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01-19-2010, 08:22 AM   #1
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Safari Lens

Getting married this year and currently in the process of organizing the honeymoon... talked of India/Nepal or possibly a Safari somewhere in Africa.

As we talked over the location I "matter of factly" suggested that new lenses were "needed" as current lineup of 16-50, 50-135, and K50 1.4 could not possibly capture the African wildlife (as 1 of the options)

Getting something on the longend would mean likely mean 55-300 or 60-250 (I could borrow a 50-200 but think is too short). Talk of the 55-300 and 60-250 is always positive, 55-300 has a price/size/weight advantage... 60-250 WR & IQ.

I have never seen the 60-250 in person, however it does not strike me as an ideal "travel lens"... I consider the 50-135 to be about as much as I am willing to carry around for extended periods.... 60-250 seems quite a bit larger (I think I would also need a new bag)...
It almost seems obvious that a 55-300 would better fit my needs... or hopefully by that time a 55-300 WR, however I would like to avoid getting it with a nagging feeling that I should upgrade in the near future.

Any other options/ thoughts... 50-135 with TC?

01-19-2010, 09:06 AM   #2
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The primes and zooms you mention all seem like a good option for India/Nepal. The 60-250 is quite heavy so you may only want one or two other lenses; a fast 50 and a wide zoom.

I learned a lot in my 10 days in Tanzania the 2nd month I owned the K10D, so here's my brain dump..

I wanted the Simga 100-300/4 zoom. Won't bore you with the drama I had, but long story short there were none in the US. I ended up getting the 300/2.8 prime. It was fantastic with a TC for the trip. But that and the TCs are about $1000 more expensive presently 2.5 years later. The Sigma 100-300/4 would still be a fantastic option for you. It's great right from wide open I hear. You can use it with the 1.4x TC, but unlike the f/2.8 prime the 2X would probably only be usable when in bright sunlight.

Another great option would be the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 zoom usable with 1.4x or 2x TCs depending on your location. There are only a few rare TCs that will pass the HSM signal to the Sigma 80-200 f/2.8 zoom, so it wouldn't be as useful on Safari where you're likely to want and need a TC.

If you go on an African Safari in a park that allows you to drive anywhere, 300mm or under will do fine. Depending on where you go, you are likely to have overcast mornings until afternoon, so a fast lens, especially if you use a TC may be required for best results. However if you have a camera that has great high ISO performance, you can get by with a f/5.6 prime or zoom long lens.

If you go to Tanzania to Tarangire, Ngorongoro or Serengeti, the guides must remain on the road; this is usually the case in national parks in different countries (In private parks they drive most anywhere and will go out at night too). When you need to stay on a road/trial, you will find even 600mm (300mm + 2x TC) will not be long enough sometimes. Just a fact. The "however" there tho is if you are using a fixed/prime lens like I was, mounting the 2X TC has the disadvantage of sometimes being too long. And you don't want to be opening up the sensor to dust to remove the TC while you're out in the dusty plain. So you're stuck in those cases. Also just a fact. (Bring two bodies with a long prime or zoom, and a medium zoom. Wide angle on the 2nd body is pretty much a waste from the Land Rover. Save using that for just the sunrise/sunsets while in camp.)

Click my Tanzania link in my sig for an annotated journey. I'm linking to the latest updates I added a few weeks ago in that sig link. So scroll and page back for the whole tour. ...still have about 1000 of some of my better/best images to convert from RAW to JPG.

Congrats on the marriage, Good luck and have fun whatever you end up doing,
-steve
01-19-2010, 09:25 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by m8o Quote
When you need to stay on a road/trial, you will find even 600mm (300mm + 2x TC) will not be long enough sometimes. Just a fact.
really good advice - I was in Botswana not so long ago and could have murdered some longer lenses
01-19-2010, 11:04 AM   #4
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Weight will be a big issue for you, so the DA 55-300 immediately becomes a strong consideration.
You'll be trading off speed, though - not too bad with a K20D or later in reasonable lighting.
The 300mm reach will come in handy... so if you don't have or are unwilling to carry a big prime with you, just go for the 55-300. Otherwise you'd be going for one of the 70-200s with a 1.5x or 2x TC. And make sure to enjoy your honeymoon...

01-19-2010, 11:55 PM   #5
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Why do you need a different lens?? I simply don't understand this kind of talk. Theres a thread like this every day...just get any decent normal lens and shoot away. Really anything from 28-50mm with good glass in it (not a no name ebay lens..been there they are cheap for a reason) is perfect for shooting with. Unless you want to go take pictures of ear wax in elephant ears from 1/4 mile away, you really don't need much else.
01-20-2010, 12:02 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by m8o Quote
The primes and zooms you mention all seem like a good option for India/Nepal. The 60-250 is quite heavy so you may only want one or two other lenses; a fast 50 and a wide zoom.

I learned a lot in my 10 days in Tanzania the 2nd month I owned the K10D, so here's my brain dump..

I wanted the Simga 100-300/4 zoom. Won't bore you with the drama I had, but long story short there were none in the US. I ended up getting the 300/2.8 prime. It was fantastic with a TC for the trip. But that and the TCs are about $1000 more expensive presently 2.5 years later. The Sigma 100-300/4 would still be a fantastic option for you. It's great right from wide open I hear. You can use it with the 1.4x TC, but unlike the f/2.8 prime the 2X would probably only be usable when in bright sunlight.

Another great option would be the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 zoom usable with 1.4x or 2x TCs depending on your location. There are only a few rare TCs that will pass the HSM signal to the Sigma 80-200 f/2.8 zoom, so it wouldn't be as useful on Safari where you're likely to want and need a TC.

If you go on an African Safari in a park that allows you to drive anywhere, 300mm or under will do fine. Depending on where you go, you are likely to have overcast mornings until afternoon, so a fast lens, especially if you use a TC may be required for best results. However if you have a camera that has great high ISO performance, you can get by with a f/5.6 prime or zoom long lens.

If you go to Tanzania to Tarangire, Ngorongoro or Serengeti, the guides must remain on the road; this is usually the case in national parks in different countries (In private parks they drive most anywhere and will go out at night too). When you need to stay on a road/trial, you will find even 600mm (300mm + 2x TC) will not be long enough sometimes. Just a fact. The "however" there tho is if you are using a fixed/prime lens like I was, mounting the 2X TC has the disadvantage of sometimes being too long. And you don't want to be opening up the sensor to dust to remove the TC while you're out in the dusty plain. So you're stuck in those cases. Also just a fact. (Bring two bodies with a long prime or zoom, and a medium zoom. Wide angle on the 2nd body is pretty much a waste from the Land Rover. Save using that for just the sunrise/sunsets while in camp.)

Click my Tanzania link in my sig for an annotated journey. I'm linking to the latest updates I added a few weeks ago in that sig link. So scroll and page back for the whole tour. ...still have about 1000 of some of my better/best images to convert from RAW to JPG.

Congrats on the marriage, Good luck and have fun whatever you end up doing,
-steve
Why take a guide? Their just going to take you to all the crappy tourist spots and take your money from you. I'm pretty sure Nat-Geo doesn't take $10 "nature rides" . BTW I see why you may need a zoom though now..the 80-200mm Pentax M lens is awesome.

You might even want to consider using a good mirror lens, since its not as long. The 500mm lens I have hangs up on nearly everything in its path when walking in the woods if I'm not careful because its so long.
01-20-2010, 12:03 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Raptorman Quote
Why do you need a different lens?? I simply don't understand this kind of talk. Theres a thread like this every day...just get any decent normal lens and shoot away. Really anything from 28-50mm with good glass in it (not a no name ebay lens..been there they are cheap for a reason) is perfect for shooting with. Unless you want to go take pictures of ear wax in elephant ears from 1/4 mile away, you really don't need much else.
Going on safari with a 50mm (or less) lens would be somewhat akin to going big game hunting with a slingshot. You might get something but you certainly wouldn't get your money's worth.
01-20-2010, 12:08 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Raptorman Quote
Why do you need a different lens?? I simply don't understand this kind of talk. Theres a thread like this every day...just get any decent normal lens and shoot away. Really anything from 28-50mm with good glass in it (not a no name ebay lens..been there they are cheap for a reason) is perfect for shooting with. Unless you want to go take pictures of ear wax in elephant ears from 1/4 mile away, you really don't need much else.


You're kidding, right? Did you notice that he wanted a lens to capture wildlife? EDIT: I see, so you didn't notice.

28mm lens for wildlife... Sure. You *could* also capture wildlife with a pinhole camera, if you tranquilize the wildlife first.

01-20-2010, 12:09 AM   #9
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My main point is you don't need a bunch of fancy lenses just because your going on a "safari" . If he has a decent collection of lenses he should be fine. At first I thought he was just getting married there and then realized he's actually shooting wildlife.


Don't forget your Pith helmet
01-20-2010, 01:33 AM   #10
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haha, I will just take along the K50 1.4.... as I will need to get very close to see anything I will need the slingshot... and/or tranquilizer

Realistically the 55-300 looks the best bet, alternatives are either physically larger... or will need TCs therefore losing light. I will see how the plans go, hopefully between now and then a WR version is released.
01-20-2010, 02:17 AM   #11
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Hi - this is a complicated equation balancing cost, length, speed and weight! I went on safari to Botswana last year and based on that experience would recommend that you:

(1) take a decent pair of binoculars (each of you) - you need to remember to put the camera down and soak up the experience of being there too. Too many people spend their whole safari with their eye glued to the viewfinder!

(2) leave the 50-135 at home. It's a great lens but will not be of enough value on safari to justify the bulk

(3) take the 16-50 as a great landscape lens which will be brilliant for sunset shots too

(4) consider buying either the Sigma Bigma (50-500) or one of their other lenses that gets you to 500mm. If you don't want to keep it when you get back, sell it and treat the price difference as a "rental" charge for your trip

(5) if you don't want to do (4), then I went with the 55-300 and also a Tamron 500mm mirror lens. The 55-300 is good, but AF is slow at the longer end (where you will often be) and 300mm was often not long enough in Botswana. The general rule of thumb on safari is that the lenses you need are (a) long and (b) longer. And even at 500mm you do NOT just get earwax! Especially if you are also interested in the very colourful birdlife. I used the Tamron mirror way more than I expected, and got some great shots out of it - but it's not an easy option for anything that is moving, and requires practice and perseverance to get the best out of it. Having done it this way, I'd do (4) above next time..... I think the 16-50 plus something like a 150-500 would be a decent two lens kit for a safari.

(6) one other option if you can find it is the Tokina 80-400, which used to be made in PK fit. It's a great compromise between size, length and quality - but I have never seen one on the secondhand market and you would need to snap one up immediately if you found it.

(7) I took a beanbag which never got used because the design of our vehicles didn't lend itself to them. I also took a lightweight compact monopod, which I used all the time (jamming it on the floor of the Landrover).

(8) I took a polariser, hated the results when I tried it (too false), left it in the bag and carried on shooting without. I know all the mags suggest you should use a polariser to produce those vivid dark blue skies, but they don't look real to me.

(9) I don't know what camera you have, but getting a body with decent high ISO capability will help significantly. Many shots will be at the start or end of the day, or you may want fast shutter speeds because of focal length or moving animals. If you have a K10D, I'd consider upgrading as ISO640 is really as high as you'd want to go with that body. Ironically, the entry level Kx may produce the best safari pics currently!

Hope this helps,

Jon
01-20-2010, 02:25 AM   #12
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What about the 18-250?
01-20-2010, 02:49 AM   #13
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18-250

Too slow at the long end (f6.3) and IQ doesn't really measure up to the mark when you're on the trip of a lifetime.

I have the 18-250 and rate it highly for what it is - but I would not use it for such a trip because it may translate a superb once in a lifetime shot into a merely acceptable one.
01-20-2010, 03:02 AM   #14
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Well,

First of all, congratulations with your marriage!

Commenting on the replies you've got, there is some very good advise. Altough I do not agree totaly.
I've spend my share of time in Africa, both working/living and on safari's.

I also have: the 55-300mm, the 60-250mm, the 18-250mm, the 16-50mm and several TC's.

The good advises: take a bean bag for in the car, the 16-50mm, spare batteries, dust cleaning kit (rocket blower), enough memory cards.

For tele, I've done 3 weeks Tanzania (incl Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, and other parcs) just with 1 lens: the 18-250mm! With very, very decent results.
See some of my gallery pictures.

Our last trip, travelling through Zambia last September, I took a 16-50mm, 60-250mm, the 55-300mm and TC's and 2 bodies with me.
The best results are with the 60-250mm without TC. I used the 55-300mm for no more than 20 pictures (out of 3000).

Often wildlife is close enough (yes, it is, even when you are on foot), to need very long lenses unless you are going for birds.
Cats, elephants etc can walk or sit very close by.

If you have enough cash, I'd go for the 60-250mm and a TC. It is a very good lens, dust sealed.
Since you'll be in a safari vehicle most of the trip (I guess), size and weigth is not that much of a problem.
Otherwise the 55-300mm is a good (for its price) and cost effective solution, with a TC it is not that good in finding focus.
I'd consider a second body for mounting the 16-50mm for fast reaction time and avoiding dust by lens changes.
I'd leave the 50-150mm and the FA50 at home.

Some 18-250mm safari examples here: Picasa-webalbums - Bert - Tanzania 1-9-...
Some 60-250mm safari examples here: Picasa-webalbums - Bert - Kafue

Have a nice trip!

- Bert
01-20-2010, 04:25 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by m8o Quote
I wanted the Simga 100-300/4 zoom. Won't bore you with the drama I had, but long story short there were none in the US. I ended up getting the 300/2.8 prime. It was fantastic with a TC for the trip. But that and the TCs are about $1000 more expensive presently 2.5 years later. The Sigma 100-300/4 would still be a fantastic option for you. It's great right from wide open I hear. You can use it with the 1.4x TC, but unlike the f/2.8 prime the 2X would probably only be usable when in bright sunlight.
I can confirm from my experience that it is probable one of the best "one lens" option for safari. It is good enough at f4 to work with great results with TC1.4. It is quite heavy but very handy and easy to use. Build like a tank. I've used it for last 5 years and still don't see any real option.

just few samples from trips Sigma EX APO IF 100-300mm 1:4 Photo Gallery by Piotr Sobolewski at pbase.com
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