I'm not one to usually ask for lens advice but I'm really stymied! I'll be traveling to the Masai Mara in September for the migration and of course birds and everything else. We will have a private guide and vehicle for most of the trip, just sharing for three days in one camp.
My problem is that I have too many lenses to choose from! (I know, a sad story.)
I'll have two bodies, a Nikon D810 (full frame) and Nikon D500 (1.5 crop.)
My current thoughts:
I'll take the 24-70 2.8 and the 70-200 2.8 for use on the D810. For scenery, larger and closer beasts, beasts in habitat, etc. This is pretty set.
But I have several options for the crop frame D500, which will be my primary for birds and also, I'd imagine, any kind of action as it is built for speed.
1) The 200-400 F4 VR has been my staple safari lens for years. I have had good success with this lens, and used it mostly with the 1.4 tc. But have not been 100% happy with the IQ, especially with the TC. It is well known that this lens does well at short distances but does not resolve well at long distances.
So the con of this lens is less than excellent IQ, especially with the TC.
But the pros of this lens is versatility of range, and also hand-holdability. I can hand-hold this pretty well for short distances walking and for longer periods in a vehicle. It focuses quickly even with the TC. It also close focuses a bit closer than the 500 F4.
2) 500 F4 VR The IQ of this lens is superb and does well even at long distances. Adding a 1.4 tc barely effects quality, in my opinion.
PROS of this are: Better IQ with the TC than the 200-400, and longer reach. This would be especially useful for birds.
CONS: Too heavy for hand-holding. Would need to always have support in the vehicle, whether bean bag or maybe monopod (walking isn't really an issue for this trip as I doubt there will be much, even in the camps which are small.)
Less versatile than the 200-400 in range (but I could cover that range with the 70-200 + TC)
3) Nikon 200-500 F5.6 VR This lens has surprisingly good IQ and I think its actually sharper than the 200-400VR.
PROS: Very versatile range. Totally hand-holdable, I can walk with this lens all day on a sling strap, so would be very easy to maneuver in a vehicle.
CONS: Slow to focus at times, especially in low light. Slow lens (F 5.6) In theory it can be used with a 1.4 TC but I haven't tried it. I'd also be concerned about the build...its a well-built lens but it does extend when zooming which can introduce a lot of dust and makes it less rugged than the other two which are weather sealed, pro lenses.
SO...if you have read this far...thoughts??? I guess one question I'd have is how often in the Mara are you really distant from the action?
I've got lots of time to fret over this....
Edited by janzin, 23 June 2016 - 03:27 PM.