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Author Topic: Lenses for Mountain Photography  (Read 5814 times)
KT
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« on: February 03, 2013, 01:59:03 PM »
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Every segment of photography has its own ideal equipment criteria, and every photographer creates his own niche criteria within these segments to fulfill the needs of his own style.  My own place in this broad spectrum is in part that nearly all of my photography is done during multi-day backpacking/mountaineering trips where weight is an important consideration.  Common quality concerns like edge to edge sharpness are important for any lens used for any purpose, but beyond quality, there are features and focal lengths.  As Iíve puzzled and searched for my ideal lens kit for these trips, itís become clear to me that my ideal kit simply doesnít appear to be available.  I shoot a D800, but this topic isnít brand specific.  To cut to the chase, here is my current idea of what that ideal kit would be and a few thoughts about why I would choose each lens:

ē   24mm f3.5 Tilt Shift Ė The vertical distortion inherent in wide angle lenses can of course be digitally corrected, but only at the expense of altering the framing of the image.  You sometimes end up discovering that the image is not what you thought you had captured.   Shift is invaluable at wide angles in part for this reason.  This lens is available of course, but the mechanical limitations of the Nikon have me curious about the quality of the new Samyang offering due out in a month or so.
ē   35-105mm f4 - Carrying a larger number of prime lenses rather than one or two zooms would be too bulky and heavy, so I have always looked for the best zooms I could find.  Most high quality zooms stay at or below 3x magnification to reduce inherent design compromises and the pro 24-70 and 70-200 zooms commonly offered fall into this category.  However, it would be redundantly inefficient in terms of weight carried to have both a 24mm Tilt Shift and a 24-70 zoom.  The ideal choice from my standpoint would be a similarly very sharp, pro level 3x zoom with the lower end starting at 35mm.  I donít need f2.8; neither am I personally very concerned with bokeh.  Given equivalent sharpness across the entire image, weight trumps speed for me.  This focal length zoom was once common, but seems no longer to be offered.
ē   100-300mm f5.6 Ė I was intrigued by the new Nikon patent for a 100-300 f4, but again, weight trumps speed, and f4 in this lens would be too large and too heavy for me.  My ideal lens would be a pro level model at f5.6 for this reason.  The reach to 300mm is a luxury, but has been useful to me in mountain landscapes.  Nikon once made a 100-300mm f5.6 and Iíve read some anecdotally good comments about the quality of that lens, but Iím dubious whether it could hold up to testing on a D800 Ė has anyone done this?

None of this is to slight the very fine lens offerings currently available, or to question the lens kits that anyone else has assembled and found to perfectly fit their own needs.  I understand that the desire for a 24mm capability without the high cost of tilt shift makes the 24mm a good starting point for standard zooms.  But I do wish the standard offerings werenít quite so monolithic in focal length range.

In the end, I guess Iím wondering if Iím alone in my thinking and the lenses that I wish were available, or whether there are others out there who might agree with what Iíve written here.  Thanks.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2013, 04:45:20 PM »
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I cover this range with a Zeiss 50mm f2.0, a Leica 280 f4 APO and a stitching head.

When I don't need the last 100mm, I replace the 280f4 by a Leica 180f2.8, which happens 80% of the time.

Cheers,
Bernard
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RobbieV
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2013, 01:29:59 PM »
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I'm with you Bernard.

Stitching makes up for a couple of lenses while keeping resolution. And keeps your bag light. Smiley
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BJL
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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2013, 05:23:46 PM »
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I cover this range with a Zeiss 50mm f2.0, a Leica 280 f4 APO and a stitching head.

When I don't need the last 100mm, I replace the 280f4 by a Leica 180f2.8 ...
Bernard,

    If stitching (in two directions) is viable, what body would you recommend?

I would think that sensor resolution in l/mm then becomes very important, as that maximizes angular resolution of the subject with a given lens. That suggests a 24MP 24x16mm format body like the D5200 or Sony A77 could have an advantage over the D800, increasing the likelihood that the shorter 180/2.8 lens is enough, and also with advantages in size, weight, and cost. The downside being about 50% more frames needed for the same final pixel count, and in some cases two-way stitching would be needed where the D800 only needs a one-way sequence.

(Actually, taking the stitching approach to the extreme, I suppose the resolution champion amongst interchangeable lens cameras is the Pentax Q, followed by the Nikon V2 or J3!)
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Clyde RF
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« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2013, 09:22:34 PM »
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KT...Your kit requirements were and are quite similar to mine. If one is primarily thinking in terms of zooms, the main difficulty seems to be that the relatively few really good zooms often don't line up being available in the focal length ranges that would be most ideal for the application being considered. This being the case, I have found that it is better for me to compromise with focal length rather than image quality.

 In my manual Canon FD film days, I used a 20-35L, 35T/S, 85L, and 100-300L. Although I had both a Canon and Tamron 35-105, they were never really up to the task, but the 35T/S, 85L, and 100-300L were exceptionally good. At the time, I was never able to find for that system, a satisfactory mid range Zoom that would cut it - times have changed.

Obviously, when using the best SLR sensors today, only the very best zooms will have a chance of measuring up, so one has to choose carefully (the main point of you're post); so some compromise regarding overlapping focal lengths would appear to be unavoidable. You may want to consider: the Nikon 24T/S, a Nikon 24-70, and the new Nikon 70-200F4 (with a 1.4 converter when necessary.)

I have been using my four by five recently, but will go digital when Canon introduces an affordable higher megapixel camera. The lenses I am thinking about are: the Canon 24T/S ll, Canon 24-70L 2.8 ll, Canon 70-200F4L, and last but far from least in both cost and weight (if I can ever afford it) the Schneider 90mmT/S. 

   



           
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KT
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« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2013, 09:57:25 PM »
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Bernard - using stitching as a manner of manufacturing focal lengths you're not carrying is a creative idea I had not considered.  Thanks for replying.

Clyde RF - I switched from medium format film to digital last year.  The D800 is my first digital camera.  I had expected Canon to come out with a high megapixel camera with the 5D3 and was ready to buy, but the D800 looked like the better body for landscapes.  Lenses may be another matter though and I'm still trying to figure that out, hence my post.  The Canon T/S and even their new 70-300 L lens had me hedging.  Thanks for your good thoughts on this.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 11:22:39 PM by KT » Logged
stever
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« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2013, 11:14:11 PM »
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i'm pretty happy with the Canon 70-200 f4 and it looks like new Nikon is has comparable performance.  i'm less happy with wider zooms although the new Canon 24-70II is getting very good reviews (although Roger at lensrentals.com finds that the combination of Nikon 800 and 24-70 beats the 5D3 and  24-70II in resolution) - but these are large heavy lenses.

i'm not carrying a tripod and pano head, but have satisfactory results with hand-held single row verticle panos using the 70-200 and 5D2/3.  If we're primarily considering landscapes, i think a 70-200 f4 and Zeiss 28 or 35mm prime would work for most situations.  i consider the Canon 70-200 +1.4xIII to be adequate for 20x30 prints at f8-f11

if you're dealing with a combination of close and distant subjects the a TS could be useful, unfortunately the Nikon 24 is not the best
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2013, 11:23:10 PM »
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Hi,

Just a small remark. I'm pretty sure that you would find a lot of pleasure in images by todays 20+ MP DSLRs. I have no Canon but the images I have seen from Canon 5DII and and 6D were impressive.

I used to say that next years camera won't take a picture of this years moose.

Best regards
Erik


Obviously, when using the best SLR sensors today, only the very best zooms will have a chance of measuring up, so one has to choose carefully (the main point of you're post); so some compromise regarding overlapping focal lengths would appear to be unavoidable. You may want to consider: the Nikon 24T/S, a Nikon 24-70, and the new Nikon 70-200F4 (with a 1.4 converter when necessary.)

I have been using my four by five recently, but will go digital when Canon introduces an affordable higher megapixel camera. The lenses I am thinking about are: the Canon 24T/S ll, Canon 24-70L 2.8 ll, Canon 70-200F4L, and last but far from least in both cost and weight (if I can ever afford it) the Schneider 90mmT/S. 

   



           
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lfeagan
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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2013, 03:11:48 AM »
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Stitching is the way to go for mountains--if you need a wider view just rotate and take another shot. Sometimes I can hardly believe I concerned myself with getting a wide enough lens years ago. I prefer to use manual focus lenses for stitching mainly because I feel more comfortable that the focus is maintained. (And yes, I disabled AF with half shutter press and use the AF-ON button, I still feel this way). I use the Nikon 24, 45, and 90 PC-E with a D800E depending on the height I am looking for. I generally shoot with the body vertical.
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Lance

Nikon: D700, D800E, PC-E 24mm f/3.5D ED, PC-E 45mm f/2.8D ED, PC-E 85mm f/2.8D, 50mm f/1.4G, 14-24 f/2.8G ED, 24-70 f/2.8G ED, 70-200 f/2.8G ED VR II, 400mm f/2.8G ED VR
Fuji: X-Pro 1, 14mm f/2.8, 18mm f/2.0, 35mm f/1.4
mac_paolo
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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2013, 04:04:18 AM »
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I recently wen on the dolomites (walking in the snow, so weight is an important factor) with a Nikon D300 and:

70-200mm f/2.8: most used lens, often with CPL. Quite heavy. the f/4 would have worked just fine with lesser strain to the arms
50mm f/1.8: used a lot. Excellent sharpess.
24mm f/2.8: used when 50mm was too long, almost same number of shots as the 50mm
8-16mm Sigma: used very little, mostly at "longest" edge.

Paolo
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KT
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« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2013, 11:51:17 PM »
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Thanks very much for all of your replies. 

Stitching is an interesting idea that I will surely play around with, but I think it would depend upon the stability of the light and/or scene movement (clouds, etc.).  My favorite images are taken when the light is changing with each second that passes.  It seems to me that it would also change the way you think about framing an image and I think, to some degree, might relegate this more to the post-process cropping event than to a framing seen through a lens in full at the time of capture.  Not better or worse, just different.

The lenses that manufacturer's choose to offer are no doubt driven by their business models and their market research.  I continue to wish however, that lens offerings were more diverse.  It seems a shame for instance, that in all the world only a single focal-length-range of top notch, pro-level zoom (24-70mm) exists in the standard range for full frame DSLR's.

Just a thought...



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Clyde RF
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« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2013, 02:02:37 AM »
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kt...You took the words right out of my keyboard with you're last post. The use of stitching is undoubtedly a very effective option (along with focus stacking), for those with the required experience, technical skill, and speed, but would also cause a problem for me when dealing with ambient light. In the eastern U.S. forests, I am often attempting to make full use of selective lighting, and only have time for one shot to get what seems to be the best effect.

When only having one best shot available, it would be necessary as well, for me to rely upon non-stitcthed T/S lenses (with shot set up ahead of time) for added depth of field, rather than focus stacking, even though the latter could be more often used in certain other situations in digital photography.       
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2013, 05:04:55 AM »
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Yes, stitching is great but is not easily used in some kind of situations.

I sometimes go for a 24mm ts + Zeiss 100mm f2.0.

Cheers,
Bernard
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theguywitha645d
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« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2013, 09:56:09 AM »
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Most of my work in the mountains could be done with a single normal prime. Then a wide is my next used lens. I also do a lot of stitching. I usually carry one short/medium tele. I am not sure why two zoom lenses and a T/S lens is actually lighter than three simple primes. I am really unsure why a T/S is needed in the mountains. BTW, although I carry primes, I never crop in post.
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KT
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« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2013, 10:14:37 PM »
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I am not sure why two zoom lenses and a T/S lens is actually lighter than three simple primes. I am really unsure why a T/S is needed in the mountains. BTW, although I carry primes, I never crop in post.

You're quite right theguywitha645d, three simple primes would be lighter than a T/S and two zooms, and one purpose of this post is to reconsider my options, so thanks for adding your piece.  I will be thinking hard about what to carry this year and I may well try some primes.  Focal length choices can be closely related to personal style and preference, but its never a bad idea to try a new way and see where it leads you.  Its true that less weight trumps more speed for me, because my style doesn't require fast lenses, but focal lengths are less clear cut for me.  Its a balance, and I'm looking for my solution.
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John Rodriguez
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« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2013, 11:51:56 PM »
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D800e - 28mm f/1.8, 45mm PC-E, 85mm PC-E
4x5 - 90mm f/6.8, 150mm f/5.6, 250mm f/6.3, 400mm f/8 T

Basically I use the same spread of FOVs for all landscapes I come across, I just need to add a 135mm prime to the D800 kit. 

28/90 - I don't actually use wide angles all that often.  I rarely use tilt or rise with them on my 4x5, which is why I'm ok with a non-T/S 28mm.  24/75 it too wide for me, 28/90 let's me get close without making it obvious to the viewer that I'm using a wide angle. 

45/150 - My most used FOV.  I use rise a lot, tilt less so but often enough to need it.  I could live with only this FOV if I had to. 

85/250 - My second most used FOV.  Constant use of rise.  85/250 gives just enough sense of compression without making it too obvious.

135/400 - For when I can't get close enough to use the 85/250. I'd use rise and occasional tilt if available, but I'm used to having no movements available at this FOV.
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Gandalf
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« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2013, 10:15:59 AM »
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Lots of great comments and information here. I used to use a 16-35 zoom and 85/1.8 as my main light weight kit. I would add a 50/1.8 or 180/2.8 when I needed more. Stitching is great when you are shooting a subject or relatively static scene, however when light is the subject, it doesn't work too well for me. A 24-70 is a great all purpose lens, but in my experience it is so heavy that it would be the only lens I bring. 70-200 f4 zooms are wonderful and pair nicely with 1.4x. I think if I were building a lightweight kit, it would be 24 t/s, 50/1.8, 70-200/4 and 1.4x. Maybe add in a 90 t/s in place on the zoom. That kit is small and light enough to allow you to travel fast, but will still cover probably 80% of what you might want to shoot in mountain areas. Maybe add in some extension rings too.

Right now my kit is 15/3.5, 35-70/4 and either a 90/2 or 180/2.8.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2013, 09:22:45 PM »
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I think if I were building a lightweight kit, it would be 24 t/s, 50/1.8, 70-200/4 and 1.4x.

I would replace the 50f1.8 by a macro lens to add this capability.

My personnal favorite is the Zeiss 50mm f2.0, but the Nikkor 60mm f2.8 is also a good option except it does have too much light fall off to be a perfect stitching lens.

Cheers,
Bernard
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theguywitha645d
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« Reply #18 on: February 09, 2013, 11:42:31 AM »
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You're quite right theguywitha645d, three simple primes would be lighter than a T/S and two zooms, and one purpose of this post is to reconsider my options, so thanks for adding your piece.  I will be thinking hard about what to carry this year and I may well try some primes.  Focal length choices can be closely related to personal style and preference, but its never a bad idea to try a new way and see where it leads you.  Its true that less weight trumps more speed for me, because my style doesn't require fast lenses, but focal lengths are less clear cut for me.  Its a balance, and I'm looking for my solution.

It is really hard. I spent a great deal of time and money figuring out my ideal setup. The other way to go is get the lens you know will use and start from that. I have never found that I used several lenses equally. Ultimately, I think you are going to just have to put down the long green and try and then adjust from there.

I have found the gear is not as much of an issue as carrying it. That is where you are either carrying it comfortably, but it is not accessible and so you don't use it or it is accessible and it is too tiring to haul. My solution is a ThinkTank belt system and a backpack camera bag with no dividers (the belt pouches act as the dividers). When I am working, I put on the belt and carry the empty pack. When I need to put things away, they belt gets dumped in the pack. I am carrying a Pentax 645D and four lenses with that. I sling a tripod leg through the pack strap where it meets the bag. I can hike all day like that and that includes scrambling up rocks, crossing salt marshes, and pushing through dense undergrowth. I use an unpadded belt for the system and it is comfortable. The pack I have has a nice large front pocket which is good for those other things you need like food. THe pack itself is not that big--it can fit under an airline seat easily. Unfortunately, they don't make my model anymore, but I am sure there is another solution out there.
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gerafotografija
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« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2013, 11:19:30 PM »
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This year, I switched to a weather resistant m4/3 body to save on weight and carry a full range of lenses in the mountains. I skied with 12-50, 19, 45, 60 macro and 75-300 in a small pack with a tripod, and still had room for food, extra clothes, etc.

Maybe the most startling revelation for me was that having a 75-300 (150-600 equivalent!) that is almost pocketable opened up many opportunities that I never considered with full-frame equipment.

I don't have 24MP+, but a sterling 16MP sensor mated to small high-IQ prime lenses seems to be a serious option these days.

Arėjukas at gerafotografija
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