What Nikon lens should I use for the Presidential Inauguration?
December 29, 2008 12:02 PM   Subscribe

I've got tickets to the presidential inauguration. What telephoto lens should I get for my Nikon D50 so that I can get great shots of Obama's swearing in?

FYI, I've already got a 50 mm f/1.8 prime lens and an 18-200 mm VR lens, and my plans are to rent an additional lens from BorrowLenses.com for long shots of the ceremony. Although I've got tickets to the event, I'm not sure what sort of seat I'll have -- I can't imagine I'll be that close to the action.

Can anyone recommend a good lens for me from either this list of telephoto or supertelephoto lenses? It needs to be available for January 20th, of course :-)
posted by jacob to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your 18-200 should be fine. At 200mm, you will have a hard time hand holding the lens. You probably won't have room for a tripod or monopod.

If it were me, I'd just bring my LX3 and shoot 24mm wide. There will be lots of photos of Obama, getting the entire scene and audience seems like it would be more interesting.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:10 PM on December 29, 2008


Without knowing where you will be, it's tough to know. The 18-200 is a great all-around lens. As b1tr0t says, there certainly won't be room for a tripod, and the bigass lenses would probably be too obtrusive unless you are in the media area. I have a 300mm that I can hand-hold, so that's a possibility.

I say, take the 18-200, and document your experience. You may have to shoot video screens to get Obama in the photos, but this is a great opportunity to get the real stuff that will be meaningful to you, and give others a feeling of what it was like to be there. Small details that are missed by the media tend to be far more interesting. I would certainly be more interested in such photos than another headshot of Obama giving a speech. (And if you can follow up with a link to said photos, that would be great!)
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 12:18 PM on December 29, 2008

Unless you're very lucky, you probably won't be close enough for a half-decent shot of it with any hand-holdable setup. You could stick with your 200 at the long end - my own recommendation - or go for broke and rent the 500 or something insane like that. Really, anything Nikon makes is going to be great, and also incredibly heavy (notice all those built-in tripod collars?) and righteously annoying to haul around.

But mostly I echo b1tr0t - you won't be able to get anything that there won't be a thousand better versions of taken much, much closer, but you may well be able to find some amazing things at the inauguration itself, as a few million people gather to celebrate a historic moment that will be incredibly joyous and emotional for most of them.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:19 PM on December 29, 2008

and also incredibly heavy

On that note, make sure you're aware of what the rules are about carrying bags into wherever you're herded.

posted by inigo2 at 12:22 PM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

At the rally in st. louis, my 100-400 (canon) was useless, and I was maybe 1/3 of the way back into the crowd.
posted by notsnot at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2008

300mm f4 and a 2x teleconverter. I'd rule out the f2.8 lenses since it will be daylight - you don't need that much aperture under midday light, even if it clouds up.

You'll be able to handhold a 600mm up to 1/600th of a second shutter speed, so no need for a monopod.
posted by joe vrrr at 1:22 PM on December 29, 2008

Whoops ... I should have said:

You'll be able to handhold a 600mm up down to 1/600th of a second shutter speed, so no need for a monopod.
posted by joe vrrr at 1:26 PM on December 29, 2008

I'd stick with your 50 prime and get some very cool crowd shots. Reactions of those around you (and strangers) will be neat to capture.

If you do rent one, I'd go with the Nikkon 300 (plus 2x like joe vrrr said); but for $150+ I don't think you'll get anything of value out of those extra 300mm. Best of luck, try to enjoy the day rather than try to remember it through your lens back home.
posted by shinynewnick at 1:46 PM on December 29, 2008

No lens suggestions, but as inigo2 noted, what you can take into the 'secure' area will be very limited. According to news reports and press releases here in DC umbrellas and backpacks are banned and so I am willing to bet that would include tripods and monopods and possibly camera bags. Have fun, you will have a lot of company!
posted by 543DoublePlay at 1:46 PM on December 29, 2008

I would be much more interested in the crowd than the stage (partially anticipating that you will be in the cheap seats...) - perhaps a 12-24 ultra-wide zoom, plus the 50mm prime for some candid portraits of folks in the crowd?
posted by misterbrandt at 1:51 PM on December 29, 2008

I will guarantee you that tripods and probably monopods are out of the question. They won't even let you use a tripod anywhere near where the president is or will be even if it was just a regular non-inauguration day.

And not to be a downer but I'm having a hard time imagining that will let the general public bring in any sort of equipment that won't fit in your pocket. If you want to get great shots of the ceremony you'd have to have a press pass and get security clearance and all done months ago.
posted by eatcake at 5:34 PM on December 29, 2008

Thanks for all the responses, everybody. You've persuaded me to take pictures of my experience at the event rather than of Obama, himself. I'll take the 18-200 VR with the 50mm in my pocket -- no lens rental necessary.
posted by jacob at 5:51 AM on December 30, 2008

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