Backpacking Prime Collection vs Zoom + Prime

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JWreno
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Backpacking Prime Collection vs Zoom + Prime

Post by JWreno » Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:54 am

I recently bought the Fujifilm X-T3 as a lighter alternative to my Canon 6D. It also has much better video at up to 60P 10 bit 4K video. The sensor is a 1.5 crop compared to my Canon 6D. I have had the camera for a few days but I like having all the dedicated controls for aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure.

I bought the camera with the 18-55 (27-83 equivalent) f/2.8-4 IOS zoom since it was only $300 more than the camera alone. I also bought the Rokinon 12mm f/2 for astronomy but it is manual and a little more work as a daytime prime. If I was happy with just zooms I would also buy the 10-24 (15-36 equivalent) f/4 lens since I enjoy my Canon 6D with it's 16-35mm f/4 zoom.

Here is my thought for a modest weight 3 prime kit for longer trips when I do want to play with night scapes with stars. I bought a Trail-Pix so we can leave the tripod at home.

Rokinon 12mm f/2 9 oz.
Fujifilm XF23mm f/2 6 oz.
Fujifilm XF50mm f/2 7 oz.
Total weight 19 camera + 22 lens = 41 oz.

This would give me a 18, 35 and 75mm equivalent set of primes. I would keep my XF23mm f/2 on the camera on a shoulder strap clip for most of my on trail quick shots when I don't want my family waiting for a lens change.

My 2nd choice would be

Fujifilm XF10-24mm f/4 with IOS 14.5 oz
Fujifilm XF50mm f/2 7 oz
Total weight 19 camera + 22.5 lens = 41.5 oz
The IOS on the zoom would be useful for stabilizing video but I wouldn't have a good astrophotography lens unless my son carried the Rokonin 12mm.

3rd choice is what I currently own
Rokinon 12mm f/2 9 oz.
Fujifilm XF18-55 f/2.8-4 11 oz
Total weight 19 camera + 20 lens = 40 oz.

I wonder who else is using 2-3 primes instead of bringing a zoom. I might miss the IOS zoom for video.I like having a less heavy lens on my camera while on the shoulder strap clip but I did find the Canon 16-35mm IS zoom convenient for its focal length range. The X-T3 with XF10-24 would weight about 34 vs the 48 oz of the Canon 6D with 16-35mm that I carried for a 3 week JMT trip. My wife will be carrying a Sony RX100 m6 with a 24-200mm equivalent zoom so we would use that when we need the reach with the longer zoom.


Jeff






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Re: Backpacking Prime Collection vs Zoom + Prime

Post by SSSdave » Fri Feb 15, 2019 5:11 pm

Hand held street/news/portrait shooters often use large aperture primes in order to be able to shoot at widest apertures at higher ISO settings plus IS, thus faster shutter speeds so hand held movement blurring does not have as much effect. Thus they are not using those primes for best possible image quality but rather to improve acceptable hand held work for their modest output purposes. And such becomes more an issue with dimmer subjects.

On the other hand are those like this person interested in highest image quality of mostly static subjects that use primes at lowest ISO's, best middle optical apertures, with a good tripod, preferably in reasonable daytime natural light, with shutter speeds relatively unimportant.

If reason for primes is to be able to shoot at higher shutter speeds for less hand held blur, then adding all those primes is a significant penalty. Simply using a heavier stable tripod with zooms would result in better image quality. Otherwise using good primes hand held won't result in images with as much detail as those shot with zooms on a tripod. Forget testing such with your wide angle lenses. Take a several X telephoto and try and hold it stable. With the high digital sensor resolutions of this era even with IS (that also adds an IQ penalty), look in your viewfinder while hand holding and watch all the little jiggles regardless of how stable you think you are.

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Re: Backpacking Prime Collection vs Zoom + Prime

Post by JWreno » Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:17 am

I agree that daytime zooms with IS are easier handheld and do well at f/5.6-8 for most of my needs. I want one astro prime (Rokinon 12mm f/2 and maybe a light f/2 35 or 50mm prime for lower light. I think the XF 10-24 IS zoom would be very useful for daytime. I don't think I will be carrying any telephoto on a hike and just leave the telephoto to my wife's Sony RX100 m6 which can go to 200mm equivalent.

I tested the Trail-Pix and think it will do very well with my X-T3 using a remote cable shutter release.
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Re: Backpacking Prime Collection vs Zoom + Prime

Post by richlong8 » Mon Mar 09, 2020 8:14 am

JWreno wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:17 am
I agree that daytime zooms with IS are easier handheld and do well at f/5.6-8 for most of my needs. I want one astro prime (Rokinon 12mm f/2 and maybe a light f/2 35 or 50mm prime for lower light. I think the XF 10-24 IS zoom would be very useful for daytime. I don't think I will be carrying any telephoto on a hike and just leave the telephoto to my wife's Sony RX100 m6 which can go to 200mm equivalent.

I tested the Trail-Pix and think it will do very well with my X-T3 using a remote cable shutter release.
I know this is a late reply, but that I would add a thought or two. I have owned the Fuji X-T1, and the Fuji XF10-24mm, and the 16mm which you did not mention. I really preferred the 16mm to the Fuji zoom, even though it is not OIS for handheld. If you read the reviews, it is a fantastic lens, and even works well as a lens for flowers, mushrooms, etc, because it has a closer focusing distance. I fell in love with that lens, very sharp, esp. on a tripod, and fast for handholding, and other purposes, F1.4! The newer Fuji bodies are starting to incorporate image stabilization, and I think that is really going to help using that system, if you handhold your camera. Most of the lenses you mentioned are not image stabilized, and despite what people say about wide angles not needing to be be stabilized for handheld shots, I know, I am not the steadiest shooter, and I think OIS makes a difference always. I am like you, I take a tripod, but there is no way I am going to setup for every shot while traveling. I don't mind taking snapshots as I go because I am not a pro, or someone who will ever print huge prints. That being said, there is no doubt in my mind that the sharpest photos I take are those on tripod, whether a lens or body is image stabilized or not. I own the Trail Pix, and in my opinion, the Fuji system is way too heavy for me to trust the Trailpix to support it. and I don't think it is going to hold your camera as steady as a good tripod. Now a camera phone, or something really small like the Ricoh GR3, or Sony RS100 series cameras, I have used on the Trail Pix, but even then, I was always thinking, do not brush against this, or it will fall over! I would solicit any thoughts on a tripod. I am not going to carry a super heavy tripod, which in my mind, is a tripod over 3 pounds. I know that leaves the best ones out, but I have to compromise on the weight, if I am going to be able to backpack at all. I currently use a Sony video tripod, that weighs 1.5 pounds, including the ball head. It holds the camera pretty steady, but everything is shot with the self timer just in case(I don't have a cable release). I have been thinking about upgrading the tripod to one just a little better. I have been looking at the Benro Model:TSL08CN00, which on Amazon is called the Benro Slim Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod Kit. If anyone has any experience, or an opinion about this tripod,I would like to hear it. For me, it might be a good compromise, 2.2 pounds, only 59 inches, but that is the height of what I use now, and I can live with it. I would have to add a ball head, so a recommendation on a light ball head that would still do the job, would be appreciated.

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Re: Backpacking Prime Collection vs Zoom + Prime

Post by Sierra_Summits » Mon Mar 30, 2020 10:37 am

Hello! I too have thought about these decisions. I own the xt2 with the 18-55, the rokinon 12mm, and a few primes. I found the xt2 with the 18-55 and the 12mm to be a stellar combo for serious backpacking photography and not too heavy. I also ended up bringing about 4 batteries with me too. Not sure you had that in your weight equation but if you plan on doing night shots that will drain your battery quick. I liked not having to fidget with changing lenses during the day and just focus on taking great photos with the 18-55. My wife liked that I wasn't constantly changing lenses too. Primes are nice but I found the OIS on the 18-55 superior for sharpness even in lower light. I could hand hold at 1/15 of a second with it and get pretty good results and I couldn't do that with my primes. They were sharp closer to 1/30 of a sec.

I also use the trail pix and agree that it is the way to go when needing a tripod. I have since switched to a Ricoh GR ii and really like the weight and simplicity of it when I hike with my wife. When I go alone it's more focus on photography then I bring the xt2. Also, your option #3 saves you some serious cash as fuji lenses are not cheap. Ultimately, its a compromise but you will get great photos either way.

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Re: Backpacking Prime Collection vs Zoom + Prime

Post by fishmonger » Wed Apr 01, 2020 8:24 am

There are so many options to take great images in the mountains, I don't spend much time talking about my personal choice for a landscape setup. Primarily I shoot the gear I already have, which I bought for a very different purpose (motorsports), but it works just fine for other photos. Some lenses and bodies stay home, but there's enough on my shelf to cover my needs in the backcountry. There are at least 10 prime lenses on that camera shelf, but only a handful have ever seen the Sierra Nevada.

Some like to carry lighter gear, others don't really care how much they pack for their photography fun while in the backcountry. I carry much heavier loads than most who have posted here, but I still can't get myself to carry more than two prime lenses. A full sized DSLR is what I own, and I am not going out to buy some new setup to shave off a few ounces from my hiking kit.

Regarding bringing a lot of primes - usually I walk alone these days and changing lenses quickly doesn't work very well, so to have some flexibility during brief photo stops a zoom does really much better. I learned over the years that my style of shooting is highly reflective of how many miles a day I need to complete. I rarely stop for more than a few seconds, so swapping lenses frequently isn't a thing I would do. Zoom quality is close enough, especially since I don't use a tripod to really amp up the sharpness. When the light fades, the Trailpix is one of my solutions, but mostly I just use a bunch of rocks to prop up the camera.

The one thing I do prefer for landscape shots is a full frame sensor, so much of the gear that has been talked about here means squat to me. I don't even look at the capabilities of those systems any longer as I have everything I need for full frame, especially on the wide angle end of the spectrum. My long lenses are mostly too long for what I'd need. And the only crop sensor I use is a DSLR that is optimized for racing/motorsports to extend my 400mm f/2.8 to 600mm f/2.8, however, stuff like that never gets into my hiking setup.

For things that don't need the ultimate telephoto reach, I shoot a full frame DSLR. The glass that goes on that body while in the mountain is generally a mix of primes and a lowly general purpose 24-85mm zoom with image stabilization. That zoom's image quality is pretty mediocre at 24mm but gets very sharp at focal lengths exceeding 35mm. I stitch a lot, so the soft corners of the 24mm FOV are usually dropped in post or I shoot 35mm and take more frames to stitch. Then I have with me one or two prime ultrawide lenses that spice things up a little. There's that 20mm f/1.8 (night skies, super sharp to the corners) and 16mm fisheye are my favorites. I also have a 14mm f/2.8 Rokinon, but don't really like it enough (doesn't take ND filters). Again - all this is for full frame. One day I may pack my 70-200mm zoom, but that thing is 3 pounds and takes some really strong will on day one of my usually long hikes to end up in the pack. I've seen many possible images to take with that lens, but these telephoto frames would still be the exception, so the added weight just never makes it past my last pack weight check at the trailhead :D



If I were to go lightweight, I'd just pack my daughters Sony nex-6 with a little zoom lens. It would be "good enough" if speed was the essence of my hike, but usually that isn't the case. My style is somewhere between speed and dedicated photo trip. 4-5 pounds of camera gear are worth it to me, as I have nothing much else to do up there than to walk, eat, sleep, and take photos.

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