Getting to know your lenses

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So James & I have just been fortunate enough to take our daughter Charlotte to Hong Kong. Not sure if you can see the resemblance, but James’ family is most definitely Hong Kong (well Chinese) in descent, so we’ve had a great time seeing family again and exploring the city.

One thing that we love to do on these kinds of trips is to rent the lens we’ve “always wanted”. Now, like most of you, this lens changes depending on the day you ask us – so we normally rent a different lens for each trip. It’s a great and relatively inexpensive way to figure out if you like a lens before you go and invest the hundreds or thousands of dollars on it!

What was our choice this time? Well currently the largest zoom in our kit is our 100mm Macro… Next up is our Nikon 85mm f1.8. So our choice this time was for the Nikon 300mm f4.0. We wanted to see what it would be like to have a zoom prime in our kit! And what a lens it is! It’s absolutely beautiful.

But what a change from our current mostly wide-angle kit! The learning curve on this one is steep, and I think after 2 weeks we’re only just starting to familiarize ourselves with the lens and it’s strengths and weaknesses. So if you’re thinking about a new lens, here are our recommendations for getting to know your lens:

  1. Try renting first. As your photography improves, your lens budget will also need to grow (healthily). The 300mm f4 that we tried this time would set us back upwards of $2,000, so the $200 rental fee for 2 weeks is a LOT easier to handle. The best part is? We’re not even entirely sure that we’d like to buy this lens now, so we’ve just saved ourselves a bunch of money.
  2. You’ll need to force it on yourself a little. It’s very easy to switch to your “go-to” lens when the going gets tough – so our recommendation? Leave your other lenses behind (at home or even just in your hotel room). Take just the one new lens with you and force yourself to take some photos. Yes, they may start out a little shoddy (well, let’s be honest, they almost definitely will start out a little less than your usual standards), but there’s only one way to train your eye to a new lens – and that’s to use it!
  3. Give yourself some time. When you see a shot you think will work with the new lens, give yourself some time to capture it. You might need to take 2 or 3 shots – different f.stops, different perspectives, different focal lengths (if you have a zoom). And that’s ok! You just need a little time to try it out – so be patient and play around with it a little.
  4. Bring it on a course. Rent a lens for your next photography course! By bringing a new lens to a course you have all of the opportunity to pick the brains of your awesome Instructor about how to best use it. We’ll help you take the guess work out of it and help you to see the beauty that each and every lens has (as well as some of the downsides you might want to consider).

The verdict from our trip? We’ve had a lot of fun trying out Nikon’s 300mm f4.0. We think it’s a spectacular lens – beautiful clarity, great colour rendition and very sharp with a great, fast focus. For us though? It’s a little tooooooo much zoom – I mean, we needed to start seeing photos 2 blocks away from us, and that can be a little limiting. It would be great for Safari’s, action photography, and maybe even landscapes, but we love travel and street photography, so this might be our renting lens – not our buying one. With such a big jump in zoom from our current kit, we’re wondering if the Nikon 70-200mm lens might not be a better choice. Looks like we know what lens we’re renting for our next trip!

Have questions or comments for us? Ask us anytime at hello@cameracourses.ca or join us on one of our fantastic photography classes in Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna or Ottawa!

 

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