Monday, July 25, 2011

Simplify Your Lens Lineup: Part 2

Two weeks I wrote about ways to simplify your lens lineup, because I'm looking to do that myself. The desire to simplify my setup comes from two angles, first to reduce the number of lenses in my setup, and secondly to improve the quality of lenses at the same time. To give you an idea of why I'm talking about this process, I'll list my current equipment first of all.

Primary Camera: Nikon D700
Wide Angle: Nikon AF 20-35mm F2.8D
Standard Zoom: Nikon AF 28-105mm F3.5-4.5D
Standard Prime: Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G
Macro: Nikon AF-S 60mm F2.8G
Telephoto: Nikon AF-S 300mm F4D IF-ED
Teleconverter: Nikon TC14E 1.4x (not current TC14EII)

That isn't a bad setup, but it does have some problems. First of all, I have several lenses with overlapping focal ranges, which isn't really necessary. Between 20mm and 60mm the lenses I have are reasonably fast, the wide angle, standard prime, and macro are F2.8 or faster. After is where I start to run into trouble. I have two lenses with slower apertures (F4 or slower). The other problem with this setup is the huge gap between 105mm and 300mm. There is a third thing that troubles me with this setup, it requires a lot of lens changes. Changing lenses isn't a bad thing, but the sensor on the D700 seems to be a dust magnet, despite the sensor cleaning function, so I'd rather avoid changing lenses when possible.  Those factors are what brought me to the conclusion that I needed to simplify and improve my setup.

Over the course of several weeks I was thinking about what kind of setup I wanted to have, what focal ranges I would need, and the cost of each of the possible setups I was considering. I went back and forth between a modified version of my current setup and a setup with all prime lenses. Those considerations were constantly moderated by two key factors, price and my desire to simplify the setup. After bouncing ideas off of some fellow shooters, I realized that as desirable as the all prime setup was, it wouldn't really be simplifying anything. Using all primes would also exaggerate the issue I have with changing lenses often as well. I quickly realized that making minor changes to my current setup would not help with reducing lens changes either. During this period of time there were two lenses that kept coming up when ever I thought about having a simple, yet high quality lens lineup for the D700, the Nikon 24-70mm F2.8G and Nikon 70-200mm F2.8G VRII.

Having every focal length between 24 and 700mm covered with a maximum aperture of F2.8 is very appealing to say the least. The weight of that kit comes in around 2.5KG, not including the D700. It is not a light kit, but it does keep the lineup simple and should help to reduce the number of lens changes that I will need to make by a large margin. These lenses offer great image quality, not to mention that I will have a solid kit that I can shoot with in harsh conditions, thanks to their high quality construction.

Simplified and Improved Lineup:
Primary Camera D700
Standard Zoom: Nikon 24-70mm F2.8G
Telephoto Zoom: Nikon 70-200mm F2.8G VRII
Standard Prime: Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8G
Teleconverter: Nikon TC14E 1.4x

The best part of a setup like this is that both Canon and Nikon provide excellent lenses in this range, which means that it does not matter what brand you shoot with if those focal lengths work for you. The 24-70mm F2.8 covers wide angle shooting, including landscapes, architecture and in a pinch you could shoot portraits at 70mm. Meanwhile, the 70-200mm can act as a portrait lens, or work for just about anything else when you cannot get closer to your subject. Another great aspect of having a 70-200mm F2.8 is that you can add teleconverter to get more reach, without shelling out a lot of money for a super telephoto lens (with a 2x TC you have a 140-400mm F5.6 lens).