View Full Version : help with lenses for beginner

28-03-2010, 7:04pm
I am new to the forum - only a week and still finding my way around so apologise if in the wrong section ahead of time.
I have been looking for a few weeks for which camera to buy and decided on the Nikon D90. As I am going on long service leave to several O/S countries backpacking in September (Egypt, Turkey, Croatia, Denmark,Kenya - safari, and Rwanda - trekking highland gorillas and golden monkeys). I have a Nikon 18-200mm F3.5 - 5.6 VRII lens I won on ebay (I bid for the camera and lensoff the same guy and won the lens for $700 brand new as an insurance claim!). Still haven't bought the camera...

3 Questions - Which lens do you wonderful learned people suggest to photograph African wildlife ?
- Which lens for architecture/monuments?
- Which lens for low light to photograph Mountain gorillas.
- Which lens for macro?
I am so confused at lenses!!!!!!! I'd like the least for the most use for the trip. I don't intend to stop with the trip, but to photograph my grandchildren portrait style. If the 18-200mm does the lot great, but I am still researching. I only have 1 hour with the mountain gorillas, so every shot will be vital and it will be the rainy season.
In anticipation thank you so much.... I am just so confused.

I am not going until September, so have to practice, practice, practice. As am backpacking (even at my age), I what the minimilist I need to take to capture everything.

28-03-2010, 10:40pm
Hi, I am not too up with the scenery lenes and low light, but here are my suggestions.

Wild live is usually good for around the 400mm mark, not sure what is avail for nikon. but the 100-400 canon is a great lens.

Low light you will need a lens that has an f value starting at f2.8 for low light animal shots.

lanscape shots anything from 17 or 18mm to 55mm is good.

So maybe a suggestion of a lens that goes from 18 to 250mm and a 100 macro these macro lenses do make fantastic portrait lenses.

Problem being is what are the animals other than the norm in Africa you maybe after. because if you are reasonably close a 300mm may do but the 400mm is better.

very hard decision, maybe someone who has been there maybe able to help.


29-03-2010, 4:23pm
For Nikon bodies:

For architecture, you need a lens which won't show barrel distortion. A PC lens is really what you need but perspective control is probably way outside your ability at this point in time. If it wasn't then you would have already known of these lenses :D. They are also quite expensive - anywhere between $2K & $3K. Personally I would be looking at either a 35mm prime or maybe a 50mm prime. Certainly the 35mm if your using a DX type camera.

For mountain gorilla's you need to get close as the best lens will be the 70-200 f2.8 as I don't think you have the budget for a 400mm f2.0 at $12k, nor would you want to hike kilometres through jungle with it either. Its just too big and heavy. With a 70-200 you can always crop down as they provide a sharp as a tack image. The 70-20 f2.8 will set you back $3k. You could use a 80-200 f2.8 at $1500 but the IQ is nowhere near as good so cropping wont be as effective. It also lacks VR. Mind you both of these lenses are heavy for backpacking - not beyond the limit as would a 400mm prime but certainly not lightweights. Or you could just use your 18-200, it won't be a photographer of the year photo but it will certainly be good enough for most people.

For macro - I don't have a great deal of experience in this field unless its underwater so I wont recommend here.

Having said all of the above, what would I take in the same situation from my lenses below:-

The 80-400 - You can never get close enough when it comes to wild animals. Learn to bump your ASA up to make up for low light but dont go too far. The D90 is Ok but cant get high ISO without noise. Learn to remove noise at post processing. Take a monopod to support the lens at low shutter speeds.

The 24-70 for architecture and landscapes. When I did my last trip to UK & France it was my main lens. Out of 3000 images, about 2600 were taken with a wide angle. At that time I only had the 17-35 but it too will produce good stuff. Below 24 you will start to get barrel distortion which just becomes one more thing to fix in PP that you really dont need.

As for macro, do you really think you will have time on your hands to take macro photography? That means lugging a fair sized tripod and strobes and all the other stuff. Too much gear.

29-03-2010, 6:00pm
Hi there,

Just became a member today. I am on the same boat as you.

I started with a DSLR and a 18-200.

Then after a while I started looking at lenses for wildlife like the Zoo or Parks around my area. One leads to another, I ended up with a few lenses. A few mistakes on the way.

So based on the posts above, and my suggestions. You need 3 basic types
Wide Angle
All rounder
Zoom Telephoto

If you are on the budget, go with third party lenses
If you are looking long term, buy the investment glass usually the same brand as the DSLR.

Since you are travelling, you must consider weight.
I just came back from Grand Prix Melb and boy do I have a sore back from the heavy lenses. (lessons learnt)

If you are planning to take photo during the day MOST of the time, you can get away with the f/4 type lenses.
If you are planning for take photos during night time or indoors, you have no choice but to get the f/1.8 or f 2.8 types.

I am a Canon user so I wont recommend lenses. The following are lenses that you can consider based on my research on third party lenses

Wide Angle
Tokina 10-24
Sigma 10-22

All dayer
Tamron 17-50

Sigma 70-200 f2.8 + 1.4 teleconvertor
Tamron 70-200 f2.8 + 1.4 teleconvertor
Usually with telephoto lenses, you wanna stick with the same brand as your DSLR.

Last note, If you are thinking of upgrading to a full frame later in the long term, it may be wise to consider full frame lenses to begin with to save some cost in the long run.

Happy shooting.


04-04-2010, 5:28am
Thanks heaps for your input. I really appreciate the help. I am a teacher so use networking forums all the time. This is a new experience for me though.

Now on the right track. Will definatley be getting the 70-200 f2.8 for the wildlife. Didn't intend taking a macro ##### with me, just for photography at home. it will be my later on buy. I am thinking of getting the nikkor 18-200mmf 3.5 - 5.6 G ED VR11 to take as my all rounder and for landscapes. I know lots of money to outlay initially, but am making lots of sacrifices to do this. Hopefully I will learn quickly.

04-04-2010, 8:38am
Hi Cathy,
I'm still new to photography and like Peter have made a couple of lens mistakes on the way, well only one really, I bought a tamron 28-300mm a month or so after buying my first DSLR, good compromise lens, but i soon reached it's limitations and wanted more.

If i was going to travel and wanted to stay really light my choice would be Sigma's 17-70 and 70-200, i own both and have been more than happy with their performance.
The 17-70 is a great walk around lens, and a really good close-up lens, I've been able to get that close that i had to take off the lens hood, and with an aperture from 2.8-4.5, or 2.8-4 and OS on the new model.
The 70-200 is fast and can produce images just as good as the name brands, and is a fair bit cheaper, and with a 2X converter can produce the goods, some examples of Totalpanic's shots here http://www.ausphotography.net.au/forum/showthread.php?t=53199
Another thing, the new 70-200 has been released and now comes with OS, not sure of it's availability or price though.
So with 2 lenses and a TC, you can have a decent close-up/macro, and a focal range from 17-400mm

Hope this helps a little.

04-04-2010, 11:04am
You are going to make mistakes in buying lenses when you first take up photography :confused013 we all do, however as you become more experienced you will know what you want and the sort of photography in which you are interested and good quality lenses can be sold with little loss and new ones bought which suit your purpose. :)