Namibia Travel

Discussion in 'Travel' started by dennisbarnett, Jun 1, 2016.

  1. Hi all,
    I'm going to Namibia in a few weeks on a "self-drive safari." I'm much less of a wildlife/sports/people photographer than a landscape/abstract/color shooter, so I'll let everyone else take shots of the animals with their very heavy, expensive lenses while I do my best with what I have and then I'll thoroughly enjoy shooting the sunrises, sunsets, trees and dunes of the magnificent environment of Namibia.
    At my age, I avoid carrying heavy equipment around with me when I travel. Due to the great amount of dust in Namibia I want to avoid changing lenses as much as possible. Consequently, this is what I'm thinking of taking: One lens on my Nikon D7100 with its 1.5 reach with a telephoto, possibly a zoom, although the lack of sharpness concerns me; My lightweight Fuji XT-1 with a 10-24 for the wide angles and a 55-200 for a backup zoom telephoto. So, two camera bodies (one heavy, one light), three lenses. This all fits into a relatively compact and comfortable backpack with necessary items (batteries, cards, tripod head, etc....)
    My D750 will probably stay home. I'll also have my Fuji X30 as a compact to carry with me. I happen to prefer the sharpness and fidelity of the results I get with my Fujis than my Nikons.
    The question is which lens to take with the D7100; a zoom or a prime like the 300 f/4, one or the other. I have a 55-300 which would reach to 450 with probably lousy results. Of course, the 300 fixed would give me beautiful images at the cost of flexibility. I've been considering purchasing a 28-300 or a 70-300 but again, weight and poor quality at the extremes would concern me. I want quality much more than quantity.
    Your thoughts? Thanks.
  2. My trip to Namibia, I used 2 Nikon full frame cameras, a 24-70/2.8 and a 200mm f/4 Ai-S most of the time. Occasionally the 17-35/2.8 and at ones, the Sossusvlei dry lake bad, the 14/2.8
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    On these international trips, I think you are much better off with two compatible cameras such as the Nikon D7100 + D750 on this trip. In particular, those two happen to use the same EN-EL15 battery and both have dual SD memory card slots. That also means the same charger can charge all of your batteries. (I typically bring a second charger on these trips such that your photography won't be parallelized should you lose a charger.) If you prefer Fuji and can afford to buy (or rent) something, I would get another Fuji mirrorless body that can share lenses and hopefully batteries.
    Having dual memory cards also means you can always stick a couple of 128G or even 256G SD cards into the camera, and they can potentially last your entire trip such that you don't necessarily need to worry about a laptop or card reader to off load your images.
    Since you already have the 55-300 Nikkor, which is a DX lens, getting either the 28-300 or 70-300 won't improve optical quality that much. The main advantage is that those two are FX lenses such that if you indeed bring the D750, you won't be forced into DX crop when you use the tele zoom on an FX body.
    If you want a 300mm, Nikon now has a 300mm/f4 PF AF-S VR lens that is quite small. However, it is a $2000 lens. When you have an FX body and a DX body, that one lens can give you some flexibility.
    I have been to Africa several times as well as many other remote destinations. IMO having compatible backup equipment is key. I have had camera bodies and lenses fail at remote locations. (That is why I typically bring 3 bodies, not 2.) You may think that one of your cameras is lightweight, but once you factor in different incompatible lenses, different batteries and different chargers for those batteries, it maybe a different story.
  4. Bela and Shun, thank you, it makes perfect sense to have similar bodies. I was hoping to save weight but I should probably just do it and not have any regrets. While I love the weight savings and image quality of my XT-1, the Nikons will give me more flexibility.
  5. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    As we discussed on a recent thread:, I am planning a trip to Botswana myself, but my emphasis is wildlife photography.
    Needless to say, I think it is a much better idea to bring two Nikon (or two of another brand) bodies. Namibia is well known for its sand dunes. If your emphasis is landscape, I would bring at least two wide-angle lenses, perhaps a 17-35mm and a 20mm such that in case one lens fails, you still have a backup.
    I would bring a mid-range zoom, e.g. 24-85 or 24-120 type and a tele. If you can carry more weight, a macro lens could be useful.
    If weight is super important, I would opt to not bring a laptop and hard drives. Just stick two high-capacity SD cards into the camera and capture in the backup mode such that each image is written onto both cards. Memory card failures are rare anyway; it is almost impossible for both to fail during your trip. People typically do not capture landscape "machine gun" style such that you won't end up with a lot of images.
    Back in 2011, I went on a two-week cruise in the Galapagos Islands, which is mostly a wildlife destination. I ended up with about 130G of images. I went again last year (2015) with a very similar itinerary, and I ended up with over 300G. Part of the difference is probably due to more pixels in the 2015 cameras (I mostly used a Nikon D750 and a D7200, both 24MP, very similar to the OP has). If you capture mostly landscape, I really doubt that you will even approach 100G in a couple of weeks.
    P.S. In 2011, I was mostly using 12MP and 16MP cameras.
  6. it


    I was there a few years ago on a job. Incredible landscape, if you could self-drive that would be a great option. The distances are pretty huge and there aren't a lot of people around, so make sure you have planned for that. I would take something wide for sure, ideally tilt-shift if you can swing it, as well as ND grads and a quality warming polarizer.
  7. I've traveled in African countries in my time. Some (brief) advice.
    Take extra cards. Buy reliable brand cards. Pack everything securely in padded camera bags. Insure it all. Take small money (in US$) to handout as "gifts"to customs officials who will try to cause you headaches at the airport. The latter are endemic to all those third world countries. A $20 in the palm may save you many problems. It happens to me in Asia. It will probably happen to you in Africa.
    There are many wonderful opportunities for photography of every sort in African and Asian countries, but you will do well to avoid "friendly" locals who take onelook at your equipment and want to befriend you, even carry your bags for you. At the end of the day they will then demand payment in generous amounts and some can turn nasty if this is declined. Traveling in tour groups can (but doesn't always) avoid such unpleasantness. The trick here is to carry small bags with only the gear you use on the day, and not your entire arsenal. Less is best.
    Otherwise, you sound as if you have carefully planned and intend to enjoy the journey. As you will. Those sunsets are truly outstanding and the colors in the late part of the day have to be seen to be believed. I shot (and sold) all that in the 1970s. Not sure there is a market for it or most pretty scenery now, but I don't recall you said you were shooting for profit anyway. Amateur is good!
  8. If you narrow your choice down to which lens for the D7100 I'd personally take the 300/4 for best image quality.
    I've thought about ways of trying to lighten my camera gear load for a few once in a lifetime type overseas trips.
    However, when it comes to the crunch I alaway take my best gear (which of course is the heaviest) because I would regret having rare and exciting photo opportunities and not having the ability to truly make the very best of the situation.
    I often print a dozen 12 inch to 30 inch prints from my trips and I would resent myself for not making the best fist of things so I tend to take it all along and dicipline myself to use it all and use it wisely. Funny thing is that I never really feel over laden with gear after the first few days of a multi week trip and I never return home thinking I must save up for that lighter travel lens assortment.
    If you are taking a genuine holiday then lighten the load by all means, but real travel is always hard work and the very best photos are always worth fighting for.
  9. After so many years of photographing and traveling, good advice is always needed and welcome, whether it's a new thought or confirming what we're already thinking. So, thank you all for the great advice and objectivity.
    At this point, my clear priorities are landscapes and environments, wildlife is second, not being eaten by a lion is a far third. Weight is very important, to the point where it can make or break my trip since I'll be carrying all this weight around with me constantly. As I age (as we all do!), my most recent trips have been teaching me to pare down what I carry, while still wanting the best quality available to me.
    I did a "mock weight test" where I took out my 2 Nikon bodies, (only) 3-4 lenses, and all the necessities that go with them. I also did the same with my Fuji system; 2 bodies plus an X30 backup, a larger range of lenses, etc. Obviously, the Fuji system was about a third the weight. Realizing my focus (excuse the pun) is on landscapes and not action and distant shots of wildlife, I'd be very happy with the results from my Fuji's. While this is also very subjective, I actually prefer the color, fidelity, and bokeh from my Fuji lenses, so this is probably the system I'll be hauling around with me. I'll take some larger capacity cards to avoid constant downloading and might even leave my laptop at home.
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Dennis, if you prefer Fuji, by all means take Fuji cameras, but take two compatible bodies that can share lenses. Mirrorless might not be as suitable for wildlife photography, but that is not your priority anyway. However, your D750 and D7100 are fairly small DSLR bodies. If anything, the D7100 is a bit too small for my preference. I wonder what lenses you have that make the Fuji system 1/3 of the weight.

    Concerning memory cards, nowadays you can get a 64G, 90MB/sec Sandisk SD card for less than $30:
    or the slightly faster version for $35:
    Back in 2011 before my trip, I paid around $100 each for slower 32G SD cards. While I still prefer to have a laptop to view and edit my images on the road, memory cards are now cheap enough that you no longer need to upload them onto a computer while traveling.
    I have been using SD cards since 2010 (and CF cards since 2002). I have yet to have a total SD card failure, although I have had some corrupted images on a "bad" card. However, I have cracked and damaged several SD cards and also lost (misplaced) a few others. Therefore, in my opinion, your are much better off getting large-capacity cards and keep them inside the camera the entire time. That is the safest place for them. In particular, when your camera has dual cards, just use the backup mode to save two copies of the raw files. The worst thing you can do is to get a bunch of small-capacity cards and keep on changing them during your trip because SD cards are easy to misplace and damage. I have never lost a CF card even though I have been using them for much longer.
  11. Shun, you ask about the lenses on the Nikons. I have a 16-35mm on the D750 to retain that range; and a 55-300mm on the D7100 giving me a 450 reach if I need it, although the quality will suffer. I might purchase a preowned 300mm f/4 to replace the zoom; much better quality but less flexibility. I also have my 85mm f/1.8 and perhaps my 105 macro.
    The 1/3 weight comment is an exaggeration; but it is much lighter.
    Of course, I'll still be thinking about this until the day I leave... 8^)
    I agree with you about the larger cards staying in the camera.
  12. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Dennis, if you are that sensitive to weight, you should seriously consider switching totally into Fuji. As far as I can see, one issue with Fuji is that the new X-Pro2 is the only mirrorless camera with dual memory card slots at this time.
    Please keep in mind that I am making the following comments without considering cost, which obvious is a factor. Concerning your Nikon system:
    • I would replace the 16-35mm/f4 AF-S VR with the 18-35mm/f3.5-4.5 AF-S, no VR. I have the 18-35 AF-S and the 17-35mm/f2.8 AF-S. The new 18-35 is really good optically and much lighter than the fairly large 16-35mm.
    • If you travel a lot, I would consider replacing the 55-300mm DX with the 28-300mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR super zoom, which is an FX lens. Obviously a super zoom isn't the greatest optically, but that lens is very convenient for travel and quite decent. It is a little weak @ 30mm.
    • The 300mm/f4 AF-S isn't huge, but it is quite solid and not light. If you are that sensitive to weight, I would compromise with a zoom or get the expensive 300mm/f4 E PF AF-S VR, which is a tiny lens for a 300mm.
    • If you don't already have a mid-range zoom, I would add the 24-85mm/3.5-4.5 AF-S VR. That is another very decent, light-weight lens.
    • I may add another 20mm/f1.8 or 24mm/f1.8 AF-S as a backup wide angle.
    If you use cameras with dual memory cards, definitely leave the laptop home to save weight. The laptop and its power supply plus an external hard drive or two will weight more than another camera body plus a lens or two.

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