Need megazoom for Africa trip


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Aug 14, 2010
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We will be traveling to Africa soon which will entail much travel on light aircraft (= limited luggage) Certainly can't bring older cameras and multiple lenses so am looking for a mega zoom camera for purchase. Have researched Canon, Panasonic, Nikon, and Fujifilm megazooms and have found mixed reviews. Doubt I will be taking many HD videos, mainly interested in animal shots but those may include action shots. I also live on a lake and take lots of bird pics, both land and aquatic. Need a reliable magazoom camera that has high quality still and high zoom. If I designed a camera it would shoe, manual incredible zoom as opposed to electronic, adjustable LCD, at least 10-12 megapixels, relatively light weight, RAW as well as JPEG, great in low light, sharp image quality, but most of all dependability and predictability.

Your input is deeply welcomed and appreciated.


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I don't think a camera exists to meet all your "wants" without a high degree of compromise somewhere.. From what I gather from your post, the 3 top priorities are

1) Long focal length with wide range
2) Compact and lightweight
3) Raw + JPEG (obviously good IQ)

High end P&S meet 2 and 3 but not 1. Most DSLRs will meet 3 and 1 but not necessarily 2.

Some things that come to mind:

1) Canon 50D + Canon 28-300mm L IS
- Not really compact but good glass, good camera, 1 lens to do a lot.
- Nothing much to say...

2) Panasonic G2 + 14-45 + 45-200.
- I know you said that "multiple" lenses might be trouble but the micro 4/3rds lenses are so tiny and light compared to traditional 35mm and APC crop you really should consider.
- Lenses designed for 2x crop 4/3rds sensor. So these two lenses would give you a FOV range of 28-400mm on a full frame. No other system will give you that range in two pocket sized lenses.
- Both are Image stabilized in lens.
- Bigger sensor and better IQ than most P&S "megazooms".
- Excellent EVF built in

3) Olympus E-P2 (I have E-PL1 but E-P2 is better built) + Olympus 14-150
- Again.. micro 4/3rds cameras and lenses are so small.
- The new 14-150mm is optically probably not as good as #2 but it is a single lens about the weight of a 50mm Canon/Nikon prime (a bit taller though).
- An equivalent FOV of 28-300mm (in body image stabilized) on full frame
- E-P2 is more compact than the G2.
- Disadvantages: a bit slower focus than #2 (and #1). EVF is not built into the camera (optional accessory).

Personally... I'd probably go with the Panasonic G2 + 14-45 + 45-200 AND add to it 20mm f/1.7 (I always travel with at least 1 fast prime). I know its 3 lenses BUT all three can probably fit in a fanny pack as they are so small. I personally ended up with m4/3rd Olympus (for better adaptation with my manual glass). But to give you an idea of the size of zooms from this system, this is a snap of my 14-42 and 9-18mm next to my Canon 24-105L.


and to give you an idea just how tiny the size of 20mm f/1.7l, this is a snap someone took to compare the 20mm f/1.7 (equiv FOV of 40mm) against a 35mm f/1.4L Canon


from Gary Ayton photography 2010 January 3

The Panasonic GH1 also comes with a nice 14-150mm lens as well... but it was designed for video (GH1 is focused on video) and with that is a bit large.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful and comprehensive reply. I forgot to mention one major important fact. I already have a Nikon D80 with 24-300 MM lense with VR. Unfortunately, I think this camera and its accessories with be too heavy for my 44 lb weight limit on light aircraft/helicopters. I suppose I could cut back on clothes but I'm going to Africa for one month.

I wanted a lense in at least the 500 mm range, I don't think 300 mm is a long enough focal length for Africa. I'm looking for a bridge camera like the Fuji HS10, Canon SX1 - IS or Nikon P100 to replace my Nikon D80 for this trip.
Personally, I've never been happy with megazooms. They are terrible in low lights and lots of CA in high-contrast photos (which usually include most interesting well-lit shots).

If you do figure out a way around your weight constraint, another option would be a teleconverter for your current lens. A 1.7x (like this one) would get you 500mm reach with your 300mm lens. Of course, this option also entails some image quality loss and a sizable penalty in low-light performance.

In other words, the laws of physics get you one way or another :)

BTW, keep in mind your APS-C camera (D80) already gives you a FOV comparable to 450mm with your 300mm lens.
Leave all the useless stuff back in the hotel room. Stuff a spare shirt, pair of socks & underwear in a pocket of your cargo pants and pack a good photo kit. You can always shower when you get home, but a missed photo is forever!
I just returned from Africa (3 weeks) and mostly used my 70-300 lens, but would have definitely made use of a stronger telephoto lens. I didn't use my 28-80 at all (I only took those two lenses). The 70-300 also has macro capacity and I came home with some beautiful shots. I called all my photography equipment on and had no problems with the weight limits. Good luck and I hope you get some great shots.

More seriously, the best compromise between quality and portability is likely a dslr with a sigma "bigma" 150-500mm lens, and another smaller lens of a more normal focal length.
The Sigma 150-500 is known as the BigmOS, the Bigma is the Sigma 50-500mm. Both are known to have half decent quality, better so with the BigmOS. I would reccommend to rent a Sigma 120-300mm F/2.8 and 1.7x TC. This would get you there. Or just rent the Sigma 50-500.

D80+50-500= ~8lbs.

Although I probably missed your departure..


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