Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Essential Lenses Of The Pros
What the top professionals have to say about the optics they need the most
As a wildlife nature photographer, my lenses have to be fast, sharp and small enough not to slow me down in the field. For handheld bird photography, my favorite lens combination is the Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 EX APO DG and a 1.4x teleconverter. The lens has fast auto-focus, quick zoom control and solid low-light ability. It’s extremely sharp, even with the 1.4x converter, and it’s still reasonable to carry. This is the one lens combination that’s always in my bag.
Speed is the most important aspect for me. The 70-200mm’s autofocus and zoom control are quick enough even for full-frame birds in flight. The zoom range gives me flexibility, and with the 1.4x converter attached, I get great reach with almost no loss in speed, sharpness or image quality. The ƒ/2.8 aperture provides a bright viewfinder, allowing me to accurately and consistently track birds in flight, and I can work in low light without having to set the ISO too high. This combination is just about perfect, from eagles fishing in Alaska to nesting egrets in Florida.
I use the Sigma 10-20mm ƒ/4-5.6 EX DC HSM lens on my Nikon DX-format DSLRs. The APS-C sensors give me considerable depth of field, meaning that images shot at ƒ/11 or ƒ/16 will be sharp from quite close to the camera to infinity. This 10-20mm is compact and lightweight, and it uses a 77mm filter—the size I tend to carry—so it’s my go-to lens.
A superwide zoom is essential for my nature photography. The wide field of view allows me to dramatically emphasize close-at-hand subjects while showing surrounding environments. In addition, when I’m in tight spaces, like deep within a forest or down in a gorge, the wide view lets me capture the immensity of the landscape. In my photography, I want to create a strong sense of place and three-dimensionality. The 10-20mm superwide zoom allows me to compose with an accentuated foreground subject and a clear middle-ground element, all the while showing an expansive natural backdrop, a great three-part recipe for space and depth.
The lens I literally can’t do without is the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm ƒ/2.8-4.0 SWD; it has a 35mm equivalent of a 24-120mm. It’s the lens that’s always the first one I grab when heading out to shoot. It’s just an incredibly sharp lens. Traveling light is a necessity for me as a photographer on the go. It allows me to focus on capturing images instead of dealing with equipment. The Zuiko 12-60mm provides that wide-angle coverage I love using. I can move in close to my subject, or I can zoom out to a short telephoto that works perfectly for portraits. And, as I said, it’s an incredibly sharp lens.
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