Gear list for Kenya
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Harry.C
Registered: Sep 17, 2012
Total Posts: 359
Country: Canada

My wife and I are preparing for an up-coming trip to Kenya for a photography safari. It's still some time away but now seems like a good time to ensure we have all the gear we're going to need. Our primary interests are wildlife with the occasional landscape thrown in.

Current gear list includes:
1DX (planned purchase)
7D x 2
Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM
Canon EF 135mm f/2.0 L USM
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM
Canon EF 600mm f/4.0 L IS USM
Canon EF 1.4x II Extender

Plan on renting:
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

I'm very curious to hear opinions about this list. I was also considering the 2.0 extender but don't know if it's a true necessity or not.

Cheers,
Harry C



jaredmizanin
Registered: Jan 19, 2008
Total Posts: 366
Country: United States

Looks pretty good to me, but I've never been on safari. While many will say a 600/4 is too cumbersome, I myself would want as much reach as possible for a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Not the one to do much portraiture, I am wondering why you might need both an 85 and 135? I'd probably bring a macro instead for the odd butterfly, frog, etc. (extension tubes might do fine with the 70-200 though). Just my two cents.



photomax
Registered: Apr 25, 2008
Total Posts: 83
Country: United States

I am in Zimbabwe doing photography and have been to Kenya. I used an 1Dx most of the time with some time on a 5D III. On the game drives I used a 500mm f4 II on the 1Dx and a 70-200 f2.8 II on the 5D III. Around camp and for some landscaped the 24-70 II was wonderful. I only used a 1.4 extender occasionally. Have a great trip. Just remember you will be carrying this gear thru airports so select carefully.



photomax
Registered: Apr 25, 2008
Total Posts: 83
Country: United States

For the long lens get a Kinesis long lens case. Just check it thru. With a couple of small straps you will be able to mount it vertically in your vehicle and keep it covered. You can hold the smaller lens and camera. You will make your fellow riders most happy and you will keep your gear readily available.



EB-1
Registered: Jan 09, 2003
Total Posts: 22293
Country: United States

I've done over a dozen African safaris mostly to Kenya. Normally I take the 500/4 instead of the 600/4, but that depends on how much you will miss the 400-600mm range. I miss it too much. I use eitehr the 24-105 or 24-70 as the normal zoom. I have no use for the fast primes as they are of limited use on most safaris, though that may depend on your specific plans. I'd probably take the 135 over the 85 though. A 70-200/2.8 or f/4 is useful for lower light and larger species. For example, even on FF an elephant will often get too close for the 100-400 and the extra width of 70mm in FF is just right. I would add another FF body like a 5D III (perhaps a rental?) since you will want to be shooting with at least two bodies and subjects are missed when changing lenses.

The last time went was earlier this year, just before the 5D III and 1D-X of course. I brought 3x 1Ds III, 7D, 24-105, 2x 100-400, 500/4, 70-200/4 IS. (Sometimes I use a 70-200/2.8 and 24-70/2.8, but I was injured and wanted to minimize weight/bulk.)

EBH



EB-1
Registered: Jan 09, 2003
Total Posts: 22293
Country: United States

photomax wrote:
For the long lens get a Kinesis long lens case. Just check it thru. With a couple of small straps you will be able to mount it vertically in your vehicle and keep it covered. You can hold the smaller lens and camera. You will make your fellow riders most happy and you will keep your gear readily available.


I used to use the Kinesis 511 or 611, but in the last few trips have replaced with with the Vertex Big Lens Bag. The bag was developed specifically for the purpose of shooting from safari vehicles and works great. It weighs very little and can be stuffed with clothes, etc. for the overseas flight. The great features of the bag are 1) the custom size allows the lens/camera to be in shooting position (hood forward) with body and TC attached and still close the top, 2) the sides can be zipped down a bit to allow a better angle of access (depending on the vehicle and seating row, it can sometimes be rather difficult to get the camera body into/out of the Kinesis bag without hitting the roof or a bar) and 3) there are four straps to securely attach the bag to the seat without using a bungee cord or other kludge.

EBH



Harry.C
Registered: Sep 17, 2012
Total Posts: 359
Country: Canada

Thanks all for the replies so far.

Sounds like removing the 85mm at the very least might leave me more room for something like the 24-70. If the general consensus is that the 135 would be of limited use then that's another free spot as well.

I've got a Pelican 1510 case for my 600mm (and that's about all it fits) and will have one more carry-on to take the rest of my gear so space is a consideration. Putting gear in my checked luggage is not something I want to do as I've been the victim of lost/stolen luggage too many times!

What about tripods/monopods? I figure a tripod for landscape shots might be useful but was planning to leave monopod/tripod for the big lens at home. A few bean bags for the vehicles seems to be all I need for long lens support.

Thanks again for the advice.

Cheers,
Harry C



dmcharg
Registered: Dec 01, 2003
Total Posts: 788
Country: United Kingdom

I would leave the 85 and 135 at home especially if your planning on taking the 70-200. Between the 100-400 and the 600 you have the telephoto side of things covered for sure. For safari my preference would be 24-70, 70-200 and 300 2.8 and a couple of tele convertors.



EB-1
Registered: Jan 09, 2003
Total Posts: 22293
Country: United States

Harry.C wrote:
Thanks all for the replies so far.

Sounds like removing the 85mm at the very least might leave me more room for something like the 24-70. If the general consensus is that the 135 would be of limited use then that's another free spot as well.

I've got a Pelican 1510 case for my 600mm (and that's about all it fits) and will have one more carry-on to take the rest of my gear so space is a consideration. Putting gear in my checked luggage is not something I want to do as I've been the victim of lost/stolen luggage too many times!

What about tripods/monopods? I figure a tripod for landscape shots might be useful but was planning to leave monopod/tripod for the big lens at home. A few bean bags for the vehicles seems to be all I need for long lens support.

Thanks again for the advice.

Cheers,
Harry C


I don't bring any tripods/monopods anymore, but perhaps a monopod would be useful for a few situations. You know that in the parks it is not possible to shoot outside of the vehicle, except under a very few circumstances, and not around game? Mainly a tripod would be for shots around the lodges after morning game drives and before afternoon game drives. If you are staying outside of a park there may be other options.

EBH



matt4626
Registered: Feb 16, 2004
Total Posts: 1019
Country: United States

All zooms in my experience, with one long lens. I used the 100-400 about 70%of the time when I was in Kenya.



Glenn Kendall
Registered: Apr 17, 2006
Total Posts: 106
Country: United States

A very good list. But I second photomax's recommendation re the 24-70, not only for landscapes but for some "herd" shots. (The critters can sometimes get very close in Kenya.) That lens is a good choice to fill the gap btw your 16-35 and the 70-200. I hope you'll be in a pop-up rather than an open-sided vehicle. With the former you have the roof w/sandbags for support; with the latter you'll need to bring something for support.



Don Clary
Registered: Dec 06, 2002
Total Posts: 2221
Country: United States

Iíve been to East Africa 3 times for a total of about 50 days of shooting. The first time, I was new and ignorant of camera support. I saw that bean bags are about the only commonly used means of support used, and they do work.

But there is a better solution. The triangle support below, you can make for about $10. It is light enough to lift with one finger. It packs slim in a suitcase. And it is VASTLY better than a bean bag. A lens resting on a beanbag, can shift focus as it moves, since most Canon teles have full time manual focus. With the triangle, the lens foot is totally supported by the ball head, the lens barrel is not rolling around on the bag, and shifting the focus.

The legs are two inch steel bolts. If you press the triangle down on the vehicle roof with your left hand, and you shoot with your right hand, it is equivalent to a 200 pound tripod! The two legs are dropped inside the opening of the vehicle. Only the third leg actually rests on the vehicle steel roof. With the two legs pressed against the inside rim of the roof opening, the triangle cannot rotate in a plane parallel to the ground, so it is very stable.

I mention all of these details, because when I offered this support before on FM, several photographers shot it down, said it was no good, when they had never seen, and had never used it! I can assure you that every serious Africa shooter on my last two tours, wished they had my triangle to use. They could see it in action., and see how stable it was. I would also take a bean bag for backup, because there may be some surprise vehicle configuration where the triangle might have a problem.



Don Clary
Registered: Dec 06, 2002
Total Posts: 2221
Country: United States

I hope you'll be in a pop-up rather than an open-sided vehicle. With the former you have the roof w/sandbags for support; with the latter you'll need to bring something for support.

You should contact your tour operator and ask if they use open vehicles. If so, that introduces a BIG set of support problems.

I have extensively researched support in open vehicles. I have collected photographs of every open safari vehicle that I can find, and studied their design. I actually built a support system suggested by Franz Lanting.



Don Clary
Registered: Dec 06, 2002
Total Posts: 2221
Country: United States

The problem is, every vehicle has a different system of roof support, bars, and armrests.

You may decide, oh Iíll rest the bean bag on the horizontal bar, or clamp a super clamp to the horizontal bar in front of your seat. What you will find, is that many open vehicles donít have a horizontal bar!

RRS has a safari support system for a mere $1850.

I am in the final design stages of a support system for open vehicles, that is extremely adjustable and extremely modular. It is for my own use in Southern Africa, I donít plan to market or sell it. It will cost me perhaps $50, and is much lighter than a tripod. BTW, I have 4 patents in my name in my former day job, before I became a worthless bum, in electro-optics.



Alex Edwards
Registered: Jun 07, 2007
Total Posts: 59
Country: Australia

The other issue to consider is how are you going to charge your batteries. Some of the camps run off solar and might only have 2 power outlets. When 100 people want to charge a batteries at night the solar system runs out pretty quickly. Other places have lots of power available so it depends on where you are going.

You could get one of the inverters that run of the cars 12v system. I used this one:
http://www.jaycar.com.au/productView.asp?ID=MI5121

Alex



Harry.C
Registered: Sep 17, 2012
Total Posts: 359
Country: Canada

Thanks for the input so far everyone. Does anyone think the 2.0 TC is something worth purchasing for a trip like this? For those of you who have been to Kenya before, how often was the 1.4 or 2.0 TC on your big lens while shooting?

Don Clary wrote:
But there is a better solution. The triangle support below, you can make for about $10. It is light enough to lift with one finger. It packs slim in a suitcase. And it is VASTLY better than a bean bag. A lens resting on a beanbag, can shift focus as it moves, since most Canon teles have full time manual focus. With the triangle, the lens foot is totally supported by the ball head, the lens barrel is not rolling around on the bag, and shifting the focus.

Thanks for the great info Don. I'm trying to find out what style of vehicle the safari will be using right now but from pictures on the web site it looks like the pop-top style. Your triangle support looks like it could be useful although I have already ordered several bean bags.


Alex Edwards wrote:
The other issue to consider is how are you going to charge your batteries. Some of the camps run off solar and might only have 2 power outlets. When 100 people want to charge a batteries at night the solar system runs out pretty quickly. Other places have lots of power available so it depends on where you are going.

You could get one of the inverters that run of the cars 12v system. I used this one:
http://www.jaycar.com.au/productView.asp?ID=MI5121
Alex


Thanks for the tip Alex. The people who are running the safari seem to be very experienced photographers so I've sent them an email regarding availability of power in the camps we'll be staying in. If necessary the car charger sounds very useful.




sperraglia
Registered: Oct 22, 2002
Total Posts: 978
Country: United States

Which lens would you use the 2x with? It is good on the 70-200 vii, but my 100-400 is sharper at 400mm than the 70-200 -2xiii combo. Also, I took an 800mm last year to Kenya and yes it was occasionally too long but I ended up taking over 60% of my shots with the 800m and the 800 plus 1.4. My buddy had the 600mm and used it for most of his shots.

Our Jeeps had top openings where we could use Todd Pod's (google it - it is t bar with a screw you can add a head too) so I could use my wimberley (I am 5'6" and I had to stand on the seat or bean bag), but the gimbal with the 800mm was wonderful and much easier than a bean bag and if it is the original 600mm then it is heavier and you might benefit from this system if your vehicle allows for it.

The kinesis 611 weighs about half the vertex bag and with all the gear I start counting ounces, but at least you can divide gear between 2 of you.

I was able to get my 800mm in the think tank international last year and loved the wheels not sure about the 600mm and it fits in fits well in the kiboko albeit it weighs a ton. With overseas carriers more sensitive about carry on I actually had my husband come to the airport and he stood to the side with my think tank while I checked in and then I kissed the hubby good bye and took the think tank.



OwlsEyes
Registered: Feb 23, 2003
Total Posts: 4336
Country: United States

Harry C,
I've been to Kenya (2010) and Tanzania (2008) on photo safari... lot's on my blog (http://bruceleventhal.blogspot.com) if you look at the archives or hit the word "Africa" "Kenya" or "Tanzania" in the wordle on the right. Also, my gallery site is loaded with photos (http://btleventhal.com) if you're looking for "inspiration" or images to back up what I'm about to say...

I think 600mm is an awful lot of lens to bring on safari. It is really long and somewhat unwieldy with even the best support. The guy I was shooting with was using a 500mm lens on a D3 and he was acting like he had too much lens. Now maybe you're looking to capture distant subjects, but the heat shimmers will kill all of your detail at a distance.

When Tamy and I traveled to Kenya in '08, we had a 5DII (for landscapes) and a pair of 7D's (or maybe a 7D and 2 40D's... can't recall now). We brought a 17-40L, 17-55 2.8 (I think), 100 f2.8 macro (for portraits), 100-400L, and 300 f2.8L IS. We had a 1.4x and 2x converter. In two weeks, I never put a convert on my 300 f2.8L. Now, on occasion, I wished I had, but the dust in the air made me think twice and I figured I'd crop if I needed a tighter shot.

If you've got a good guide and you're on a private safari or working with a photo-specific group, you'll be where you want to be. If I could have swapped only one thing out, I would have brought a 400 f4 DO instead of the 300 f2.8. The lighter profile and extra 100mm would have made a few shots a bit better... but as I said, if I add a converter to my lens, it would have been a moot point.

Regardless of what you bring, you'll have a great time! If you have any questions send me a pm.
bruce



dhachey
Registered: May 22, 2004
Total Posts: 283
Country: United States

Hi Sallie Jo;

Let me add my 2c worth. I just returned from a 5 week photo safari to Namibia. I used five lenses (Tokina 11-16, Canon 24-105, 70-200, 100-400 and 600mm). I shot about 12,000 frames covering a variety of wildlife, landscape, documentary & people and architecture. My most used lenses were the 100-400 (32%), the 70-200 (23%) and the 600 mm (21%).

The 600 mm (Ver I) is a monster, but I'm glad I had it. I'm saving up for the 600 mm V2 for my next trip to Africa. The 100-400 is surprisingly sharp, at least my copy is, but the push-pull zoom takes a bit of work to get used to. I used a 5DII and a 7D so when I needed extra reach, the 600 went on it. Occasionally I wished for more reach (600 +1.4 on a 7D wasn't enough), so I think the 600 V2 with a 2.0 III TC will be great.

Cheers, ...Dave



bigbluebear
Registered: Oct 13, 2010
Total Posts: 1459
Country: United States

Don Clary: I'd make one of those triangle designs with maybe 1/2 ft legs for those really low shots close to the ground. It'd get me much closer than my tripod allows.



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