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Thread: Best Aurora Lens - Iceland Trip

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    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Best Aurora Lens - Iceland Trip

    Hi everyone,

    I am off to Iceland in 2 weeks and am hoping to see some Auroras. Most of the trip will be landscapes and waterfalls with the occasional hot springs to keep my wife happy.

    I am pretty confident in my kit of:
    • 5DIV
    • 16-35 f/4 IS
    • 24-70 II
    • debating between 70-300 L (size) or 100-400 II (common filter size, more reach)


    But, I am probably going to rent a lens on the off chance I can see Auroras. My general inclination is something like the Sigma 20 f/1.4 (despite the coma) or the very large and heave Sigma 14 f/1.8 art. But, I am wondering if there are any other lenses that people would recommend or modifications to the kit I am thinking of above (TSE 24? 50 Art?, some rental?).

    Thanks,
    Brant
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 03-24-2019 at 12:13 PM.

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    When we visited Banff last winter I rented the Sigma 14 1.4. It performed flawlewssly, despite this being the first time I attempted night sky photography (the lens made me look better than my abilities). Yes the 14m is heavy and large but in my opinion well worth carrying around. Since then, I've been strongly considering purchasing the Sigma 14mm or the Sigma 20 1.4 (I see good deals on the 20mm often) for myself. However, I can find very little information about the 20mm so it is difficult to find real world comparisons of the two lenses.
    Scott

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    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Always Looking View Post
    When we visited Banff last winter I rented the Sigma 14 1.4. It performed flawlewssly, despite this being the first time I attempted night sky photography (the lens made me look better than my abilities). Yes the 14m is heavy and large but in my opinion well worth carrying around. Since then, I've been strongly considering purchasing the Sigma 14mm or the Sigma 20 1.4 (I see good deals on the 20mm often) for myself. However, I can find very little information about the 20mm so it is difficult to find real world comparisons of the two lenses.
    I rented the Sigma 14 f/1.8 for a trip to Zion in 2017. Great lens. I did side by side comparisons to my Rokinon f/2.8, which performed well especially considering its price point. But side-by-side comparisons, the distortion difference is significant, having an extra stop of light does help with shutterspeed or ISO, and I do like having all of my EXIF data.

    Regarding comparisons, Bryan does have reviews and comparisons, for example, comparing the 14 f/1.8 to the 20 f/1.4 at f/2. Then lenstip and ephotozine also have reviews.

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    Senior Member Jonathan Huyer's Avatar
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    If you buy me a ticket to come along, I'll let you use my gear for free!
    But if you insist on renting, I'd really suggest a 14 mm of some variety. When you are that far north, the aurora comes in right over your head and is all around you. So the wider the angle, the better. I did okay with my 14 f/2.8 prime in Yellowknife (see below). For this one I only needed a 3 second exposure at ISO 2000, but granted it was a pretty good show that night so the aurora was brighter than average. The downside to a UWA lens is the keystoning as you tilt upwards (notice the trees are angled inwards). But in Iceland you don't have trees to worry about so this effect should be less noticeable.
    Have a great trip!


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    From my experience shooting auroras past years. Currently i mostly only use Sigma 14mm F/1.8 true performer on my eos 5div. Irix 15mm f/2.4 is also really good even its bit darker F wise. Also the new version of the samyan/rokinnon 14mm f/2.4 xp is told to be quite sharp. Sigma 20mm art 1.4 is also really good, bit easily gets frosted/foggy but little heat on it does the trick.

    This is taken with sigma 14mm.
    October lights by Kasaari, on Flickr

    Since i mostly shoot here in sw part of finland i rarely get auroras like that one on the picture. I usually use something like 1-4s and f/1.8 iso varying from 2000-5000, yes i use rather different isos than the native ones =)

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    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Obviously there is a lot to see and do in Iceland, so if I do not get an aurora picture, not all will be lost. Looking specifically at aurora photography, I will be dealing with a near full moon for most of the trip (March 18-23) and long term aurora forecasts are not predicting a great amount of activity. I could have picked a better week for the moon as I hear 1/4 moon is ideal (some light on foreground while not blowing out the aurora). But I did target March vs other times we were thinking about to give us a chance.

    So, I am leaning toward renting the Sigma 14 f/1.8 Art for a second time. Looking at ebay, I could pick up a Sigma 20 f/1.4 for ~$500 (guessing that is where the bids will end up), and there is a Zeiss 25 f/2 on B&H for ~$700. I am also kicking around the idea of the Sigma 12-24 f/2.8 Art, which would be a rental.

    But, out of those lenses, the Sigma 14 f/1.8 seems like the best fit. Especially with the moon, f/2.8 would likely work, but with f/1.8 I should be able to play with shutter or decrease ISO.

    Let me know if there are any other thoughts. I'll likely place my order in the next day or so.

    Thanks for the suggestions!


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    Hey Brant; I don't have any specific input regarding your question on aurora lenses, but we were in Iceland a few year ago. Knowing your affinity for waterfall photos I'm sure you'll have a great time in Iceland! (And some great hot springs to keep your wife happy I'm sure you've done your research, but make sure you don't just stay in Reykjavik: there is a lot to see outside the city area.

    Stephen

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    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    I was just looking at those aurora shots. Wow... I'll be beyond ecstatic if I get anything close to those. Just keep telling myself, bad forecast...all about luck....

    Ok...

    Quote Originally Posted by NFLD Stephen View Post
    Hey Brant; I don't have any specific input regarding your question on aurora lenses, but we were in Iceland a few year ago. Knowing your affinity for waterfall photos I'm sure you'll have a great time in Iceland! (And some great hot springs to keep your wife happy I'm sure you've done your research, but make sure you don't just stay in Reykjavik: there is a lot to see outside the city area.

    Stephen
    Thanks Stephen. Actually, it is the opposite direction we are debating; are we going to visit Reykjavik at all or just drive past? Thoughts?

    As for our trip, ummm….I just counted, I have 16 waterfalls identified.....and our second hotel in south Iceland might be within 20 minutes of both Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss.....

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    Reykjavik is a nice enough town, but my personal thought is that if you're there for the landscape then why go to the city. We spent a couple nights there and that was enough, I think we'd bypass altogether next time.

    Only 16 identified? You must be skipping some to spare your wife
    Both falls you mention were nice while we were there. Almost constant rainbows at Skogafoss with the very high volume of water and mist. I'd be interested to see what they are like in winter with all the ice. Very easy access for both; right alongside the ring road. How far south/east do you plan to go? We found Vik to be a nice town and a good base for southern Iceland.

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    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Hey Stephen,

    Ha!....I know, I know....always thinking of others .

    But, seriously, if you have some you would recommend, let me know.

    We will make it to see Vik. Our plan is actually to make it all the way to Hofn on a day where we get up early and get back late. Most other days are more normal. But Hofn, weather permitting, is the furthest we plan to make it.

    Generally, our plan is:
    • Day 1 (after landing on redeye): Blue lagoon, meandering up West Iceland, seeing Hraunfossar and Barnafoss
    • Day 2: Saefellsnes Peninsula including Kirkjufellfoss
    • Day 3: Golden circle with Porufoss, Oxararfoss, Bruarfoss, and Gullfoss
    • Day 4: South coast with Seljaolandsfoss, Gljufrabui, Klogafoss, Kvernufoss, Vik (and beaches/sea stacks)
    • Day 5: Southeast coast, mostly about Diamond beach, Jokulsarlon, Hofn, glacier tour but may pick up Svartifoss, Magnusarfoss, Foss a Sidu, and Hundafoss
    • Day 6: Second chance at Skogafoss and Seljaolandsfoss, fly home


    Now, if this was with my friend that I do a waterfall weekend with each year....it would be a different trip. But, instead, good hotels, good restaurants, hot springs, etc are identified.

    Again, any tips or other waterfalls would be great.

    Thanks,
    Brant

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