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jit Sep 27th, 2007 05:13 PM

Camera Lens Dilemma
The dilemma is as follows. We are about to buy a camera for our safari but do we go with...a Canon D30 and...
1 Lens: Sigma 18-200mm
Pros: Flexibility, and Less switching
Cons: May not be as good for capturing the
animals compared to 300mm

OR do we go with

2 Lenses: 18-55mm and 70-300mm
Pros: Captures farther shots
Cons: Means more weight, and switching
lenses constantly

My dilemma is as follows: I'm worried that if I go with a 200mm lens, I may not be able to capture the close up shots I want (maybe this is not a concern...I need your feedback on this), but then if I go with a 300mm I'll need to keep switching lenses

What do you think? 1 Lens or 2 Lenses

hills27 Sep 27th, 2007 05:27 PM

I have a 30D and took a Canon 100-400 IS lens on safari and it was perfect. Instead of switching lens while on game drive (which I strongly discourage you from due to the dust), I took a point and shoot digital for the few shots where my 100-400 was too close. I also took my 17-85 but never once used it (or wish I had it) on game drive; I only used it in Cape Town or around the lodge. My mom took a 70-200, but was disappointed that she couldn't get the close ups I got.

If you don't want to spend the money on such an expensive lens, you can rent one. There have been several threads on where you can rent them.

Chris_GA_Atl Sep 27th, 2007 05:37 PM

Of your choices, I think #2 is the better one. Not only do you need the extra reach of the 300mm, but it is also faster than the Sigma 18-200 if my memory is correct, and the reviews on the image quality suggest to me that the 70-300 is better in that regard as well.

Having said that, I totally agree with hills27 that renting or buying a 100-400 will be even better. More reach, good image quality, and excellent flexibility. The image stabilization works really well too. I cannot imagine you wanting to switch to a shorter lens on a game drive -- the only time in a real-life shooting situation that my 100-400 was too long was on a gorilla trek in Rwanda when we were taking gorilla pictures from 5-6 feet away. That won't happen on a game drive, I don't think.

Also, if you are pushed with respect to your budget I think you would be better served to get a Rebel XTi and 100-400 rather than a 30D and 70-300. The 30D is a better body, but I think the XTi with better glass would give you better results overall.


safarichuck Sep 27th, 2007 05:51 PM

jit, I think you have good advice from both posters, 100-400mm L IS is a wonderful solution. Buy a good lens, if you find you don't need it once you return, the reseale will be very easy. By the way, did you know that Canon just introduced a new camera body to replace the 30D. The new body is named 40D and has a lot of nice features. Among these features is a higher frame rate (6.5 frames/second) but even more interesting is a dust shaker and a program to delete dust from your images (a very common problem on safari). It has a host of other imaging quality improvements as well and the cost is only slightly more than the 30D.

mytmoss Sep 27th, 2007 06:04 PM

I too recommend 100-400L. Based on my personal experience, I used my 28-70 zero times for safari. If you plan on visiting cities and other stuff in South Africa, the wide angle might be nice, but in a safari setting, its not too practical. I would not worry about changing lenses to it very often. At a minimum, the 70-300 IS would fit your minimum needs.


Bill_H Sep 27th, 2007 06:07 PM

Option 2 would definitely be my choice ... you'll find that you won't change lenses that much while in the jeep because the 70-300 will be what you use for most of the wildlife shots, and maybe the 18-55 for 'around camp' or landscape shots, so you can change when it's not dusty. Actually it would make a lot of sense to bring TWO cameras (yeah, I know ... cha-ching) in case one breaks, that way you can keep a lens on each body.

The image quality of the Sigma 18-200 simply isn't as good as the other zooms (it's much harder to make a 10:1 zoom than a 3:1 or 4:1 zoom) and you'll really appreciate having 300 mm instead of 200 mm for many of your animal shots.

If you haven't bought the body yet I hear the 40D is a big improvement over the 30D at about the same price.


jit Sep 27th, 2007 06:37 PM

Thanks so much for all the wisdom!
The 40D is a dream at this point (many other expenses)
Chris interesting point about the rebel having a better glass!
I'm convinced that I need a 300 mm now. Is the CANON EF 70-300MM F4-5.6 IS USM LENS a good option? Is the kit lens sufficient for the wide angle 18-55mm? The L series is a bit out of my budget.

jit Sep 27th, 2007 06:39 PM

by the way, amazing pics Chris!

Chris_GA_Atl Sep 27th, 2007 06:47 PM

I don't have any personal experience with the 70-300, but comments I have seen from others suggest it is a good lens. You can see users' opinions of all Canon (and third party) lenses at See what others who have the lens have to say about it there.
With respect to the 18-55, I also have not used it, but there is a useful comparison test of that lens versus other general-purpose lenses for Canon crop-sensor cameras at (it's called the Canon 400D/XTi kit lens upgrade comparison test or something like that).
I also think you misunderstood my comment about the Rebel XTi. It does not have superior glass to the 30D. When I made that comment, what I meant was that you could spend less money on the camera body with a Rebel and then take that money and spend it on "better glass," by which I meant better lenses. I was merely saying that if your budget permitted it, I think you would get better results with an XTi and 100-400 as compared to a 30D and 70-300. A straight-up comparison of camera bodies would, I believe, reveal the 30D to be the superior camera in a number of respects.


Chris_GA_Atl Sep 27th, 2007 06:48 PM

And thank you for the comment on the pictures!


hills27 Sep 27th, 2007 09:28 PM

I did some research a few months back and if I remember correctly, the Canon 70-300 IS got some pretty bad reviews while the 70-200 IS got good reviews. You could always buy the 70-200 and add a 1.4 extender.

Given your dilemna and my awful experience with dust, I think I'd spend my money on the 40D (assuming it has good reviews, I haven't looked at them yet) and rent the Canon 100-400 IS. Just my two cents.

Also, buy a waterproof pillowcase to keep your camera in while not in use while on game drives. It really helps with the dust and doesn't flap around and make a lot of noise.

hills27 Sep 27th, 2007 09:32 PM

Btw, here are some of my pics taken with a 30D and the 100-400 IS.

Note, they are unedited, unprocessed, just the straight out of the camera JPEG versions. And they are not necessarily the best pictures from the trip but more of an indication of what we saw (because everybody was bugging me incessantly). It will take me months to edit/process the RAW versions. I took over 3,000 photos!

hills27 Sep 27th, 2007 09:33 PM

Would help if I posted the link, huh?

(Been working too late....I should be asleep instead of posting, but I'm wired after work).

pixelpower Sep 28th, 2007 12:21 AM

Option no. 2 all the way. 200mm is too short, and that sigma's AF speed is so slow you're not going to be able to focus on ANYTHING moving.

If I may give you a tip; go for the kitlens (like 2nd hand 50$, but perfect for landscapes, don't worry), and a 35-350L. This is a lens that is no longer produced, but can be found 2nd hand for like 700-800$. It's L-quality, has an enormous zoom range (no lens switches needed during the safari, for any animal, but only for landscapes), and it has a VERY fast AF.
We've been able to test it on safari, and IMHO if your budget is limited, there is no better lens for a safari. Compared to a Sigma 50-500, it has one stop more light and an AF that is much faster. Compared Compared to an 100-400 it is much cheaper, and apparently the last 50mm on that 100-400 is not that great. Compared to any other non-L or non-Canon lens of the same price, it gives better results.
When you buy one, make sure to have a good one: no worn connections, and intact lens coatings -> apparently there's one serie that have an internal lens coating problem but you can easily spot it by looking through the rear glass element.

Have fun!

scubadoo Sep 28th, 2007 12:53 AM

I am going next month. I have the XTi and a 70-300, however just to be safe I am renting a 100-400. Great prices and good service at

npederse Sep 29th, 2007 08:20 AM

I'm going to echo the recommendation for the longer lens -- 200mm isn't enough for most shots from a vehicle.

I used Sigma's 170-400mm. I don't know that I'd recommend that particular lens, but the reach is great.

mkhonzo Sep 29th, 2007 08:30 AM

I would like to add that it depends entirely on where you will conduct your safari.

If you are headed for the Sabi Sands a 70 - 200 type zoom would be ideal. Your decision should be governed by the F stop as the best photography is arguably in the early morning and late afternoon. In addition with a wide open aperture you will isolate the game from the background.

The D30 is super and if you go with a lesser lens the ISO setting will enable you to compensate for the low light condition, however giving you a grainier image, which in itself can be artistic.

I recommend a short lens and a longer lens in the kit bag. 1.5 x extender, nice to have for the range, but it compromises f stops etc.

cary999 Sep 29th, 2007 09:38 AM

300mm or 400mm? I haven't made an actual comparison of image sizes using both lengths but can't be a huge difference. No difference so great that a little cropping in PS wouldn't take care of. I would bet that a good sharp 300mm image could be cropped into a very good 600mm equivalent image. In fact, I'd rather not have such a "tight" image but wait until PS to crop and make minor changes to composition. But it is a habit I find hard to break being left over from 35mm chrome days. You birders, you know you crop a lot, what are your experiences?

regards - tom

Chris_GA_Atl Sep 29th, 2007 10:31 AM

Tom, my experience with cropping in the context of wildlife photography has convinced me that it is not an adequate substitute for focal length. I get much better pictures, for example, with my 100-400 of a subject that occupies much of the sensor frame than I could with my 70-200/2.8 cropped down, even though the 70-200 is unquestionably sharper.

Also, ability to crop is highly dependent on lens quality and a good technical execution of the shot (i.e., absolutely no camera shake or subject motion blur, focus right on). Particularly since the context of this thread is a discussion of the consumer-level 70-300 zoom, I don't think cropping is a reliable alternative to having more focal length. If the lens under consideration was the 300/4L, I think it would be more viable, but even then I think the results with a 1.4xTC would still be better than cropping. The TC isn't an option with the 70-300, of course, since it is too slow.
All of that is a long-winded way of saying that I think the difference between 300mm and 400mm is significant, especially if the lenses being discused are the 70-300 and 100-400.


afrigalah Sep 29th, 2007 12:57 PM

Chris is right, cropping is not a substitute, Tom. Mostly, only wildlife enthusiasts (such as birders) who are merely looking for adequate 'record' shots would crop. I crop if I need a shot of a species or an activity (such as my one and only image of a cheetah bringing its prey down) I haven't recorded before, but keep cropping to a bare minimum because of its adverse effect on image quality.


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