Road Train !!!!!!!!!!

by Russell McMahon

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I shoot a bit of everything, though mostly landscape stuff. Mostly with a beanbag, or handheld.

I currently have the following lenses:

The 18-70 is fine, but the 70-300 is cheap and slow, and I often find myself wanting to wider than 70mm with it (changing lenses is a hassle, and lets dust in).

For both of them, I often think VR would help, particularly in dim lighting (e.g. shaded forests, night shots, etc)

I've got two camera bodies, a D300s and a D70.

I've been considering the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G IF DX VR, which goes for ~£545..£580

However, another option might be to get a 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR (~£220) plus a 55-200mm f4-5.6 G AF-S DX VR IF-ED (~£240), allowing one on each camera body - are there any advantages to that, compared to just the 18-200mm?

Are there any other lens options that make sense?

I don't really have a fixed budget, but anything over £600 is probably pushing it.
(The less money I can spend without getting rubbish, the better.)

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useful to know your budget, since that will dramatically affect recommendations. –  Reid Jul 29 '10 at 14:57
    
Sorry yeah, just added that now. I would prefer <£500 really, but can go higher if it's good value. –  Peter Boughton Jul 29 '10 at 15:14
    
The main advantage of the two lens approach is a wider aperture at 55mm and around there. With the 18-200 you pretty quickly get to f/5.6 (I think around 120mm), where the 55-200 should be a little bit better at smaller focal lengths. –  Josh Goldshlag Jul 30 '10 at 22:50

6 Answers 6

I think it's useful to emphasize that technique matters more than equipment, particularly in this context. For example, an inexpensive consumer zoom plus a decent tripod used well will get you better images than an expensive pro lens with no tripod or poor technique.

A similar high-level point: buy equipment that addresses your specific needs. In other words, to justify and plan an equipment purchase:

  1. Identify specific shortcomings in your photography you'd like so solve.
  2. If you can identify specific equipment acquisition that will help you address these shortcomings, and you understand why, go for it.
  3. If you can't, or things seem vague, don't buy anything yet.

In other words, buy equipment when you can say Purchasing X will improve my Y by helping with A, B, and C. If you can't fill in the variables with specificity, the equipment purchase is not justified from a photographic standpoint.

(To be clear, the research and purchase of equipment, and great interest in same, is a valid variation on the hobby. But make this choice consciously.)

Take a read through Thom Hogan's site and reviews, particularly his articles "Rationalizing Lenses", "Nikon Digital SLR Lens Kit Recommendations", and "Tripods 101".

Random tips:

  • If you are actually going to carry two camera bodies, don't bother with a superzoom. (Though, I'm skeptical of dragging around two bodies when out and about for landscapes.) Carry two lenses with complementary focal lengths. This might be a good plan even if you're only carrying one body.
  • The 16-85mm is also well regarded.
  • I do have the 18-200 and like it, though I'm not 100% convinced I'd buy it again, since I often want to go a little wider.
  • Consider something strange, like the 10.5mm fisheye.
  • At the risk of repetitiveness, consider a decent tripod instead of a lens as your next investment. The lenses you have will all take great landscapes used well.
  • Don't hesitate to buy used lenses. I've purchased from and can recommend KEH; don't know if they ship to your side of the pond or if it's cost-effective to do so.
share|improve this answer
    
Thom does have some excellent suggestions for both DX and FX, for low budget or money not a concern. –  Johannes Setiabudi Jul 30 '10 at 1:16
    
+1 for the whole answer. I also like my 18-200, though I don't do a lot of landscape. My problem with it is slowness, which shouldn't bother you as much. It is a nice, relatively light lens though. –  Josh Goldshlag Jul 30 '10 at 22:49
    
Josh, could you expand on that 'slowness' comment? One of the main things I dislike about my existing 70-300 is how slow it is! –  Peter Boughton Jul 31 '10 at 0:07

I dont think you go wide enough. I have the Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM, and I love it for landscapes.

share|improve this answer
    
Heh, in the past it's always seemed super-wide lenses were incredibly expensive, but looks like that one is 'only' £360. I'll certainly consider that, but I still want to replace the 70-300mm with something decent too. –  Peter Boughton Jul 29 '10 at 15:00
    
Another vote for the Sigma 10-20mm lens. It's always in my bag for times when I'm looking for a decent landscape shot. –  Danny Edmunds Oct 11 '10 at 16:15
    
The Sigma 10-20 F/4-5.6 I had vignetted so badly I returned it after trying 3 more samples. My advice is to stay away from that lens, the 12-24mm F/4 does much better. –  Itai Mar 8 '11 at 0:35
    
Or the Sigma 8mm-16mm. –  ziggystar Apr 11 at 8:46

I went for the "trinity":

  1. 17-35 (or 16-35 or 14-24) - this is probably my most used lens for landscape
  2. 24-70 - I mainly use this for event photography
  3. 70-200 - for head shots, portraits, wedding

I strongly suggest in saving and getting the Nikkor instead of 3rd party for your bread and butter lenses.

On the other hand, some of my best landscape photos are taken using 18-70 or 18-200. For landscape, technique matters most (instead of equipment). Typically in landscape shows you are setting camera on tripod anyway (excellent tripod matters) and using small aperture (instead of wide open). On these kinda setup I find most (if not all) lenses can produce virtually the same quality.

So, unless you really have a specific need, I would stick with what you have, save the money (for one day get a gold ring lens like 14-24) and spend more time in practice and perfecting my technique.

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The 14-24mm is an amazing lens. It was a loan from Nikon (along with a D3) and I was sad to return it :( Highly recommended, I've never seen such an ultra-wide maintain such optical quality. –  Itai Mar 8 '11 at 0:37

if you think the 70-300 is not good enough for your purposes (and I'd agree) you'll be disappointed with the 18-200 as well.

Getting dust into the camera when changing lenses isn't a problem if you take a little care. Shield the camera from wind for example, or in extreme environments change lenses in a bag.

If you want wider than your 18-70 can provide, look at the 12-24. If you feel the 70-300 isn't good enough, look at a 70-200 f/2.8.

Both are going to cost you though, quality has a price attached to it. Sigma EX lenses offer quality alternatives at a more friendly price (yes, some people will tell you to never buy anything but Nikon, but I disagree with them, Sigma gives better value for money unless you really need that 2-3% higher image quality that's theoretically possible with a top of the line Nikkor that costs 50-100% more).

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I would suggest the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 wide angle lens. It takes super wide angle shots, which is great for many landscape settings. It has a large depth of field so you get everything in focus. It takes super sharp photos even wide open.

It was my first DX lens purchase besides the kit lens with my D7000 and it produced some wonderful landscape shots. Most of the shots I took for this photo book were taken with the Tokina lens: www.seaislandatnight.com

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+1 for mentioning the excellent Tokina 11-16. However for landscape I would go with a standard zoom as well (like the 16-85mm) because the 11-16mm is very wide and sometimes there is just nothing to put on the foreground. –  ruffp Mar 27 '13 at 23:08

My most used landscape lens is the Nikon 12-24mm f/4 (DX). I don't think 18mm is wide enough for many landscape shots with a cropped sensor body. You have the rest of the range covered already, and for landscapes you generally can use a tripod. I don't see the point getting a 18-200 when you already have 18-70mm and 70-300mm. The 18-200mm is a great walkaround lens but your 18-70mm covers most of the useful range for landscapes IMO.

The 12-24mm Nikon (or the 10-20mm Sigma) would give you something you don't already have, and a range that's very useful for landscapes.

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