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Lens choices, help me make sense of the trade-offs

What combo to go for?

  • 23mm prime + 90mm prime

    Votes: 1 7.7%
  • 18-55mm zoom (kitlens) + 55-200mm zoom

    Votes: 5 38.5%
  • 23mm prime + 55-200mm zoom

    Votes: 3 23.1%
  • 18-55mm zoom (kitlens) + 90mm prime

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I've got a better idea, see below....

    Votes: 4 30.8%

  • Total voters
    13

Propheticus

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I do thorough online research whenever I buy anything of significant value. Normally, while it may take a while, I manage to reduce options to a shortlist and eventually a comfortable choice. On occasion I even help family or strangers on forums in making a choice with logical deduction/elimination.

Currently I'm researching the purchase of a mirrorless system camera. I've narrowed it down to the Fujifilm X-T30 (mark 2). Where I however struggle is the choice of lenses. Do I start with a nice prime and expand the range by getting different lenses or do I start with a good zooming kitlens for more versatility and then still expand later?

The user:
Technically savant, curious. Currently using either my smartphone or a compact Canon Powershot sx220hs. I hardly ever use the latter, other than vacations. I understand the photography basics like the light triangle and using aperture to limit/extend depth of field etc., but by no means a pro.

Intended use:
The direct cause of my search is a month-long trip I'll be making to Chili during which I'd like to make nice pictures. So travel photography is the first use-case.
Next to this I'd like to use the camera to capture nature while we're out walking. Especially small details interest me, think small flowers, mosses, mushrooms, interesting structures/surfaces. Same goes for 'product' photo's, for mechanical watches or technical gadgetry I like the close-up details.
We have a cat, so he will probably be a subject as well.
As of now I'm not intending to do many portrets, but of course the occasional headshot might happen.

The choices:
  • Prime lens 23mm (35mm*) F/2
    Cost: €439,-
    Pro: compact&light, faster lens, nicer contrast and bokeh
    Con: no OIS, not super wide for landscape (but panorama function on camera might mitigate this), zooming with my feet
  • Zoomlens 18-55mm (27-84mm*) F/2.8-4.0 with 4 stops OIS
    Cost: as kitlens +€400,- compared to body-only
    Pro: versatile focal range from wide to mild-tele, stabilisation useful for low-light and/or zoomed handheld shooting. No need for carrying a second lens for mild tele/portrait.
    Con: slower lens, compromises in image quality compared to prime, bigger/heavier.

Right now I think the zooming kitlens is a good-enough starter lens for an enthousiast amateur. The concern I have is about it being a compromise and at some point I'd want a better prime anyway. So I might as well go that route right away.
I understand neither of these lenses are particularly good for portrait or detail/macro-ish photography. So that would mean getting something like a 90mm (137mm*) F2 prime... for a whopping €999,-
Also I'm not yet covered for tele-photo's. Here I'd take something like a 55-200mm (84-305mm*) F/3.5-4.8 with OIS at €689,- (which might also cover the 90mm use-case). The OIS being especially handy when shooting full tele without a tri-pod.

This is getting expensive quickly while currently I'm not sure how often I'd go through the trouble of taking the camera with me if that means carrying a whole bag of accessories and lenses.

Your advise is welcome!

edit after receiving some input, currently leaning towards:
  • *new choice* Zoomlens 16-80mm (24-122mm*) F/4 with 6 stops OIS
    Cost: €689,-
    Pro: wider range than kit zoomlens reducing my need for tele(zoom) lens, more contrast/vibrant, nicer/softer unsharpness.
    Con: a little bigger/heavier still, costlier, F/4 instead of F/2.8 at wide end.
Since none of the Fuji primes have OIS they would seem impractical to me for travel / hiking. It would also mean I almost always have to carry multiple lenses.
When I progress as a photographer, I can always add a nice 90mm F2 prime for portrait and (flower and insect) detail photo's with more sharpness and richer bokeh.

*:35mm equivalent
 
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sq225917

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Primes are great when you have control over the distance to subject, such as portrait and studio shots, but for a novice they make an awful walkabout lens. A decent short tele in the 25-80mm range (full frame equivalent) is a much better starter choice. I used to have a Canon 16-35mm 2.8f on a 1.6 crop body, that was about perfect for me.
 

mansr

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Primes are great when you have control over the distance to subject, such as portrait and studio shots, but for a novice they make an awful walkabout lens. A decent short tele in the 25-80mm range (full frame equivalent) is a much better starter choice. I used to have a Canon 16-35mm 2.8f on a 1.6 crop body, that was about perfect for me.
Another to consider is the 24-105mm f/4 L IS.
 

mhardy6647

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Well, at least modern zoom lenses aren't awful. ;)
I use one most of the time... mostly because I am effing lazy.
 

Kuppenbender

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For a travel lens, I’d recommend the Fujinon 16-80 f4. The extra width and reach is totally worth the lack of f2.8 at 18mm (which goes to f3.6 by 35mm) for travel photography. At a later stage, get an f1.8 prime or two for showy bokeh.
 
OP
Propheticus

Propheticus

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Thanks for the inputs so far!
I'm indeed starting to think a good zoomlens would be the best starter lens.

I actually like the 16-80mm constant F4 mentioned above! Yes it's a bit move expensive than the kitlens 18-55mm (€689 vs €399), but it also offers a telephoto range for detail, (closeup) portrait and nature shots. This would remove the need to get a separate tele-zoom lens right away. I'm not going to camp in bird-watching huts anyway, so don't think I'll need the 200mm range of the 55-200 I mentioned in my opening post.

@mansr I can't find a Fuji X-mount 24-105mm F4 , do you mean the lens @Kuppenbender links to perhaps?
 

audio2design

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Zoom, no question. Primes are great when you are specifically out to take photos, but this concept of using your legs to adjust the framing is just arrogant photographer speak. Many of the things I take photos of don't give me the option of being in the exact spot to fill the frame with a prime lens.
 

SchwarzeWolke

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Would strongly reccomend primes.
Go for 23 and 50mm.
Why primes? You learn to choose the focal length depending on the image you want to create. With a zoom, you just dial in whatever focal length without even thinking what this would do to your image. As an example, when I'm somewhere, where I want maximum isolation of the subject from the background, I go specifically for a long focal length and vice versa. Without learning those basics, you will always just use whatever focal length without knowing what this is doing to your picture.
Rule of thumb: Always double the focal length to get a good mix of primes. That's why the 23-50mm or for full frame 35-85mm are so popular.
 

SchwarzeWolke

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Zoom, no question. Primes are great when you are specifically out to take photos, but this concept of using your legs to adjust the framing is just arrogant photographer speak. Many of the things I take photos of don't give me the option of being in the exact spot to fill the frame with a prime lens.
If someone says like "framing with the legs" he really did not get the idea behind primes.
Normally, I decide first, what I want to shoot. Portraits? Landscape? Portraits with background? Etc. Then I choose my focal length and search exactly for subjects and settings which fit to my focal length. After learning this, you can really use a zoom more effectively because you now have an eye for the subject and what focal length fits the most.
 

Ulf

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The Fuji 18-55 kit lens is really good and relatively cheap. I have it with my XT30 and I would buy it again. For travel I would also get a small lens like the 27 mm pancake, which is much easier to carry around. None of these are very good for true macro.
 

thefsb

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There's nothing so boring as a standard zoom. Get the 55-200 and use your phone for wide angle shots.
 
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Propheticus

Propheticus

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Oh my. This is what I was afraid of. Instead of narrowing down, even more options to consider.

So recap of my current shortlist:
- Get 1 zoomlens 16-80mm
- Get 2 zoomlenses 18-55 + 55-200mm

And then there's all the options involving primes/pancakes. Where a 27mm pancake does sound like a good compact option for 'just put it in my coat-pocket' usage.

Edit:
You know what I've found sample pictures and that 16-80mm F4 takes amazing pictures. With a minimal focus distance of 35cm in the whole focal range, I'd expect detail photos at the long range of 80mm will be quite possible. I also think 80mm (122mm equiv) is long enough for my use cases.
 
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audio2design

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I bought the Topaz AI suite. It's not a substitute for better lenses, but I find the combination of advanced sharpening and advanced noise reduction combined with shooting in raw gave me the performance I was happy with 95% plus of the time well drastically cutting down on my carry weight. I almost never pull out the full frame and primes.

If the subject isn't moving most of the time I don't need the widest aperture but if you do lots of portraits you may prefer. There are some software options out there as well now. Optical image stabilisation I would never go without any more. Again it comes back to if your subjects aren't moving then optical image stabilisation gives you the equivalent of a white aperture with less weight. The most used prime by far is a medium wide-angle with white a picture and image stabilisation for flash free indoor pictures
 

nerdstrike

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I have an affinity for 35mm effective (i.e. the 23mm on the Fuji). It's great for subject in context, and often comes with really good depth of field rendering. Wide enough for big subjects, doesn't completely distort the corners and so on. There's a lot to like but you run out of pixels to crop from pretty quickly if your subject is distant. This is my go-to (because I don't have a standard zoom).

The standard zoom is the easier choice for general snapshots, but I find even the standard zoom range runs out very quickly. I got a great deal of fun out of a crop 18-105 (24-160ish) as my first lens, mainly because I could frame out junk with the extra reach.

Be wary of that 90mm option. Great for portraiture, but it starts to get very difficult to frame shots in environments that you don't control. Glamour shots and arty stuff all day, but forget walkabout.

55-200 will be mostly baggage. You'll wish you had it fitted when the dodo flies by, and you'll wish you had more reach, or you're too close half the time... One event in a hundred it'll be exactly what you need, and that makes it a poor bang for buck.

Examine your itinerary/objectives and be informed from that. Are you an artist, a tourist, or a cataloguer? What do you want to be?

I don't mind humping a kilo or two of lenses up a mountain because I'm trying to take shots to hang on the wall. It also means I worry about weather resistance more than chronicaling every step. Primes often get in the way of snapping the moment. Even if you have the right one in your bag, the moment is gone by the time you're ready... But that kit zoom can limit the presentation that lifts a photo from nice to special.

An artist can do amazing things with whatever, but they are trying to make art and putting tonnes of time in. You might have more mundane expectations, and might be better shooting with the best do-it-all lens you can fit.
 
OP
Propheticus

Propheticus

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It's a bit of a mixed bag. I am conscious of composition and like to rather take a few really nice pictures than snap away like a tourist.
On the other hand, use-case 1 is this trip to Chili or nature hikes where I'm not alone... My gf will probably get bored/annoyed if I stop and take a long time at any photo opportunity.
Of course the snap and go situations are often also perfectly fine on a good smartphone. Bottom line, a little on the artsy side but rather novice.
Afraid that if I start out too complex with always having to carry a whole kit / array of lenses around, it won't get of the ground.

All-in-all I think the 16-80mm F4 lens is a good compromise, leaving open the option to add primes later.
 

sq225917

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Yeh it's a good choice depending on aberration at max min.
 
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Propheticus

Propheticus

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Actually found that the tier up and normally more expensive Fujifilm X-S10 comes in a kit with the 16-80mm lens. This combination is cheaper than buying a separate X-T30 II body and this lens.

The X-S10 is akin the X-T4 and is more of a mirrorless DSLR. The customisable (rotary) buttons are a more modern take on the camera than the full manual older school X-T line. As a bonus it has in body stabilisation.

Concluding this thread I think:
I'll probably go for a X-S10 with 16-80mm F4 (kit) zoomlens.
A (tele)macro can be added later when the hobby catches on.
 
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