Santorini Lens Usage

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Backlit Bells. The midday sun reflects onto the roof of a chapel in Pyrgos, Santorini, Greece.

I wanted to conclude my Santorini blog series on a more analytical note in an effort to understand how I used the lenses that I brought with me. I brought nine lenses on the trip, although if you discount the pinhole lens (which is essentially a no-space-required body cap) I really brought eight. By any measure, that is a lot. The table below summarizes how many photographs I took with each lens and how many each contributed to my final Santorini galleries.

Lens# used% used# gallery% gallery
Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S140378.0 %5880.6 %
Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S18910.5 %79.7 %
Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S512.8 %22.8 %
PC Nikkor 19mm f/4E ED482.7 %34.2 %
AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED301.7 %11.4 %
AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR291.6 %
Lensbaby Obscura 16mm Pinhole281.6 %
PC-E Micro Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D150.8 %11.4%
Lomography Petzval 55mm f/1.7 MkII Bokeh Control50.3 %
Total179872
Lens usage on Santorini trip, sorted from most to least used lens.

Obviously, the lion’s share of all images were taken with the Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S, which is a great all-around lens—if I could only take one lens, this would clearly be it and the data (80% usage) backs this up. The Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S accounted for half of what was left. So, two lenses accounted for 90% of my photographs. Of the remaining lenses, the PC Nikkor 19mm f/4E ED was used for the greatest variety of photographs that benefitted from its tilt and/or shift capability. The Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S was used a few times to take advantage of its shallow depth of field. The AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED was really only used with one particular composition to which it was perfectly suited (and retaken in various lighting conditions). Finally, the PC-E Micro Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D was used in flower fields for its tilting capabilities.

I am certain that I underutilized the telephoto end of the focal length spectrum, but the fixed focal length of the AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR tended to keep it off the camera. I am also certain that I underutilized the fast (f/1.8) 85mm. An unfortunate fact of my lens collection is that I had three ways to do 85mm: the 24-120 zoom, the fast f/1.8, and the f/2.8 macro/tilt-shift. For the narrow streets of Santorini, I think a 45mm tilt-shift would have gotten more use than the 85mm, but my preference is to wait until Z-mount versions appear rather than get another F-mount lens. Since I don’t tend to take many portraits on these types of trips, the natural strength of the fast 85mm tends to be underutilized.

I do like the Petzval lens, but it is a particular look and I feel that I need to dedicate some effort to using it to build a collection that can stand as a body of work; on an expensive trip like Santorini, it feels risky to use it a lot but if you don’t there isn’t much use for just a couple Petzval images with their distinct look.

In the end, I don’t begrudge having taken everything I did, but clearly need to make a more dedicated effort to use the “specialty” lenses in the bag.

Technical note. The image at the top of this post was taken with the Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S; wide open at f/1.8 the depth of field is just shallow enough to help emphasize the bells. The image was processed from RAW in Adobe Lightroom Classic and some distracting trees poking above the church were removed in Affinity Photo.

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