Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

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Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby Steven Johnson » Nov 11, 2011 6:50 pm

OK, so I'm new to this whole interchangeable-lens-camera thing (about to get my first DSLR after years of one-lens-fits-all cameras), and I'm trying to figure out what the most versatile lenses for most cave scenes are... or if it even makes sense to ask that question. What sort of focal length / aperture etc. have you found to be most useful, and how much do you go with primes vs zooms? Do you tend to schlep multiple lenses along, or just pick one as the most likely candidate?
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby innermostphoto » Nov 12, 2011 1:31 pm

Wear hearing protection and watch out for ricochets!!!

Seriously. Wide, wide wide! Don't be cheap on good glass. It is not the camera that gets the sharp image. Popular opinion seems to be all about megapixels when in most cases only 5mp is all you need. Those smart phones, plastic lenses. No glass at all. I would also shy away from aftermarket lenses. Just me. No matter what type of lens you choose make sure it is wide with good glass. The lower the f stop the better in some low light situations.

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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby Steven Johnson » Nov 12, 2011 2:05 pm

innermostphoto wrote:It is not the camera that gets the sharp image. Popular opinion seems to be all about megapixels when in most cases only 5mp is all you need. Those smart phones, plastic lenses. No glass at all. I would also shy away from aftermarket lenses. Just me. No matter what type of lens you choose make sure it is wide with good glass. The lower the f stop the better in some low light situations.


Yeah, the question is, how wide is wide enough? :-)

e.g., for an APS-C sensor, is 30-40mm gonna be too long to be a good "general purpose go-to" lens? Would I be better off looking at the 20mm range?
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby captnemo » Nov 12, 2011 6:01 pm

I've managed to collect quite a few lenses and have to say some of my favorite cave photos have been taken with the kit lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, I understand though that I got lucky as the quality and sharpness on those can vary a lot. Nowadays though I almost always use a tamron 18-250mm, I also have a tamron 28-75 2.8 for low light situations which is good say in a tour cave where you may be shooting without flash. Generally though in a cave I use flashes so the f stop isn't as important as the wide angle. How wide is too wide? Just depends on the shot but the close proximity of the small passages around here will definitely leave you wanting wider. As for lugging multiple lenses I try not to do that (another reason I like the extreme range of the tamron lens) after all, its bad enough trying to clean my gear after a trip, I really don't want to change lenses in a cave and risk getting dirt inside the camera. It's always tempting to bring a telephoto along for wildlife shots on the hike to the cave, somewhere there's a ravine with a canon 300mm lens at the bottom that didn't make it back with me though. :(
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby Kuzgun » Nov 12, 2011 6:30 pm

Im using Nikon D80's kit lens 18-135mm. with its mm range im using it for both macro and wide angle.
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby pub » Nov 12, 2011 7:47 pm

I think it would be helpful if we continue this discussion using 35mm equiv. for the focal lengths.

I started out using a 24-60mm (35mm eq.) lens and eventually went with a 18-45mm (35mm eq.) lens. However, there are situations where I wish it was wider, like in really tight quarters or very large rooms.

Even 30-40mm (I assume 35mm eq.) would not be wide enough for me. I’d suggest nothing more than 28mm (at the lower end of the range) and if you go 20mm or below, so much the better but the bottom line may be your budget.

FYI, the 35mm eq. for the lens mentioned so far are:
18-55mm ~29-88mm
18-135mm ~27-202.5mm
18-250mm ~27-375mm
28-75mm ~42-113mm
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby NZcaver » Nov 13, 2011 5:01 am

Steven Johnson wrote:Yeah, the question is, how wide is wide enough? :-)

e.g., for an APS-C sensor, is 30-40mm gonna be too long to be a good "general purpose go-to" lens? Would I be better off looking at the 20mm range?

I totally agree with Bob. On a crop format sensor, 30mm is equivalent to almost 50mm full frame - which makes it 'standard' not wide. You'll want to go wider, but also be aware some cave photogs like to carry a dedicated macro lens to shoot formations. Not me, but to each his own.

What body are you getting? I use the Canon EF-S 10-22mm on a 40D (equivalent to 16-35mm on a full frame), and it's fun to shoot. Right now my other walk-around lens is the 17-55mm f2.8 (equivalent to 27-88mm), which is very sharp glass. There are some very good ultra wide primes around too, if you have a few grand to burn. By comparison, my old trusty Oly C-5050 caving camera has a zoom range equivalent of 35-105mm. I wish it were wider, but I will say the image quality of that fantastic little built in f1.8 lens on a 10 year old 5 MP sensor is FAR superior to the vast majority of 10-15 MP point-and-shoots which use a piece of shit glass the size of your little fingernail. Don't skimp on glass!
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby self-deleted_user » Nov 13, 2011 3:09 pm

I see it's been mentioned already about sensor sizes - it was something I wasn't aware of at all when I got my nikon dSLR. I actually found the wiki article on it really helpful because of the images they have and I'm a visual/tactile learner so maybe it will help you too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_sensor_format

I dont use it in caves, but i will say that going from using a camera with something like a 37mm as the widest it would go to the 24mm that my new one can do, its AMAZING. i love love love love the wide angle and I rarely use the zoom on it. And the crop factor on the Nikon dSLR i have is kinda sucky, if i ever did get a dSLR for caving with since i really love the wide angle (have I said I love wide angle?) i would get something different, as it is my understanding the Canon has better ones (APS-H I think).

I definitely agree with getting good glass. And old stuff isn't bad! My favourite lens for my dSLR is...actually i dont remember what it is (sorry im on pain meds right now for my busted hand, so also please excuse misstypes, im onehanded right now), but it is beautiful and was $20, it's a macro focusing lens too. Found it scouring ebay for deals. Also hit up estate sales and such! i have found the older stuff is usually just as good or better, and often a lot cheaper! Win-win!
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby Steven Johnson » Nov 13, 2011 4:33 pm

NZcaver wrote:What body are you getting? I use the Canon EF-S 10-22mm on a 40D (equivalent to 16-35mm on a full frame), and it's fun to shoot. Right now my other walk-around lens is the 17-55mm f2.8 (equivalent to 27-88mm), which is very sharp glass.


I'm probably going to go with a Pentax K-5 ... a co-worker who has one has let me play with it and I really like the feel of the controls, and the fact that it's on the compact side (for a DSLR) and is weather-sealed (so less likely to get busted by water/dust) are tie-breakers. (And reviews seem to agree on better-than-average high-ISO performance. Hmm, where might I be with limited light?...) It's kit lens is 18-55 (x1.5=27-82) f/3.5-5.6, and is also weather-sealed (which would give me a decent "sealed" combination for sloppier conditions). (Yes, kit lenses generally seem to be pretty "meh", but the review consensus for this seems to be "pretty good for a kit lens", so I'm thinking it would be worth to have as a don't-want-to-risk-swapping-lenses option.)

captnemo wrote: How wide is too wide? Just depends on the shot but the close proximity of the small passages around here will definitely leave you wanting wider. As for lugging multiple lenses I try not to do that (another reason I like the extreme range of the tamron lens) after all, its bad enough trying to clean my gear after a trip, I really don't want to change lenses in a cave and risk getting dirt inside the camera.


Hence my reason for asking -- the S90 I've been using has an equiv range of 28-105mm (similar to typical "kit lens") and I find that in NorCal I rarely use most of the zoom range, most of the usage is at the short end. Avoiding schlepping extra stuff & changing lenses is a good thing for obvious reasons but based on that experience I'm wondering if a very short prime (macro?) would be worth adding.


Sungura wrote:I definitely agree with getting good glass. And old stuff isn't bad! My favourite lens for my dSLR is...actually i dont remember what it is (sorry im on pain meds right now for my busted hand, so also please excuse misstypes, im onehanded right now), but it is beautiful and was $20, it's a macro focusing lens too. Found it scouring ebay for deals. Also hit up estate sales and such! i have found the older stuff is usually just as good or better, and often a lot cheaper! Win-win!


Yeah, the Pentax will work with all K-mount lenses back to the 70's or so (without autofocus for the older ones), so while it doesn't have as many current lenses as Nikon/Canon, there's a lot of old film-era lenses out there.
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby self-deleted_user » Nov 13, 2011 5:00 pm

yeah - and usually i like the film-era lenses better personally. And fwiw I find autofocus a joke in caves anyway so not much loss having to do that manually. If I understand right (maybe someone who understands the computerisms of cameras better can comment), slrs autofocus by looking at the maximum contrast areas so it needs light to make that contrast (ex light formation forground shadow it casts background) which while, like for that, it can usually sense it ok, for room shots or larger wide angle type shots it doesnt have enough light to sense the contrast areas well automatically, and so you end up with better shots on manual focus anyway as your eyes beats camera computer.
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby Steven Johnson » Nov 13, 2011 5:51 pm

innermostphoto wrote:Wide, wide wide!


Heh, while searching for info on wide-angle lenses for Pentax I found this one:

http://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/SMC-Pentax-DA-14mm-F2.8-Lens.html

Image

I love the fact that the review was posted with a dirty lens (and camera) :bananabat:
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby NSS8921 » Nov 14, 2011 8:53 am

To all contributors to this thread - thanks for your perspectives! Very informative for me, as a beginner.

What about a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro lens? I want to do trunk shots as well as macro - what are your thoughts?

Thanks,
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby Squirrel Girl » Nov 14, 2011 9:09 am

NSS8921 wrote:To all contributors to this thread - thanks for your perspectives! Very informative for me, as a beginner.

What about a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro lens? I want to do trunk shots as well as macro - what are your thoughts?

Thanks,
John


I have that lens, but since I don't do cave photography (unless it's U/W), maybe I'm not your best person to answer. Personally, I don't think the cave is the place where that lens will show off its performance. Very small depth of field -- Good for a flower, but not a cave. Outdoor Photography magazine just had a story on wide angles and the guy basically said, skip the macro, use a wide angle. No, it's not that simple, of course, but he has a point.
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby LukeM » Nov 14, 2011 9:25 am

I mostly use an 18-70mm lens on my Nikon DSLR. I wish I could go even wider, but it gets the job done. I would go so far as to say you'll very rarely go over 30mm or so on an APS-C camera unless you're shooting close-ups. A wide prime lens would be cool, being that it would probably be more compact/light and possibly more durable. If you're shooting with a tripod it might be a pain to have to move that around a lot though.

Speaking for myself I will ideally spring for something like a Nikon 12-24mm or Tokina 11-16mm some day. Don't discount the 3rd party manufacturers. That Tokina, for instance, is very well regarded.

John, that 100mm lens will be great for macro shots but I suspect you'll have a hard time doing anything but portraits or focusing on a specific object of interest from further back.
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Re: Favorite lenses for shooting in caves?

Postby NSS8921 » Nov 14, 2011 12:55 pm

Barbara and Luke – thanks for your feedback. I have some anthodites in mind for macro shots, and I don’t think they will come across well with the 18-200mm lens I have. I guess I will just have to try it and see.

What are your thoughts on the Sigma AF 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM? And Sigma in general?

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