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Telephoto for Safari? Panasonic 70-200 w 2x vs. Leica 90-280


ropo54
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On 10/29/2021 at 2:20 AM, ropo54 said:

Our trip is rescheduled: September 2022.

(Hopefully no covid issues).

By the time they let us go out again, Leica will have a 300/2.8 a 400/2.8 and a 600/4 in the SL line-up!

I used to live in Zambia and SA and went to the bush at least three times a year. My preferred setup was a 70-200/2.8 on one body and a 400/2.8 on another body. Also a 1.4x to use on the 400 if needed (almost no loss of quality, the 2x was soft). All of this kit was EOS - and I was in my own vehicle with the kit on the passenger seat...

For Kruger, with the SL2 - I would go for the 90-280 as you will be closer to the animals (as others have pointed out in this thread) and 400+ lenses just get ‘too much’.

I’d also make an estimated guess that the 90-280 will be sharper than a 70-200 with a 2x.... and with the big files you can crop a little if necessary. 

There is also the simplicity of just one camera/lens in hand - which on a LandRover is a real bonus - you don’t want to be the bloke with a suitcase of gear taking up the whole bench... and missing the shots doing lens changes!

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My quick thoughts on this thread.  I went on a Safari in 2019 and contemplated this same question.  Here was my solution and what I would do differently if I get the chance to go again. 

My Approach in 2019

  • Leica SL (601)
  • Leica 24-90
  • Panasonic 70-200 4.0 with 1.4x extension
  • M Glass (21 3.4, 35 Summilux & 50 Summilux)
  • 3 Batteries

What I would now do differently in 2022

  • Two Camera Bodies
    • Leica SL2-S with 90-280 (ability to crop hi-res images essentially almost doubles the reach throughout focal length to an equivalent of 24MP.
    • Leica SL2 with 24-90 (Low light capabilities of this camera + most situations the reach is great).  24MP is IMO a sweet spot for most images.
  • M Glass (M35 Summilux & M50 Summilux)
  • 5 Batteries

In 2019 I found myself switching too frequently between the 70-200 and the 24-90.  Obviously a big investment, but two bodies provides more flexibility and avoids the potential to miss shots during lens change, also avoids issues with dust while out in the bush.   The quality of the Panasonic images were ok, but I like the extra coverage with the 90-280 without having to add the adapter and wider aperture of 90-280 at all focal lengths.  The M glass is for evening events, people shots around camp, etc.  The M 21 3.4 is great option for any wider landscape shots.

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Thank you, LeicaMeLeica.  

I am getting a sense for what to bring, though still am trying to work my S007 into the mix, as one of the options.  Perhaps with the S30-90 (in lieu of the   SL 24-90 option).

The 90-280 seems like a consensus, but maybe the new Sigma 150-600 as a less expensive alternative?  

Much appreciated,

Rob

 

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Consensus has it wrong, I fear...The 90-280 is too short. Invest 1000 Euro and buy the Sigma 150-600 which is optically and mechanically of virtually the same level  and will give you the reach you need. I am deeply impressed by this lens.
I have been on Safari over 30 times, and have always used my 280 mm lenses with either the 1.4  or 2x Apo-extenders. 

Give me a PM when you do you packing list, I will give you some tips.

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As for general advice:

Covid-related:

(from sad experience)

Fly business or use an airline like Emirates or Qatar. Most airlines are so cash-strapped that economy long-haul flights can be hellish.
Take plenty of N95 masks - even if you cannot use them, they are quite expensive for the local population in Africa and are appreciated
Take some self-tests, they may be hard to get locally
Take your own disinfectant - I have seen bottles of diluted.

General

Travel light and use soft luggage - weight and size can be limited on the way and I have seen hard suitcases refused on light aircraft.
Pop clean underwear, spare essential medication and a toothbrush in your camera bag against delayed or lost checked luggage.
Khaki clothing is not an affectation, in gameparks loud and bright is not conductive to good game-viewing, dust is best camouflaged by khaki and laundry facilities in game camps can be rudimental.
Take a good hat. I can recommend Rogue. Have a chin strap. Safari vehicles are open and can work up to quite some speed occasionally.
Use 8-hour sun lotion, like Rieman
Have good binoculars for every member of the party. Swapping around is frustrating.
Take spare sunglasses. The light-fingered community loves them, especially branded ones. Wear a cheap watch and no or simple jewelry. Not only is it not worth it to have it stolen, it is bad form to flout wealth in a third-world country.

Photographic.

S007: I took a 645 set on  Safari once - never again. The bulk and weight made it a very bad choice. Besides: you hand luggage is limited.Your 135 gear will likely eat up the whole allowance, and you surely are not going to check it. And carrying more that 12kg in 100º F is not going to be fun...
Take two chargers. If a charger breaks, your whole system is dead. They are easily forgotten when going from camp to camp and take their time catching up.
Make sure that you have backup and redundancy in your gear - there won't be a camera shop around the corner.
A tripod is of extremely limited use at best. In the vehicle a bean bag is the way to go and when walking you are not going to schlepp it.
Think about backup and keep it separate from your primary memory cards - those are prime objects to be pilfered.

Above all:

Don't do your safari  through your viewfinder. You'll lose 70% of the experience.  Sit back, feel the air, smell it, enjoy the surroundings, watch the animals, their interactions, and only raise your camera when you see something worth photographing. Take your holiday shots of sleeping Lions, browsing Giraffes and large Antelope herds by all means, but be aware that they have been repeated tens if not hundreds of thousands times before you. We are all photographers here and know that a photograph must tell an unique story. Take those!

 

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4 hours ago, jaapv said:

As for general advice:

Covid-related:

(from sad experience)

Fly business or use an airline like Emirates or Qatar. Most airlines are so cash-strapped that economy long-haul flights can be hellish.
Take plenty of N95 masks - even if you cannot use them, they are quite expensive for the local population in Africa and are appreciated
Take some self-tests, they may be hard to get locally
Take your own disinfectant - I have seen bottles of diluted.

General

Travel light and use soft luggage - weight and size can be limited on the way and I have seen hard suitcases refused on light aircraft.
Pop clean underwear, spare essential medication and a toothbrush in your camera bag against delayed or lost checked luggage.
Khaki clothing is not an affectation, In gameparks loud and bright is not conductive to good game-viewing, dust is best camouflaged by khaki and laundry facilities in game camps can be rudimental.
Take a good hat. I can recommend Rogue. Have a chin strap. Safari vehicles are open and can work up to quite some speed occasionally.
Use 8-hour sun lotion, like Rieman
Have good binoculars for every member of the party. Swapping around is frustrating.
Take spare sunglasses. The light-fingered community loves them, especially branded ones. Wear a cheap watch and no or simple jewelry. Not only is it not worth it to have it stolen, it is bad form to flout wealth in a third-world country.

Photographic.

S007: I took a 645 set on  Safari once - never again. The bulk and weight made it a very bad choice. Besides: you hand luggage is limited.Your 135 gear will likely eat up the whole allowance, and you surely are not going to check it. And carrying more that 12kg in 100º F is not going to be fun...
Take two chargers. If a charger breaks, your whole system is dead. They are easily forgotten when going from camp to camp and take their time catching up.
Make sure that you have backup and redundancy in your gear - there won't be a camera shop around the corner.
A tripod is of extremely limited use at best. In the vehicle a bean bag is the way to go and when walking you are not going to schlepp it.
Think about backup and keep it separate from your primary memory cards - those are prime objects to be pilfered.

Above all:

Don't do your safari  through your viewfinder. You'll lose 70% of the experience.  Sit back, feel the air, smell it, enjoy the surroundings, watch the animals, their interactions, and only raise your camera when you see something worth photographing. Take your holiday shots of sleeping Lions, browsing Giraffes and large Antelope herds by all means, but be aware that they have been repeated tens if not hundreds of thousands times before you. We are all photographers here and know that a photograph must tell an unique story. Take those!

 

Terrific advice. Thank you.  

We are off in Sept 2022, so I will certainly pin this advice for reference.  

Regards, Rob

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Money:

USD, GBP, EUR are widely accepted, for USD only post-2016. bills. Take small denominations - 1$ is an ample tip for a porter, for instance. Your Safari guide expects something between 5$ and 10$ per guest a day depending on the level of the camp (and of his guiding ;) ), however tips are not an obligation like in the USA, but a mark of appreciation at  your discretion. Lower and mid-range staff do depend on them, though. Keep in mind that salaries may be as low as 50$ a month and an employed person may have a large number of dependents, especially in countries like Malawi and Zambia.

Cash machines in larger towns will accept Maestro, provided your bank has activated it for use in Africa. Credit cards: Visa and Master. Amex is mostly not accepted. 

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18 minutes ago, jaapv said:

Money:

USD, GBP, EUR are widely accepted, for USD only post-2016. bills. Take small denominations - 1$ is an ample tip for a porter, for instance. Your Safari guide expects something between 5$ and 10$ per guest a day depending on the level of the camp (and of his guiding ;) ), however tips are not an obligation like in the USA, but a mark of appreciation at  your discretion. Lower and mid-range staff do depend on them, though. Keep in mind that salaries may be as low as 50$ a month and an employed person may have a large number of dependents, especially in countries like Malawi and Zambia.

Cash machines in larger towns will accept Maestro, provided your bank has activated it for use in Africa. Credit cards: Visa and Master. Amex is mostly not accepted. 

Thanks! So helpful.  
Please keep the suggestions coming.

Rob

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21 hours ago, ropo54 said:

Thanks, Jaap.  

I am inclined to find a 150-600 and give it a try. 

Rob

I have been reading very good things about the 150-600 as well, and probably won't go wrong.  My point on the 90-280 on the SL2-S is that you have the ability to 100% crop in and maintain 24MP, so you are getting close to 600.  Obviously price is completely different and based on maybe not using this zoom very often the Sigma is a great choice for the pocket book.  The reason I like the idea of two SL bodies is that the lens can be shared across both, so you get redundancy with camera system as well.  I love all the other tips/advise that @jaapv has provided around gear, redundancy, travel tips, experience outside your lens, etc.  

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8 minutes ago, LikameLeica said:

I have been reading very good things about the 150-600 as well, and probably won't go wrong.  My point on the 90-280 on the SL2-S is that you have the ability to 100% crop in and maintain 24MP, so you are getting close to 600.  Obviously price is completely different and based on maybe not using this zoom very often the Sigma is a great choice for the pocket book.  The reason I like the idea of two SL bodies is that the lens can be shared across both, so you get redundancy with camera system as well.  I love all the other tips/advise that @jaapv has provided around gear, redundancy, travel tips, experience outside your lens, etc.  

Thanks! But cropping is a circular argument With the 150-600 one could crop to 1200 mm ;). Or use an1.4 or 2x extender...

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22 hours ago, jaapv said:

Consensus has it wrong, I fear...The 90-280 is too short. Invest 1000 Euro and buy the Sigma 150-600 which is optically and mechanically of virtually the same level  and will give you the reach you need. I am deeply impressed by this lens.
I have been on Safari over 30 times, and have always used my 280 mm lenses with either the 1.4  or 2x Apo-extenders. 

Give me a PM when you do you packing list, I will give you some tips.

Jaap- are you looking for a job once you retire from your practice? As the safari business is picking up again, I'll be needing I need a safari planning assistant.... All excellent advice you've given Rob 👌

I agree about the 90-280mm being on the short side, it's OK for general game up close, but in general you need something longer, especially for birds. The Sigma 150-600mm L is a game changer. I haven't had a chance to properly test it out in the field yet, I've got a 31/2  week trip starting this weekend at Zuka & then on to the Serengeti in Tanzania until late Dec.

Gear packing list:

  • Cameras- 2 bodies: SL2 & SL2-S
  • Lenses- 3 Lenses:  Sigma 14-24mm L, Leica VE 24-90mm, Sigma 150-600mm & 1.4x TC (I'm leaving the Leica 90-280mm L & Canon 400mm f DO II behind).
  • Binoculars- Leica 8x32 HD (nice & light)
  • 2 spare batteries, Nitcore USB Battery Charger charger &  Zendure Portable Charger
  • Portable hard drive & spare 64gb SD cards. I limit myself to 64gb cards in case of a card failure, don't want to lose too many images. The cameras are set to record DNGs on card no.1 card & Jpegs on card no.2 also in case of card failure, unlikely that both cards will fail.
  • Iridium Satellite phone (Rob won't need that).

All packed into a Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II Camera Backpack, IMO probably the the best camera back pack I've ever owned.  

I've guided & managed safaris for 40 years, my advice is don't make the mistake of taking too much gear, you'll spend half the time fiddling with lenses & missing out on opportunities. Basically I'm only taking 2 cameras & 3 lenses plus binoculars.

Also good advice from Jaap re don't spend most of your safari looking through the camera viewfinder, pace yourself & take in everything that's going on around you.

 

 

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40 minutes ago, michali said:

Jaap- are you looking for a job once you retire from your practice? As the safari business is picking up again, I'll be needing I need a safari planning assistant.... 

Well... I am gradually retiring coming year.... And Patricia is equally capable... ;) 

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I also lived in Zambia for 2 years and still go on Safari nearly every European winter. Personally I think the 90-280 Vario-Elmarit is too short. It’s the only time I don’t take the Leica’s, favouring two Nikons (D800 and D810) with a 600mm f4.0 Nikkor (which I have to check-in) and a 300mm f2.8 Nikkor. In my opinion the one thing which is essential is 2 camera bodies. I would have been caught out twice without having a spare; once when the D810 was on the back seat with the 600mm attached. I had to brake suddenly and the pair slid to the floor with the weight of the 600mm crushing the front of the D810. The other time was when I had a sensor fail.

Whatever you decide to take I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time; enjoy.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 11/24/2021 at 2:27 PM, ropo54 said:

Thanks! So helpful.  
Please keep the suggestions coming.

Rob

Yes!  Great Info!  I agree with the suggestions on APS-C and longer zoom lenses.  I took an APS-C Canon with a 70-300 to Uganda where my wife and I volunteered for a month, two weeks in the bush just south of the Sudan border, and two weeks in Jinja on Lake Victoria.  APS-C was the perfect choice, lightweight and the 1.5 crop allowed stretching the 300mm when needed.  The zoom was also very nice to locate a general area and then zoom in to the specific location.  With a long prime it can be frustrating to search around trying to locate a leopard in a tree, for instance.  With the zoom I could focus on the general area of the tree, then zoom in and locate the animal.  Fast lenses are great for low light, but with the cost comes weight. Fewer lenses are better, especially zooms, changing primes leads to lost opportunities.  

I am planning on taking my TL2 with the 18-56 and buying the 70-300 Panasonic, unless Leica comes out with something new.  I will also have the Sigma 16mm f1.4 along, and am considering taking my 35 Distagon ZM and/or 75 APO Summicron for the evenings.  Compact binoculars and an iPad mini to transfer and review images.  Trying to keep it all down to a minimum.

The anti-malaria pills can cause indigestion, I was only mildly affected, my wife more so.  A Coke or Pepsi helped her through it.

We had wonderful guides in Murchison Falls and Kidepo National Parks, tip them well - they both need and deserve it!

Edited by Rick in CO
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1 hour ago, Rick in CO said:

Yes!  Great Info!  I agree with the suggestions on APS-C and longer zoom lenses.  I took an APS-C Canon with a 70-300 to Uganda where my wife and I volunteered for a month, two weeks in the bush just south of the Sudan border, and two weeks in Jinja on Lake Victoria.  APS-C was the perfect choice, lightweight and the 1.5 crop allowed stretching the 300mm when needed.  The zoom was also very nice to locate a general area and then zoom in to the specific location.  With a long prime it can be frustrating to search around trying to locate a leopard in a tree, for instance.  With the zoom I could focus on the general area of the tree, then zoom in and locate the animal.  Fast lenses are great for low light, but with the cost comes weight. Fewer lenses are better, especially zooms, changing primes leads to lost opportunities.  

I am planning on taking my TL2 with the 18-56 and buying the 70-300 Panasonic, unless Leica comes out with something new.  I will also have the Sigma 16mm f1.4 along, and am considering taking my 35 Distagon ZM and/or 75 APO Summicron for the evenings.  Compact binoculars and an iPad mini to transfer and review images.  Trying to keep it all down to a minimum.

The anti-malaria pills can cause indigestion, I was only mildly affected, my wife more so.  A Coke or Pepsi helped her through it.

We had wonderful guides in Murchison Falls and Kidepo National Parks, tip them well - they both need and deserve it!

The 75 APO Summicron is the M or the SL? 

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I was on safari in Kenya in the late 1990’s. My most used lens was a 300/2.8 often with a 1.4 or 2 x TC, followed by a 70-210/3.5 and a 21/2.8. Definitely take 2 bodies. The shutter blew up on one camera after a couple days and I would have been out of commission without a second body. This goes double for L mount cameras which will be difficult to replace. Depending on where/when you are going, it can be very dusty, minimize lens changes, keep your gear covered with a white sheet when not in use, and clean throughly at the end of each day. 
The trip I did was private. Four of us, taking turns driving, so we had room to move around and it was possible for a 300/2.8, 400/ 2.8 and 500/4 to used at same time. This would have been difficult with more people/vehicle, so keep in mind what your  situation will be like. I agree with some earlier comments that MFT is a very viable option, especially when space is at a premium.

I would love to go again. We were in Masi Masa for 2 weeks and didn’t run into anyone the whole time. Sounds like things have changed.

If taking an L mount camera, I would definitely be looking at the sigma 150-600. 

 

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