35mm, only because it is somewhat more flexible than the 20mm. I would sincerely consider renting/buying/purloining a 24-120mm lens, however.
    Have a very lovely trip :)
  25. I know you said primes, but...I use a D700 myself. Would suggest the 16-35VR + your 100mm + PF. 16-35 is relatively lightweight. Also I would prefer additional batteries vs solar charger as mentioned before.
  26. Surprised no one mentioned the 50. Up there a 50 would look plenty wide plus you could do some portraits, too.
  27. Time ago, I used to carry with 28, 50, 105 and 180mm lenses for Alpine routes and climbings. I think I never used the 180, it used to be left at home or the hotel.
    Few trips later, I just carried with either the 28 or 35, and the 105 exclusively for that tripod, distant-peak shots.
    Very soon I found myself fully satisfied using a 50mm lens. Most of my mountain pics has been taken with a film camera and a 50mm lens.
    In the digital era, my most used lens for that task could have been the 24-85AFS.

    Personally, right now I`d take only one lens (backup aside). Probably, the 24-120/4... although is still on the heavy side.

    If I have to take them from your list, I`d take the 50, and the 100 for the distant peaks/landscape issue.
    Personally, the 50mm works for me in open spaces, I can always move back to frame if needed. In my experience, the 105 has been used for just a few times; I don`t regret to have carried with it, I love to have that pics. The 100 series E could be a great lightweight choice for this task.

    Wide angle lenses seem too boring to me in such open spaces; but if you feel an unavoidable need of shooting inside a village, temples, confined spaces or whatever, you`ll need the 20... ... three lenses seem too me too much things to carry. If you were used to the 35, maybe paring it with the 100 could be a good solution.

    As a backup, nothing like a P&S tiny camera (in my case, usually on my wife`s hands).
  28. I always go with the 50mm when I am taking just one prime lens. I am not a big fan of wide angles for landscapes myself as it makes peaks and things in the distance look to little. I would just rather frame up with the 50 or take a few shots and stitch them later. The 50 will work well for taking photos of the group and the fast f/stop will be nice for low light times around the camp and such. I would also take at least a mini pod or a sturdy bag that you could fill with dirt to sandbag it. Also a circular polarizer does not work well with wide angles like the 28 or 24 as it tends to give a patchy look. The CP works great with a 50mm.
  29. "I will be carrying my own backpack with clothes and sleeping bag for three weeks so I want to keep it light as possible, the D700 and solarpanel already weighing in. Also, I want to keep it simple and train myself to be more creative with just one lens."
    I have just re-read your post.
    If I were you, definitely the 50. Nothing else. By no means a 24.
  30. Quite a dilemma: take the heavy D700 because one wants the best image quality? But because one doesn't want to carry all that weight one now limits oneself to only one lens - and disguises that choice as "more creative" or hopes to "zoom with feet"? Now how about an alternative: take a D3100 with a 18-55 or 18-105 (the combo weighs about as much as the D700 body does - about 2 pounds) and be a lot more flexible - at the expense that now the picture quality is really going to suck compared to the D700 (or doesn't it?). You claim to want to go as light as possible - to me that would eliminate the D700 from the picture.
    No way I would do such a trip with a single prime lens - at the very least, I would bring the 24-85/3.5-4.5 AF-S if I'd haul the D700 along. Or I'd get the 24-120/4 VR - though that's quite a bit more money. There are a lot of options - they mostly depend on how much you would be willing to spend. But a D700 with a single prime would rank very close to the bottom of the list for me.
    If I had to select from the list - assuming that purchasing anything is out of the question - then I would take the 20, the 35 and the 100. Or replace the 35 with the 50 - a matter of preference as either would be the one I'd keep mounted on the camera.
  31. I did the Annapurna circuit back in Oct. 2001 - FE2 + 20/2.8 + 24-50D + 50/1.8 + 80-200/2.8D + TC14B + heavy aluminum Bogen tripod
    If I had to do it over again with my D700 and wanted to go light weight I'd go with:
    16/3.5 FE
    105/2.5 AIS
    200/4 AIS
    and maybe the 400/5.6 ED AIS (though it is somewhat big - it's pretty light weight for a 400mm)
    CF tripod.
    As I look back I found myself mostly either at the wide end or the long end of things. Also, low light was a big issue so I was glad I brought a fast 50mm with me.
    The beauty of using MF primes is that little to nothing can go wrong with them short of dropping them. I'd be worried about having just one camera on such a trip . . .
  32. Hello everyone!
    Wow, thank you very much for all your responses!
    In the end, I know I will have to make my own choices, but these answers were exactly what I was hoping for: personal experiences and recommendations, thanx!
    Great to see so many people who have actually been there, or want to go there.. Thanks for all your good wishes! I definitely will enjoy the trip!

    A few things that came up while reading all this:
    -Yes, I guess I could pick up a cheap used D3000 (250 USD here in Holland) and search for my old DX18-70 lens that I should have laying around somewhere from my D70 days...
    -Or leave the D700 behind and just use my Lumix LX3...
    I guess the low weight could be worth the compromises in DR and/or IQ...

    -But honestly, I love the D700, and I love my primes... And it's not only about the weight (I'm not one of those people who cut of the handles of toothbrushes)...and disguising that with being 'creative'... :)
    But sometimes I find myself changing lenses just a bit too much when I have 3 or 4 too chose from...
    I honestly think that a little selfrestriction wouldn't hurt my shots ... but of course I don't want to restrict myself just for the sake of restricting myself ;-).... looking for a sensible compromise here...

    And I was looking for opinions on how these lenses with their different perspectives would work in that unique mountain area... Thanx again!
    Maybe I should dig up those old slides I took way back then... I just had a small and cheap film P&S with a fixed 35 and a switchable 35/50... see again how those came out...

    At this point, I'm leaning to one small prime for 80% of my shots (the 35 or 50) and...uhmmm.. yeah... throw in another small lens for either the wide side (20) or the longer side (100)
    But who knows how I will feel tomorrow... I've got till April 3rd to decide:)
    Thank you all again!
  33. For a Nikon D700 and mountains. Something like the AF 24-85mm f2.8~4D Nikkor lens. No lens to change, and you have wide-angle to medium telephoto coverage.
  34. BTW @Tim Eastman: that pano looks great! What focal length did you use? And what software did you use to create that pano? It looks really impressive, well done!
    And an impressive track record too... Shipton's Pass... Makalu, Meru... no simple strolls! :)
  35. Thx Jeff!
  36. I love my D700 and I love my primes -- like you. If I were going, I'd take the 20 and the 50 for sure and look for the best and lightest tele option. I'm not seeing a huge advantage of the 35 over the 50 -- the 50's a better lens and more useful for portraits, and at that scale the difference in wideness matters little. Especially if you have the 20.
  37. By the way, among the lightweight teles, you've already heard good words about the 75-150/3.5 (a great lens but I've had two version with fungus so be careful about glass condition) and the 200/4 (not as multi-purpose as a zoom, obviously). Both weigh about 520 grams. I can recommend two others, one an excellent, underrated, light AF zoom: the AF 70-210/4-5.6D. There are variations but this is the one optically that you'll want. Not as a rugged as a pro lens but only 600 grams, and really excellent IQ. I tested it against my 70-300mm VR very carefully and extensively and found virtually no difference so sold the 70-300 since it's twice as big and weighs almost twice as much. Finally, the old 80-200/4.5 Ai. You'll want what was known as the "new" version, serial numbers above 7xx,xxx; it's the lightest and optically the best. Really superb. It weighs 760 grams or so (check me on this I'm working from memory). Totally rugged. Will survive anything. Make sure, as with the other older lenses, that glass is still w/o haze and fungus. Here's a pic of the 70-210 -- ain't it pretty? http://www.photosynthesis.co.nz/nikon/afd70210.jpg
  38. Hi Vince,
    Thanx, I did indeed consider that 70-210 (as well as the plastic 80-200)... Sure they're good an convenient... but I don't know... can't shake my preference for primes (just yet..)
  39. Ray --
    Understood. I'm only adjusting to zooms now and in the normal range (roughly 28 to 100 in my book) Idon't particularly like them.
    A fine, underrated, and very lightweight prime with a bit more reach than your 100 is the 135/3.5. Otherwise, in the weight/quality arena, you can't beat the 200/4 earlier recommended.
    I'd hire a gerkha (sp?) and bring the 180/2.8, myself. Whatta lens.
  40. Sorry. Sherpa. What's a gherka? I cannot remember. Will look up.
  41. Gup

    Gup Gup

    The Gurkhas are a formidable soldier of Nepalese origins who are known for their courage and loyalty.
    Here is a link to a BBC article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10782099
    I remember how highly my father spoke of them and he served with the British army.
    I certainly wouldn't worry about the Yetti with a Gurkha carrying my pack...
  42. Gup

    Gup Gup

    As for the OP's dilemma, I have just returned from 10 days 'walking' London for 5 hours a day and chose to carry one lense, also because of the weight, and it was my 24-70 2.8 coupled to a D700. This is quite often the combination I reach for when hiking the wilderness when portability is important. However, I also have a Canon Elph 300HS tucked in a pocket at all times for snapshots. This little marvel weighs so little and is so unobtrusive and it shoots HD video. I bought it for my wife but I hardly go anywhere without it. It slides right into my bag beside the CF cards. Now, if moving to a D800 is anywhere in your future, you could well choose to carry your 50 1.4, stitch for panos, have fabulous low-light possibilties, and just crop later for close-ups. That would be my choice, and a tiny P&S. My trek to basecamp is next September...
  43. Hi Vince & Gup, no sherpa's Ghurka's and yeti's for me :)
    I do love the 180 indeed and after re-reading all this great replies I reconsidering taking 2 or 3 lenses and just walk/climb a bit slower ;-)
    (and no, no D800 ambitions for me... a second D700 or D3 for concerts/events more likely some day)
    Have fun in September!
  44. My son is an trekking buff and doesn't like to carry heavy camera equipment. He was using successfully at his Nepal trekking tour, an FUJI HS20 bridge camera, which provides him perfect focal length from 24 - 720mm for all photographic requirements at his trekking tours.
  45. I think having a single prime lens on a trip can be extremely relaxing. My choice would be either a 50mm or a 35mm. I have to say that unless you plan to photograph your friends in campfire light the D700 may be unnecessarily big and heavy for this kind of a venture. I think a GX1 with 20mm prime might be just the ticket ;-) I am looking at GX1 and X-Pro1 and eventually will decide between those two; MFT has more lenses (with a new 75mm coming up) and lots of pancake options great for this kind of stuff, but Fuji seems to be aiming for a bit higher up with their sensor and lenses, and it has the controls more to my liking.
    If you do take the D700 then I think at least 2-3 lenses would be the way to go; a 20mm, 35mm and 100mm perhaps. The body takes so much space that you can afford room for a few small lenses, I think. ;-) Alternatively a DX camera with 16-85 VR (or the less expensive 18-55 or 18-105) are something to consider as well.
  46. 35mm or 50mm: these lenses show natural perspective so will match what you see. However in your case, I would take a two lens kit of 35 and 85/100mm (whichever is lighter). You could indeed just take a 24-70mm but they are monstrous beasts.
  47. It must be the Himalaya itself motivating me to add to a thread as speculative as this one...
    I would certainly take 'my D700' - great prints and a few memories will be all that remains of this trip in 30 years from now. I'd supply it with an AFS17-35 plus a Leitax'd Leica 4/80-200. Probably adding a Zeiss 2/50Macro for indoors and casual macro. The mentionned zooms beat the sh.. out of all these lenses: 2.8/18AiS or D, 2.8/20 AiS (barely) or D, 2.8/24AiS (barely), 20cm-AiS 2.8/28 (landscape distances), 2.8/35AiS, 2/35D, 2/85AiS, 1.8/85D, 2.8/135AiS, 4/200AiS, 2.8/180AiS or D (barely), and, of course, the venerated 4/80-200AiS. (man, have I sold off a lot of lenses...)
    I consider not thinking about every gramm you carry every day for several weeks and at 9000 feet or so on average, well....
    Ok, my alternative all-primes setup (3 lenses): 1.4/28D, 1.4/50G, Zeiss2/100, modified AFS1.7x or 2x.
    Or (4 lenses) Zeiss 4/21 +1.4/28D + 1.4/50G, Zeiss2/100, modified AFS1.7x or 2x.
    Hiking in a group _and_ taking pictures beyond the 'personal record' level is quite a task. Only if _this_ is your goal number one - two, and three! - taking that much glass would make sense. If so, get yourself to top fitness and shoot a lot beforehand to get your reflexes up to the task even if under physical stress/exhaustion and tiredness.

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