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02-24-2009, 11:51 AM   #1
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lens selection for Africa trip

Ok, I'm planning on a trip to Tanzania in Dec this year and I want to make sure I'm properly prepared for it. Normally, my intended uses for my level of ability would be covered by the kit lens and I've been planning on getting a DA55-300. This would cover my normal casual portrait stuff, landscape and distant wildlife shots.

I'm one of those people that always tries to be prepared, so its getting to be time to get what I'll need together concerning lenses so I can get out and shoot this summer to get comfortable and be able to trust my gear for this trip. I want to keep this setup as lightweight/compact as possible without limiting myself too much. The point of the trip is to see the country while visiting a friend there in the peace corps.

As I said, I've had my eye on a DA55-300 as it would complete my K10D setup for what I want to do. Anything beyond that would be luxury for me. The old glass was boredom impulse buys because of especially low prices on ebay.

My questions:
1. Should I stick to getting the 55-300mm even though its not going to be of use if I need to revert to the Super or go with something older? I like what I hear about the 55-300, so maybe it makes sense to look for an old telezoom on the bay as a backup to mate to the film camera?

2. I've been laid up with an injury that's kept me from getting out in big country ith my K10D and the kit lens since I've owned it. Is 18mm going to be wide enough for landscapes or am I going to feel limited with it like I did with my p&s? I just couldn't seem to get anything that gave the width and depth that gave justice to the scene with the p&s.

3. Am I forgetting anything else?

02-24-2009, 01:16 PM   #2
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I think 18 mm is ok on the wide end, but I would want longer and faster for wild life.

If you are somewhat concious about taking a lot of stuff a BIGMA might be an idea
02-24-2009, 01:26 PM   #3
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For wildlife, I'd grab an old K or M 300mm f/4 prime, and 'green button' it to set exposure, but telephotos get bulky pretty fast. I doubt the SMC-A 70-210 f/4 zoom (seamless on film and digital bodies) would get much use for the weight and bulk, and I doubt it'd be long enough.

18mm on the kit lens gives a FOV equiv of 25-28mm, most P&S cameras start at 35 or 40mm equiv. It does make a distance, but if ULTRA wide is your thing.... it gets pricey for APS-C.

I'd also throw in a 28-50mm equiv prime, just to be more discreet for street and snapshots, but that's my own preference.
02-24-2009, 08:35 PM   #4
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Thanks for the input. I guess I'm willing to take along a couple primes, but I don't want things to get too bulky. A long telephoto prime like a 300mm is a lot of bulk, so I'd like to cover the long end with a zoom.

I'll have to look into the Bigma more, but seems a bit heavy/pricey for what I'm after on this trip. Anybody have experience with IQ of this lens versus using a TC with the 55-300mm for those times where I actually need to reach beyond 300mm? I really seem to be hung on wanting that DA 55-300mm. haha

02-24-2009, 09:09 PM   #5
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I think the 55-300mm & the Kit would would be a good manageable set-up, capable of delivering very good photos. If you can squeeze in a sharp fast prime in the 28mm-70mm range, all the better.
02-24-2009, 09:46 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by dadipentak Quote
I think the 55-300mm & the Kit would would be a good manageable set-up, capable of delivering very good photos. If you can squeeze in a sharp fast prime in the 28mm-70mm range, all the better.
That was pretty much my plan prior to deciding that the backup film camera would be a good idea. I guess where I'm at is deciding: do I basically take two complete setups since the DA glass doesn't work with the film cameras or find some lenses that will work with both.

If the lens that's coming on the ME super I just bought is decent, I think I'll have most of the lower end covered, its the telephoto I'm concerned over. From the results I've seen, I'd like to be a step up from the basic Sigma and Tammy 70-300mm, but other than the DA, I haven't found anything that's a step up other than the Bigma, which is kinda on the bulky and appears that it wouldn't be so easy to use primarilly handheld.
02-24-2009, 10:24 PM   #7
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The Zenitar Fisheye 16mm f2.6 would be pretty cool, either with just digital or along with a film camera. On film you would definitely have "wide" covered.

I wouldn't bring anything I wasn't completely familiar with. You can imagine a use for just about every possible lens on that kind of trip, so it can be tough to make decisions. Three or four lenses will cover almost everything, though.
02-24-2009, 10:29 PM   #8
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I did a little Zimbabwe and a lot of Namibia with a DS2 + kit, Sigma 70-300 APO Macro, Tamron 28-300 Di Macro and an MZ-5 with MF Soligor 17-35 f/3.5-4.5.

The sand/dust got to the MZ-5 (I think was the problem), which had some rolls streaked and a few frames kissed as the film advance didn't quite do it's job. Even without weather sealing (or dust shaking!) the DS2 held up fine under the climate and I pretty much ignore my film shots from that trip in favour of the digital ones (whereas I expected the highlights to be the film shots). And I didn't particularly miss not having a superwide digital lens--in fact, for fear of dust I tended to leave the Tammy 28-300 on rather than change, and rarely mounted the 18-55 (the couple other Namibia shots uploaded to my zooomr account were also taken with the Tammy 28-300).

I would have loved extra speed, especially for evening viewing at watering holes in Etosha park, where action really picks up after sunset (and gentle artificial light is no substitute for sunlight, of course!). Not sure if you'll find similar setups in Tanzania.

But except for that specific condition, the bright sun made it quite manageable to shoot with the slower glass I had, and at 6mp the Tammy was plenty sharp (the K10D sensor may want sharper glass to take advantage of the extra pixels). But I gather the DA55-300 will give you even better IQ in an even more compact lens than the setup I had. If you don't want to lug more glass, the lineup you describe will do the job.

This one is uncropped of Tammy 28-300 at 300:



(full frame view available on zooomr site if you want to pixel peep)

And while that was a very lucky encounter (lions in shade just beside road in Etosha Park), I managed lots of single-animal shots & a few zebra, elephant and giraffe "headshots" without longer lens nor TC. (This despite the fact that as you focus in closer than infinity, the Tammy's 300 gives a FoV more like a 200). Etosha park is particularly exceptional for such opportunities, but if you're just hoping to squeeze in some half-decent photos without being too encumbered in a trip that's really about visiting friends, your planned equipment seems fine.

I've also just done the big lens thing in South America, with DA*16-50 and Tokina 80-200/2.8 with option of 1.7 TC, and a DA10-17 for super width on digital. In that case I found DA10-17 rarely used (as fisheye I find it fun but haven't figured it out, and rarely found the width necessary, though often used the 16 of the DA*), got great use of the DA*16-50, including using it at 50mm at times when I should have been mounting a longer lens but didn't want to deal with the bulk of the Toki 80-200. And with the 200mm limit of the Toki, I resorted to either shooting wider than I wanted or resorting to the TC.

That set up required a Slingbag 300AW to haul, and because the Toki was not really suited to either walkaround long nor for super reach, I've now switched it to a DA*50-135 + DA*300, which means even more gear.

It sounds like you do not want to go down this road, either for expense or for weight & mass of gear to haul. Given your priorities, I think you've picked the tools that suit you.

Have a great trip!

02-24-2009, 10:30 PM   #9
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You will most likely not be able to use a TC with the 55-300mm. The lens will just hunt and hunt and never catch focus because the aperture is so slow.
02-25-2009, 04:01 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by tvfd911 Quote
Ok, I'm planning on a trip to Tanzania in Dec this year and I want to make sure I'm properly prepared for it. Normally, my intended uses for my level of ability would be covered by the kit lens and I've been planning on getting a DA55-300. This would cover my normal casual portrait stuff, landscape and distant wildlife shots.

I'm one of those people that always tries to be prepared, so its getting to be time to get what I'll need together concerning lenses so I can get out and shoot this summer to get comfortable and be able to trust my gear for this trip. I want to keep this setup as lightweight/compact as possible without limiting myself too much. The point of the trip is to see the country while visiting a friend there in the peace corps.

As I said, I've had my eye on a DA55-300 as it would complete my K10D setup for what I want to do. Anything beyond that would be luxury for me. The old glass was boredom impulse buys because of especially low prices on ebay.

My questions:
1. Should I stick to getting the 55-300mm even though its not going to be of use if I need to revert to the Super or go with something older? I like what I hear about the 55-300, so maybe it makes sense to look for an old telezoom on the bay as a backup to mate to the film camera?

2. I've been laid up with an injury that's kept me from getting out in big country ith my K10D and the kit lens since I've owned it. Is 18mm going to be wide enough for landscapes or am I going to feel limited with it like I did with my p&s? I just couldn't seem to get anything that gave the width and depth that gave justice to the scene with the p&s.

3. Am I forgetting anything else?
First of all, the lenses you want should meet your style of shooting and your preferred subjects. So we can only make recommandations based on either general expactations or personal preferences. The latter is, what I do here:

1. I would always take a much wider wide angle lens with me for landscapes. Something like the Sigma 10-12, Pentax 12-24 or even the (underrated) Sigma 15-30 would be great. If these are too bulky, I would at least consider a small prime lens

2. for wildlife it seems, there are two different points of view: tourist trails often get you very near to common wildlife which is already acustomed to Landrovers all around them. Therefor a 55-300 should be sufficient. For any more remote wildlife 300mm is not enough. I am completely with Lowell here, use a Bigma or at least the smaller and cheaper 120-400. A tc on a 55-300 is getting you nowhere, as the lens is too slow to start with.

3. for the long lenses you need some kind of support, a tripod, monopod or a bean bag, which you can rest on thwe car window or roof.

4. the problem with primes on a safari is, that it is dusty and you need to change lenses much more often, than you would when using zooms. This in my personal opinion rules out the combination of a prime 400mm lens together with the 55-300, which otherwise would make a good combination. But if you use two camera bodies, you keep both lenses on them.

Ben
02-25-2009, 04:38 AM   #11
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My wife just returned from a cruise to the west coast of Mexico. (Not the same as an Afican safari, but a trip in any case.) I had bought her a K200D with the kit 18-55 for Christmas (with Pentax sling bag) and followed up with the DA 55-300 for Valentine's day. (we're also planning an Alaska cruise which was the real motivation behind the purchase) She was quite happy with the set up and at first look, her pictures are fine. It's a good set up for a light weight travel kit and fits the small sling bag nicely.
I've got a K10D with the Sigma 17-70 lens. It, alomg with a Tamron 1.4 TC was my kit for a three week trip we took to Italy and Greece. I carried that set up in an old Tamrac holster type bag easily. (way smaller than the Sling bag.) It was enough for general tourist trip photos. I recently picked up a DA* 50-135 to extend the kit. I'm just getting used to it and it is a great lens. In anticipation of the need for a longer lens for the Alaska cruise, I just ordered a used Sigma 135-400 (sometimes refered to as the Little Ma). With these lenses (also bringing a DA 21 Ltd) I'm going to need to dig out my old big Tamrac bag since these won't fit in my messenger bag style bag that I use now. This will give me a quality range from 17-300, an easily useable range from 17-400 and a possible range fom 17-560 (using the 1.4TC). The down side is that the kit & bag are getting big and heavy.
Substituting your camera for my wife's and using that kit should be fine. Including the film camera with similar focal lengths will be like carrying both my wife's kit and mine. Too much for 1 person to travel with. I suggest that if you really feel the need to bring the back up film camera, get a "super zoom" for it (i.e. 28-300 or such) and pack it in with the luggage. Buy your film over there to avoid the extra strength X rays they're using in airports now, and either bring a lead bag for the film on the return or Fedex it back home (declaring it as film).
Have a great trip,
Brian
02-25-2009, 06:00 AM   #12
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I don't know what the OP is intending, but if it were me, I woould view an african trip as a once in a lifetime event.

I would be very tempted to take everything I own.

Seriously, however, If there is a concern about weight and size, (let's imagine a limit of 2 lenses and accessories) I would take the fastest ~17-75 mm lens I could find, and my Sigma 70-200 F2.8, plus 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, and finally a flash.

I think there are some ASP-C based 17-70 lenses at F2.8 and I don't necessairly see the need to go wider, landscapes don't need ultra wide, in fact they can get boring with ultra wide.

My 70-200 is an absolute MUST take lens, with the two teleconverters, and this is much better than a bigma because without the TC you have a much faster lens at short focal lengths than the bigma. Unfortunately you would not be using the latest sigma 70-200 with HSM because sadly there is no TC for this version yet. YOu would be getting one on the uised market.

If I had more weight and volume, I would pack, in adddition, my celestron C90 1000mm F11 spotting scope (with PK mount)
02-25-2009, 06:21 AM   #13
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Thanks a lot everyone, I feel I have a better grasp on this now. Plus I have some additional lenses to research. I think I'm going to go with Brian's advice regarding the backup camera.

Everyone seems to agree that the TC on the 55-300 won't cut it, so I'm definately going to check out this "mini ma" that's come up... Also going to be looking for a good compact monopod and see if there's a camera backpack that gives me enough storage to also live out of.

Thanks everyone,
Eric
02-25-2009, 06:35 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ben_Edict Quote
I would always take a much wider wide angle lens with me for landscapes.
Switch kit lens for a 16-45? Shell out for the 16-50 (& the weathersealing might give handy protection against dust)? Will the 15 Ltd be out before you go?

For a P&S I got an LX3 for the equivalent-to-24mm wide angle, having feared a P&S would leave me frustrated in its maximum width just as you describe in original post. On APS that means 16mm, and I find it a huge gain over 18mm and wide enough almost all the time. I could dig up some wide shots from Namibia ("wide" often just meaning 28mm!! like I said, rarely mounted the wider lenses due to dust) and you could judge if it's wide enough for your style.

QuoteQuote:
2. for wildlife it seems, there are two different points of view: tourist trails often get you very near to common wildlife which is already acustomed to Landrovers all around them. Therefor a 55-300 should be sufficient. For any more remote wildlife 300mm is not enough.
Visiting Etosha Park you have to stay in your car and the animals gather at (natural and artificial) watering holes, so that's the style Ben describes. Consider your specific opportunities in Tanzania. If you don't expect to get this close & want to be compact, dare I suggest...

Mirror lens? I picked up a Sigma 600 f/8 just before committing to the switch from 80-200 to a 50-135 + 300. There may be a spare someone could part with.

QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
I don't know what the OP is intending, but if it were me, I would view an african trip as a once in a lifetime event.

I would be very tempted to take everything I own.
Yeah, I hear you. For me, for Southern Africa, that didn't add up to much, but it is what I did. In terms of cost, you can consider what the whole trip is going for. A couple treat lenses can look pretty minor by comparison--if you have the money around to pick them up at all. And good glass tends to keep its value, so you could "rent" some really primo equipment just for the trip by buying it before you go & selling after you're back. (Wish I'd thought of that before my Africa trip--though as I say I was happy with what my 6MP camera could squeeze out of my consumer zooms.)

One thing's for sure, whatever you bring you will come back with amazing shots!
02-25-2009, 02:03 PM   #15
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I started a thread today that may be of interest to you since it addresses the Bigma as well as the Pentax DA* 300mm lenses. No feedback has been received yet so I don't know what others think about these two lenses for photographing wildlife. Copy of the post ....

Pentax DA* 300mm & Bigma Lenses
There has been a lot of discussion about the merits, or lack thereof, of the Pentax DA* 300mm and Sigma 50-500mm lenses for wildlife photography. All the pictures in the Birds Gallery on the below link were shot with these two lenses on a K10D or K20D. All the 300mm shots were made hand-held; the Bigma shots either hand-held or mounted on a Manfrotto tripod with the Jobu Black Widown gimbal. In the Critters Gallery, the alligator pictures were shot with the Bigma. I think both lenses are good for wildlife. What are your opinions?

Dane PhotoImagery's Photo Galleries at pbase.com

e_hutchinson
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