Advice on a lens to take on safari with me

almightygoodgod

Well-known Member
Hello everybody, hope you are well.

I have been lucky enough to be asked to lead a school trip to Tanzania in January, we will be spending a chunk of that on safari and am very keen to make the most of the experience and take some cracking shots. It will most likely be a once in a lifetime oppurtunity as my wife has no interest in travelling Africa so I am willing to splash out (well, splash out relative to my normal purchases, from reading some of the threads on here my budget is a mere drop in the ocean!) on a new lens.

At the moment I have a Nikon D40x although I do plan to upgrade in the future so would want it to be compatible with any future Nikon cameras I might purchase, although I'm sure it would be as the D40x is the awkward one having no inbuilt focus motor.

My current lenses are as follows:
  • the bog standard 18-55mm that came with the camera
  • a 10-24mm wide angle Tamron lens (will hopefully be good for the landscapes)
  • a 55-200 Nikon Vr lens (has served me well in the past but not sure we will be getting quite close enough to the besties for this to cut the mustard)

My budget is up to £300, I am going to pool together all of my christmas presents off the family for this one, although I could go a little higher if need be.

Something to bear in mind is that I live in Hong Kong so any deals in stores are no good to me, but on the plus side if any of you know any decent online stores that deliver internationally as there is no import duty here I can get it shipped overseas and save on the VAT. Although there are quite a few shops in HK that I can look around if people can suggest a lens.

Also interested in suggestions on filters, I have a polarised filter for the wide angle at the minute.

Lastly, when I did a search for safari threads I came across this one that recommended a 2x teleconverter, any advice on these?

Thank you in advance!
 

imightbewrong

Distinguished Member
If this is a once in a lifetime trip why not rent a lens or two? A friend of mine went on a safari recently - probably his only one - so he spent a couple of hundred quid to rent £5K worth of lenses or something for his 5D - it's a nice camera but with the lenses it was spectacular - he got some amazing photos.

I think he used this place: Lenses For Hire Ltd.

and rented something like this: Canon EF 28-300mm f 3 5-5 6 L IS USM
 

almightygoodgod

Well-known Member
The longest zoom you can manage/afford would be my answer. As you say the 55-200 wont cut the mustard. Why not sell this on and put the money towards a 70-300 VR - it's better built, better optically and longer reach.

I am considering selling my 55-200 lens to raise some extra cash, do you think 300mm would be good enough?

If this is a once in a lifetime trip why not rent a lens or two? A friend of mine went on a safari recently - probably his only one - so he spent a couple of hundred quid to rent £5K worth of lenses or something for his 5D - it's a nice camera but with the lenses it was spectacular - he got some amazing photos.

I think he used this place: Lenses For Hire Ltd.

and rented something like this: Canon EF 28-300mm f 3 5-5 6 L IS USM


Can't find anywhere to rent them in Hong Kong, that's what I looked into initially.
 

imightbewrong

Distinguished Member
Can't find anywhere to rent them in Hong Kong, that's what I looked into initially.

Oh right - didn't spot your location. I see they don't ship outside the EU.

Teleconverters can be good at the cost of some IQ and aperture.

Would you consider a prime lense? That might give you better reach/bigger aperture for the same money - depends how flexible you need to be.
 

Noggin1980

Distinguished Member
I am considering selling my 55-200 lens to raise some extra cash, do you think 300mm would be good enough?

300 will be good enough and lenses longer than that tend to get very big and very very heavy. That seems to be the best solution given your budget.

Would you consider a prime lense? That might give you better reach/bigger aperture for the same money - depends how flexible you need to be.

I don't think a prime is practical at all on safari, you really do need the flexability and if it's all dusty then avoiding changeing lenses too much is a good idea.
 

almightygoodgod

Well-known Member
Oh right - didn't spot your location. I see they don't ship outside the EU.

Teleconverters can be good at the cost of some IQ and aperture.

Would you consider a prime lense? That might give you better reach/bigger aperture for the same money - depends how flexible you need to be.

Sorry to be a noob but I am guessing IQ is image quality, is that due to less light entering the aperture? I read about this when reading the pros and cons of teleconverter lenses, they said this was a problem in low light, I was hoping as it will be the height of summer in January that the light levels would be sufficient to overcome this issue?

300 will be good enough and lenses longer than that tend to get very big and very very heavy. That seems to be the best solution given your budget.



I don't think a prime is practical at all on safari, you really do need the flexability and if it's all dusty then avoiding changeing lenses too much is a good idea.

So are you suggesting the standard Nikon 70-300mm VR lens?
 

almightygoodgod

Well-known Member

jwramsay

Active Member
I recently purchased a 70-300 VR to replace my 55-200VR

Mind you I got a steal of a deal from the Jessops Clearance - £237

Price aside, its significantly bigger and of far superior build quality to the 55-200 (which was a great servant).

OK it's slow, but that's why its not silly money.
 

GarryF

Well-known Member
I've heard people talk about sigma bigma being a great safari lense, consider renting something like that if you can cope with the size?

Search for bigma and safari etc and start reading :)
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
Forget TC's whilst in a Safari vehicle. If you need to change it's likely the moment will be gone by the time you have, and you increase the chance of dust causing problems. Plus they really only work with faster more expensive lenses anyway.

Ideally you'd be looking at the ~100-400 mm range or thereabouts. To be honest, on a £300 budget, the Nikon 70-300 VR is probably your best option. VR or some kind of stabilisation is a must as it's likely the safari vehicle engine will be running and that means vibration. Some drivers will stop the engine, but it depends on how long they are stopping for and also how accommodating they are. Also if it's a school trip, don't underestimate the ability of the children to not keep still through excitement.

If you can stretch the budget then you may find a Nikon 80-400 secondhand, or possibly a Sigma. Avoid the 50-500, the range is too great, try for the 120-400 or a 150-500, the reasoning being that there's less range so a better chance of quality. Also, it's much easier to ask a driver to get further away from an animal if you're too close rather than closer.

A slower lens on Safari isn't that much of an issue, there is usually plenty of light. I would have thought as well that the lenses above will hold their value quite well so might be worthwhile to buy on a credit card, use and then sell on taking a small hit.

I would also advise that you use a lens cover by Wildlife Watching Supplies as this will help hugely with dust, and keeping the lens clean if you plan to sell on.

Finally, and this is perhaps most important. Do NOT leave getting the lens (regardless of what it is) until just before you go. Get it as soon as you can and practice like mad so using it becomes second nature. This will make the safari much more enjoyable and less stressful. Also remember occasionally to put the camera down and just enjoy the experience. I don't use Nikon, but here are some of my pics to give you a flavour of what you can get with a lens in the 100-400 range.
 
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almightygoodgod

Well-known Member
Wow, some fantastic shots. I particularly liked the bedraggled king photo, if I can get mine anywhere near that good I will be over the moon.

Now I have an idea what to look for I will hit the second hand places in Hong Kong, is a real shame that they don't have any rental places here. Well they do have one, but you pay a deposit equal to the full value of the lens and anyone who has rented anything in this country knows that it is nigh on impossible to get a full deposit back for anything and the consumer has next to no rights.

Will aim for one of the lenses going up to 400mm but may well have to settle for the 70-300mm as I can't justify spending much more than 300 quid for one, although I will look into the second hand market over here to see if I can recoup much of the cash.
 

almightygoodgod

Well-known Member
I take it this is the one I should be getting if I can't find one of the other lenses second hand? The price is equivalent to 300quid (can't find the pound button on this damn keyboard!)

Seems like a reasonable price and bang on my budget, will have a browse round the local dealers first though.
 

toshpetock

Standard Member
At the moment I have a Nikon D40x although I do plan to upgrade in the future so would want it to be compatible with any future Nikon cameras I might purchase, although I'm sure it would be as the D40x is the awkward one having no inbuilt focus motor.


My current lenses are as follows:
  • the bog standard 18-55mm that came with the camera
  • a 10-24mm wide angle Tamron lens (will hopefully be good for the landscapes)
  • a 55-200 Nikon Vr lens (has served me well in the past but not sure we will be getting quite close enough to the besties for this to cut the mustard)
My budget is up to £300, I am going to pool together all of my christmas presents off the family for this one, although I could go a little higher if need be.
QUOTE]

Go long, go fast and go rent a lens. as you will not get anyhing decent for £300. 400 f2.8 cant be that much to rent for a week or so.

Also you are taking a backup body aren't you? maybe to put your shorter zoom on. If you go with only one body and it breaks you are in a world of hurt.
 

johnaalex

Distinguished Member
I have just returned from my second safari holiday. On this trip to Kruger NP and Sabie Sands in South Africa I took the following kit

Nikon D300
Sigma 120-300 f2.8 and 1.4 TC ( I do also have the 2x TC for this lens but rarely use it)
Nikon 70-200 f2.8VR MkII and the Nikon TC20-EIII.

Plus some other lenses

Most of the shots I took were with the 70-200 see HERE

Basically, if you have good guides and trackers you will get close to the animals so having the flexibilty of a zoom is possibly the most important thing rather than just reach. Also you need to consider the weight of the lens, so a monopod or other means of support can be useful just to take the weight off of your shoulders. Note I did not use the teleconvertors at all.

Regards

John
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
Go long, go fast and go rent a lens. as you will not get anything decent for £300. 400 f2.8 cant be that much to rent for a week or so.
I can't recommend this as an approach.

If you've never used a big super-telephoto lens before, renting one a couple of days before flying off on Safari will be an unmitigated disaster.

These things are big and heavy and are a completely different way of taking photos. You need completely different gear just to lug them around, you need completely different tripod/monopod/head equipment or beanbags, and a reasonable amount of practice to be able to get consistently good shots. Just getting one of these lenses lugged around on a holiday will be expensive, with flight cases etc.

So, unless you know what you are doing with something like a 400mm f/2.8, I'd stick with a more manageable lens.

As John says, with the right guide/driver, you will get reasonably close. Where the zoom will help is with birds (no lens is ever long enough here) and for animal portrait shots. Also some animals you just don't want to be that close too! If you are really lucky and witness a big cat hunt (I didn't) then a zoom will be required as that won't happen right infront of the vehicle.

So I do think, that a zoom in the 70-300, 100-400, or Sigma 500-ish zooms are the best option as they are manageable by most and will work handheld easily and fit into existing bags etc. If you can afford big super telephotos then great, but then equally you still need to use one a long time before you go on such an important trip.
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
Why not rent a lens? Cheaper than buying. Not such a bone-headed idea really . . and if you like, then buy one later on. I'm sure there must be several Nikon lens rental websites you could search.
I wasn't saying hiring a lens was a bad idea. :rolleyes:

Hiring one of the heaviest lenses in a manufacturers range when you've never used one before is what I was advising against. 400mm f/2.8's are monster lenses. Only a couple of hundred grams lighter than the 600 f/4. It's not going to just slip into your camera bag or hand luggage.

Nikon telephoto

Seem to be a reasonable site for renting. (Even though the OP couldn't rent in HK.)
 

Pirate!!

Banned
I wasn't saying hiring a lens was a bad idea. :rolleyes:

Hiring one of the heaviest lenses in a manufacturers range when you've never used one before is what I was advising against. 400mm f/2.8's are monster lenses. Only a couple of hundred grams lighter than the 600 f/4. It's not going to just slip into your camera bag or hand luggage.

Nikon telephoto

Seem to be a reasonable site for renting. (Even though the OP couldn't rent in HK.)
I wasn't referring to any specific post, merely offering a suggestion. I hadn't read all the posts, so my suggestion was just that. I'm not educated enough to offer qualified advice on Nikon mount optics.
 
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johnaalex

Distinguished Member
Nice pictures, thought that was the bar in the Concorde Room, have enjoyed a few bottles of champagne there. ;)

The problem is they make you get on a plane afterwards! :D
 

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