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10-16-2010, 09:26 PM   #1
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Lens/equipment choices for Costa Rica trip??

Well I have had my K-x now for just over a month and love it. My main reason (excuse?) for upgrading to a DSLR from a Canon S5 P&S was to deal with the low light situation on a trip to the rain forests in Costa Rica this winter. Now comes the question of what lenses to take on the trip. My available lenses are the two kit lenses (18-55 and 55-300) and a manual focus Pentax A 50 mm F2. I also have a Raynox DCR-150 macro lens adapter. My budget is tapped out so those are my only options. Also, I will be traveling alone much of the time so for both convenience and safety reasons I am trying to pack as light as possible so carrying as few lenses as necessary is desirable.

Will the light level in the jungle underneath the canopy be so low that the kit lenses will be too slow to get any real pictures? In that case maybe I should only take the faster 50 mm lens with me? (That also might make me less of a mugging target than some other tourist carrying a big "Canikon" Lens.)

Or will I want to kill myself for not bringing along the 55-300 mm to zoom in on animals? And similarly will I wish I had the 18 mm capability for seascapes and landscapes?

I have some of the plastic rain covers for the camera to deal with the moisture/humidity and I am trying to figure out if I can get a monopod/hiking stick through security in my carryon luggage since I am not planning on checking any luggage.

Memory card capacity is another problem since I estimate that I may need as much as 80-150 GB total for storing my pictures during the trip - and that only allows for 200-300 pictures/day.

Has anybody been to the Costa Rica that can give me some advice?

Thanks!

10-16-2010, 09:40 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by ptx101 Quote
Well I have had my K-x now for just over a month and love it. My main reason (excuse?) for upgrading to a DSLR from a Canon S5 P&S was to deal with the low light situation on a trip to the rain forests in Costa Rica this winter. Now comes the question of what lenses to take on the trip. My available lenses are the two kit lenses (18-55 and 55-300) and a manual focus Pentax A 50 mm F2. I also have a Raynox DCR-150 macro lens adapter. My budget is tapped out so those are my only options. Also, I will be traveling alone much of the time so for both convenience and safety reasons I am trying to pack as light as possible so carrying as few lenses as necessary is desirable.

Will the light level in the jungle underneath the canopy be so low that the kit lenses will be too slow to get any real pictures? In that case maybe I should only take the faster 50 mm lens with me? (That also might make me less of a mugging target than some other tourist carrying a big "Canikon" Lens.)

Or will I want to kill myself for not bringing along the 55-300 mm to zoom in on animals? And similarly will I wish I had the 18 mm capability for seascapes and landscapes?

I have some of the plastic rain covers for the camera to deal with the moisture/humidity and I am trying to figure out if I can get a monopod/hiking stick through security in my carryon luggage since I am not planning on checking any luggage.

Memory card capacity is another problem since I estimate that I may need as much as 80-150 GB total for storing my pictures during the trip - and that only allows for 200-300 pictures/day.

Has anybody been to the Costa Rica that can give me some advice?

Thanks!
I have not been to Costa Rica, but I suggest you take it all. You never know when you are going to need the lens you left at home. I went on a cruise to Alaska, and put my 400 in the bag, figuring I would never, ever use it, but what the heck. It gave me a shot of a whale breaching. Your K-X has pretty good high ISO quality. You will run out of light in a jungle very, very quickly, however. If you cannot figure the monopod into the kit, consider the Gorillapod. I have one stuck to my light day bag, just in case. I've used it a couple of times to get the shots that would otherwise have gotten away.
10-17-2010, 12:25 AM   #3
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I have not been to Costa Rica, but I took plenty of photos in many countries, in Europe, Asia and Australia.

I agree with Canada Rockies. Take all your three lenses. The fast prime might be welcome in some unusual situations, like at dusk.

I would add:
- take plenty of High-energy batteries (plenty....)

- take high quality card (Sandisk Extreme III for example)

- I recommend to take 2 SD cards: eg 2 32Gb cards, rather than a single one (3 cards would even be better) to reduce the risks of loosing data

- consider some cases to keep your lenses dry (you could use some special crystals to keep them dry, but would recommend to use local materials like dry rice grains .....)

Have a good trip.....
10-17-2010, 12:53 AM   #4
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Your lens set is pretty light plus the Raynox likes that 55-300 better than the shorter glass. I would definitely carry everything since weight is a non factor and what self respecting mugger would steal a no-name brand like pentax? His fence would shoot him on the spot.

Chimping your pics will ensure you don't end up with 500 shots per day. But if you are going the movie route, find a friend that shoots with SD and borrow cards or go without lunch for a week and pick up a few 8GB mid-grade cards for $18 each.

Any random straight stick (bamboo is nice) can work to steady your camera in a pinch. Kneeling with a short stick (or pod) is steadier than standing with a tall stick.

Now you MUST post some pics when you return or we will hunt you down and paint your Kx all BLACK! have fun!

10-17-2010, 09:08 AM   #5
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I've not been to Costa Rica. I *have* been under the rainforest canopies both temperate and tropical from Alaska to Honduras, and have not had problems with light. (There's a pretty dark stretch of cedar forest just outside my window, and it's raining now; I'd shoot at f/2 @ ISO 800.) Use a 'pod when necessary (see below).

Keep plastic bags handy. You say you're going "this winter". Winter is NOT the wet season in Central America -- when the hurricanes pass, things dry out. I've spent a very dry December in the Yucatan (and a very wet August in Chiapas). So don't think you'll need to pack a couple kilos of desiccants. But check the weather forecasts before you go. And the highlands aren't nearly as humid as lower elevations.

As suggested above, take all your lenses and batteries and memory cards. I've carried a small laptop and tiny external drive around Guatemala, for storing images on multi-month trips. You probably can't get a 'pod in carryon luggage; check with DHS. In a pinch there's the cord'pod: a 1/4" bolt at one end of a section of twine, a big washer at the other end. Insert bolt into your camera's tripod mount; stand on washer; pull cord taught. Instant monopod! Mine fits into a 135 can. Or you may be able to rent or buy a 'pod in San Jose.

If you're going with a tour, don't fret, they specialize in getting people in and out with your only loss being your money. Use an ATM card, not a credit card -- much lower fees (but check with the issuer about rates). HEED THIS: eat yogurt daily, before and during and after your trip. Different locales support different intestinal flora, and a daily dose of yogurt stabilizes yours. A couple tabs of Pepto before each meal, and hand-sanitizer before eating, are also good preventative measures. Read the LONELY PLANET guide for more tips.

I probably won't be able to drive back towards Honduras (and maybe Nicaragua) before next 'spring' so you'll beat me to the region. Have fun!

Last edited by RioRico; 10-17-2010 at 09:17 AM.
10-17-2010, 10:41 AM   #6
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I was in costa rica this may, doing a build for habitat for humanity.

Due to the fact that I wsa not going on a photo shoot vacation, I took only my EV bridge camera. (36-360mm full frame equivelent)

In the rain forest, you will need a flash for wild life, it is just simply too dark otherwise.

In small towns, lots of small and different birds out in the open, so the longer lens the better.

With respect to humidity, I went to a local outfitter (in toronto) and they gave me a bag of silica gell packs from the shoe department. It is worth while because it does threaten rain every day. temperature will always be 25-30C in the low lands but in the mountains it gets cold. (1 degree drio for every 150 meters, or 3 degrees F per 1000 feet)

a rain cover for the pack is essential
10-17-2010, 07:29 PM   #7
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Albert, I would like to have all of it with me but was concerned that the 55-300 kit lens won't be of much value due to the low light. I have an Ultrapod II but may have to get a Gorillapod since the airport security people may complain about the pointed ends on the Ultrapod feet.

hcc, I have about six 4 GB cards and am trying to decide whether to buy more cards or one of the portable backup drives that back up directly from the SD card, i.e. not requiring a computer.

Lee, you may be right about the 55-300 for macro shots. Even if it is useless in the dark jungle it may be great for macro shots of insects. I'll also try using just a stick for support and see how it works out.

RioRico, I'll be in both dry climates and in the wet cloud forests so I will take a lot of plastic bags as well as the rain covers. I'll give the cord-pod a try - I read about that years ago but never tried it out since I got my Ultrapod as well as a good Giottos tripod. The need to go at F2 is why I think my 50 mm lens may be the best for in the rain forest despite its lack of zoom. I am not going with a tour - I'll be with my wife for 10 days and then on my own for 10 days. That is why I am concerned about personal security and not carrying too much stuff around with me. In San Jose I will leave the DSLR in the pack and just carry my Canon A1100 pocket camera so it won't be visible that I have a DSLR with me.

Lowell, I read a National Geographic article from a few years back about Costa Rica and they also mentioned that the rain forest was so dark that they had to take a lot of flash equipment to get decent pictures. That is what convinced me to dump my zoom P&S and get a DSLR for this trip. I plan to have a poncho that will cover both me and my pack.

Thanks for your input everybody. Overall, I guess the 55-300 long lens will be good for when not in the rain forest as well as for macros so I guess I'll take it along. I definitely want the 50 mm with me for low light situations and the wider 18-55 should be good for night shots on a tripod (or cord-pod/gorillapod/stick) of volcanos. That means I take everything along. I estimate the photography equipment will take up over 40% of the space in my pack so I won't get to pack many clothes!
10-18-2010, 09:39 PM   #8
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ptx101, I have a friend whose work causes him to fly all around the country. He goes really lightly - he takes one pair of socks plus the pair he is wearing and a second set of underwear. He just goes into the local market and buys the cheap stuff and throws it away when it's dirty. He says it is cheaper than hotel laundry, and he carries a very small bag. To bring this on topic, it would leave him much more room for camera equipment (he packs files and a laptop), and everything is carry on. His luggage never gets lost.

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