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Archive 2023 · Safari lens help

  
 
StollyOR
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Safari lens help


Hello! I'm going on a private family safari in Tanzania next month and am going crazy researching lenses. I love to travel and take photos, but definitely not a pro. The photos are simply for photo books, personal prints, etc. I've always used Nikon cameras, and have been using a D7500 since 2017. I normally travel with a Nikon 18-300 3.5-6.3 DX and a Nikon 35mm 1.8G DX (and sometimes the Nikon 85mm 1.8G. I've come to love the faster prime lenses. We will take my daughter's D5600 as a backup camera (currently has a kit lens 18-55mm 3.5-5.6G DX on it).

I originally thought about the 200-500mm lens, until I saw what a beast it is! I'd love some feedback on what I'm currently considering:

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G II ED VR (local used option for $1100 in "excellent" condition)
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR (local private party sale for $1400 or new at $1900)
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Lens (see online used for $520 in excellent condition)

I'm thinking that one of these lenses with a teleconverter (1.7?) will give the needed reach with my crop sensor. I could take the TC off in lowlight situations. Is this a decent solution?

I haven't seen the 70-200mm f/4 in person: do the size/weight decrease make up for the loss of aperture, or is the 2.8 simply worth its price?

Is the newest EFL 70-200 worth an extra $300 in your experience?

Is the 70-200 2.8 too big for non-safari travel (would the f/4 be better)?

I'm trying to weigh cost/size/money, but also make a smart decision for a trip that doesn't happen everyday. I appreciate any advice you have to share!
~Chelle




May 25, 2023 at 02:28 PM
aisnikkor
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Safari lens help


Just a thought, but have you considered renting a lens, or even a lens and a higher end body, for the trip? A rental for something like a 200-400 f/4 or the 200-500 you mentioned would be relatively economical. I think you would be well served by the extra reach on one of these, but their size brings its own considerations as well for travel. Lensrentals.com has been good for me in the past, but there are other sites available as well.


May 25, 2023 at 03:57 PM
StollyOR
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Safari lens help


Hi...thanks for the reply. I did originally think about renting a lens. We are away for several weeks. so it seems like buying a lens will work best. I don't mind investing in a lens if it will make a difference in images. If we like the lens, we'll simply keep it and use it for other travels going forward. If we find it's too big, we'll sell it after the safari and probably be comparable in costs to if we had rented. I do think the 200-500 is simply too big, which is why I started looking at the 70-200's.


May 25, 2023 at 04:35 PM
EB-1
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Safari lens help


FYI, there is whole long thread about Africa. I've done about 20 safaris and hope that you will consider more than one.

I wanted to answer your questions because I support a Nikon DX user that went with me to Tanzania in 2022. The D500 and D7500 were used with the 200-500/5.6 and 80-400 VR-G in addition to shorter lenses. The 200-500 captured over 80% of the images on the D500, and a lesser amount on the 80-400 and 16-80. Another option would be the 70-200/4 or f/2.8 instead of the 80-400 (the user already had that lens).

In F mount the 200-500/5.6 is ideal for East Africa on a budget and it works well with the D7500. Of course there are larger and better tele lenses, and you can rent the 200-500 cheaply if this is a one-time use. The IQ is surprisingly good if you stop down a little. A D500/D7500 with the lens mounted in shooting position fits nicely in a Kinesis L311.

EBH



May 25, 2023 at 05:01 PM
StollyOR
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Safari lens help


Thanks, EBH!

I do appreciate you taking the time to answer. I've been reading every thread I can find, and feel like I'm making progress until I read the next post. That's why I think I've narrowed it down to the three 70-200mm's I posted, along with a teleconverter. We are also stopping in Turkey, so I think the 200-500mm is simply too large for that portion of the journey.

Thanks again for the response.



May 25, 2023 at 05:09 PM
suteetat
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Safari lens help


I would consider 80-400 over 200-500 if you think 200-500 is too heavy for you.
I think 80-400 is actually more versatile than
200-500.
80-400 will cover elephant, giraffe (unless elephants walk toward your vehicle). Giraffe tends to stay away from vehicle more and 120mm equavalent should be fine.
200 may be too long for bigger animals.
With APS-c, 80-400 will get to you 600mm equavalent which is plenty in most cases except some
birds. Personally I find anything longer than 600mm only useful at early morning and late afternoon.
If you need 600mm focal lenght or longer for elephant or lions in the middle of the day, heat haze certainly could ruin your shot. Where do you go, can you do off road? If you can, 80-400 should be fine.
If you can't, may be 200-500 will give a bit more reach which can be handy as long as heat haze is not an issue.

I went to Botswana with 100-400 or 70-200/2.8S on one body and 400/2.8S TC on another body and that was fine for 95% of my needs, not including birds. I was in Kenya with 100-400 on Sony body and D850 with 500/4e FL and that was fine. I put TC on 500/4e FL sometimes and find that 30% of the shots with TC was affected by heat haze quite a bit during the day.

You mentioned having D5600 as a back up, I think 70-200/2.8 could be handy especially for early morning or late afternoon. Where I was in Botswana, often we were out until after sunset and started game drives before sunrise so f2.8 was very handy.
I had a Z Fc with 16-50 kit lens as a third body and except a couple of times when an elephant walked close to our vehicle, that focal lenght was not all that useful except for occasional landscape shot and I used it probably less than 5% of the time.

If you have 18-300 and 70-200 on 2 bodies, that's probably ok for 60-70% of the time but probably wish you have a little more reach since both cameras dont give you as much leeway for cropping. If you see something like black rhino, your guide won't get you close enough with these 2 lenses even on aps-c bodies. If you get that close, either it will charge your vehicle or run away very quickly.



May 25, 2023 at 06:25 PM
StollyOR
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Safari lens help


Thanks for sharing your lenses and experience on safari. It is helpful to see what others have done and what their experiences have been. I think I've narrowed it to either the 70-200mm 2.8 EFL or VR II on the D7500. A teleconverter during the day will give me decent reach, but I look forward to what the lens will do in mornings and evenings. If I put the 18-300 on my daughter's camera, that will allow us capture closer animals.

I didn't expect this to be so difficult!




May 25, 2023 at 06:47 PM
suteetat
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Safari lens help


StollyOR wrote:
Thanks for sharing your lenses and experience on safari. It is helpful to see what others have done and what their experiences have been. I think I've narrowed it to either the 70-200mm 2.8 EFL or VR II on the D7500. A teleconverter during the day will give me decent reach, but I look forward to what the lens will do in mornings and evenings. If I put the 18-300 on my daughter's camera, that will allow us capture closer animals.

I didn't expect this to be so difficult!



Try 70-200 with TC first if you can and see if you like the result. I tried the e FL version with TC-20e iii and did not like the
result at all. It is reasonable at closer distance 3-4m but anything longer than that I don't think the IQ was all that great.
Mind you there is quite a variation on TC-20e iii, I had 2, one was horrible and one was not as bad but I have no idea if the better one that I have is average of what you can expect or not. I don't hesitate to put TCx2 Z mount version on my teles but
when I was using F mount, I avoid TC-20e iii as much as possible.



May 25, 2023 at 07:07 PM
StollyOR
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Safari lens help


Thanks for the TC advice. I'm planning on taking my camera to a store tomorrow to test with the 1.7 and 2.0 TC's and the 70-200's. Wish me luck!


May 25, 2023 at 07:16 PM
1bwana1
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Safari lens help


Suteetat has a ton of experience shooting African wildlife. I do as well. You will be well served following his advice.

The animals in Africa are large and if you are going on the standard Tanzanian National Parks circuit you will be able to get pretty close. They are also generally not moving quickly unless actively engaged in a hunt as either hunter or prey. That is generally the case, but some of the most interesting photographic opportunism do require some reach. Notably Leopards (Chui), Cheetah (Maliaka), and babies (toto) of all types. Honestly you will want 500-600mm for these opportunities, and will be disappointed if you don't have it. It is worth carrying the size. But remember your cameras are crop sensors so you get more reach. Be sure you understand this when making your choice. In my experience a 400mm on a crop sensor will handle most circumstances. It should also be noted that you are often too close for a very long lens. So Suteetat's recommendation for an 80- 400mm zoom is a very good choice. I support it as a first Safari lens.

The next consideration is that the best game drives take place early in the morning, or late in the afternoon. Light levels are low at these times. So, I suggest a second lens that is fast. A constant F/4 , or better still a 70-200 f/2.8 with a TC when reach is needed is a good solution for this. Finally you should bring fast APS-C 24-70mm equivalent for lifestyle shots around the camp, and all the other amazing villages and activities you will encounter while on Safari. Such lenses are relatively small and affordable so easy to travel with.

Have a great Safari, they are always wonderful adventures. But somehow the first one is special.



May 25, 2023 at 07:40 PM
StollyOR
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Safari lens help


Thank you 1bwana1! Your answer really helps. I'm thinking it will be the 70-200 2.8 (not sure if the EFL or the VR II) with a TC during the bright day. I haven't used TC's (and will go check them out tomorrow), but if I'm understanding correctly, this will take the lens to a 510mm with a 1.7 TC, and 600mm with the 2x, yes? I'd still have the 2.8 capability for dawn and dusk.

Do you have an opinion on whether the 20-700 EFL or VR II will work better with a teleconverter, and if so, which one?

I say this safari is a once in lifetime trip, but I admit we already have Namibia on our list of places we'd like to visit. This trip was supposed to happen in June 2020. It's been difficult to reschedule, but it just makes it so much sweeter that it's getting close!



May 25, 2023 at 09:08 PM
1bwana1
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Safari lens help


StollyOR wrote:
Do you have an opinion on whether the 20-700 EFL or VR II will work better with a teleconverter, and if so, which one?



Although I have shot Nikon DSLR gear in Tanzania a number of times, I now shoot Sony mirrorless and haven't shot Nikon in Africa for over 7 years now. I don't feel qualified to give you the best advise on specific lenses. There are many here who are better informed currently and I am sure they will answer any questions you have.

If you have general questions about Africa, the animals, the culture, or even the landscape and geology I will be happy to help. I can even help with Swahili Language which I speak pretty well for a "Mzungu" (white person).



May 25, 2023 at 09:27 PM
StollyOR
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Safari lens help


Thanks for your honest feedback. It sounds like you are a valuable resource to everyone here
Have a great evening.



May 25, 2023 at 09:31 PM
pwschladen
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Safari lens help


I would second suteetat on the 80-400, a very versatile lens.
I am not anti TC - I have all three, the 1.4, 1.7 and 2.0 which I use with my 300 PF on my Z7 and find very useful but pretty much whatever TC I use goes on at home and does not get changed in the field. I would be very leery of swapping one TC for another while out shooting, especially on safari. TC don’t take up much room or weigh alot ( except the TC-20 III at I think 12 ounces) so definitely take one or two, or even all three “ just in case” . You should definitely check before yo go if you need to do AF fine tune with each lens/TC combo on the bodies that allow it. With mirrorless that choir is unnecessary thankfully.
Lots of good advice above about what other lenses you might want to pair up with the 80-400.
TCs Re very handy but not a panacea - a 70-200 with a 2x TC give you 400 at 5.6 like the 80-400 but only zooms out to 140 - also at 5.6 so if that is too long when something suddenly gets. Too close you need to grab another body with a more suitable lens. With TC Murphy guarantees time when you have the “wrong” or wish you had the bare lens at that moment.
Have a great trip!



May 25, 2023 at 09:53 PM
pwschladen
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Safari lens help


A useful article by Thom Hogan from a few years ago so no doubt his specifice gear recommendations would be a bit different now but principles don’t really change.

https://www.bythom.com/photographic-travel/africa/how-to-think-about-equipmen.html



May 25, 2023 at 09:58 PM
robert_in_ca
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Safari lens help


Having traveled to Tanzania several times during the dry and green season a lot depends on if you can go off road or not. Personally I would recommend having at least 400mm reach on one lens and then having a second body with the 70-200mm 2.8 and you’ll be set to go.

StollyOR wrote:
Hello! I'm going on a private family safari in Tanzania next month and am going crazy researching lenses. I love to travel and take photos, but definitely not a pro. The photos are simply for photo books, personal prints, etc. I've always used Nikon cameras, and have been using a D7500 since 2017. I normally travel with a Nikon 18-300 3.5-6.3 DX and a Nikon 35mm 1.8G DX (and sometimes the Nikon 85mm 1.8G. I've come to love the faster prime lenses. We will take my daughter's D5600 as a backup camera (currently has a kit lens 18-55mm 3.5-5.6G DX
...Show more



May 25, 2023 at 11:23 PM
StollyOR
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Safari lens help


Thanks for your experience and for the link. Off to read it now.


May 25, 2023 at 11:33 PM
Vinnie_VdB
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Safari lens help


I go on safaris at least 3 times a year and know what works for me on camera gear.
From what I read is a kind of light weight travel important so no exotic fast tele lenses. You will take an F mount camera with with and see only 2 options:
1. AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR
2. AF-S 70-200 f/2.8 as either version 2 of that lens or the even more magnificent E FL version.

My vote in this 1-body deal to have the 80-400mm lens (again, the AF-S version) as you will need that 300 to 400mm range.
Do not use a TC if you just have one camera as you not want to take a TC on or off during a drive.

Are you in a position to have 2 bodies with you then still that 80-400mm lens and one that is wider like the 24-70 for animals close to you or animals in landscape.



May 26, 2023 at 12:04 AM
1bwana1
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Safari lens help


Don't forget the really good long zooms for F mounts that are .ade by Tamron and Sigma. They should be available at a very good price these days.


May 26, 2023 at 04:00 AM
pwschladen
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Safari lens help


Vinnie_VdB wrote:
I go on safaris at least 3 times a year and know what works for me on camera gear.
From what I read is a kind of light weight travel important so no exotic fast tele lenses. You will take an F mount camera with with and see only 2 options:
1. AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR
2. AF-S 70-200 f/2.8 as either version 2 of that lens or the even more magnificent E FL version.

My vote in this 1-body deal to have the 80-400mm lens (again, the AF-S version) as you will need that 300 to 400mm range.
Do not use a
...Show more

As you are planning to have two DX bodies the 16-80mm 2.8-4 would be my choice for Vinnie’s last recommendation.
It is a great lens and I would not have sold mine if I still shot F mount. Useful range of 24-120 equivalent. No longer in production but it was >$1k new, though I think most were bought as a “kit” lens with D500 at an implied price of for quite a bit less.
There is currently one for sale on the B&S forum for $399.



May 26, 2023 at 06:16 AM
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