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Dlemma Jul 30th, 2005 12:46 PM

Moderately priced zoom lens for a beginner?
I am going on my 1st safari in September, and will be going to Singita Lembobo, Kings Pool and Vumbura. I'd like to take better pictures than is possible with my Sony DSC-P100 (3x zoom). I'm not looking to get published, but I'd like some nice photos of the animal life that I can view in standard photo-size or view as a slide show on my PC. As I am rather an amateur photographer, I don't want to spend a huge amount of money, but I'd like a system that is upgradeable in case my skills improve in this area.

I've been reading through the info on this forum, and I'm considering the Canon EOS 350D Digital Rebel XT for the camera body. For the lens, I'm considering the Canon EF 75-300/4-5.6 IS USM. However, I'm concerned that some of the reviews on this lens state that the maximum aperture is not adequate.

Have any of you used this lens? If so, did you find it satisfactory? Is there some other moderately priced lens that I should consider?

lisa Jul 30th, 2005 04:28 PM

I recently bought that same lens from B&H and had 14 days in which to return it, so took it to the zoo and took lots of test photos at various focal lengths (75, 135, etc.) and switched on and off between it and my other lens which is a Tamron 28-200 (2.8, but no image stabilizer). It was a very interesting comparison and to be honest I wasn't sure if I was going to keep it or not, there were pluses and minuses (in particular I was not thrilled with the results in the few photos I took at 300mm zoomed all the way in -- then again, I wonder if I was prejudiced since I had read similar opinions in other reviews of the lens, so it's hard to say). Then I took one last roll in my backyard in low light, handheld, and the results convinced me that having the IS is well worth it. On my previous safari in South Africa there was one series of photos I took of a pride of lions at dusk, and I was dismayed at how they came out. I'm hoping that having the IS will really help this time around.

There are obviously better IS lenses out there, but at many times the cost. Frankly, I am not a good enough photographer yet to justify spending $1,000-plus on one lens (and I may never be!).

What I love about the lens is that it's very travel-friendly -- not enormous like the 100-400 L (of course that added focal length would be nice, but the lens is ridiculously enormous and heavy -- I just don't want to carry that around).

In terms of the body, my Rebel is not the new one, but the new one gets rave reviews so I think it's a very good choice, personally.

If you do a search you will find lots of other threads on this subject. Kavey, in particular, knows her way around this equipment (I think her main criticism of the new Dig Reb was that it is too small). There are also lots of photo sites with reviews of this equipment as well.

Good luck. And in particular, have a fantastic time on your safari -- I'm sure you will -- you've picked some standout places for your first one!

serengeti Jul 30th, 2005 04:44 PM


The Canon 100-400 IS USM L Lens is definitely a good choice for your safari. I have one and I like the results in can produce. Often it was my skills that we lacking an not the lens itself. I have to agree with Lisa that the lens is quite big. It is still smaller than this one -- :) ....Once you get used to it, its not an issue.

Check out the review at --

It might be a good idea to rent it for a day and see how you like it. Are you going in Sept 2005? You will have to practice (a lot) before you take it on a Safari.

Sample Image --

Roccco Jul 30th, 2005 05:32 PM

Sigma 80-400mm OS (Optical Stabilizing) lens. Many have compared it very favorable next to the Canon 100-400mm IS lens, but at about $500 less expensive. I have this lens on my Canon 20d and it is fantastic.

Go to to read the reviews on this and just about every other lens.

Good luck and great itinerary you have there! :)

Kavey Jul 31st, 2005 01:23 AM

Hiya Dlemma

Lisa is right in that for MY preferences I found the 350D too small - I simply find it uncomfortable to hold in my hands whilst easily accessing the various controls. I would strongly recommend that you go into a store and see how it feels in your hands - for many people the small size works extremely well in their hands and if that's the case for you I think it would be an excellent choice.

Lenses are a much harder thing to recommend.

I do find Image Stabilisation to be worthwhile on longer lenses particularly. I haven't bothered with it for the wider lens as I wanted the Sigma 18-125 lens - superb range, small, light and a pleasure to use.

Our longer lens is that same one you have mentioned - 75-100 USM IS (4-5.6 aperture) and it's a nice lens for the money. I wouldn't deny that there are many lenses that offer better quality (sharper, less distortion etc) but there's always a trade off in price and also often in size/ weight.

For my skills level and budget (especially at the time of purchase) this lens was a good compromise and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to those in the same position.

There are those who will recommend that you should always by L glass. There is an element of sense to that approach too, as those lenses will last a long time, much longer than the body itself, and they are undeniably sharper, they also often create beautiful bokeh too. But I think for many of us who are just amateurs it is a toss up as to whether the extra cost is justified. Only you can decide.

We're finally at the stage where we are selling (a smaaaaall volume) of our photography and therefore considering upgrading and purchasing higher quality lenses next time around. But we have been perfectly happy with the results from our current lenses in the meantime.


wanderlust123 Jul 31st, 2005 05:04 AM

Thanks for that reassurance, kavey. I am by no means a great photographer, although I take a fair amount of photos. I just wanted camera equipment that provided the opportunity to take decent photos, not hoping for NG quality. Plus there is the weight, size and cost factors. Therefore, I chose the 75-300 IS USM lens for this trip. I also stuck with my dRebel 300 and did not get the XT which I considered doing to have a second camera body - I thought I would like it but it was too small for me and didn't balance right with a large lens. So even with the extra features and increased megapixes (from 6.3 to 8), I decided to stay with my D300 for now. My carryon bag is at exactly 13 lbs with cameras and lenses, which is the weight I was told not to exceed. Down to 33 days before I go. I am so excited!

Kavey Jul 31st, 2005 06:53 AM

Wanderlust, You're going to have such a great trip!

The professionals are always telling us that it's the photographer not the equipment that makes the image and, with some provisos, I think that's pretty accurate. I do think the right equipment can help a good photographer get even better pictures - sharper images, less distortion, more pleasing bokeh, a wider range of aperture allowing for more creative DOF choices, longer telephoto giving more framing/ composition/ cropping options and so on. But chances are a really great photographer can get a better image using a basic point and shoot than someone with no vision could achieve even with the best equipment on the market.

You'll be so enthused by what you see, plus you'll know your camera well - I'm sure you'll get some wonderful pictures!

Roccco Jul 31st, 2005 06:57 AM


What is your itinerary?

wanderlust123 Jul 31st, 2005 08:05 AM

The first 2 weeks are Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar, then a week in Rwanda (tracking Mountain Gorillas are the main reason for my trip) and then 5 days in Cape Town with a couple of nights in Vic Falls. I realize that I am not spending the kind of time I would prefer in each location, but I am hoping it would give me an overview of Africa, and then I can come back and focus on one area next time.

wanderlust123 Jul 31st, 2005 08:15 AM

Oh, and I am really tempted to buy some more CF cards. I just got a couple of Sandisk Extreme III 1G to add to what I already have and am now thinking about getting some more. I have a Nixvue Vista to download cards to, but I just don't feel comfortable about having all my photos for a month's trip on that. The joys of digital photography. You might say film is easier, but then there was my trip to China (also for a month) that I took after 9/11. O'Hare was not allowing any film to be hand checked at that time. So, rather than run it through the security Xray, they suggested that I put it through as checked baggage which they said would not be Xrayed. So they put it in a little cardboard box (all 54 rolls, 36 exposure)and shipped it off to Beijing as checked baggage. So, then during the whole 12 hour flight I fretted as to whether it would really be okay. It arrived on my flight which was a relief. And I shot a whole month's worth hoping it would be okay and not ruined due to something that might have happened en route. And it was not until I returned home and had it developed that I was deterimined that it was indeed okay. Of course now, they Xray checked bags so no film should be checked. So, no matter what, it seems I find something to worry about.

Kavey Jul 31st, 2005 08:28 AM

Wanderlust, I too do not like having only one copy of my digital captures - digital media, like traditional film, are susceptible to corruption.

I get around this by taking TWO portable storage devices and copying all images onto both. I think it would be extreme bad luck for both to fail. and CF cards are just as prone to fail as portable devices so...

If it's cheaper, it might be an alternative. If not, extra CF cards seem a good solution.

wanderlust123 Jul 31st, 2005 08:31 AM

I have a friend with a Nixvue Vista identical to mine. I could borrow it. But it is another piece of equipment to lug around. Not sure where I could find the room. But it would be the cheapest option.

linjudy Jul 31st, 2005 08:59 AM

I don't know if you want to consider this, but I took a Panasonic Lumix FZ20 on safari. It's not a SLR but has a 12x zoom. I was in general very happy with the pictures since I don't know how to use a SLR, and this "point-and-shoot" type camera really allowed me to easily compose shots, and get good close up of animals.

You can see some of the pictures at

I've since blown up a few of these to 16x20 and they've turned out well enough to hang in the family room. It's a small way to stave off safari withdrawl :)


Kavey Jul 31st, 2005 09:14 AM

Wanderlust, don't forget, you'd not need the extra set of charging cables etc for the second Nixvue Vista so that might save space.
I don't know if it is the best option for you, just passing on what we chose to do.

wanderlust123 Jul 31st, 2005 11:03 AM

I was thinking along those lines, that I would only need the unit itself, not all the added chargers, etc. So it is a consideration. Certainly cheaper (no cost) than buying more memory cards. I do have other cameras I am taking, one with a 10x zoom but it is not an SLR. AND I sit and look at my film rebel and wonder if it is worth tucking in as well for an extreme emergency. And just when I thought I was already decided!

wanderlust123 Jul 31st, 2005 02:58 PM

Oh, I almost forgot. Roccco - After reading your postings about Zambia, it is very high on my list for my "next" trip to Africa.

Roccco Jul 31st, 2005 03:03 PM

I am at a Sony sponsored 2 day photo workshop right now. B&H Photo is also the sponsor and has handed out some little catalogs with some great price savings. For example, the Sigma 70-200mm lens (which I already own) for $75 off. Another example, 25% off all Tamrac and Lowepro? backpacks and bags.

If anybody is interested in any particular item, let me know and I will see if it is available for a deep discount and then provide you with the coupon code.

On a sidenote, I was the grand prize winner of a raffle yesterday for a Sony DSC-V3 ??? digital camera. It is only worth about $500, but, hey I'll take it.

I do wonder, however, if this camera would serve any function while on safari, since it has a range of only 35mm - 140mm with not the widest apperture (f/3.7 - 5???). It is a 7.2 megapixel camera but too bad it doesn't have a longer zoom or at least a wider apperture or at least a wider angle.

It does feature video recording capabilities, but with its limited zoom, I don't know how handy this would come in. Am I missing something here...could this camera help me out on my safari considering that I will already be carrying two Canon 20d bodies, an 80-400mm lens, a 70-200 f/2.8 lens and a 17-85 IS lens???

Dlemma Aug 1st, 2005 04:47 AM

Well, I've taken the plunge and bought the Canon Digital Rebel XT, and the EF 75-300 IS USM lens. I really appreciate all the feedback - it was a great help!

Some of the factors that contributed to my purchase:
1) The price wasn't too excessive. You certainly could spend a lot more on this stuff - I'm not sure that spending more is justified given my current skill level.
2) It's true that this camera body is small. However, remember that I'm moving up from a very compact P&S. I'm used to a small camera. Also, I have fairly slender fingers which helps.
3) As someone pointed out, this lens is not enormous. I tried it out with the EOS 350D camera body and it feels OK to me. I could see that this camera body might not work as well with a larger lens.
4) There are certainly other lenses that looked very good also, especially the Sigma 80-400mm OS (Optical Stabilizing) lens. I went with the Canon for the mixture of size, price, and IS.

Now, it's time to charge up those batteries, read the manual and practice, practice, practice. The birds and squirrels in the back yard are about to become photo stars. And I sense a trip to the zoo in my near future :-)

Kavey Aug 1st, 2005 05:29 AM

Congratulations, Dlemma!

The 350D is a respected consumer DSLR and should give you results on a par with the 20D. For those with small hands I think it's a really good option, especially for the price.

tashak Aug 1st, 2005 07:47 AM

OK, perhaps we should start a "Backyard Safari" forum, for reports of what we see?
For example, I was practicing/testing new equipment by photographing squirrels. I got several photos of one in a tree, eating an acorn. When it came back (this was film) I could clearly see that there was a tiny baby squirrel with no fur hanging on to mom's belly! The baby looked more like an embryo than a squirrel. It was quite exciting, because I've watched squirrels for years, but Had never seen anything like this. There is a whole world to discover in our own backyards, the cliche is true...

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