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08-28-2012, 08:08 AM   #1
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Lens suggestions for travel to Helsinki and Turku in December

Hey All - my brother is getting married in Turku, Finland this winter (late december). I'll be going and intend to bring my camera along. I don't think I'll be taking pictures during the wedding, but snapshots before and after the ceremony. I'll also have some opportunity for sightseeing in Turku for a day or two and in Helsinki. I want to travel light, but not end up feeling like I left something important behind. Obviously, I won't be carrying a bigma or something really large.

I have a warm jacket and I hope to just stick extra lenses and such in the pockets.


If I end up needing a camera bag, I will probably bring my domke f6 but I am also considering a clik elite traveler shoulder bag... (I'd rather take the domke though than invest in another camera bag).

I have a k5 w/grip, FA 43mm, DA 21mm, tamron 90mm macro, DA 18-135, & DA 55-300. I also have a q with the standard prime.

While I'm seriously contemplating only bringing the q, I figure I will likely end up missing my k5. My questions are: Does anyone know how dark it is likely to be, and what sort of max aperture do I need? How can I compensate for the overall low light conditions while still staying lightweight and compact?

I like my limiteds and I was thinking about adding a lens or two to my collection for the trip. Any particular lenses make sense for this anticpated low light?

I was thinking about picking up a DA 40mm and a DA 70mm making a set with my 21mm. However, then my max aperture is f2.4 and I wonder if that is enough for low light travel photography?

I have no objection to traveling with a single zoom and I am happy with my 18-135mm. However, f3.5 is not that fast and even with the high iso and dynamic range abilites of the k5 I think I need faster. Any suggestions here? A DA*16-50? Again, max ap is f2.8

I'm really closely looking at the new 50mm f1.8 and the DA*55mm f1.4 - But there is also the sigma 30mm f1.4...

Anyways, I'm flexible and willing to buy something new for the trip. Any suggestions and thoughts? Ideas are particularly appreciated from Finnish locals (or anyone who lives at a similar latitude)!

08-28-2012, 08:30 AM   #2
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First off, if you're shooting in Finland in winter, get an extra battery or two. That's in addition to the grip. Carry the spares inside your jacket. Cold really sucks the life out of batteries. Also, it's a pain to change lenses in cold weather. Consider a pair of very thin gloves for handling lenses. Wear those in addition to your regular gloves or mittens. You don't want to handle metal in very cold weather. I Haven't been to Finland but lived in Fairbanks, Alaska for a few years.

Which lens to take is very personal. Old time film photogs often used only one or two primes. That's what I'd do, probably with the 21mm or 35/40mm. I wouldn't worry about 2.4 as being too slow. Outside in winter is the same as after dark in more southern locales, just colder. Check reviews on the Sigma 30. Super sharp in center. Very soft corners.

When taking lenses in and out of cold, consider keeping them in ziplock bags and giving them 10 minutes or so on either end to keep from fogging. Enjoy.
08-28-2012, 09:46 AM   #3
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Weddings in december are indoors. The transit to reception will be quick and not many photos will be shot outside.
So you will need a fast lens and a wide lens. I would suggest the FA43 and the 18-135 zoom of your current set. Or the DA21ltd as a back up.
It might rain water too so the WR is nice. But I do not think you need a long lens.

Seb
08-28-2012, 09:52 AM   #4
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I was in Helsinki this summer while on a Baltic Sea cruise. I used my 18-135 almost exclusively during the entire cruise.

Helsinki, Finland - a set on Flickr

08-28-2012, 10:12 AM - 1 Like   #5
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Late December the days really are short in Finland. In Helsinki and Turku we have some 6 hours of daylight and even then the light comes from a very low angle. Temperatures are very unpredictable. In these coastal cities it may be anything from freezing point to -25 C or even colder.The thing I hate at that time of the year is the never-ending damp breeze from the sea, which is often still open in December.
Low-light performance of your gear is essential. However, this does not necessarily require extremely fast lenses. Most of my winter photography I do with my DA*16-50 and FA*80-200. These are both f 2.8. lenses, which is just fine.In most cases you need some depth of field, forcing you to choose longer exposure times instead of wide apertures.The K 5 with its dynamic range and high-ISO performance is an excellent body for this kind of photography. I have no idea about your shooting style, but there are two things I would recommend at that time of the year: architecture and city lights. Both Turku with its medieval buildings and Helsinki with its empire-style Senate Square provide a lot of interesting photo opportunities. At that time of the year both city centers are beautifully lit and decorated. Usually there is snow on the ground, which softens the cityscape quite a lot. In Helsinki the Esplanade Park and its surroundings are definitely worth visiting when the lights turn on. Most of the time I use the wide end of my DA*16-50 for this kind of shooting. I also recommed climbing up to the Tähtitorninmäki (Old Observatory Hill) at dusk. From the top of the hill you have a great view of the Senate Square and the white cathedral in front of it. When going there, make sure you have glass up to 200 mm with you.
One thing you do need is a tripod. Tripods are cumbersome, a real nuisance when travelling, and freezing cold to handle in the winter. However, for this kind of photography I strongly recommend having one with you. A pair of warm gloves - rather mittens - is also a must. If you dont want to carry a tripod with you all the way from home, there are plenty of opportunities for getting one here.
I hope I was able to provide something useful !

Last edited by PePe; 08-28-2012 at 10:24 AM.
08-28-2012, 10:31 AM   #6
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Hello all - thanks for the advice! Especially PePe, its great to get first hand information. I really want to travel light, not checking a bag and bringing a very small assortment of camera gear, so the tripod is out. I have a solid tripod, great for travel (feisol 3402 w/ kirk bh3 head) but I don't want to deal with it. I assume you are recommending the tripod for evening landscape and architectural photography?

I'm trying very hard to avoid shooting the wedding. Snapshots before and afterwards are fine, but I don't want to be the wedding photographer!!

So, I think I need a faster WR lens, a longer lens, and a fast lens. The FA 43mm and the da 55-300 can serve in those capacities, but I guess I have to pick something faster than my 18-135... I like the idea of the 16-50mm but I know that it is pricey and that the sigma and the tamron are also good choices.

I will bring several extra batteries (or roll with double AAs in the grip). I used to live in vermont and maine, and have spent tons of time outdoors in the winter so things like warm gloves (or my preferred lightweight fleece gloves inside heavy duty mittens) are relatively second nature. But I appreciate the tips!
08-28-2012, 11:47 AM   #7
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I have been living in Åland fore several years and winters are very cold but dry. As PePe said I would bring a tripod or buy a light one in Finland. Most likely you can expect snow, so the DA 18-135 with its WR would be great. Don't worry about the dark or slow lenses, the K5 will take care of that, more the very low angle of light which I found very difficult to handle.

I like Helsinki for its architecture and Turku harbour is just lovely.
08-28-2012, 12:28 PM   #8
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Get a small monopod, you could use it at the wedding reception when necessary. The X-mas lighting is really nice, so the WR lens plus pod is recommendable.
Alternatively a small lens under your winter gear (watch out for fogging) for street photos. I hope you have snow and no rain, that is not uncommon in december.

Seb

08-29-2012, 11:34 AM - 1 Like   #9
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I live in Helsinki and let me just say that there hasn't been a December with -25C here in over a century. In December the temperature is usually around zero degrees celsius with some snow, but mostly slush and rain. I'm sorry, but if you're expecting a winter wonderland, you'd be much better off coming here in late January or early Febuary, when temperatures usually drop close to -10 on cold nights.

Some tips:
- Get a car and get out in the countryside. You don't have to travel far out of the city reach the forrests, fields and sea. But don't waste time since it will be dark by about 4PM in December so start early.
- The Helsinki Tourist info has loads of maps and tips where to go outside the city. They have an office located smack bam in the middle of Helsinki.

Oh and btw, if you happen to need any equipment while you're here (tripods, batteries w/e), be sure to check out Verkkokauppa.com in Helsinki. It's a huge electronics store who have a fairly large photography section too. They also have a sightseeing terrace with gorgeous views over the sea and archipelago, so I'm sure you could fire off a few snapshots there.

Last edited by qwertyazerty; 08-29-2012 at 11:40 AM.
08-30-2012, 08:12 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by qwertyazerty Quote
I live in Helsinki and let me just say that there hasn't been a December with -25C here in over a century.
No offence by any means, but you might want to refresh your memory and have a look in here Christmas weather - Ilmatieteen laitos
09-03-2012, 02:26 AM   #11
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I live in Turku. In late December it will most likely be a black hole. I have no idea what sort of photography you're after but odds are it will be pretty bleak here during your visit. About six hours of sunlight and if the weather is overcast it will be more like dusk throughout the day. If, and it is a big if, there is snow and/or clear weather there will be plenty of beautiful light for as long as the sun stays up.

Two pictures from last winter to give you some idea what the light might be like. I'm afraid the weather is untypically nice and the camera used was not Pentax.



Taken at noon 26th of December 2011. About 60km northeast of Turku.



Turku 1st of January 2012 4pm

The one good thing about light here during the dark times is that it remains fairly low throughout the day. In the evening a fast lens and high ISO will be necessary for handheld photos.
09-03-2012, 06:04 AM   #12
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Don`t forget long underwear and warm waterproof boots.
I was talking to my cousin that lives in Helsinki, he commented on last winter being very depressing because they had -20C temperatures for couple months straight. This was most likely in January February time frame.
As far as lenses, the DA* 16-50 + DA15 ltd would be my choice and borrow a tripod from relatives or friends.

Last edited by Ex Finn.; 09-03-2012 at 06:11 AM.
09-05-2012, 04:46 AM   #13
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Thanks for all the feedback! I don't really know what sort of photos I will be taking as it my first trip to Finland and I am not sure what there is to take photos of! I understand there are some beautiful landscapes if you get out of the city a bit, but I'm not sure I will have time. I am going to be in Turku for two full days, for the wedding, but the wedding activities are all in the evening so I'll have the day to take photos.

Right now, I think I am going to bring my 18-135 and get either the new 50mm f1.8 or the 55mm f1.4. I am leaning towards the latter as I think the 50mm f1.8 will end up being a bit redundant with my 43mm. I like the weather sealing of the 55mm anyways...

But... I am sort of thinking about springing for the 16-50 and bringing along my 55-300mm and calling it good with those two. But then I don't have anything super fast.

In the end, I will probably bring way to much stuff and carry it all around and only use a smidgen of the gear.

Here's a new question, if you were to have only one lens, in southern finland in late decemeber, and you wanted it to be useful in a variety of situations: landscape, street photography, portraiture, etc... What would you bring and why?
09-05-2012, 03:17 PM   #14
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DA*16-50, because it has useful focal range, is f2.8 and weather-proof. I might have to bring two in case one of them went tango-uniform.
Finland in December is cold, damp, dark and miserable( if up north then disregard damp and place emphases on cold) . There might be couple nice days but, in general, the place is not fit for human habitation from early September to late April, IMHO.

p.s. the combo of K-5 with a grip and 16-50 could be used as a defensive weapon towards the end of the wedding evening.

Last edited by Ex Finn.; 09-05-2012 at 06:28 PM.
09-05-2012, 05:58 PM   #15
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I have the Tamron 17-50/2.8, DA 35/2.4 and FA 35/2. Just got the FA so I need to sell the DA.

Observations: the DA 35/2.4 is about as sharp at f/2.4 as the Tamron 17-50 is at f/3.5. So even though it's not much faster, I feel much more comfortable using it wide open. The FA 35/2 is basically the same optical design just faster.

Compared to your 43 Limited (on paper, since I don't actually have one), the 35s would both get you a little more comfortable FL for indoors, and better corner sharpness at wider apertures.

Also since nobody's mentioned it, do you have a flash? Because shooting an indoor wedding with only available light at ISO 1600 or higher really is less than ideal.
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