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Author Topic: New Camera for Africa  (Read 6519 times)
davaglo
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« on: August 21, 2012, 02:59:11 PM »
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I am going to retire next year and I'm going to treat myself to an African photographic trip. Now I shoot with a Canon 40D w/ 17-40 F4 and 70-200 F2.8 IS and I also have a Canon Extender 1.4. 
I want to print (or have printed) up to 20x30.
I'm looking at the 7D or the 5D mk II.
Will the 7D do the job?  Also, should I be looking at an inbetween lens?

Thanks
Jerry
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2012, 06:47:21 PM »
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Get a 5D Mark III or the 7D. It makes no sense to buy a 5d Mark II these days.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2012, 07:17:50 PM »
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Yes, a 5D mark III is an excellent allround camera for your purpose.
The improvements in focusing over the 5D mark II are substantial.

Perhaps you should also be looking at lenses as well.
The 70-200mm f2.8 is a great lens but consider something with a longer reach as well:
the 100-400mm f4.0 from Canon or the 120-300mm f2.8 from Sigma come to mind.

If bird photography is a passion then the Canon 500mm f4.0 would be my recommendation.

Obviously I don't know your budget and I fully appreciate that weight rapidly becomes a consideration when planning air travel.
Perhaps if you are travelling through South Africa consider hiring bigger lenses.
I have no idea what would be available in East African countries such as Kenya but others may have some information.

Regards

Tony Jay
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Ray
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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2012, 09:32:00 PM »
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I don't think a 200/2.8 with 1.4x extender will be long enough for an African safari. The Canon 100-400, which is F5.6 fully extended, should provide better quality than a 200/2.8 with 2x extender which effectively makes it a lower quality 400/F5.6. However, I wouldn't recommend using the 100-400 with extender.

The additional pixel count of the 7D would be a worthwhile upgrade from the 40D, and better than the 5D3 for getting the longest reach from your existing lenses.

If I were you, I'd investigate the possibilities of the new Panasonic SuperZoom Bridge camera, the FZ200. The main advantage of this camera is that it provides a constant maximim aperture of F2.8 across its entire range of 25-600mm (35mm format equivalent).

Whilst its sensor is rather tiny, and image quality will not compare with a 400/2.8 on a 40D or 7D, it probably will compare very favourably with a 400/5.6 used on a 7D at ISO 400 or 800 in order to get the required fast shutter speed.

This Panasonic bridge camera also boasts a burst rate of 12 frames per second, at full resolution in RAW. This feature could be very useful for capuring the most interesting moments of fast-moving wildlife activity.

The 12mp of the FZ200 should be sufficient for a 20"x30" print, although 18mp would be better, all else being equal. However, the extra pixels will mean nothing if the image is not tack sharp in the fist instance as a result of the shutter speed not being fast enough.

I would suspect that the Leica lens on the FZ200 will not be sharpest at its maximum aperture of F2.8, but nor is the 70-200/F2.8 sharpest at F2.8, nor the 100-400 sharpest at F5.6 at 400mm.

It will be interesting to see comparisons when this camera becomes available, which I believe is next month.
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2012, 10:20:32 AM »
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rather than buy a  super telephotos  look into renting one. I have been happy with http://www.lensrentals.com if you don't have a rental agency in your hometown.
I have never been to Africa or on safari but a 400mm f/4L or 500mm f/4L on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III or 7D might be a good combination.
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Ellis Vener
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billmac
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« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2012, 02:33:18 PM »
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I would add two thoughts:

I used a 24-70 on a 5D MkII quite a bit, and found that for many situations the 70-200 on a 1D MkIII was all I needed. Most tours will take you right into the animals. Having said that, I also carried a 300 F2.8 w/ 2X extender and used it less than I thought I would.

Second, Africa is very dusty. You don't want to be switching lenses in the field. Use the 40D with a short lens all the time and gear up for greater reach. I like the 100-400 approach and will do that next time.

I should add that weight and space can be issues. On many tours there are six persons to a Land Cruiser, plus driver. My group was very patient with me and my large "kit"; I had far more gear than anyone and struggled at times with space. A "photographer's tour" may not present the same issues.

Bill McClure

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stever
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« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2012, 05:41:32 PM »
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from experience, i recommend the 5D3 and 100-400 as a single solution - but i wouldn't go on a trip like this without a backup camera and lens.  the combination of a crop frame camera (i don't see much difference in IQ between the 40D and 7D and wouldn't print bigger than 13x19 from either although the 7D AF and few other features are nice) with 100-400 and FF with 70-200 gives you coverage for anything except the elephant 10 ft away (which does happen) and smaller birds and animals without changing lenses (dust is usually an issue) - and this is what i use most of the time the 5D3 will make 20x30 prints with any good quality lens.  however in the early morning and late afternoon usually use the 5D3 and 100-400 for the higher ISO required

big glass can be a nuisance - particularly if you're not experienced with it, and almost impossible to use unless you pay extra for a private vehicle or go with a photo group which will arrange for 2 or 3 people per vehicle (either of which i highly recommend if you're serious about getting good images).  i rented a 400DO from lensrentals.com (great service) but found it to be little better than the 100-400 and didn't like the 1.4xii (may be better with the iii) so if i really need more reach i use the 7D with 400 f5.6 and 1.4xiii on a tripod - but wouldn't recommend this for a first trip either

i would not recommend anything like a panasonic superzoom for lack of high ISO perfomance, poor AF for action, and inability to make quality large prints - probably fine as a backup - i would seriously dispute that the performance is in the same class as a 40D
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neways
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« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2012, 06:28:16 PM »
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I just came back from a three weeks photo safari in Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia. I used Canon 5D 3 as my main camera and 5D 2 as the secondary camera. The 5D 3 is way better than the 5D 2 (operation) and the keep rate is much higher due to its sophisticated auto focusing performance and high burst rate. For the lens, I strongly recommend the 500 mm F4 plus 1.4 III converter. Most wildlife is far from the road and anything shorter than 500 mm is not that useful and the image quality is much reduced after the cropping. 80% of the images I shot is by the 500 mm F4 lens with or without the converter or by the Canon 70-300 L zoom lens which is a very good performer. I only used the Nikon 14-24 mm zoom lens when I shot the Red Sand Dunes in Namibia.
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AFairley
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« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2012, 07:04:36 PM »
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Somewhat OT, but if space is critical, a look at Olympus E-M5 micro 4/3 camera might be warranted.  I don't know about 20x30, but it will do 17x22s without breaking a sweat with the right lens.  There are telephoto zooms going up to 30mm (600mm FF equivalent), but I don't know what the quality is like.  (I confess I'm hooked on the sucker, its like carrying a Olympus OM or Nikon FM around)
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Ray
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« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2012, 08:44:45 PM »
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i would not recommend anything like a panasonic superzoom for lack of high ISO perfomance, poor AF for action, and inability to make quality large prints - probably fine as a backup - i would seriously dispute that the performance is in the same class as a 40D

With all due respect, I think you might have missed the point here. There's no doubt that the 40D is in a different class than the FZ200 superzoom. For a start, you can't take a photo with the 40D. It's useless by itself. It needs a lens, and for an African Safari, as Neways has mentioned in his post above, you need at least a 500mm lens because most wildlife is far from the road. I imagine a 600mm lens would be better still.

The other issue, which you mentioned yourself, is the sheer inconvenience and nuisance of handling heavy equipment when you're part of a group tour. The FZ200 with 600/2.8 lens weighs a mere 600gms.

The quality issue is interesting, and may be quite surprising. I think most of us were a bit amazed when Michael, some time ago, compared his 40mp P45+ with a 10mp Canon G12 P&S, which has about the same size sensor as the FZ200, and found that at A3+ print size the image quality from both cameras was indistinguishable, apart from the shallower DoF of the P45+.

I can't help but speculate what the result of the comparison would have been had Michael not only equalised DoF, but also equalised shutter speed. Without getting into precise calculations, the comparison would have been something like, F3.5 at 1/250th sec and ISO 100, with the G12, and F22 at 1/250th sec and ISO 3200 with the P45+.

The P45+ doesn't even have an ISO 3200 setting, so it would be ISO 800 underexposed by 2 stops. Does anyone doubt that the image quality of the Canon G12 would have been noticeably better in such circumstances?

Now clearly for most landscapes, which are taken with a fairly wide lens, a high shutter speed is not required. For wildlife with a long telephoto, a fast shutter speed is mandatory, not only because of the effects of camera shake but because of subject movement.

There's no doubt in my mind that a a 40D used with a 5Kg, $10,000, Canon 400/2.8 IS lens would be capable of better image quality than the FZ200. But I'm doubtful that a 100-400/F5.6 zoom, or a 70-200/2.8 with 2x extender would produce better image quality when both lenses are fully extended. If you're not convinced, check out the DXOMark results comparing the FZ200's predecessor, the FZ150, with the Canon 7D.

I'll summarize them for you. At a real ISO 100 the SNR at 18% for the FZ150 is equial to the SNR of the 7D at ISO 635. The DR of the FZ150 at ISO 100 is equal to the DR of the 7D at ISO 500 (approximately). The Tonal Range of the FZ150 at ISO 100 is equal to that of the 7D at ISO 635, and the Color Sensitivity of the FZ150 is equal to that of the 7D at ISO 400 (approximately). All results at equal image/print size.

If one makes the reaonable assumption that the sensor in the new FZ200 will be at least marginally better than the sensor in the FZ150 which DXO have already tested, then I think it would be reasonable to assume that the FZ200 sensor at ISO 100 would produce similar quality to a 7D at ISO 400. Even if the 7D proves to be marginally better in some respects at ISO 400, we should all realise by now that marginal increases in noise which are only visible at 100% on screen, count for nothing on a print, unless it is an extremely large print, like 4ftx6ft.

In short, the FZ200 used at 600mm equivalent, F2,8 and ISO 100, might reasonably be able to produce image quality similar to that of a 40D with 400mm lens used at F5.6 and ISO 400. However, I'm not certain about this because of the unknown factor of lens quality. The FZ200 sports a modern Leica zoom lens, but the sample images I've seen so far from the FZ200, whilst appearing impressively sharp, are all downsized to approximately HD resolution or less.


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stever
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« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2012, 10:10:41 PM »
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there are different regulations in different countries.  for example can't go off road in much of Tanzania.  this does make a longer lens more useful.

Ray - have you ever photographed wildlife in Africa?
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Ray
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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2012, 11:13:36 PM »
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there are different regulations in different countries.  for example can't go off road in much of Tanzania.  this does make a longer lens more useful.

Ray - have you ever photographed wildlife in Africa?

No. But I've photographed wildlife in Australia on many occasions using my longest lens, the Canon 100-400/5.6, and I've found from experience that this lens is sharpest at F8, frequently requiring ISO settings of 800 or more in order to get a sufficiently fast shutter speed.

The 640mm equivalent on a 50D (of 400mm) is often the minimum focal length for much wildlife, I've found. Sometimes one can get closer and 300mm may be adequate. Sometimes a 1000mm focal length may be required.

The essential point about the FZ200 is that it's not just a small 12mp sensor with its inevitable limitations, but an amazing 600mm/F2.8 lens with all its advantaqes.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2012, 12:02:34 AM »
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Gentlemen, I think the only way forward here is to allow Jerry (the OP) to provide us all with more information as to where he may go in Africa, what his real interests are, and whether he intends to repeat the experience more than once.
Budgetary constraints would also be useful.

Nearly all the suggestions are helpful in a particular context but none of us really know what the exact context is.
So Jerry, over to you...

Regards

Tony Jay
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Ray
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« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2012, 01:30:39 AM »
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That's very nice of you Tony to be the mediator, but I doubt that the OP knows what he is likely to encounter in Africa.

The advice so far seems to be, if you want the best photos, take an individual tour which gives you room and flexibility to wield 5 & 10 kg, multi-thousand-dollar lenses.

If you take the standard group tour, heavy equipment is a problem. Everything is a compromise. The decisions one has to make, as always, represent a trade-off between image quality and convenience.

But always bear in mind that inconvenience can result in missing the shot.
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davaglo
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« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2012, 07:01:10 AM »
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Perhaps I should step in here. I havent as yet selected which area of Africa to visit. The decision to retire has just been made and this will be a once in a lifetime trip.
All of the information being presented here is being soaked up like a sponge with pleasure. I thank everyone for sharing their knowledge. There is nothing like experience to help guide decisions.
My thoughts on the 7D and the 5D mk2 were pixel count for printing large quality prints and the "reach" decision of the smaller sensor.  Also spending $1500.00 more for a 5D mk3 for 2 megabites didn't seem justified. Again, experience will help me make a decision. The other 4/3 cameras I had not even considered because I did not have any real knowledge of them. I thank all of you for sharing this information and knowledge.

Jerry
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jrg
Tony Jay
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« Reply #15 on: August 23, 2012, 07:23:03 AM »
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Thanks Jerry.

Still hard to know exactly how to advise you.
7D has much the better focusing ability (useful for wildlife and bird photography) but the 5D II is, arguably, a better allround performer.
So, if you really do a lot of bird and wildlife anyway - get the 7D, otherwise if your tastes are much more omniverous perhaps, go for the 5D II. By the way suggestions about the 5D III reflect the fact that it is an excellent camera (far better in every way than the 5D II) but the pixel count difference is absolutely incidental here as regards the rationale for recommending it to you.
It is also possible that by the time you go other Canon offerings may be available that make this information redundant.

As for the lenses it is more than likely that the 70-200mm f.2.8 with or sans the 1.4 teleconverter will not really be enough for viable wildlife photography (I grew up in Africa so got a fair idea here) but again what your REAL interests are in this regard we don't know. Perhaps you like landscapes with wildlife (I really like this genre but it is difficult to make it happen).

Look forward to hearing from you Jerry.

Regards

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: August 23, 2012, 07:28:45 AM by Tony Jay » Logged
rosswarner@rosswarner.com
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« Reply #16 on: August 23, 2012, 07:41:25 AM »
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If you are seriously considering this, and can afford about $10k plus airfare, you can't go wrong with Joe McDonald's tours:

http://hoothollow.com/Foreign%20Photo%20Tours%20and%20Safari%20Brochures/Kenya%20Photo%20Safari%20Brochure.html

They will advise you very thoroughly about what to bring, which will definitely include a 500 or 600 lens, which you could consider renting.
You must be ready, though. Consider taking some wildlife photo workshops first, if you haven't already. You can learn a lot just from
the McDonalds' web site.

I have no business relationship with the McDonalds, other than taking workshops, including a safari trip with them in 2002.
My safari pictures, here, are mostly taken during the 2002 tour of Kenya, and are images using E100Vs film,
which I scanned and worked on using Photoshop. I used Minolta gear, brought 400, 600, and 80-200 lenses with teleconverters, and
three film bodies.

http://rosswarner.com/safari.shtml

I've taken four safari trips to East Africa -- Tanzania and Kenya.

-Ross
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Ray
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« Reply #17 on: August 23, 2012, 08:33:08 AM »
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Impressive shots on your website, Ross. It makes complete sense to me that you'd want the longest telephoto lenses you can afford when going on a Safari in Africa. I imagine also one would not always have the luxury of time to change lenses, so zooms are likely to be more useful.

If cost and weight were not a problem, I think at this stage I'd favour a Nikon 200-400/F4 with the new 24mp Nikon D3200 body. The effective maximum focal length would be about 620mm, and if one were prepared to reduce file size to 12mp through cropping, one could increase that by 1.4x, ie. 868mm equivalent.
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stever
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« Reply #18 on: August 23, 2012, 08:48:37 AM »
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for a one time Africa experience, Botswana in Sept-Oct has the largest variety of accessible game (except rhinos) if your trip includes 2 or 3 different areas.  only problem is that it's expensive

going to Tanzania or Kenya for the migration is problematic in terms of timing and many places you're confined to roads which can be crowded (unlike Botswana which limits the number of tourists)

have a look at Mark Nolting's Africa's Top Wildlife Countries
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PeterAit
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« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2012, 09:32:40 AM »
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I know this gets away from the ideas you have mentioned, but have you considered a four-thirds system, specifically, the Panasonic G3? The greatly decreased weight and bulk over a full-sized DSLR kit make all your travels so much more pleasant, and you really don't give up any image quality (with the one exception of low light photography). You'll have 16 MP, Leica glass, image stabilization, and you'll be able to carry lenses from 14mm to 600 mm (35mm equiv) and 2 bodies in a modest-sized pack.

For IQ you can take a look at my web page (below). The Nicaragua images are all with the G3 and the Alaska images with the G2 (the 12 MP predecessor).
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Peter
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