Monday, 7 February 2011

Decisions, Decisions

It's February. The weather is miserable, the evenings are dark, and the mornings are grotty. Sounds like an ideal opportunity to escape somewhere else, and so we are. A 4 night city break in Prague awaits.

But now I have a quandary. Last time we went I only had 1 lens on my old Fuji S1. The kit Nikon 28-105mm f/3.5-5.6. Not the fastest, widest or longest lens in history but a good enough all-rounder. I got some nice shots with it, even though I was primarily shooting in P mode and storing the images as JPEG. Its tendency to choose f/9 at ISO 320 on the 3 megapixel crop sensor means that the depth of field is very deep indeed.

This time my kit bag and general technique has changed somewhat. I have a Canon EOS500D in it along with 3 lenses and a speedlight. I have taken to shooting RAW and processing in Aperture. I try to shoot in Av or M most of the time as I find that, for most things I shoot, depth of field is more important than precisely controlled shutter speed. And of course, two of my lenses now have image stabilisation built in so I get a stop or two of extra non-shakiness thrown in for free.

But what to take? As with last time, we have no checked luggage. Only hand luggage. This limits how much I can take as my usual kit takes up a rucksack all on its own. I have a smaller bag (much smaller, body + lens only) so something will have to stay behind.

So with the bag chosen, what can I fit in it? My choices appear to be thus:

EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

With this beasty on the body, there is no room for anything else in the bag. If I take this lens, I can't take anything else unless I want to carry it around in my coat pockets. I don't fancy lenses knocking about in pockets.

On the other hand, I know how useful the 28-105mm Nikon lens was last year. This would be like having the same lens, but with benefits. Firstly the extra 20mm focal length might come in handy. Secondly the image stabilisation would come in very useful. The lens is the same speed as the Nikon, but the IS might make it just a touch more useful.

Maybe I wouldn't need anything else?

EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS and EF 50mm f/1.8

The other option I have is the kit lens, the ubiquitous EF-S 18-55mm, and the "nifty fifty". I can fit both of these in the bag at the same time; one at the bottom protected by foam inserts, and one on the body.

This combo would give me certain benefits over the EF 28-135mm.

  • Much wider at the wide end (equivalent to 16mm difference on full frame)
  • Much faster at 50mm (f/1.8 instead of f/4.5)
  • Nifty fifty is my "go to" lens
  • Both lenses together weigh less than the EF 28-135mm

It would also give me a couple of disadvantages.

  • Two lenses = changing lenses rather than just sticking with one
  • Not as long at the telephoto end (equivalent to 128mm difference on full frame)


With the minor issue of swapping lenses occasionally, the only real advantage to the EF 28-135mm is the much longer focal length. It's even 58mm longer (full frame equiv) than the 28-105mm I took last year thanks to the bodies' slightly different crop factors. That's quite a lot longer. But does having the opportunity to zoom a long way outweight the benefits of the others?

I'm going to have to say no. Having a reduced maximum focal length is more than outweighed by speed, a wider wide angle and, frankly, much lower weight. I'm going to be carrying this lot about all the time. I don't want to get neck ache from it. As I mentioned, my "go to" lens is the nifty fifty, simply because 80mm is a pretty good "out and about" focal length for touristy things, and for taking photographs that fill the frame and avoid traditional tiny-object-surrounded-by-not-much issues. A 35mm f/2 or 28mm f/2.8 might be preferable due to being closer to a "normal" lens on a crop body, but frankly for the amount it will cost to buy one when I'm already skint, I'm sure I can do without.

Decision: made.

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