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MIKE POWELL

Surface zoom/telephoto lens?

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What would you recommend as a primary zoom/telephoto lens for shooting breaching white sharks from a boat and Africa safari shooting using the Canon 50D and 5D MKII.

I'm assuming the Canon 100-400mm L would be my best bet, but talking with my local camera shop they suggest I would only be able to hand hold up to 200mm on a boat to get decent pics.

 

What do others use?

 

Thanks!

 

Mike

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I don't shoot sharks but I have used my 100-400 from boats @ 400mm w/o problems. You are going to need a fast shutter speed to freeze the shark anyway so it won't be a problem hand-holding IMO. I shot hockey with my 100-400 the other day and it did ok. The other option, and maybe better, is a 70-200/2.8 with a 1.4 converter. I use this combo for sports all the time and it's great. Just depends on your working distance. This combo will give you a lot of flexibility and with the converter is a stop faster and just as sharp IMO.

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the 100-400 is the right choice for both situations. in my experience the 70-200 +1.4x is not as good at the 100-400. unfortunately i've found that an equivalent crop from the 5D2 is vitually no different than the crop frame shot from the 50D (hope the 7D is better). The advantage of the 5D2 is being able to use ISO 1600 or 3200 if necessary.

 

the only caveat is the variability of the 100-400, particularly at f5.6 and 400. i think newer lenses are better but would recommend testing in advance of your trip and sending it back to Canon if you can't make a sharp 13x19 print at f8 (a good copy will make a sharp print at f5.6).

 

shooting from a boat i'd say 1/500 is a minimum at 400 mm (although with multiple exposures there's a reasonable pobability of good results at lesser exposure)

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I don't shoot sharks but I have used my 100-400 from boats @ 400mm w/o problems. You are going to need a fast shutter speed to freeze the shark anyway so it won't be a problem hand-holding IMO. I shot hockey with my 100-400 the other day and it did ok. The other option, and maybe better, is a 70-200/2.8 with a 1.4 converter. I use this combo for sports all the time and it's great. Just depends on your working distance. This combo will give you a lot of flexibility and with the converter is a stop faster and just as sharp IMO.

 

 

Thanks Andy and stever!

 

I'm steering towards the 70-200 f/2.8 USM IS with 1.4x converter and was wondering if you've ever tried it with the 2x converter? With my 50D I could zoom to 640mm but will it auto focus and if so will the shot be in focus if I use a bean bag to steady it?

 

Thanks!

 

Mike

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Hey Mike,

 

I was on Chris Fallow's (www.apexpredators.com) boat this past June for the breaching Great Whites and I had the 100-400L. Problem is that the best action occurs in the early morning with pretty low light, so at 400 mm and even wide open at f5.6 it's hard to get the shutter speed up enough to freeze the action. I'm shooting a 40D, so I really didn't want to push the ISO much above 400. With the newer generation of sensors, you may be able to push the ISO higher which will help with this. Hand holding the lens at 400 definitely takes something, esp. on a rocking boat. FYI, Chris told me he shoots the 70-200 f2.8 at a minimum of 1/1250th - you can see his (ridiculously amazing) results on his site.

 

Have a great trip!

 

Phil

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An added advantage of the 70-200 over the 100-400 is that it is weatherproofed, so you've got some protection against splashes on the boat. Get the 70-200/2.8IS, a 1.4x extender and a decent polarizing filter (B+W Kausemann) and you'll get some excellent shark pictures.

 

Or if you're loaded and can handle a heavy lens, the 400mm/f2.8 will work pretty well too :blush:

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the 70-200 2.8 will autofocus with the 2x but the IQ is pretty is likely not going to make you happy for anything above 8x10 prints

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For safari even 400mm isn't long enough (for a FF camera) in my opinion. I almost always used my 400mm w/ a 1.4x TC. If you're using the 100-400 you can forget about teleconverters.

 

So how about two different lenses? A 70-200 for the sharks and a 400DO or 500mm for the safari?

 

Cheers

James

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I also recommend expanding your search to Sigma's 150-500 or 120-300. The 150-500 is a nice lens with nice flexibility which suits the private game parks in South Africa where you can get pretty close to animals yet have the reach when you need it.

The GW jumping is done from a rope towed about 90-110 ft back (depending on who you use). You'll need a bit of working space in case the shark comes in at an angle (frame filling is nice but try that after you get your wider shots first. Prefocus and meter on the decoy, then drop 1/3 stop or so. The sudden big splash and white belly can throw off your exposure.

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Thanks Andy and stever!

 

I'm steering towards the 70-200 f/2.8 USM IS with 1.4x converter and was wondering if you've ever tried it with the 2x converter? With my 50D I could zoom to 640mm but will it auto focus and if so will the shot be in focus if I use a bean bag to steady it?

 

Thanks!

 

Mike

 

I'm not a big fan of using the Canon 2x (at least my copy) with anything unless you have really strong, contrasty front lighting and you can stop down a bit. It will auto focus but will be slower and if it starts to hunt it hunts really slowly. I've used it with everything up to a 600/4 and it's ok but not my favorite. I still think the 70-200 and 1.4 is sharper and a better option than the 100-400 if if gives you the reach you want.

 

If you really want to drop some coin for a great lens pick up the 400/4 DO. It's sharp and easily hand-holdable. I'd be hard-pressed to drag my 400/2.8 on a boat. I love it but I usually take the 100-400 or 700-200/1.4 combo when shooting from a boat. But most of the stuff I shoot from a boat is sailboat races and the like.

 

If you're shooting from a boat towing a shark lure contact them and ask them what's the throw. They should be able to tell you generally how far back they tow the lure. If you know that it might help you make a decision.

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Thanks all!

 

Looks like the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS wins the prize using the 1.4x converter and not the 2x. My local camera shop pro is also suggesting the new 70-200mm f/4 IS ... $600 cheaper, half the weight, and four stops of shake correction. Anyone use one of these?

 

Phil - I contacted Chris Fallow and uses the 70-200 f/2.8, but also the 400 f/4...trying to figure which he uses most to get those killer shots.

 

The 400 is out of my price range, but can I rent one in SA ? Is there a comparable 400 'Sigma' or other brand that won't break the bank?

 

Mike

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Thanks all!

 

Looks like the 70-200mm f/2.8 IS wins the prize using the 1.4x converter and not the 2x. My local camera shop pro is also suggesting the new 70-200mm f/4 IS ... $600 cheaper, half the weight, and four stops of shake correction. Anyone use one of these?

 

Phil - I contacted Chris Fallow and uses the 70-200 f/2.8, but also the 400 f/4...trying to figure which he uses most to get those killer shots.

 

The 400 is out of my price range, but can I rent one in SA ? Is there a comparable 400 'Sigma' or other brand that won't break the bank?

 

Mike

 

Remember, Image Stabilization isn't a substitute for a faster shutter speed when it comes to freezing peak action. It will help with your movement but not your subject's movement. Sometimes you need the extra stop to gain a needed shutter speed but you have to be willing to pay for it. There is rarely a good cheap option when it comes to reach. Maybe you want to buy used?

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i've tested the 400DO and rented it for 2 trips

 

i think it's not worth the cost and trouble unless you really need f4 (which i did in Brazil, but not Tanzania). i found the IQ unsatisfactory with a 1.4x on my 40D. the IQ of the 400DO is better than the 100-400 but not by nearly as much as i'd hoped. i suspect the Canon 400 f5.6 is the IQ equal of the 400DO. the 400 f5.6 is not an unreasonable option as you will need 1/500 to 1/750 to stop animal action anyhow

 

if you use a long prime from a vehicle or boat where you have little control over location you must have a second body with a 100-400 or 70-200. in Tanzania i found that 80% of images came from the 5D2 and 100-400 and less than 20% from the 40D and 400DO. there is generally not time and the environment is not suited to change lenses - it's also really nice to have an assistant like the pros to hang on to the second camera

 

i think the most important tool for getting high quality wildlife images is a flash with better beamer for fill lighting

 

i seriously believe a 70-200 +1.4x is too short even on a crop-frame camera, however, if you don't really need f2.8 the f4 is a generally more useable lens with as good or better IQ

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I would go for the 100-400 on the boat.

 

As far as safari work is concerned you can rent the long canon lenses in SA at reasonable rates.

 

The best guys I have had dealings with is Outdoor Photo in Pretoria.

 

http://www.outdoorphoto.co.za

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