Keeping It Simple – Back to Africa: Lenses

chris martin photography - lenses

At the end of Part 1 I promised this post would be about the bag. I got ahead of myself.

On last year’s trip, I took four lenses: 10-22mm, 24-105mm, 50mm, 70-200mm, plus a 1.4x TC.  These items, plus all the other stuff: body, tripod, monopod, flash, triggers, etc. were lugged along, on my person, for 10-12 hours a day, in the backpack and/or the Think Tank modular pouches.  It was heavy, uncomfortable, and little unwieldy and I looked silly for where I was.  For this trip the goal is just two bodies and two lenses.

chris martin photography - BridgeUsing Adobe Bridge filters, I looked at how I used, or if I used the collection of lenses that I took last year.  The Bridge results very interesting.  I realize that the results (left) were a function of what I took, but I still think that is good information.  I had to dig a little deeper into Bridge to see what different focal length range data looked like and then call up a trusty spreadsheet for a little analysis.  It looked to me like I could really get by with the 70-200mm and a new wide telephoto, say in the 15 or 17 to 55 or 85mm.  I never even used the 50mm prime.

Thus began hours and hours of researching a new wide telephoto. Seemingly the answer would be simple, except that a new lens was NOT the only item on my list of other items to acquire.  Add to that the wide cost and quality range of lenses in this category.   This single issue has sucked away more of my time than I even care to admit.  The only wide telephoto that I could possibly afford was going to be the Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD IF or the Sigma AF 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC HSM OS macro.  The Canon 17-40mm F/4 L USM or Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS = too pricey.

chris martin photography

I actually used to have the Tamron 17-50mm.  It went to Scotland with me in 2007 and did a fine job.  I sold that lens to my son and he let me borrow it yesterday to shoot around with.  While it was fun to shoot with again, there were some things that I just don’t think are going to work.
  • I had forgotten how loud the motor on that lens is.
  • In high contrast situations, it never, ever found focus.
  • IS can really come in handy in certain situations.
This is not a vacation trip where sometimes convenience can overshadow a little drop in quality.  Not to slam lenses like the Tamron, but the existing stuff is just better than the affordable alternative.