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12-10-2010, 11:30 PM   #1
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What equipment do I take? Wide angle suggestion?

I got my K-x (my first DSLR) a few months ago so that I would have some time to learn how to use it before going on a trip to Turkey and Greece in January. Focus of the trip is mainly biblical and classical sites, so that means lots of pics of ruins and such along with detail shots. Using the free ExposurePlot program, I checked similar collections of shots, so I have some idea that I will be taking a lot of wide angle but enough telephoto to make it necessary for both. I think I'm in good shape with accessories (SD cards, nice monopod, mini-tripod, lens hood, CPL filters, eneloop batteries and charger, rocket blower, etc...). My questions deal w/ the lenses.

So, here's what I have to choose from and my experiences with them:
  • DAL 18-55mm (a good lens but not my fav)
  • DAL 50-300mm (I really like this lens)
  • F 35-70mm (this has been a great lens; at the same lengths, it beats the 18-55mm and is as good as or better than the 50-300mm)
  • SMC-M 50mm 1:1.7
  • SMC-A 50mm 1:2 (the 1.7 is better, but this one is pretty close to it and the A setting is definitely easier for me to use; they both do better than the 18-55mm, especially in low light)
  • Vivitar 28mm 1:2.8 (it's an okay lens; about the same as the 18-55 at 28mm but does better in low light)
  • Raynox DCR 720 Wide Angle Conversion lens (for which I have rings to attach it to any of my lenses except the 50-300)
Here are some of my priorities:
  • I want, of course, to get the best quality pics possible. (And keep in mind I'm still rather new to DSLRs.)
  • As a teacher, most of my shots are intended for projection in the classroom, but I'd like to think I also have a little artistic creativity that makes me want pics w/ a little higher quality.
  • I want to travel as light as possible. (I'll settle on a sling bag once I know how much I will be bringing.)
  • I am not going to have a lot of time to set up shots. I will need to be able to work quickly with a minimum of lens changes.
  • I don't want fisheye, but previous experience shows that I can't get too wide of an angle.
  • We have some long days scheduled, and we are in winter, so I will have to deal with some lower light situations.
  • There will also be some indoor (museum) shots for which I may not be able to use flash.
  • (I do have a decent external flash, but I don't plan to bring it.)
SO...
Do I have the right lenses to choose from? Which do I bring?
  • The only lens I am definite about bringing is the 50-300mm lens.
  • I'd like to just match it with the 18-55mm lens, but the 35-70 does take better pics, and the primes are better in low light...
  • Am I going to use the Raynox wide angle conversion, or should I just plan on taking panoramas that I'll stitch together later if I need wider angle?
  • I really don't want to spend more money, but I don't know when I'll be able to take a trip like this again, and I don't want to miss a lot of shots just because I didn't have the right wide angle. Can someone persuade me to buy a wide angle zoom to compliment the 50-300? ($350 would have to be about the max. Also keep in mind that I'm working at a K-x quality level.)
  • So do I bring the primes? (I realize I'll probably have to decide between the somewhat greater convenience of the A-50 as compared to the quality of the M-50.) Would simply a better wide prime be a good solution?
I think I'm close, but you can see I have a bunch of questions.
I would really appreciate the wisdom of the experienced travelers and photographers on this forum. Thanks.

12-11-2010, 04:50 AM   #2
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Greece and Turkey travel (Footsteps of St. Paul) is one of my specialties. I will keep this succinct...go with a good wide to normal zoom...your 18-55 will be fine if you dont opt for something a little better quality between now and then. Turkey and Greece are wide open places, even in the biggest cities...and if you are visiting Ephesus, Thessaloniki, Athens, Rhodes, and Patmos, the 18mm should be wide enough. (I wouldn't bring anything less wide). My second advice will be to take a longer zoom to accompany the normal zoom. You will appreciate this at times and if you are on the seas throughout the Greek islands, this will come in handy. The Raynox may be a waste and just something to carry you probably wont use much if at all.

Unless you want to carry a bag of gear around, these two lenses will suit you just fine and unless you just really want to bring a handful of primes along, they really aren't necessary in most cases, if any.

Monopods, tripods and the like may be a good idea, but I think unless you use these very regularly, you may find yourself not needing them here and in most cases a monopod will be fine if you crave stability.

Don't worry about low light situations so much..the sun here in the southeastern Mediterranean can be just as bright in winter than in summer, and the sun is usually good for normal light until 5pm or so and then the slow sunset begins.

Enjoy your trip!

Jason
12-11-2010, 06:39 AM   #3
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If you want to get wider than the kit lens (and probably have better image quality), you might consider a DA 16-45. I know you said that you don't want to spend more money, but if you don't like the quality you get from the kit lens, this would be the cheapest step up (use for about 250). I think the 16-45 combined with the 55-300 would cover 96 percent of the situations you would find yourself in (just made that number up, but the kx high iso is pretty good).

I'm not a big fan of the wide angle converters, seem to degrade image quality and create distortion. Probably better to shoot multiple images and stitch later, if that is an option.
12-11-2010, 07:12 AM   #4
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From my experience travelling through europe, the most important focal length range is from 10-100mm, Unless you are deliberately going to shoot wild life shots, you dom't need to consider taking anything longer than 100mm.

For many of my trips when I shot film I was limited to 24 mm and found that this was simply not wide enough.

Now, I soot mostly with 2 bodies and 2 lenses. the lenses I use are a sigma 10-20 and a tamron 28-75F2.8

These two lenses account for about 90% of my travel photography, and my Sigma 70-200F2.8 stays home unless I am specifically targeting a wildlife activity. There is just mno point packing the weight.

You will find the same issues I suspect, so consider covering much of the FL range between 10-100mm

12-11-2010, 07:27 AM   #5
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I would recommend the 16-45 as an upgrade to the 18-55. If you like the 55-300, you'll love the 16-45. It has a very similar contrasty look to the 55-300 and is slightly sharper. The difference between 16mm and 18 doesn't sound like much, but it's a lot when you're trying to shoot a building. With a three lens kit of 16-45, 55-300 and a low light prime, you will be equipped for virtually anything.

Certainly a superwide, standard zoom, telephoto and fast prime gives you more capability, but in a larger, more expensive kit.
12-11-2010, 09:42 AM   #6
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Thanks for the suggestions. These really help.
I plan to bring my monopod. It's quite compact, and I find it almost necessary for the 50-300 and almost as necessary for the 18-55. I'll leave the Raynox converter at home.

As for lenses...
I did some looking around at the Sigma 10-20 mentioned by Lowell and also a Tamron 10-24. They both look to be in the $475 range... Maybe someday...
The Pentax 16-45 does sound good. Look to be around $300 or so on ebay and ~$385 new. If I go this route, I would have a 16-45, the F 35-70, and the DAL 50-300 for zooms.

Any other suggestions, especially for the wide angle end? I'll have to do some budget calculating and shopping as I think about that 16-45 for now...
Thanks again.
12-11-2010, 10:26 AM   #7
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You have a decent kit there. If traveling light, leave the A50/2 -- the M50/1.7 will do you better. I don't know the quality of the Raynox, but WA strap-ons usually leave a bit to be desired. The Tamron 10-24 is discounted by US$100 on Amazon until the end of December -- maybe US$375 is closer to your budget? Until I get one, my Zenitar 16/2.8 does most of my wide work. Have fun!
12-11-2010, 10:35 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by mgvh Quote
..The Pentax 16-45 does sound good. Look to be around $300 or so on ebay and ~$385 new. If I go this route, I would have a 16-45, the F 35-70, and the DAL 50-300 for zooms.

Any other suggestions, especially for the wide angle end? I'll have to do some budget calculating and shopping as I think about that 16-45 for now...
Thanks again.
I'd check out the marketplace; if there aren't still some DA 16-45s for $250 or less, there probably will be soon. There really isn't competition for that lens at that price. You can't get the same mix of constant aperture, 16mm wide end, colors and contrast. It has a little more bulk than the kit lens, and since you're not bringing an external flash, be aware that the lens extends at wide angle, blocking the popup flash. I think it's OK above 28mm for flash. It also can have some color fringing in certain high-contrast conditions. Normally that's not a problem. If you have about $500, I'd look at other options. As nice as the 16-45 is, it can't do 10mm.

It's particularily easy for us to spend more of your money, and these kinds of threads often generate suggestions about buying more stuff. Travel means new situations and unexpected opportunities. It is impossible to carry the exact right equipment for every conceivable opportunity, even if you could afford it or have it ready to shoot. If you end up just choosing a couple of lenses from what you have now, it isn't that bad.

12-11-2010, 10:36 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by mgvh Quote
Any other suggestions, especially for the wide angle end?
Have you read the lens reviews here? Pentax Reviews - Pentax Lens Reviews & Pentax Lens Database
12-11-2010, 10:42 AM   #10
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Why complicate planning for the trip with the perceived need to replace your 18-55 at this point? It's a fine lens and unless you are unhappy with it for some reason, should be a worthy choice. Your shooting conditions should be just fine unless you experience unlucky weather.

Jason
12-11-2010, 03:05 PM   #11
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For no additional money invested, I would bring the 18-55, 55-300, and the 50/1.7. You'll probably want/need something wider than 18mm, but you can stitch images together to make a FOV as wide as you want. Works better for some subjects than others.

If you have money to spend, I would sell the 18-55 and get a fast wide-normal zoom, like the DA16-50, or one of the several 17/18-50's available. The 16-45 is also a good travel lens, although not quite as fast as the 2.8 zooms. If you have a little money to spend, I would get the 16-45, and bring the 55-300 and the 50/1.7.

In my experience, travel photography tends to favor wide to normal focal lengths more than deep telephoto. But, that is just my experience.
12-15-2010, 10:42 PM   #12
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My travel checklist

Thanks for all the suggestions. I was able to find a reasonably priced DA 16-45mm in the marketplace, so I think I'm very well set. Here's my travel check list.
  • Pentax K-x
  • Lenses
  • Induro Alloy 6M (8M) Monopod AM25 with ball head and quick release
  • SD Cards: 16Gb (Class 10); 8Gb (Class 6); 2Gb (Class 4); USB SD card reader
  • Hakuba mini-tripod
  • Hybrid (low-discharge) batteries: 4 in camera; 4 spare; 4 lithium in reserve
  • Targus charger (220volt capable; plug adapters)
  • Cleaning supplies: rocket blower, microfiber cloth, cleaning fluid, LensPen
  • Ziploc bag (for cold/condensation issues) and plastic bags (for makeshift rain cover)
  • Case Logic SLRC-205 Sling Bag
For taking notes each day and backing up the pics, I'm borrowing a netbook. I can backup the pics on the hard drive, but I'm also bringing along a USB thumb drive to copy them to as well.

Just in case... I'll also bring along my trusty old Canon A710IS.

Did I forget anything?

Last edited by mgvh; 12-16-2010 at 07:43 AM.
12-15-2010, 10:59 PM   #13
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QuoteQuote:
Here's my travel check list.

Did I forget anything?
Why take the 18-55? You have that range covered between 3 other lenses. I'd take the 55-300 instead of the 18-55 and 50 as well.
12-16-2010, 06:02 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
Why take the 18-55? You have that range covered between 3 other lenses. I'd take the 55-300 instead of the 18-55 and 50 as well.
That was my thought too, and even the 35-70 is redundant. The 55-300 is just as fast in the 55-70mm range anyway.
12-16-2010, 06:43 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by audiobomber Quote
That was my thought too, and even the 35-70 is redundant. The 55-300 is just as fast in the 55-70mm range anyway.
I agree as well - leave the kit lens at home, and skip the 35-70mm (which isn't a terribly useful range for the most part). The gap between the 16-45 and 55-300 is really not much at all. Pair those two with a 50mm of your choosing (the f1.7 would be better, though you might appreciated the A lens).
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