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Archive 2012 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa ...
  
 
anakha
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p.1 #1 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


Hi,

I'm planning an Africa and Europe trip for mid-year and looking at taking the new D800 with me, along with my P&S w/underwater housing for when I go shark diving. I'll be driving the garden route in South Africa, visiting Victoria Falls and spending a week on safari in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia before flying to London and the continent for two weeks.

I'll be taking a set of 100mm Lee Filter Grad and ND filters, so would like to be able to use them on the lenses, which rules out the Nikon 14-24mm lens (as it requires the Lee 150mm filter set).

My challenge is deciding which lenses to take with me.

I've got a Gitzo 2541 monopod, wimberley sidekick and beanbag for support. May take a joby gorillapod for long panoramic exposures on the wideangle lens (or securely tie my monopod to a fence), esp at Vic Falls. I've been advised by the safari operator that there is no point taking a tripod on the safari and the luggage restrictions on the flights to/from SLNP make weight savings a priority. Given my flight schedules, there is no option to securely leave it at one airport and pick it up again later - unless I'm willing to leave it unsecured at Lusaka Airport for a week (ie have it stolen).

Whilst in Africa, I'll be taking a mixture of animal safari shots and landscapes, with long exposures at Vic Falls too. In Europe, shots of relatives, street shots and some landscapes.

One lens path I considered was all zooms (let's call it path 1):

1a) Nikon 17-35 f2.8
1b) Nikon 24-70 f2.8G
1c) Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR II
1d) Sigma 50-500 OS
Cost: about $7200 and total lens weight: 5.15kg
If I were to drop 1c) as it overlaps with 1d), this would come down to $4800 and 3.6kg, but arguably it would result in a (significant) loss of image quality beyond 70mm.


An alternate path is a mix of zooms with primes (let's call it path 2):

2a) Nikon 16-35 f4
2b) Nikon 50 f1.8G
2c) Sigma 85 f1.4
2d) Sigma 120-300 f2.8 OS + Nikon 2x Teleconverter
Cost: about $6000 and total lens weight: 4.9kg. Could add a 105mm macro lens with the savings.

Analysis:
As I see it, Path 1 covers all focal distances up to 500mm, which I'm told is the minimum length by the safari operator that I'll need. Path has the higher image quality at wide angles, but lower image quality on the long zoom than Path 2.

Path 2 sacrifices a little on the wideange and requires me to zoom with my feet between 35mm and 120mm, but has better image quality with the primes and from 120mm onwards. It also goes up to 600mm at f5.6. Path 2 is also $1200 cheaper and slightly lighter in total weight.


I'd appreciate your collective wisdom as to whether either of these Paths is a good idea, or if there is another path that you'd suggest (with a total lens budget of $6-7k). I also hope to make use of the lenses upon returning home, so general useability is also a factor.

Anakha




Feb 19, 2012 at 11:45 PM
LLondon
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p.1 #2 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


17-35
50 1.8
70-200
300/4 with 1.4tc

Side note Nikon TC do NOT play well with most all other lenses as they stick out in the front and may smash glass.



Feb 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM
anakha
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p.1 #3 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


Let's call LLondon's suggestion Path 3:

Price: $6010
Weight: 4.1kg

Advantages: Great image quality up to 200mm. Small walking gap for the prime (35-70mm). Has a gap between 200 and 300, but could put the 1.4tc on it to cover that. Lighter weight than either Path 1 or Path 2.

Disadvantages: Unfortunately, the maximum focal length is 420mm, even with the 1.4TC, which is likely to be a bit too short at the long end.

Perhaps a 1.7tc instead of the 1.4tc? Does anyone know how the 300/f4 handles with a 1.7tc?

Switching from a Nikon 2xTC to a Sigma 2xTC in Path 2 would lower the total cost by $280 and lower the weight by 100grams.

Anakha



Anakha


LLondon wrote:
17-35
50 1.8
70-200
300/4 with 1.4tc

Side note Nikon TC do NOT play well with most all other lenses as they stick out in the front and may smash glass.




Feb 20, 2012 at 12:14 AM
LLondon
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p.1 #4 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


The 1.4tc will work great on the 70- 200

As for getting to 500. The 50-500 get soft and need to be stopped down to F8 for best IQ That might put your SS to slow for wildlife. Most are best at 480 so your not that short with the 300/1.4

Path 4 is radical to the max. Buy a good used 200-400vr1 and a 1.4 tc. Buy some good old MF wide/normal primes or even a 25-50. Your landscape work will be slow and lots of time to focus. Check out the MF thread. They even made long glass in MF and it is much cheaper than the AF stuff.

The Siggy 2x is not worth it.



Feb 20, 2012 at 12:30 AM
anakha
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p.1 #5 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


LLondon,

I've seen some nice pictures taken on the 120-300 with the Sigma 2x. Would you rate the Kenko 2X as better / worth it as compared to the Sigma TC?

As for the Nikon 200-400vr1 f/4, it is a nice lens, but I can't use my Lee Filters on it. It is also 2kg heavier than the Bigma and 1kg heavier than the Sigma120-300. It's length would also pose a problem - too big to fit into my camera bag for carry-on.

I found a used Nik 200-400 vr1 on eBay going for well over $3500 which I'll monitor.

Anakha





LLondon wrote:
The 1.4tc will work great on the 70- 200

As for getting to 500. The 50-500 get soft and need to be stopped down to F8 for best IQ That might put your SS to slow for wildlife. Most are best at 480 so your not that short with the 300/1.4

Path 4 is radical to the max. Buy a good used 200-400vr1 and a 1.4 tc. Buy some good old MF wide/normal primes or even a 25-50. Your landscape work will be slow and lots of time to focus. Check out the MF thread. They even made long glass in MF
...Show more



Feb 20, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Taoguy
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p.1 #6 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


I might consider following Nikon's guidelines below. You are buying a state of the art camera regarding DSLR sensors, Why couple it with glass other than the best?

From Nikon ---
With cameras like the D800E, which are suited to visually complex subjects, it is important to get as much sharpness from the lens as possible. Contrast at the periphery of the image can generally be increased by choosing an aperture two or three stops from the maximum, although results will vary from lens to lens. Below are some of the lenses you can use for enhanced sharpness:
AF-S NIKKOR 1424mm f/2.8G ED
AF-S NIKKOR 2470mm f/2.8G ED
AF-S NIKKOR 70200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
AF-S NIKKOR 1635mm f/4G ED VR
AF-S NIKKOR 24120mm f/4G ED VR
AF-S NIKKOR 200400mm f/4G ED VR II
AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED
AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G
AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G
AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II
AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II
AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR
AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR
AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR
AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED
AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED



Feb 20, 2012 at 02:39 AM
j.liam
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p.1 #7 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


anakha wrote:
One lens path I considered was all zooms (let's call it path]:
1a) Nikon 17-35 f2.8
1b) Nikon 24-70 f2.8G
1c) Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR II
1d) Sigma 50-500 OS



The 17-35 is already stretching it for the 12MP D700 unless you're doing PJ-type of shooting.
For a 36MP D800? It's day has passed.



Feb 20, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Jammy Straub
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p.1 #8 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


I'd 100% rent a 200-400mm f/4 VR or a 500mm f/4 VR.

If this is a once in a lifetime trip you want the best glass you can get at that long end. I'd hate knowing a skimped and used a lens like the Sigma that wasn't as good as it gets at it's long end.

14-24mm f/2.8 (or 16-35mm f/4 VR or 17-35mm f/2.8)
35mm f/1.4G (or 35mm f/2 or a 50mm f/1.4G or 1.8G)
85mm f/1.8G (or Sigma 85mm f/1.4G)
70-200mm f/2.8 VR
500mm f/4 VR (rented)



Feb 20, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Jammy Straub
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p.1 #9 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


j.liam wrote:
The 17-35 is already stretching it for the 12MP D700 unless you're doing PJ-type of shooting.
For a 36MP D800? It's day has passed.


According to most tests versus internet talk the 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S does just fine at f/5.6 - f/8 for landscape use. It's not 14-24mm good, but it's not as horrendous as it's made out to be.

D3x
http://www.photozone.de/nikon_ff/672-nikkorafs173528ff?start=1

16-9.net has a huge variety of test with the 17-35mm f/2.8 where it avails itself very well against designs up until the time the 14-24mm f/2.8 was released.




Feb 20, 2012 at 03:13 AM
anakha
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p.1 #10 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


Taoguy,

Thanks for your suggestions.

I'm looking at the D800 rather than D800E, but take your point onboard about lens and image quality.

If money, weight and WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) were no limitations, then sure, I'd love to have a full suite of the latest Nikkor lenses between 14mm and 600mm.

However, for the price of one long Nikkor Prime, I could have several lenses (or a divorce ;-) ).

I'm going to be on this trip for too long to make it worthwhile to rent lenses, otherwise that would be an option.

Another option is to buy lenses specifically for the trip and sell them afterwards, but I'm hoping I can find a compromise path which has lenses suited for what I want to do on this trip and afterwards.

Anakha



Taoguy wrote:
I might consider following Nikon's guidelines below. You are buying a state of the art camera regarding DSLR sensors, Why couple it with glass other than the best?

From Nikon ---
With cameras like the D800E, which are suited to visually complex subjects, it is important to get as much sharpness from the lens as possible. Contrast at the periphery of the image can generally be increased by choosing an aperture two or three stops from the maximum, although results will vary from lens to lens. Below are some of the lenses you can use for enhanced sharpness:
AF-S NIKKOR 1424mm f/2.8G
...Show more



Feb 20, 2012 at 03:13 AM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



Taoguy
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p.1 #11 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


Anakha

I'm not suggesting you but all the lens on the list, but with either D800 you are dealing with a sensor that certainly will test the quality of any lens. I shoot with a D3x and Canon 5D MKII, I can only imagine what the D800 will do. You appear to have the list covered shorter lens up to 200mm. If not the 200-400 my next choice would be the 500/4.
I prefer the 500/4 for my wildlife however I always take my 200-400 as the 500 suffers at 300mm. The 500 can be handheld and travels well size & weight wise.

Gerard



Feb 20, 2012 at 03:33 AM
anakha
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p.1 #12 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


Thanks for your suggestion, Jammy.

The trip will not be a "once in a lifetime" trip for me. We travelled around South America for 45 days in 2011, and usually do a trip like this every two years or so. If I'm going to invest $10k in DSLR equipment, I want to ensure that (most of) it will be useful on many of those trips into the future.

Rental is not really a practical option because I'll be overseas for over a month, but only need the focal length beyond 300mm for a week of safari. Also, I can't find a rental supplier that has a Nikon 500mm F/4 in Australia. There is one place that does the Canon 500mm F/4, but they want $1700 for a month and I'd have to buy a 5DmkII or 5DmkIII instead of a Nikon D800. I was unable to find any suitable long lenses for rent in this country.

Renting in Africa is cheaper, but not particularly practical either. The main lens rental suppliers appear to be in Johannesburg and I will only be briefly transiting through that airport, rather than going into the city. Unsure whether or not they will drop-off and pickup a lens at the airport for me. Has anyone here got any experience with doing that in Johannesburg?

Zambia doesn't appear to have lens rental agencies as far as I can see through a Google search.

I found this Sth African review of the Sigma 120-300 f2.8 OS lens: http://www.odpmagazine.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=157:sigma-ex120-300-f28-apo-dg-os-hsm-a-field-review&catid=10:lenses&Itemid=23 That author quite liked it.

Anakha



Jammy Straub wrote:
I'd 100% rent a 200-400mm f/4 VR or a 500mm f/4 VR.

If this is a once in a lifetime trip you want the best glass you can get at that long end. I'd hate knowing a skimped and used a lens like the Sigma that wasn't as good as it gets at it's long end.

14-24mm f/2.8 (or 16-35mm f/4 VR or 17-35mm f/2.8)
35mm f/1.4G (or 35mm f/2 or a 50mm f/1.4G or 1.8G)
85mm f/1.8G (or Sigma 85mm f/1.4G)
70-200mm f/2.8 VR
500mm f/4 VR (rented)




Feb 20, 2012 at 03:44 AM
anakha
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p.1 #13 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


Thanks for your input J.Liam,

If you consider the 17-35 inadequate, what lens would you suggest with which to replace it?

Anakha



j.liam wrote:
The 17-35 is already stretching it for the 12MP D700 unless you're doing PJ-type of shooting.
For a 36MP D800? It's day has passed.




Feb 20, 2012 at 03:49 AM
j.liam
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p.1 #14 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


If a wide zoom is needed and a 14-24 out of the question, I'd rent the 16-35 VR if you must go wide, distortion on the wide end easily corrected. The 24-70 is another superbly sharp lens that I've traveled with on numerous occasions and find supremely useful.


Feb 20, 2012 at 03:52 AM
anakha
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p.1 #15 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


Thanks J.Liam,

Out of interest, what focal lengths do you find yourself mainly using when taking photos with the 24-70?

At that range, I was thinking that it is not too difficult to "zoom with your feet", ie to move myself and the camera into the desired distance from the target of the photo with a 50mm prime lens. To do so is not as easy with either a wide angle or a long telephoto.

Anakha

j.liam wrote:
If a wide zoom is needed and a 14-24 out of the question, I'd rent the 16-35 VR if you must go wide, distortion on the wide end easily corrected. The 24-70 is another superbly sharp lens that I've traveled with on numerous occasions and find supremely useful.




Feb 20, 2012 at 04:54 AM
LLondon
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p.1 #16 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


anakha wrote:
LLondon,

I've seen some nice pictures taken on the 120-300 with the Sigma 2x. Would you rate the Kenko 2X as better / worth it as compared to the Sigma TC?

As for the Nikon 200-400vr1 f/4, it is a nice lens, but I can't use my Lee Filters on it. It is also 2kg heavier than the Bigma and 1kg heavier than the Sigma120-300. It's length would also pose a problem - too big to fit into my camera bag for carry-on.

I found a used Nik 200-400 vr1 on eBay going for well over $3500 which I'll monitor.

Anakha



The Siggy 2X does NOT work with even a 200/2. It will hunt back and forth,D3 body. It has a limited number of Sigma lens that it will AF with most inc. the 150/2.8 it turns into a MF only. Can't say anything on the Kenko.
My thought would be if the TC is going to make it a MF lens then just get a MF lens of the longer FL to start with.
I understand you have a 10K budget and would like to buy and be done with the kit building without selling off later. Think about adding a D300s body as back up. That would turn a 300/4 with 1.4 into a 630 FOV lens. Looking for good used gear can expand your kit.



Feb 20, 2012 at 11:21 AM
anakha
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p.1 #17 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


From a google search, it appears that the Sigma 120-300 OS doesn't like Kenko teleconverters: http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php/89764-Sigma-120-300-2-8-OS - see comment dated 11-07-2011, 09:50 AM

According to http://www.sigmaphoto.com/sigma-lens-teleconverter-compatability-chart , the Sigma 1.4x and 2.0x TCs are fully auto-focus with the Sigma 120-300 OS lens.

So I suspect that I would have to use it with the Sigma 2x.

Anakha


LLondon wrote:
The Siggy 2X does NOT work with even a 200/2. It will hunt back and forth,D3 body. It has a limited number of Sigma lens that it will AF with most inc. the 150/2.8 it turns into a MF only. Can't say anything on the Kenko.
My thought would be if the TC is going to make it a MF lens then just get a MF lens of the longer FL to start with.
I understand you have a 10K budget and would like to buy and be done with the kit building without selling off later. Think about adding a D300s
...Show more



Feb 20, 2012 at 11:45 AM
pr4photos
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p.1 #18 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


Don't rule out the 17-35 just because one or two people don't like it. If you get a good one they are razor sharp. I use mine for architectural shots and I am unable to fault it as long as its stopped down a couple of stops. I'm sure it will work fine with the D800


Feb 20, 2012 at 11:54 AM
j.liam
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p.1 #19 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


anakha wrote:
Thanks J.Liam,

Out of interest, what focal lengths do you find yourself mainly using when taking photos with the 24-70?

At that range, I was thinking that it is not too difficult to "zoom with your feet", ie to move myself and the camera into the desired distance from the target of the photo with a 50mm prime lens. To do so is not as easy with either a wide angle or a long telephoto.

Anakha



I thought the same thing and bought the lens because someone I respected urged me to try it out. It is one of my top three sharpest & contrastiest lenses, period, and I have a good variety for comparison. As far as focal lengths used, 26-40mm and 70 are the most used. I seem to have an innate aversion to 50. What I did discover was that on walkabouts while traveling its range is so damned handy that it's become an indispensible part of my travel kit (along with the CV 125 and 180). After lots if trial and error and shoulder pain from lugging around equipment I never used, that's my personal conclusion and trio I take along. Readily available alternatives to the CVs might be a Nikkor 105 Micro AF, Nikon 105/2.5 AIS, Zeiss 100 MP and a Leitaxed Leica 180/3.4 APO.


pr4photos wrote:
Don't rule out the 17-35 just because one or two people don't like it. If you get a good one they are razor sharp. I use mine for architectural shots and I am unable to fault it as long as its stopped down a couple of stops. I'm sure it will work fine with the D800


The corners on the 17-35 were already weak on the D3/D700 and this issue will only be magnified on a D800. Recall that this lens was introduced the same week the D1 made its appearance. It's design reflects a performance bias for film and APS-C sensors. If all you're interested in is central sharpness and are willing to stop the lens down, you should be OK. However, with it's small photo sites (4.8 microns), diffraction kicks in at wider apertures so routinely stopping down to, say f/11, isn't the luxury that you had with the D700 (photo sites: 8.3 microns). This is a particularly keen issue for architectural shots with the concomittant amplification of motion artifact on a sensor possessing triple the pixel density shot at small apertures and long exposure times.



Feb 20, 2012 at 03:01 PM
pr4photos
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p.1 #20 · Appreciate your advice on selecting lenses for an Africa / Europe trip


I have had two 17-35's, my latest was new last year. Stopped down to f5.6 its sharp across the frame (D700). Architectural images are not a problem. Wide open I agree its quite soft in the corners, but I very rarely use it for this, and it would only be for PJ use.


Feb 20, 2012 at 08:32 PM
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