Amazon Kindle Unlimited Offer: 1-Month For FREE!

Best Lens for Kenyan Safari ?

gibbs 11 2 United Kingdom
5 Sep 2009 5:45PM
Hi maybe someone can help me out.

I am going over to kenya on the 21st of this month for a 2 week holiday with my fiancee and we are staying at the Voyager Beach Resort and going on a pre booked 3 night Safari called "Kenyan Encounters", Staying at the Shimba Hills, Nyguli, and Voi Lodges.

I am a keen amateur wildlife photographer, I have a Sony A200 DSLR and i have a Tamron 70-300mm lens along with the 18-70mm sony kit lens.

And i have just brought a Sigma 170-500mm APO (not the dg version) it has a konica minolta fitting so am hoping it will work on my Sony A200 ?

My question is due to the fact almost everyone advises against changing lenses whilst on safari due to the dust then i plan on sticking to one lens everytime we drive out from the lodge.

So which out of the 70-300mm or 170-500mm would you keep attached to your camera?.

The reason i ask this is because i have been told by some people and that you do get really close to the animals so therefore i am thinking if i had the 500mm attached i might be too close ?.

On the other hand nearly everywhere else advises that the longer the lens the better when it comes to going on safari, So maybe the 300mm would be too short?

any help appreciated

kind regards

eddieg01 14 12 United Kingdom
5 Sep 2009 5:57PM
I'd go with the 70-300 lens without a doubt. Having recently returned from a Kenya Safari I used this lens all the time when out. You have been advised well, as you do get closer to many animals than you'd probably imagined and using the longer lens would restrict your opportunities. Besides, you can always crop in so go with max resolution too.

I'd also recommend taking a bean bag or similar to help reduce camera shake as you will probably be going out on early morning and late afternoon game drives. The light can drop quite a lot, especially when storms roll in.
stolzy 15 3.8k 7
5 Sep 2009 6:12PM
70-300 without a doubt. The 500 will be too unwieldy and hard to hold steady. Give some thought to camera support - its very bright during the day, but the best time to see game is at the ends of the day and the light can be marginal.
I always take a half decent flash too.
geoffash26 16 2.5k United Kingdom
5 Sep 2009 6:13PM
If you've got space take both, how close you get to the game depends on the safari guide.
My choice would probably be for the 170-500.

Don't be scared of changing lenses unless its really blowing a gale with lots of dust. Ask your partner to hold the lens your going to be fitting point the camera down when removing the lens and exchange it with your partner thus reducing the time there's no lens on the camera.
rowarrior 13 4.4k 9 Scotland
5 Sep 2009 11:17PM
Also turn your camera off when changing lenses, that seems to reduce the static pull in of dust too, and change the lens over quickly, don't faff about taking one off, applying the body cap and stowing it carefully in the bag before getting the next one, have it right next to you ready to swap straight over. Took me about 6 months in South Africa to work that out Wink

I'd say the 70-300 for length on the safaris I went on, but as Geoff says, that depends on the guide, the area and what the local rules are. For instance where I went they would go off road for the Big 5 and get up close to them, but not for anything else, although there were lots of roads so you were always pretty close to things. In other areas they won't go off road at all, so maybe do some hunting online to see if you can see what they do for your safari.
cathal 16 492 4 United Kingdom
6 Sep 2009 5:13PM
I've been to two of the locations you mention (Shimba Hills lodge is fabulous) and have done the game drives.

Firstly, don't be paranoid about changing lenses. Turn the camera off, and minimize the time a lens is off the camera. Practice and you will soon be able to change lens in no time at all. Yes, it is dusty at times, but it is all manageable.

In all honesty, I would take both lenses. Sods law says that if you don't you will miss shots. If you could only take one, then the 70-300 would be more flexible. Using a 1.5x crop factor that gets you 450mm effective.

Do you know who the safari company is? I used UTC and they were fabulous - can't recommend them highly enough. My guide, called JAckson, was also interested in photography and had sand bags to hand to rest camera on the roof. Expect to be in a minbus style vehicle rather than 4x4, with a large open sunroof. With one exception (when we were almost surrounded by a pride of lions) he killed the engine when I was taking photographs. Game drives are done before breakfast and in the evening (the animals are all asleep during the day) so fast apertures are essential. Don't expect to get below iso 400, and you will need a steady hand.

Other info? Kenya uses the same 3 pin plug as the UK. The lodge in Shimba Hills is set in a rain forest. At night, that is a very noisy place! Enjoy it! I did!
stevie 17 1.2k 2 United Kingdom
6 Sep 2009 5:55PM

Quote:In all honesty, I would take both lenses. Sods law says that if you don't you will miss shots

I agree entirely. How many chances are you going to get to go on safari? They're a wonderful experience, you don't want to miss a thing. Carrying really isn't a big issue, your in a vehicle most of the time. I'd definitely get a beanbag, too (as has been mentioned) for shooting from a open vehicle.
Stuarty 16 122 England
7 Sep 2009 3:12PM
I agree the 70 -300 is the most useful in terms of the default 'on camera' lens and also agree that you need both with you. Take the 18 -70 with you also - the landscapes are fabulous and you may well have ample time between leopard stops. Sunrise and sunsets are a must. As many cards as you can afford and batteries, but at least in Kenya you can recharge the batteries easily. My method for changing lenses on the move: camera off, new lens out of bag, rear cap off, old lens off, new lens on, rear cap on old lens, back in bag, camera on, lights, action. Doesn't take long. I must admit I don't fuss too much about the front cap back on the old lens if I'm in a hurry, mainly because I have to take the lens hood off first.
Enjoy it. I've been lucky enough to go on two safaris: enjoy what you do see and don't grieve over what you don't and also, don't forget just to look. Put the camera down sometimes! In Tanzania I had to be nudged or I would have missed one of 3 male lions - busy shooting one of the others - walking right by me. I could literally have touched it, in fact had to tell myself not to. You can get that close to lions - they're accustomed to the vehicles. Elephants too are rather large for a 500 lens!
Coast 12 1.6k 292 United Kingdom
7 Sep 2009 8:10PM
Two things spring to mind.

If dust is a problem and concern is it not possible to bring along a changing bag with you - might be an option.

Alternatively you can pick up a Sony A200 body on Ebay for circa £150-£200 so although it adds cost you could buy a second body and have both lenses ready to go for every opportunity. You could then re-sell the second body on your return probably for what you paid if you would have no long term need for two camera bodies.

For a holiday/photo opportunity that you might not do again or for a long time it is worth considering.

LensYews 12 1.3k 1 United Kingdom
11 Sep 2009 2:05AM
Looking back through my images from my last Safari (South Africa rather than Kenya), most of my images were taken around the 100mm focal range, using a Sigma 70-300mm. To avoid to much airport hassle I'd only taken that and a kit lens, and only really used the 70-300mm. The only occasions where I wanted a longer focal length were for a few birds perched high up in trees. For everything else, the driver got within a few meters, and in some cases 70mm was too long on my 1.6 crop. A Rhino is a very big animal from 5 meters. My main issue was the driver always seemed to position himself so the animal was strongly backlit, making it a challenging image for my camera and lens.
I agree bean bags (the engines are often left running so you get vehicle vibrations as well), batteries and lots of memory cards (I took 12Gb and used it all) are probably more useful, than the shorter or longer focal lengths. A good pair of binoculars is essential as well, we took Swift reliant 8x42 bins which are great in low light for a reasonable price.

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.