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California Coast Trip Lenses

edited March 17 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
Hey there,

My (soon-to-be) wife and I will be taking our honeymoon in San Francisco and Muir Beach over the up-coming Memorial Day weekend. Since this will be our first trip to the West Coast, I want to bring my camera along and take tons of pictures. I currently have the D3200, 18-55mm non-vr kit lens, 55-200mm non-vr kit lens, and 35mm f/1.8 prime lens. I'm really interested in photographing a Pacific sunset, Redwoods in Muir Forest, historical sites, and potentially any wildlife (otters would be great). I was hoping to carry only 2 lenses with me on the trip since we will be flying from Georgia, but that isn't firm.

Do I need something wider than the 18-55mm to adequately capture the landscapes and redwoods?
Should I upgrade the 18-55mm to VR and use that as my wide angle?
Should I purchase a wide angle lens and rent a super telephoto?
Perhaps a used Nikon 18-300mm would be the better option?

I'd like to keep my costs under $600, if possible.
I really appreciate any help.

Thank you,
Alec

Comments

  • edited March 17
    VR would be nice, but at wider angles you hardly really need it. 18mm is not super wide but it's decent for this sort of thing. A couple of years ago I took my D3200 to California and got pretty good coverage from the 18-55mm and 55-300mm. My D3200 came with the VRI lens, and I do like having at least a little, but one can live without it.

    Where VR really helps a lot is in the telephoto range. If you're traveling and hand holding, you might consider upgrading that one first. The newer 55-300mm is said to be good, and the 55-300mm, though its auto focus is lackluster, is nice and sharp, and very portable, and the VRII works well. I have that one, and it has been a good traveling lens, with enough reach to get some decent wildlife, especially with the dense D3200 sensor which allows a bit of cropping if you get the focus right.

    A super zoom is convenient, but you are likely to lose a little sharpness over the more limited pair you have now. If you are tempted by that, I'd recommend you try it out first, to be sure you like it.

    One possibility might be the more modest 18-140mm zoom. This is offered as a kit lens on the D7x00 and optionally on the D5x00 family. It's not quite up to pro level in construction but it's considerably nicer made than the plastic 18-55mm, with a metal flange, manual focus override, and a non-rotating front element that allows you to use a polarizer easily. My wife got this with her D7100, and it's very sharp and well behaved. It also has VRII. You lose some on the long end, but it's so sharp even at 140mm you may still be ahead cropping. Used, you can find these under $300. You might also find a good used bargain in the 55-300mm. KEH.com often has them. They have decent warranty and return policies, so although their prices may be a bit higher than some, you get good stuff. I would not hesitate to get anything in the "excellent" or better range. I've bought a several bargain grade manual lenses from them, and would consider that for AF, but manual lenses are tough and simple, so excellent is a better bet there. Be aware that they may not have caps and hoods unless they say they do.

    If you didn't have time or money to spare, I think you could probably do pretty well with what you have, but a bit better VR on the long stuff would be nice.

    You should also practice on sunsets and bright beach shots. Dynamic range and deep color can be a challenge, and it's a good idea to experiment with white balance and exposure ahead of time.

    Try to get to the aquarium in Monterrey. Here's a big fish made out of little fish (done with D3200 and 18-55mm).

    http://jmp.sh/0yThnBQ

  • edited March 17
    Bruto,

    Thank you so much for you reply. I was looking at renting a super telephoto lens, but after reading your comments, I think I will purchase a used/refurbished Nikon 55-300mm vr lens. They're going for about $230 on Amazon at the moment and the 450mm equivalent should give me plenty of reach for what I am hoping to do.
    As for the wide angle lens, I am looking into the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM. All of the reviews I have read seem to be good, and I can find good deals on quality used lenses.
    I think the 10-20mm wide-angle, 18-55mm kit, and the 55-300mm will cover any situation that I might encounter while on the trip.
    Now I just need to decide which one I want to pick up first, ultra wide-angle or telephoto zoom.

    That's a great picture! We'll be sure to visit the aquarium, thank you for the tip.
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