…fundamentally no, but…
…the more I photograph, the more I try to stretch myself, then the more I find myself in positions where a different equipment setup would be beneficial.
With my step up to Nikon’s still brilliant D700 early this year, along with the subsequent purchase of the Nikkor 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 VR, I’m now able to take much sharper shots in much worse lighting conditions than before, something that I proved to myself with the results I obtained from this year’s Artsfest compared with previous years.
However, as this shot of Gustav Wood in action demonstrates, I would have been better off, if a grand and half poorer, with Nikon’s professional 70-200mm F2.8 VRII. The fact is, it was dark and he was moving a lot. That pro lens would have allowed me to go faster with the shutter and freeze him more accurately, or go a little lower on the ISO and result with a less grainy and cleaner shot.
Maybe a little bit of both would have been a nice compromise.
Along with the 70-300mm I also use both the 50mm F1.4 AF-S and 24mm F2.8 AF-D, both for low light capabilities, and both for wider shots than I can get from the larger lens when I can’t step back suitably. However, neither of those would get me close enough to my subject for events like Artsfest.
I have been looking at…
…a possible alternative recently in the much cheaper shape of the older 80-200mm F2.8 AF-D. Not available directly in the UK, but still sold openly in the USA and elsewhere, and a very solid used purchase if you can get one in very good condition. Seriously, there are plenty going on eBay.co.uk from sellers within 100 miles of home for a third of what the current 70-200mm F2.8 that replaces it goes for.
Sure, starting at 80mm instead of 70mm shortens your range, but the difference is barely anything and much of the time I would be zooming anyway. Also there’s no VR, but that is a fragile toy that will only devalue the newer and more expensive lens when it inevitably eventually breaks.
The older 80-200mm is simple, very solid and very sharp with no discernible optical disadvantage compared with its modern descendent.
However, do I really need it? It’s just one more thing to carry in my bag, a big heavy thing at that. It may be noticeably lighter than the 70-200mm, but it will dwarf any lens I currently carry. It’s focal length is a subset of the smaller 70-300mm I already use, it’s just faster.
With the introduction of Nikon’s D7000 we are now seeing the start of a new ‘4 year cycle’ in DSLR equipment and the fact that you can get higher resolution and better ISO performance in a DX body with a 1.5x crop factor offers an interesting, and ultimately money-saving choice. That 80-200mm F2.8 Nikkor may not seem to cover a wide enough zoom range on an FX body, but attach it to a D7000 and that 1.5x multiplication in effect transforms this lens into a 120-300mm F2.8. ‘Money saving?’ I hear you ask? Well, I admit that the best way to save money is not to spend it, but you have to consider that for a little under £2000 you can have this D7000/80-200mm combo, offering you that 300mm/f2.8 equivalent at its furthest reach, yet it will cost you more than twice as much just to buy the dedicated 300mm F2.8 prime to attach to the FX (D700/D3) body you have already paid for!
One of these days my little Nikon D80 will get replaced, and whether it’s the D7000 or a descendent that does the deed, it sounds like my range will be extended.
…like many things, not what you have, but what you do with it. I’m having fun with my Diana plastic 120 medium format camera at the moment (more on this later), and have also exercised myself by going out sometimes just with one of my 50mm or 24mm primes attached to the D700 and nothing else, so that I can concentrate on what I can capture with those.
But I also like variety, and whereas I may shoot a building one day and a person the next on a whim, there are times when something interesting, time constrained and beyond my control occurs and having the right tools for the job is a must.
I don’t think I need much more than I already have for much of the photography that I do, but that one more lens may help. Maybe I’ll have better shots from Artsfest 2011…