When I was younger, my SLR whet everywhere with me. I was an avid amateur photographer and have books and books of negatives and contact sheets. I travel a lot and grew tired of two things, viewing everything through a lens and lugging tons of glass and gear. So I decided it was time to become a tourist, loose the gear and got Contax G1. The lenses were awesome, I could still change them if I wanted to, but it was small(er) and quickly became a great travel companion. I knew it would be the last film camera I would ever own.
Last year, we decided to Safari in Africa. Now the G1 is nice, but I needed some serious glass and it was time to go digital so I started researching. Nikon just launched the Nikon D90 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
and it looked like a good choice for the money, and while not as good as Contax or Leica, I always liked the Nikon lenses so I started looking for a few good lenses to take with me. I still want to travel light, so 2 zooms were the answer.
Back in the day I became addicted to low light lenses. I LOVE the ability to shoot in low light without a flash and to control depth of field. My favorite SLR lens from was a 55 mm 1.4. At 4 or 5.6 it shot better looking photos than the slower lenses. Once I decided that I wanted f/2.8 and a zoom, I started looking at what lenses would go with my D90. I also make up my mind to spend more on lenses than on the body for two reasons. I could always upgrade the body and get more features, but the lenses I would keep for a long time. Also, the lens has more of an effect on the quality of the photo than the body.
I knew I would be shooting wildlife, so 300mm seemed to be the minimum I could get away with. More on that later. The FX lenses give you a 1.5x boost in focal length on a DX body. So the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S NIKKOR Lens For Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
actually works like a 105-300mm on my D90.
Before the trip I shot some shots around Park City and the results were stunning. I practiced on deer, elk, horses and even some landscape shots. I could not believe the quality at just about any focal length and f-stop. My biggest surprise came when my wife asked me to shoot a play the girls were in. I took my camera and armed with only a monopod, shot about 200 shots of the girls on stage with only available light. I know plays and shows look like there is a lot of light, but anyone who has attempted to shoot in that situation will tell you, there is simply not enough light. The detail and sharpness were stunning. Even shooting at f/2.8 the photos were clear and with and effective 300mm I could get very close. After my wife saw the photos, I was out of the dog house with the high price tag of the new camera outfit.
I needed one more wide angle zoom for snapshots so I got the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens
and just for nostalgia i also picked up the 55 f1.4. I packed everything up into a Lowepro Fastpack 250 (Black)
and set off for Africa. Read the blog at and view photos at View some Photos at: [...]
I shot about 4000 photos and while on Safari and either I am a better photographer now or a good camera can bring out the best in a person. Now I know people shoot photographs, not cameras - but I also know a musician will not use a beginner instrument to perform once they become proficient.
The photographs were excellent. The Vibration reduction came in handy and together with the wide aperture, allowed me to shoot clear photographs using a monopod or handheld. The color and detail were exceptional. I was able to get some wonderful shots of wildlife and the countryside. With one of the slower to focus lenses I would have missed about 20% of my shots.
The only negatives: The lens if heavy and long, so if you are not as concerned about quality you can get a DX lens for less money and save your back. But I wanted the versatility of f/2.8 and the sharpness of pro lens. I hiked tons of miles and do not regret having to carry this lens at all. It is expensive, but if you have the money, get the lens. If you decide like I have to upgrade to an FX format camera this lens will serve you well.
Here is my biggest recommendation, if you are going on Safari, 300mm is about the SHORTEST lens that will work. I found myself wanting more OFTEN. I would recommend going to 500mm if you are looking to shoot wildlife. The large game shots were good, but smaller game needed more, and if you are looking to shoot birds, I would say 500mm is the minimum. Who knew that Africa was so rich in bird life? I was not prepared and as such got very few good photographs of birds.
In summary, if you need to shoot sports or shows in available light, this is your lens. If you are looking for an excellent quality lens to shoot action or wildlife outside - this is your lens. If you are looking to shoot birds, go long - very long.