I don't know how it will go in Mozambique, but in Botswana we commonly got quite close and I didn't need to use teleconverters with the 70-200 VR. Only the giraffe shots here
were taken with the 2X (which, as James says, will soften the image). The elephants, leopards, and hyenas were all at < 200mm. And I have to say (though I was initially skeptical), the AF-S and the 2.8 on the 70-200 make a lot of difference in the low lighting that you get some of the best opportunities at. Another photographer had a better body (D200 vs my D70) and I could focus quickly with the 70-200 and she often could not autofocus the 80-400 at all (and theh 80-400 was loud, which did spook an animal once). Even with the 2X TC on (which makes both the 70-200 and 80-400 at 400 f5.6), the 70-200 AF-S on the D70 whipped the 80-400 on the D200 (on focus speed; it will not be quite as sharp). The 200-400 is a fabulous lens, if one can afford it and tote it. The ideal compromise might be the 70-200 with a 1.4X or 1.7X -- or, less flexible but very light and relatively frugal, is the 300 AF-S f4 (great minimum focus distance, too), if you can give up the VR. The 200-400 is possible, but somewhat challenging, to hand-hold, even with VR (the 70-200 and 300 are both about 3.2 pounds, the 200-400 is over 7). I've only handled the 200-400 once, as its owner watched me like a hawk. Availability of this lens is also very limited, right now.
Thom Hogan, who is in my opinion is one of the more sensible Nikon reviewers, has this to say on his site, byThom
(keep in mind he's referring to the corners of 35mm full frame):
Performance with the TC-14e teleconverter is nothing short of astonishing. How good is it? Well, I can't see any differences between the 70-200mm at 200mm with a TC-14e and the highly regarded 300mm f/4 AF-S! That's both unexpected and unprecedented. In other words, if you need a 300mm f/4 AF-S, just get the 70-200mm and a TC-14e. You'll get a more versatile lens and lose no sharpness.
With the TC-20e teleconverter, the results are still good (see above), but sharpness is slightly compromised in the corners. I would characterize the results as being an "better-than-adequate" 400mm f/5.6. You might be able to do better with a dedicated 400mm or the 300mm f/4 AF-S with a TC-14E, but the 70-200mm and TC-20e combination will get you by if you don't have one.
END OF EDIT
I think the best bet, with what you have, is the 70-200, ideally with at least one AF-S teleconverter (I'd say 1.7, 1.4, and 2.0, in that order).
Edited by CeeDave, 24 July 2007 - 08:42 AM.