Okay, I really returned home from Asia about a month ago, and have been pretty busy since then.
Thanks to the ongoing generosity of my step-father (a semi-retired professional photographer), I added a couple of new items to the list of things that I use – a Nikon AF-S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens, and a Gitzo tripod with a Manfrotto ball head. The stability of the Gitzo tripod is really a world above the lighter but much more plastic Velbon tripod that I was using previously!
I don’t use longer lenses like the 70-300mm or the 80-200mm that I already had very often, because at the current age of our kids, if I’m shooting them at 200mm+, they’re probably too far away from me. Still, there’s definitely situations where that range is helpful; the 80-200 was great at a wedding in limited light, and that or the 70-300 are pretty useful at the zoo if you want any pictures of the animals (though even at the zoo, I’m more often shooting our little monkeys as opposed to the animals that reside at the zoo permanently). The 70-300 was definitely handy at the Kuala Lumpur bird park, though:
It’s not as versatile as the 18-200mm in these situations (where I often find myself switching from the kids right next to me to something much further away), but definitely has an edge in both sharpness and bokeh at the long end of things. Hopefully I’ll make good use of the lens, I guess I’ll see in my usage stats for 2011!