Budget Safari Lens

Discussion in 'Travel' started by jr_mott, Apr 1, 2012.

  1. I will be backpacking in South Africa in a few months and will visit Kruger while there though I am having trouble figuring out what my best budget option is for a lens. I have a Rebel XS and as I am backpacking I am concerned with budget, weight and theft.

    Since my camera has a 1.6x crop factor, I am debating if I'd be OK with an EF 70-300 IS USM. I also have a 17-85mm and decent P&S for wider shots on safari. The other lens I am considering is the 70-300 DO. I'm not sure I need the 100-400 on a crop sensor, and would prefer to not stand out so much with a white L lens, nor am I thrilled about the prospect of losing such a lens.

    I would probably buy used and sell upon my return, though should it go missing I'd much prefer to lose the standard 70-300 than the DO. I could also perhaps get a 1.4x Extender.

    Would anyone strongly advise not to use either (or both) of these lenses?
  2. Assuming that you are not a Donald Trump or his son, you will not be able to illegally shoot dead bunch of elephants, lions, zebras, etc, and stand pround on them for memorable photo in Zimbabwe.
    Perhaps the 100-400 lens would be the best for photo safari.
  3. I'd also recommend a 100-400 with travel insurance - so if it goes missing you can always get most of your money back.
    If you decide to go with a 70-300, I say go with the best there is (and don't get a converter for any 70-300 - not a good idea).
    Also, I'd recommend getting a polarizing filter for your telephoto lens - it can be a great help in the harsh African sun.
    Good luck!
  4. When I last went to Kenya my most used lens was a 70-210 Sigma APO, followed by a 400 Sigma.APO on 35mm film. There are many reasons to also take a wide angle and a macro lens.
  5. What is the theft risk like? Is it any different to travel elsewhere?
  6. The theft risk while on Safari is probably not very high, but South Africa on the whole has very high rates of violent theft. I'm going there with the expectation that despite my precautions I will still get mugged.
    I guess that kind of answers my question for me. If I think I'm going to get mugged, and I can't afford to replace a $1K+ lens, then i shouldn't bring the lens. I am purchasing travel insurance, but it doesn't have too much coverage when it comes to theft. If my entire backpack went missing, even without a $1K lens, I would likely hit if not exceed the limit.
    As Alex mentioned he used a 270mm and 400mm (on 35mm) and was satisfied - so I'd have to imagine a 300mm on a 1.6x will be OK.
    The 100-400 might be better, but at the end of the day I'm still there for the experience not just the photos. I don't think missing a shot because I didn't have an extra 100mm will ruin the trip.
  7. I'd like to reiterate - there's a dedicated photography equipment insurance available.
    In some place it be a rider on your homeowner's insurance, sometimes you can get a separate one. It depends on the country you live in. My personal experience - from Israel - is that you can extent your apartment contents' coverage to your photography gear to be covered while traveling for about $50/year. You still don't want to lose your stuff mid-trip as you wouldn't be able to take any pictures - but at least you will be reimbursed for the lost gear.
    On a totally separate note I'd like to mention the topics of
    - Backup camera - highly recommended
    - Backing up your photos - preferably on more than one media, e.g. SD cards plus your hard drive
  8. JR and Jean - thanks for the feedback.
  9. Check out Tamron 70-300/4-5.6 VC
  10. Why not rent a lens??
  11. Tamron 18-270 and an extender. Not much difference between 270 and 300. My son used this lens on a trip to Alaska
    while I carried way too much for my camera. We had a chance encounter with a pod of feeding humpbacks. He was
    able to keep shooting when they were near and far ( we were anchored up and the pod breached many times around our
    small boat. I missed some shots while switching lenses as they move about.
  12. You make it sound as of there aren't any South African photographers with expensive equipment who take 1000s of photos a year... I lived there for 40 years and I wouldn't go into a dangerous area in Johannesburg any more than I would go to a dangerous area in London. Insurance and common sense will take you a long way
  13. Russ,
    I believe the problem is that when people are going to an unknown location there's some anxiety with regard to local crime and other dangers. After you've lived there for a while you know where to go and where not to.
    For example, I live in Israel and while tourists might be wary to visit due to rockets falling every few days and some other issues, I feel perfectly safe and wouldn't think twice before recommending anyone to visit this beautiful and varied country as all those issues are localized and I know the places one shouldn't visit (and which tourists wouldn't visit anyway).
  14. Hi Jean, thanks for your thoughtful comment; and I agree meah chuz (I live in Israel too, and think it's one of the safest places I've ever been).
    - Russ
  15. For ordinary safaris I would recommend the 100-400 but I would not take a 100-400 if you are backpacking, too big and too heavy. A 70-300 would be best, or maybe the Canon 55-250. You don't say how you are travelling in the Park, but the type of transport used will have just as big an influence as to what is possible as the lens.
  16. Russ - of course there a lots of photographers in SA with wonderfully expensive travel gear but how many of these people are staying in hostels, traveling by public transport, etc? This isn't my first trip to a 'dangerous' country, nor will it be my last, but as was pointed out there is an element of not always knowing where to avoid or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time (which although can happen anywhere it would be more likely to happen somewhere with higher crime rates than lower crime rates).
    In any event, it's not only about the safety of the gear. As I mentioned in the OP, it's budget, weight, and theft.
    At the end of the day, I decided to go with a 70-300mm. Though the 100-400 has lots of recommendations, I've booked a walking safari which mean's I'll be carrying this thing for extended periods of time. In addition, I need to travel light as my backpack is a carry on and I'm limited to about 11kg.
    I picked up a used lens for under $400 and can likely sell it for the same or at worse a small loss. I wasn't convinced spending $200+ on a rental and insurance is worth the cost given that this lens could end up costing me nothing.
    Thanks for the input everyone.
  17. 200 mm on a crop sensor does not have enough reach unless you go on a semi-fake safari where the animals are almost tame and you can get really close. 300 mm at least.
    These African safaris are full of rich tourists sporting the latest and greatest photography setups. It's almost like a professional sporting event where you see all these guys on the sidelines with gigantic lenses. :)
    If you are traveling via public transportation and hostels, you'll following the backpacker trail - which is also the tourist criminal trail. The easy answer to your question is to simply get proper insurance. Personal article insurance will be a very cheap add-on.

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