Telephoto lens for use in Kenya

Started Apr 12, 2013 | Discussions
mfouks
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Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
Apr 12, 2013

I am going on a photo safari in Africa (Kenya)  in September and I was thinking that I would get an additional backup camera.  I am currently using a D800.  My telephoto lens at the moment is a 70-200 f2.8 with a 2X extender.  I am going to get a backup camera (probably the D600 or 7200) which I have enquired about on the D800 forum.

I am looking for help in deciding  what telephoto lens to either invest in or rent.  I am looking for something not too heavy (will be using beanbags not a  tripod) as I am very concerned about holding and travelling with a heavy lens although I guess the beanbags will help.  So I am considering the 300 f2.8 lens or the new 80-400 lens that has just come out.  I have rented the 300 f2.8 for another trip and found it to be about as heavy as I can handle.  I also used the 1.4 and the 2X teleconverter with it.  Am I correct that the image quality will be much better using the 300 2.8 lens with teleconverters  as opposed to the new 80-400 lens?  I was thinking that one camera would be used with the 70-200 and the other would be used with the longer lens.

Any comments/ideas would be very much appreciated.

Thanks,

Marsha

Nikon D600 Nikon D800
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Minnesota_Steve
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to mfouks, Apr 13, 2013

The IQ of the 300 f/2.8 with 1.4 TC is excellent at f4.  with the TC-20E-III I stop down to f/6.3 or 7.1.    The best thing you can do for zoom is to get a D7100.  The added APS-C + 1.3 crop mode gets you 2X whatever is on your camera without losing a stop.

I cannot personally speak to the 80-400.

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Steve

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Oscarroos
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to Minnesota_Steve, Apr 13, 2013

The best choice until a few weeks ago, and still great, is the Nikkor 200-400 f 4

Now you have another choice:  the Nikkor 80-400 AF-S new offering.

Enjoy.  I suggest two cameras - one with 70-200 minus TC and other with one of the above.

Covered all you reasonably will need.

I also found a 24-70 great for landscape and photos showing animals in sito

Enjoy - great trip.

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mfouks
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to Minnesota_Steve, Apr 13, 2013

Thanks Steve.  Yes I liked the 300 f2.8 using the converters.  I am just wondering how different it would be from the 80-400 but of course that lens is so new.  Thanks for the advice about the D7100- I am thinking that would be a great option and people seem to be really liking it.

Marsha

Minnesota_Steve wrote:

The IQ of the 300 f/2.8 with 1.4 TC is excellent at f4.  with the TC-20E-III I stop down to f/6.3 or 7.1.    The best thing you can do for zoom is to get a D7100.  The added APS-C + 1.3 crop mode gets you 2X whatever is on your camera without losing a stop.

I cannot personally speak to the 80-400.

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Steve

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mfouks
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to Oscarroos, Apr 13, 2013

Thanks, I'm really excited about the trip.  I know the 200-400 lens would be great in all ways except for its weight and expense.  I could rent but I'm really starting to enjoy wildlife/birds and it would be nice to own a longer lens.  I'm really wondering how the new 80-400 lens would compare to the 300 f2.8 plus 1.4 teleconverter.  The 80-400 is much lighter and less expensive as well.  Of course I could rent the 300 f2.8 again which is another option.

I have the 24-120 f 4.0 which I would also bring.

Marsha

Oscarroos wrote:

The best choice until a few weeks ago, and still great, is the Nikkor 200-400 f 4

Now you have another choice:  the Nikkor 80-400 AF-S new offering.

Enjoy.  I suggest two cameras - one with 70-200 minus TC and other with one of the above.

Covered all you reasonably will need.

I also found a 24-70 great for landscape and photos showing animals in sito

Enjoy - great trip.

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Minnesota_Steve
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to mfouks, Apr 13, 2013

I think the 80-400 leaves you without converter use.  With a 300 f/2.8 you also get a true 300 and a true 420/600 when you add TCs.  You would appreciate a 420 f/4 that is gorgeous wide open! The 80-400 is more like a 385 at the long end at infinity and much less for very close things.

Steve

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Bruce kendall
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to mfouks, Apr 13, 2013

Get an AFS 80-400 with crop camera.Then get a J1/V1 for the wide stuff.Keep it simple,light and and you can still enjoy the trip.

Bruce

SA

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Richard300
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to mfouks, Apr 13, 2013

Hi Marsha

I was in Kenya (and Tanzania) a few years ago.  I would say that the combination that will get the most use will be the D800 paired up with the 70-200 without tc.  For the longer stuff, I used a 300 f4 with a 1.4 tc (I was shooting Canon at the time so had IS).  I am in a similar situation with an upcoming trip to India and I will probably go with the new 80-400 instead of one of the 300s.  If the 300 f4 had VR, it would be my first choice but we have to work with the offerings we have : )  The one thing I will say is that the biggest challenge you will face for subjects at further distances are haze and sand.  These two factors can really do a number on the results.  You need to experience it to believe it, as you will.  Personally, I believe that two bodies are a must for Africa. Heck, I sometimes travel with 3 as the enclosed picture demonstrates.  The picture was taken last summer in Madagascar.  D800, D700, D300s paired with 24-70, 14-24 and 70-200.  My version of bling : )  One thing is for sure.  You are in for an amazing experience.  Make sure to bring along a little bit of patience and a sense of humor and you will have a great time with more photo opportunities than one can imagine.

To recap, my suggestion for a second body would be a d7100 and I would pair it with (in order of personal preference) 80-400, 300 f4, 300 2.8).  I will say that the weight is not that much of an issue as most of the time we were taking pictures from a vehicle and could rest the equipment that was not in use on a seat.

Richard

mfouks wrote:

I am going on a photo safari in Africa (Kenya)  in September and I was thinking that I would get an additional backup camera.  I am currently using a D800.  My telephoto lens at the moment is a 70-200 f2.8 with a 2X extender.  I am going to get a backup camera (probably the D600 or 7200) which I have enquired about on the D800 forum.

I am looking for help in deciding  what telephoto lens to either invest in or rent.  I am looking for something not too heavy (will be using beanbags not a  tripod) as I am very concerned about holding and travelling with a heavy lens although I guess the beanbags will help.  So I am considering the 300 f2.8 lens or the new 80-400 lens that has just come out.  I have rented the 300 f2.8 for another trip and found it to be about as heavy as I can handle.  I also used the 1.4 and the 2X teleconverter with it.  Am I correct that the image quality will be much better using the 300 2.8 lens with teleconverters  as opposed to the new 80-400 lens?  I was thinking that one camera would be used with the 70-200 and the other would be used with the longer lens.

Any comments/ideas would be very much appreciated.

Thanks,

Marsha

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Guidenet
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to mfouks, Apr 13, 2013

I envy your trip. One day maybe.

Personally, I'd add the new 80-400 to my current kit along with maybe the D600. I see no advantages to cropping in the camera whatsoever. It just makes little sense to me unless you need to do some pretty severe crops where pixel density plays a roll. You've got the D800 for that.

Instead of setting a camera to a 1.3 crop factor or an FX to DX crop factor, just capture the image and do that crop later in post. Always capture the maximum data you can at the scene. Don't leave the crops behind. There's no advantage in cropping at the location and there's lots of advantages not to.

For example, if you have a choice between a shot with a DX or FX camera, take it with the FX and later crop to something along the lines of the DX when you get home. The point is by doing it at home, it doesn't have to be that radical center crop. You may want less of a crop or more and you might be able to get a better composition than just taking the 1.5 center crop from the DX kit. The same applies to the 1.3 crop on the new D7100. Do that later, if it's needed.

I have both the 300 f/2.8 VR and the new 80-400 AFS. I bought the latter for when I need a smaller, lighter weight lens for traveling. It just makes sense for me. So far, it's showing itself to be exactly what I wanted. I think it's as good at 400 as the 300 f/2.8 with converter, but that's just my initial feelings.

Good luck and have a fun time.

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Steve
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to Guidenet, Apr 13, 2013

I envy your trip. One day maybe.

Personally, I'd add the new 80-400 to my current kit along with maybe the D600. I see no advantages to cropping in the camera whatsoever. It just makes little sense to me unless you need to do some pretty severe crops where pixel density plays a roll. You've got the D800 for that.

Instead of setting a camera to a 1.3 crop factor or an FX to DX crop factor, just capture the image and do that crop later in post. Always capture the maximum data you can at the scene. Don't leave the crops behind. There's no advantage in cropping at the location and there's lots of advantages not to.

For example, if you have a choice between a shot with a DX or FX camera, take it with the FX and later crop to something along the lines of the DX when you get home. The point is by doing it at home, it doesn't have to be that radical center crop. You may want less of a crop or more and you might be able to get a better composition than just taking the 1.5 center crop from the DX kit. The same applies to the 1.3 crop on the new D7100. Do that later, if it's needed.

I have both the 300 f/2.8 VR and the new 80-400 AFS. I bought the latter for when I need a smaller, lighter weight lens for traveling. It just makes sense for me. So far, it's showing itself to be exactly what I wanted. I think it's as good at 400 as the 300 f/2.8 with converter, but that's just my initial feelings.

Good luck and have a fun time.

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Cheers, Craig
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I have heard of several people using the V2 / FT1 with the 70-200 VRII and with the 1.4 TC. Very versatile and light kit.

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Guidenet
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to Steve, Apr 13, 2013

Steve wrote:

I have heard of several people using the V2 / FT1 with the 70-200 VRII and with the 1.4 TC. Very versatile and light kit.

Yes, Steve, it indeed sounds like fun. I'm considering a V2 / FT1 myself, but probably not as a travel setup. I might try to play with such a rig on a tripod with my longer glass for birding. It might work well trying that little field of view. It is almost like digiscoping in a way. Talk about taking a tiny crop in the field.

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kayaker353
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My Opinion
In reply to Steve, Apr 13, 2013

The big problem in asking for opinions is that you get so many.  And, then, what do you do with them?  At any rate, if I were going to Northern Tanzania again or to Southern Kenya, I would take one body with the new 80 to 400 and a second body with a short lens, such as the 24 to 120.  My wife and I went to Northern Tanzania in 2009 and I took a D300 with the old 80 to400 and a Canon G10.  The combination worked quite well as I always had the right focal length lens ready to use.  We over indulged on the trip in that we chartered a vehicle and guide all to ourselves so that I could do photography my way.  If you are in a larger group, the guide will make more compromise positioning decisions, which will favor having a zoom, rather than a prime lens with teleconvertors.  Sometimes you have lots of time at a scene, sometimes just a few seconds.  I was glad not to be delayed selecting the focal length needed and getting it mounted.  Sometimes the scene would have been gone.  There is also the big problem of dust.  Changing lenses exposes the cameras internals to lots of dust.  I thought that 400 mm was long enough for the area where we, although longer is always nice.  I also thought the old 80 to 400 was a great choice for focal length range.  It is widely disparaged for many shortcomings both real and imagined.  My pictures look terrific when projected on a 50 inch TV.  From what I have read, the new 80 to 400 would be a significant improvement.

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mfouks
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to Bruce kendall, Apr 13, 2013

Good advice Bruce.  Thanks.

Bruce kendall wrote:

Get an AFS 80-400 with crop camera.Then get a J1/V1 for the wide stuff.Keep it simple,light and and you can still enjoy the trip.

Bruce

SA

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mfouks
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to Richard300, Apr 13, 2013

Thanks Richard.  I can't believe how much equipment you took:). I think that the 7100 with the 80-400 would be a good choice.  Still thinking about a 300 f2.8 with teleconverter as the latter works really well for birds.  If funds were unlimited getting both would be even better and perhaps leaving the 70-200 at home.  I got the 70-200 2.8 just before the 4.0 version came out, otherwise I would have gone for the newer, lighter version.  I know that weight might not be a huge issue as I will be in the van most of the time but there is still travelling with all of the weight on planes etc.

Marsha

Richard300 wrote:

Hi Marsha

I was in Kenya (and Tanzania) a few years ago.  I would say that the combination that will get the most use will be the D800 paired up with the 70-200 without tc.  For the longer stuff, I used a 300 f4 with a 1.4 tc (I was shooting Canon at the time so had IS).  I am in a similar situation with an upcoming trip to India and I will probably go with the new 80-400 instead of one of the 300s.  If the 300 f4 had VR, it would be my first choice but we have to work with the offerings we have : )  The one thing I will say is that the biggest challenge you will face for subjects at further distances are haze and sand.  These two factors can really do a number on the results.  You need to experience it to believe it, as you will.  Personally, I believe that two bodies are a must for Africa. Heck, I sometimes travel with 3 as the enclosed picture demonstrates.  The picture was taken last summer in Madagascar.  D800, D700, D300s paired with 24-70, 14-24 and 70-200.  My version of bling : )  One thing is for sure.  You are in for an amazing experience.  Make sure to bring along a little bit of patience and a sense of humor and you will have a great time with more photo opportunities than one can imagine.

To recap, my suggestion for a second body would be a d7100 and I would pair it with (in order of personal preference) 80-400, 300 f4, 300 2.8).  I will say that the weight is not that much of an issue as most of the time we were taking pictures from a vehicle and could rest the equipment that was not in use on a seat.

Richard

mfouks wrote:

I am going on a photo safari in Africa (Kenya)  in September and I was thinking that I would get an additional backup camera.  I am currently using a D800.  My telephoto lens at the moment is a 70-200 f2.8 with a 2X extender.  I am going to get a backup camera (probably the D600 or 7200) which I have enquired about on the D800 forum.

I am looking for help in deciding  what telephoto lens to either invest in or rent.  I am looking for something not too heavy (will be using beanbags not a  tripod) as I am very concerned about holding and travelling with a heavy lens although I guess the beanbags will help.  So I am considering the 300 f2.8 lens or the new 80-400 lens that has just come out.  I have rented the 300 f2.8 for another trip and found it to be about as heavy as I can handle.  I also used the 1.4 and the 2X teleconverter with it.  Am I correct that the image quality will be much better using the 300 2.8 lens with teleconverters  as opposed to the new 80-400 lens?  I was thinking that one camera would be used with the 70-200 and the other would be used with the longer lens.

Any comments/ideas would be very much appreciated.

Thanks,

Marsha

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mfouks
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to Guidenet, Apr 13, 2013

Thanks Craig.  Just the kind of information that I was looking for.  I rented  the 300 f2.8 in Costa Rica, used it with both the 1.4 and 2X converters and liked the results.  So I'm impressed that the 80-400 would be as good.  Good advice about the D600 as well- I would want to make sure they got the dust issue resolved before looking a that camera.  I did have a look at the 7100 in the store and really liked its weight/size but I'm aware that it wouldn't be as good in low light situations at the D600.

Marsha

Guidenet wrote:

I envy your trip. One day maybe.

Personally, I'd add the new 80-400 to my current kit along with maybe the D600. I see no advantages to cropping in the camera whatsoever. It just makes little sense to me unless you need to do some pretty severe crops where pixel density plays a roll. You've got the D800 for that.

Instead of setting a camera to a 1.3 crop factor or an FX to DX crop factor, just capture the image and do that crop later in post. Always capture the maximum data you can at the scene. Don't leave the crops behind. There's no advantage in cropping at the location and there's lots of advantages not to.

For example, if you have a choice between a shot with a DX or FX camera, take it with the FX and later crop to something along the lines of the DX when you get home. The point is by doing it at home, it doesn't have to be that radical center crop. You may want less of a crop or more and you might be able to get a better composition than just taking the 1.5 center crop from the DX kit. The same applies to the 1.3 crop on the new D7100. Do that later, if it's needed.

I have both the 300 f/2.8 VR and the new 80-400 AFS. I bought the latter for when I need a smaller, lighter weight lens for traveling. It just makes sense for me. So far, it's showing itself to be exactly what I wanted. I think it's as good at 400 as the 300 f/2.8 with converter, but that's just my initial feelings.

Good luck and have a fun time.

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Cheers, Craig
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mfouks
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Re: My Opinion
In reply to kayaker353, Apr 13, 2013

You are so right.  I am getting lots of different opinions and they all make sense even though they are different.  Still it helpful to me as it gives me lots to think about so I appreciate all of the responses.  I cannot go for best quality which equals lots of weight/expense  so I am looking for a reasonable alternative.  I agree that the new 80-400 is looking very good at this point.  Thanks for your thoughts,

Marsha

kayaker353 wrote:

The big problem in asking for opinions is that you get so many.  And, then, what do you do with them?  At any rate, if I were going to Northern Tanzania again or to Southern Kenya, I would take one body with the new 80 to 400 and a second body with a short lens, such as the 24 to 120.  My wife and I went to Northern Tanzania in 2009 and I took a D300 with the old 80 to400 and a Canon G10.  The combination worked quite well as I always had the right focal length lens ready to use.  We over indulged on the trip in that we chartered a vehicle and guide all to ourselves so that I could do photography my way.  If you are in a larger group, the guide will make more compromise positioning decisions, which will favor having a zoom, rather than a prime lens with teleconvertors.  Sometimes you have lots of time at a scene, sometimes just a few seconds.  I was glad not to be delayed selecting the focal length needed and getting it mounted.  Sometimes the scene would have been gone.  There is also the big problem of dust.  Changing lenses exposes the cameras internals to lots of dust.  I thought that 400 mm was long enough for the area where we, although longer is always nice.  I also thought the old 80 to 400 was a great choice for focal length range.  It is widely disparaged for many shortcomings both real and imagined.  My pictures look terrific when projected on a 50 inch TV.  From what I have read, the new 80 to 400 would be a significant improvement.

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PHXAZCRAIG
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to mfouks, Apr 13, 2013

mfouks wrote:

I'm really wondering how the new 80-400 lens would compare to the 300 f2.8 plus 1.4 teleconverter.  The 80-400 is much lighter and less expensive as well.

I should find out the answer to that next Wed.   A friend is coming over to shoot some birds with me, and he has a 300F2.8 with Nikon 1.4 TC.   I have the new 80-400 (and the old 80-400 and a 300F4 with 1.4 TC).   He needs to calibrate his 300F2.8 and TC for autofocus, so we're going to play in the back yard with a Lensalign and then go out birding again.

Here is how I rate the IQ (sharpness + contrast, central area) of several popular lens options.

From worst to best, at maximum focal length:

4. 70-200vr II (or I) with 2.0 TC

3. AF 80-400vr (stopped down a bit - F5.6 at 400 is nearly unusable)

2. 300F4 + 1.4 TC (Nikon or Kenko Pro, both seem good)

1. AF-S 80-400

I'm guessing that the 300F2.8 with 1.4TC will be slightly better than the AF-S 80-400.

I'm also guessing that a Sigma 50-500 (at 400mm) slots in around the 300F4 with 1.4TC, based on samples I've been seeing posted for years.

I'm judging the 70-200 with 2.0TC on Imatest testing and comments made by Lensrentals recently.

The others I have personal experience with.   The new 80-400 is really quite good.   The weakest point on it is the tripod collar.  VR could be better, but it's vastly better than the old 80-400.

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PHXAZCRAIG
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to mfouks, Apr 13, 2013

mfouks wrote:

Good advice Bruce.  Thanks.

Bruce kendall wrote:

Get an AFS 80-400 with crop camera.Then get a J1/V1 for the wide stuff.Keep it simple,light and and you can still enjoy the trip.

Hang on - I agree that one should at least have a point-n-shoot for unexpected up-close stuff.   And the V1 should be fine there.

But consider the V1 with FT1 adaptor for the long stuff.  It's really quite amazing what you can do with it and the 2.7x crop factor.   Mount the 300F4 and you have an 810F4, with 10fps, electronic shutter and 10mp.    A LOT smaller and cheaper than carrying a megalens.   A 70-200vr mounted on a V1 gives an effective 200-520 F2.8 with VR.    Adding a 1.4TC to the 300F4 gives 1134mm effective focal range.   You can do a lot with it!   (I've shot all three of those combos.)   And it uses the same battery as a D800.

Mounted on some sort of tripod, you can get video with it that you can't with a DSLR.  (Or maybe I just don't know how to crop video.)

I'm just saying, if you take a V1 to Africa, you owe it to yourself to bring an FT1 adaptor too.

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jlt3b
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to mfouks, Apr 13, 2013

I can understand your excitement about going to Kenya in September. I just made a decision to join a safari to Kenya (Masai Mara) at the end of May!

I don't want to hijack your thread, only to continue it...

I'm trying to decide what to bring as a second body for my D7000. Options include:

1) D7100

2) Used D700, or perhaps even used D3/4

3) New D600

I'm also lacking on long end (have 17-55, 105macro, 70-300mm) but want a good long lens. I have the same dilemna as you:

1) Rent 200-400mm

2) Rent 300f2.8 plus TCs

3) Buy the new 80-400mm AF-S

Hard to choose! I'd be interested in more input from the group. Also, mfouks, feel free to PM me after June 10th for an update on what I used and how my experience in Kenya went!

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PHXAZCRAIG
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Re: Telephoto lens for use in Kenya
In reply to jlt3b, Apr 13, 2013

I've not been on safari (though my wife has been on two), but I've read a lot of threads on the subject.  Thom Hogan also blogged nicely about one of his workshops over there a couple of years ago, and he made some very nice points.

What you need depends a lot on where you go.   Game preserves where you can go off road need less lens than parks where you're forced to stay on roads and shoot from a distance.  Location and season means a lot.  Type of vehicle used means a lot.

That said, it always seemed to me that a good 80-400 would be a near-ideal safari lens.  The problem until recently was that IQ (and VR and focus speed) was lacking on the AF 80-400vr.    The AF-S 80-400 has pretty much fixed that, though I still don't trust the VR to give the best results.  (I have both old and new 80-400).

I'd want two cameras with complementary zoom range, one wide to mid-telephoto (24-70 or 24-120) and one with the 80-400vr.    If you need a bit more range, the new 80-400 with 1.4TC isn't bad at all.   I'd also have a shirt-pocket camera with me in case an animal jumps on the hood of the safari vehicle.

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 PHXAZCRAIG's gear list:PHXAZCRAIG's gear list
Nikon D80 Nikon D200 Nikon D300 Nikon D700 Nikon 1 V1 +28 more
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