Lens for mountain fun

Started Jan 16, 2013 | Discussions thread
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CapsLK
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Lens for mountain fun
Jan 16, 2013

I'm a little nervous posting this. I've been stalking these forums for years but rarely (never?) contribute and they can be a contentious place. If people feel that this post is better relegated to the Nikon Consumer DX forum, let me know and I can move it (I think?). Also, I'm by no means trying to fan the flames of the Tamron 70-300 VC debate that's going on, I'm just looking for some opinions.

I play in the mountains. A lot. I back country ski 50+ days a year and have skied every month for the last 27 straight. When I'm not skiing, I'm climbing, mountaineering, hiking, you get the picture. What I'm really trying to say is that weight is a huge issue for me. A typical day in the mountains is between 1000 and 2000m of elevation gain carrying a pack of avalanche gear, emergency stuff, sleeping bag, food, cooking stuff, etc. I need to be super careful about how much I carry, if my pack is too heavy then my odds of successfully bagging a peak start dropping pretty quickly. Camera gear unfortunately comes pretty far down the priority list.

Oh, and I'm a grad student, so money's an issue though I'll be defending shortly and hopefully working a real job at that point so hopefully my ramen days are coming to an end.

My current shooting setup consists of a D90 (as far as I can tell it's actually indestructible, I have done terrible, terrible things to that camera and it just keeps on shooting), a Nikon 18-105 VR, a Sigma 10-20 (variable aperture model), and my trusty Nikon 50/1.8D. I normally bring the 18-105 and either the 10-20, or the 50 depending on what I'm planning on shooting.

Anyway, when I'm out in the mountains taking photos, it's a mix of landscape and action shots. When shooting a skier, I generally can't be standing in the middle of the slope due to avalanche danger, so I'm normally a reasonable distance from the skier.

I currently have two issues with my setup. Reach and speed. 105 isn't really long enough for the action shots. I end up having to either crop aggressively or stand in the middle of an avi slope and hope nothing bad happens. The next issue is that the 18-105 isn't terribly sharp until I stop down to about f/8 which is getting pretty cripplingly slow. It's fine on bright days, but when the light isn't great, freezing the skier requires that I start cranking the ISO.

My options, as I see them, are:

Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 - it's a beast. I don't know if I can realistically carry a 1.5kg lens. It's possibly affordable, sharp and fast though.

Nikon 70-200 f/4 - still weighs a fair bit, but I can carry it without too too much issue. Super sharp, but it's more than I can really afford. It's about twice as fast as my 18-105 when you consider I could shoot the 70-200 wide open and have to stop down my current lens.

One of the 70-300 variable aperture lenses - I've heard good things about the Tammy and the Nikon models (for what they are). They're slow, but I can probably shoot wide open with them so they'll be at least a little faster than my 18-105, but not by much. On the plus side, they've got plenty of reach and I believe are lighter than the f/4.

Superzooms like the 18-200, 18-300 just won't get me the image quality I'm after I don't think. I also figure that once I've got the long end sorted, I'll pick up a Tammy 17-50/2.8 or something along those lines to hand the closer in work.

So, can you guys think of any obvious alternatives that I might be missing? Any issues I'm not considering? Opinions? Thanks for the input!

Nikon D90
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