Travel photography means variety. You shoot what you see. Well, the things you see that you like the look of anyway. To cater for this, I’ve always carried a bag full of lenses – mid range zoom (24-70mm), telephoto zoom (70-300mm), wide angle (14-24mm) and some low light, low DOF lenses (50mm, 85mm f/1.8). I’ve even carried a 105mm macro as well.
Now, all of that lens swapping means you sometimes don’t shoot something, or you miss the moment, and as these trips are almost always family trips, they get frustrated when you need to stop to swap lenses. So – enter the super zoom. To solve all of this I bought Nikon’s 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 super zoom lens. This and my little 20mm AIS will make up my entire lens payload for the next trip, Sure I’ll probably take a couple of others with me, but I’ll walk around just with these two. They cover the entire focal range I’ll need for 99% of the shots, and low light performance on the D800 is so good, it’s not really a problem that the zoom is not the fastest lens ever made.
I tested it out a bit this afternoon while I was out on the back garden putting the coal bunker together. Autofocus can be a bit slow – it seems to shuffle a little bit after the initial movement, and it does back-focus a little bit (focuses behind what you actual pointed the AF cursor at) however this seems consistent across the zoom range and a –3 fine tune adjustment sorted that. Everything else works as expected – it has Vibration Reduction, and a switch to lock the lens at 28mm to stop it extending under its own weight. I don’t think it will do this anyway though – it’s pretty tight.
Image quality is not quite the same as my bag of lenses. The 70-300mm has the edge on it by quite a margin, however for travel shots, the quality is more than enough. Plus – I should point out, I took all the shots on this page within minutes of each other, and I think it’s pretty impressive to be able to shoot a cow* standing 3 feet away from me, followed by a telescope some 15 miles away and then the moon, at approximately 239,000 miles way all with the same lens. All the shots are handheld, on manual at 1/400th of a second and f/5.6. However, and this is something i find myself doing more and more these days, the exposure is still chosen by the camera. How can this be if the camera is on manual? Auto ISO is on, so the camera adjusts the ISO to get the exposure it wants. I used spot metering on the moon, with a –1 EV adjustment. With so little gear to carry (the two lenses, plus cards and spare battery, and maybe a polariser) I may not even need a bag – just a big pocket… Now I just need to sort out a tripod. I’ve purchased a small set of Giottos carbon legs for £119 from Calumet. Now I just need to add a lightweight ball head with ARCA plate. More on that later….
* “cow” is a gender assignment (opposite of “bull”). Eg we say “cow elephant” or “bull elephant”. However, even though these bovine creatures are ever present in human life, we have no word for them. Sure we say “cattle”, but what about the singular: this is a … what? A cow what? Same goes for “dog” (opposite of “bitch”) what is it though? A dog what?