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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Trip Prep - Part 1


I have been writing this blog for a couple of months now, and until now the people who read it have been primarily the people that I know. But now that I'm about to invite a greater community to read my blog, I guess an introduction of sort is in order:

My name is Justin, and I'm about to travel around the world for a year, with my girlfriend. I'm from New Zealand. I'll fly to Korea, then from there, I'll try and move generally westwards, with as little flying as possible.

Intended route, as currently planned.



As it turns out, I like taking photos. The photographic equipment that I'll be taking with me has been something that I thought a lot about. I think I have decided on what to take.

Cameras


D700 is a photogenic camera.


I have had my trusty D700 for a year and a bit now. It's old technology, but as far as I can see, it still performs like one of the best of the latest generation cameras.


D600, not so much, I personally find.
Like one of the best of the latest generation cameras, I said, but slightly worse than this one, for sure. At this point, if you're saying 'WTF are you going to carry two full frame bodies', then my answer is yes. Annalise, my girlfriend and partner in travel, also likes taking photos, and we decided that we might as well have compatible bodies (ahem).

I know there are about a million different websites that specialises in comparing cameras, and I have no intention of doing my own.

I could corroborate on some points of interest, though - for example, on my old Core 2 Duo laptop that I process my photos using Lightroom, the raw files out of D600 are a pain in the butt. I much prefer the less-sluggishness of the D700 files (although it's nowhere near snappy).

D600 also has an appreciably higher dynamic range... at least looking at the JPEGs out of the camera. It's very noticeable on cloudy days - D600 is far superior when it comes to resolving details out of clouds.

Cloud-resolving power is mega important.


They are heavy cameras - there's no way of getting around that. But the high ISO performance, weather sealing, good controls, tough build, and all these other things are important, too. Right?

Well, to be perfectly honest, my fear is that if I leave these cameras at home, I'm going to regret not taking them with me.

I'm sure there will be a sunrise, or something, through the fog or something, making a fantastic display of light and stuff, and I'll be cursing myself for not having the right tool to photograph it.

What am I going to do without a proper camera in this situation?!

Lenses


So, we have compatible bodies, what lenses are we going to take?

The first lens that I picked was an easy choice.

Yes, that's a keep-cap. No shame.


This is by far the best lens I've ever used. It has an incredible angle of view, amazing sharpness, effective VR that lets me hand-hold 1/2sec shots, and on and on. It's become one of my hammers, with which everything just looks like massive panoramas. Even when they are not.

In fact, this lens is a big part of the reason why I got my D700 in the first place.

A random sample of 16-35mm 
The second lens choice, also, was just as easy

Yes, I do use filters. They are invaluable in harsh conditions.


I learnt how to take photos with an old Nikon FE with its old 50mm 1.4 AI. While not a great lens, it was the ONLY lens I had, and I loved it. And through the years of owning small digital cameras, then DSLRs with zoom lenses, I've always longed to go back to the feel of 50mm f/1.4.

So here it is. Its diminutive size and weight is perfect for walking around a street with, too. It normally lives on the D600, in Annalise's hands.

The softness, flare, ghost, bokeh - everything that's not in focus is beautiful with this lens.

For a while I played with the idea of carrying one camera and one lens for each of us - which would've made this list complete. But then I found another hammer, which, this time, makes everything look like a perfect macro opportunity.

No way to take a macro shot of the macro lens itself.

The lazy part of me, who doesn't like leaving home very much, loves this lens. It can make anything and everything look interesting simply by letting me get very very close to things.

I also figured that I need a decent telephoto range lens. So it's a two-in-one lens.

One thing about this lens is that it doesn't make a very good portrait photos. That's just fine by me, because I don't take very good portrait photos, either.

Closest thing I have to a portrait taken by this lens.

And that was going to be it, until I found this little guy:

That's the guy in the middle. 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6, no AF-S, no VR.


This lens is surprisingly contrasty - if not entirely sharp all the time. It also has the typically limited aperture range, but if I need a lens to document stuff, then this is it.

Compared (from memory) to my other zoom lenses, it's better than 18-70 (the kit lens to D70), and worlds better than my old 18-200 VR - although it's not a fair comparison. The 18-200 has had way more dings and drops and bangs than any lens deserves.

The only real complaint about this lens is the truly unfathomably slow auto focusing. It literally takes years to get anything into a focus. Literally.

Couldn't find a sample with 28-200mm, so here's a sample with 18-200mm.
And that's it. Two bodies, four lenses: ultra wide, fast normal, macro, superzoom.

Hope it doesn't weigh me down to the ground!

.J

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