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01-17-2015, 08:14 PM   #1
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Re: advice for trip to Europe

Hi. I have asked this in another forum, as I am trying to get as much advice as possible. I hope this is ok.

Though a bit early for planning, I am travelling to Europe this summer (from the US) with my teenager. We will be staying in London, Paris, Rome, and Florence.

I likely will bring my K3 and a K5ii. I am used to lugging lots of camera equipment and sundry things around when travelling so I am fine with bringing two camera bodies, but I really will try to pack smartly for this trip as I know packing as lightly as possible will be best.

I wanted to get some feedback and would really appreciate your thoughts on a couple of issues.

I am prime lens person. I have the 60-250 DA* and the Sigma 70-200 2.8 for reach when needed, but clearly will leave these home, and tend not to use them much as it is. I also have the DA* 300, which I seldom use, but absolutely love. I'll leave that home, too.

My plan was to bring my Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6, Sigma 24 f/1.8 and/or my 31 Limited (perhaps my 55 DA*, too). I also likely will bring my Pentax 100 macro. I figure it will be nice to have a moderate telephoto and the macro is small and a super sweet lens.

1. Do you think the 24 or 31 would be good for most walk-around shots? This will be a "see the sights" vacation. My son and I are more "bucket list" types of people--so, we likely will not be spending hours at each particular location and my habit is to take pictures quite a bit (probably more than necessary--I will do my best to stop and take in the sights as much as possible and put the camera away). Having said this, I was thinking of getting the Sigma 17-50 2.8 (I used to have it and sold it, and am also considering the Sigma 17-70 2.8-4.0, which I tried briefly.

I am not considering the Pentax 16-85, 17-70, or the 16-50 for various reasons). I have not really considered the Pentax 18-135. I know it is much aliged, probably unfairly, but I likely will not consider it. I am concentrating on the two Sigmas as their moderate zoom range still keeps up image quality.

Does anyone have experience visiting these cities and have an opinion as to whether the Sigma zoom will be as convenient as it would seem to be or if a 24 1.8 would be a good enough walk around lens? If I have time I hope to use the 10-20, but my experience with this lens is that it will be for special occasions or when I have a bit of time to plan the shot.

2. I have an Induro tripod, but it is a bit too big for travelling. I was thinking of getting a Manfrotto Be Free or the MePhoto tripod--they are both about $200. Do you think I will need a tripod? Will it get in the way? Assuming I choose carefully, will it just be easier to ask people to take a picture of my son and I? I am cognizant of the fact that we will look touristy as it is and using a tripod likely would seal the deal as to who we are. I also am cognizant that tripods are not always welcome.

I have travelled before with my gear, but not overseas and this will be for 2 weeks.

Thank you in advance.

01-17-2015, 08:34 PM   #2
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How many lenses do you intend to take?

I recently spent two months in Europe and I travelled light. I had my DA18-250mm, Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f1.4 and DA15 mm Ltd.

My selection was based upon a simple reasoning and past experience:
-a walk around lens (DA18-135mm, DA18-250mm)
-a fast prime (VL58mm f1.4, DA*55mm f1.4, FA50mm f1.4, FA31mm f1.8...)
-a wide angle lens (DA15mm...)

I tried both DA18-135mm and DA18-250mm. I like the longer reach of the DA18-250mm and it would be my recommendation.

For a fast prime, you may prefer MF or AF. I found that MF is more accurate and very low light.

For a wide angle, the DA15mm Ltd is really nice.

As I travel light, the DA18-250mm is typically mounted on the K-3. I have the DA15mm and VL58mm in my jacket pockets (one on each side). When I put a prime on the camera, the walk-around lend goes to my small camera back.

I placed a few examples at:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/10-pentax-slr-lens-discussion/246655-primes-paris.html

Hope that the comment will help.
01-17-2015, 08:47 PM   #3
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My son went to Europe last summer leading a group of high school students. They went to all of the cities you list. He just got as K-50 with an 18-55 a few weeks before leaving. He previously had an Olympus E-520, so he knew how to use a DSLR. Part of his reason switching to Pentax was to borrow lenses from me. He wanted to go light and took my Tamron 10-24 and DA18-135. I talked him into taking the 18-135 because of WR and being better than his 18-55. Well, he ended up using the 10-24 almost exclusively, because of narrow streets and indoors, and I know he likes wide angles. (His photos) He'll be going on the same kind of tour but to different European cities this summer, and I know he plans on using the Tamron, I'm not sure if he'll take another lens or not. I know he only wants autofocus because the tours are pretty fast paced. I got a DA 15 for Christmas, and said he could take it if he wanted, but he said he'd prefer the zoom as to changing lenses. Of course if he gets to use it in the next few months he may change his mind.
01-17-2015, 08:54 PM   #4
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My most used lenses in Europe are my DA15, FA31, DA*16-50 and DA18-135. I've tried taking the Sigma 10-20, but it's often proven to be too cumbersome (as did the DA14, for the same reason), and also the FA*24, but the 31 was usually more versatile, for my purposes. I rarely use the FA77, though I probably would use it more on a re-visit, for detail. In Barcelona, recently, my DA*16-50 was on the K-3 most of the time, but Barcelona and Paris are not typical of the older European cities, where the streets are narrow and a wider angle is preferable.

With your kit, I'd be inclined to stick with the Sigma 10-20, the FA31 and the 100 macro. Lack of weather sealing may be an issue, though, depending on where you go and when.

01-17-2015, 08:59 PM   #5
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I think either the 24 or 31 mm would be a good FL as walk around lens. You know what FL is your normal choice. (For me it is the 28 mm in 1.5x cropped sensor dslr.) A macro is good for museums/building details/etc. but I think a small 50mm macro (e.g., 50mm f/4) if you have is better than 100 mm--unless you also want a telephoto lens. But if you don't usually use a macro (ecept for animals/insects/and the like) then skip the macro. These two and the wide angle zoom are I think a good choice and reasonable amount. To err on too few lenses is actually (IMHO) a better way to go.


I have been to the cities you mentioned multiple times since the mid 1960's. And for me (now) 1 dslr and a 24 or 28mm and a 50mm macro would be it. Although I recently got a Q and I normally (every day) have it in my pocket--for European cities and on holiday I would take the 1 dslr. Well actually I would pack the Q and have it in my bags--going to theater/fancy restaurant at night/church or synagogue (for/during service), etc. a Q would be more appropriate as a camera to carry in my jacket pocket or purse--and then have to use to and fro.
01-17-2015, 09:54 PM   #6
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I travel to Europe at least once a year, I love primes but not while traveling.
One small dust particle on the sensor can ruin all day of photographing, I never change lenses outdoors while traveling.
There are plenty of narrow streets in Europe, with large churches, some rather dark, indoors in Museums , Churches and Palaces, so you need something as wide as possible and as fast as possible.
My choice for years was was Sigma 17-70 2.8-4.5 Macro and for bright outdoor walks DA 18-250 , that combo served me well for years, now I upgraded to Sigma 17-70 2.8-4 Contemporary Macro HSM and Sigma 18-250 HSM Macro although still keep old lenses and use them regularly. Also remember that K-3 with 24M pixels is great for cropping so reach of your lens is not so crucial any more.
Last year K-3 + Sigma 17-70 Contemporary survived Spring deluge in Warsaw with help of desiccant Silica Gel to dry them out, always have few of them while travelling.
I would have K-3 with Sigma 17-70 and K-5IIs with Sigma 18-250, both have good Macro, great for Botanic Gardens and Parks.
have a great safe trip!
01-18-2015, 12:09 AM   #7
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With my recent Europe trip I made do with a K5 and the DA15mm and DA35mm Macro. I did travel with two bodies where the second was a Canon s110. If I really needed a little extra reach I used the Canon. Is that cheating? We were travelling with two kids under ten so the camera bag also had to carry lunch, water, snacks, treats, bribes etc. That really limits what photography gear you can carry.
01-18-2015, 03:32 AM   #8
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For the cities you're going to, take the 10-20 as a walk round, and maybe something a little faster for interiors, so the 24/1.8.

Whether you take two bodies is a matter of preference; I'd take one plus a small versatile mirrorless; I have/use a Fuji X20.

Don't bother with a tripod unless you're confident you'll be in quiet places taking long exposures; the cities will be full of locals and tourists = very busy! Maybe buy a bean-bag or Gorilla grip?

Above all, travel light, and try to not look like a tourist. European cities can/do get hot, sticky and crowded during the Summer months. You want to enjoy the sights and not be a target for thieves.

I tend to buy and wear cheap local t-shirts, etc, to blend in, and carry my photo bag inside a carrier bag from a local supermarket or a nondescript messenger bag.

DO NOT engage with any small groups of people trying to sell you flowers, souvenirs, whatever, and don't use a bum (fanny) bag to carry vaulables/wallets, nor put a wallet etc in a rear trouser (pants) pocket. I carry cards and bank notes without a wallet, and distribute them about my person including a 'secret' money belt under my shirt.


Last edited by JohnX; 01-18-2015 at 03:38 AM.
01-18-2015, 03:46 AM   #9
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15 and the 31 or a 35 is a good travel kit as others have said
01-18-2015, 05:47 AM   #10
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I have done many european cities, and have a light kit boiled down to 2 bodies and 2 lenses. my K5 and K7 plus sigma 10-20 and Tamron 28-75.

You need really wide in compact european cities, but rarely more than 75mm. Sometimes I take my 8mm fisheye also, but nothing really long.
01-18-2015, 06:17 AM   #11
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On our most recent trip to Europe (Berlin & Prague) I took the following:
1) Sigma 18-250;
2) Sigma 8-16;
3) Pentax 10-17;
4) Pentax 35 macro;
5) extreme lightweight tripod;
6) AF360 flash.

This kit worked well for me considering the range of photos:
Visited several churches, cathedrals, palaces (primarily 8-16 and/or 10-17; sometimes 35 macro).
Visited several museums (primarily 35 macro; 8-16; occasionally 18-250).
Walked about and took street photos (primarily 18-250; sometimes the 8-16 or 10-17, rarely the 35 macro).
An entire day at a zoo + aquarium (18-250 @ max regularly; 35 macro in aquarium).

In looking back: 1) I never used the tripod, even at the zoo when shooting at 250mm; 2) pictures taken with the 10-17 @ 10mm showed insignificantly more of an interior than the 8-16, and correcting distortion from the 8-16 was much easier; 3) the 18-250 is gets a bit soft above 150mm, but all of the images are good enough for my purposes = personal enjoyment and sharing on PF or at the local camera club, not winning contests or publishing; 4) the 35 macro was indispensable in museums for recording small objects (BTW, if you don't know, the vast majority of museums, palaces, cathedrals, churches, etc. ban tripods, monopods, and flash); 5) The 18-250 was enormously convenient as a walk-around lens - could go almost the entire day without changing lenses, and the ability to go from wide to substantial tele meant capturing fleeting opportunities that would otherwise have been missed; 6) for the zoo images, I would have been happier to have the 60-250 or perhaps the 300 and the ultralight tripod (BTW: some say that an ultralight tripod is little better than a monopod, but I find any 3-legged support easier to stabilize than one).
One mistake I made; I intended and attempted to use the 360 flash off-camera for aquarium shots (flash was permitted), BUT, the pop-up flash is used to trigger, and its reflection off the plexiglass threw off exposures impossibly. Eventually I put the 360 on the hot shoe pointed vertically onto a reflector (avoided reflections most of the time) or used the 35 macro wide open at ISO 6400 (so-so results). In the future, I will always carry an off-camera pTTL cord.

Next time I would or might: leave the 10-17 at home (famous last words); take either the 60-250 or 300 despite the weight; take a pTTL cord. BUT, I will stand by the 8-16, 18-250, and 35 macro as the best basic kit for European travel, considering my personal photo interests.
01-18-2015, 07:39 AM   #12
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Hi:

Thank you all so much for the time you took to respond, and the wealth of information.

My son and I recently traveled to New York City and spent a few days there. We went to the Today Show (I know, I know, but it was a lot of fun, and my son loved it--which was the most important). We went to the Ground Zero Museum and the Empire State Building. I found in these spots a fast moderately wide prime to work best (Sigma 24 f/1.8 and the 31 Limited). I am from the area, though, so I was not so tempted to take pictures in general of the city. I did find that it would have been nice to have some reach now and then, but it was more a fleeting desire, as I felt a wide "ish" angle lens was the best.

I actually had not considered that a gear bag might be prohibited in some places. That is common sense and I should have thought of that. I do remember going to the Ground Zero Museum and believe I had to check my bag, now that I recall.

I am trying to balance bringing enough camera gear so I will be happy, without sacrificing too much portability, image quality, and of course not take so much time with my cameras that I am not enjoying the sights with my son.

In terms of our travel, we will be on our own, though we have a planned itinerary with a few day trips. So, we will not be on a fast moving tour, but we will be moving along.

We will be doing a day tour around London, which will be mostly outdoors (so a zoom would be nice; wish Sigma made the 24-105 in Pentax).

In Paris we will go to the Eiffel Tower and local sites. We also will be indoors at a few museums (fast moderate wide prime like the Sigma 24 or Limited 31).

When in Rome we will do a couple of small day tours--one at the Vatican and one around local outdoor sites. I figure a fast prime would work well here, too, or perhaps the Sigma 17-50 f/2.8--which I regret, of course, selling, but for the Vatican I still think a faster prime would work better and the Sigma 24 is pretty good at f/2.

For Florence, we likely will just walk around on our own, as it will be the final couple of days of our trip and I think (I hope) that spending a couple of days enjoying the local sites would be nice.

I am a recovering pixel-peeper, only shoot RAW, and eschew consumer zooms. In short, I have been a snob and unreasonable these last few years. So, I am totally in with getting a good walk-around zoom to keep things light and convenient.

I used to have the DA* 16-50. After two repairs of the SDM I sold it. It was very nice optically and perhaps the 2nd repair would have been just fine, but that was at a time when I had received a K5 which I had to return as it would not focus with any of my lenses (despite any micro-adjustments) and my next K5 had the oil spots. Not too long ago my DA* 60-250 needed an SDM repair. And, last year my K5ii had a shutter problem (not the K3 shutter problem, more of a shutter re-setting issue; Pentax replaced the camera). So, while I would like to consider the 16-50, it is too expensive a risk for me and even renting it makes me feel a bit uneasy.

I hope the above is helpful for a couple of additional questions.

1. We will be traveling during this coming summer. For those places that ban gear bags, was it any bag or just large enough camera bags? Recent tragedies in Europe may make rules even stricter. I am thinking of gear bag restrictions particularly for the Eiffel Tower and the Vatican--and perhaps museums in Paris.

2. For the Vatican and museums, did you find it necessary to go wider than f/2.8?

3. Did you just carry around your camera around your neck and perhaps an additional lens in your pocket like a few of you have suggested? And, if so where did you keep the rest of your gear--at your hotel? Are there any "camera around your neck cases" which fit the K3 or K5ii that you would recommend--hope that makes sense?

4. One theme I am getting from just about all of you is that while you packed smartly and lightly, you did take more than just a point and shoot--even with the smaller mirror-less cameras which take interchangeable lenses, you all seem to feel the added bulk (of varying degree) was worth it over just taking a super-zoom or point and shoot?

5. I am less inclined to bring a small travel tripod, but just thought there might be times I would regret not having one available. We will be travelling in several day or several hour tours and hopefully we can meet people on the tours who we'll trust (and visa versa) and we can help each other take pictures.

Thank you again for all of your help and great information.

Last edited by candgpics; 01-18-2015 at 07:46 AM.
01-18-2015, 08:09 AM   #13
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No place we visited banned camera bags, although backpacks cannot be worn on the back (risk of hitting other visitors, or displays, when turning around quickly/carelessly). Both M and I carried traditional long shoulder strap camera bags. Only in the aquarium did I wish for something faster than f2.8 (widest aperture on any lens in my stable is f2.5), but one stop would have been insignificantly better, and 1.4 would have been impossibly shallow DOF. Been to all the places you're planning to visit. The Eiffel tower is difficult without a really wide optic. FYI: ALL photography is banned in the Sistine Chapel, but photos without flash or tripod are OK throughout the Vatican Museum and in St. Peter's, except for a select few paintings in the former (cannot remember which).
Some trips I do carry a deck-of-cards P&S. I have two Panasonic cameras, LF1 and ZS40. The former is commonly carried when walking the dog, and has provided many 100% satisfactory images, especially, unexpectedly, some semi-macros of flowers. The ZS40 with it's extreme zoom (24-720mm equivalent) was purchased for "hopelessly family" vacations (Disney World). Outdoors, images were very good to acceptable, and enabled panoramic scenic as well as animal close-ups (Animal Kingdom area). The primary limitation is low-light. Neither camera provides more than marginal images in that situation. It's either hopeless blur or countable grains.

Last edited by WPRESTO; 01-18-2015 at 01:56 PM.
01-18-2015, 09:26 AM - 1 Like   #14
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Sample shots:
1) Panasonic LF1 semi-macro
2) Panasonic LF1 simple scenic
3) Panasonic ZS40 @ 600mm, from a moving vehicle at Disney Animal Kingdom
4) Panasonic ZS40, fireworks by bracing on a pole
5) Panasonic ZS40 sweep panorama in poor light
6) Pentax 18-135 @ 135mm, St. Peter atop Trajan's Column
7) Sigma 18-250 @ 250mm, Berlin Zoo
8) Sigma 8-16 @ 8mm, Berlin Cathedral

Last edited by WPRESTO; 03-24-2015 at 12:15 PM.
01-18-2015, 10:32 AM   #15
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Back when I was seriously shooting film I used to travel with two bodies, a power winder, two heavy Vivitar zoom lenses that covered a range of 28-210mm between them, another fast 50mm prime and film. I carried all of this in a fairly compact bag; the Pentax film bodies were fairly small. Between constantly carrying and jiggling the bag and having to be aware of it wherever I was, I got fed up and stopped shooting for a number of years.

That said, my response is based on my current thinking. If the primary purpose of the trip is photography, then I'll carry as much as I think I need to accomplish my goal(s); those jaunts tend to be worked from a car. If I am on a trip where photography is secondary. then I go as light and compact as possible. On my last trip to Europe, I took my oldest Pentax body (DS) with one lens (35mm, f2.0), I was able to pocket the camera or comfortably wear it under a jacket. I used the camera as if I were shooting film again, with the advantage of being able to change the ISO. The photography aspect of the trip was quite comfortable and I ended up with some very nice pictures. I happen to like the rendering of the DS sensor and was able to print available light indoors shots quite nicely up to 8 X 12. Did I miss some shots because I didn't have a bag of equipment with me, yes. The trade off was that I was much more comfortable and didn't inconvenience those with me, whose goal was not photography. My larger (small bag) kit is a body, a zoom lens (18-250) and a fast prime. For me, that will most likely catch everything that I come across.
.
In the next month or so, I'll probably be getting a Fuji X100T for travel and as a walk around camera. I've been to all the cities that you mention and that camera would be adequate for me, in any of them. But, my primary reason for being there would not be photography.
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