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Scrambled
  
05/21/2024 04:55PM  
For the people that bring a DSLR or Mirrorless camera into the BWCA, what is your favorite lens to bring and why?

Late last year I bought a Nikon Z5, a 20mm f1.8 prime lens, and a compact tripod. Mostly hoping to do landscape shots and maybe some astrophotography, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe the 24-70mm f2.8 would have been better suited in general.
 
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05/21/2024 05:38PM  
My camera is a Pentax KP (a DSLR with an APS-C sensor). Currently, my favorite lens for the BWCA is a 16-50mm f/2.8 (24-75 full-frame equivalent). This has been good for both astro and general photography. I supplement it with a conpact tripod, a 200mm f/2.8, and a 1.4x teleconverter. I've previously brought a selection of primes (15mm, 28mm, 50mm, 90mm macro, 200mm).
 
05/21/2024 07:04PM  
I shoot Pentax also, a K-3II in my case, and lately I bring a K-7 too (my previous Pentax). Both are APS-C with a 1.5 crop factor.

If I could only bring one lens on one camera it would be my 15mm f/4 wide angle prime lens (equivalent to 22.5 mm with the crop factor), so your 20mm f/1.8 on your full frame Z5 would get my vote. But maybe you can justify two lenses?

I've never warmed up to zoom lenses, but maybe I've just never found one I like. I prefer the lower on-camera bulk of a prime lens, and I like the additional constraint of a prime (it's one less variable to confound me since the focal length is fixed). In my experience primes tend to have a nicer build quality, and feel less plastic-y, but that really just depends on the individual lens.

The 15mm is my main lens that I keep ready to go around my neck. It's great for astrophotography too.

As I mentioned above, lately I've been bringing my older camera too, with a 135mm (202.5mm equivalent) f/3.5 prime lens. I keep this in a small waterproof but easy to access bicycle handlebar bag (with a quick flip lid) in the bottom of the canoe. So far it has worked well for grabbing shots of loons near the canoe or the occasional interesting landscape feature that would be tiny through the 15mm lens. It's an extra camera, but eliminates the need to switch lenses back and forth. And APS-C cameras with prime lenses are pretty compact, especially if the lenses aren't super fast (f/4, f/3.5 etc.)

I usually pack away a third prime lens (35mm macro, 52.5mm equivalent) for plants, etc., but it doesn't get used as much.
 
Scrambled
  
05/22/2024 08:29AM  
brulu: "If I could only bring one lens on one camera it would be my 15mm f/4 wide angle prime lens (equivalent to 22.5 mm with the crop factor), so your 20mm f/1.8 on your full frame Z5 would get my vote. But maybe you can justify two lenses?"


On this next trip I’ll be solo, so I’m trying to keep my pack weight down, and I feel like I have to draw the line at just bringing one lens.

I’m not sure what the focal length is for a typical iPhone, but I’ll have my phone with, it falls short when it’s a little darker conditions, and panoramic shots seem a bit distorted, but on past trips it’s been handy for quick shots, or shots around camp.

This fall I’m going on a 2nd trip, this time with some buddies of mine, so I think it’ll be easier to justify a second lens on that trip.
 
05/22/2024 02:09PM  
My Canon RF 24-105 f/4 is the obvious choice for a single lens (paired with a Canon R5). It's boring but incredibly versatile which helps minimize on bulk, and it's quite compact for what it is. I don't miss faster apertures for 90% of what I shoot (even outside the BWCA). You can shoot everything except long-range wildlife with it. I love ultrawide too though, and I don't like stitching especially in moving environments, like those with water, so I also bring an RF 14-35 f/4.

I also bring a second R5 with an RF 100-500, so I'm always set up for long-range landscape and wildlife. This means I have to make a choice for my main body - do I mount the 24-105 or 14-35? When I'm in the canoe I have the 24-105 mounted, as there is rarely a need for anything wider than 24mm given the distance from most subjects, but it means when I get to landings/portages with features (i.e. waterfalls/rapids) that deserve the ultrawide treatment, I need to settle for 24mm or swap to the 14-35 (which I only do if I can really see that it'll pay off). When at camp I have the 14-35 mounted, as I enjoy the ultrawide shots of camp, fire grate looking out onto the lake, and group shots. It's also the right choice for astrophotography, despite being slow at f/4.

If I could only bring one lens, it'd absolutely be the 24-105... there is no way to argue that a prime is a better option, or a shorter zoom unless it's what you already have. But I wouldn't say it's my FAVORITE lens - I think my 14-35 wins in that category, because the optics are fantastic, and I love wide angles. I just couldn't have 35mm be the longest focal length for the BWCA given my love for landscape - there are too many fantastic distant landscapes and vignettes to be found with more zoom. And, with regard to focal ratio, I don't see a reason to prefer f/2.8 over f/4 when it comes to the BWCA, but if you wanted a single lens to use for all photographic purposes, f/2.8 gives you more creative options with depth of field, but Nikon's Z f/2.8 lenses are huuuuge, and their 24-70/4 is comparatively tiny. If you were going to carry something as large as their 24-70/2.8, I'd steer you to the 24-120/4 instead for more zoom range.

If Canon would release a fast RF ultrawide for astrophotography (like the Sigma 14/1.4), I would probably try to bring it in a dedicated padded case in a dry bag, in my day pack, just to avoid leaving the 14-35 at home because it's so versatile and sharp. But those two lenses could definitely trade places if push came to shove.

See (unfortunately compressed) examples from the RF 24-105mm f/4 L below. Devil's Cascade, in the rain, at 24mm/f11, same shot at 70mm/f4, and another shot at 105mm/f4. Minimal crop on the final one. I would've swapped to the 14-35 for the Devil's Cascade landing had it not been raining.







Hopefully this shows what's possible with a 24-105 and provides some argument for why a single zoom that's AT LEAST 24-70 is superior to a prime - not just for compositional flexibility but also when swapping primes isn't feasible due to rain. Modern zooms are good enough (if you don't buy the cheapest ones you find) that primes are really only for super low light or use case specific work like portraits (inc. weddings/events), sports, or distant wildlife. None of that applies in the BWCA as far as I'm concerned. Pancake primes work if you want a single lens solution, but you still have the aforementioned tradeoffs.
 
05/25/2024 10:26AM  
Scrambled: "On this next trip I’ll be solo, so I’m trying to keep my pack weight down, and I feel like I have to draw the line at just bringing one lens."

That's a laudable goal. In addition to weight/bulk savings, bringing a single lens as your only option for multiple days with so many photo opportunities is of course a great way to learn that lens, and that focal length (or zoom range).

If you want to maximize focal length versatility with one lens then a zoom is certainly the way to go, and is what most people would do. But versatility isn't everything, and a wide angle prime would be my choice for a single lens (smaller and lighter, and the right focal length for most of the photo opportunities that I want to take advantage of).

As far as astrophotography goes, 24mm f/2.8 (or even f/4) on full frame is wide and fast enough, you don't NEED the 20mm lens for that purpose. But the 20mm f/1.8 would be sweet!

JD is right to suggest considering a smaller aperture (f/4 or so) as an acceptable sacrifice in exchange for a smaller, lighter lens. Also if you didn't already know, buying used lenses is a great way to keep the cost down.

JD: "there is no way to argue that a prime is a better option"

I didn't mean to imply that primes are better than zooms, it's situational and personal preference. I can see why zoom is especially helpful from a canoe where repositioning is difficult. I just like primes better. The smaller size/weight/cost, along with intangible things like the feel, simplicity and process differences are my main reasons. Being quick to get the shot isn't as important to me. But I have certainly missed shots because I didn't want to swap lenses, or couldn't do it fast enough.

Ausable I'd be interested in hearing what made you switch to zoom, and if you were initially resistant to it like I am?
 
05/25/2024 08:24PM  
brulu: "I didn't mean to imply that primes are better than zooms, it's situational and personal preference. I can see why zoom is especially helpful from a canoe where repositioning is difficult. I just like primes better. The smaller size/weight/cost, along with intangible things like the feel, simplicity and process differences are my main reasons. Being quick to get the shot isn't as important to me. But I have certainly missed shots because I didn't want to swap lenses, or couldn't do it fast enough."


I totally agree that primes are great for those reasons! I like using primes during street, low light, and other scenarios where I might have another lens on me, or am shooting a fixed lens camera. But, I love the BWCA and see so many good frames, that I would be sad to only have a single focal length. I did it for my first 2 trips though, using a Fuji X100F which has a 35mm FF equivalent lens. It certainly wasn't wide enough as often as I wanted it to be, but I got some nice shots with it. Nowadays I just splurge and bring the kitchen sink which is the opposite of what Scrambled was thinking of doing. :)
 
05/26/2024 02:08PM  
brulu: "Ausable I'd be interested in hearing what made you switch to zoom, and if you were initially resistant to it like I am?"


In short, I tried various lens combinations for the BWCA/Quetico, but I was never completely satisfied after many trips.

Two years ago, I decided I wanted to be able to change perspective rapidly without having to get past the personal inertia of changing lenses (so, a zoom). The only time I want to change lenses in the canoe is to switch from a normal perspective to a long telephoto and back again.

I also wanted a weather-resistant lens (all of my primes except for 1 were not WR), and I wanted image quality that rivaled the primes in the range 15-90mm or so). That was a lot to ask.

I knew of 2 lenses that might have been ok: one was a consumer zoom (16-85mm, f/3.5-5.6) and the other a "pro" zoom (16-50mm f/2.8). I tested them both, liked the extended range and light weight of the 16-85, but ultimately chose the 16-50. If the image quality had not been outstanding, I would probably still be shooting primes exclusively. In fact, it is better at 16mm f/2.8 for astrophotography than is my prime 15mm f/4 wide open: it is absolutely "stellar" (sorry).

So there you have my decision process. Not an entirely original one. I still use primes because it is just enjoyable to walk around with a small lens on the camera. My BWCA/Quetico kit, however, is minimalist (for me), quick to operate, weather-resistant, and fits the kinds of subjects I like to shoot (except macro, but I can work around that).
 
NotLight
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05/30/2024 09:16PM  
I like to use a wide angle zoom in the canoe. For the obvious landscape panoramas. But also, that 20-30mm (full frame) range allows you to capture the canoe close-up in the foreground, but still catch a lot of the landscape or sunset/fog in the background. The Nikon 14-30 f/4 Z lens seems like a perfect lens for the Z5. It's compact. It also supposedly has reasonably low coma, so you could get away with it for astro and not have to carry the second prime lens.

I usually use a Canon sl2 and a 10-18 though. I like to take pictures next to the canoe just above the waterline, and the cheap lightweight plastic lens and camera is easy to run one-handed, and if I accidentally dunk it someday, I'm not out a fortune. The noise level can get pretty high though at dawn/dusk.

 
06/01/2024 10:03AM  
Thanks Ausable, I might have to consider that 16-50 f/2.8 zoom some day. If you ever want to sell off any of those Pentax (or K-mount anyway) primes, send me an email, I might be interested depending on the specifics. Bruce
 
Kermit
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06/01/2024 03:11PM  
I use a 24-70/2.8 for around camp and a 100-400/f4.5-5.6 for wildlife. I use my iPhone quite a bit too. All depends on what you’re trying to get and how much weight you’re willing to portage.
 
gotwins
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06/07/2024 11:00PM  
My favorite lenses on my Nikon D750 in the BWCA are the 20mm 1.8g and the 50mm 1.4g. But, to be honest, most of the photos I shoot are on my iPhone 13. I keep bringing the 20mm in hope of seeing the Aurora, and the 50 is fun in low light around the campfire.
 
canoemama3
senior member (52)senior membersenior member
  
06/11/2024 10:04PM  
I have a Canon 6DM2 and an older crop sensor Canon. I tend to bring the crop sensor with the kit lenses for BWCA. My all time favorite lens is my 70-200 f2.8 (rarely leaves my camera!) but I can’t bring myself to bring it because it’d be expensive to replace. I bring the 18-55 and 75-300 kit lenses. Won’t be as sad if they break/fall in water/kids wreck them somehow. I find they work good enough for me, I mainly shoot at 2.8 for sports/dance, so I don’t miss that aperture as much in BWCA. I know some people love primes, but I find I like the flexibility of zooms and being able to quickly adapt to get the shot I want! I use my iphone for some photos, but sometimes the “real” camera just can’t be beat! One of these days I’ll bring my better gear, just haven’t made that switch yet.
 
dsmith1979
senior member (52)senior membersenior member
  
06/12/2024 11:42AM  
Not just a lens...Ricoh GR II (I'm sure the GR I or GR III would be great too). Lightweight, 28mm lens, rivals the sharpness of my Canon L lenses, fully manual, DNG file (personnaly don't use the onboard jpegs). I think it's a great backpacking/canoe camping camera with enouth pixels to crop but not a substitue for zoom.

https://www.ricoh-imaging.co.jp/english/products/gr-2/spec/

Beaver on Fourtown Lake in May 2024
 
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