Lenses for Egypt

I agonized over equipment for weeks before heading to the Middle East: Zoom or primes? High-end big/fast glass or a kit lens? Tripod? Strobe? Here’s what I ended up taking on the trip:

  • Nikon D7000 (ie, cropped sensor)
  • 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom
  • 12-24 f/4 wide-angle zoom
  • 35mm f/1.8 prime
  • Slik Sprint Mini tripod w/ball head

It worked out pretty well. The fast 35mm prime — 50mm on a full-frame body — was a lifesaver. It was the only way I could shoot in those no-flash interiors and the angle-of-view was usually just right. I almost never used the 12-24 wide-angle zoom because the 18mm was wide enough for almost anything. And without the 18-200mm zoom, I could never have shot the video of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square from a block away.

The one lens I wish I’d taken is my mid-range 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom. I would rather have had that one lens than the wide-angle zoom and the 35mm prime. The 24-70mm would have been fast enough for most of those interiors — I was shooting at high ISOs anyway — and would have covered most of my outdoor shots, too. And it’s a much sharper lens than the kit zoom. As it was, I had to swap lenses every time we entered or left a tomb or other structure. In the dust of the Sahara, I wasn’t real thrilled to be doing that. I would still take the 18-200mm kit lens, which would give me that slightly wider angle for the few times I needed it plus the longer focal length for the video. But I would have left it on the bus or even in the hotel most of the time.

Finally, I was very glad I took the lightweight Slik tripod, which is small enough that it actually fits inside a carry-on suitcase. I expected to use it for HDR shots but ended up using it for those long-range video shots instead.

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