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Light traveling - wide zooms or 2/3 f2 primes


Marek Kac
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Hi all,

as I'm planning to travel quite a bit this year I'm thinking about best combo for my Fuji xt-20. It's an age old question, what is more practical. A set of small f2 primes. 50mm f2, 23mm f1.4 (IQ of 23mm f2 is disapointing to me), and something even wider like 14 f2.8/ rokinon 12mm f2. Or a slow zoom 10-24 f4 and 18-55 f2.8-4, that you don't need to change that often. What is your expirience? I will be visiting cities, that's why I need wide angles lens for architecture.

I currently own 23mm f1.4, 56 f1.2 and 18-55 f2.8-4, for context.

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When I travel, I find the 10-24mm and the 18-135mm zooms to pretty much cover everything I want to shoot. You might want to take your 23mm lens for shots in the hotel or boat you may be on, but the 18-135 is my go to lens for its wide range of zoom. the 10-24 is great in older cities where the streets are narrow, or trying to get that shot of a cathedral without having to back up a block. Both of these lens do a great job. 

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I work for an airline and travel very light to keep my ability to be flexible. I carry around the 35/2 all the time and swap into the 56/1.2 only when I’m looking for portraits. Zooms are great and have a purpose, sure, but I like the speed at night and lightweight travel of the fixed lenses. I took the 18-55 “kit” lens on a trip once and felt so weighted down - ha! Plus it forces me to be creative instead of choosing lenses I look for great photos at xx focal length.

I determined my lens needs by looking over my EXIF data for the last 15 or so years. Even with zooms, right around (full frame equivalent) 50mm and 85mm were the majority of my photos. Sure I had longer and shorter but most of my keepers are in that ballpark. Looking over that kind of data may help determine what you like to use, too.

Edited by MailerDaemon
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When I travel light single lens works best, because I don't need to think about switching lens. It happens that I miss some focal or extra aperture steps form lens left home, but that's the price of traveling light, so it's not disappointing : )

I'd choose single lens by "number of favorite shots" like MailerDaemon suggested. If you can't decide on single lens, take two and use this trip as a training for future more light trips.

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My favourite travelling light kit is an X-e3 + 35mm f2 + 16mm f2.8. I don't even need a bag for these. The camera with a lens fitted can go in one coat / jacket pocket and the second lens in another pocket. I might take the tiny EX-F8 flash too. I don't use lens caps, lens hoods or a strap. They just get in the way. The only damage I ever had was caused by snagging a strap but luckily only the protection filter was damaged.pocketkit.jpg.f396ec0eadc20d8e65d6a7b9096f9a96.jpg

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Nice setup Pixel8r! 
The problem I have is I need something wider, and 16/14 is not going to cut it. Fuji has only that zoom 10-24 (8-16 is toooo expensive) and I'm not sure about samyang/rokinon or zeiss 12mm. From what I've read depending on a copy, they can have worse IQ.  

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The Zeiss 12mm is excellent. However so is the Fuji 14mm. In the past I've traveled with the 18-55 zoom, the 14mm and the 55-200 zoom (surprisingly good and not too large or heavy). This was probably overkill, but that's my inclination. 

I'm preparing for a very big (once in lifetime) trip and am trying to cover the full range from ultra wide, normal, to short tele. I'm thinking of taking 12mm Zeiss 35mm f2, 90mm f2. But am also looking at the new 16-80 Fuji zoom. I've read that the 16mm is actually wider than rated, and am not familiar with its IQ. 

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Hi Marek.

I said that I take a 35mm f2 and 16mm f2.8 when travelling light because then I can fit my x-e3 into a coat pocket but if I am taking a bag l take 10-24 and 18-55 zooms instead. I will sometimes add a 55-200 zoom if I want to cover just about every possibility. All of this will fit into a small bag. Billingham Hadley or similar size.

Edited by Pixel8r
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Hi Marek.

Good move. The 10-24mm f4 is slower than the primes that you mentioned but the image stabilisation will more than compensate for that. From my experience, if you are photographing cities, buildings and building interiors, you will probably use that lens all of the time.

If you use a photo editing app (photoshop etc.) you can go wild at the 10mm end and know that you can correct any crazy perspectives later. Just leave plenty of space around the subject because the corrections will eat that up. (Unless you like crazy perspectives.)

The 10-24 is heavier than the X-t20 so I would recommend using a metal hand grip to improve the handling and grip. Get one from Amazon. You can always send it back if you don't like it.

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