Lens lust in abeyance

Lens lust in abeyance

Ever since I got my first modern SLR, a Nikon N90s in 1998, I’ve been constantly lusting after more lenses. I’ve always known of one or two lenses that I was planning to rush out and buy the next time I had some cash burning a hole in my pocket, or could convince myself that I did.

My first lens was the versatile 28-200mm AF-D, which I took on a 5-week trip to Cambodia, Nepal, and India shortly after purchasing it. It was a great initiation into the world of modern 35mm lenses, and it whetted my appetite for more.

I bought a 50mm F/1.4 next, just because that’s the one you’re “supposed” to have. And like. And use. I did none of those things: my first 50mm F/1.4 went right over my head, and I never appreciated what it could do. I didn’t discover the joys of fooling around with depth of field, especially the joy of less depth of field instead of more, until years later, when I bought my second 50mm F/1.4 (having sold the first one because I wasn’t using it).

Over the years 2000 through 2003, I picked up several more lenses: the massive (by my standards anyway) 80-400mm VR model, a 10.5mm fisheye, a 70-300mm G series, and a few other cheapos I don’t recall at the moment. Then I moved to digital in 2004 with a D70, sold a bunch of lenses to Adorama, and bought the workhorse wide-angle 12-24mm. In 2006 I picked up the versatile 18-200mm VR, and those two plus the fisheye were my entire kit (well, plus a D40 and 18-55mm VR for a backup) until 2008, when I took the plunge and moved from DX to FX with the Nikon D700.

I bought a 14-24mm F/2.8 (nicknamed the Big Kahuna) with the D700, and it’s so fun that it’s intoxicating. I use it way too often, with no regrets:

In the first year I had the D700, I picked up two more lenses, both F/1.4 primes: the 50mm and the 85mm. The 85mm is the ultimate portrait lens for cats and dogs, and both it and the 50mm have wonderful bokeh in the out-of-focus areas:

Then, this spring, I finally got a fast telephoto: the 70-200mm F/2.8 VR II. What a lens! I love it for wildlife, pets, landscapes, flowers and most anything that is more than a few feet away:

I hadn’t really thought of what’s next, but this summer, after taking a three-week vacation full of non-stop photo fun, I realized that I’m satisfied. That familiar lens-lust feeling is gone – I honestly don’t want any other lenses right now. Well, I’d take a truckload of expensive lenses, of course, if somebody were kind enough to deliver it at no cost to me. But I don’t know of a lens that I want bad enough to actually buy it with my own money. Not even at half price.

Here’s a graphical overview of what I carry with the D700 these days, showing (on non-linear made-up scales) the range of depth of field and focal length that these lenses cover:

I also have a D40 as a backup, and two DX lenses with it.  Here they are, overlaid on the D700 lenses I carry:

Truthfully, there are some gaps in there. The 24-70mm F/2.8 is a wonderful lens, and probably the one I’d get next if I had to pick one. As the middle lens of Nikon’s big three, It fills in the gaps in my FX lens lineup like this:

But I agree with Ken Rockwell’s take: it’s probably the perfect lens if you only carry one, but if you carry wide-angle and telephoto zooms you don’t need it. I’m glad to haul several lenses around, slung over my shoulder in a big canvas bag, and that makes the 24-70mm seem unnecessary. Having hauled a golf bag for many years, a bag full of lenses feels like a super-lightweight set of clubs on my shoulder, so I’ve never understood why some people find that so off-putting. Maybe some day I’ll get old and frail enough to care, but right now my 20 pounds of camera gear seems a small price to pay for all the fun I have with it everywhere I go.

A more likely next lens for me would probably be the 10-24mm DX model, to fill out the range for the backup D40:

But that feels forced, since it’s my backup camera that I carry in my laptop bag and rarely feel a need to use with anything other than the 35mm. And the Big Kahuna is so fun, why would I be taking wide-angle shots with anything else? I’d rather keep the money.

Sorry, Nikon, but until you come out the that mythical 9mm FX model, or a 14-400mm F/1.4 VR lens for less than the price of a car, I don’t think you’re getting any more lens money from me.

On the other hand, I should probably check out that silent mode on the D3S soon, and there’s the D700X rumors, and …