First up, this thread is not about whether or not you would buy one, or if like them or not, we've been there and done that before. BTW This thread was inspired by a post at Photography Life The Question of 18-300mm Lenses, Part Deux
While modern cameras resolution pushes the optical ability of super zoom lenses, I am often left wondering what I would do if I was going on the trip of a life time with extreme weight restrictions, or if I had to downsize my camera bag due to economic or heatlh reasons. I know some people might say, "if I could only have one lens, it would be a 50mm (or this or that prime)", but we all know that depends on a persons style. I'm not looking for a, "this is my favourite lens" , or "this is the best in this range, so just crop to get what you want" post here. This is a therietical, would you use a super zoom under x conditions question (see conditions below).
Lets take the author of the articles ending statement (he says if he was trapped in a desert with only one lens, it would be his super zoom) to the next level, of a once in a life time trip/assignment. Remember, for this scenario getting the images you want/need are more important than whether the lens used would give the best possible resolution on a test chart. You won't be putting these images on a billboard, or making 24x36+" prints. The images will be presented either on a projector (1080p), or on smallish prints (8x10 or around that size). You can only carry a smallish kit, and your camera equipment cannot weigh more than 2000g (including camera, lens(es), batteries, cards, chargers, bag), but you need to cover the focal lengths provided by a super zoom (18-200/18-300/28-300mm). You also need to be able to switch the zoom range often, due to the speed in which you have to move/travel during the shoot.
So what would you do?
A) Suck it up and take the super zoom
Take a light weight two lens kit, DX 18-55mm VR and 55-300mm VR / or FX 24-85mm VR and 70-300mm VR
C) Another light weight lens combination that would fit these requirements (list what you would take, and how much the kit would weigh so we know it fits the requirements).
I know some might say, "I'll take a mirrorless camera setup, my take a crop sensor fixed lens Fuji/Nikon/Ricoh and crop the images later, or a high quality super zoom point and shoot (aka Sony RX10)". Let's just leave that off the table for the sake of this discussion. Focus on what you would do, if you had to take a DSLR, with the listed conditions.
Okay, let the craziness proceed!
If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
Is it an African Safari? An indoor tour through museums in Europe? A trip to watch the world cup in Brazil? A snorkeling and diving trip?
There is no one camera that does everything well. I read that PL post yesterday (and really enjoyed it LOL), but the author admits there are different cameras for different needs. Photographing an elephant I would choose the 800mm, but it does make taking selfies difficult:
My favorite walk around full frame lens is actually by Canon, the 70-300 DO. Its super tiny and perfect for nearly everything outdoors. I would also add the Canon lens cap-sized 40mm 2.8 for indoor shots. The total weight and size of those two lenses combined is ridiculously small.
On Nikon, I would just take the 85 1.4 (if I needed a little more distance) or the 50 1.8 (if I needed a little wider) and call it day. Either is sufficiently sharp that when combined with the great current Nikon sensors, the photos can be cropped down to the required picture resolutions with ease (hence I wouldn't worry about zooming).
My last trip - I took my big gear - It Sucked! The gear did great, but let's face it, a D-whatever with a 77mm lens front looks intimidating to people and it is very cumbersome getting in and out of boats, cars, vans, etc., bangs into other people - its a 4-6lb dumbbell swinging around. I ended up using a digi cam and my X100 most of the time (sightseeing non-photo focused) and my 24-120vr F4 the times when I wanted better images. I was missing the longer zoom constantly. The fact is you can't move closer or further with your feet due to safety, time constraints, or trespassing. At the end of the trip, I really wished I had the 28-300vr and a 16-35vr with an 85 and either a 35 or 50 primes. That would have covered every situation imaginable.
"...modern cameras resolution pushes the optical ability of super zoom lenses..."
I do believe lens "testers" like DxO and the like do a great disservice when it comes to this stuff. It's ability or how well it performs has not changed nor does any sensor make a lens soft. What has changed is that you can now zoom in 4000% and see a blotch where an eyelash would be, where before you got pixels at 1600% zoom.
The real question is, Do you want the shot when it is there, or do you want to arbitrarily limit yourself because some tester single metric said X lens was marginally better then lens Y. A good shot is much better than nothing. A full frame shot is better than a 50% cropped shot from the best glass.
I love to see Bob Krist's photos and articles and many of the images he has taken for NatGeo was with super zooms. I have been quite amazed to see how many NatGeo and pro photographers utilize super zooms when traveling.
Since you insist on having the 300mm, I would probably think about a zoom that covered the telephoto range and using my 20, 28 and 50mm manual focus lenses (though the 50mm 1.4G is lighter and the 1.8G even more so) in the wide to normal range. Then I would buy the best camera that would not exceed the weight limit, hopefully a DF. I would sacrifice the telephoto range quality if that is what it took to get a DF. I would then carry everything in my Billingham Photovest to save weight on the camera bag - is this cheating? Not sure if this would get me to 2,000 grams, but it would be easy to lose that weight (it blows me away how many 20lb overweight guys will spend thousands and thousands of dollars to save 5lbs on a bike).
Come to think of it, I notice that you specified 28mm in the wide end. I would rather have 20mm than 300mm, so my range would be 20-200mm. For me it is more about landscapes and architecture than animals.
And if it was still too heavy form me to carry, regardless of whether it is 2,000 or 4,000 grams, then I probably should not be travelling.
It is very convenient.
Scott Kelby with the 28-300 VR
Just a note on trying to "get away" with filling pockets with your gear (I have read this many places as well) only works on US and international flights on larger planes. When you get on puddle jumpers they know the weight of the loaded plane and you will have to leave gear, suitcases, people, etc. PB_PM is correct, there is no getting around it.
"slight reduction in sharpness" - have you checked to make sure you are at the same zoom level? I'm fairly sure that is the difference. My 70-300vr looked soft to me as well - until I matched the zoom level that I got on my D300. Pixel peeping is a very, very bad habit, and even more so now with the 24-36mp cameras. I recall reading a good post once about someone who calculated that if a D800 image was printed to the size of 10 foot tall on the short side, a pixel would be smaller than the size of a dime. (Someone else can work out the math on that and report back) Their point being, what you think is soft, is actually so small, it would not be printed on an 8x10.
2) 300mm FOV for Fx and 300/450mm FOV for DX
3) 2Kg or less..
answer in order of weight and high ISO needs. AW1 for all weather or underwater requirements.
1) P600 or L330
2) AW1 or V3 + 10-100 and/or 11-27
3) D7100 or D5300 or D3300 + 18-300 or 18-200 or 18-140
4) FX camera + 28-300.
Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.
I will defer to your comments on the puddle jumpers. I have not been on many.
That would be so difficult for me since 95% of my pictures are taken with my 17-55 & 70-200mm lens. But for heath or weight reasons, I would take my D7100 and get a super zoom.
|SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
To answer my own question from the original post: I'd say A) Suck it up and take the super zoom. I would take the 28-300mm VR to put on one body (D800). I would love to also take the 16-35mm F4G VR, but it would push me over the weight limit. The advantage of this setup would be that I could use a smaller camera bag, or put the gear into a hiking bag, which would allow for the transport of other goods.
From the last paragraph of the OP.
Unfortunately, I am dirt poor.
But then if I were trapped on a desert island, the last thing I would be concerned with is taking pictures. LoL