OK, so I really don't want to sound like an neophyte asking about which lens to buy, but I've done a fair amount of research and I'm really unsure which is the best route to take. I have a D5200 and I'm heading out West with a group of guys for canyoning, rafting, rock climbing, and mountain climbing.

What got me inspired with photography, were Jimmy Chin's photos. I already love all of those aforementioned activities, but being able to capture them is something I'd love to be able to do. The following photos by Jimmy Chin represent what I hope to accomplish someday:

Jimmy Chin

enter image description here

Now I'm going to be doing all of the activities as well, just with a somewhat different purpose, so my kit needs to be light (can't take five lenses up the rock face). I currently have the 18-55 kit lens, and my budget is approx. $500 (at the moment, still in college).

Based on what I've read, a 35mm 1.8 prime is recommended, as well as a zoom (thinking about the 55-200 4.5), if you already have the kit lens. Then I've also read that, if you want to get those crispy, awe-inspiring, story telling landscape shots, you need a wide angle lens, which from what I can tell are all over my budget.

Anyone advice is appreciated.

  • @mattdm It was suggested that it was a question outside of this site's scope so I deleted it. I appreciate your answer. – Mark Saluta Apr 6 '16 at 1:27
  • That was my suggestion too, and I was going to follow it with the above, but you were too quick :) – mattdm Apr 6 '16 at 1:32

Looking over Jimmy Chin's website gallery for adventure photography, I'd say most were taken with wide or ultrawide lenses, and that's most likely what you're looking for. And as you surmised, those are outside your budget. So, I'd recommend saving up and increasing your budget, if you can, or you'll just have to wait and see if Nikon comes up with an analog to Canon's $300 10-18 lens.

If you can't do either of these, then the 18-55 kit is probably the closest you're going to get for a while, and you may want to consider learning panorama stitching. The 35/1.8 might be worthwhile, but won't be particularly wide angle on a crop body--it's recommended more for portrait, walkaround, or low light use. The telephoto might come in handy to shoot your friends from a distance, but is larger/heavier than your other lens choices, so becomes more problematic for trekking, and will be as slow as the kit lens, and requires even faster shutter speeds to mitigate camera shake blur for the increased magnification.

Another outside-the-box alternative, if you plan mainly on small web delivery, and not large prints, could be a GoPro. With a Hero4 Black/Silver, you'd take a definite hit on dynamic range and resolution vs. your Nikon (it's only got a 1/2.3" format sensor), but you'd have 12MP stills, a waterproof enclosure, a very small camera, 30 fps burst capability, and some really super-wide capability compact P&S cameras don't offer. Not to mention 4K video and a plethora of body/helmet mounts to choose from. After all, GoPros were designed for adventure shooting.

  • What do you think about one of the Samyang ultrawides for this situation? – mattdm Apr 1 '16 at 18:31
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    Didn't consider a GoPro. Might be something worth checking out. I engage in enough activity that would warrant its purchase. Also those Samyang lenses are fairly affordable, will check them out as well. – Mark Saluta Apr 1 '16 at 18:46
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    @Rmano, also good points--large sensor compacts or mirrorless vs. dSLR is always worth considering. But a $500 budget generally means looking used for the nice ones. – inkista Apr 1 '16 at 19:16
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    This Sigma 10-20mm lens is available with a Nikon mount for under $500 new. – David Richerby Apr 1 '16 at 21:58
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    There's also Tokina's 11-20mm for Nikon is just a little over $500. I have the Canon version and like it. – user1118321 Apr 2 '16 at 0:56

you need a wide angle lens, which from what I can tell are all over my budget

If the lens you need is outside your budget, consider renting from a place like LensRentals.com instead of buying. You can get the lens you need now for a few weeks. You can get a decent 3rd party wide angle lens (like a Sigma 8mm f/3.5) for a couple weeks for around $100. (Considering where you'll be taking it you should probably spend a little extra for the insurance option.) And that leaves room in your budget for some other purchases.

  • The Sigma 8mm f/3.5 is a fisheye, not a rectilinear ultrawide. – inkista Apr 1 '16 at 22:57

Your 18-55mm kit lens and a circular polarizer filter(maybe a grad ND) will get you in the general area of this type of photography.

The biggest challenge in my mind will be the right conditions and vantage points to capture the images from and not the gear.

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