So many discussion threads on ‘which lens is sharper’. So much G.A.S. going on out there. Bigger and more is better.

I was there. Going through each and every review and going for the even sharper, newer or more praised lens. Maybe an old classing on the way. Anything that seemed slightly sharper or faster.  More lenses found their way into the bag. In the meantime only a few found their way to eBay. And if they did - it always seemed to attract something new straight away. The overall bulk seemed to be increasing, yet many of the pieces were mostly spending their time in the box under the bed.

Being a keen walker and travelling a fair bit, this was not sustainable. I could lug the lenses and the cameras for a day walk. Not a problem. Could, on a push, lug it for a couple of days of walking. Heck, even lugged the 70-200mm f2.8 up the Mueller’s Hut in knee-deep snow. Was it work it? Hell yes!


Although the backpack was bursting out, every time the justification for the effort was the same: maybe there will be something that needs a wide, or long or macro lens. Maybe a stream or waterfall. Or maybe some distant peak…The new lenses always seemed sharper or faster, even though bigger and heavier. Or better in some other way. A Rode mic in case of some video work. Maybe a flash - just in case... But most of the stuff in the box did not quite make its way out. A lot of it just stayed in.

Hoarding. That was the other problem. More gear gathering in the box. Just in case. Because, maybe, one day, ...

Salvation came with some common sense starting to filter in - and the (unfortunate) Nikon's strategy to ignore the DX segment since D300. The move to D7000 at first felt uncomfortable, wrong. Unsubstantial. Fortunately, the feeling did not last. Hands soon were re-trained to the new grip and ergonomics. What seemed such a problem, was not an issue anymore. Your body can learn and get used to things. Other issues, like the ridiculously small buffer, did not go away - but instead needed some more careful shooting. It paid off as, knowing there is a very finite number of shots, meant taking less but more thoughtful ones. Soon the 70-200 also started to join less of the longer trips, often gathering dust at home. Just could not be bothered to lug it up and down mountains.

It came handy for an occasional portrait session, an event that needed more reach and speed. But, somewhat, the old, manual 85mm f2 bought off eBay from Japan seemed easier to travel with – and easier to point at people. For outdoor work was all that was needed. Even for events, it is surprising how quickly you get used to focusing manually. Since not that much exciting wildlife in NZ, all of sudden manual focus was enough.


Moreover, working with a smaller and slower lens was less intimidating when on travels. Both to the lovely subjects and myself.Less attention, less looking like yet another know with an oversized lens...

And the amplified, metallic shutter sound that he lens produces: pure joy! I realised that I prefer to work with this old, bright fella when out there. That's when primes took fully over. The 16-85mm zoom joined the 70-200mm. 4 zooms were all: 24, 35, 50 and 85. Back to the basics. But not all primes seemed to be equal. During the GAS frenzy, I already have bought some of the new breed of primes released by Nikon: the apparently sharper and faster 50mm and 35mm G series.

But, soon enough they became unloved. They were bigger than the older D series. Maybe a tad lighter - but the plastic feel was simply horrible. The fact that these are now all made in China was enough to lock these in the cupboard. It is important t work with gear that you like the feel of - not just surgical sharpness or speed. And I did not like those. At all.

The D series won this battle with ease. Yes, sometimes the focus is slower - but it just makes you pay more attention and focus on what you doing. I realised that there is more to gear than just numbers. You need to connect with it and feel comfortable. You shoot less frames, that's for sure. But these are better frames.

Neither plastic feel nor supporting an aggressive government worked for me. Metal barrels. Smaller and slower. Great for travel and city. Yes, you need to make a few steps sometimes. And yes, you need to change lenses. That's why the camera is referred to as interchangeable lens!!! But it makes you think twice about the opportunities before you change the lens. It makes you work the scene a little bit more. Importantly, all of these fit into a small(ish) insert that can go into a day pack or a backpack. Neat. Small. Easy to travel with. Now the best part: the bank account started to see some money coming back. Flogging the unused gear was not easy at the beginning. Once the gear started disappearing, life became easier: less decisions, less clutter. You don’t have to think which lenses to take. You can take all four of them. Need some more reach? Get the fifth prime maybe. Or a teleconventer. Keeping it simple and small paid off so far. Then came the time to ditch the Lee 100 system for seven5. Super light, small and well made. The real test was to come soon: 6 months travel, including hiking and only 4 lenses. Did it work? Hell yeah!

Travelligh small and light.


Overall it was liberating. You can work with less gear. But I also realized that it is important to work with gear you resonate with: larger and heavy lenses did not work for me for practical reasons. Try to hike up with the gear for 3-4 days.

They were also uncomfortable to use in public. Too much attention, too much distortion to human behavior.

The new breed of Nikon lenses primes did not resonate for aesthetic and ideological reasons: the plastic feel and the fact that these are made in China. Why would I want to capture the beauty of nature with lenses that are made in a country that disregards environment? Why would I want to contribute to more aggressive stance of China through contributing to their economic clout?

It did not feel right. I connect with the older D lenses : metal barrels, crafted in Japan. These feel like they have a soul. You need to connect with the gear - and it is easier with less gear...

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