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imtiaz30 Mar 20th, 2006 05:32 AM

Which Lens is most useful while on Safari
We are going to be doing a safari trip in kenya & Tanzania in June 2006. I have a canon eos 20d digital camera. I use it with a 20 - 200 tamron lens. Is that suitable while on safari or do I need a bigger lens like a 400 or 500mm. This is my first safari and I would like to come back with some good pictures.
Any other shooting tips would also be appreciated.
Thanks in advance for your response.

Roccco Mar 20th, 2006 05:58 AM


I would suggest that you go with a zoom lens that will get you up to 400mm, minimum. I really enjoy my Sigma 80-400mm f4/5-5.6 optical stabilizing lens.

Most of the photos from my recently posted photo album, were taken with the lens I am suggesting:

Good luck.

cooncat Mar 20th, 2006 08:23 AM

Hi imtiaz - After a lot of research and chatting with some pros, I bought Canon's 100-400L lens. It seems to be a very popular safari lens. I think it's more expensive than the Sigma Rocco recommends, however. If you go to you'll see some good user reviews of different lenses and other equipment. You can also register there and ask questions on the various forums. It's a great site. And by the way, I bought my 100-400 lens used there for a very good price. Actually, I bought all my gear except one 20D and the 17-85 IS lens on that forum. Everything has been pristine. It's a terrific resource. Good luck!

KIBOKO Mar 20th, 2006 04:06 PM

Hi Imtiaz, The two prior posts are giving you super good advice. I'll just add my two cents and hope it helps. It's the least I can do as this forum has been such a great resource for our trips to Africa. I have a Canon 20D and just returned from safari (Tanzania and Kenya). Got some great shots(over 7,000) and am thrilled with the number of keepers. I used the Canon 100-400mm L F4.5-5.6 IS lens. Some refer to it as the "Safari lens" and its an appropiate name. I used it for 95% of my shots. It is best to change lenses as little as possible because of the dust. With your 20D camera a 400mm lens will in effect be equivalent of a 640mm lens. This is due to the 1.6X crop factor of the 20D. I never felt that I wanted less reach than this lens provided. I was glad to learn that the images were good even at max telephoto. Keep in mind that even with image stabilization, a bean bag is a must. In the Parks, you are not allowed out of the vehicle, so a tripod is of little use. You still need to stabilize and a bean bag is a great way to do it. I used a "Safari Sack" made by Kenisis and think it is a good investment. Take it along empty and fill it at your first camp with rice, beans, or sand. Take a waterproof pillowcase and keep your camera in it when the 4X4 is moving. It's an easy and effective way to keeping the dust off your gear. By the way your 20-200 tameron will probably not be enough for good safari pictures. You could add a teleconverter (1.4X or 2.0X) but I doubt you would be happy with results. Do an internet search for "Andy Biggs". Many people regard him as Mr. Safari. He provides a lot of good advice on safari preparation and helped me a lot with my planning. One last thing, be sure to bring along some way of downloading your cards. Even if you shoot JPEG you will not be able to bring along enough compact flash cards. There are a number of personal storage devices (PSD's) well suited for this purpose. Hope this is of some help.


cooncat2 Mar 20th, 2006 04:21 PM

Hey CJ! Andy Biggs helped me quite a bit, as well! :-)

cooncat2 Mar 20th, 2006 04:25 PM

....And I hit "send" too quickly. CJ - You gonna post some of those shots? :-D

KIBOKO Mar 20th, 2006 04:30 PM

Hi Cooncat2,
I would love to post some of my pics. I'm embarassed to say I know more about digital photography than posting on this site. Any suggestions.

cary999 Mar 20th, 2006 08:12 PM

Hi All,
A too short focal length lens can be compensated for later. That is, crop the image. I would "think" that an image could be cropped to the equivalent of using a 1.4 teleconvertor without noticeable loss of quality. But I know of no examples or analysis of such. Does anyone know? Cropping of course reduces the pixel count of the image. But how critical this is depends on the physical viewing size of the image. The importance of a solid camera mount can not be overemphasized. But I still hand hold. I have the "feeling" that an image using a 400mm lens will usually suffer more from lens movement than from moderate cropping of the image (initially using a 300mm).
Another advantage of cropping is for better final composition of the image. And this can be done at your leisure rather than hurriedly under live field conditions.
regards - tom

Matt_from_England Mar 21st, 2006 12:22 AM

Some fine advice but one must not forget the possibility of wide angle shots for some of those sweeping landscapes - for example when standing on the lookout point on the rim of Ngorongoro crater you will need a lense with a wide angle reach to capture the magnificent vista - even then you will not be able to do it justice. And the sunrises / sunsets in the Serengeti are incredible.

I am just buying into the Canon Eos system having been a Nikon user, I have an EOS 1n HS 35mm body and will look at the new 30d for digital.


Matt_from_England Mar 21st, 2006 12:39 AM

I have just checked out Andy Biggs site and I have to say it features some of the best wildlife photography I've ever seen. In some of the landscape shots it's obvious he has used filters such as a grey grad to enhance the skies - and if looking into achieving this type of shot some research and practice in advance is essential.


jriley Mar 22nd, 2006 02:28 PM

I am going to South Africa, Botswana and Namibia in September, and I am somewhat in the same boat, except that I am a Nikon user. I was looking at buying the AF VR 80-400 f/4.5-5.6, but it has gotten a lot of negative press (I checked out the websites mentioned in this posting). I already have a 100-300 zoom, but I get the impression that not only do I need a longer lens, but the vibration reduction / optical stabilization is a must for safari photography. Any advice and tips would be appreciated!

divewop Mar 22nd, 2006 02:48 PM

I've owned the Nikkor 80-400VR for a couple of years now and quite like it.
It's been my main lens on all my trips to Africa and while I've gotten some really great shots, I've been more disappointed in the photographer (me) than in the lens.

The VR does come in handy but during my last trip, to photograph gorillas, I was in very low light conditions- unable to use flash so the VR couldn't help me as I was handholding at really slow shutter speeds. My worst nightmare!

Another option would be for you to buy a teleconverter for your 100-300. And pray the lighting gods are on your side!

Pumbavu Mar 25th, 2006 05:12 AM

If you get a 100-200 f2.8 lens then adding a 2x teleconverter will be fine for most lighting conditions on Safari.

But it's heavy kit to carry, and I am having more and more problems checking my camera bag as hand luggage.

KIBOKO Mar 27th, 2006 03:57 AM

Hi again, Well, you are getting a lot of advice. Not all of it howeveris based on sound photographic science. I now use all Canon equipment so my advice might seem at first not to apply to your Tamron Lens, however it really does in exactly the same way. Firstly, when you use a teleconverter of any size (1.4X or 2.0X) you will cut down the amount of light reaching your camera sensor. Your Canon 20D will not be able to autofocus with the reduced light resulting from a 2X teleconverter of any brand. It might with the 1.4X but the image quality will be just so so. Remember, teleconverters are really just magnifiers, they do not take the place of high power prime lenes or telezooms. Think of how bad images magnified with digital zoom are compared to images taken with optical zoom. You have a nice camera, I would buy or rent a Canon 100-400mm L image stabilized lens and shoot away. Next to your lens, stability is the most important thing for good wildlife photography. Some might argue that stability is even more important than lenses or cameras. At any rate, keep in mind that in photography, as in many things in life, people tend to reccommend what they use themselves. Using non image stabilized telephotos will get you pictures, so will using teleconverters and overly cropping low power images. I have rarely seen good results using these methods, unless the photographer was also using a good tripod and ballhead or at lease a bean bag device. You will just have to decide whether you want snapshots or photographs. Sorry to lecture but it is that simple. And by the way, do check out Andy Biggs Web site.

imtiaz30 Mar 30th, 2006 11:02 PM

Hi CJ,
Thanks for all the advice. I have bought a kinesis safari sack and a hyperdrive to download the pictures. I am going to look into buying the Canon 100 - 400L or the Sigma 80 - 400 OS.

Roccco Mar 31st, 2006 05:59 AM


I do believe that Auto Focus still works with a teleconvertor as long as it does not make the lens more than f/5.6. So, for example, if I had a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 lens, I should still be able to use a 2x teleconvertor to make the lens a 240-600mm f/5.6 lens that autofocuses.

From other photographers out this correct?

cooncat Mar 31st, 2006 07:08 AM

I will have to play with mine a bit more. I just got it. But in preliminary testing, my 1.4XT did not allow for autofocusing with my 100-400. :-(

I'll take it out this weekened if we have some sun and see what happens if I mess with the aperature a bit more.

Matt_from_England Mar 31st, 2006 07:29 AM

Cooncat - to get the 100-400 to AF when using the 20D and 1.4 x converter you have to use the taping of the contacts method. The best link I've found for this is:

Another couple of threads where this is talked about can be found here:

But bearing in mind this will increas the light loss by one stop that will mean the 400 at full zoom on the 20d with 1.4 will be around 900mm (+-/) at F8 and despite the IS you will still need to set the ISO speed pretty high or shoot in very good lighting.


cooncat Mar 31st, 2006 07:43 AM

Hey Matt - Thanks for the reply. I've read all those threads as I've become quite the Fred Miranda groupie. It was on that forum that I learned it probably won't be worth it to use the extender on my 100-400. I will be taking a 200 f2.8L with me for lower light situations and I may use the 1.4 on that. We shall see! Lots to consider, to be sure!

Matt_from_England Mar 31st, 2006 08:13 AM

Hi Sharon,

For me I wouldn't bother with the extenders on this lens. Another Canon expert, sundowner uses a 300mm f2.8 which although big bucks takes a x2 extender well giving 600mm at f5.6 and with her 20d gives the 900 odd mm at a very useable aperture.

Having discussed with her weights etc this 300mm lens seems perfect for getting that extra length with the size and weight penalty. Esp important with regard to taking them onboard as hand luggage.

But your 200 will take the x2 well giving 400mm f 5.6 and with the 20d give you over 600mm.

My dream safari set up?

20 (30)d with 100 - 400
20 (30)d with 300 f2.8 and x2 convertor
5d with 24-70 f2.8 and 70 200 f4

That would cover just about anything though there would be some image degredation using the x2 with the 300. And of course I'd have to go with someone else just so we could spread out the weight.


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