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Digital cameras you are considering for upcoming safari???

Digital cameras you are considering for upcoming safari???

Mar 30th, 2005, 12:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,218
A tripod can be useful with 400 lenses in some cases but it's not accurate to say you HAVE to have one. IF you spend the money for an IS 400 lens, you may find less of a need for tripod. AND/OR if you buy a "fast" lens, that is one with a large maximum aperture (e.g. f1.8 or such) you may find less of a need for tripod. In good strong light you will be able to achieve fast enough shutter speeds to hand hold. However, I personally tend to try not to use lenses of more than 300mm focal length without some support as it is harder to avoid shake.

I'm torn as to whether you should go down the dSLR route at all, Rocco. Don't get me wrong, I know you're dedicated to maximising every aspect of your Africa trips but... forgive me if I'm making assumptions... I'm just not convinced you're REALLY willing to invest the TIME it will take to really get to know your SLR and accessories well enough to justify the purchase.

If you WILL invest the time, I'd opt for the RebelXT over the 20D. It's very significantly smaller and lighter and IF (big IF) you really get into the whole SLR thing, you can upgrade the body in a year or two, using the same lenses and keeping the XT as a back up body.

If, on the other hand, you don't HONESTLY envisage putting that time in, I'd go for a GOOD point and shoot. I know nothing about the model you suggest but I have read excellent reviews for the one I put forward earlier in the thread, FZ something or other?, which also offers a SUPERB zoom plus a reasonably good selection of manual setting controls.
Kavey is offline  
Mar 30th, 2005, 01:15 PM
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Why not purchase the Canon 300D instead of either the 350D or the 20D? The price of the 300D has come down significantly since the 350D was released, and the 300D is still a great camera. I'm a novice and just bought the 300D with 18-55 lens for CDN$850.

If you find that you still want to upgrade in year or two, buy the 20D as Kavey suggests and you'll have two bodies.
Avogadro is offline  
Mar 30th, 2005, 01:32 PM
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I will not enter the debate on what camera etc to purchase. What i will talk about is the 100-400 and tripod issue.

The 100-400 is capable of being handheld, though after a while, it will begin to ache. For walking a tripod is out. YOu are not going to have the time to put down your tripod and compose that perfect picture. Many interactions are brief so shooting will be from the hip.

I would recommend you look at a monpod. Whilst walking you could use it as a hiking stick too. This manfrotto is self standing too, you cant leave your 100-400 on it like a tripod, but it gives it some good support. THe legs can be folded away too, to its just a normal monopod!


I personally think the assitant in the shop is taking you for a ride. There is no need for a tripod, unless you are out there for a long time doing lots of long exposure/ landscape work. Its not worth dropping $400 on for this trip. Save it for when you are more experienced.

My second point would be one of ergomonics. How does this woman in the shop expect a tripod to fit in the vehicle! The monopod will work in the vehicle too, giving you support you may need.

Finally, like a tripod, i would recommend getting a good head for that monopod. A ball is the best for safari because of the movement it gives you


here is an example of the types available to you. Make sure that it can take the weight of your equipment. If you purchase one with QUICK RELEASE a quick pull on a lever and the camera is again in your hands.

tell the woman in ritz cameras this is what you want. It should cost you no moer than $120 and you will dramatically improve your picture quality

backtoafrica is offline  
Mar 31st, 2005, 06:14 AM
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the sales lady at Ritz camera does not have a clue about what she is talking about. The 100-400 mm IS is an "old" design and the image stabilisation can not be used with a tripod!!!!
If you have reasonably stabile hands you will not have a problem handholding the camera.
I have taken app 5000 shots (handheld) with a Canon eos 10d and the 100 -400 mm IS with a lot of them taken during low light situation (early morning and late afternoon). I am guessing that 50-100 pictures are no good due to camera shake and a few hundred are not 100% sharp but still very usable.
A monopod would help but I prefer the flexibility in handholding the camera
mv is offline  
Mar 31st, 2005, 07:56 AM
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Thanks for all the feedback.

I just wish that a point & shoot would appear on the market that was just slightly better than the Nikon Coolpix 8800. So far, the Nikon appears to be the best one out there with 8 megapixel and the equivalent of 35mm - 350mm lens.

The Panasonic FZ20 looks like a solid camera but it is only 5.0 megapixel. Its zoom is slightly better than the Nikon Coolpix 8800 and the price is definitely better, but I am concerned about limiting myself to 5.0 megapixel.

Knowing me, I will probably just splurge on the Canon 20D, although it is really out of my price range. It was just amazing how fast this camera took pictures (I tested it at Ritz Camera). There was not a game drive that went by where I would not have benefited from a better zoom, a higher megapixel and definitely more frames per second.

Now, has anybody dared taking such a camera canoeing? I know the odds are slim that a hippo or croc will capsize the canoe, or that it will flip due to lack of balance, but the risk is there. I guess I should probably be no more worried about that then I would be dropping it when an elephant surprises the vehicle, or when an awkward step is taken in an elephant spoor.

Canon 20D
100-400mm IS lens
Upgraded flash system (HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS?)
Ample Memory
Ample Batteries
Quality Download System (Ritz Camera told me a good one would cost $500...any opinions?)
Camera Case (Hard or Soft?)

The Canon 20D just seemed so awesome next to the Canon Digital Rebel XT. I would probably sooner go with a point and shoot than the Digital Rebel XT, although I know that picture quality would be about the same as with the 20D.
Roccco is offline  
Mar 31st, 2005, 08:20 AM
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Upgraded flash system (HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS?)
Quality Download System (Ritz Camera told me a good one would cost $500...any opinions?)
Camera Case (Hard or Soft?)

Flash - if you don't take pictures at night you can live without it. I used flash only a couple of times the last 2 time I went. Wait and get it later if you want.

Monopod - I take one with me but it's hard to use in the game drive vehicle. (You'll see.) For walking it might be good.

Quality Download System - do Not need to spend $500. No way.

Camera Case - I use a well made backpack ($30-40) and use foam from fabric store for padding.

Whatever you do - do not pack this stuff in your luggage. Take it as carry-on. I have one of the special photography rolling backpacks ($350-400) but it's very heavy. Last year going to Italy and Africa I used a $20 rolling 18" or 20" suitcase from discount store to pack the camera gear in and it fits overhead easily. Then I transferred the camera and lenses into the cheap but sturdy backpack to carry around.

sundowner is offline  
Mar 31st, 2005, 11:11 AM
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Hi Rocco,

I've spent a fair amount of time trying to get a good photo gear setup for an upcoming safari and thought I would share some toughts.

>>I just wish that a point & shoot would appear on the market that was just slightly better than the Nikon Coolpix 8800.

This is a common plea on photographic forums, but the convetional wisdom is that these DSLR-like cameras are getting squeezed out by better and cheaper true DSLRs. Canon now sells the rebel/300D for less than the 8800 and Nikon will soon release a lower priced DSLR as well. The problem is that there are real limits to what can be done with the super small sensors that are used in cameras like the 8800 and FZ20 - they simply have high noise and poor dynamic range.

If you want to minimize your costs, why don't you forego the 17-85 IS lens and just use the kit lens. It only costs $100 or less when bought with the camera and goes from 18-55. Its true the quality isn't exciting but the large majority of your photos will be taken with the 100-400 anyway.

>>The Canon 20D just seemed so awesome next to the Canon Digital Rebel XT. I would probably sooner go with a point and shoot than the Digital Rebel XT, although I know that picture quality would be about the same as with the 20D.

I'm not sure why you prefer the 20D so much? Because it was bigger? The XT blows away any point and shoot. For a novice user, I would suggest that the only real difference of the XT vs 20D is the size and the 3 frames per second for XT vs 5 frames in 20D. For that small difference you pay upwards of $300. (NB for a serious photographer there are a lot of other differences, but for someone use to a point and shoot that is what I see as being different).

I don't know if someone has mentioned this (I tried to read through the whole thread), but the 100-400L on the XT and 20D has an equivalent focal length of 640mm. The LZ20 at its longest zoom has an equivalient focal length of 432mm. While not a deal-breaker this is significant. The Nikon only has 350mm, so the Canon lens really blows it away.

Another thing that I'm not sure was really discussed was how the noise issue of point and shoot digitals impacts low light photography. Because you will be taking a lot of photos in the early morning and in the evening, you won't have optimum light. In order to get a fast enough shutter speed to take a picture without camera shake problems, you boost up the ISO (sensitivity of the sensor - like the speed of the film). The XT goes to 1600 and the 20D to 3200 (note this is the equivalent of one extra "stop", because you double the iso for each stop). The LZ20 only goes to 400 and many would say that the noise at 400 is worse than the Canons at their highest setting. All this to say that the Canons give you significantly superior bad light shooting capability.

>>Upgraded flash system (HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS?)

As part of my decision process, I dropped this off the list, but its a tough one, since you will probably want to use fill flash with protraits of African people even during the day. However, for using a flash with a long lense, you really need an extender (see one here: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...r_beamer.shtml) and that just wasn't for me.

>>Monopod: If you are doing a lot of photography from the vehicle, I would get a good been bag like this: http://www.kinesisgear.com/r.html
If you are doing a lot of walking, a good monopod would be essential (you can shoot from the hip in a pinch, but there will be times when you stop and watch and then it will take all the weigh off your arms).

I apologize if I am repeating anyone here. As a final though, I decided on the XT & the 100-400 as my main safari combo. I will be getting other lenses (10-22, sigma 18-50/2.8) but my budget is a bit more than yours.

My suggestion to keep your budget would be the XT with kit 18-55 lens and the 100-400L. This is a relatively simple setup that will give you a great safari package.

If you think you might consider buying the lens used, a great place where photographers trade equipment is http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/board/10 .

As a final point, I will address two things in your original post:
>> Also, is there anybody knowledgable enough to tell me if there is any really great camera scheduled to come out in the next 3 - 4 months that is worth waiting for its debut?

Nikon seems poised to launch the D50 which looks to be a little cheaper than their current D70. But it may not make it out in time for your to have some time to use it before your trip, so probably not worth it. Check out dpreview.com for more info.

>>Thanks (and again, user-friendliness is key).

DSLRs aren't that hard to learn, but to take time and effort to get good results. There are always people on dpreview that upgraded to a DSLR and complain the pictures aren't as good as their point and shoot.

sunny_days is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2005, 11:52 PM
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Thanks for all the continued feedback.

I am 95% sure that I will, after all, be going with the Canon Digital Rebel XT. I went to a different Ritz Camera, and the saleswoman at this one seemed to know a lot more. Plus, I was able, for the first time, to see the Digital Rebel XT in black, rather in that nasty silver color.

Like most responding in this forum, the Ritz saleswoman said that it would be a shame if I went with a point & shoot such as the Coolpix 8800 or the Panasonic FZ20 over a DSLR.

Now, my next dilemma is whether I should spend $1,400 on the 100-400mm IS "L" glass lens, or whether I should instead settle for the Canon 75-300mm IS lens for $400, and then spend an additional $300 on a 1.4x Teleconvertor.

How many people think it is worth spending double on the 100-400mm "L" glass IS lens than on a 75-300mm IS lens plus a 1.4x teleconvertor?

Roccco is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 01:23 AM
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the 75-300 is significantly inferior. You will be disappointed with the overall quality of the pictures when you compare the two. The Contrast etc of the L glass is superb. With the digital crop factor of the 100-400, you get a 640mm. Which is a significant length of lens.

In regard to the tele-converter. The L series converters do not work on the 75-300mm so the quality is lacking. You image will certainly degrade becasue of it. It is a slow lens to begin, like the 100-400, with a tele-converter you will lose another stop, making it a slug. You would only be able to photo in really light conditions. The chances are you could not use it during late afternoon becasue of too slow a shutter speeds. Could whack up the ISO but that is a waste.

Go for the 100-400. You will be dissappointed with the 75-300mm +tele. Over there you will be regretting your decision, come back and upgrade. At this point you lose money selling on your 75-300. GO on somewhere like EBay and see how many are for sale! Why? becasue people want the L glass.

If you go to www.fredmiranda.com they have a review/feedback on each lens. Most say, you will sell this lens within 6 months of buying it. IT is the same spec as the 75-300 USM III, except you pay for the IS.
backtoafrica is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 06:32 AM
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I just bought the Canon 300D. This is my first SLR, but I'm really enjoying the camera. We're going on safari early next year and I've started to research telephoto lens options. For Canon lenses, I've narrowed my options to the 75-300 ISM USM or the 70-200 f4 (which is L glass). The price difference is only about CDN$200, but the 70-200 is a much superior lens. My plan would be to couple the 70-200 with a 1.4 teleconverter, putting the total cost near CDN$1,200. My only concern is the absence of IS. For this reason, I'm now looking at Sigma lens options.

Any thoughts?
Avogadro is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 06:50 AM
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I just thought I would chime in again on people thinking of the cost of the 100-400L or really any expensive lens. If you buy a "L" professional series lens from Canon and take care of it, you can resell it for little loss. That is what I plan to do for the 100-400L I get because I really only have use for it on safari.

So you buy new for about US$1400 (at a reputable online merchant like B&H - I have actually been to there NYC store and its huge!). You should be able to resell for between $1150 and $1200. If you keep it mint and still have part of the warranty when you sell it, you might even get $1300.

Backtoafrica mentionned fredmiranda.com, they have a great buy-sell forum. http://www.adorama.com/CA100400ISU.h...-400&item_no=2

You can even do what I am planning - buy used and resell used and lose maybe $50-100.

Note that if you buy canon consumer lenses (ie. 70-300 IS) or third party lenses, the drop from new to used is significantly greater. They can be decent lenses, but plan on keeping them.

Here's a 100-400L that just sold for $1200 (although shipping included in that). http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic2/202215

As you can guess, my advice is to go for the 100-400L and resell if afterwards if cost is an issue.


p.s. Rocco - the black really does make a difference

p.p.s. On rereading your post I realized I could have more directly addressed your question. If you want to minimize cost, the 70-300 IS is an option but I wouldn't bother with the teleconverter as it will just be too slow - poor focusing and blur from camera shake. I definitly think the 100-400 is worth it if you can afford it.
sunny_days is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 12:00 PM
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I cannot thank all of you enough who have responded to this thread. I did not have the first clue about SLR cameras when I first started this thread, but now I feel like I have learned quite a bit (although there is still an immense amount to learn).

I am pretty certain that I am going to go with the following:

Canon Digital Rebel XT w/ 18-55 lens that is included in most packages.

100-400mm "L" glass IS lens


Downloading device that allows me to view pictures

A couple extra batteries

An adaptor that allows me to charge my batteries in the vehicle

About 5MB of memory. This may be too much but I am just going to go "buck wild" on this trip with the photos. I mean I want to just hold my finger on that button and take 15 pictures in a 5 second period now that I will have the camera capable of doing so!

Lens hood

Filters (I still need help on which filters would be appropriate. It will be getting dry and dusty by September in Zambia)

Camera Case

---I will hold off on an expensive 17-85mm IS lens that I want. I just don't think I can afford the extra $500 right now. I will also hold off on a flash system, saving another $300 - $500.

Hopefully I can build my camera to the above specifications for about $3,500. I should be getting the camera and 18-55mm lens for my birthday tomorrow, or at least shortly thereafter. Then, it is up to me to get the rest of the stuff.

Once I do get my zoom lens, I will be over at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the San Diego Zoo almost immediately to test it out.

Roccco is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 06:40 AM
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Just a couple more questions...

How much extra would you spend to buy the camera at a nearby store than you would pay for it online?

Ritz Camera will charge me $999 + tax, while I can get it for about $200 less online (I will pay no sales tax and save about $100+ on the actual camera).

Also, are there any lenses comparable in quality to the 100-400mm L glass IS lens made by others? How do Sigma's lenses measure up. They make a SIGMA AF 50-500MM F4-6.3 EX APO RF HSM (SLR LENSES) 86C but I have no idea what all those letters mean. This lens is about $500 less than the Canon 100-400mm lens but I have no idea about the difference in quality.

Roccco is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 10:59 AM
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Hi Rocco,

You know you are well on your way when the questions don't have at least relatively easy answers.

With respect to the lenses, it is really hard to say. The lens you refer to is affectionately known as the 'Bigma' and many like it. The other option is a Sigma lens that is very similar in type to the 100-400L, the sigma 80-400mm OS.

The best resources are reviews on fredmiranda.com:

Also, searching through the Canon lens forum on Dpreview will have some info.

Photographyreview.com may also be helpful.

I'll throw a little 'conventional' wisdom at you. The bigma is 1 pound heavier than the canon, which is already a little more than 3 pounds. It is also a little "slower" (higher max aperture), and doesn't have image stabalization. This makes it a little less desirable for lower light, hand held shots. Since I am just gearing up for my first safari, I can't tell you how effective using a beanbag to rest the camera on so I don't know how much an issue this is.

The sigma 80-400 is considered to focus a little slower and be a bit heavier, than the Canon lens. However, some have found that in the long end, 300-400 it may actually be sharper than the Canon. It is about $400 cheaper, maybe more. It has the optical stabalization that many say is probably just as good as the canon. One other difference is that both sigma's use the twist-turn zoom that most lenses use but Canon uses a "push-pull" style where you just grab the end of the lens and move it in and out to zoom, there being a way to control how "loose" the zooming is.

When you read on fredmiranda about the Canon, you will hear how it is soft at 400mm. I would suggest that this is a relative description, long telephoto zooms are hard to make and a prime (ie. non-zoom, fixed length) lens will almost always be better, but you need a zoom, so that is that. The reality is that a lot of pros use it and are pleased with it. I am still meaning to try the sigma 400 to see how slow the focus is and how good it is at 400mm because it may be actually better value.

It is probably worth trying the lenses at Ritz once you get your camera, then you can get a feel for their weight and operation, and take a few photos at the longest zoom "wide open" (i.e. at the maximum aperture, 5.6 for the two 400mm, 6.3 for the 500mm) and see if you detect a difference.

Personally, I think the sigma 400mm is probably a good price/performance combination. If I weren't buying used and reselling I would definitely consider it. Note that 3rd party lenses don't keep their price as well as Canons do if you think you may resell.

With respect to buying at Frys vs. online, that is a tough call. People over at DPreview obsess over the most minor issues in their cameras like 10 pixels out of 8 million being hot (that is essentially deffective, always white or something). Another perhaps more worrying thing that could go wrong is that the focusing is off in the camera, so that it focuses in front or behind where it is supposed to. That is obviously a bad thing, but some think a lot of it comes from people who don't really know what they are doing.

My advice is that buying the camera online is low risk *as long as you buy from a legitimate place*. B&H, adorama are very legitimate, check http://www.resellerratings.com/ or dpreview.com for others. Obviously you could still return the camera if it had a problem to one of these, but because of the extra shipping, it might not save you as much.

For buying the lens, I would have no issues with buying from a reputable online vendor, particularly if you end up with the 100-400L. Sometimes 3rd party vendors have not so great quality control and you have more of a chance getting a dud, but with these high end lenses, I think that is probably not that likely, but worth considering.

Frankly, I'm not all that knowlegeable, I've just been spending more time than you getting myself ready and trolling around the web.

sunny_days is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 11:26 AM
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I would check Costco's price on the camera itself.
mpkp is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 12:36 PM
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The "bigma" is the poor mans porsche. I would have to agree with Lawrence on all he has said. The 100-400mm is certainly called soft by some. This is mainly from those using $5000 prime lens. Not even the 70-200 can compete with such fantastic optics.
backtoafrica is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 12:46 PM
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Thanks for the continued guidance.

I have only tried a lens at Ritz Camera that went up to 300mm and I cannot imagine getting too much bigger than that (with a "Bigma", for example).

Just to be safe, I do think I will go with the 100-400mm L glass IS Canon lens.

Costco does have the camera for $30 less than Ritz, but I would much prefer to spend the extra $30 for Ritz' customer service. Costco is a madhouse and I hate going there (but thanks for the recommendation).
Roccco is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 01:44 PM
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Rocco, before you "push the button" and buy the XT, you may want to go see the 100-400L in person, if what you tried was the 75-300, you could be a little surprised at the size.

When the XT first came out, people were joking that the camera was too small for some of the lenses, here is a pictures of the XT with the 100-400L fully extended:

And just for fun (I found this while looking for the above), a 20D with the bigma fully extended:
(or http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...ssage=12626164 if that doesn't work)

Don't get too freaked out though

sunny_days is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 01:52 PM
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My main concern with the Digital Rebel XT was whether or not it would be big enough to support the 100-400mm lens (yet less the Bigma lens). It looks like some sick experiment where a little camera and a big camera were crossbred!

Oh boy...I may just need that Canon 20D, after all.
Roccco is offline  
Apr 5th, 2005, 05:18 PM
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>>It looks like some sick experiment where a little camera and a big camera were crossbred!

Yes, most of the camera is the lens mount!

Seriously though either way when shooting, you are supporting the lens with your left hand (or beanbag/monopod/tripod) and simply balancing it with your right hand on the camera, so I'm not sure it really makes much difference.

I am not planning on walking around much with it dangling from my neck. I have a decent shoulder photo bag that I can leave it in. There are also straps that attach to the lens rather than the camera. I did a superquick search and found this one, but I'm sure there are a bunch of others. This one in particular looks quite high end. http://burren.cx/photo/ss1.html

Maybe those with more experience will chime in. Because I will be shooting mostly from a car, its not a big issue for me.

sunny_days is offline  

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