Let’s face it. We all got into photography for whatever reasons and at one point or another, we all picked up random lenses and bodies whether we choose to admit it or not. Chances are that many of us have made hundreds of purchases related to photography over the years to keep up with technology advancements, but I’d venture to say that not all of those purchases have been as great as others.
Bear in mind that these are reviews of bodies and lenses that I own. The D3S has been surpassed by the D4, D4S and the D5, but the D3S is still a very solid beast. Both the Nikon 24-70mm and the Nikon 70-200mm lenses have newer versions that include advanced vibration reduction. As I haven’t tested those lenses, I can’t comment to say if they’re worth the additional cost. These lenses are still available and work very well for me.
DX to FX
I’ll spare you the boredom that would soon follow reading the list of my first digital cameras – It’s just not impressive or special by any means. Instead, I’ll start at when I upgraded from DX format Nikon bodies to FX format; something that I certainly consider monumental in terms of the purchases I’ve made thus far.
I should note that there’s nothing wrong with DX format cameras. In fact, both of my D200s saw plenty of use trackside and in the press pits during fashion week for years. The decision to purchase a FX format Nikon D700, was largely influenced by my lust for a few FX Nikon lenses, particularly the holy trinity – the 14-24 mm, 24-70 mm, and 70-200 mm. I didn’t want to invest in high quality lenses for a DX format body when upgrading to FX felt inevitable.
I now shoot mostly with a Nikon D3S with another D3S by my side a solid back-up.
The Nikon Lenses – The Holy Trinity
Nikon makes a lot of zoom lenses to fit different needs and budgets. I find these to work best for my needs, so I spent the money to get the Nikon Trinity of Zoom Lenses.
You can find cheaper lenses with a longer focal range, lighter weight, and lower cost. If those are the factors that are most important to you, then you should get those lenses.
My desire was for quality over all other considerations. That means I wanted lenses with a fast, silent and accurate auto focus mechanism. I wanted a constant f/2.8 aperture available through the entire zoom range.
It also meant that I wanted 9 round-edge aperture blades instead of six, perhaps with sharp edges on the end of the blades. I like my bokeh fuzzy with round highlights, and these lenses deliver all that.
These factors are a matter of personal preference. Most things in photography have some kind of compromise. When someone invents a lens that covers the entire focal range, has perfect bokeh, weighs three ounces with stunning build quality and costs under $100, I’ll be in line to buy it.
Any lens can take a nice photo on a sunny day. When you start shooting in difficult situations, your lens may be the difference between getting or missing a shot. That’s why I love and recommend these Nikon Zoom Lenses.
Recently, I had the opportunity to update my Nikon Zoom Lenses. It seemed time to add some new insights behind the choices, including how some of the features translate into benefits.
Here’s what you’ll find in the upgrade summaries.
- A brief introduction to my primary use of the lens
- A list of the features
- A detailed discussion of how those features benefit my photography
Nikon 14-24mm f2.8G
Ultra-Wide Angle Lens for Special Occasions
I think of the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8G lens like the ace up your sleeve. This lens is one of those wonderful pieces of glass that you pull it out when you are limited with space, but want/need to capture the grandeur of the scene.
Like the other zoom lenses mentioned here, it keeps its f/2.8 aperture throughout its range.
It’s also the perfect low-light walk around lens. Many places around Tokyo are crowded, so you can’t take a tripod or lug around a backpack full of glass. I reached for this lens, both to capture the entire scene and also to rely upon it for clean shots.
That’s partly due to the f/2.8 aperture – fast glass – and also because it’s much easier to hand hold shorter focal lengths without blur caused by your hand shake. The Nikon 14-24mm lens worked perfectly.
Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G
My Most Used Lens
Most of my photos are taken with the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G lens. It’s a perfect walk around lens, covering the range from wide angle to mid-telephoto. When I don’t want to burden myself with a bag full of lenses, this is the single lens I choose.
Like the Nikon 70-200mm lens, it’s a professional grade lens with solid construction, reliable auto-focus and excellent image quality.
The focal length offers great versatility to capture everything from a travel scene to an environmental portrait.
It’s perfect for environmental portraits, when you want to push in close to your subject, yet still have a wide angle to include the location.
Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR
The Event Workhorse and Select Portrait Lens
The Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens is a professional workhorse. It’s a standard for event and portrait photographers. It’s built tough to withstand working conditions, yet creates a range of stunning images from soft bokeh to sharp detail.
Vibration Reduction lets you get sharp images even at slower shutter speeds, which is pretty common for events, weddings and entertainment shots.
Don’t underestimate the silent and reliable auto-focus system in Nikon lenses. Great image quality only matters if you can lock onto your subject, particularly in difficult conditions where things change every second.
It wasn’t long after purchasing my first FX format camera that I was able to justify spending a large chunk of cash on my first professional Nikon lens, the 70-200 f2.8 VR. I was in love with this lens before I ever even held it in my hands and had done a ton of research, which ultimately led to being able to mount one on my own cameras.
Since making the purchase, I’ve completed my collection of the holy trinity and I’ve added a few quality prime lenses to my kit as well, but none give me the feeling, or can quite produce the images that my beloved 70-200 does (Insert argument for the latest and greatest here).
Flash vs Strobes
Sometime around 2013 I became really interested in images being created by photographers that were proficient in the use of off camera lighting. I fooled around with a few different, inexpensive constant lighting options, before concluding that they were obviously better suited to a studio photographer, and not quite what I was after.
After more research, it became evident that speedlights would fit my needs nicely. I chose to stick with Nikon, since I hadn’t been let down yet, and purchased my first Speedlight, a couple of SB-800s. There was a serious learning curve here for me, and looking back on things, I probably shouldn’t have been so thrilled with the results I was getting. I was triggering the flash with my camera’s pop up flash, which if you’ve ever relied on, you quickly find the limits of that method. I was also using a bare flash, often over powered, and had zero understanding of the purpose of light modifiers.
Since 2014, I picked up a small 150w/s studio strobe with an umbrella to play around with and practiced different lighting techniques and really saw a jump in my game. This led me to look into more powerful lighting and came across the VISICO5(TTL) strobes. These lights are powerful 400w/s with built-in 2.4gHz wireless powered by lithiunm-ion batteries, which meant great for shooting on location. With these new additions, I picked up a couple 80cm octaboxes along with a 140cm stripbox as my go-to modifiers.
Here’s where I might catch some flack, considering many of Apple’s loyal users are beginning to bite the hand that has fed them for the last 20 years or so. I was never an Apple fanboy. In fact, I was quite the opposite. I didn’t like Apple’s high price point and that was my argument for PC’s. The fact was, Windows works fine in the beginning, but over time the OS seems to get bogged down just don’t work the way I needed it too, and if it did, the celebration was never long-lived.
After my Sony Vaio laptop began to show its age, I quickly grabbed my Toshiba Dynabook that works great for pulling my data of my CF cards and then pushing in through LR to upload into my cloud storage at big events, I still needed something that could be dependable. I decided it was time to make the switch, only I did so hesitantly. I found a used 2015 13” Macbook Book Pro on Craigslist for sale for seven hundred dollars from a foreigner here in Japan claiming that he didn’t need his recent purchase anymore because of his work. Upon inspecting the computer and seeing that he had just received it as a gift weeks before with gift receipt included, I figured I could do worse and made the purchase. I can’t say anything about the benefits of using a Macbook Pro for photo work that hasn’t already been written about a hundred times before. They just work – and that’s golden.
As your photography skills grow and you piece together your photography kit over time, you’re bound to make purchases that are less than ideal. Hopefully sharing my experiences with you may help steer you in a direction you’re happy with. I hope you enjoyed my the recent changes and updates. If you have any questions, ask me in the comments and I’ll answer. Have there been any photography related purchases that you’ve made over the years that you’d make again? Again, share in the comments below.