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10 replies
Backpacking Photography - Lens Selection
swill
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I am headed to Europe for a month and I will be taking a lot of pictures. I am trying to figure out what lenses I should take, so if you have suggestions I would love to hear them.

These are the lenses that are in question right now. I really want to try to minimize the number of lenses I carry around if possible.

My camera is a Pentax K10D.

Sigma 28-105mm f:2.8-4 – this is an autofocus lens that takes pretty good pictures and is probably a pretty good walk around lens, but is surprisingly poor in low light conditions and suffers from CA.
Pentax 50mm f:1.7 – this is a manual focus lens. great for low light and takes very nice pictures.
Sigma 24mm F:2.8 – this is a manual focus lens. have not had it long, but it seems to take pretty nice pictures.
Pentax 18-55mm f:3.5-5.6 – autofocus kit lens. i am considering taking this lens solely because it goes to 18mm. how important will that be taking pictures of architecture and such in europe? this lens is poor in low light due to its restricted f-stop values…

rambohoho had some very good suggestions.

Quote:
I’d recommend you to take the 18-55 because it has wide angel. in Europe the streets are relative narrow so most of the time you won’t have the chance to step back and frame everything in. depends on you interest. a telescope can also be helpful. as you see some of the photos I’ve taken made with 150mm or above. but it really depends on your shooting style. If you don’t shoot people a lot, you will find it useful but won’t use that often. but wide angels are definitely a need. 18mm is good enough for most of the use. I really found my self in situations where I need wider. so i bought a 12-24 mm lens for my D70s several months ago.

Also, I am planning on taking a small tripod. It is quite small, but is kind of built like a tank, so it is not the lightest thing ever. I don’t have a gorilla tripod, should I get one instead?

I only have the built in flash for my camera. I am assuming I would not want to travel with an external flash anyway?

Thanks for the input…

I am leaving from Montreal, Canada with $1600 for 16 days
Frankfurt, Munich, Venice, Florence, Nice, Barcelona, Paris

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oldlady
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I agree about having an 18mm for wide angle architecture shots, but I like to be able to zoom to at least 90, so I think I’d take both automatic lens. I also like a mini-tripod for the occasional night shot of a lighted fountain, lighted buildings, etc. but I’m not sure it’s worth the weight in your case. I didn’t carry a tripod on this last trip. While I have some decent night shots I probably took 3 or 4 blurry shots for every “keeper.” However, your Pentax should be a whole lot better about minimizing movement and blur than my much older, cheaper Nikon. I would not take an external flash — museum or other “no flash” setting and the internal flash should be all you need unless you plan to take professional quality portraits.

swill
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Thanks… That is pretty much what I was thinking.

I am planning on taking quite a few evening shots, so I think I have to take the tripod. My camera has anti-shake in the body, but when it comes down to it, evening pictures look better at f:8.

I am going to have to do a couple sessions with my 28-105mm lens at night with my tripod to make sure it will cut it. I almost always use my 50mm and 24mm for night stuff.

I am leaving from Montreal, Canada with $1600 for 16 days
Frankfurt, Munich, Venice, Florence, Nice, Barcelona, Paris

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Jennsrn
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Having just gotten back from Europe and traveled with a camera and 2 lenses, and a tripod (crappy one).. I took NO night photos.. when I took night photos I used my small point and shoot. The tripod couldn’t hold the weight of my camera due to being so small. My friend had recommended a gorilla tripod for me… and I wish now I had gotten it, cuz there is usually a balcony you can set up on… lots of people used monopods, which may be useful too.

As far as lenses… I don’t know where you’re going, I used my wide angle (18-55) mostly, but I also used my 55-200 a lot also. I got some shots of the people with my zoom lens- one especially of a Paris Gypsi, that I wouldn’t have been able to get without a zoom. Also some of the architechure in Europe is so detailed, I wanted to zoom in on it, and changing the lens in the middle of a crowded street full of tourists, dust, gypsies, and beggers caused me a lot of anxiety, so I would def. take your 28-105, I would guess you might use that one more. .. A LOT of people had that wide range lens on, and I found myself wishing I had had one.

As for External flash- I only used mine a little, I was glad I had it. I used it a lot in buildings where the natural light was not enough… and it helped capture some of the architechure details- esp in Barcelona with a lot of Gaudi’s work. you can’t use it in musems very often, again for those I used my crappy point and shoot. But other than Barcelona, I don’t think I used my external flash.

So my suggestion- 28-105mm lens, your everyday lens.. whatever you use most, and a gorilla tripod… ALSO- I found myself recording a lot… Lots of sights and sounds, I would suggest if you have a fancy camera, it probably doesn’t do video. so either a cheap point and shoot also, or a digital sound recorder. Smile

just y 2 cents- hope you have a great trip.. and yeah the equipment gets VERY heavy!!!!!! Smile

swill
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To complicate things a bit, I have an old manual focus f:3.5-5.6, 28-210mm Vivitar lens. This lens takes awesome pictures, but is pretty big and is not the best walk around lens only because of its really bad lens creep. I was planning on taking this lens originally, but then I ended up getting a really good deal on the 28-105mm AF lens. I have not done a side by side comparison, but I don’t think the 28-105 lens takes as good of pictures.

I am leaving from Montreal, Canada with $1600 for 16 days
Frankfurt, Munich, Venice, Florence, Nice, Barcelona, Paris

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swill
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Not sure that anyone is going to be able to help me make this decision, but I figured that other people may be interested in what I am going to take.

I did a side by side comparison of my Vivitar 28-210mm f:3.5-5.6 MF and my Sigma 28-105mm f:2.8-4 AF lenses. I found that the 28-105 lens takes slightly better pictures at f:8, but falls off very badly below f:5.6 and above f:16. The major advantages of this lens is that it is AF, is relatively small and does not have lens creep. The 28-210 lens takes good pictures all the way through from f:4 to f:22. It is a pretty heavy lens and does have pretty bad lens creep. However, I think the additional zoom range and its macro setting may be valuable. In terms of AF vs MF, I think I am going to be shooting a lot of stationary objects, so it may actually be nice to have the MF lens.

I took the 18-55mm lens out of the running because I realized that I did not want to carry an additional lens for the chance that I would want an 18mm shot that I can’t get with a 24mm prime.

The lenses that I think I have committed to (having only decided while writing this) are the following:

  • Vivitar 28-210mm f:3.5-5.6 MF
  • Pentax 50mm f:1.7 MF
  • Sigma Super Wide II 24mm f:2.8 MF

I am packing now and leaving tomorrow, but if anyone has any additional input, fire away…

I am leaving from Montreal, Canada with $1600 for 16 days
Frankfurt, Munich, Venice, Florence, Nice, Barcelona, Paris

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oldlady
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Looks good to me. I like being able to “zoom past” foreground clutter and also zoom in on architectural details. There is some advantage to automatic focus for the truly spontaneous shot — kind of depends on your style. Is taking pictures a major objective, or just a side activity?

swill
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It is going to be relatively central to the trip. We are lacking a lot of really good quality pictures on this site, so one of the things I am going to try to do is dress up some of the favorite places with pictures so people get a better feel for the place while they are in the planning phase.

Luckily I have spent a lot of time with this manual focus lens, so I am pretty comfortable with it, so I should be fine. I guess we will see.

Headed out in 5 hours. And the count down begins… Smile

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Frankfurt, Munich, Venice, Florence, Nice, Barcelona, Paris

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vanogtrop
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I know this post is old but while reading it for my own purposes of what other people are using with their cameras.
I have another option that is available for the tripod issue. I had found an item called “The Pod” now i have just ordered it and not had an opportunity to use it yet. They have different versions of it to accommodate just about every camera. It is kinda like a bean bag. It is fairly inexpensive around $20 – $60 depending on which pod. Lightweight and small. You can check it out at www.thepod.ca

I am leaving from Montreal with $3000 for 34 days
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Thanks for the info, vanogtrop

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erinmariephoto
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I’ll add to this too…I like the gorilla pods for the flexibility to attach it to something and it being small, but I also think for free standing, and wanting to take night photos, I would recommend a Versipod.

It basically looks like a monopod, most fold down to smaller that walking sticks, and at the bottom three legs can fan out. I’m getting one for my trip, and I’ve been surprised because I found a couple decent aluminum ones at a local mom and pop camera store for only about $20. Wish I could find a picture of the one I’m actually talking about, but here is one just to give you an idea, and it’s only $25:

I am leaving from Southern California with $6000 for 29 days
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