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Zoom lens for safari - Help needed!

24 Jul 2009 2:04PM
I asked for some advice on this a couple of months ago and you all gave some fantastic suggestions so thanks for being brilliant and taking a novice under your wing! Smile

Having looked at some of these in the shops, I have realised just HOW expensive zoom lenses are! I am going on a 5 day safari in Kenya and want to get a fairly decent zoom lens for animal photography. I also don't want to spend over 500 as I don't think I'll get masses of use out of the lens after this trip (I'm a relative novice with SLRs).

I went to a well known photography shop where I live and they suggested the Canon 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 IS at 443.12. It's a glass lens and one up from the basic entry level lenses. Do you think this is a good lens for animal photography? And is Image stabilisation necessary for the kinds of shots I want to take?

A cheaper alternative they suggested was the EFS 55 -250 F4-5.6 at just over 200 but with no IS and this is a plastic lens. Shops on Tottenham Court Road have the 75-300mm F4-5.6 III USM for around 200. I know these are not 'fast' lenses but do you think they are fast enough for animal shots? - To get a similar F2.8 version takes the price over 1000!

Currently I have an entry level Canon 400D with standard kit lens (18-55mm). What are your thoughts on the above lenses or possibly the Canon compatible Sigma equivalents? Your thoughts on this would be much appreciated as there seem to be many variants of lenses with the same focal range!

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proberts 14 218 4 Wales
24 Jul 2009 2:10PM
Hi Helen.
Theres a cracking lens for sale in the classifieds on here for wildlife. Its the canon fit Sigma 50-500 Wink
24 Jul 2009 3:03PM
Nice plug for your lens Andrew! It says 0 on the classifieds, I'm guessing that's not correct!! (If you PM me a price I might consider it Wink ). There are some amazing shots on your profile with that lens - If my photos turn out half as good as those I will be pleased! I take it you would recommend Sigma lenses over Canon then? Do you think I need a lens which goes to 500mm or would 300mm be sufficient in your experience?
AlanTW 15 353
24 Jul 2009 3:05PM
Why don't you consider hiring, for example from Calumet or Fixation
24 Jul 2009 3:29PM
I did consider hiring AlanTW, but I'd need it for two weeks for the entire holiday and then a week before so I can get some practice in with the longer lens. For three weeks, Calumet wanted 273 for the 70-300mm lens and I can buy the whole thing brand new for 419 at Jessops....
stevie Plus
14 1.2k 2 United Kingdom
24 Jul 2009 3:36PM
I'd definitely suggest one with an image stabiliser if possible, you'll be shooting from a vehicle.
For a single Canon lens on safari I'd suggest a 100-400mm IS L, although buying new would be quite a bit more than your 500 budget
If you don't think you'll use it much afterwards you could think about a second hand one (plenty around) and then selling it when you get hom. - you'd get most of your money back. Possibly a cheaper solution than hiring.
24 Jul 2009 4:28PM
Stevie, thanks for the advice....it is quite pricey though....although cheaper second hand as you say. Is that the lens with the push-pull mechanism for zooming? Some reviews of it have complained about 'bad copies' - what's the best way to avoid a bad copy? (Especially second hand). Also, would a max zoom of 300mm be too 'short' in your opinion?
geoffash26 14 2.5k United Kingdom
24 Jul 2009 4:33PM

Quote:For three weeks, Calumet wanted 273 for the 70-300mm lens

Try here 60 a week for a 100-400is
looks like price goes down for a longer period
stevie Plus
14 1.2k 2 United Kingdom
24 Jul 2009 5:20PM
Hi again Helen
Yes, it's the push-pull zoom. I've only used one copy of this lens which was fine but some say there are poor copies around so I'd be careful. The only way to really find out is to try the lens - as I recall, some dealers (such as Mifsuds) do allow you a short period to return pre-owned goods if you are not happy and although you are likely to pay a bit more than on, say, ebay it might be a safer deal overall. In my experience 300mm is just enough on safari but 400 is a better bet. You'll probably find you photograph bigger animals at 100-200mm which is why I think the versatility of the 100-400mm IS L makes it a good choice.
proberts 14 218 4 Wales
24 Jul 2009 6:18PM
Shhh now Steve and Geoff.I`m trying to sell my lens to this lovely lady Smile
steve_kershaw 13 2.3k 4 United Kingdom
24 Jul 2009 6:33PM
I have just bought a sigma 80-400 f4.5-5.6 ex dg with optical stabilizer, off ebay for 420 second hand, I am happy with the results its not as good as a prime and I'm sure the 100-400 is better, but it is in your price range, and will be better than some of the other lenses mentioned above, my last upload was taken at 400mm hand hed link
mark_delta 10 1.3k
24 Jul 2009 11:09PM

Quote:I'm sure the 100-400 is better

Only in the opinion of those who are in love with the prospect of having a big white lens, I have one a 80-400 and here are some tips.
remember the is needs to track to work, give a slight wobble as you frame up with the shutter button halfway and it will lock on rock steady and stay there, result sharper Images.
Lens filter, skylights ect, absolute NO No, they decimate the quality from 300 mm on and at 400 completely ruin it.
strawman 14 22.1k 16 United Kingdom
24 Jul 2009 11:39PM
The two key differences I saw were AF speed, weight and speed of operation. Either lens can give results, and certainly I am aware of a wide variation in performance of the 100-400 at the longer end. Is it a calibration/set up issue? But like everything a feature one person will say is the killer one another will ignore.

From Sigma I would think of the 150-500 as it has the HSM focusing motor.

But with all of the above a prime gives great results, but its the balance of flexibility as well as image quality.
steve_kershaw 13 2.3k 4 United Kingdom
25 Jul 2009 9:08AM

Quote:but its the balance of flexibility as well as image quality

and cost :-(

I quickly tried a comparison shot in reasonable light from the 80-400 @ 400 and my 70-200 2.8+2x converter @ 400, there was little noticeable difference
netsukekoi 11 57 United Kingdom
25 Jul 2009 9:53AM
I agree with most of the previous comments - on my 1st trip to Kenya I took a 75-300 IS and was very pleased with the results, had bought it 2nd hand from Mifsuds so was not worried about getting ripped off.

On my trip to Botswana this year I invested in a new 100-400 and now I would not go back to the 75-300 - that extra 100 makes a lot of difference, but then again - you'd expect that given the price difference.

If you are not going to use it much thereafter, I'd say buy 2nd hand and go for the longest, IS lens you can get - as long as you avoid mirror lenses and low quality ones.

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