Lens Kit for Grand Tour of the Rockies 1: Intro

Glacier SP12-794

Photographers who have accumulated a variety of lenses often have trouble deciding which lenses to take on long vacations. Of course, much depends on the mode of transportation. For those flying to their destination, the options are limited. But for those driving, more can be taken. The question is: how much more should one take?

In my last trip, I took ten lenses. Now I normally use about 12 lenses. I own more than twelve lenses, but I have several lenses that I never use. Ten lenses was probably too many. In my Colorado trip last autumn, I took 8 lenses. That was probably closer to the right number of lenses. Here’s a list of the lenses I took on my northern Rockies trip, followed by how many images I took with each lens:

  1. Pentax DA 10-17 f3.5-4.5: 138
  2. Pentax DA 16-45 f4: 265
  3. Pentax FA 24-90 f3.5-4.5: 1,045
  4. Pentax F 70-210 f4-5.6: 281
  5. Pentax DA 15 f4 Limited: 254
  6. Pentax K 28 f3.5: 165
  7. Pentax K 35 f3.5: 8
  8. Pentax M 50 f1.7: 0
  9. Pentax DFA 100 f2.8 Macro WR: 100
  10. Pentax DA* 300 f4: 314


The FA 24-90 wins in a landslide! It doesn’t surprise me that I took more photos with this lens, but I am surprised at the margin of the victory. I bought that lens recently, with my northern Rockies trip in mind. It turned out to be incredibly useful, and performed so well that I did not feel any strong urge to swap it out for prime lenses. I used it for all (or the vast majority of shots) I took at:

  • Lake McDonald (at Glacier National Park)
  • Two Medicine Lake (at Glacier National Park)
  • Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (in Yellowstone National Park)
  • Gibbon Falls (in Yellowstone National Park)
  • Norris Geyser Basin (in Yellowstone National Park)
  • Roaring Mountain (in Yellowstone National Park)
  • Oxbow Bend (in Grand Tetons National Park)
  • Schwabachers Landing (in Grand Tetons National Park)

I also made use of the FA 24-90 at St. Mary Lake, Many Glacier, and Baring Falls (all in Glacier National Park) and at Mormon Row (in Grand Tetons National Park) and in the Great Basin Desert in Nevada.

Second place goes to the DA* 300, but that’s a somewhat misleading finish. Nearly all the shots taken with that lens were accumulated during my brief stay in West Yellowstone, during the middle of my trip. After leaving West Yellowstone on Saturday afternoon, the DA* 300 remained in my bag for the rest of the trip. More importantly: of the 314 shots taken with the lens, only a few are keepers.

I didn’t use prime lenses as much in this trip as the last one. There’s a reason for this, which I will discuss in my next post.

If I were reassembling a kit for a second Grand Tour of the northern Rockies, it might look like the following:

  1. Pentax DA 10-17 f3.5-4.5
  2. Pentax DA 16-45 f4
  3. Pentax FA 24-90 f3.5-4.5
  4. Pentax F 70-210 f4-5.6
  5. Pentax DA 15 f4
  6. Pentax K 50 f1.2
  7. Pentax DA* 300 f4


I would take fewer primes; and I would take one lens I didn’t take before, the K 50/1.2, which could be used for doing narrow DOF work. Given how little I used most of my primes on my last trip, it would seem I should take fewer primes on my next trip.