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Lens dilemma for Kenya-Masai Mara

kenya photograpy masai mara lenses Nikon

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88 replies to this topic

#21 cheetah80

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 06:51 AM

@xelas - many lodges are very used to being asked to fill beanbags.  They never even flinch when I present them my empty bean bag and ask them to fill it : usually they fill with beans or rice.

 

For self drive I usually get corn or the cheapest beans I can find.  Once we left a maid in a hotel about 20kg worth of beans before our flight back home!  I heard the best filling is buckwheat hulls as they are lighter - but I never had luck finding them in Johannesburg.



#22 xelas

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 07:08 AM

Thanks @cheetah80 ! I have been using rice but 4 kilo of rice is a lot to move from one window to another. Maybe I will try with another type of beans next time.

Styrofoam granulate is light yet filled-up beanbag takes too much space.



#23 Peter Connan

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Posted 01 July 2016 - 05:21 PM

Sorry, I seem to have missed the whole conversation.

 

Here is my answer:

 

SeetheLightODP.jpg

 

TipODP.jpg

 

500mm is never too much...

 

Also, I don't know how much bigger/stronger I am than you, but I find the 500mm quite hand-holdable for short periods.

And in an open vehicle like that, my favourite support is a monopod with a one-axis head on. I have a quick-release clamp on mine as well, so that I can slip it off quickly.


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Ek oefen skelm.

#24 africaaddict

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 05:20 PM

@xelas - many lodges are very used to being asked to fill beanbags.  They never even flinch when I present them my empty bean bag and ask them to fill it : usually they fill with beans or rice.

 

 

They do when they see mine, the Kinesis Safari sack 4.2  takes over 5/6 kgs in rice/beans to fill :lol:


Edited by africaaddict, 08 July 2016 - 05:26 PM.

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Marc Mol

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#25 africaaddict

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 05:24 PM

@africaadict

May I ask you which Kinesis bag, and what do you use to fill it (in country)?

 

 

A 200-400f/4 @ US$7000 should be sharper, faster and better in every aspect to 200-500f/5.6 @ US$1500 !!

Put it this way there is no way I would pay $7K for the  200-400 f/4 these days in light of the 200-500, I paid new for my 200-400 VRI around $4800,  and yes it's true there's no doubt the 200-500 represents great value.

 

I've been using the Kinesis Safari sack 4.2, for nearly 10 yrs now .


Edited by africaaddict, 08 July 2016 - 05:26 PM.

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Marc Mol

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#26 Big Andy

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Posted 09 July 2016 - 08:33 AM

A good lens that can be picked up at a reasonable price is the 400mm Canon DO, I got mine for £1800. It is a little tatty but the optics are in A1 condition and that's what matters, it also take a 1.4 converter well. Another advantage is it's light weight and size, something to take into consideration when you have internal flights with their strict luggage limits. A new MKII version would be my dream but well outside the budget unfortunately.



#27 africaaddict

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Posted 09 July 2016 - 11:47 AM

A good lens that can be picked up at a reasonable price is the 400mm Canon DO, I got mine for £1800. It is a little tatty but the optics are in A1 condition and that's what matters, it also take a 1.4 converter well. Another advantage is it's light weight and size, something to take into consideration when you have internal flights with their strict luggage limits. A new MKII version would be my dream but well outside the budget unfortunately.

 

As good as that lens is Andy, the OP Janzin is a Nikon owner ;)


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Marc Mol

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 WEBSITE 500px

 

 


#28 Big Andy

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Posted 09 July 2016 - 02:04 PM

Nikon??? What's that?  :rolleyes:

 

 

Note to self:-

Must read first posts properly.  :)


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#29 Photo-Kiboko

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Posted 11 July 2016 - 04:07 PM

I would take both, the 500/4 and the 200-400/4.

It is an excellent combination!

 

My safari set up is:

D500 + 500 (+TC14) for birds, small animals, portraits and details over short distances

D4 + 200-400 for larger animals over medium distances

D810 + 24-70 for larger animals over short distance or landscapes

 

Depending of the situation I can swap lenses to the 14-24 and 70-200.

I am thinking to exchange the 24-70 to a 24-120 and leave the 70-200 home.

 

Transportation:

Most of the equipment fits into a quite small bag (Lowepro Magnum).

Most airlines accept a small item, like a camera, as a second hand luggage item.

I carry the 500 "naked" (the camera, not me) with the third camera only with the elephant condom.

In the plane and at the arrival airport I put it into a thin water proof bag (25 liter from sea-to-summit).

During the flight, it travels between my legs.

Not convenient, but I did it many times.

 

I can handhold the 500 for short periods.

 

If you can / like to carry only one big lens,

then, I would take the 500.

For medium distances I would use the 70-200 + TC14 or TC17.

An other option is to replace the 200-400 by an 80-400 to get more flexibility.


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Best regards

Bernd

 

Benin, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya (2x), Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania (3x), Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe


#30 xelas

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Posted 11 July 2016 - 05:52 PM

Interesting thoughts, @Photo-Kiboko !

 

What are "short distances" and "medium distances" in case of those lenses?? I have found that 200-500 @ 500mm is excellent up to 20-25 meters (even when small birds has to be cropped heavily) but that it gives unsatisfactory results when trying to capture larger birds, like grey heron or stork or eagle at beyond that distance, and at 50 meters they fall behind the results of 300mmf/4 + TC17.


Edited by xelas, 11 July 2016 - 05:53 PM.


#31 janzin

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Posted 11 July 2016 - 06:48 PM

Wow this topic got a lot of action while I was away! I'll try to catch up.

 

 

Thanks everyone for all the suggestions. I'm out of the country right now (on a non-wildlife focused trip) so will need to get back to this issue on my return. But it's given me much to think about!

 

 

Do you actually have the 500/4? If not, I'd stick with the 200-400 and pair it with the D500 for an awesome 300-600 f/4 and when you're after birds/BIF you have 

the option of the 1.3 crop (really a 1.25 crop) on the D500 still giving you 375 to 750 and 12MP, which is ample IMO.

 

I still own the 500/4 and used to have the 200-400, still a fine lens as you know, it has it's limitations, but I think it's sharper, faster AF, f/4 compared to the 200-500, which I have used for a week of testing, my opinion of course.

 

Cheers

Marc

 

@africaaddict I do actually have the 500 F4, hence the dilemma. At this point I've eliminated the idea of taking the 200-500 but I'm still wavering re: 200-400 vs 500. Good cases have been made here for both!

 

@xelas - many lodges are very used to being asked to fill beanbags.  They never even flinch when I present them my empty bean bag and ask them to fill it : usually they fill with beans or rice.

 

  I heard the best filling is buckwheat hulls as they are lighter - but I never had luck finding them in Johannesburg.

@cheetah80 I have buckwheat hulls in my Kinesis Safari Sack but honestly I don't like them. When I think I can fill it with something else at my destination, I bring it empty...my favorite fill is a kind of cracked corn I found in South Africa. The buckwheat hulls are indeed light but it seems no matter how much you put in the bag stays floppy and not as supportive.

 

We used rice in India but I found it REALLY heavy to move the bean bag around, nearly wrenched my back a few times. So I guess I prefer beans but you have to take what's available!

 

No matter what I end up with in terms of lenses, I will be bringing two empty beanbags, both the Kinesis and a Molar-type. I'll let the lodges know in advance that I'll need them filled, its not usually a problem. Hubby usually uses one if I'm using the other :)

 

I would take both, the 500/4 and the 200-400/4.

It is an excellent combination!

 

My safari set up is:

D500 + 500 (+TC14) for birds, small animals, portraits and details over short distances

D4 + 200-400 for larger animals over medium distances

D810 + 24-70 for larger animals over short distance or landscapes

 

Depending of the situation I can swap lenses to the 14-24 and 70-200.

I am thinking to exchange the 24-70 to a 24-120 and leave the 70-200 home.

 

Transportation:

Most of the equipment fits into a quite small bag (Lowepro Magnum).

Most airlines accept a small item, like a camera, as a second hand luggage item.

I carry the 500 "naked" (the camera, not me) with the third camera only with the elephant condom.

In the plane and at the arrival airport I put it into a thin water proof bag (25 liter from sea-to-summit).

During the flight, it travels between my legs.

Not convenient, but I did it many times.

 

I can handhold the 500 for short periods.

 

If you can / like to carry only one big lens,

then, I would take the 500.

For medium distances I would use the 70-200 + TC14 or TC17.

An other option is to replace the 200-400 by an 80-400 to get more flexibility.

 

@Photo-Kiboko Bringing both is really not an option, besides the weight restrictions (I really don't see how you can manage it!) I just personally couldn't manage carrying both.  I actually do have the 80-400 but my husband will be using that one.

 

Interesting idea to swap out the 24-70 with the 24-120 (I have that too, and its lighter) but I can't see leaving the 70-200 which can take a 1.4 TC easily. Actually if I need to save weight, I'd consider leaving the 24-70 as I don't usually take that many wide angle landscapes; maybe throw in the 50mm 1.8 (or I have a Sigma 24 1.8 (an old one--not the ART!) but it may not be up to par using it with the D810.

 

So, again, there really is no perfect option and no consensus and I'm still up in the air! I'm leaning at this point with sticking with the 200-400...I think it might do better on the D500 than it has on the D800/810 but I need to get out with it soon for a test run (I've not yet even mounted it on the D500.)


Edited by janzin, 11 July 2016 - 06:52 PM.

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#32 janzin

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Posted 11 July 2016 - 06:55 PM

Sorry, I seem to have missed the whole conversation.

 


500mm is never too much...

 

Also, I don't know how much bigger/stronger I am than you, ( PROBABLY A LOT !--jz) but I find the 500mm quite hand-holdable for short periods.

And in an open vehicle like that, my favourite support is a monopod with a one-axis head on. I have a quick-release clamp on mine as well, so that I can slip it off quickly.

 

I'll likely bring the monopod no matter which lens I end up taking...


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#33 Photo-Kiboko

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 04:53 PM

@xelas

short distance is for me up to 10 to 15m

medium distance is for me up to 30 to 50m

 

There was a thread in the German Nikon Forum a couple of years ago.

Some people made test shots over distance and focal lengths in comparison with other lenses.

The 200-400 is not so good with a focal length above 350 mm on distances above 50m.

 

I try to avoid to take pictures over long distances with a long tele lens.

The atmospheric activity just reduces the maximum resolution.

You might get just a bigger magnification of the blur.

Sometimes the weather conditions are fine and it works, but most of the time it doesn't.

 

During my first safaris I had the 200-400, only.

I have combined it with a D300 and a TC14 (or even TC17) to get maximum focal length for small birds.

I am not so fond to switch TCs or cameras in the field.

Therefore, I have used the same set up for larger mammals, too.

I was not 100% satisfied.

The combination of lens "features" + TC + atmospheric effects limits the image quality.

 

In 2010 I bought the 500/4 and I use both long lenses on Safari.

I have combined the 200-400 with a low resolution FX camera (first a D700, then the D4).

The image quality improved and I am very happy with this combination.

 

I travel as light as possible, to counteract mass restrictions, (i.e. no razor, no spare shoes, minimum spare clothes).

My main luggage is around 10 kg for a two week safari. The photo gear is about 20 kg.

However, it is not fun to carry the equipment around.

 

You need some space in the vehicle to handle three cameras and two long lenses.

Usually I travel with two friends. We share a long Land Rover or Landcruizer with three rows and a driverguide.

Preferable with roof hatches, instead of a sun roof.

Each photographer has its own row.

With three persons you can arrange to shoot in any direction.

You have a free seat for the cameras / camera bag.

You can go onto the knees to shoot from lower angular.

 

Best regards

Bernd


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Best regards

Bernd

 

Benin, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya (2x), Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania (3x), Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe


#34 janzin

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 07:56 PM

Still no firm decision but discovered from my T.O. that his vehicle has a special raised bar for clamping!  So I went ahead and ordered the Manfrotto 35 clamp and I'm going to try it out at home (clamped to a chair or similar) just to see how it handles with the gimbal with either lens. I'm thinking I can leave the clamp/gimbal in place for those times when we might be at a prolonged sit of something distant (lion on a kill, etc.) where I'm not expecting much movement from a different direction. Or focused on a river crossing where the action is pretty much in one spot. On the other hand, I'll also keep bean bags at the ready as well.

 

Of course I won't be able to use that clamp on those days we have a shared vehicle (the three nights at Porini Lion) so there I will have to hand-hold. For this reason I am strongly leaning towards the 200-400 (today...could change my mind tomorrow...)  :unsure:


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#35 xelas

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 08:28 PM

@Photo-Kiboko

 

Indeed the atmospheric disturbances plays a great role when starting to push the reach over, say, 500mm (35 mm equivalent FOV). Sometimes is impossible to get closer. However, in those instances, maybe is better not to take any photos and to just enjoy through binoculars. And primes, even with a TC, are better at larger distances than zooms. 


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#36 janzin

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Posted 17 July 2016 - 07:31 PM

So, today's leaning is a total about-face. :rolleyes:

 

I posed this query to Andy Biggs, a pro safari photographer. He's been helpful to me before in responding to question regarding safari photography. His response "If it was my gear, I would likely take a 70-200mm and a 500mm, but I would be tempted to take the 70-200mm and 200-500mm to make life simple. The optical quality of the 200-500mm is extremely good, so I wouldn’t worry about that. Focusing speed isn’t terrible, but usually in low light you aren’t shooting things that are moving anyway. I am almost always shooting something that is sedentary when the light is marginal, so I wouldn’t worry about that aspect. I would be thinking more about having to shoot at really high ISO values instead, since f/5.6 is on the slow side."

 

So he got me thinking again about the 200-500. He clearly favors it optically over the 200-400VR. Taking it would give me a host of benefits--ease of use when we had the shared vehicle, easy to use walking around camps (don't need to bring the tripod); much less weight overall which means I could pack the 24-70 F2.8 instead of the 24-120 F4 which I'd intended for scenics, and maybe some other lens as well.  I just have to decide whether I'd really miss that F4 at the long end... (I could use the 1.4 tc on the 70-200 to at least have F4 up to 280mm...)  And I still am slightly concerned about the fact that it extends...which makes it much less dust-sealed and more vulnerable to knocks.

 

I also found this Thom Hogan review in which he favors it over the 200-400VR and had no problems with its build, using it in the Galapagos islands. http://www.dslrbodie...m-f56-lens.html

 

That's today's thought...could change tomorrow... :wacko:


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#37 janzin

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Posted 11 September 2016 - 10:31 PM

Well we leave in two days (!!!) and all my camera gear is packed. This is the final decision!!

 

Nikon D500

Nikon D810

200-500 5.6 VR Yes I decided this is really my best bet considering what I posted above.

70-200 2.8 VRI

24-120 F4 VR Lighter than the 24-70 and with VR which will help in low light situations (I only have the 24-70 without VR, not the newer one.)

1.4 TCEIII

 

Nikon 1V2 with 18.5 1.8 lens (for grab shots around camp, maybe some night shots with that 1.8 lens.)

FT-1 Adapter for the V2 (which lets me use any of my other Nikon lenses on it. With a 2.7 crop factor that can give me incredible reach if I need it, along with 20fps! although there are some limitations.)

 

For hubby:

Nikon D7200 Yes, bought him a new body to use instead of my hand-me-down D300s. More pixels and better AF for him, and it gives me a better back-up in case of a disaster with the D500 :D

Nikon 80-400 VR

 

Also bringing:

SB-900 flash w/ Better Beamer

Jobo Jr 3 Gimbal head with Manfrotto clamp

Two empty beanbags: One Molar TV and one Kinesis Safari Sack

 

I found out that our private vehicle has now added a beanbag table! Which I'm actually not sure if I can use with the clamp, but they will swap it out for the bar if I prefer. I think though I can clamp to this table.

 

beanbag.jpg

 

 

What I'm NOT bringing: No tripod, no monopod.

 

Each of our camera bags now weigh about 20 lbs. (That includes my netbook in one.)

 

So any last minute advice???? Am I forgetting something??


Edited by janzin, 11 September 2016 - 10:34 PM.

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#38 pault

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 12:54 AM

You didn't forget anything I think. You won't really need a clamp with that set up but you can try fixing it to your dining table at home and seeing how it feels!

Waiting again... for the next time again


#39 xelas

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 12:46 PM

Huraah for 200-500 f/5.6. It delivered for us in Sri Lanka, no doubts it will deliver for you also. Zvezda was able to handhold it all the time. And the HighISO capabilities of D7200 are way better than those of D7100. But overall, as crop body, no match to D500 in AF department.

 

So have a blast and great light!



#40 janzin

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Posted 12 September 2016 - 12:55 PM

Thanks @pault and @xelas! Glad to hear that you had good luck with the 200-500 in Sri Lanka. I look forward to reading that report :)


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