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Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

Sydney, New South...
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Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

Hi all

I am a keen amateur photographer with a Canon 30D and am looking to buy a telephoto lens for our trip to Sabi Sabi and Madiwkwe in June (but buying NOW for Christmas). I want to do a photography course before we go.

I was looking at the Canon 70-300 basic model for $A468.

But our current 28-85 lens is NOT the basic model so I am thinking we should maybe go for the 70-300 L model at $A1498 (nearly 3 times the price). We can afford it if necessary...

Plus with the L series I could then get the 1.4 Canon extender which is only meant to lose 1 stop of aperture. for $A485.

Hmm, but maybe I should go all the way to the Canon 100-400 L model for $1821. Then would I not get the extender? Or would I get it anyway for even MORE zoom.

The 100-400 L weighs 1366g so will definitely need a monopod (and a beanbag).

Is the fact that it needs a monopod a reason to not get it? Would I be happier with the 100-300 and less weight (1015g for the L, 630g for the basic)? Or would the 300 need a monopod anyway?

I can't take 2 SLR cameras and I don't want to be changing lenses for scenery shots. So I am thinking of buying a superzoom or bridge camera. The Panasonic Lumix FZ200 ($A595) is equal to a 25-600mm zoom. Now I know the quality can't be as good as the SLR but its purpose is as a backup in case of SLR camera failure, plus an extra camera to share between the four of us, plus use for scenery shots. Any thoughts on this idea?

So at this stage I am leaning towards the 100-400L. Any thoughts out there?

Thanks

Kate

Washington DC...
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1. Re: Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

I'd go (and I actually have) with the 100-400. I never had results I liked with extenders. I almost never switch out lenses (though I'm not averse to doing so) so the lens covers the vast majority of safari shots. You'll really want the extra 100 when you see some birds you'd otherwise have a hard time capturing with the 70-300. I use a bean bag extensively.

Edited: 04 December 2013, 00:02
Sydney, New South...
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2. Re: Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

Thanks stevab108.

Actually I was going to come back and add that we are not avid bird watchers so don't need the 400 for that. However I guess if the birds are really pretty I could get into it with this 100-400 lens.

Washington DC...
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3. Re: Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

Kate, recently someone came back and said that with respect to birding there are two categories: those who are birders and those who don't know they're birders. The poster had been in the latter category until she visited Africa. I don't think you'd be sorry about the 100-400. It's the safari workhorse.

london
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4. Re: Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

Lots of questions here.

Not sure what you mean by the 70-300mm "basic model". I think there are 2 versions of the non L series- one with IS, one without. I used to use the IS version and for the price it was great. I wouldn't get a non-IS version. I've now upgraded to the 100-400mm L series.

Your camera body is not a full frame body, so bear in mind you will be getting a 1.6 magnification factor on any lens. Personally I have found 300mm sufficient on a non full frame body. I would not add a teleconverter to a 70-300 lens, and definitely not to the 100-400. I have never tried a TC, but I've heard they can cause problems with the lens's auto focus. Generally I think they're to be avoided.

Zoom isn't everything. Beyond a certain point you will have stabilisation issues. Also, one thing I've found with safari photography is that overdoing the zoom is a bad habit I need to break. Photographs of animals "in context" ie with a bit of background and environment are more interesting. Also, if there is action in your sighting, overdoing the zoom can mean you miss shots. The number of times I've almost got an amazing photo, but not quite because I've cut off an ear or a tail, or the feet, which wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been so zoomed in. A photo can always be cropped, but you can't put that ear back in the photo (unless you're v good with photoshop!).

I find the 100-400 L to be an excellent lens. It is fine to hand hold. I've tried a monopod but found it too unwieldy to maneover in a vehicle. A bean bag is useful, but I find in the very open vehicles there isn't always anywhere to rest it. So most of the time I am hand holding.

The bridge camera for a backup isn't a bad plan. I've been considering getting a Canon M series for landscape shots. You can buy an adaptor which will allow attachment of EOS lenses, so it can double as backup for my SLR.

Johannesburg, South...
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5. Re: Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

Hi Kate,

As a photographer myself, and without getting technical, I would without doubt go for the 100-400. Although I am a Nikon user, I have heard that it is a great lens... very sharp, good optics, with fantastic colour and contrast rendition. Its worth the extra cost if you can afford it. You won't be sorry with the extra focal length either.

Regards.

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

Tempe, Arizona
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for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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6. Re: Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

And the Panasonic Lumix is hardly a 'backup' camera. The Leica lens and the 12MP sensor will give you terrific results. Compare some side-by-side shots with those from your Canon and you will be a believer.

I use its grandfather.. and have for years. For those reading this thread who are considering getting a new camera that would be used principally for their safari.. the Panasonic Lumix would be my recommendation.

New York
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for Travel Gadgets and Gear
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7. Re: Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

Hi Kate - I have had the 100-400 L since 2003 and it is a very versatile lens. Once you start shooting with L lenses you will find it hard to go back to non-Ls. So be warned you'll probably only find yourself buying more L lenses in the future. I handhold the 100-400 without problems. Note that Canon recommends turning off IS on the lens if you use it with a tripod.

One thing that nobody has mentioned is that with the 30D, you will lose autofocus with the 100-400 and an extender so I do not recommend that you go that route.

I haven't been to Madikwe but have been to the Sabi Sands a couple of times and am returning again in 2014. With the ability to go off-road for certain animals, you really get incredibly close. So another option I would consider albeit a more expensive option is to get the 70-200 f2.8 II IS and a 2x III converter which should allow you to maintain autofocus on the 30D. Another advantage is that the 70-200 without the tc will be great in low light. I most often used the 70-200 on a full frame camera on my last trip to the Sabi Sands. It's also one of, if not, the sharpest zoom lens that Canon makes. The nice thing about lenses is that they tend to hold their value well and last for a very long time.

Mytmoss
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8. Re: Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

8 trips to South Africa with 100-400L. I never leave home without it. It is my #1 go to lens for flexibility and that says a lot since I take 3 camera bodies and 7 lenses.

Mike

sydney
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9. Re: Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

By all accounts the 70-300L is actually the new 100-400L. The 100-400 is definitely the traditional safari lens but if I am not mistaken it is 13 years old in it's current incarnation. It is not weather-sealed, and with a push-pull mechanism will suck in a lot of dust. I don't have either lens but the 70-300 has got rave reviews for its optics, weight, size when packed, zoom mechanism etc. I don't think you will need more than 300mm on your camera in the Sabi Sands, as you can get close to the animals but you may miss something wider if you only have 100mm on the crop sensor. Also, you might find that the 70-300 is a better range for all the other shooting you do when you are home.

Another thing to consider, which I have done twice and have been extremely happy with, is to hire a lens in South Africa. In fact, I hired extra bodies and lenses, as well as tripod/other camera support and a flash, from ODP Hire (do a google search). They will deliver directly to the lodge for you. And the prices are extremely reasonable. I went with a 70-200/2.8 and hired a 300/2.8 and a second body and also brought my own wide-angle and macro lenses. The f/2.8 was the most valuable in the Sabi Sands, especially for all the dawn, dusk and night shooting. I hired a photographic host (first time via Sabi Sabi) and the host emailed me before I left and we went through what equipment I had and what I needed.

Have a great time! Either lens will be amazing! Will look forward to a trip report!

sydney
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10. Re: Photography - What size lense? 70-300 or 100-400

Oh, and if you can afford it, to be clear I would suggest the L version of the 70-300 :)