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02-06-2012, 07:19 PM   #1
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What to take on African safari - A little bit different

I've read this thread:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/167925-what-ta...an-safari.html
and instead of trying to hijack that with my questions I thought I'd start a new one.

I'm heading to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia in September (whole of it) for a wedding/honeymoon and am trying to work out what to take in the way of camera gear. I currently have a k-r and for lens I've got a DA16-45 and a DA 50-200 wr. I'm also intending to borrow my parents P&S Nikon S9100 which has a 18x zoom (25-450mm ish) to have with me. I'm also going to take my tripod (I have a nice light carbon one), batteries, a few memory cards, a cleaning kit and my filters.

I don't have much to spend on upgrades but I'm looking at a few options.

1. Get a DA 55-300 as its meant to be a much better lens optically, has more range and also is faster at 200mm.

2. Get a K-5 and use the 50-200wr on it. Has the advantage of wr then. Also the extra pixels mean I can crop my images a bit more meaning by cropping to 12mpx (equivalent of the k-r) the resulting image would be like shooting at ?mm(not sure what this would be). I think I will end up getting a k-5 (or whatever comes next) in the future even if I don't get it before I go, there area a few features on it that I would like to have. I would have sell much k-r to partially fund this option.

3. Get a K-5 and a DA L 55-300 (cheap from flee bay), but this really would be stretching the budget.

What do people think of these options, I'm mainly looking at option 1 and 2, as 3 really is pushing it for me, the extra $200 could go quite away.

Thanks

02-06-2012, 08:01 PM   #2
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Sell the k-r get a k-5 then choose
Option 2, K-5 body only and put the 50-200wr on it

Depending on the place you go, maybe a cheap 18-55WR from flee bay too (not important but having WR all the time would be great for tropical places).
02-06-2012, 08:06 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Smilesy Quote
I've read this thread:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/167925-what-ta...an-safari.html
and instead of trying to hijack that with my questions I thought I'd start a new one.

I'm heading to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia in September (whole of it) for a wedding/honeymoon and am trying to work out what to take in the way of camera gear. I currently have a k-r and for lens I've got a DA16-45 and a DA 50-200 wr. I'm also intending to borrow my parents P&S Nikon S9100 which has a 18x zoom (25-450mm ish) to have with me. I'm also going to take my tripod (I have a nice light carbon one), batteries, a few memory cards, a cleaning kit and my filters.

I don't have much to spend on upgrades but I'm looking at a few options.

1. Get a DA 55-300 as its meant to be a much better lens optically, has more range and also is faster at 200mm.

2. Get a K-5 and use the 50-200wr on it. Has the advantage of wr then. Also the extra pixels mean I can crop my images a bit more meaning by cropping to 12mpx (equivalent of the k-r) the resulting image would be like shooting at ?mm(not sure what this would be). I think I will end up getting a k-5 (or whatever comes next) in the future even if I don't get it before I go, there area a few features on it that I would like to have. I would have sell much k-r to partially fund this option.

3. Get a K-5 and a DA L 55-300 (cheap from flee bay), but this really would be stretching the budget.

What do people think of these options, I'm mainly looking at option 1 and 2, as 3 really is pushing it for me, the extra $200 could go quite away.

Thanks
For my 2 cents worth.---lenses are more imporatnt than camera body. the KR is plenty competent to take nice photos. I wouldn't break the bank changing bodies when you are lens deficient. when dealing with wildlife, long is more important that subjective optical qualitly. If you can't afford both--- go for the long. I don't see WR as particularly important for a single trip. Non-WR lenses have gone on Safari's for half a century. Pack a garbage bag for when/if things get real grungy.

Spend your money no the best long zoom you can afford. The 50-200 simply doesn't make it.
02-06-2012, 08:08 PM   #4
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If I was going to be taking such a trip, (trip of a lifetime for me, maybe not for you) then the K-5 and 55-300. I think you will need the range. The 16-45 will do you good on the wide end. I would also take a fast 50mm even it was a manual focus if that's all the budget would stand.

Also, I would make sure I had the equipment on hand in plenty of time to make sure I got good copies and some time to familiarize myself with it. Nothing worse than taking a trip and finding out your new gear does not perform. Test thoroughly before going. And if you do get the new camera you do not want to be learning where the controls are while on such a trip, everything should be automatic and natural by then.

02-06-2012, 11:53 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies, so far each option has 1 vote. Keep them coming.
02-07-2012, 01:11 AM   #6
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Lenses are the most important indeed. In my opinion, for Safari, you want 300mm at least. The body won't be the most important factor, but of course the K-5 will give you more options than the K-r will.

There used to be a time when I would have advised you to get a FA*300/4.5, but prices have gone up considerably the last few years, so I don't think this will fit in your budget, let alone a DA*300/4. In the same vain there's the DA*60-250/4... Perhaps Pentax will introduce a better lens for Safari this or next year (sth like a 135-400), but you cannot wait for that of course.

If your Safari is a one time only, I would just go with the 55-300. Esp if you're happy with the K-r for the rest of your photography. *If* of course you're bitten by the travel bug you might want to invest some more, but you'll only know that after the trip...

Wim
02-07-2012, 01:40 AM   #7
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Well, if you are going to be in a car or traveling by the car most of the time, get the longest possible zoom you can get. If you are really going fot the photos, maybe yuo can hire some zoom-tele lens without bursting your budget.

There are some nice long teles out there: Tamron 200-500, Sigma 50-500 (bigma - a nice versatile lens), Sigma 170-500, maybe even Sigma 120-400. I would even dare to go to manual focus tele-zooms (Tokina 150-500 f5.6). Of couise my dream lens would be Pentax 250-600 but that is just way too much. Note that these are big lenses, they are heavy so if you are hicking they are not an option. However if you want some "closeups" of wildlife and you are going to take photos from some vehicle this is the way to go.

Your 16-45 with 50-200 would cover most of wide- and mid-range.
02-07-2012, 02:22 AM   #8
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In September in those area you will find heat and dust ( I stay in the area ). Rain probably only from October onwards and WR less important than dust ingress when changing lenses. So I would think a long zoom ( 55-300) or an extra body even. Even 300 mm is a bit short sometimes and 55-300 is a lovely, tough lens, but loses sharpness at 300 when open. So you might need faster ISO. Also, remember that you will kick yourself without a lens to take landscapes. 16-45 should be ideal and I think 200 too short for a long one

02-07-2012, 04:37 AM   #9
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Ok, I think I'm now leaning towards getting the 55-300 for the extra range and the iq advantages. Now just got to work out whether it is worth getting the DA version which is about twice the price of the DA L version. If the budget allows I'll hope to get the K-5 as well, but I'm not too hopefull about that after looking at the budget again.

I'll definitely be taking my 16-45, it's an awesome lens which I'm hoping will get me some great landscapes over there.
02-07-2012, 12:18 PM   #10
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Trip of a lifetime (but it could be wedding/honeymoon/divorce if you spend all your time on photography and don't pay attention where it's due) !

That means beg, borrow, steal or loan the cameras/lenses you need.

Options.
1) I don't think in Aus you can hire Pentax lenses. But you could hire a Nikon D7000 + 300/4 + x2 or better still x1.7 TC to add to your Kr and 16-45. For this cost though I'd go to Option 3.
2) Stick with 16-45 and 55-300 (this is awful with a TC so you are stuck at 300mm).
3)* Kr + 16-45 and buy a Sigma 150-500 (used if you must, you can always sell it when you come back and lose maybe $100-300, depending on it's condition on your return, more than worth it to have this flexibility for your trip).
4) Add a cheap ($100 ish) Tamron BB 500mm mirror (with Adaptall PK adaptor). This really does have some decent IQ for a mirror, it's cheap and it's light (and MF only - but that's not an issue with elephants ).

You'll need a low light lens for those wonderful evenings too. If you can't afford an FA 50/1.4 then go a used MF lens such as one of the older Pentax 50/1.4s.

* this is what I'd do in your shoes.
02-07-2012, 01:34 PM   #11
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First of all: Definitely get something longer than 200mm. I brought the 55-300 DA (and the 50-200, actually) and wouldn't minded having something longer. On walking safaris, though, I wouldn't trade the lightness of the 55-300 for a few more mm of reach. In a car, well, get a 500 if you can. And a bean bag may well be more useful than a tripod in a car.

The 50-200 I used only when canoeing (with a K-5), the rest of the time the 55-300 tackled the dust just fine. As Basie said, in September rain shouldn't be anything to worry about. Even Vic Falls shouldn't pose too much of a threat that time of year - at least not on the Zambian side.

I haven't used the Kr, but I believe it handles high ISO well enough for the low light periods of dusk and dawn. I can see only two reasons for getting a K-5; the main thing is to have a second body to avoid having to swap lenses too much (takes time and can let in dust); the other thing is to get better high ISO performance (and generally somewhat better IQ) - the time around sunrise and sunset has the best light and often the best motifs - but again, I'm not sure the difference is huge.

Also, as jatrax said, whatever you get (buying or renting), get it plenty of time before you leave so you get to know the equipment well.

And I chime in with Frogfish: Don't spend all your time on photography
02-07-2012, 03:02 PM   #12
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I'd get the 55-300, and probably the DA-L rather than the DA, and probably second-hand. That should get a good lens cheap. I'd also get a 1.4x teleconverter second hand. That would give you around 420mm, which is easier to use than 300m and cropping, and yields better image quality. However, you'd need to practice using it. The teleconverter makes it manual focusing, and anything that long is hard to keep steady hand-held, and it's not fast either (eg F8) so you can't just put the shutter speed up. That combination gives you the option of taking the teleconverter off to get auto-focus back so I think is more versatile than a mirror lens (and nobody likes donut bokeh).

If you save enough money by going second-hand, you might have enough left for a new body. Having better high ISO would help with the slow lens. Probably the Pentax will announce at least a K-r replacement and maybe a K-5 replacement in addition to the K-01 they've already announced, so you might be able to get one of those, or more likely a good price on the K-5. If you do get a new body, check whether you can get it bundled with a DA-L 55-300 because that can be a cheap combination.
02-07-2012, 08:57 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Brangdon Quote
I'd get the 55-300, and probably the DA-L rather than the DA, and probably second-hand. That should get a good lens cheap. I'd also get a 1.4x teleconverter second hand. That would give you around 420mm, which is easier to use than 300m and cropping, and yields better image quality. However, you'd need to practice using it. The teleconverter makes it manual focusing, and anything that long is hard to keep steady hand-held, and it's not fast either (eg F8) so you can't just put the shutter speed up. That combination gives you the option of taking the teleconverter off to get auto-focus back so I think is more versatile than a mirror lens (and nobody likes donut bokeh).
The 55-300 is not good at all with TCs, almost unusable due to hunting, IQ is pretty poor too, see some testing I did here : https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/139941-lenses-...-x1-4-etc.html, you are better off just cropping to an effective 420 than using the 55-300+x1.4

Not all lenses (and zooms are especially problematic) can be used with TCs. I'd advise against using a TC with the 55-300.
02-08-2012, 07:24 AM   #14
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I believe the dry (winter) season normally ends sometime in August in the southern part of Africa.

That may be a consideration when making some choices and/or whether or not you will shoot if it's raining. Otherwise dust is a big consideration. A friend of mine has traveled there multiple times, and avoids lens swapping as much as possible. The dust can be quite bad in certain areas during dry season.

Regards,
Marc
02-08-2012, 08:24 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Langille Quote
I believe the dry (winter) season normally ends sometime in August in the southern part of Africa.

That may be a consideration when making some choices and/or whether or not you will shoot if it's raining. Otherwise dust is a big consideration. A friend of mine has traveled there multiple times, and avoids lens swapping as much as possible. The dust can be quite bad in certain areas during dry season.

Regards,
Marc
Actually the rains start in October/November most years (Emerald season as they call it in Zambia starts in November I believe). September is the worst month in terms of dust. Lens swapping should be avoided indeed, and if required preferable out of the wind. A 55-300 shouldn't make you switch a lot though.

However... I generally don't think about it when switching lenses (though even with a fixed 300mm I never found the need to switch a lot). My thinking: a few dust bunnies on a unique picture are easier to live with (and remove in PP) than a missed photo opportunity with no picture at all. I always have a rocket blower with me and blow out the dust on a daily basis inside a relatively dust free location (hotel room, restaurant, ...). Dust being dry means it won't stick mostly. So far that has proven an OK approach.

I would take more care in humid areas. The forest at the bottom of the Vic Falls is very humid for instance. I would make sure to have cleaned out the camera before in that case. Better take a guide book that can tell you what to expect for the places you will visit.

As a side note: I once spent a week photographing with a professional wildlife photographer. He told me he rarely bothers cleaning his camera *at all* while in the field, and certainly never tries to avoid swapping lenses. Simply because he found it much easier to remove dust in post-processing. Of course, he also told me he rarely fully post processed more than 1% of his images, i.e. he put time only in those he thought he could sell... and such images are relatively rare. If he has a winner that will make him money, he'll gladly spend a lot of time making the most of the image he told me. Of course, as tourists we make many more images, and have to distribute our post processing over a much larger selection...

Wim
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