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on May 28, 2014 in Gear Head Wed

GearHead Wednesday 14 – 20


Got a gear question you want/need answered? I want to help and answer it. Send your gear questions to me at Gear Questions and I’ll do my best every Wednesday to answer as many questions as I can. Keep in mind the answers are just my $.02 worth and you have to take what works for you and your photography and embrace it and ignore the rest. So here’s this weeks questions ….

Oh Gifted Moose
I’ve been looking through your website looking for advice on macro lenses. I see a couple mentions of a Nikon 70-180 macro lens but little else. I’m hoping you can help me. I’m retired and live where there are lots of bugs in the summer and want to try my hand at photographing them. What’s the best macro lens?
Appreciate your $.02 worth


60mcMarven, glad you asked me about macro lenses and not macro photography. I suck at macro photography but that doesn’t stop my knowing about the lenses. To your first question, the 70-180mic is an old lens that came out in the 80’s and is a freakin sharp, flat field lens that is very hard to find today. It’s my primary studio lens and never travels (because I suck at macro photography). Nikon currently offers a number of macro lenses like the 40mm, 60, 85, 105 and 200mm and I’ve shot them all and can recommend them all hands down. But which one should YOU buy? All I can suggest is what I go by and that’s what magnification do you need and what kind of light are you going to work with? Each of these macro lenses have a different working distance with the 40mm having the least, the 200mm the most. So if you’re going to use something like the SB-R200 which is what I use, that makes lighting a whole lot easier. Personally, I’m a 60mm macro dude primarily because its working distance and weight of the lens make it really easy to shoot. Think about working distance and lighting and you’ll know which is the right lens for you real fast.

Am Oystercatcher 0795

Your bird photography has me really wanting to try my hand at it but I don’t have the mulla for the big glass. What lens(s) or focal do you recommend for someone like me?


70-300Tom, you are not alone and things haven’t changed much as when I started, I had the same issue. When it comes to birds, 400mm it the ideal focal length I feel for starting. You can get there with a prime lens or lens with a converter will get the job done. For example if you’re shooting with a D7100 you could go with the 70-300 and have a killer outfit. Moving up the scale, I recommend the 300AFS (killer lens I still have) with the TC-14eIII (Just announced) which gives you a 420f5.6. Lastly keeping budget in mind would be the 80-400VR3. Key to remember that a favorite old saying of mine, “Get close physically and use optics to isolate.” The 400mm lens is a great teacher in getting close physically so you master that, and you’ll have a library of beautiful images.

Oh Wise One
I have a real simple question, what’s the best lens for baseball? I realize you shoot no sports but figure you could find out.
Wanna be sports shooter


400VR3Don, yikes, what a question! I appreciate your faith and in asking, it seems there are a couple of considerations all centering around where you are positioned and what action you want to capture. In a nutshell I’m told that the 70-200f2.8, 300f2.8 and 400f2.8 are the most commonly used lenses. You might notice the one common denominator here is the f/stop, it’s fast and that always means, money. This is for the shallow DoF and corresponding faster shutter speed. The focal length comes into play when you consider where you’re going to be shooting from and the action you want to cover, be it home plate or second base. Now as you very accurately point out, I don’t do sports so I would highly recommend you check out the stud in this dept, Dave Black who it da man. Good luck!

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