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Author Topic: How long a lens to attempt on safari?  (Read 2251 times)
JeffM
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« on: June 21, 2006, 12:38:33 AM »
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How much is too much?
The sensors on my Canon 20D and 30D are 1.6x multipliers themselves. My 100-400 IS at max becomes the eqivalent to a 640 mm lens on a a full frame camera - already quite a handful to manage in terms of vibration management, even with Image Stabilization. If you stack a 1.4x TC on top of that, the total becomes 900mm (896 to be exact).
I've been thinking a lot about this as I'm about to go on a photo safari in Africa and I'm wondering  if 900 mm - no matter who makes the lens (let alone achieving it with a tele-converter) - is just too much to handle without a stupendous, tripod based effort at vibration control (safaris are genrerally bean bag-only affairs)? I also wonder if it's needed for the subject matter. I will be in Tanzania where there are limits on the game drive vehicles leaving the roads.
In addition to the general question,  I am very interested in the experience of others in the quality of image from this particular lens fully extended with the TC. Since this is a Luminious Landscape board, most everyone here has presumably read Michael Reichman's criticisms of this optic. I think he is somewhat over-critical about it myself, but it is not magnificent (nor would one expect so for the price).
I just bought a 1.4x, but it's still in the box, and I'm wondering whether to take it or return it.
I have to decide in a couple of days. Thanks in advance for your input.
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Kenneth Sky
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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2006, 07:38:24 AM »
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600 mm should be sufficient. In a lot of the safaris, they don't want you to stand up let alone set up a tripod lest you attract wild game to yourself. Seated in the Rover you are not perceived as something to eat. Even if you have window mount tripod, the vibration of the engine will be transmitted so a bean bag absorbs most of that. The idea of a safari is to get relatively close to wild game and not need an astronomical telescope so 600 seems enough.
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Paul E
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2006, 07:59:36 AM »
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I went on my first African safari four years ago and since then have been back once or twice a year, so you could say I am addicted! Let me also say I am envious of your trip, you are in for a treat.

On every safari I have been on I have upgraded my equipment, the reason being that much of the good action occurs early in the morning, in the evening or at some distance. You need long lenses yes but you also need fast lenses, the faster the better. I also have a 100-400 L and agree that it is a fine lens for the money, but you will struggle with it in less than good light, especially so with a 1.4 t/c! It is 5.6 at 400, plus a stop if using a t/c, which is going to be no good in lowish light with a moving subject.

I now use a 500 f4 prime on one body and the 100-400 on another, and that covers most situations. you need the reach as often good action (hunting etc if you are lucky) will be going on some way from the vehicle, but you will also see some good stuff up close'ish, so you need that zoom as well. Obviously if you don't have a long fast prime lens then I am sure you will get some good shots anyway.

Hope that helps and have a great time!

Paul

ps - don't forget the bean bag and leave the tripod at home.

pps - I took this picture with the 100-400 and I don't think it came out bad. http://www.photoportfolios.net/portfolio/p...i=PAULE&u=11610
« Last Edit: June 21, 2006, 08:05:22 AM by Paul E » Logged

stever
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« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2006, 01:36:21 AM »
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i think the 100-400 is the best all-round lens for shooting from a vehicle, particularly with the 20d cropping factor and the ability to get good to very good results at ISO 800 and even 1600 allowing hand-held action shots in moderate light.

my experience is that the lens does not like the extender and a crop from 400mm is better than full frame with the extender (and setting up a tripod and manual focus is rarely practical)

i like the results at f8 and ISO 800 better than wide open at ISO 400

my guess is that if you add a second body with a 300 2.8 +2x, 400DO +1.4x, or a 500 or 600 -- that 80% of your shots will be with the 100-400 (unless you are really into birds) -- don't think about swapping lenses on a single body - time and dust will kill you

the 20d with 100-400 will make great prints up to 13x19 -- if you want to make bigger prints you probably need a 5d with 600

i've found a telephoto flash for fill (with a quantum power pack for quick re-cycling to be a big help

unless you're experienced with long primes and willing to carry them, the 20d and 100-400 get very good photos and let you enjoy the safari at the same time

there have certainly been at least a few 100-400s that are not up to spec - if you have reason to doubt yours, either send it in to Canon for calibration or rent a comparable lens to test it against -- mine is just slightly less sharp than my 300 f4 +1.4x (the difference is small enough that i rarely use the 300 any more)
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JeffM
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« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2006, 07:18:15 PM »
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Post trip report:
In case anyone checks back on this discussion, I just returned from my trip.
First, whoooweee. If you can get the chance to do this in your lifetime, please do yourself a service and make this trip. Not just for the photos, but for the visual/sense experience. Wow.
Second, I'm just sorting through all the images I took, the vast majority of which were with my new 100-400, and I'm very, very pleased.
I shoot only RAW. Most of my histograms look quite good, and the pictures themselves look good, and even reasonably sharp, with no processing of any kind.
It will take me a while to work through the approx 1000 images (not bad for a non-photo trip with my wife), but this lens seems to have been the right tool for the job.
Additionally, the multiplying effect of the 30D was most welcome over the 5D I was about to buy for the trip (and still will, eventually, for non-safari photography).
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