Best lens for travel on Nikon D90?

Northern Man

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Aug 25, 2013
404
510
Looking for advice on what would be the best walking around lens for a two week four city trip to Italy. I have a Nikon D90 and want to travel light. I own the following lenses:
- 35 DX 1.8
- 50 1.8 (30 years old)
- 18-105 kit lens 3.5-5.6
- 70-210 (30 years old and heavy)

I am thinking that the 18-105 may be the best option but welcome opinions. I expect that most of my photos will be taken outside. I also have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 which easily fits into a jacket pocket and takes decent pictures and would be the lightest approach but with obvious downsides image-wise.

Your views would be much appreciated.
 

OzBok

macrumors regular
Mar 15, 2016
154
538
Melbourne, Australia
I just got back from a month in Italy, and a quick look at Lightroom, 80% of my shots were shot within the range of your 18-105. You might find yourself inside more than you think, and might be some shots you may want the DOF effects of a wider aperture, but if 1 lens is what you want, you're choice is right. If you're after the extra DOF choices, take the lens you use more out of the 35 and 50, or the lighter, I didn't shoot noticeably more at either of these lengths to pick one

You won't use the long end of the 70-210 enough to justify the weight. I had my 80-400, but it was 300-400 I used more than the low end, So don't worry about that lens.
 

ssmed

macrumors 6502
Sep 28, 2009
482
88
UK
35 DX 1.8 (for dark interiors without flash) and the 18-105 kit lens 3.5-5.6 for everything else. It is a fab destination for photography. Do make sure you have a ton of memory cards
 
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kallisti

macrumors 68000
Apr 22, 2003
1,532
4,948
I would second the above posts. I took a trip to Italy with my Leica and a 24mm, 35mm f/1.4, and 90mm. I used the 35mm for most of the shots followed by the 24mm. Didn't use the 90mm at all.

A fast 35mm and the 18-105 should work great. I wouldn't bother with the 70-210 as I doubt it would get much use. As OzBok said, if you want to go longer it's unlikely that 210mm will be long enough.

If you were thinking about purchasing a lens, I might suggest a 24-70 f/2.8. The extra stops can be very useful if you are inside or shooting in low light. Having said that, you should do fine with the lenses you have.

[Edit: forgot the D90 is a DX body. Would consider the 17-55 f/2.8 zoom instead of the 24-70 if you were considering purchasing a new lens.]
 
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mofunk

macrumors 68020
Aug 26, 2009
2,400
154
Americas
I've shot with both the 17-55mm and 24-70mm on my D90. Both lenses felt great in the hands. The 24-70mm tended to focus faster with the D90 especially in low light. I knew I was going to go full frame in the future but for years I rented both lenses including the 28-70mm f/2.8. Each time the 24-70mm focused faster.

When I'm traveling, I generally take my camera out during the day time. Most of my shots are around f/8 or f/11. There are a few times where I used f/4 or lower. If I did I had my 50mm lens on the camera. Traveling light, I like taking one prime and one zoom lens.
 

HDFan

macrumors 65816
Jun 30, 2007
1,496
362
Years ago I ditched my DLR's (Canon 6D and 7D) due to the weight and bulk. On tours you don't have time to change lenses as one moment you are doing a closeup and a second later you're doing a long shot. Over half of my shots are now taken on my iPhone 7+, and less are taken on my other travel Cameras (RX10-III and RX100-IV). I never even used the RX100 this last trip so I may not bother with it on my upcoming Peru trip. However it is great for capturing stage performances, such as a sunset dance in Bali when the iPhone zoom isn't sufficient. You can't hand hold a heavy DLSR with a long zoom for a 45 minute performance while sitting at a table, when tripods aren't allowed. Many times I compare the iPhone photos with the RX10 photos and due to superior light handling (especially HDR), the iPhone photo is better more than 50% of the time. I only display them on my 30" Cinema display and have no issue with image quality, given it's zoom limitations.

The iPhone is also great for things like taking shots on the tarmac as you are heading to a plane for boarding, food shots in restaurants or on the plane, all of those times when you only have a second to point and shoot.

I just ran the jf Data Explorer plugin in Lightroom on the pictures that I just took on a trip to some former parts of Italy in the Adriatic to see the distribution of my images. Supposedly the results were converted to full frame equivalents, but I don't think that's the case as it lists 11 shots at 600 mm and the RX10-III with a crop factor of 2.73 is actually shooting at 1638 mm so take the actual values with the grain of salt

Since a DX lens has a crop factor of 1.5 your lenses are full frame equivalents of:

Focal Length/Aperture Shots
52.5 2.7 5265 (24-52)
75 2.7 2096 (54-75)
27-157.5 5.25-8.4 790 (77-154)
105-315 419 (159-310)

1193 of the shots, or a bit less than 10% of the total, were shot with the widest lens available, as when capturing vistas from hilltop cities.

You mentioned that one of your lenses is 30 years old. Is it a film lens? Generally you don't get the best results using a lens designed for film on a digital camera.

So in summary if I had just 1 lens I'd go with the 27-157.5. For low light in museums I'd use my iPhone and skip the 52.5 2.7 since the zoom limitation doesn't exist there.
 

bunnspecial

macrumors 604
May 3, 2014
6,718
3,271
Kentucky
I agree that the 18-105 and 35mm 1.8 would be ideal. I've often said that if you have a DX camera, you really have no excuse for NOT having the 35mm. It really is a wonderful lens.

The only downside I see to the 18-105 is that it's not wide enough for my taste, but it's what you have. I feel cramped if I don't have at least a 16mm on DX, but then I tend wider than most.

You mentioned that one of your lenses is 30 years old. Is it a film lens? Generally you don't get the best results using a lens designed for film on a digital camera.
I have a bunch of lenses that would VERY strongly disagree with that. Yes, older zoom lenses in general range from decent to bad, and kit zooms from the 90s are often terrible(but then where's the motivation when they're probably going to mostly see ASA 400 print film?).

I have plenty of manual focus Nikkor primes that can give some of the modern lenses a run for their money, though.

My 80-200 2.8D is a bit iffy wide open, but it's certainly not bad.

BTW, I'm making these comparisons on a D800, so resolution is virtually always lens limited provided that I do my part.
 

BJMRamage

macrumors 68020
Oct 2, 2007
2,435
862
as others have mentioned, I'd take the 18-105...but also take the 35mm. I may not bring it out on most days, hoping the 18-105 does the job. but maybe on days where you will be inside a lot, and need a wider aperture for darker interiors, you could just use that lens or take both lenses...I'd probably lug the 18-104 and keep the 35 attached on those days so there is less weight on my neck/shoulders from camera weight.

the 18-105 was a good lens for me for many years. I stopped taking the longer 200mm telephoto zoom. with the 35mm, I bring it along but I don't seem to swap out as often as I could. so I have to think in advance, what type of shooting day I will have and what lens I predict I will use most and start there but bring along the other lens.
 

OreoCookie

macrumors 68030
Apr 14, 2001
2,680
68
Sendai, Japan
You should definitely take a fast prime with you, because you will need it unless you plan to waste your opportunity to see lots of churches and museums from the inside. The 35 mm may not be wide enough, though, but if you don't want to buy another lens, you should definitely put the 35 mm in your bag.
 

MrMojoRising

macrumors newbie
Aug 4, 2008
13
0
Looking for advice on what would be the best walking around lens for a two week four city trip to Italy. I have a Nikon D90 and want to travel light. I own the following lenses:
- 35 DX 1.8
- 50 1.8 (30 years old)
- 18-105 kit lens 3.5-5.6
- 70-210 (30 years old and heavy)

I am thinking that the 18-105 may be the best option but welcome opinions. I expect that most of my photos will be taken outside. I also have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 which easily fits into a jacket pocket and takes decent pictures and would be the lightest approach but with obvious downsides image-wise.

Your views would be much appreciated.
My last several trips I have taken just the 35mm f/1.8 DX lens on either a D40 or a D7000 body. I have occasionally wished for a wider lens, very rarely wished for a longer lens, but NEVER wished for heavier, bulkier lens. And I never wished I'd wasted more time changing lenses, either.

Trust me on this. If you want to travel light, just take the 35mm. If you need wider, just use the ~28mm equivalent iPhone camera (which you'll be carrying anyway). I'm not familiar with the Panasonic, so I don't know what else it might bring to the table.
 

kallisti

macrumors 68000
Apr 22, 2003
1,532
4,948
Years ago I ditched my DLR's (Canon 6D and 7D) due to the weight and bulk. On tours you don't have time to change lenses as one moment you are doing a closeup and a second later you're doing a long shot. Over half of my shots are now taken on my iPhone 7+, and less are taken on my other travel Cameras (RX10-III and RX100-IV). I never even used the RX100 this last trip so I may not bother with it on my upcoming Peru trip. However it is great for capturing stage performances, such as a sunset dance in Bali when the iPhone zoom isn't sufficient. You can't hand hold a heavy DLSR with a long zoom for a 45 minute performance while sitting at a table, when tripods aren't allowed. Many times I compare the iPhone photos with the RX10 photos and due to superior light handling (especially HDR), the iPhone photo is better more than 50% of the time. I only display them on my 30" Cinema display and have no issue with image quality, given it's zoom limitations.

The iPhone is also great for things like taking shots on the tarmac as you are heading to a plane for boarding, food shots in restaurants or on the plane, all of those times when you only have a second to point and shoot.

I just ran the jf Data Explorer plugin in Lightroom on the pictures that I just took on a trip to some former parts of Italy in the Adriatic to see the distribution of my images. Supposedly the results were converted to full frame equivalents, but I don't think that's the case as it lists 11 shots at 600 mm and the RX10-III with a crop factor of 2.73 is actually shooting at 1638 mm so take the actual values with the grain of salt

Since a DX lens has a crop factor of 1.5 your lenses are full frame equivalents of:

Focal Length/Aperture Shots
52.5 2.7 5265 (24-52)
75 2.7 2096 (54-75)
27-157.5 5.25-8.4 790 (77-154)
105-315 419 (159-310)

1193 of the shots, or a bit less than 10% of the total, were shot with the widest lens available, as when capturing vistas from hilltop cities.

You mentioned that one of your lenses is 30 years old. Is it a film lens? Generally you don't get the best results using a lens designed for film on a digital camera.

So in summary if I had just 1 lens I'd go with the 27-157.5. For low light in museums I'd use my iPhone and skip the 52.5 2.7 since the zoom limitation doesn't exist there.
Potential IQ issues aside (iPhones can produce images with acceptable IQ depending on your needs), there are creative reasons where an iPhone or a camera with a larger sensor are better tools, specifically relating to depth of field (DOF) (i.e. how much of the image is in acceptable focus from front to back).

DOF is a function of several factors: focal length, aperture, camera-to-subject distance. Somewhat related is subject-to-background distance.

DOF is greater (i.e. more of the image is in acceptable focus) for shorter focal lengths, smaller apertures, greater camera-to-subject distance. DOF is smaller (i.e. the subject is sharp but the background is blurred) for longer focal lengths, larger apertures, smaller camera-to-subject distance, greater subject-to-background distance.

iPhones are great at creating good front-to-back sharpness at a larger aperture compared to a DX or FF sensor because the focal length of the lens is so small. This can have practical benefits for some subjects: in lowish light more of the image may be in acceptable focus.

iPhones are not good at creating subject isolation (i.e. blurring out the background) unless you get really close to the subject and the background is relatively far away.

For shooting interiors on a trip (like in a church/cathedral) or scenics at dawn/dusk the iPhone might be an acceptable tool as you want the large DOF with a large aperture to let in more light.

For museums it can be a poor tool as there are likely to be many distracting background elements that will detract from the composition, which you would like to be able to minimize by blurring them out to isolate the subject. Significantly harder to do this with an iPhone compared to a camera with a larger sensor (and thus a longer focal length lens achieving the same field of view).

Some subjects benefit from a large DOF. Some subjects need a shallow DOF.

I'm not saying an iPhone isn't an adequate camera for some situations or arguing that you need to carry around a DX or FF camera instead. But it's important to remember that all cameras/lenses are tools with their strengths and weaknesses. The key is finding the right tool for the job at hand :)
 
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themumu

macrumors 6502a
Feb 13, 2011
717
558
Sunnyvale
I’ve been finding myself yearning for a wider lens and recently ordered Nikon’s new 10-20 mm. If I’m lucky I’ll test it this weekend ;). Excited to drop some weight compared to my old 18-200. I suspect it’ll become my travel lens - it’s very light and I rarely take mid or tele shots anyway.