May 272010

Galapagos Hawk - photographed with 180mm f2.8 lens

This year’s photo tour to the wonderful Galapagos Islands was my third visit to the archipelago.

I recommended to my group that the most useful lens that they could take would be either a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII or the equivalent Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS II, I’m pretty sure that the majority of the photographers who took that lens would agree with that suggestion.

However, this was my first visit to Galapagos when I didn’t take that lens! Why not?

Last year, I decided to sell my Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8 lenses. The reason was that I found them too heavy and when I checked the metadata I found that I was primarily using them at focal lengths of 24mm, 50mm, 70mm and 200mm.

As I already had a Nikon 17-35mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4 and 180mm f2.8, I reckoned that I could buy the 85mm f1.8 and 105mm f2.8 VR Micro and my bases would be covered.

Spider on Genovesa - 105mm f2.8 VR Micro lens

Did I miss the 70-200mm?

Of the 1100 Galapagos photos that I took with a Nikon, 49 were taken with my 85mm, 360 with the 105mm and 150 were taken with the 180mm. When I used the 105mm lens it was quite often to do macro photos, so I would not have been able to use the 70-200mm lens at those times. I must admit that I didn’t miss the 70-200mm and certainly didn’t miss the weight. However, I still stand by my recommendation that a 70-200 f2.8 lens is the most useful lens for Galapagos, for most photographers.

Did I miss the 24-70mm?

On the wider side of things here are the stats; Using the 17-35mm zoom, 14 photos were taken between 22mm and 28mm, 20 were taken at 35mm . I also took 102 photos with my 50mm f1.4.

Despite taking fewer wider/normal photos, I did miss the 24-70mm lens! I think if I were to make video clips of some of the action that we saw, then that would be the lens that I’d want. However, I still don’t miss the weight and length of that lens.

Garth and Kimi photographing the first sunset. 17-35mm f2.8 at 17mm

The 24-70mm is not a lens that I miss in my regular photography, so it’s a dilemma that I’ll have to ponder on. If Nikon comes out with a new DX format camera that has 1080p video and D700 image quality then I could use the 17-35mm lens, capture sound and video for the same weight as the 24-70mm zoom.

Wide angle photos

I find the 17-35mm lens to be very useful. Of the 70 photos that I took with that lens, 30 were at 17mm. On a full frame camera, that is very wide! It’s the one Nikon zoom that I can’t do without and it’s the only zoom lens that I own.

What was the star lens!

Without a doubt, the star lens for me was my 300mm f2.8 VR lens. I took more photos with that lens (378) than with any other lens. Of course, if I had a DX format camera (1.5x crop) then my 180mm f2.8 would have given me a similar field of view as the 300mm but Nikon does not make a DX format camera that has the same image quality as the D3 series cameras or the D700.

Juvenile heron - 300mm f2.8 VR

What does Nikon need to do?

Nikon seriously needs to update it’s range of fixed focal length lenses. I love the 180mm f2.8 but it has the antiquated AF focusing instead of the newer AF-S system. Add VR to that lens and I’m sure it will be a winner. An AF-S version of the 24mm f2.8 lens and the 85mm lenses would also be appreciated.

When Nikon introduced a new 24mm lens a few months ago I was excited for about 15 seconds. I then released it was an f1.4 that weighs 620 grammes and costs over $2,300! Give me a break, I’m sure it’s useful for some people but not me.

Come on Nikon, AF-S has been around since 1996. It is time to put it in all of your regular lenses! Canon has had ultrasonic motors in it’s lenses since 1987 and they have a wonderful 200mm f2.8 L lens.

Nikon also needs to update it’s DX line up and come out with a professional quality camera that has 1080p video and around 14 to 18 megapixels. I think that too many pixels will have an adverse effect on image quality and high ISO capability.

One Response to “Galapagos – Lens Thoughts”

  1. Luke Austin says:

    Interesting read Richard. I have both the 24-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 vrII and definitely agree that their weight and size can be a burden for travel photography.
    It was nice to meet you the other day in your gallery. All the best for the Scotland workshop

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