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09-09-2009, 11:48 AM   #1
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Help - Deciding on a travel lens...

Hi, I'm heading to Tokyo for a few days in November and want to take some great walkaround shots of the city.

I currently have the following lenses:

DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 II
DA* 50-135mm f2.8
FA 50mm f1.4

In the past two months I have been pulling my hair out to decide what lens to get. Do I get a zoom, so I have some flexibility? Do I get a prime, for optimal image quality?

Anyhow, I was looking at Pentax's 12-24mm f4 and think that although I would love a wide angle lens, it's a bit more expensive now and limits me to the wide angle if I were to keep one lens on all day. Plus it'd be kind of big too. Then you also have the fact that it's an f4...

Then I thought, ok what about the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8...? Or even, the DA* 16-50mm? Or even, what about the Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4.5 macro? Then I also get Macro + a wider range!

Now I'm all screwed up... but last night I read an article about how a pro photographer who does a lot of documentary-style shots, loves his Canon f1.2 50mm on his 1d mk2... and that's a full frame so ideally, I'd be looking at something around 35mm on an APS-C.

I love my nifty 50mm, but it's a bit too long to get some cityscapes in the shots. So I thought, what about the DA 35mm LTD f2.8 macro? Then I get a true macro, f2.8, 35mm, plus the limited build. Plus the reviews are great (from what I've read so far). It's also light and I can take some closeup shots of food in Tokyo (should be good, right!?)

Now, I need to know what people think in terms of travel photography, is 35mm on an APS-C a good range to serve me as an all-day walkaround workhorse? Or should I get something more on the wide end? I love that it's a macro, but in an urban playground, is this a good enough FL for a prime?

Thanks in advance and I appreciate everyone's input on the focal length, the lens, alternatives, things to shoot in Tokyo... anything!

PS: where are the limited lenses made (or more specifically this one)? I would assume Japan but the back end on a photo said assembled in Vietnam.

09-09-2009, 12:40 PM   #2
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esman7, i have a similar dilemma in front of me so i'll chime in with a few thoughts...

i currently have the da 15mm ltd, da 40mm ltd, and fa 100mm macro primes as well as the old 18-55mm zoom.

what i found is that both the 15mm and 40mm are great walk-around lenses since they are so small and light!
however... when traveling i need a good range of focal lengths since i cannot always take the time to position myself where it would make sense to shoot with a prime.

so for a travel lens i am planning on getting either an 18-250mm or more likely an older design 18-200mm (to save a couple of hundred bucks and maybe even some weight).

also, for macro i am finding 100mm (on aps-c) to be a minimum focal length so i am really happy that i did not go with 50mm or shorter.

good luck!

ps, when traveling i think it's better to take a lower quality photo of an interesting subject or scene than taking a perfectly sharp photo that is like every other travel pic out there... so i would not mind sacrificing a little photo quality for an interesting shot... but that's just me
09-09-2009, 12:43 PM   #3
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thanks for your input! just trying to figure if 35mm will suit "most" of my needs.
09-09-2009, 12:48 PM   #4
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In an urban setting, I really like the 12-24mm. I find that when I put it on I get into a "wide-angle mindset" and don't want to take it off the camera anymore

24mm gives a pretty versatile "wide-ish" FOV on your camera, a bit narrower than what 35mm gave with film SLRs.

09-09-2009, 12:59 PM   #5
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what's wrong with your 18-55 / 50-135 combo? is quality really an issue? do you just want a single lens while traveling? is the 18-55 good enough? if not, why not?

if you are considering a 35mm why not dial in your zoom to 35mm, take a whole bunch of photos over a day or two and see how you like them?
09-09-2009, 01:04 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by pb_red Quote
what's wrong with your 18-55 / 50-135 combo? is quality really an issue? do you just want a single lens while traveling? is the 18-55 good enough? if not, why not?

if you are considering a 35mm why not dial in your zoom to 35mm, take a whole bunch of photos over a day or two and see how you like them?
the 50-135mm will likely kill my neck after a while, and I love the quality from pentax primes. It's really the range i'm trying to justify - but thanks for the tip!
09-09-2009, 01:21 PM   #7
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Out of all the lens that I have owned, I find my Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 the best in traveling and walk-around purpose that does the job very well for a zoom lens that cover a good focal range from 17-70mm along with a very usable close up ratio of 1:2.3 in the 70mm end.

I did a long labor day weekend trip with one lens with the Sigma, the 17mm wide end serves me good for landscape and the portraits for outdoor is good with the zoom along with good close up for flowers. I also tried it for night shooting with a tripod for fireworks and candid shots indoor.


It can't replace your favorite 50mm or your DA* zoom or a good prime like the Pentax DA/FA 35mm, but it can offer you a good range with good close-up and lighter weight, smaller size, one lens that does most of my traveling needs. Is it better than Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8? I would think not in terms of IQ and speed. Is it better for traveling? A definite yes if you ask me as it covers the wider end for landscape and it has a very usable close up in 1:2.3. The other lens that I think will fit the traveling need will be the 18-250 or a two lens dual with 16-45 and 55-300mm, or sigma 17-70mm and Sigma 70-300mm.

Choosing a zoom over prime is a compromise that only you can decide. In traveling, I rather take the compromise and take along a good walk-around lens in my bag while having an extra prime such as a fast 50mm, 35mm or 21mm for the best shots subject to occasions that allow safe lens changing.

Thanks,
Hin

Last edited by hinman; 09-09-2009 at 01:43 PM.
09-09-2009, 01:26 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by esman7 Quote
In the past two months I have been pulling my hair out to decide what lens to get. Do I get a zoom, so I have some flexibility? Do I get a prime, for optimal image quality?
You already have a great prime for optimal image quality in low light.

Ask yourself if changing lenses ruins your day. If it's easy to do and is comfortable for you, then take two or three lenses to cover the range of possibilities you need. You do not need to have them all with you at any one time. I might travel with three but have only one in my pocket/bag, besides what is on the camera.

QuoteOriginally posted by esman7 Quote
Anyhow, I was looking at Pentax's 12-24mm f4 and think that although I would love a wide angle lens, it's a bit more expensive now and limits me to the wide angle if I were to keep one lens on all day. Plus it'd be kind of big too. Then you also have the fact that it's an f4...
All decent lenses that are affordable and light are, at best, f/4. Once you get into f/2.8 you either must carry something bulkier, heavier or more expensive. In the case of wide angle zooms f/4 is as fast as you get.

This lens is incredible for cityscapes, interiors and any cramped quarters. Plus it almost makes it up to "normal" focal length.

QuoteOriginally posted by esman7 Quote
Or even, what about the Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4.5 macro? Then I also get Macro + a wider range!
It's not a real macro.

QuoteOriginally posted by esman7 Quote
Now I'm all screwed up... but last night I read an article about how a pro photographer who does a lot of documentary-style shots, loves his Canon f1.2 50mm on his 1d mk2... and that's a full frame so ideally, I'd be looking at something around 35mm on an APS-C.
No, 28mm is normal on APS-C. That's significantly wider than 35mm and a nice view. I find 35mm too cramped, too inbetweeny. Then again I was never sold on 50mm on full frame, preferring 35mm.

QuoteOriginally posted by esman7 Quote
I love my nifty 50mm, but it's a bit too long to get some cityscapes in the shots. So I thought, what about the DA 35mm LTD f2.8 macro? Then I get a true macro, f2.8, 35mm, plus the limited build. Plus the reviews are great (from what I've read so far). It's also light and I can take some closeup shots of food in Tokyo (should be good, right!?)
Yes, that would work well if macro is really a priority. It is a great lens, but I would still want something wider.

09-09-2009, 01:36 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by esman7 Quote
thanks for your input! just trying to figure if 35mm will suit "most" of my needs.
No prime possibly could. It can only meet "some" of them. You would just have to decide if the particular needs it meets are sufficient or not. For me, the answer would probably be no - it's kind of an awkward in-between focal length to my taste 9even though of course I realize there is a ton of history being using 50mm lenses on FF). I prefer something either a bit longer or a bit wider. If someone were to force me to have just one prime, I'd chouse one a bit wider then hope to be able to crop from there. DA21 would look pretty good, although really, I think 24mm would be sufficient. But the idea of doing this rather than also having a longer lens - or using a zoom - seems arbitrarily limiting to me. Do it if you want the challenge, sure, but be realistic about it - a single prime *is* limiting.
09-09-2009, 01:47 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
No prime possibly could. It can only meet "some" of them. You would just have to decide if the particular needs it meets are sufficient or not. For me, the answer would probably be no - it's kind of an awkward in-between focal length to my taste 9even though of course I realize there is a ton of history being using 50mm lenses on FF). I prefer something either a bit longer or a bit wider. If someone were to force me to have just one prime, I'd chouse one a bit wider then hope to be able to crop from there. DA21 would look pretty good, although really, I think 24mm would be sufficient. But the idea of doing this rather than also having a longer lens - or using a zoom - seems arbitrarily limiting to me. Do it if you want the challenge, sure, but be realistic about it - a single prime *is* limiting.
As true as it is "limiting", it does offer macro performance which I currently have no lens for. Although the range is limited, I can ideally get "more" out of it.

The colour reproduction of this lens blows my mind however...
09-09-2009, 01:59 PM   #11
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09-09-2009, 02:04 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by esman7 Quote
Hi, I'm heading to Tokyo for a few days in November and want to take some great walkaround shots of the city.
I don't use the 50-135 as a walk-around lens! It's way too heavy, and for street photography it's not very discreet. And besides, for walk-about shooting I want to be able to go wider than 50mm more often than I want to go longer.

The Sigma 28 f/1.8 Macro is, for me, nearly a perfect focal length for casual shooting with a prime. Not too short (as the Pentax 21 would be) and not too long (as I think the Pentax 50 is, at least for a lot of shots). 28-31mm seems to be a "normal" field of view. I might like the Pentax 31 but it's pricey and I prefer to be normal and a tad on the wide side rather than just normal. Only problem with the Sigma 28 is that mine had a weird problem where it would lose contact with the camera, so the camera could not tell what f-stop the lens was using. (Camera would display "F---" where the f-stop is normally displayed.) So just today I finally got it packed you and sent off to Sigma for repair and/or (I hope) replacement. First time I've had a problem with a Sigma lens.

I have the Pentax 40 f/2 limited pancake on my old *ist DS right now. The 40 is a bit longer than I like in some situations but still, it's really very good, and with the 40 mounted the *ist DS almost looks like a compact fixed-lens camera. So it's a good choice for when I don't want to attract attention.

If you want a zoom, I have to second Hinman's recommendation of the Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-45 Macro. Really nice quality lens and very useful. If I were going back to China myself and could only take 1 lens, that's the lens I'd take - that or the Pentax 18-250. But I think I'd stick with the Sigma 17-70 because image quality is a little better and it's a bit faster. And 85% of the photos I take are in the 17-70 range.

Good luck.

Will
09-09-2009, 02:06 PM   #13
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esman,

I was in Japan earlier this year, here's my thoughts:

The FA50/1.4 focal length is limiting, and not that great between f/1.4-2.2. Tamron 28-75/2.8 is excellent for walking around and low-light usage. I would also consider Hin's suggestion of the Sigma 17-70 as that would cover most FL's, but if you like to shoot street at night, this won't work. The flipside is that you get 17mm to 28mm, which is very useful in my book.

I ended up using two lenses, a Sigma 18-50/2.8 and Tamron 28-75/2.8. If I had to do it all over again, it'd be a 12-24 and 28-75.

Don't overpack. You'll just leave it in the hotel room. Also bring comfortable shoes, you'll be on your feet a lot.

As for places to go and things to shoot - if you want a guided walking tour, hook up with Alfie Goodrich - he does these quite often and customizes them based on what you want to shoot. If you can join a group walk it's about $20-30 USD, or if you want to book him solo it might be $100-120. I did a solo session with him and had a good time.

Japan's a fun place to visit. I'll leave you with a few photos from Kabukicho:







Edmund

Last edited by edl; 09-09-2009 at 02:17 PM.
09-09-2009, 02:25 PM   #14
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Thank you for all of your advice!

Right now I'm still hung up on whether I really need the range or if I should just get the 35mm prime
09-09-2009, 02:57 PM   #15
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If you are considering the DA*16-50, you should also check out the DA16-45. It is smaller, lighter, cheaper and will give the DA* a real run for it's money on image quality.
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