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I am going to visit New Zealand (both islands) and just trying to select lenses to take with me. I have Pentax K-x DSLR and following lenses:

  • Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro HSM
  • Pentax-DA L 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL
  • Samyang 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye
  • Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD Macro

I will surely take the Sigma and Samyang as I like photographing landscapes and panoramas (thus the fisheye).

However, I am not sure about the telephoto lens. I primarily take photos of landscapes, also sometimes flowers or "macro" (entry hobby level :-) ), sometimes also birds (however I have limited capabilities because of worse vision). In my country I use the Tamron just occasionally. We will have a car but I will have to carry the equipment during the hiking trips. :-)

For NZ I estimate that most photos will probably be landscapes (according to the photos I already saw) - Coromandel, Rotorua, Huka falls, Tongariro, Milford Sound, the glaciers etc. so it looks the wide angle will be the most used.

I would like some advice on how to choose which parts of my gear I should bring and which to leave at home.

closed as primarily opinion-based by mattdm, Dan Wolfgang, AJ Henderson, MikeW, Itai Jan 11 '14 at 0:54

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I guess this question is similar to: What lenses to bring while traveling? One good wide-telephoto or several smaller ones? My guess is that the 2 lenses you are thinking of bringing will be sufficient for what you want to shoot. – Yao Bo Lu Jan 10 '14 at 12:23
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    New Zealand is a relatively small country, so you don't need a wide angle lens ;-) – Olin Lathrop Jan 10 '14 at 15:36
  • You might make use of the 70-300 taking people shots in Rotorua. I don't think you'll get any bird shots worth keeping. Personally, it's tough leaving any gear behind, but I'd bring the 17-70 and fisheye and stay light. – MikeW Jan 10 '14 at 17:08
  • @Olin Lathrop: LOL, no problem, Czech Republic is even smaller country :-) – Juhele Jan 10 '14 at 23:04
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My direct experience with travel matches advice I was given years ago: expect to take the same kinds of photos, with the same type of equipment, as at home. If you have a particular lens that is rarely needed then there's no reason to expect that this will finally be the time to use it. The same goes for tripods, field notebooks, or any other new habit that we would like to start but never bother with at home.

  • This is excellent advice for any beginning photographer! I would add one thing, though. Travel photography can present an excellent opportunity to expand your skill set. So, don't necessarily bring an entirely new system, but consider adding one new item to your kit at a time. – David M Jan 10 '14 at 15:25
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    Thanks, @DavidM, and I completely agree to your modification with one provision - that the new item be added well before the trip, ideally a month or more, allowing time to practice the new skills and ingrain some of the new habit. – mpr Jan 10 '14 at 15:43
  • That would be ideal! I agree. – David M Jan 10 '14 at 15:44
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The short answer would be to bring your 17-70 and make due.

A better answer: when you travel the best thing to do is to compose a shot list in your mind or on paper. By pre-thinking of the "must have" shots, you can better plan for your camera bag. You have to consider weight if you're going to be hiking.

I do a lot of travel photography. And, I rarely use my telephoto lenses. Not that they're not great additions, and that I don't miss opportunities for detail shots, etc. It's just that I know I will have to carry the extra weight, and swap lenses.

That said, if you do a lot of macro photography and know you're going to want those shots, bring the telephoto with macro capability.

I think you see where I'm going with this. Plan your shots, do your research, think about what you want to bring home with you. The equipment list will write itself.

One additional piece of advice: bring a good quality polarizer. You will need it. A graduated ND would be nice, too. But you can replicate that effect easily in PS or LR.

I also would consider a tripod or hikers monopod. It will make your shots more steady and clean. But, the weight might be off-putting on a hike.

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    Yeah, polarizer is my favourite and often used filter. Have Hoya HD and it is really perfect. I have also a monopod and the smaller "Mini" Velbon tripod. It has a limited range about 20-55 cm height but is really small and still very useful. I will probably take the tripod instead of monopod. If needed, I can a little bit improvise using trekking pole :-) – Juhele Jan 10 '14 at 19:33
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I live in NZ.
Note MPR's advice and carefully consider whether this trip is liable to be "the exception that proves the rule" -there are enough scenes in NZ where the photos of a lifetime cry out for the long lens.

As Olin says - NZ is relatively small, but what this means in reality is that frequently have a vast range of 'photo opportunities' presented to you.

At full zoom of your ...70mm amd ...300mm lenses the area difference covered is (300/70)^2 = over 18:1 (or about 13:1 at 250/70 if you avoid the very extreme lower quality end of the Tamron). There will almost certainly be times when being able to photograph say 10% of the area covered by your 17-70.

Unless you are going to pass up all photo opportunities outside your normal range, in your position I'd add the Tamron to what you propose. The difference in weight is not vast. NZ is generally secure enough that a lens left in a car boot when hiking is much more likely than not to survive the journey. Car breakins do happen, but in 40+ years of driving in NZ neither I or my family have experienced a car break-in while travelling. (I've had several car windows broken when the car was parked on my property).


Why you need the long lens :-)

The image below is too dark at the size seen below to make the point well.
The larger version viewable by direct on imgur access does it better
This is a 6 megapixel photo taken 7 years ago with A Minolta 7D DSLR. I chose it because it was taken at 200mm. It's a view across Auckland harbour from near my home. The right hand image is the same image scaled down by a factor of 70mm/200mm = 35% linearly or 12.25% (= 0.35^2) of the area. Foot zoom does not work here - unless you swim really well and have a waterproof camera - and then you miss the shoreline reflections and the angle changes and ... . ie no matter what the ground in between was like, the image would change if you moved position. If you were by a roadside and there was a glorious NZ landscape afar off, you will often not be able to get closer. There is so much that you might be able to do with a long lens that now you have read this, if you leave it at home, you will regret doing so forever :-).

enter image description here


70 mm / 210 mm comparison:

I took this photo this afternoon specifically to address this question. Taken "at a venture" from a car at 100 kph. No claims made as to photographic merit OR the crops, whose size is set by the example requirements. I use 210mm as it is less than the full available 250mm, as quality usually drops at full zoom. Also as 210/70 = 3:1 it makes compsido

This is a view across Auckland harbour to the city from a car on a motorway. You can't stop, you can't move closer and even the framing is decided mainly by the situation. If the 70mm and 210mm shots were full APSC frame then the content in the 210mm image would be vastly superior.

The top left photo is the whole frame at 200mm on an APSC DSLR (Sony A77). The 3 crops A B C are 1/3 the width and 1/3 the height of the original so would be the whole frame if the scene had been photographed at 210 mm. The 3 crops were aligned to approximately surround differing and significant parts of the scene. If actually cropping or framing to suit content material enclosed would probably vary somewhat and the right hand crop may have been extended out of the frame to the right to include the whole fleet of boats. Rectangles shown are fitted by eye to match the crops and may be a few pixels out.

enter image description here

Larger version here - click this link then click resultant image to enlarge

  • thanks for advice, I will think about the Tamron too :-) And when you say that NZ is small country - ok, I am living in coutry with area smaller than 80 000 km2 while NZ has about 270 000 km2 (according to Wikipedia) :-D – Juhele Jan 10 '14 at 23:08
  • You'll find that quite a lot of NZ is very marvellous to look at and fly over but harder to travel on :-) eg much of here or around here . I have travelled through your country briefly some while ago and would like to revisit some time. I have owned about 20 Jawa motorcycles :-). [I have read a reasonable amount about "certain fairly select portions" of your country's brave history. 193x - 194x, 196x, ... ]. – Russell McMahon Jan 11 '14 at 1:25
  • @Juhele - Feel very free to contact me when you visit (or before) email on my profile page and take a note of tel +64 9 8372999. – Russell McMahon Jan 11 '14 at 1:28
  • McMahon: thanks for tips. I think we have well prepared schedule - pastebin.com/5R3FKqr3 (but the guide is flexible :-) ) so I am looking forward to see this beautiful country :-) – Juhele Jan 13 '14 at 0:15
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The Sigma and Samyang are your best bet. New Zealand is a beautiful country with a vast array of landscapes. Plus the 70mm end of your sigma will be more than enough for the various giant Snowmen, Carrots, Wellington Boots and L&P bottles they have (if you're in to photographing that sort of thing).

If you are planning on going to a sporting event, e.g. like a rugby match, you may want the Tamron as well.

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