On my recent Arctic cruise, I was equipped with a formidable kit of photo equipment from Nikon Canada. That included the powerful D500 camera body as well as a good selection of high-quality Nikkor lenses, ranging from relatively wide angle to serious telephoto. Those who love photography know that the lens is just as important as the camera when it comes to getting great photographs. So in this post, I’ll showcase the two lenses I used most on this trip, and show some of the photos they produced.
The AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm ED VR lens
This might be called the “kit” lens for the D500 camera, but it’s a long way from the flimsy short zooms that come with many less expensive cameras. It’s chunky and solid-feeling without being heavy, and it’s fast, with a maximum aperture value of 2.8. That makes it a great tool for low-light shooting, but during my trip I used it in every kind of light condition.
The 16-80-millimetre zoom translates to 24-120mm in traditional terms, and that proved an almost ideal range for a trip like this. It was wide enough to use in tight quarters, or to capture a wide open landscape. And at the long end, the lens gave me enough reach to zoom in things that were more than a few metres away. As well, with cameras like the 21-megapixel D500, you can crop the photos significantly without losing any quality, making the lens effectively longer.
Like the other Nikkor lenses I travelled with, this one has both ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass to prevent colour aberrations and vibration reduction (VR) to prevent blurred shots due to camera shake. Nikon says its VR feature is equivalent to adding four shutter speeds. And it all seemed to work as advertised: I got some lovely images from this lens, whether I was shooting people or landscapes or the details of northern towns like the one at the top of this post.
Here are a few samples of the photos this lens produced. The images below have not been sharpened; click on them to see them full-size.
The AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 ED VR lens
When I learned I was going to the Arctic to shoot photos, I knew there was one thing I would need: a high-quality telephoto lens. And Nikon obliged, with one that was up to the job. The 200-500mm lens, which equates to a range of 300-750mm in traditional values, gave me the reach to get usable shots – and sometimes closeups — of birds and animals from the deck of a ship or the bow of a Zodiac.
Like the shorter lens, the 200-500mm has both ED glass and a potent vibration reduction system, and Nikon has added a special diaphragm mechanism to keep things stable while shooting long bursts of shots. And I ended up shooting in burst mode a lot, as I captured birds flying by at high speeds.
Focusing and shooting with a lens of this size takes some skill. Luckily, I’ve spent more than a few hours shooting wildlife with a big telephoto lens, and I found it easy to get used to the 200-500. Despite its size, it’s comfortable to hold, and not excessively heavy. However, it zooms by turning a zoom ring, which makes it a bit of an effort to go from one end of its range to the other. So I found it useful to zoom in or out in anticipation of the next shot to avoid making big adjustments in the moment.
As for the results – they were hard to argue with. I did miss some focuses — that comes with the territory when you’re shooting wildlife. But I also produced a lot of sharp, good-looking shots in difficult conditions. And I appreciated the long, long 750mm reach when my subjects were out of reach of most other passengers. Here’s a look at a few of the shots I brought home with me.