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Safari Lens

markelliot 17 10
22 Jun 2005 3:27AM
Sigma 135 - 400mm any good? Or am I better just paying the substantual extra and going for canon 100 -400 IS. Thinking it will be a once oin a lifetime purchase if I do! I already have the 75 - 300 IS but was on a recent holiday to Peru and found when shooting wildlife I could have just done with a little more pulling power! Or how about a prime 400? Anyone any views...??? And does anyone else find it anoying that canon's teleconverters only work with a few of there lenses... why is this? Why can't it work with my 75 - 300, am I synical when I just think it's a money making plan!
Ewan 19 383 Scotland
22 Jun 2005 3:47AM
If you want quick focussing this probably isn't the lens for you; I've been using one for a while now and, as it doesn't have an HSM motor, it has occasionally scared off the birds I was trying to photograph.

For 300 it isn't a bad lens and I've found the images sharp enough for most purposes. I'm sure that there's a world of difference between it and the 100-400IS.

A mate of mine swears by his 300 2.8 IS L plus a 1.4x extender (when needed) for safari trips. If that's out of your budget then the 300L f4 is still a damn good lens.
croberts 17 2.2k 8 Ireland
22 Jun 2005 5:16AM
well if you need more than 300mm more often than not, then the 100-400IS is a great bit of glass.

The 400 5.6 L is a very well reviewed and loved lens, but perhaps a bit long and cumbersome for travelling.

the 300mm F4 L IS is a brilliant, sharp lens, and with the 1.4x convertor, the diff in quality isnt much of a drop.

At the end of the day, spend a bit extra if you can, and get the lens you really want/need, or you'll always be wishing you had.
ahollowa 18 1.1k England
22 Jun 2005 5:30AM
I toyed with this question for a while. If like me you are an ameture and are just adding a safari into a holiday then I would recomend the 100-400 over a prime as it packs down smaller. The big primes are a lot longer to carry. Also as most game drives happen in dawn and dusk I would advise an image stabalised lens (or very fast and very expensive glass!!) which the Sigma isn't.

If you are a pro and have both budget and porters then one of the big primes will be the order of the day!!


digicammad 18 22.0k 40 United Kingdom
22 Jun 2005 5:35AM
I'm (hopefully) going on safari in a couple of years and my aim is to get the 70-200 VR (Nikon IS) and the 1.4x convertor. The problem with many super zooms is they are not all that sharp, whereas the 70-200 is. If I really need the extra reach I can stick on the 1.4x which is also supposed to be top quality. I don't want to go on what is likely to be a once in a lifetime trip and come back with hundreds of soft shots.

Trouble is, by the time I pay for the lens there may be no money left for the trip. :0(

u08mcb 18 5.8k
22 Jun 2005 5:35AM
The 135-400 is a lot of lens for the money but by your own admission this is a once in a lifetime chance. If you can take the burden (in both financial and physical terms), buy a fast prime.

Canon TCs only work with a small range of professional lenses.
fishiee 18 478 3 United Kingdom
24 Jun 2005 1:21AM
Took my Sigma 70-300 to Zammbia last year - fishing holiday but plenty of wildlife to photograph. The results were *****! Got myself the canon 100-400L IS which is night, day and night again in front and am taking it to Uganda in a week! In my experience you really want a zoom or a selection of primes as things like elephants are pretty darn big and you need to be a looooong way away to fit that all into a 400mm lens! IS is also very very useful from 4wd's and also boats Smile
John-LS 19 4
27 Jun 2005 1:24PM
Canon 100-400 is a brilliant lens and great for safari.
NickdeBug 17 391
27 Jun 2005 5:21PM
If budget is an issue - Have you looked at the 170-500 Sigma or the 50-500 Sigma. the latter is pretty heavy and may be too big a range, but the 170-500 is a nice fast lens that will give you great results. The light in Africa is excellent if you are shooting any time between about 7am and 5.30pm. You may need to adjust your ISO rating for some early morning/evening shots, but these often involve watching larger game at waterholes, so the 170-500 should be okay at the lower end of the range. You should be able to pick this up for about 400 quid.

Alternatively, I would go with Ian's suggestion and use a 70-200 + 1.4x extender (if you buy the 2.8 version then you can use a 2x extender).

Make sure you invest in something like a simple bean bag to rest on the window. Jessops sell a great device called 'the Pod' which is essentially a bean bag with a tripod screw built in. Very handy, but you can travel with it empty (advantage of beanbags is that you can fill them when you get there - rice is ideal).

I used to work in the safari business in Zimbabwe (when it had a tourist industry!). The guides will try hard to get you into position for good photos and are often keen photographers themselves. Your max range will depend on what interests you - for the BIG FIVE - you are going to be fine with 300mm, if you want to get some shots of the birdlife (the bee eaters need to be seen to be believed) then the 400+ range will come into its own. I would definity go fo a zoom over a prime. More often than not, you will have no option on where you take the shot, so using the zoom to frame the shot is very useful (it's not like you can hop out of the landy and get a bit closer/further away - and you are usually restricted to designated roads).

If you get the chance, go on a walking safari. The walking guides are the highest qualified and believe me when I say that it offers you photo opportunities that you just don't get from the back of a vehicle.

Africa is a truely magical place. I am sure that you will enjoy it. Remember not to spend your whole holiday with your eye fixed to a viewfinder. Memories exist in the head as well as in print!

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