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02-11-2011, 03:57 PM   #1
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Which lense to bring... Himalaya

Hi Everyone,

I’m planning a hiking trip in the Himalaya and I’m wondering which lenses to bring with me… I will be taking a lot of landscape picture, a little bite of portraits…. And probably not much pictures where I need a big zoom…

Because of the dust and the limited time for camera setting, I will like to change the lenses as little as possible. Also the space in my backpack comes at a premium and I do not want to carry more than 1kg of lenses.

So, if you were in my situation, which lenses will you bring with you.

Note, my camera is a K7.

Thanks for your help.

02-11-2011, 04:39 PM   #2
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DA 18-135. Versatile, decent IQ, WR, lightweight (0.4kg). Mid-range to mid-telephoto comes in handy more than one might think for landscapes, especially for mountains.

I'd also take the 15 ltd, which is very small, lightweight and handles wide vistas and sunlit scenes beautifully. The 18-135's weakest area is at 18mm along the edges, so it would definitely come in handy. Both lenses together weigh less than 0.7kg.

Last edited by Cannikin; 02-11-2011 at 04:49 PM.
02-11-2011, 04:57 PM   #3
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I agree. I had a similar dilemma last fall for a trip to the Andes and the 18-135 wasn't quite out yet. I was hiking. Each day, depending on weather, I carried either 18-55 WR or the 16-45. I've since sold them and purchased the 18-135 for that extra reach. So far I like is a lot.

I next plan either the 15 or 12-24.
02-11-2011, 08:59 PM   #4
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The 18-135 look interesting... but I it’s a little bit too slow for my taste (i know that the lenses with constant aperture are heavier)
I have a 17-70 that I’m using most of the time.... what I’m really thinking about is if i will have much added benefit for carrying an ultra-wide (12-24 or 10-20)... or if could “Photoshop” my way out of the extra few mm.

02-12-2011, 02:09 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by ben_leg Quote
The 18-135 look interesting... but I it’s a little bit too slow for my taste (i know that the lenses with constant aperture are heavier)
I have a 17-70 that I’m using most of the time.... what I’m really thinking about is if i will have much added benefit for carrying an ultra-wide (12-24 or 10-20)... or if could “Photoshop” my way out of the extra few mm.
Remember the primary effect of ultrawide angles: they stretch the foreground, while shrinking center subjects. They are good for when you have an interesting foreground (shoreline, field of flowers, etc.) or are standing at the extremely close to your subject (in the case of mountains I mean right at the base, or literally on them) and want a very unique perspective. Any further out and you lose the sense of size and scale, and you're just going to get lots of dirt, lots of empty sky and ant-sized mountains.

I do a lot of shooting around absolutely gigantic mountains, and my kit is the 15 ltd, 35 ltd and 55-300 (cramming my new 18-135 somewhere in there for bad weather or when I don't feel like changing lenses). For wide open valleys and fields, the 15 is brilliant. For emphasizing the mountain itself, not so much. I only found it useful for shooting the mountain itself when I was literally standing on its outer slopes, or I had a very interesting foreground (lake, meadows, etc). Just a few miles out and it looked small and ordinary, despite it looking mind-bogglingly huge in person. In most cases I relied on a normal focal length (35) which is excellent for capturing scale, while still being wide enough to capture much of the scene. For several unique perspectives and shots, I also found I often went quite long (100+). An ultrawide zoom would just be dead weight.

Now the question is this: you already have the 17-70, which is a good lens; 17 is already decently wide (and importantly it performs well at that end), do you really need to go wider? For the vast majority of landscapes you are likely to encounter, I would wager not. Lots of people doing the Everest Base Camp trek find 18 plenty. In fact, based on the photos I've seen, even 20mm can often be pushing it (shrinking mountains too much) until you get really close. If you plan to do local architecture, interior shots, or play with perspective in the valleys or at the bases of the mountains, a somewhat wider lens could potentially come in handy, but in general a big ultrawide zoom is not something you want to sacrifice a lot of weight and space for in this situation.

Now the next question is if you need something longer. 70 is probably going to be decent in most circumstances, but if you really want to take close up shots of the mountains, or get unique telephoto composition/perspective, then 70 would often be too short (unless you don't mind doing heavy cropping). I personally would want to have some extra reach from first hand experience shooting mountains (at least into the mid 100s). If you're taking the 17-70, consider taking the 55-300.

Consider well how much you want to spend, and weigh it against carrying load, whether you want to risk missing a unique shot that you are unlikely to get a chance at again, and whether you plan to use those lenses when you get home.

Last edited by Cannikin; 02-12-2011 at 05:34 PM.
02-12-2011, 04:15 AM   #6
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Just to illustrate what I'm talking about. All pictures "borrowed" (reposted under Creative Commons sharing license) from Wikipedia articles: Darjeeling - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and Kangchenjunga - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The following 3 shots are of Kanchenjunga, 3rd highest mountain in the world 8,586 m (28,169 ft) and around ~6,000m (~20,000 ft) above the elevation from which these were shot (same spot more or less).

18mm; looks pretty tiny, right?



How about 48mm (APS-C equivalent)?



Now we're talking. How about 200mm?



And for anyone wondering if this is just because it's far away (~40 miles), here's one of the same mountain, except taken right at base camp, at just 21mm APS-C equivalent (it's even cropped a little):



Mountains are interesting subjects, and to get the most out of them they should be treated as dominant features, not as indistinct backdrops. I've used the 15 to get great shots of them, but that was from extremely closeup or with good foregrounds (while still close enough to avoid shrinking too much). I can't imagine anything wider doing them any justice. If you really need to go super wide, it's better to do a stitched panorama with a normal lens.

Last edited by Cannikin; 02-12-2011 at 05:18 PM.
02-12-2011, 07:29 AM   #7
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ah the himalayas, where are you going Himachal? Ive spent a nice while up there, amazing culture, stunning scenery.

I only had a kit lens when I was there wish I had more/better! Full enjoy
02-12-2011, 01:46 PM   #8
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I spent a month doing the Annapurna Circuit/Sanctuary back in Dec 1999. I had an 35mm MZ-5n, 28-80, and a (heavy) Sigma 70-300 Macro.

I found I wanted longer more than wider, but was generally happy with the range. I would recommend your 17-70 and the 55-300. Oh, and maybe a fast 50 for portraits/low light. Maybe something wider like the Sigma 10-20 as well, but if you are comfortable with multishot panoramas, and don't want the extra weight I would forego wide for long.

Some other thoughts
- weight becomes very noticeable crossing numerous stream valleys at high elevation.
- bring a CPL, very high contrast dark rock/brilliant snow/deep blue sky.
- I saw virtually no wildlife
- extreme cold will mess with you... Keeping batteries next to your body until you need them helps, but I still had issues. In the sanctuary you are encircled by 6000m+ peaks and I tried to do some multishot panoramas that ended up as a mess of overlapping frames due to film advance flaking out in the cold.
- at the time, there was almost no places that had electricity for charging... (or sold film/batteries) I am guessing this has changed, as microhydro projects were going into some of the larger communities.
- didn't find much need for fast glass. Not much to see at night other than moonlit mountains that can be shot with long exposure - I had a tiny, tabletop tripod, but balled up clothing on a rock works too. The exception to this is if you want some interior shots of teahouses with a hearty old lady whipping up multiple orders of watery dhal bhat and fried eggs/potatoes on her small woodburning stove.
- I went Dec/Jan during the dry season. Since it was so late in the season and there was a chance of the Thorung Phedi pass being closed due to snow, I saw almost nobody on the trail and many of the teahouses were closed for the season. I rented a 3kg down sleeping bag in Pokhara that I never used, since teahouses would give you free board with use of their bedding if you bought your dinner there. Since it was cold and dry and deserted, dust was almost never an issue unless you were passing a herd of sheep or something and rain was nonexistent.
- eat lots of garlic and be prepared to be gassy at high altitude
- I had managed to stay out until I saw a shooting star every night before bed.
- It was very cold when the sun when down, but I was often in shorts and a T-shirt during the day - bring sun protection (shade hat, sunglasses, light long-sleeved shirt) as the sun is intense up in the rarified air.
- Kathmandu is very photogenic and definitely worth a couple days at least. You will appreciate faster glass there.

Amazing scenery and fantastic people... you are in for a real treat. Hope this helps

02-12-2011, 04:04 PM   #9
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I would not go wider than 17mm for your purposes... you might want to consider longer.

The 55-300 + 17-70 would be really flexible... I don't imagine you would be swapping too much either as the 17-70 would be your go-to.

Now for portraits, you might want to consider the Tamron 17-50 f2.8, which would replace the 17-70. Question is whether you would miss the advantage of a lens like 55-300.

The Tamron 17-50 would do you very well for general landscape and portraiture, but you might miss some very cool shots without a tele.
02-13-2011, 06:38 PM   #10
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To be honest I’m a little bite surprise that the consensus is that i should not really go wider than 17.... and that I should try to bring a long zoom with me... i was looking forward for that trip to justify buying a 10-20...

There is no way i will bring my Sigma 70-200 2.8... It’s way too heavy (1.3kg), and it attract way too much attention.... on the other end, i love the idea of getting a fast 17-50... with a cheap (and light) zoom.

Thanks
02-13-2011, 07:41 PM   #11
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I too am a bit surprised by the advice as it's a bit counter intuitive. However it is coming from those that have been there done that, and the reasoning appears sound.

I walked the Anapuna circuit 10 years ago, I wasn't interested in photography at the time, but I can vouch for the extreme physical strains on your body once you are above ~4,000 meters. Even changing lenses would be phyiscally taxing and difficult in the thin air and cold, so I'd imagine light weight zooms would be your friend, 18-135 maybe? Up high it gets to the point of having to spend all your physical energy on just puting one foot in front of the other.
02-13-2011, 08:07 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by ben_leg Quote
To be honest I’m a little bite surprise that the consensus is that i should not really go wider than 17.... and that I should try to bring a long zoom with me... i was looking forward for that trip to justify buying a 10-20...

There is no way i will bring my Sigma 70-200 2.8... It’s way too heavy (1.3kg), and it attract way too much attention.... on the other end, i love the idea of getting a fast 17-50... with a cheap (and light) zoom.

Thanks
Do it, the 10-20 is a fantastic lens and doesn't really weigh thaaat much. It is typically 1 of 3 lenses I take out with me

For the Nepal though, if I was sticking to 2 lenses, it wouldn't be one of them (unless you went with the 18-250 as the other, which I don't really recommend). And yes, I would leave the 1.3kg monster at home.

Last edited by sambo; 02-13-2011 at 08:20 PM.
03-02-2011, 01:24 PM   #13
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What about if i only bring a 12-24 and a 50-135... if you were in my situation, will you mist much...
03-02-2011, 01:27 PM   #14
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youll probably be covered there. might be worth bringing a small fast prime for some extra fun/creativity and compactness. Sometimes its nice to have a small lens for portraits and stuff, many people dont like the huge glass in their faces, also if you are walking upmountain once and awhile it might be nice to save some weight at altitude.
03-02-2011, 02:08 PM   #15
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I think the advise given is pretty sound.

ALthough not intuitive, I agree that considering the distances involved, use of an ultra wide will result in fairly un-impressive photos.

the 70-200F2.8 is a really good idea if you can afford the weight limit. Out of curiopsity what is your "provision for photo gear in total?

As for the 18-135 being too slow, too slow for what? don't you stop down for landscapes? I know it does get dark some times too, or overcast.
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