$2k to spend on landscape lenses

Started Feb 22, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Don Boyd
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$2k to spend on landscape lenses
Feb 22, 2012

First, some background and then the questions. I have shot landscapes using 4x5 and medium format film cameras for the last 10 years, and used mostly the 4x5 the last 8. I have played with an APS-C Pentax K-20d, but it never met my needs to be able to print 30x40 and larger. I did stitch some images together with mixed results; probably more user error in the image captures when it didn’t work. (In my defense, stitching together a dozen or more 12mp files has its challenges and I had not yet fully committed to learn to do it well.) If I could afford medium format digital I would buy that in a minute. However, I can’t. So, I am in the queue for what I see as the next best thing, the D800.

My challenge is to stay within a budget created by the sale of my large format gear, a maximum of $5K for the hardware, of which, $3k is already committed to the D800. While I would love to be able to buy 3 or 4 of the highest quality lenses for the remaining $2k to cover the same range I had with my 4x5, I don’t believe the budget will do it. (The lenses that covered that 4x5 range for me were 90, 150, 200, 300 and 450mm, or in FX language, approximately 27, 45, 60, 90 and 135). Image quality is more important to me than being able to cover the entire range.

Here are my thoughts about potential lenses. Please feel free to show me the error of my ways and offer alternatives, or to confirm that I am pretty much right on in my approach.

Especially as I intend to print large, image sharpness is very important to me. But it is not the only criteria. My favorite 4x5 lens was a Rodenstock 150mm Sironar-S, followed by some Nikkors. In addition to being sharp, the Rodenstock seemed to bring to life the qualities of whatever landscape I was looking at. Based on as many user reviews as I could find, as well as those who write about such things as part of their livelihood (my wife thinks I’m obsessive - no one else here would cop to that, right?), peoples’ descriptions of the Zeiss lenses seem to best approximate the way I felt about the Rodenstock. So, keeping in mind my remaining $2k, here are my questions

1. Given that my most frequently used focal length is 50mm and that I am usually shooting fairly closed down for DOF anyway, is the Zeiss Makro-Planar T* f/2, ZF.2 50mm my best choice (currently $1283)? Stopped down, is their a discernable qualitative difference between it and the Zeiss Planar 4/1.4 (currently $725)?

2. If I needed to make an image wider than the 50mm would make (approx. 46°), would image quality suffer if I stitched two or more images from the 50? (Would the image look more compressed, less 3d-like, than if I had shot it with a 28mm or 35mm?).

3.Does the image quality of the Nikkor 24-70 approach the Zeiss enough to justify buying it instead (say 95% of the Zeiss, if one can quantify it)? (At $1900 currently, it eats up the entire budget but it covers the majority of my focal range.)

4. Other lenses I have heard touted as candidates due to their excellent quality include: Nikkor 28mm, f/2.8 ai-s ($200-300), the Nikkor 50 f/1.8d ($130, nice price). Any landscape shooters using these? Other ideas? Obviously, I'm not averse to using manual lenses

Thanks

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