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05-16-2018, 02:05 AM   #1
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Lens for family visiting: 18-250, 18-135, 17-50?

Hello,

I’m going to Germany this weekend with my daughter to visit my family. Generally I travel with the limited kit (15, 20-40, 70) and depend on the wife’s tolerance, the 55-300. This time there will be only me and the little girl, there is no wife to help, so camera and equipment have to be compressed to the maximum possible. I can only, and will bring just 1 all-around lens, and may be try to put 1 of the 40 ltd, 50 1.7 or 70 ltd for occasional portrait and low light. The purpose of the trip is for family, so we will do some outings, and visit some towns in Germany and Netherlands together.

I have 3 multi-purposes lenses:

- Tamron 18-250. This thing is very old, with super noisy AF and very stiff zoom ring, however it performs surprisingly well, even surpassed my 18-135 in edge to edge sharpness at 24mm in one of my very unscientific test.
- Pentax 18-135: my former favorite lens, I sold it after purchasing the 20-40, only to bought another one after 4 months because I occasionally missed it. I have a feeling it’s not as good as my sold one, not as long (and seems not better) as the Tamron 18-250, however more compact, great AF and WR
- Tamron 17-50: I recently purchased it due to great price, to replace my DA* 16-50, too big and heavy. I really like the constant f2.8 when travelling, for some quick portrait or selective focus, it’s great for church’s and museums, and also it’s sharper than both other lenses. However 50mm is a bit short for a family trip, with kids running, and unexpected scenes.

Which one would you bring?

Thanks. I always enjoy doing this exercise before every trip ;-)

P/S: I take this occasion to also ask a stupid question that I have been wondering: what is "pixie dust"? Sometimes you mention a certain lens is "pixie dust", what is that?

05-16-2018, 02:42 AM - 1 Like   #2
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To me, the 18-135 is the obvious choice, given the focal length range, WR, handling and general image quality. You say that it's not as good as your previous one... Do you mean it's less sharp? If so, have you calibrated AF fine adjustment to ensure focus is accurate?

Regarding "pixie dust", the term refers to a lens having something very special - almost magical - about the way it renders images. You can take two different lenses of the same focal length and take the same photo with the same exposure and aperture settings, and one might look a bit flat or uninteresting, whereas the other - the one with "pixie dust" - will look great. You might not be able to tell why, but you can see the photo just looks so much better. This can be for a number of reasons - colour, contrast, out-of-focus rendering, resolution characteristics, field curvature, flare, specular highlights / starbursts, vignetting etc.

It's a subjective term, though, and depends - to a large extent - on what the individual photographer finds appealing. Also, there's a tendency for some people to claim a lens has "pixie dust" because (a) others have said so, or (b) they are reassuring themselves that their money was well-spent.
05-16-2018, 04:56 AM - 1 Like   #3
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18-135,fit and forget!
05-16-2018, 05:16 AM - 1 Like   #4
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I'd go with the 17-50 and 50-300. Especially if besides doing family your outings need a good tele.

My personal travel combo for my purposes is a Pentax 16-85 and Pentax 55-300 PLM though sometimes I slip my 40mm Ltd in my pocket too.

05-16-2018, 05:27 AM - 2 Likes   #5
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Instead of trying to cover whatever may come, decide what 2 or three shots will really matter. Take the lens that best does those couple of shots, and don’t worry about the ones you can’t take. Better to have a couple of really special shots than hundreds of mediocre ones.
05-16-2018, 05:35 AM - 1 Like   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bui Quote
P/S: I take this occasion to also ask a stupid question that I have been wondering: what is "pixie dust"? Sometimes you mention a certain lens is "pixie dust", what is that?
Most important question first :P

Others have replied in part, but here goes. Pixie dust is found mostly in the Fa Limited, to a lesser extent in the Da Limited, and rarely in other lenses. If you open one such lens you will find this dust getting out and softly floating in the air.

What it does is close to magic (hence, pixie)...

Seriously, it refers to lenses with unique, often non-traditional but appealing rendering. Case in point, the FA Limited are sharp but not THE sharpest. They have good but not the best control over aberrations. Etc etc. And yet their images have an appeal that's almost universally acclaimed.

QuoteOriginally posted by Bui Quote
Which one would you bring?
If it was me, I'd bring the 18-135 and the 40/70. That way you'll have a reliable lens for most situations, and a hit combo for low-light and more creative occasions.
05-16-2018, 06:36 AM - 1 Like   #7
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My vote would be for the 18-135. The important thing is to get lots of pictures of friends, family, especially your daughter who won't be young for long, catching the wonder of new places and new sights. In a way it is a benefit to have to travel light, since you avoid the inclination to mess with lens-changing and fiddling with the camera. The mid-lengths are the best for people pictures, and the 135 on top is plenty to bring the scenery in closer. Making your camera as close to a point-and-shoot as possible will bring dividends, as the camera fades into the background and people are less conscious of it. Take a few pictures that really make use of your skills as a photographer, but use the opportunity of having to minimize your kit to recapture the pleasures of the snapshot. It sounds like a wonderful trip, so enjoy - I remember doing things like that with my daughter, and hope to have the chance to do the same with my grandsons some day.

Sony FDMavica 1.3MP, June 2001. "You can see the whole world from up here."

05-16-2018, 10:55 AM - 1 Like   #8
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I'm going to go against the flow here and say the 17-50 2.8. When traveling I hardly ever use anything beyond short tele, and if I do, these are not the pictures that tell the story of the trip. I think low light ability and image quality in this case are more important than the telephoto range.

05-17-2018, 02:07 PM   #9
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Thank you for your help. I packed the 18-135, the F50 1.7 and the camera into my backpack tonight. I will occasionally miss the f2.8 or long reach of the 2 Tamrons, however it seems the 18-135 is the best choice for a family trip :-)
05-17-2018, 03:59 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bui Quote
Thank you for your help. I packed the 18-135, the F50 1.7 and the camera into my backpack tonight. I will occasionally miss the f2.8 or long reach of the 2 Tamrons, however it seems the 18-135 is the best choice for a family trip :-)

Nice choice. The F50/1.7 will handle your low-light situations quite nicely, and the 18-135 will do all the grunt-work. Enjoy your family trip!
05-17-2018, 04:28 PM   #11
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I agree with ChristianRock and take the 17-50mm. I looked at my photos from my Italy trip and most were very wide to normal. Actually, I took my K200D with my 12-24mm and my 18-250mm with my point and shoot. I used the Point and Shoot as much as anything because it was so much more accessible. Consider a Sony RX100 or something like it for convenience unless this is a photo trip.

Either way, have a great time.
05-24-2018, 01:19 AM   #12
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So we came back from the trip. It was great and very enjoyable. Concerning photographic stuff, I used mostly the 18-135, it was very convenient as usual, especially kid portrait. However, looking at the photos taken, it seems the corners are super soft, while the center stays sharp. While this is expected behavior of the lens, I have a feeling the corners are much worse than it used to be, I don't remember having the same experience using the previous copy. For example this was taken at f7.1, and I already applied lens correction and some sharpening in Lightroom. Do you think my copy is bad?
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