An affordable long Safari Lens?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by john_watson, Jun 13, 2011.

  1. Good Morning,
    My wife and I are planning a Safari and want to start looking around for lenses
    We have a D90, D7000 with an 18-200 and 70-300 VR and many wider lenses
    if money were no object, I would be a 200-400, but my leading affordable choice is a 80-400. One can use the 70-300, the other the 80-400

    KEH has a good used one for about $1,000.
    Any others you think I should consider in this range and rough price level?

    Thanks in advance
  2. The 80-400 is great lens, when used on 6.3 and you can live with the slow AF. The slow AF need some training in AF technics, no aim and AF, but try to focus before the right spot and track
  3. The 80-400 is a great lens or the money.
    If your budget was a bit larger than $1000, you should consider the AF-S 300mm f/4 with 1.4x TC. You'll get faster AF than the 80-400mm, but lose the ability to zoom. IQ is great but you'll need a tripod/monopod.
  4. Wondering if I should consider a Sigma 150-500 OS for about the same price as a used 8-400? I like the idea of a zoom, because animals are often
    moving and you need flexibility. Thanks for all your advice
  5. Reports vary on the Sigma 150-500. I don't get on with mine at the long end (sharpness issues, slightly better if shot at f/11, but that's painfully slow), others are very happy with theirs. Either there's a lot of sample variation or some of us are doing something wrong (it's not just me). I've not seen a bad review of the image quality of the 80-400, but obviously it's shorter and the autofocus is slow. Good luck.
  6. SCL


    My couple of years with the 80-400 lens was filled with just couldn't be counted on to deliver. My main issue was the slow and frequently hunting autofocus, but my secondary issue was that I often could get better shots with much better image quality with manual focus lenses, and because they had larger apertures, the viewfinder was much brighter. I know some people love this lens, but I'd strongly advise you to try one out before putting the money into it.
  7. Don't rule out the 70-300VR you already have. On the D7000 you have some leeway to crop and it's pretty good lens. The difference between 300mm and 400mm is not all that dramatic, so the upgrade to something like a 80-400 may bring you much less than you think.
  8. One possibility would be a used 300mm f/4 AF-S with a 1.4 teleconverter. Even with the TC, it is very sharp. You would still have your 70-300mm VR for changing focal lengths quickly -- the 300mm + TC on one body, the 70-300 VR on the other.
    Also, depending on the length of your trip, you might want to consider renting the 200-400mm.
  9. You might consider keeping what you have and rent an expensive Hi-speed prime for the duration of the trip. Not cheap to rent but it will give you a level of optics you couldn't normally afford. Especially if this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
  10. I just got the sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM OS for $900. I think it's very nice and the few shots I've taken with it look very good.
  11. Rent one. There are many reputable lens rental places. I just did a quick check at one of them -- for a Nikon 200-400mm, the rental price is $742 for 15 days (includes rental, shipping and damage waiver). For such a rare trip, I'd rather rent a top of the line lens rather than purchase a compromise. But that's me. YMMV.
  12. The best focal length will depend a lot on where you are going on safari and what animals you plan to shoot. Here in Uganda we can frequently get very close to animals and I find that my Sigma 150-500mm sometimes is too long. A 70-300mm is often ideal for large animals if you can get close. In East Africa, Rhinos are mostly in private parks where you can get very close. Hippos will often let you get very close as well. Elephants, Giraffes, Gorillas are so large that in my experience you don't really need long lenses, unless you want a close-up of their head only.
    In other words, if you are short of cash and find it difficult to justify taking a second mortgage for a 600mm f4, you will still be able to take great photos of large animals using the equipment you already have. You may struggle with birds though.
    I do realize that my statements above appears to contradict what many others (and probably more professional than myself) state that lenses should be "long, longer and longest".
  13. John try picking up an old beater like a pentax spotmatic and a 500mm 4.5 and a solingor or pentax spot meter.I have a set up like this. I brought it to west texas few years back shooting axis and whitetail And I was really impressed.
  14. You'll want the flexibility of the 200-400 with the huge variation in size of animals and allowable distances and perhaps
    multiple animals in one shot or a pack. The 300 f/4 with 1.4 is a good, inexpesive solution, but I think you'll miss a fair
    amount of shots and you'll have to stop down to 7.1 or 8.0 to get best sharpness vs. maybe a stop better on the 200-
    400mm allowing you to shoot later into the golden hour.

    I would buy the 300 f/4 with 1.4 for handheld and mobile shots and rent the 200-400mm. Keep them on separate
    bodies. You'll still change out one of them for other lenses occasionally, but those would be your core, I think, along
    with the 70-200 f 2.8. You'll be glad you had both. if you can only do one, rent the 200-400, you'll kick yourself for
    not having it.

    The author of my favorite wildlife safari book Uwe Skrzypczak - indicates that he shot 75% of the photos in his book
    with the 200-400 on a dx2 or d300s. Its an awesome combo.
  15. While not an expert on Africa nor on photographing wild animals,I HAVE made 8 safaris to Africa and taken a lot of pictures there albiet with a basic point and shoot while hunting. I have the Sigma 120-400 that I keep mounted on one of my D2h bodies and have been eminently satisfied with it's performance although I'm not really confident that the stabilization is as good as they claim. I would also take my 80-200 2.8 Nikkor as I find it to be the most versatile lens I have. I have found in Africa that the shots don't have to be at great distance but when the opportunity presents itself they have to be made quickly. I, personallly, have never considered a tripod for this reason and also just the plain logistics as travel luggage is on todays airlines. You do need a good wide lense because the expanse of Africa is truly breathtaking.
  16. Or get a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 EX with 2x EX TC. Very nice and flexible combo. Never done an Africa safari but use it to shoot most anything closer to home.

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