Old 03-04-2016, 12:26 PM   #1
bigiron
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Default Your top 2-3 lenses in terms of usage....

Been through the forums reading on older post of this subject and getting closer to a decision but trying to make the most of my money (there is a budget ). I'm currently wondering if I should upgrade to a better 18-200 Nikkor or split the range into two lenses and get a bit more performance withing each len's range. Do I want to change two lenses in place of one to get a bit more quality...hmmmm the million dollar question that I'm hoping some will weigh in on to help me .

I know there has been lots of threads on this and the fact that things get outdated rather quickly, I ask the followers here what would be your 2-3 most used lenses? I know there are variables but being a train forum makes the suggestions more applicable than reading review on review of a broader use of certain lenses. My focus is getting the right glass to get as sharp as possible pictures provided the other outside factors are under control. I do have a Nikon but have bought Tamron glass in the past and I'm trying to figure the quality difference from contributors here that might be less biased than walking into a camera shop.

Thanks for any input on this and taking the time to respond, Rich
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Old 03-04-2016, 12:53 PM   #2
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For trains anyway:

Canon 17-40L
Canon 70-200 f/4L
Canon 28-105 USM version 2

Expanding it to 5:
Canon 100-400L
Canon 50 f/1.4 USM

I've got a few lenses in my bag I have not used in years like a 24 f/2.8, a 28 f/2.8 and a 18-85 IS USM, maybe a couple more

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Old 03-04-2016, 01:07 PM   #3
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My lenses (in order of most time spent outside of my camera bag) are:

Nikkor 28-45
Nikkor 50
Nikkor 70-210

I would say your decision depends on what type of shooting you do. I am almost always found on old branchlines, often grown in with heavy foliage and tight angles, so I am almost always found in short lense situations.

My personal preference if I were spending your money for you would be to split to two lenses to get better performance. My long lense is only an F4, and I have found myself wishing more often than not that I had another stop or two below. That, and not wanting a long lense with added weight and potential shaking issues when shooting in short lense situations.
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Old 03-04-2016, 01:27 PM   #4
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My lenses in order of usage for train photos:

17-40
24-105
10-22
100-400
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Old 03-04-2016, 01:54 PM   #5
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On Nikon D800E:
Nikon 24mm f2.8 PC-E (shift lens)
Sigma 35mm f1.4A
Sigma 50mm f1.4A

(The Sigmas are the sharpest lenses I have ever owned.)

On Chamonix 045n (4x5 field camera):
Nikon 90mm f4.5
Rodenstock 135mm f5.6


And now some thoughts on sharpness, based on 30+ years of experience with well over 50 lenses and cameras. I see lenses as the most important bit of camera gear--far more important than a camera. It's lenses that determine what you can photo and how well. The latest Sigma ART lenses and Zeiss OTUS lenses are just astonishingly sharp. If you were to take a photo of an entire engine so it filled the frame with those lenses, you could zoom in and not only see a dead bug stuck to one, you could count how many legs it has. I might post an example later tonight. Like everything in photography, there is a trade off for this kind of sharpness. In this case you are trading absolute sharpness for the flexibility of a zoom. Using all single focal lenses I do sometimes miss fast breaking shots because I have the wrong lens on. Most of my shots are done at night, and I have plenty of time to not only change a lens but also set up half a dozen flash and test them. If you are a run & gun type guy, these single focal lenses will frustrate you.

---->As important as the lens is for sharpness, REAL sharpness comes from using a tripod. A GOOD tripod and head. The difference is real and quickly noticed.

If you absolutely will not use a tripod, the next best thing is to be using a lens with VR, or shutter speed of 1/2000s or higher if that's possible.


Kent in SD
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Old 03-04-2016, 02:20 PM   #6
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Better glass does matter. That's one of several reasons why I moved from Nikon's DX to FX cameras. The glass is better and the sensors are better. Sure, you can use FX glass on a DX body, but good luck going wide.

I have the following FX lenses, all Nikkor. Listed in the order of frequency that I use them.

24-120 f/4 VR: Best walking-around lens for trains. I take most of my shots with this lens...probably 90% or more. Sharp, but has some odd distortion at the wide end. Not soft on the long end like some super-zooms.

24-70 f/2.8: Duplicates some of the focal lengths of the 24-120, but is a full stop faster. Nice and sharp. Fast AF. No VR, but you really don't need it. Heavy. Great in the rain (has a big-ass hood, and is not an air pumper). Unfortunately, it doesn't have much reach and you feel a bit naked with it on there.....but it is lovely glass!

70-200 f/4 VR: Sharpest lens I own. Fast AF. Would love to have the f/2.8 version but cost was not the issue. This lens is HALF THE WEIGHT of the 2.8 version, and when your bag weighs as much as mine, that's important. I also like the fact that it is not an air pumper. Put a raincoat on it and it stays put. Air pumpers suck with a raincoat on. Unfortunately, I probably take 5% of my shots with this lens.

16-35 f/4 VR: I probably take the fewest with this super-wide lens, but I have no fear of putting it on. It is nice and sharp. I chose this over the vaunted 14-24 f/2.8 because of much lower weight, the addition of VR, and because you can put a filter on this lens.....you can't do anything with that bulbous front element on the 14-24 but guard it with your life.

70-300 f/4.5-5.6 VR: The only non-pro (no gold ring, no nano-crystal coat) lens I have for FX. Decent glass for $600....cheaper now. AF not as fast as I would like. I hardly ever use it for trains. A bit soft at the long end....like most consumer lenses.

I used to use the DX 18-200mm VR. It was OK, but again, soft at the long end. Some copies are really nice, like the one John West uses. Mine, not so much. I still have it, along with one DX camera. I just don't use it much any more. The advantage of a super-zoom is obvious. One lens, one body, good-to-go. If you can put up with the "issues" that a super-zoom has, it is very, very convenient.

Changing lenses sucks. You can get dust on your sensor, and most lens drops happen during hasty lens changes. I use two bodies. One with a 24-70 or 24-120, and one with a 70-200. Heavy, yes. But like a 2-gun gun-slinger, I am always ready for whatever presents itself.
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Old 03-04-2016, 04:48 PM   #7
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Cool

FWIW, I'm going to put a plug in for the one lens fits all, keep it simple approach. I have an 18-140 on one camera and a 18-200 on an older camera. A lot depends on what you will do with your images, and I find this approach gives me what I need 99.9 percent of the time, including a lot of cropping and prints up to 11x14. And little worry about stuff getting on the sensor. I like being able to concentrate on the image not the equipment, but that is just me. No rights and wrongs, just whatever works for you. In film days I carried multiple bodies and multiple lenses, but the digital technology is so good I have taken advantage of the opportunity to simplify my life.

You mentioned upgrading to a "better" 18-200 Nikkor. I have one of the original 18-200's, zoom creep and all, and from what I have read the newer 18-200 has a zoom lock to prevent the creep but is optically no different. The reviews seem to suggest that the even newer 18-300 is slightly better within the 18-200 range, and the 18-140 seems to be the best of the one lens does all group of Nikkor DX lenses. No question "primes" would be better, and FX captures more data, but for me the DX zooms are good enough to produce what I feel are excellent results when properly used.

But that is just me. I am into simple. I am also into cheap, and buy most of my stuff "refurbished" to save a few dollars. In my experience the refurbished stuff is as good as new.
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Old 03-04-2016, 05:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John West View Post
FWIW, I'm going to put a plug in for the one lens fits all, keep it simple approach. I have an 18-140 on one camera and a 18-200 on an older camera. A lot depends on what you will do with your images, and I find this approach gives me what I need 99.9 percent of the time, including a lot of cropping and prints up to 11x14. And little worry about stuff getting on the sensor. I like being able to concentrate on the image not the equipment, but that is just me. No rights and wrongs, just whatever works for you. In film days I carried multiple bodies and multiple lenses, but the digital technology is so good I have taken advantage of the opportunity to simplify my life.

You mentioned upgrading to a "better" 18-200 Nikkor. I have one of the original 18-200's, zoom creep and all, and from what I have read the newer 18-200 has a zoom lock to prevent the creep but is optically no different. The reviews seem to suggest that the even newer 18-300 is slightly better within the 18-200 range, and the 18-140 seems to be the best of the one lens does all group of DX lenses. No question "primes" would be better, and FX captures more data, but for me the DX zooms are good enough to produce what I feel are excellent results when properly used.

But that is just me. I am into simple. I am also into cheap, and buy most of my stuff "refurbished" to save a few dollars. In my experience the refurbished stuff is as good as new.
I'm with John here, when I bought my first SLR in 2012 (a Nikon D5100) I bought a set that came with an 18-55 and a 55-200 lens. I really wasn't a fan of changing lenses, so when I dropped the 18-55 and it was a write-off, I replaced both with an all-in-one (Sigma 18-250). At full wide there is quite a bit of distortion, but it can be fixed in processing and for me the advantages of only having one lens outweighs the disadvantages. I really don't miss changing lenses in the field!
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Old 03-04-2016, 08:05 PM   #9
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Can't seem to find the win:win solution so I'm still trying to figure it out - when in doubt, go old school - or, quality first:

Canon L f/4 16-35mm IS Wide angle.

Canon L f/4 24-105mm IS Best all around lens.

Canon L f/2.8 24-70mm no IS Low light, fast focus - less flare.

Canon L f/2.8 70-200mm IS V2 Long variable zoom - sharp throughout & fast.

Canon L f/4 300mm IS --Amtrak, lol - ridiculously sharp.
Planes and wildlife, too.

Canon 1.4X extender Never comes off the 300mm

I don't use the wide angle much - mostly for museums and interior shots.
24-105 - great all around lens - is it sharp (enough?)
70-200 - crazy sharp, compliments the 24-105mm for a two lens solution.
300 - catenary tunnels, under instead across the poles. Crazy ridiculous sharp, even with the 1.4X.

24-70 - maybe a mistake- no reach, no IS, expensive, but crazy sharp, fast and low light. I was going to sell the 24-105 in its place.

I envy you guys that are OK with the full range zooms - 18-200 ect...
No lens carry or change, no dust, multiple photo opportunities in a single runby.
I just can't seem to justify archiving images that could be sharper - ie, where it is the is the equipment, not the effort, that could be lacking. To me, it's like shooting JPEG vs RAW - but when it good, good enough?

For 80% of my images, an 18-500 would work if they made it - you just can not see the difference on RP, FB - not even in print, published in a magazine.
But... say you want to enlarge, or are asked for a shot enlarged to 20X30 - well, I'm good there! 16X20 most definitely benefits - but 8X12 and under, do I even need "L" glass? Perhaps - if I want to see the iris of a tiger from 50'? Individual feathers of an eagle? Name tag on the conductors shirt from 60' away! Course, I might need more then 22 MP.

/Mitch - TACK SHARP!

PS:

Previous DX set up was 10-22 - love this lens. Super wide, low to no distortion, fast lens 3.5 to 4.5. Sharper (for DX) then my 16-35 L f/4.
(For sale, too - just got back from Canon - cleaned and calibrated)

70-200 L 2.8 IS - sale, also, fresh back from Canon. Upgraded to V II.
My first ever ridiculously sharp lens.

17-55 f/2.8 IS Loved this lens, used it as my main lens for years - ridiculously sharp, fast and great range (wide to classic 50mm range). Also, freshly recalibrated and cleaned from Canon - for sale.

Rokinon 8 mm 3.5 fish eye, manual focus - fun, but rarely use. For sale.

Oh, lol - I did buy a Sigma 18-200 with OS, I just can't bring myself to use it!
Still in the box, up for sale, as well.

Every time I bought a new lens, I justified it saying I'd use money from the sale of one of the above lenses - just never got around to listing them!

PM me if interested - I figured I'd sell to someone I know, or who knew me, hence the reason I had most sent to Canon for cleaning and calibration.

/Mitch

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Old 03-04-2016, 08:23 PM   #10
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I use a 15-85 on a crop sensor camera as my go-to lens, but I frequently switch to my 10-22 as I seem to, these days, have a "wide" eye/approach. I am unaware of any single lens solution that is the equivalent of a 10-85 sort of range, so it is really my taste for ultrawide that drives my multiple lens approach. I could see that a wide-to-long one lens solution might result in my trying more tele shots. I have some other lenses that get used from time to time, including a 70-200, a 135, and a 50. For trains I can do without the latter two and if I need to go light those are the first to exit the bag. My 17-55 generally does not get used for train stuff except at night with ambient light, when I need the /2.8 (it got a good bit of use before the 15-85 showed up). But it has its uses for indoor family stuff.
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Old 03-04-2016, 09:49 PM   #11
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I'm surprised you don't use the 17-55 2.8 more often.

After I bought mine, it rarely came off the camera.

The 17 end is nice and wide - inside shots, cab shots, and right in front of you stuff, yet the 55 end was 88 mm in a 1.6 crop body, which meant right there in the middle, you had your standard railfan 50 mm.

And all at f /2.8 with IS, no less.

I read it was an "L" quality lens that was not an "L" only because it was for a crop sensor.

/Mitch
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:01 PM   #12
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Cool How much telephoto?

Before I purchased my 18-140 I sorted through a bunch of pix from my last outing with my 18-200, and found that I rarely shot longer than around 150. I was a bit surprised because I would have guessed I used the long end more often. Since the 18-140 got pretty good reviews and a refurbished version was on sale for about $200, I grabbed it. Since it does not have the annoying zoom creep of my 18-200, the 18-140 has become my go to lens.
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:23 PM   #13
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Thanks for the input and great interaction here everybody as it's much appreciated and I'm sure others can visit this thread for great use of there own! I'm assessing all the options and taking notes to see what best suits me. I'm well aware the glass is where one's priority should be as it can make or break the time you take in photography as for getting the extra quality in your experience and am willing to dip a bit more into my wallet if I feel it's warranted and that is what I'm weighing right now and this feedback is great. I'm also scanning through many pictures to see what focal lengths I tend to use more to get a better feel of things too.

Thanks, Rich
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Old 03-04-2016, 11:37 PM   #14
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I'll be honest here, I think you asked the wrong question. Knowing what -I- or most everyone else here uses really doesn't help YOU. I live in the North and shoot at night. Troy lives in the South and shoots during day. We will predictably be using different lenses. Some of us like to set up shots, others like to chase. Kevin lives in the heavily forested boreal Quebedc, where distant views are less common. I live on the open Northern Plains and can see entire 110 car trains all at once. Some of us don't flinch at paying $2,000 for a lens, others are more value oriented. So with all of this in mind, I'll ask the question that I think you're really getting at:

"What can I buy to make sharper photos?"

There are three ways to go here:

1. Simply buy a DECENT tripod and DECENT ballhead and use it. I'm thinking of a SLIK or Induro carbon fiber tripod, a Photoclam ballhead, and a dedicated "L" plate for your camera. Look for used ones on ebay. Spend about $600 here. You will see a significant improvement just from this.

2. The "good value" route. These are excellent lenses that offer good flexibility and great optics. I suggest Nikon 16-85mm VR and Nikon 70-300mm VR lenses, used from ebay. Spend about $600 total here. If you don't shoot in dim light these are very good, and the 16-85mm is a very convenient zoom range.

3. The "performance/value" route. These are pro quality but priced low enough you should be able to stay married when your wife finds out. Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 HSM OS, Nikon 70-200mm f4 VR. Spend ~$1,100 Excellent lenses, and can be used in low light to give you higher shutter speed.

4. The "cost be damned" approach. Tokina 11-16mm f2.8, Sigma 24mm f1.4A, Sigma 35mm f1.4A, Sigma 50mm f1.4A, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR. Used, from ebay. Spend ~$4,000.

If you are otherwise happy with what you have but just want it a little sharper, option 1--the tripod, would be what I suggest. There is another lens option available I didn't mention, and that's the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8A. If you shoot in low light but still want a zoom, nothing is better than this lens. You would need to buy a couple of other lenses to go with it though, such as a 50mm and 70-300mm. Yet another I didn't mention was the new Nikon 16-80mm f2.8-f4. Reportedly excellent but it's a thousand bucks. Too new to find used ones on ebay. Paired with Nikon 70-200mm f4 VR this would just be killer, but we're talking $1,800 here. Anyway, I'm pretty "up" on what lenses are available for Nikon and what works. I would probably go with option 3, the Sigma 17-50mm and Nikon 70-200mm f4, and add a tripod. Pro quality, moderate cost. Any of the above options will give you improvement.


Kent in SD

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Old 03-04-2016, 11:49 PM   #15
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I'm surprised you don't use the 17-55 2.8 more often.

After I bought mine, it rarely came off the camera.

The 17 end is nice and wide - inside shots, cab shots, and right in front of you stuff, yet the 55 end was 88 mm in a 1.6 crop body, which meant right there in the middle, you had your standard railfan 50 mm.

And all at f /2.8 with IS, no less.

I read it was an "L" quality lens that was not an "L" only because it was for a crop sensor.

/Mitch
I am not as much concerned with image quality as you are, Mitch. Middle-grade lenses are pretty much fine for me. So the 15-85 covers the 17-55, it is slower but that does not affect me much for daytime railfan work, and it has IS. Oh, and for a walk-around lens, I really like shooting at 24 equivalent and the 15 gives me that and the 17 isn't close.

When I do need the faster lens I can still pull out the 17-55, as I did in Ridgeley a few weeks ago. And I pull it out for indoor family shots.

Before the 15-85 it was in fact the lens that stayed on the camera, albeit it came off more often because it was not long.

I've read the "L" thing too.
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Old 03-05-2016, 12:27 AM   #16
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Rich,

You've already had lots of great input here, but for what it's worth here's my 2 cents...

I bought my Nikon D90 in 2009 with Nikkor 18-55 and 55-200 kit lenses. I was never 100% happy with the 55-200 and the constant lens changing, so in 2011 I got a great deal on a 7-day return Nikkor DX 18-200 f3.5/f5.6 VR and it has basically stayed on my camera as a standard lens ever since. I still have the 18-55 and will sometimes use it, but I'm very happy with the 18-200, not only for railfanning but for general travel photography as well.

Hope you get what works best for you

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Old 03-05-2016, 12:46 AM   #17
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I am not as much concerned with image quality as you are, Mitch.

Sometimes I think we get overly obsessed with "image quality" (i.e. measurable things like CA, resolution, vignetting...) when we should be concerned "quality of the image" (i.e. interesting, engaging.) I'm as guilty as anyone. To counter it, I sometimes pull out my 1904 Kodak Brownie and go railfanning. I've taken some shots with it that I'm quite happy with. I find myself flip-flopping between the two extreme poles.


Kent in SD
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Old 03-05-2016, 02:02 AM   #18
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Sometimes I think we get overly obsessed with "image quality" (i.e. measurable things like CA, resolution, vignetting...)

Kent in SD
And we should be. Some of the things we shoot may never happen again...there are no re-takes. There are many mistakes a photographer can make on-scene, but one thing you can do in advance to give yourself a fighting chance is to make sure you have equipment you can count on. If the equipment isn't up to the job, nothing else matters.

A couple of years back when I bought my D4, one of the charter organizers that I follow thought I was nuts. He thought that camera was big-time overkill for my enthusiast hobby/habit. "Like buying a bulldozer to mow your lawn" was his analogy. OK, BUT....I was spending lots of $$$ on airline tickets, rental cars, hotels, food, and expensive charter tickets. More often then not I ended up shooting in high ISO territory, because charters don't get rescheduled if the weather is bad. After spending all of that loot, I was coming home with pictures that looked like crap.....no detail at 100%. All of a sudden, blowing 6 grand on a camera body didn't seem like a waste at all....even though I had to buy a whole new bag of glass to go with it.

I have never looked back. If I found a decent trade-in deal, I'd buy a D5 right now. The FF sensor matters. The FX glass is better.

BTW, I heartily recommend the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR that Kent mentioned. That is a great lens at a excellent price point and the VR is superb on it. If you want an f/2.8 lens, but don't have 2 grand to blow, get the Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8D. It doesn't have VR, but it's $1200. Best value on a well-made zoom that is both fast and sharp.
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Old 03-05-2016, 02:40 AM   #19
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One thing to keep in mind is that the higher grade lenses such as Canon L lenses, Sigma ART series, or Zeiss Batis/Otus are able to extract more megapixels from the cameras sensor verses the lower budget options. Tony Northrup did an excellent piece on Youtube explaining and showing examples of this. Even though you may have the top of the line Sony A7R2 or Canon 5DSR camera body, a lot of lenses aren't able to extract all of the sensors capabilities.

Since I am a Canon shooter, the 100-400L Mark 2 and the 16-35 F4 lenses have given me breath taking results. It really is amazing how much I am able to get away with.

Mitch and Noct hit the nail on the head with locations and conditions you normally shoot at. Me personally, I really enjoy shooting on the Northeast Corridor therefor I almost always use my 100-400 lens.

Bottom line: If you have the money definitely invest in glass. You can usually sell it years down the road for close to what you paid for it, and doesn't depreciate as quickly as a camera body.
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Old 03-05-2016, 03:51 AM   #20
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And we should be. Some of the things we shoot may never happen again...there are no re-takes. There are many mistakes a photographer can make on-scene, but one thing you can do in advance to give yourself a fighting chance is to make sure you have equipment you can count on. If the equipment isn't up to the job, nothing else matters.
I disagree about the "nothing else matters." The only thing that really matters is if the photo is -interesting.- I really only like about 5% of my own shots. It's very rare for me that an image fails because of the photo gear. In fact, I can't remember any in the past year or maybe two. Most of the rest are perfectly exposed, perfectly focused, perfectly sharp, and perfectly boring. What really matters is your ability to previsualize, make a compelling composition, and all of that usually boils down to your ability to efectively use Light.

As for retakes, that's true of virtually everything in a way, but there's always something else around the curve. The Chinese have a story about a man who told Lao Tsu, "Don't step twice in the same river." The point was to keep moving forward and not get into a rut. Lao Tsu replied, "It is impossible to step twice into the same river," meaning things are constantly changing from one moment to the next. For photographers, the main thing that is changing is the Light. It's a river of photons.

As for counting on your equipment, yes that is important. If it's unpredictable, it's difficult to previsualize. The Lomo crowd likes random quirks from gear and thrives on it, however. The phrase "gear you can count on" to me means it is consistent. The most consistent cameras I have are my 1942 Leica IIIc and my 2012 Chamonix 045n (4x5) film cameras. They have no batteries and no automation. They do exactly what I "program" them to, every time. No surprises from automation.

Hate to get too far into the philosophical on this thread, but in the end, any camera gear made in the past five years is going to produce very nice results, if it is stabilized so the image doesn't blur (tripod, VR, fast shutter.) Relatively few people will see any difference between images made with the cheapest gear vs. the most expensive. At least, up to an 8x10 print.


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Old 03-05-2016, 04:45 AM   #21
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I disagree about the "nothing else matters." The only thing that really matters is if the photo is -interesting.


Kent in SD
Hi Kent,

The scene can be as interesting as they come, but if your gear isn't up to capturing that scene with acceptable image quality, it really doesn't matter how cool the scene is. I regularly spend hundreds on photo charters. They shoot pre-sunrise, post sunset, in crappy weather, and they do night static scenes with steam engines and actors....under hot lights. A 1/8th second exposure might be fine with a parked diesel, but do that with a hot steam engine and the dynamo and stack plumes will be a big, ugly blur. People used to look at "long" night exposures. Now, they are passe. You need to be able to crank ISO to 2500 or 5000 and get your shutter speed up so that the steam looks nice and crisp, like the eye sees it. If the scene contains actors, they don't hold perfectly still. Again, you need some shutter speed to freeze them sharply, and maybe some DOF as well.

You're right.....for what MOST people shoot, a consumer body is fine and they should spend their loot on lenses. In my situation, I not only need good glass, I need a body that can reliably do the high ISO thing and give me a decent quality image. Consumer cameras like my old D90 or D7000 just couldn't hack it. As one of my colleagues recently put it, low light pictures on those cameras look like I drew the scene with a crayon when viewed at any magnification. The D750 and D4 give me a fighting chance come home with usable images vs. blurry noisy junk.
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Old 03-05-2016, 05:37 AM   #22
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People used to look at "long" night exposures. Now, they are passe. You need to be able to crank ISO to 2500 or 5000 and get your shutter speed up so that the steam looks nice and crisp, like the eye sees it. If the scene contains actors, they don't hold perfectly still. Again, you need some shutter speed to freeze them sharply, and maybe some DOF as well.

We have a different approach but end up with similar results. I do have fast lenses--f2.8 is my slowest. Two of my three most used are f1.4. However, I generally am shooting them at f5.6 or f8. The D800E is very clean up to ISO 3000 and 6400 looks very good. I very rarely go that high. Mostly I shoot night shots at ISO 800 and f5.6-f8. I have shot them ISO 400 and f11. Shutter speed is fixed at either 1/250s with my Nikon or 1/500s with my Chamonix (Copal shutter lenses.) The actual shutter speed doesn't matter much since the flash duration is around 1/1000s. (1/2000s if I dial down the power but double the number of flash.) That's my approach to "crispness." I pretty much only shoot "wild" trains, on the hoof. (Diesels running at track speed.) The difference is I rely on strobes rather than high ISO, since I am shooting "working" trains running down the track rather than stationary ones. Lenses are still important for me, but my night shots mostly rely on the dark-crushing brute power of 10,000ws of flash. I would like to try one of the photo set up deals, but there aren't any near me. I would like to try using a vintage 1920s camera & lens on b&w film for a vintage feel if I did.


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Old 03-05-2016, 06:46 AM   #23
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For what it is worth, I like the Nikon F1.8 lenses that they have been recently releasing. I have the 20, 24, 28 and 50 and find them better than any Nikon wide angle zoom or any of the film 2.8 wide angles that I have used in the past.

Fixed focal length lenses require a bit more thought for composition, but that extra thought can help!
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Old 03-05-2016, 12:20 PM   #24
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I'll be honest here, I think you asked the wrong question. Knowing what -I- or most everyone else here uses really doesn't help YOU. I live in the North and shoot at night. Troy lives in the South and shoots during day. We will predictably be using different lenses. Some of us like to set up shots, others like to chase. Kevin lives in the heavily forested boreal Quebedc, where distant views are less common. I live on the open Northern Plains and can see entire 110 car trains all at once. Some of us don't flinch at paying $2,000 for a lens, others are more value oriented. So with all of this in mind, I'll ask the question that I think you're really getting at:

"What can I buy to make sharper photos?"

There are three ways to go here:

1. Simply buy a DECENT tripod and DECENT ballhead and use it. I'm thinking of a SLIK or Induro carbon fiber tripod, a Photoclam ballhead, and a dedicated "L" plate for your camera. Look for used ones on ebay. Spend about $600 here. You will see a significant improvement just from this.

2. The "good value" route. These are excellent lenses that offer good flexibility and great optics. I suggest Nikon 16-85mm VR and Nikon 70-300mm VR lenses, used from ebay. Spend about $600 total here. If you don't shoot in dim light these are very good, and the 16-85mm is a very convenient zoom range.

3. The "performance/value" route. These are pro quality but priced low enough you should be able to stay married when your wife finds out. Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 HSM OS, Nikon 70-200mm f4 VR. Spend ~$1,100 Excellent lenses, and can be used in low light to give you higher shutter speed.

4. The "cost be damned" approach. Tokina 11-16mm f2.8, Sigma 24mm f1.4A, Sigma 35mm f1.4A, Sigma 50mm f1.4A, Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR. Used, from ebay. Spend ~$4,000.

If you are otherwise happy with what you have but just want it a little sharper, option 1--the tripod, would be what I suggest. There is another lens option available I didn't mention, and that's the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8A. If you shoot in low light but still want a zoom, nothing is better than this lens. You would need to buy a couple of other lenses to go with it though, such as a 50mm and 70-300mm. Yet another I didn't mention was the new Nikon 16-80mm f2.8-f4. Reportedly excellent but it's a thousand bucks. Too new to find used ones on ebay. Paired with Nikon 70-200mm f4 VR this would just be killer, but we're talking $1,800 here. Anyway, I'm pretty "up" on what lenses are available for Nikon and what works. I would probably go with option 3, the Sigma 17-50mm and Nikon 70-200mm f4, and add a tripod. Pro quality, moderate cost. Any of the above options will give you improvement.


Kent in SD
Kent, this thread and the responses is exactly what I was looking for when I started it as I'm looking at the total picture and am taking all variables into account with what I've read here and many other places. Good DD is covering all you can uncover and I'm used to doing that with following the market on potential investments just like this is here .

Part of my thinking as what I told my wife is exactly what Kevin has said about the time and money invested to be able to railfan and I look at my few chances to get out with my 2 full time farm jobs taking most of my time away spring through fall as another incentive to get the best all around equipment that is practical for me, as what good is spending all the time and getting a nice shot in theory only to have it marginal because I penny pinched on the glass. My budget doesn't allow me to have top of the line camera bodies (good enough to get the results I want though) now and I'm trying to upgrade a lens or two to maximize my efforts to save those memories I encounter.

I also do have a nice MEFOTO tripod that I like and that is not the issue but the VR capability is one that I want to address as my 70-300 is the only one having that now. I know to turn it off if on the tripod too. So, all this input is great for me and others as I've been toying with getting a n 18-200 or splitting that up into two groups and possibly getting a good deal on a used body to have two cameras ready to fire as a train goes through a scene at different focal lengths.
I'm sure I forget a thing or two but keep the thoughts flowing as my "sharpness" request was the tip of the iceberg so to speak.

Thanks all, Rich
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Old 03-05-2016, 01:15 PM   #25
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Rich, if you don't already I would go to B & H site, SLR lens and you can apply different screens and see what is available for what price.

I have been lurking on this thread and don't want to be a ?#@?# but in your original post I didn't get you already had a 70-300VR or that your 18-200 is not VR ("70-300 is the only one having that now.") Some of the other replies seemed to assume that, and just curious what DX 18-200 you would have that is not VR.

Before digital I had a small Nikon 28-200 plastic lens that turned out to be very well rated and the idea was Nikon made a mistake as they didn't want people to know you could make a pretty decent zoom for $300.00.

But getting back to you, if you have one of the decent 18-200 VR's and it is not beat up or sloppy in operation, probably little will be gained by a newer one.

If somehow you have a non VR 18-200, that certainly would be the item to look at. If you have very cheap 70-300VR, I think Nikon has one, then would be the next as thatis not a range for a cheap lens. When I used that combo I usually found circumstances dictated one or the other, not both for the same location.

And as was mentioned 50mm 1.8's come in different flavors, many are very good optics and give you some low light capabilities.

And finally, you never mentioned your camera body. People will always say the "glass is most important" but they are not usually using D200's?(which I like but.,,)

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