Zoom recommendation for safari

Started Mar 13, 2019 | Questions
OP Horatiu Mihalache Junior Member • Posts: 32
Re: More crucial than a lens ...

Thanks,

I always carry a PL but I will have to get another one for the new lens.

The ND is a good idea, I only have a gradual one but I will get variable one as well.

Jhaakas
Jhaakas Senior Member • Posts: 1,158
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari

PentUp wrote:

Horatiu Mihalache wrote:

Hello,

In the summer I will go for a safari trip to Malawi, Zambia & Botswana (my first).

I have no experience whatsoever with safari photography nor with long lenses. I rarely use my 70mm on my K-3ii and almost never go beyond that.

I would like to take some nice pictures but they will be just memories - no printing or selling.

I was looking at Sigma 50-500 (both versions) but they seem very hard to find, even used, and I don't know if I will really need all that reach.

What sort of focal lengths it's more likely that I will need? And, if I am not asking too much, what lenses would you recommend?

Thanks!

Horatiu

I was born and raised in Zambia. I always take the following 3 lenses on Safari (with my K5ii), especially for South Luangwa:

1. Sigma 50-500 OS HSM - main lens, gets the most use at all focal lengths.

2. Sigma 70-200 HSM f2.8 - always on the camera for night drives (invaluable for photographing predators hunting at night viewed by spotlight).

3. Pentax 18-270 - always use this for walking safaris (for which Zambia - particularly South Luangwa is world famous). My son has the Sigma 18-300 HSM on his K50. This is a great walking safari lens too. Both these lenses are light enough for walking and give great flexibility in zoom range.

Also don’t worry about the weight/size of the 50-500 on game drives as most camps (in Zambia at least) provide bean bags on their open land rovers / land cruisers.

Good recommendations

During daytime, 18-135 will be good as it has excellent IQ. The 18-270 and 18-300 are not really Pentax and I feel lack in IQ

I would also suggest to upgrade to KP body to get that jump in high ISO and I am sure the swivel screen will also help!

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 Jhaakas's gear list:Jhaakas's gear list
Pentax K-5 II Pentax smc DA 35mm F2.4 AL Pentax smc DA 50mm F1.8 Tamron SP AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical (IF) Pentax smc DA 55-300mm F4.0-5.8 ED +3 more
PentUp Contributing Member • Posts: 564
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari
1

Jhaakas wrote:

PentUp wrote:

Horatiu Mihalache wrote:

Hello,

In the summer I will go for a safari trip to Malawi, Zambia & Botswana (my first).

I have no experience whatsoever with safari photography nor with long lenses. I rarely use my 70mm on my K-3ii and almost never go beyond that.

I would like to take some nice pictures but they will be just memories - no printing or selling.

I was looking at Sigma 50-500 (both versions) but they seem very hard to find, even used, and I don't know if I will really need all that reach.

What sort of focal lengths it's more likely that I will need? And, if I am not asking too much, what lenses would you recommend?

Thanks!

Horatiu

I was born and raised in Zambia. I always take the following 3 lenses on Safari (with my K5ii), especially for South Luangwa:

1. Sigma 50-500 OS HSM - main lens, gets the most use at all focal lengths.

2. Sigma 70-200 HSM f2.8 - always on the camera for night drives (invaluable for photographing predators hunting at night viewed by spotlight).

3. Pentax 18-270 - always use this for walking safaris (for which Zambia - particularly South Luangwa is world famous). My son has the Sigma 18-300 HSM on his K50. This is a great walking safari lens too. Both these lenses are light enough for walking and give great flexibility in zoom range.

Also don’t worry about the weight/size of the 50-500 on game drives as most camps (in Zambia at least) provide bean bags on their open land rovers / land cruisers.

Good recommendations

During daytime, 18-135 will be good as it has excellent IQ. The 18-270 and 18-300 are not really Pentax and I feel lack in IQ

I would also suggest to upgrade to KP body to get that jump in high ISO and I am sure the swivel screen will also help!

I have used the Pentax 18-135 in Zambia on safari. It did not impress me as much as the Pentax 18-270. Where as my son’s Sigma 18-300 blew them both out of the water in performance. It really is a good lens for that type of use.

 PentUp's gear list:PentUp's gear list
Pentax K-5 II Pentax K-7 Pentax K-x Pentax smc DA 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 Pentax smc DA 55-300mm F4.0-5.8 ED +8 more
Oiche Senior Member • Posts: 2,045
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari

Horatiu Mihalache wrote:

Space is indeed an issue. I will also be doing some mountain hiking on the same trip, before the safari. I will not carry this lens in my backpack (I usually hike with the 15mm Ltd, either 43 or 35 and sometimes the 70mm). But it will take space in the cabin bag.

Pick up a used DA* 60-250 then (I'm a hiking photographer) who uses the DA15 and DA 20-40 Ltd. If you want to save more weight and not fussy about top IQ the 55-300 PLM.

 Oiche's gear list:Oiche's gear list
Pentax K-70 HD Pentax DA 15mm F4 ED AL Limited HD Pentax-DA 20-40mm F2.8-4 ED Limited DC WR Samyang 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC Pentax smc DA 40mm F2.8 Limited +1 more
OP Horatiu Mihalache Junior Member • Posts: 32
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari
1

Thank you all. From the answers, I think I should try to find a 50-500 copy if I can. I can't find any but I'll keep looking for a while.

Adam007 Contributing Member • Posts: 650
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari

https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/24-photographic-equipment-sale/384173-sale-sigma-50-500-1-4-6-6-3-apo-dg-ex.html

I also saw a 150-450 for $1450 on the first or second listings page.  Good luck!

 Adam007's gear list:Adam007's gear list
Fujifilm X100F Pentax K-1 Pentax smc FA 77mm 1.8 Limited Pentax smc FA 43mm F1.9 Limited Pentax smc FA 31mm F1.8 AL Limited +5 more
OP Horatiu Mihalache Junior Member • Posts: 32
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari

Unfortunately, none of them ships to the UK.

breeze_of_wind
breeze_of_wind Senior Member • Posts: 1,357
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari

First time on Safari I brought all types of gear

After that only really needed the Pentax 150-450

To be on fafe side -- assuming equipment failure, on my next trip in 11 months I will add a second body and another zoom

John

 breeze_of_wind's gear list:breeze_of_wind's gear list
Pentax K-5 Pentax K20D Pentax K-3 Pentax K-1 II Pentax smc DA 18-135mm F3.5-5.6ED AL [IF] DC WR +12 more
KentG Veteran Member • Posts: 4,705
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari
1

Max about 300mm with an APS-C. So possibilities are, Pentax 60-250/4, Sigma 100-300/4 (if you can still find any used), any 70-200/2.8 + 1.4x TC, and outside possibility would be a max 150mm lens with a 2x TC (like the Sigma 50-150/2.8 + 2x TC). I would prefer the first 2 myself.

Kent Gittings

 KentG's gear list:KentG's gear list
Pentax K-1 Pentax K-5 IIs Pentax K-S1 Pentax smc D-FA 50mm F2.8 Macro Pentax FA 150-450mm F4.5-5.6 +3 more
dnscott645 Regular Member • Posts: 127
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari

Your concerns are not issues on normal safaris. you are in a pop-top Toyota "safari jeep". You do not take photos while it is moving; you are on dirt roads bouncing around. You stop to take photos. Dust is not an issue if you do not change lenses when when the vehicle is moving. You will rarely use anything under 150mm when out on safari.  You only need a wider lens when an elephant walks within 15 meters of your vehicle. The wider lenses are mostly used for non-safari photos. Dropping a lens in a safari vehicle is no more likely than in your own car.

 dnscott645's gear list:dnscott645's gear list
Panasonic LX100 II Pentax KP Sony a7S III Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm F4-5.6 R Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm F1.7 +1 more
PentUp Contributing Member • Posts: 564
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari
1

dnscott645 wrote:

Your concerns are not issues on normal safaris. you are in a pop-top Toyota "safari jeep". You do not take photos while it is moving; you are on dirt roads bouncing around. You stop to take photos. Dust is not an issue if you do not change lenses when when the vehicle is moving. You will rarely use anything under 150mm when out on safari. You only need a wider lens when an elephant walks within 15 meters of your vehicle. The wider lenses are mostly used for non-safari photos. Dropping a lens in a safari vehicle is no more likely than in your own car.

Perhaps you didn't read the OP's opening post clearly.

1. OP is going to be on safari in Zambia/Botswana. They don't use "pop-top Toyota "safari jeep"" in those countries like they do in East Africa. The OP will be in completely open land rovers or land cruisers with (maybe) a shade cover.

2. If the OP is going in the dry season as most people do in Southern Africa there will always be some dust particles blowing about even when the vehicle is stopped.

3. changing lenses in a stopped vehicle just increases the risks of (i) getting dust on the sensor, (ii) dropping a lens and (iii) more importantly, missing a photo opportunity. I only ever change lenses (to an f2.8 70-200) when we stop and get out for the sundowners, and even then I am extra careful.

4, Re "You will rarely use anything under 150mm when out on safari." - that may be valid in the open savanna of East Africa, but in the riverine forest, mopane woodlands and ox-bows of the Luangwa and Zambezi Valleys (or the miombo forest and dambos of the Kafue), that is simply not true.

5. Re "You only need a wider lens when an elephant walks within 15 meters of your vehicle". - In Zambia and Botswana you will frequently get elephants, lions, sometimes leopards closer than 15 meters. I have had lions brush past the side of an open land rover no further than one meter from my knee.

6. Re "Dropping a lens in a safari vehicle is no more likely than in your own car." - That may be true, but the difference is that on an open land rover there are no soft carpeted landings for the lens, it is either going to fall down below the bench seats and hit the metal floor or fall out of the vehicle altogether and hit the ground (where depending on the wildlife around, you may or may not be able to retrieve it for a while). Also unlike in your car at home, there are no camera shops near by where you can get a damaged lens repaired or replaced. If you damage a lens on a Zambian safari (unless you can fix it yourself) you aren't going to be using it for the rest of the trip. My son's camera once dropped down below the seats with my Sigma 50-150 f2.8 on it, fortunately landing on the lens hood, but unfortunately jamming the lens hood off its thread at an angle thus partially covering the front lens element. I had to sit up at night warming the lens cover over a parafin lamp until I heated (expanded) the lens cap enough to budge it back into place and unscrew it. It is still going strong

 PentUp's gear list:PentUp's gear list
Pentax K-5 II Pentax K-7 Pentax K-x Pentax smc DA 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 Pentax smc DA 55-300mm F4.0-5.8 ED +8 more
dnscott645 Regular Member • Posts: 127
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari
1

I have been to Serengeti NP,  Ngorongoro NP, Tarangire NP, Lake Manyara NP, and Arusha NP  in Tanzania; Kruger NP and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi NP in South Africa; Hwange NP in Zimbabwe; Masi-Mara NP in Kenya.  I have been to open plains as well as woodlands and dense forest in the listed parks. Zambia should not be much different than Zimbabwe; Botswana is mainly The Kalahari Desert or the Okavango Delta which will range from open plains to some dense forests.  As I said most of your shots 150 mm or greater.  It is not that common that a large animal will come that close to your vehicle.  There is much more than the big five to shot. Most of your photos should be small and medium animals.  The reason I recommend the Pentax 150-450 mm lens is that it is a better than any Pentax mount Sigma lens in that focal length.  The 50-150 f2.8 Sigma lens is a very good. The Pentax lens is also weather and dust sealed. If you do not want to change lenses then bring an extra camera. You should have a back-up body anyway. Any camera equipment you are not using should be kept in a close camera bag to keep it from getting dusty or being damage. On the subject of dropping your equipment, be careful and don't do it, getting it repaired anywhere is a problem, let alone in Africa.

 dnscott645's gear list:dnscott645's gear list
Panasonic LX100 II Pentax KP Sony a7S III Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm F4-5.6 R Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm F1.7 +1 more
grispie Junior Member • Posts: 36
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari
2

if your goal is just to get some nice pictures to take home. the 55-300 is a good bet imo.

I went to botswana & these are the shots i could make with that lens. Pretty happy about it.. technique & responsiveness in the field are also important factors, as well as a bit of luck

https://christophegryspeert.smugmug.com/Galleries/Botswana/

jf_tea Senior Member • Posts: 1,497
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari

Excellent pictures with such a "modest" lens (DA 55-300) !

 jf_tea's gear list:jf_tea's gear list
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Pentax K-5 IIs Pentax K-01 Olympus E-M1 +10 more
solarider Veteran Member • Posts: 4,852
Re: Zoom recommendation for safari

Tatouzou wrote:

Horatiu Mihalache wrote:

Hello,

In the summer I will go for a safari trip to Malawi, Zambia & Botswana (my first).

I have no experience whatsoever with safari photography nor with long lenses. I rarely use my 70mm on my K-3ii and almost never go beyond that.

I would like to take some nice pictures but they will be just memories - no printing or selling.

I was looking at Sigma 50-500 (both versions) but they seem very hard to find, even used, and I don't know if I will really need all that reach.

What sort of focal lengths it's more likely that I will need? And, if I am not asking too much, what lenses would you recommend?

Thanks!

It all depends the kind of safari you plan.

I only went for a safari in 2016 in northern Tanzania national parks (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire, Manyara...).

It was mostly savannah at the end of dry season (september): the grass was low, and the wildlife thus easy to watch even when far away.

In these national parks, you are not allowed to go outside the car during the safari, and you cannot drive during the night.

During the day there was plenty of light.

It may be quite different if you mostly go into rainforest areas, where the light can be very dim even in full daylight, requiring brighter lenses, and where long telephoto will not be so useful (save for birds and small animals) because the visible wildlife will be rather close.

I was with my son and daughter, we were alone in the car with the driver, which was a very efficient guide.

Most of the time, the wildlife was on only one side of the car, and we were glad that there were only the three of us, so that we all could have a nice watching (shooting) point at the same time.

I had my K3 with the Pentax HD-DA 55-300 f4-5.8, the Pentax DA18-135 and the DA35 f2.4.

I mostly used the WR DA55-300, a 2013 refreshment of the original 2008 model (non WR and with less advanced coatings); which I had chosen because it was considered as a good inexpensive telezoom, with a range covering the most useful focal length for shooting wildlife handheld.

The only times I used the DA18-135 and DA35 was when I was walking, for instance with two Masai warriors in Olduvaï river to see giraffs and going to watch the sunset.

When shooting at wildlife from the car, there was no time to swap lenses for focal lengths wider than 55, and it was rather dusty. Thus I used my Fuji X10, a high end pocketable compact with a transtandard zoom, for unexpected wide angle shots while the 18-135 was mounted on the K3.

Though it is rather big and heavy, I would have used the much sharper DA 60-250 f4 as recommended by other posters in this thread If I had one, but it was too expensive IMO as I dont go birding or shooting wildlife around my home: I very scarcely used the 55-300 since september 2016.

The 55-300 did the job, here are a few samples from my DPreview gallery:

Many more samples in my flickr gallery.

AFAIK, the WR DA 55-300 f4-5.6 is still available new in most countries, though it has been replaced in 2016 by the newer DA 55-300 f4.5-6.3 PLM, with a much faster and more efficient silent AF motor replacing the old screwdriven AF. This affordable lens is highly praised by those who have it, though it is 1/3 of a stop slower.

These are very nice images even considering the lenses weren't extraordinary.

You did indeed do very well, and I'm glad that you reposted them.

Best wishes,

Nic

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