Camera Recommendation

May 15th, 2007, 05:34 AM
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Camera Recommendation

This question has been asked before and discusse to death, so let me ask it again, perhaps for the final time. I shall be visiting SNLP in Zambia in July and Mashatu/Ngala/Pafuri in September and doing a lot of walking at both locations.

I am looking to upgrade from my film SLR's to DLSR's with a total budget of £1000. I use a Canon 28-80 USM and Canon 70-300 f4-5.6 USM III lens with the film camera and am considering options for the new kit. Where possible I'd like to stick with a single lens for a days walking as the option of changing lenses while walking is neither practical nor a comfortable.

Canon -
400D (Rebel XTi) has good reviews and definitely a contender. However I'd like to consider something higher up the range, but the 30D is due for replacement so will give that a miss. That essentially leaves only the Canon 400D to consider. Is using the 400D body with the current 70-300 lens even an option considering that the lens isnt image stabilized not a very fast one? If not, what lens should consider. The 400D (body only) is about £375 in the UK and the 400D + 18-55 kit lens is about £400-420. That leaves me about £400 for a lens. Any recommendations for a good Image stabilised lens?

Nikon -
I have always had Canon cameras and lenses, so this is new territory for me. I have looked at the D40x and the D80. I was quite impressed with the feel of the D80. Bought with an 18-135 Nikon image stabilised lens, the D80 costs about £725 in the UK. Any opinions on this? Any other recommendations?

I have briefly looked into the Canon S3 IS P&S. While its a very good piece of kit and very reasonably priced too, I would feel constrained without an SLR.

Any advise will be appreciated.
amolkarnik is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 04:15 AM
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Go to the link above and read until you are tired of reading. You will get all the answers you need.

Good luck.
dssxxxx is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 11:24 PM
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With £1000 to spend I think I'd go for the Canon 30D and the new 70-300mm IS lens. Total price from Warehouse Express is £1028 - but Canon's Chaback offer brings that down to £930.

Just because the 30D is due for replacement (in 4 or 5 months) doesn't stop it from being a great camera. And it really is a much nicer bit of kit to use than the 400D.
fbirder is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 12:53 AM
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I think you are on the right track here with Canon. Why? because the high ISO performance of the Canon's is generally much better. That is why most wildlife shooters go for Canon. Nikon is great for portrait/wedding etc where high ISO is not so much of an issue. With the 30D you can go upto 1600ISO with very acceptable results. You can see some of my pics with the 30D at The shot of the leopard walking down the road "IMG 4067" is taken at ISO 1250. I have seen ISO 800 shots from a Nikon D200 and they were very noisy in camparison.

400D/30D? I am really surprised at how many persons as this question. The two cannot be really compared. 30D is a superb piece of equipment capable of shooting at 5fps and much tougher built camera than the 400D. Shooting speed is critical when capturing wildlife. Don't let speculation of new upgrades put you off buying the 30D. In anycase a new upgrade will also come at a much higher price! The difference between 8.2MP and 10MP is really a non issue when it comes to making enlargements/prints.

Mohammed is online now  
May 17th, 2007, 04:59 AM
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I too shall be in SLNP in July and will be doing a bit of walking there. I'll be doing some walking in other destinations as well -- Madagascar & SA. I am taking a Canon 20D and 5D and a complement of telephoto & WA lenses but I was actually thinking that I would use my little SD800 IS when walking. Maybe I should rethink that? Are you planning -- do people recommend -- one of those harnesses I read about here? I don't want to spoil the quiet-creep-and-peep of the bush by fiddling with gear, but of course, I don't want to miss anything either!
Pula is offline  
May 17th, 2007, 09:03 AM
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On my walks I carried two EOS3 bodies (yes, still a bit in the dark ages with film), with the 24-105mm L IS on one, and the 300mm L IS w/1.4 converter on the other. Also a P&S Olympus 800 Stylus. No harness, no need to change lenses. Yes, a bit of a load, but really not bad, and I didn't have to change lenses. I'd recommend a wide angle zoom on the full frame 5d and your tele on the 20d. The image stabilization (IS) was a godsend allowing me to get sharp pix that would have been impossible otherwise. All these pix were taken with one lens or the other.

steeliejim is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 06:06 AM
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Thanks to those who chipped in.

I am no closer to a decision than I was last week.

Canon seems to be severely lacking a multipurpose super-zoom in its lineup. I can sort out the Canon 30D+70-300 IS lens for around £1000, but that still leaves me with the problem of carrying around more than 1 lens and tinkering around with it. I feel, that this diverts attention from game viewing. Does anyone have an opinion of the Sigma 18-200 (f3.5-6.3 I think) lens with the 400D? The reviews rate is as a decent lens but with shortcomings but are they so severe that my leopards look like wild cats?

Jim - Those pictures are superd but unfortunately carrying more than one camera body is out of the question for me. I dont want to spend that kind of money or effort on photography. Does this make me an ideal P&S candidate?

I am still attracted to the D80 + 18-135 lens or D80+18-200 VR lens kit..
amolkarnik is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 06:51 AM
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Nikon has some good digital SLR's. However, for wildlife photography, the low noise of the Canon D20 and D30 are hard to beat. With telephoto lenses and zoom lenses in particular, you will be at samll aperatures. This will require you to boost your ISO settings to a fairly high level. The Nikons are significantly noiser at high ISO so be prepared. Your intentions seem to suggest you would be better off with one of the neweer Canon (S5si IS) advanced point and shoots. I'm a big fan of SLR's but I have seen wonderful results withe the forerunner to this Canon model. With a 12X optical zoom capability, image stabilization and decent high ISO (for a small sensor point and shoot) you will get a hudge bang for the buck. I think to get equal performance from a SLR you would have to exceed your budget.
Best of Luck, Chuck
safarichuck is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 07:25 AM
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Since you already have Canon glass, I'd tend to stick with a Canon body, and the 30d can be had for under $900. US. Don't know what you would have to pay in UK. If you go Nikon, by all means get as long a tele as you can afford. In lieu of a short lens for closeups, you might consider a P&S. Yes, a second camera, but small, light, and easily accessible. Good for around camp, environmental shots (sense of place, where you are not trying to fill the frame with the animal/bird), and my little Olympus Stylus takes surprisingly good closeuups.

The options you list for the Nikon, max 200mm, are too short, IMO, esp. for walks where you will be limited by safety considerations as to how close you can get to animals.
steeliejim is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 07:35 AM
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Some of these comments apply to Pula's post as well.

If you have used SLRs in the past you will probably feel more comfortable with a digital SLR and if you stick with Canon it is easy to make the transition as the balance and layout have similarities. I converted from a Canon EOS3 to what was the 10D and currently use the 5D with the 20D as a back up. The Canon DSLR felt good in the hand immediately.

Compact (or point and shoot) cameras have come on in leaps and bounds but, unless things have changed, you will always get a better quality image with a Canon DSLR compared with a Canon compact of similar mega pixels simply because of the construction and size of the sensor. This will become evident if you blow up (or crop which is the same effect).

Although I take 2 cameras with me, this is mainly in case one fails (which touch wood it hasn't), but frankly I take over 99% of my shots with a Canon 100-400 IS lens on the end of my 5D. And we're talking 4,000 images. My advice is that you should be wary of relying on anything less than a 300mm lens, especially if you are walking as normally you won't get as close to most animals as if you're in a vehicle. Most of my safaris involve travelling in a Landrover and the 100-400 is not too long a lens - if you're too close, you simply get the driver to move back! I'd think twice about using a 200mm on a walking safari.

I agree with fbirder that the 30D and 70-300 IS with cashback from Warehouse Express is a good bet and as he said it's still going to be a very good camera when it's replaced. You'll be using it for years as it's a good build and sticking with an SLR will of course allow you to buy new lenses when budgets (and partner!) allow. By the way, I've used Warehouse Express many times - they're fine.

Also, Jim's advice to go with IS (image stabilisation) will pay dividends.

I know an SLR is a lot to carry around (use a rucksack) on a walking safari but I've done it and it will more than be repaid in the quality of images you'll take with the 30D and 70-300 IS. It's a great piece of kit.

Hope that helps and have a great time.

Chui is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 07:44 AM
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Which wide angle zoom do you like on the 5D?

Cheweyhead is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 08:07 AM
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I have tried the P&S's and it just doesnt 'feel right' thus the inclination for the SLR.

If I was to get the 30D with the 70-300 IS USM (is this a good lens?), I'd have a very good camera for long distance photography. Am I correctly assuming that the IS feature on the lens would compensate camera shake at what would effectively be 480mm (35mm eq)? While I accept that a Nikon lens with a max zoom of 200mm (300 for 35mm eq) isnt going to be fantastic for walking expect saving myself the hassle of changing lenses, I was perhaps thinking of a 100% crop to achieve whats effectively 400mm equivalent (or 600 for 35mm) zoom. Am I making sense?

I will still need a lens for shooting at wider angles. What do I do about that? Again the Canon 17-85 IS USM lenses are very good, but I am looking at £££ and the effort of carrying 2 lenses on the walk. Or is the smaller of the 2 lenses not needed? Can I get away with my existing 28-90 USm lens?

Please bear in mind guys that unlike a lot of you, I am not a huge fan of photography. I like carrying a decent camera and I like playing around with the camera setting with the hope of getting a picture worth showing off.

Am I being too anal about carrying 2 lenses?
amolkarnik is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 09:09 AM
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My newest acquisition is, indeed, a 100-400mm IS Canon lens and I'm a bit intimidated by it! Sure there might be bigger lenses out there, but compared to what else I one, this thing is HUGE and is going to take some getting used to! Any tips? Do you use anything for extra support (monopod, beanbag, clamp?) or just count on the IS? My trip is roughly half driving and half walking.
Pula is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 09:37 AM
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Chewyhead (gotta be a story behind that name),

On safari I used my EF 24-105mm F/4.0 which is very highly regarded. My friend who is a wonderful photog with cameras all the way up to 4x5, got one with his 5d and loves it. It's very versatile.

The near ground level shot of the winterthorn pods (see link above) was shot with at 24mm (would have been even better if I hadn't been too lazy to lay on my stomach.

Since getting back I bought the canon ef 20mm f/2.8 lens. Here's a review.

With your full frame 5d, that whould give me as wide an angle capability as I would ever want.

After getting a 20mm for my old T-90 and F-1n film slr's many years ago, I never put my old 28mm lens on the camera again.

Other photogs go even wider, but one complaint of Canon is that they don't have a non-fisheye prime super wide angle lens. My 20 mm is just fine for my use. Wouldn't be wide enough though if I was shooting an slr with a crop factor sensor though. I guess that's why Canon developed the EF-S series.
steeliejim is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 10:35 AM
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There are 2 Canon 70-300 lenses. The more expensive (the DO IS USM version) is the better one and so more expensive. You tend to get what you pay for but whether it's worth twice the IS USM version is subjective - it depends on what values you use to compare. Different people will have different views on incremental increases in quality vs price.

The IS feature will compensate (but not eliminate) for some camera shake. The system is very effective. The older versions gave you 2 stops, the newer ones 3 or 4 stops - check on their website.

You can always crop as you suggest. The quality will depend on how big the finished print will be and of course the quality of the original e.g. sharpness. But if you want to blow up and display them I guess there's no substitute for having the original closer to start with i.e. by using a longer lens.

Jumping now to your last question - yes, I think so which partly answers your question about the 28-90 lens. If you want to be careful with £s - we all have to watch these - then go with that. Safaris are addictive and I doubt it will be your last so you can always get a better shorter zoom next time. Invest in the better long distance one this time to get better close ups of animals. You'll see some fantastic landscapes but I for one can never seem to do full justice to these and capture these as well as the animals themselves. That's my view anyway but others may think differently.

When it's hot and you've already walked a few miles you might curse me for suggesting you take two lenses but as I said earlier it will pay dividends.


The 100-400 is my utility lens and I couldn't be without it. Yes a nice 500 mm IS prime lens is better but it weighs a ton and costs an arm and a leg. Just practice with it as much as you can at home and you'll get used to it - honestly! In the vehicle I've often used it without a bean in good light with a reasonably high shutter speed as the IS is good. More recently though I've taken a bean bag. On a walking safari, you may need to carry a monopod if it's not sunny or lean against a tree for support.

By the way, with a bean bag, check out with your tour operator beforehand whether these are available (get them to fax out to the camp/drivers, don't accept at face value). If in doubt, sew up a canvas bag before you go, leaving a small opening, then fill it with rice from the camp when you get there. Sand will do. This saves on luggage weight.


Chui is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 10:49 AM
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You will love the 100-400mm lens. When you are in a converntial vehicle (as in Tanzania) use a bean bag on the roof top. However, that isn't practical when walking or in an open vehicle as in Botswana. A Monopod works O.K. though. To get the best setup, go to the Really Right Stuff website and study their recommendation for monopod attachment. Using their quick release lever and a manfrotto swivel head, you can pretty much handle any situation. Nothing will work as well as a really stable platform like a tripod but a beanbag can come pretty darn close. When walking with it, remember that as you zoom out to a longer focal length, stabilization becomes even more critical. The built in IS is very helpful but it has limits. By the way, most people find that if the light permits, the 100-400 is best stopped down 1 or 2 F stops. Enjoy the lens, it is ideal for safari.
safarichuck is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 12:42 PM
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With Canon, it's going to be hard to get away with a single "superzoom". They do have one, it's the 35-350mm L lens, but it's very expensive and very heavy. The trouble here is the 1.6 crop factor on the consumer bodies. Even a 35mm lens would be the equivalent of around 53mm which isn't very wide at all.

Juggling two zooms shouldn't be a problem, dependent on your photographic objectives. When I'm out shooting wildlife, I'll do most of my work through the long telephoto. I only pull out the wider angles when I want to shoot landscapes or general travel photography (pictures of people, places, monuments, buildings, etc...). Usually, when I'm doing general travel photography, I'll have the time and leisure to switch lenses. If I'm out wildlife viewing, then I'll have my telephoto mounted and ready to go.

An alternative would be to take the 30D plus 70-300mm lens; and a P&S for those wider shots. A small, pocketable P&S in your shirt pocket isn't much to fumble with when you want to get a quick shot of people or whatever; and you don't have to change lenses. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of P&S cameras that go as wide as 28mm (Panasonic makes some good ones, and Canon has 1-2), but for general purposes 35-105 cameras should be fine.

However, as you noted, if you're really not into photography, but then perhaps one of the superzoom P&S will serve you just fine. The main difference is going to be ergonomics. I have yet to handle a P&S that can match the ergonomics of a good DSLR. I guess my question here would be, what are your photographic objectives? What do you want to shoot? Wildlife? General travel? And, and what do you need the gear for afterwards? Family snapshots? What do you want to do with the pictures? Print them? What size prints? Put them on the web?
lifelist is offline  
May 21st, 2007, 01:02 PM
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I may be hissed off this thread, but a couple of disclaimers first -

I used Nikon film SLRs for 30+ years (still have a cherry Photomic I in the closet) and think the Nikkor lenses (like the 105mm and 55 Macro) remain to this day some of the finest photo lenses ever.

I worked as a pro briefly before I got sick of babies, weddings, and hypo blisters all over my hands.

Traveled all over hell with two bodies, five or so lenses, umpteen filters and tubes and bottles of goo and related cargo.


Bought a wimpy 1.5mp digital, then a 3mp cigarette-pack Canon, then a Lumix, then another Lumix, then another Lumix - current one is now (I think) obsolete - FZ7 - but with the 12x zoom, full auto to pretty much full manual controls, nice Leica lens, image stabiliz(s)ation, weighs as much as a feather, and pretty skookum (Alaskan for stout) - haven't looked back.

Main thing is silent shutter option, great zoom capability, light weight meaning you don't need to brace it here and there, or walk through the bush with it pulling your neck down toward your knees... and GREAT images (provided you take great pictures) when you download them...

I paid US$400 for mine, probably cheaper now, so a lot of change from £1000. Just a thought.

Gardyloo is online now  
May 21st, 2007, 05:04 PM
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You could consider a third party lens such as Tamron's Zoom Wide Angle-Telephoto AF 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di LD Aspherical IF Macro Autofocus Lens for Canon EOS. You can get it for about 400 USD. Maybe because of the digital crop factor, this still won't be wide enough for you...but so much about photography is compromise, and if your interest level is not high enough to walk with two lenses, it may be worth consideration. Look for reviews, and even try a lens out before buying if you can.

afrigalah is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 12:16 PM
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Thanks everyone. I shall be ruling out the P&S for anything other that casual snaps. SLR's are certainly the way to go. They just feel right.

I walked over to Jessops today to have a play with the 30D and to be honest found it to be a bit too much for my level of knowledge and interest in photography. I have decided that better lenses with a cheaper body will make a better combination than a better body with cheaper lenses. I can always upgrade the body if I take to digital photography in a bigger way. I intend to buy the 400D with the kit 18-55 (or budget permitting the 17-85 IS USM) and the 70-300 IS USM (the less expensive one).

I shall be carrying a P&S for 'snaps' and could use the DSLR with the wide lens for casual pictures.

Any thoughts on this?
amolkarnik is offline  

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