Mt Whitney Webcam
Mt Williamson Webcam
Feature Topics
Who's Online
2 registered (Brian in VT, mja), 19 Guests and 82 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Forum Stats
3492 Members
10 Forums
5382 Topics
49681 Posts

Max Online: 382 @ 11/07/12 05:45 AM
Topic Options
#7874 - 09/28/10 07:45 AM Cameras AGAIN
steelfrog Offline


Registered: 04/08/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Texas
OK, so my saga to find a good camera continues...

A few years ago I climbed Whitney with a SLR and vowed to never carry a big camera again.

Since then, I purchased the Panasonic Lumix LX-3, which takes nice pics and is portable. Since then also I have become a stronger hiker and more knowledgeable, and as well have me=issed some incredible shots, and not maximized the shots available to me. So, I have researched things and am back to a SLR, which I just got on e-bay for $1,000 (body plus accessories)--a Nikon D2Xs.

I Know! Big and heavy! But, I am hoping with my stronger hiking ability and a good toploading case, I can make it work insofar as carrying it most places.

So, my question is--what lenses--if I were to get 2 only--would you recommend? One that has strongly been recommended is the Tokina 12-24mm.

Top
#7875 - 09/28/10 09:21 AM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
if you're a wide-angle only guy, that's a good choice. But even a 12 isn't that wide on a DX body. A 10.5mm may be needed to really get wide (and correct the distortion in software if you like rectlinear wide angles). I just shoot extra frames and stitch if I want super wide.

The Tokina gets mixed reviews - decent lens, but not outstanding
http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos/272-to...-report--review

similar results for the slightly wider Sigma 10-20mm
http://www.photozone.de/nikon--nikkor-ap...-review?start=1

both are pretty sweet, but neither of these lenses interest me. My choice was to cover everything from 18mm to 200mm with two low cost lightweight Nikon VR lenses (18-55mm and 55-200mm), for a total cost of less than $300 (ebay Nikon refurbs). Both of these lenses get excellent reviews, especially for image quality (built is a different story, but that's how they can be so light)

For really wide stuff and extreme perspectives, I'd go with a Nikon 10.5mm or a Zenitar 16mm fisheye (and correct perspective in software if you want straight lines). Light, cost a fraction of the true big corrected lenses. There's a point when weight becomes a major factor and unless you're on a photo expedition and plan on doing a lot of special shots, you have to compromise, even if you can afford the good flat field super wide stuff.

(my 14mm f2.8 Canon was fantastic on my EOS full frame film gear in the 90s, but I'd never carry that chunk of glass and metal on the JMT, plus you can buy more than 10 Russian made Zenitar fisheyes for one of these, or you can get 100 Zenitars for one of these. The software to correct barrel distortion is rather cheap at $30 - http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/fisheye-hemi.htm )

Another thing to mention about the cheap VR lenses I use - they give you at least 2 stops of extra stability. You're getting f2.8 shutter performance at f5.6, saving the weight of the equivalent ($$$) pro lenses.

Obviously, there are major optical quality differences, but at 12 megapixels you don't really resolve those differences, at least not the resolution part. Chromatic abberations can be corrected in software and color quality is relative (it's all fake anyway with RAW image processing these days). A 20+ megapixel sensor really would be able to record the difference between a $2000 pro lens and these cheap 3rd party or Nikon budget lenses, but for now I am at 12mp and that's plenty for my outdoor use.

Your D2 sensor already requires post processing for chromatic abberations (newer gen cameras do most of that automatically in-body), so you're looking at a lot of Photoshop work anyway, so why not get cheap glass and bend the lines straight if you want super wide. Even on a DX sensor, these fish-eyes will give you viewing angles wider than a 12-24mm tokina, and they are so small that the weight of the fisheye PLUS an 18-55mm will be about the same as the lone Tokina.

Guess this is all about compromises and knowing what you will actually use on your trip, so I better stop rambling, because there are dozens of other ways to look at this. Right now I'm doing the above, but on my next big trip I'll be doing a few things differently.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#7877 - 09/28/10 11:09 AM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: Fishmonger]
steelfrog Offline


Registered: 04/08/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Texas
Thnaks a bunch, Peter. This is very helpful. So, if I go with the 18-55 and 55-200 VRs, with the D2Xs body, will that give me a lot more depth of field etc. than my P&S? And the ability to do night shots of the Milky Way, etc.?

It doesn't sound like you have found the ultra wide angle lenses to be all that useful?

BTW, I think last year I bought Clair and Damien's Big Adventure, and my 14 y.o. daughter has it in her room. She and I went on her California Adventure this past August, spending 5 days in Yose backcountry, and several days in the Bishop Pass area, and I intend to make a similar book using blurb.com to memorialize her adventure. I have 6 kids so i'm doing a similar adventure with each in the summer before they start high school.

If you haven't been there, I recently went to the North Cascades and they are fabulous. Kind of a narrow weather window--best shot is late July to mid-August.

Top
#7881 - 09/28/10 12:52 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Well I am glad yet another hiker is packing the big camera gear into the wild! More good pictures in the back country is always nice!

At times I regret moving to SLR because I have managed to get my pack to about 20 pounds base weight even with all the extra stuff I bring and then I have to throw 8 more pounds of camera gear on me! But when you get back home your glad you did!

I suppose if I had my choice I would bring a fixed 24MM lens and a longer reaching one such as 100-400MM but for my camera 24MM is pretty wide.

My only real question with that is I often take photos making slight adjustments by zooming in a bit and I question how often I would do those shots if I had to change the lens. It's one thing while your camped and taking photos but when your on the move all day and especially in a highly scenic area where your taking out your camera like every 20 seconds then it will not go so well.
_________________________
FlickR

Top
#7884 - 09/28/10 02:49 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: steelfrog
Thnaks a bunch, Peter. This is very helpful. So, if I go with the 18-55 and 55-200 VRs, with the D2Xs body, will that give me a lot more depth of field etc. than my P&S? And the ability to do night shots of the Milky Way, etc.?


depth of field is a function of a few factors - sensor size, focal length and aperture. Basically, the wider you go, the more depth of field you have. At 18mm and f11, you have stuff in focus from 1 foot to infinity, while at 200mm and f5.6, you will have only a very shallow focused area. The latter is the stuff point and shoot cameras cannot easily do.

milky way - yes - it is that blurry patch in the middle of the star tracks. This is a 11 minute exposure at 18mm and f16



full sized image
http://didnt.doit.wisc.edu/outdoor/gallery/JMT2010/20100713/DSC_1177.jpg

same lens shooting on a D40 (and out of focus - I hate AF cameras in the dark)
http://didnt.doit.wisc.edu/outdoor/gallery/JMT2009sept/20090918/slides/DSC_1549.jpg


Originally Posted By: steelfrog

It doesn't sound like you have found the ultra wide angle lenses to be all that useful?


not in the mountains, but I used a 14mm Canon on a film body a lot in the past - great stuff you can do with it if you want to emphasize perspectives, etc - some examples:

http://www.speedcenter.com/Gallery/gallery99/best_of_1999/planet_fontana_big.html
http://www.speedcenter.com/Gallery/gallery2000/03longbeach/deep_in_the_tub_big.html
http://www.speedcenter.com/Gallery/gallery99/12michigan/sittin_on_the_wall_big.html
http://www.speedcenter.com/Gallery/gallery98/best_of_1998/andy_warhol_does_cart_big.html


but in the mountains, you really need something in the foreground to make sense of this, since the 110 degrees this $2500 lens covers I can cover with 3 overlapping images taken with the $100 used 18mm as well, stitch together in free software and bingo. Bonus is that it also has a higher detail resolution in the distance then, because you are suddenly working with multiple 12mp images, not just one. Basically, the wider the lens, the smaller everything more than a few feet away from you will get. Look at the helmet shot above - that lens was sitting on his chest in front of the steering wheel, but it looks like it is feet away from the helmet. Real distance was probably more around 8 inches.

If you want really crisp and sharp images, forget about zoom lenses altogether and try a fixed focal lens. There's a reason Nikon just relased a $1500 35mm f1.4 fixed focal for the DX and FX sensor cameras. A used 24 mm f2.0 manual focus lens will blow any zoom out of the water in terms of image quality. Too bad all these lenses aren't wide enough for DX cameras, which is why I will probably go to whatever replaces the D700 with a higher resolution sensor when it arrives.

One thing about really wide lenses - you don't need AF at all, because you can pretty much shoot them at infinity all day long and everything is in focus. So if you're looking for super wide, I'd really look at a 13mm f5.6 manual focus lens on ebay. The newer 14mm AF is ok, too, but more expensive.

Originally Posted By: steelfrog


BTW, I think last year I bought Clair and Damien's Big Adventure, and my 14 y.o. daughter has it in her room. She and I went on her California Adventure this past August, spending 5 days in Yose backcountry, and several days in the Bishop Pass area, and I intend to make a similar book using blurb.com to memorialize her adventure. I have 6 kids so i'm doing a similar adventure with each in the summer before they start high school.


wow - cool. High school is still 2 years away for my twins, but they are already becoming less and less willing to do these things. Damien wants to do something with a mountain bike next summer, probably just hang around Mammoth. We may do some peak bagging and overnight hikes in between endless mammoth mountain downhill runs smile

Meanwhile I am having the crazy idea of picking up skiing again and doing the JMT in winter... maybe I'll get over it once I add up how much I'd have to spend on new gear alone.

Originally Posted By: steelfrog

If you haven't been there, I recently went to the North Cascades and they are fabulous. Kind of a narrow weather window--best shot is late July to mid-August.


I've been there in 89 and 90, but the climate reminded me too much of the Alps, which means it can wreck your whole vacation if you hit it bad.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#7885 - 09/28/10 02:51 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: RoguePhotonic]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: RoguePhotonic


I suppose if I had my choice I would bring a fixed 24MM lens and a longer reaching one such as 100-400MM but for my camera 24MM is pretty wide.


you forget that his D2 is a DX sensor (1.5x multiplier), so to get to a 24mm lens perspective like on your camera, he needs a 16mm lens. The 18-55 I use is equivalent to a 27-80mm made for full frame bodies.

to get to a 14mm like in my samples above, you would need a 9.5mm lens made for DX - it does not exist.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#7899 - 09/29/10 11:54 AM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
steelfrog Offline


Registered: 04/08/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Texas
Some terrific advice, guys. So, I went to a Nikon dealer last night to look things over. It seems they have a 18-200mm lens, VR2, 3.5-4.5--reasonably priced. Would that be a good "general" lkens to get? And then get some wide angle (Tamron 10-24, 3.5)?

AQlso--what about getting a 105 macro for flowers, close up wildlife, geology, etc?

Top
#7900 - 09/29/10 12:00 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: Fishmonger]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
before you go lens shopping, check out this site, especially if you're not totally sold on buying new or set on autofocus (I never needed it in the mountains before it was invented...)

http://www.naturfotograf.com/lens_surv.html


There are a few gems listed that may just catch your attention, like this one:

Zoom-Nikkor 25-50 mm f/4 - "the venerable 25-50 is able to produce silky-smooth images when it is attached to the D2X. There is a roundness and tactility to the image that makes the 25-50 downright enchanting. You might get slightly sharper images with other lenses, but hardly more pleasing to the photographic, inner eye. The virtual lack of distortion, vignetting, and chromatic aberration helps the 25-50 to project its endearing image quality onto the imaging sensor of the D2X."

$200-250 on ebay any day, but really not a great range for a DX body (37-75mm equivalent)

Also consider the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 - fast and wide, $589 new. Drawback - it's so wide, you will need another lens like the 18-55 on top of it to cover a range that maybe 90% of what I shoot in the mountains requires. I am considering this lens as my third zoom to carry along - you do get the super wide look from it - found this on Flickr - all taken with the D300 DX body
http://www.flickr.com/photos/loicparent/sets/72157606158964425/with/2684147525/


This morning I also got curious to see how good that 55-200mm VR zoom really is and did some lens comparison shots with a top rated 300mm f4.5 ED IS lens. I put both on my D90, shot the old lens in manual with histogram telling me where the exposure was and the new lens on auto with aperture set to f8 where it's supposed to be sharpest.

As you can tell, I've been having a slow day ;-)
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#7901 - 09/29/10 12:04 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: steelfrog
Some terrific advice, guys. So, I went to a Nikon dealer last night to look things over. It seems they have a 18-200mm lens, VR2, 3.5-4.5--reasonably priced. Would that be a good "general" lkens to get? And then get some wide angle (Tamron 10-24, 3.5)?

AQlso--what about getting a 105 macro for flowers, close up wildlife, geology, etc?


the 18-200 is indeed a great one size fits all lens - basically combines the two light VR nikon lenses I have, except at a much higher price, plus it isn't quite as good in terms of overall performance when compared to these two separate lenses. So you're paying more to have massive zoom range, but your image quality goes down. In fact, the more zoom you get, the more problems in the optical design will creep in. All a matter of compromise if you must save weight and time (lens swap on the trail does suck when it's raining or you have no kids around to hand you the other lens)

Macro lens - on the trail, well, weight again. I used to get away with a simple +2 or +3 diopter close up filter screwed on my tele in the 80s - works fine until you get demanding and want mega magnification with depth of field, which is when you need to carry a ringflash and other junk along. Most non-dedicated macro lenses don't do any better than a $20 filter on the old 50mm lens. The really good nikkor micro lenses are mega $$$ and vintage only - they don't make that stuff any longer.



Edited by Fishmonger (09/29/10 12:09 PM)
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#7903 - 09/29/10 12:56 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
steelfrog Offline


Registered: 04/08/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Texas
You are the 2nd person to recommend that Tokina. I think that has to be one of my primary hiking lenses.

So, if I go with Tokina, and given that I rarely use a ton of zoom, you think the 25-70 is the way to go?

Top
#7904 - 09/29/10 01:29 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: steelfrog
You are the 2nd person to recommend that Tokina. I think that has to be one of my primary hiking lenses.

So, if I go with Tokina, and given that I rarely use a ton of zoom, you think the 25-70 is the way to go?


to follow up on the ultra wide Tokina 11-16mm - look at the chart on this page for probably the best summary of what is out there in this market right now

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/digital-wide-zooms/chart.htm



with 25-70, you mean the 25-50 nikon, equivalent to 37.5-75mm on a DX camera? It's a manual focus lens, so you have to deal with that, plus you probably have to program the lens paramters into the D2x body.

with these two lenses, you have a gap in the normal wide angle range - really only barely wide with 25mm, almost normal lens, and then at 16mm you are at what's equivalent to what is considered already a strong wide angle (24mm equivalent for full frame, or 90 degree picture angle)

I think something like the 18-55mm VR I use would work better to cover your range, be AF, and lighter than that 25-50mm, and much better hand-held at low light (VR). It just won't take "enchanting" images ;-)


you mentioned Macro - here's the only one that really does the job and isn't already discontinued
http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/200mm-micro.htm ($1600)
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#7906 - 09/29/10 02:17 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
steelfrog Offline


Registered: 04/08/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Texas
Wow--it looks like I can get an 18-55 for less than $80 on e-bay. Is that the right one? Heck, if that will do the trick, I am definitely game! The Tokina is about $500; you think it's worth it in terms of the quality of the pics I can get with it?

What I think I'm missing with my P&S is sharpness, color separation and especially depth of field. These will give me this along with the D2Xs body?

Thanks Peter.

Top
#7908 - 09/29/10 03:30 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: steelfrog
Wow--it looks like I can get an 18-55 for less than $80 on e-bay.


there are two versions - you want the "VR" which is far superior - $100 for a nice one. Just remember to turn VR off when you use a tripod as it messes up the image. Handheld, this stuff is gold and buys you two f-stops, so it's really an f2.8 lens without the weight.

http://photography.shop.ebay.com/Lenses-...d=p3286.c0.m282

Color saturation - get a good polarizer and play with that - you get skies like this with the right sun angle:



The cheaper VR lenses are not as grand as the $2000 pro equivalents, but close, much closer than cheap lenses ever were to the big boys' toys. I always wanted to get me a 35-350mm Canon on my EOS 1n for hiking, because it is a fantastic film camera lens, but it's also very heavy and $2000+
-- now, years later I am glad I didn't do it. These little VR lenses are just about as good, at a fraction of the cost, heck, they are disposable almost. I could care less if I drop these things or get a scratch on them. In fact, even the D90 is something I don't really worry about damaging. Only when you want "perfect" will you have to address that last level of quality you can get from your photos, and currently I am not willing to pay for that stuff (because nobody pays me to take photos any longer). I used to have $40,000 of lenses in my trunk in the 90s and each weekend I blew $600 in film and processing alone, only to break even at the end of the year... but I had a lot of fun with these toys. Got it out of my system - I now know what you can get if you have unlimited funds, and it really isn't that much better. The guy taking the pictures and minor things like a good polarizer and a tripod at the right time make a much bigger difference.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#7923 - 09/30/10 09:31 AM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: Fishmonger]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
Macro revisited - highly recommended filters for lenses not meant to be used as Macros (e.g. my 55-200mm that won't focus close enough). Add one of these Canon close up filters that are properly designed for various focal lengths (who cares who makes them, they work great on any lens with the right thread size)

http://www.adorama.com/catalog.tpl?op=it...;feature1=Canon

ran into a review here:
http://www.camerahobby.com/Access-Canon500D.htm


Edited by Fishmonger (09/30/10 01:21 PM)
Edit Reason: added review link
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#7925 - 09/30/10 11:41 AM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
steelfrog Offline


Registered: 04/08/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Texas
OK, I done did it, FM. I bought, off E-bay, the 18-55 (and also 55-100 VR) you suggested, as well as the Tokina 11-16--all new and all for about $800. I will either be cursing you or praising you in a couple of weeks.

Just kidding--I appreciate all the help.

Just need to get me a tripod now...

Top
#7926 - 09/30/10 12:54 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: steelfrog
OK, I done did it, FM. I bought, off E-bay, the 18-55 (and also 55-100 VR) you suggested, as well as the Tokina 11-16--all new and all for about $800. I will either be cursing you or praising you in a couple of weeks.

Just kidding--I appreciate all the help.

Just need to get me a tripod now...


good choices as you will be able to tell from the little comparison work I did before work this morning: you got me all curious about how good these old "venerable" lenses really are, plus to see the range I have available, so I put the camera on the tripod and aimed it at Claire and Damien's treehouse, snapped pictures are near identical settings with all of them and took a look at details. I happen to have a number of those top rated old Nikkors. I was expecting them to completely obliterate those cheap plastic zooms. Well...

Result - well, I am never going to use those old lenses on the D90 again, perhaps with the exception of the 300mm until I can replace it with a modern design. The Tokina 11-16mm being outside my current focal range really is tempting, but every time I look at examples for those lenses, I see them used in cities, where tight spaces really let the ultra-wide glass shine. I may have more use for the Nikon 10.5mm fisheye, plus that packs lighter.

here my comparison table - short of the ultra-wide Tokina range adn with the exception of my 300mm lens, this page shows you what you got coming in the mail:

Lens comparison on DX camera body


Meanwhile, I think I finally decided to turn my D40 into a dedicated infrared camera. You may ask how , and why? - click the links in the questions and you'll see.
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#7928 - 09/30/10 01:18 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: steelfrog

Just need to get me a tripod now...


tripods... I am looking for a really solid one on ebay right now as well.

something like this

http://cgi.ebay.com/Gitzo-GT0541-Mountaineer-Basalt-Carbon-Fiber-Tripod-/250704177233

these things are so damn expensive, you have to buy used, but you can get a rock solid platform at under two pounds if you can afford a carbon unit (this unit above is $479 at B+H)

Later this fall I'll get the panorama head and after that my backpack will need to be upgraded to one of those gizmos with a support wheel in back :-)
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top
#7929 - 09/30/10 03:25 PM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
steelfrog Offline


Registered: 04/08/10
Posts: 28
Loc: Texas
OK, I ended up buying this. 13 ounces.

http://www.avidmaxoutfitters.com/p-211-t...king-staff.aspx

May end up being not what I need, but I thought maybe I'd give it a go, see if I can get good stability out of it.

Top
#7946 - 10/01/10 10:29 AM Re: Cameras AGAIN [Re: steelfrog]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1029
Loc: Madison, WI
Originally Posted By: steelfrog
OK, I ended up buying this. 13 ounces.

http://www.avidmaxoutfitters.com/p-211-t...king-staff.aspx

May end up being not what I need, but I thought maybe I'd give it a go, see if I can get good stability out of it.


I saw that thing a while back and didn't feel it would be very stable with the tripod attached so low down below the camera.

I built me one of these things using some aluminim poles from an old tent - 6 ounces total and ok for a camera with lens, but nowhere stable enough for what I want to do in the future. It may look fragile but this super light tripod works great even with a pretty substantial DSLR, especially when you use the remote trigger to fire it.


The thread above also links to this $50 product - seems like the same thing but no DIY and probably a more reliable head, but also double the weight:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/660803-REG/Tamrac_TR406_TR406_ZipShot_Compact_Ultra_Light.html
_________________________
My Stuff on Flickr

Top