Tanzania Northern Safari: Camera & lenses

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Zack Forum Member • Posts: 71
Tanzania Northern Safari: Camera & lenses

Hi

i am going for a northern circuit safari in Tanzania soon.

Here is what I was thinking of taking with me:

1. Nikon D7200 body with 16-80mm lens for landscapes, people pics, and close by animals

2. My daughter will have a Nikon Coolpix P900 with its insane zoom

3a. Rent a D7200 body with a Nikon AF-S 80-400mm

OR

3b. Rent D7200 body with the FX AF-P 70-300mm

Originally I was set on renting the 80-400mm to get as much range I could. But then Thomas Hogan (dslrbodies.com/newsviews/nikon-2017-news/december-2017-nikon-news/lessons-learned.html) wrote this about the lens:

80-400mm? Okay, I'm serious confused by this lens. We had several more copies on board this trip. I'm calling Serious Sample Differences on Nikon on this lens, something I've not done before. I've now tested something like two dozen copies, across a number of bodies. I see two clear sample differences between what should be identical lenses: (1) Live View autofocus performance. Some 80-400's seem to focus just fine in Live View, some simply don't focus correctly in Live View. My copy doesn't. My teaching assistant's copy doesn't. Two student copies on this trip? They focused in Live View on my camera when mine wouldn't. I'm seeing almost half of the 80-400mm's I test have some form of poor Live View autofocus. I have no idea how that's even possible. (2) Sharpness. No 80-400mm has the level of acuity at 400mm that a D850 wants. I'm okay with that. But many don't have anywhere near the level of acuity at the telephoto end that you'd want with a 24mp camera, let alone the 36/45mp cameras. They're just unsharp. And yes, that's after AF Fine Tune testing. I'm tempted to add a (3) Tunability. The 80-400mm is the one lens that often generates large AF Fine Tune changes on cameras. More so than any other lens we've encountered at these workshops. One student's version was so bad and untunable I just leant him my 80-400mm for most of the trip, as mine is decently sharp (I'd put that particular copy on my "conditional D850 lens list", but obviously I'm seeing multiple copies that wouldn't make that list, so the 80-400mm is off the list until something gets resolved at Nikon's end). I also told that student to have Nikon look at the lens, as it clearly was one of the worst samples I've encountered, and I've encountered some poor ones previously. Given how good the new 70-300mm AF-P is, I think you forego the 400mm the 80-400mm gives you. Yes, that's harsh. But NikonUSA never responded to my initial inquiries about this lens's performance, and at this point I'm 100% confident that there's something wrong with at least some of the 80-400's that are out there, maybe even many of them. This is now a lens I wouldn't buy without testing the sample I was offered.

So now I am confused. Should I just forget about the 300-400mm range and go with the 70-300mm lens?

PS. I am renting the same body as my own so that I can share batteries as well as load the exact same settings on the two bodies. And there will be no learning curve.

 Zack's gear list:Zack's gear list
Nikon D7200 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm F2.8-4E ED VR Nikon D80 +1 more
Nikon Coolpix P900 Nikon D7200 Nikon D850
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