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08-08-2009, 08:43 PM   #1
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Lenses for Africa...

G'Day!

I am just coming back to the SLR (now DSLR...) fold after getting rid of all my gear years ago and only using compact digital cameras. I used to have lenses from 28mm to 500mm and 50mm Macro for 35mm film work. Olympus gear, but please don't hold that against me...

Now I will soon be the proud owner of my 16 year old son's cast off K200D body - he has decided it is way beneath his ability and can't possibly live without a K7! I thought he was supposed to get my cast offs, but I guess times have changed.

I am planning a trip to Africa - South Africa (Kruger NP), Botswana (Victoria Falls, Chobe, Okavango Delta), Namibia (Etosha NP, Skeleton Coast, Namib NP), Zanzibar (Stone Town and north east coast), Kenya (Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Masi Mara), Egypt (Cairo, Pyramids, Nile Cruise to Aswan) and across to Jordan to go to Petra for a couple of days. Most of the time will be spent "on safari", hopefully photographing the wildlife, if they co-operate! Some time will be spent photographing the architecture - Pyramids, Karnak, Petra, etc.

What I am trying to figure out is what lenses to buy and take on this trip. I have got my head around "crop factors", I hope.

I am trying to avoid great expenditure on the lenses as the trip will cost more than enough as it is!

It has been suggested that a Pentax 18-55mm and a Pentax 55-300mm would suffice, but I wonder if 300 (450mm in 35mm terms owing to the 1.53 crop factor??) is long enough for wildlife shots in Botswana, Namibia and Kenya??? I have been told you are NOT allowed to use triposd or monopods in safari vehicles.

Should I get Pentax lenses or maybe Sigma/Tamron?

All suggestions gratefully received...

Cheers
Numb Thumbs


Last edited by Numb Thmubs; 08-08-2009 at 08:51 PM.
08-08-2009, 09:55 PM   #2
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For a few $s you can pick up a tamron 500mm mirror lens. with the right technique it is capable of giving very good results. 300mm is good if you can get close enuff.
08-08-2009, 10:00 PM   #3
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Thanks

Thank you ivoire.

The Tamron mirror 500mm is one of the lenses I got rid of years ago..... Bummer!

The only problem I had with it was the "donuts" from bright objects - sparkling water was the worst.

That is a good thought, though.

I have been told to avoid lens changes as much as possible to stop dust getting into the camera body.

Cheers
Numb Thmubs
08-08-2009, 10:02 PM   #4
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take a look at these:

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-slr-lens-discussion/53490-mirror-lens-revival-4.html

donuts can be eliminated thru careful technique. as for lens change, you can ask what the guide expects for the outing and use either the 55-300 or another lens based on their experience. you could also take a compact point n shoot as an alternative/backup

I had a tokina 500mm mirror lens, sold and missed it and ended up buying another.


Last edited by ivoire; 08-08-2009 at 10:08 PM.
08-08-2009, 10:16 PM   #5
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Welcome Numb Thumbs (cool name), and all the best in preparing for the Safari trek.
Mirror lenses are compact, though I can understand your aversion to the donut bokeh.
Unfortunately the other options may be less than favourable to you - size and price-wise, if you can find them.

The 55-300 is decent, though is relatively slow (in aperture and AF) - probably would suffice OK for the trip, depending on how close you can get.

If getting a Bigma is an option (Sigma's 50-500 offering), then you'll find it versatile and useful for the trip. Be weary of theft on your trip and try to keep your valued gear with you at all times.
08-08-2009, 10:20 PM   #6
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BigMa

Ash

BigMa would be wonderful - but a handful to hold, a pain to cart around and EXPENSIVE!! I suspect it also hangs a sign on your back saying, "Mug Me, Mug Me NOW!!!"

If I win the lottery, I'll get a BigMa... Meantime, the mirror 500mm is a possible, if I can find one with a Pentax mount.

Cheers
Numb Thumbs
08-08-2009, 10:27 PM   #7
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There's a Sigma 150-500 on offer on this forum's marketplace - expensive too, but certainly up for the challenge of shooting in your trip's conditions. Without spending this amount, it will be hard to get anything that comes close to what they can do. The DA 55-300 may be your only other 'decent' option from the choices you have (or go with the standard Sigma/Tamron 70-300 ones, which aren't as good as the DA 55-300, particularly in larger aperture settings).
08-09-2009, 03:35 AM   #8
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I personally carry no longer glass than 300mm with me when on a Safari. However, I do frequently use a Tamron 1.4x TC on it. In my case the 300mm is provided by the FA*300/4.5 which works pretty ok on the TC if stopped down to around f/8 or f/11. I'm not sure how the DA50-300 would perform on a TC, but from what I've seen it's a very good lens for its class... Africa generally provides enough light for the light loss caused by a TC not to become a problem.

Probably a TC is the best compromise for extra reach as you will be needing a pretty flexible kit for the rest of your trip. A TC is much lighter and more compact than any additional telelens you'll find.

Wim

08-09-2009, 03:38 AM   #9
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TC's

Retailers keep telling me that TC's "Don't work"!

Very confusing...

Cheers
Numb Thumbs
08-09-2009, 07:07 AM   #10
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I just got back two weeks in Kenya. While not on safari, I did a lot of riding around in open roof Land Rovers photographing every creature I could possibly find.

I WAS permitted to use a monopod, and it really was a life saver. It doesn't take up any extra space, it helps steady the camera, and it makes it 100 times easier to hold the camera when not taking pictures. If I were you, I would double check the tripod/monopod policy if even one car allows you to use it, bring it. Actually, I'd just bring a monopod with you anyway because I really don't think it could hurt; it don't take up took much space in your suitcase. On a day off we made a stop at Tsavo East national park (I even had room to set up my tripod: boy, did that make things easy) and I took note of the other people I saw with DSLR's. Those with smaller lenses like 70-300mm zooms usually just hand held the thing. People with bigger lenses tried to rest either the lens itself or their elbow on the roof of the vehicle.

Now, as for the lens itself, you have quite a few options as you have seen. If the Bigma or 150-500mm are too expensive and too heavy, I'd guess the choice I made will fall under that same price and size category. But I'll tell you about it anyway. I purchased a Tamron Adaptall 300mm f/2.8 and added the Pentax 1.7X AF teleconverter. This combo worked great; the image quality was fantastic (save for the purple fringing, which is not too big a deal), and I was able to get much tighter shots than anyone else on the expedition. I don't know if you've read about this teleconverter or not, but what it can do, in addition to what a normal teleconverter does, is auto-focus itself even while using a manual lens (with some limitations). There were only a few times when it was too close and I had to switch to my 28-75mm, leaving the monster on the mono/tripod.

For landscape stuff I used my 16-45mm and that was fine. The 18-55mm kit lens should be sufficient. As for theft, I stopped worrying about that when I got the Lowepro Flipside 300. Check it out, it's awesome. I kind of wish I had gotten the 400, but the 300 fit all the stuff in my signature just fine, plus it saved me $60 US.

Long story short, 300mm is fine. 510mm (300 X 1.7) is better. The other photographers in our group all had 300mm zooms and were able to get fantastic shots. I am currently uploading photos to our group's SmugMug page, if you want to take a look at some examples of how my lenses served me.

Lions of Tsavo- powered by SmugMug
(click on "Mikey's Photos")

P.S. If anyone is curious, we were on an Earthwatch Expedition: The Lions of Tsavo.
08-09-2009, 08:34 AM   #11
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Hmmmmm - well I live in Africa and by now game parks and the Big 5 are pretty much - ho hum affairs ;-) - I have certainly done ok with my budget set up of 18-55 and the 55-300.

In fact I have been successful with just the 18-55.





In many case though, you will wish that you had a 500 or 600mm lens but generally it is not a train smash.

Dylan
08-09-2009, 10:08 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Numb Thmubs Quote
Retailers keep telling me that TC's "Don't work"!

Very confusing...

Cheers
Numb Thumbs
Retailers may simply not know, so they default on the easy answer: No.
I have the Tamron 1.4x TC, and it's worked on all my screw-drive lenses, including the DA 55-300.

Problem is the TC+DA lens combo slows AF down immensely.
You'll find a TC on the DA 55-300 will make the AF experience an incredibly painful one.
08-10-2009, 12:46 AM   #13
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?

Being realistic, I'm stuck with bargain basement lenses for now. Maybe a Long Lens prime or expensive zoom later...

Realistically I am choosing between:

Pentax

18mm - 55mm f3.5 - f5.6
ED DA 55mm - 300mm f4 - f5.8

Sigma:

DC 18mm - 50mm f3.5 - f5.6
APO DG 70mm - 300mm f4 - f5.6

The price difference is around A$350, add A$80 if I go with the WR version of the Pentax 18mm - 55mm

I'll open the can of worms: Is the Pentax pair worth the extra 50%???

Cheers
Numb Thumbs
08-10-2009, 02:41 AM   #14
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Get something big, it stops you getting to close and eaten.
08-10-2009, 02:44 AM   #15
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1000mm maybe?

Hey, if I get eaten, I don't have to tip, right? We Aussies just don't understand tipping at all!

Cheers
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