Two Lenses. One Body. What Would You Choose?

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

While packing up my bag after a great wildlife photography workshop in Madikwe I took this iPhone image of my camera bag.

Gerry van der Walt - Nikon Gear

In the bag you can see the following:

  • Nikon D3s
  • Nikon D800
  • Nikon 200-400mm VRII
  • Nikon 70-200mm VRII
  • Nikon 24-70mm
  • Nikon 14-24mm
  • Nikon SB-600 Speedlight
  • Clik Elite Pro Elite Camera Bag
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Now, at the risk of going down the very tired brand debate which is completely pointless and adds absolutely nothing to either your own photography or the creative process, I would like to ask you a few questions.

It goes like this.

You have a camera bag which can hold only two lenses and one body.

You are not sure of the wildlife photography destination yet and can only take what you have in the bag.

  • If you could choose  two lenses and one body from the image above what would you take?
  • If you could choose any two lenses and one body – any brand – what would you take?
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Then of course the last question is why.  Why would you choose those particular lenses and body?

Every piece of gear we choose and use is purely a tool that allows us to create certain types of images so let’s not go down the road of “I would choose Nikon because it’s black” or “I would choose Canon because it’s awesome” and let’s rather focus on the real reason we choose certain pieces of equipment.  To create wildlife photographs!

And no, in this case budget is not an issue.

Comments are open so let me know what your choice would be and why!

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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Comments 0

  1. Andre Coetzer

    The body would be a Canon 7D, and the lenses a 100mm Macro and a 10-22mm EFS. The reasons are simple. No matter which wildlife destination you go to, there are ALWAYS macro subjects to photograph. The 7D is the best in the range that still has a built-in flash, assuming no flash is allowed extra. The 10-22mm will help you take photos that the other 300 photographers around you can’t do, and chances are they will be asking for your photos of the group and the experience instead of asking the guy with a 400mm F2.8 lens for his photos of an elephant’s nostril 🙂

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      Great choices Andre! I also reckon that wide angles are underrated and have, for the last while, always packed a wide angle regardless of where I travel to! 🙂

  2. Marlon duToit

    From the image above, I would take the D3s, 200-400 and the 14-24. The 200-400 will cover most of my wildlife images and the 14-24 covers the landscapes etc.
    If I could choose anything I wanted, I would take a Canon 1Dx, a Canon 200- 400 with built in converter, and a Canon 16-35 2.8 mk2. This will again cover me for a super wide range of subjects. I would want to include a 70-200 for its versatility, so that would be my 3rd lens. 🙂

  3. Timothy Griesel

    I would follow Marlon du Toit and take the D3s and the 200-400mm, frame rate, good low light capabilities and excellent versatility with the lens, you gotta have a wide angle to cover those breath taking landscapes, so the 14-24mm.

    In terms of ideal 1 body, 2 lens kit, 1Dx, simply because of frame rate, that absolutely beautiful 200-400mm with 1.4x built in, such a versatile lens and from reviews, an extremely sharp lens as well.
    Then I’m not sure about the wide angle stuff, if I don’t go for the 16-35 canon then I would look the sigma 12-24mm, ultra wide angle on a full frame body or perhaps a fish eye.

    But I would need to consider what the applications are, if it is purely wildlife and no chance of landscape then I would take the 70-200mm f/2.8

  4. Chad Wright

    I can see a few people dropping their personal wishlists here, so I’m going to be boring and choose from my current set-up 😀

    Camera – Canon 1Ds mk II (It has an unreal sensor and more than enough megapixels to play with)

    Lenses – Sigma 100-300mm f4 EX (I’ve had this lens for almost 4 years and sits just under my 300mm f2.8L as my favourite which is saying a lot!. It’s tack sharp, rugged and has a decent focal length. I still can’t understand why Sigma discontinued it…)

    – Sigma 50mm f2.8 EX Marcro (Fun would be the best way to describe the little guy. It’s wide enough on a full frame to get some decent landscapes and the macro capability opens one up to a whole new realm of possibilities!)

  5. Jacques Blignaut

    Gerry, you make it really tough with only 2 lens choices. 3 would have been easier.

    From the image, the Nikon D3 and the lenses will be Nikon 200-400mm VRII and Nikon 70-200mm VRII.

    My choice, I am with Marlon, Canon 1Dx and Canon 200- 400. My other lens will then be the Canon EF28-300 to give me the wider angle.

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  6. Andrew Beck

    Insert proverbial cat amongst the pigeons here!

    I would take the D800, 200-400mm and 70-200mm.

    I am not too concerned about frame rate of the D800 as I prefer to pick my shots a lot more carefully and feel that the resolution and dynamic range of this body would be great under any conditions.

    On the lens front, the 70-200mm is my “7 iron” and is such a versatile lens – especially when it comes to capturing animals in their environment . The 200-400mm has to feature purely from a maximum focal length and range of focal length (something which the Canon 200-400mm has taken 1 step further with their built in 1.4x converter).

    Any brand: Canon 1DX, Canon 200-400mm and Canon 70-200mm f2.8.

    Great question Gerry!

  7. Jonathan

    For “any” I’d go with: Canon 7D, the sigma 120-300 f2.8 and the canon 24-105 f4…
    The 7D because I know it inside out and love it. The crop factor gives a little extra focal length on the full frame lenses: the 24-105 gives me a fairly wide option and enough space to frame if needed, the 120-300 gives me the option of long lens work and just enough for birds (although a stretch I’d admit).

    (If I could squeeze just one more lens in the bag it would be Tokina 11-16 f2.8…for wides and timelapse work. Only because I have that lens. If I had the budget it’d be the Canon 16-35. But I’m only allowed 2 so I can stop dreaming!)

    Great exercise as I am preparing my bag for Madikwe in a couple of weeks and have jus this dilemma!

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  8. Patrick Meier

    Gerry hi,

    From the bag above I would chose the D800, 24-70, 200-400 and the flash (plus tripod and remote release). This way, I should be able to address in an interesting way whatever comes along.

    Choosing freely, I would go for the Canon EOS 1DX, equally with 24-70 II and 200-400. Mind you, I will have a first product demo on the PhaseOne DF645+ with IQ250 digi-back in April. Perhaps my choice will change after that… 😉

    Brgds, Patrick

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  9. fred vogt

    Hi Gerry,
    I am quite a novice in photography and really like your wild eye posts, which I follow now for a couple of months. It really helps me in discovering the magic of photoworld.
    When on phototour I often see people carry around tons of gear, which I find strange, it is heavy, costs a lot, but above all it takes your attention away from the real thing, taking photos, as you can not make your mind up what body or lens combination you have to choose. So keep it simple!
    I would say, the D3s with 200/400 for all your wildlife shots and the d800 with 14/24 for the landscapes. That’s it, or maybe some extra batteries to fill the bag

  10. Nic Basson

    Simple choices because of my experiences: out of the bag D3s with 200 – 400 VRII and the 14- 24. It would be the best for sightings and also for landscapes.

    My unlimited choice would be a Canon 1Dx with 200 – 400 with built in converter and a 18 – 85 lens. Gives me all the right wide angles I need. In my present setup with 7D all I really need is the 200 – 400 with built in converter.

  11. Suhail Khan

    I would choose from the above kit D3s and the two lenses 24-70mm and 200-400 VR. This to me appears a more versatile range in comparison to any other combination from the above given kit.

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  12. Jakes

    I often find myself in this situation. For me it is not a situation of getting all the shots but getting optimum image quality. From my own stuff, Nikon D800 as The 36mp in itself offer a massive crop factor that makes up for at least 30% more reach. My 300mm f2.8 with 1.7 converter and 70-200f2.8 the 70-200 also works very well with the TC1.7 . Alternative is to leave the 70-200 and take the 24-120 f4.

  13. Barry

    Thought provoking stuff Gerry, without being too familiar with the Nikon stuff I would go with the below from your bag:
    Nikon D3s
    Nikon 70-200mm VRII
    Nikon 14-24mm

    Reason being the 70-200 covers most mammal shots in the style I’ve been enjoying recently. Including quite a lot of the surrounding landscape and tell a story of the animal in it’s environment as opposed to something that could have been shot in a zoo. The 14-24 for the landscapes, it doesn’t matter where we are going there’s always a landscape, so basically a pretty versatile setup.

    If I could choose anything…
    Canon 1Dx
    Canon 16-35mm f2.8
    Canon 100-400mm f4.5 – 5.6

    Same reasons as above really (versatility) but went with the 100-400 in this case because I get a little more reach without losing the 100mm – 200mm range I would have been giving up with the Nikon (200-400mm) option and between 100 & 200 mm is the focal length I find a lot of my “mammal in landscape” photos are in.

    I hope at the end of this you are going to tell us what you would do?

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