I received a great email this morning from a colleague who is headed out to Tanzania for the first time. He’s seeking advice about whether or not to bring along his 600mm f4 or his 200-400mm f4.
Here’s his question:
I hope you are not too crazy busy to offer a wee bit of advice. I am going to Tanzania for a month long safari this November. This will be my first trip to Africa, I know you have visited and photographed Tanzania many times.
I’m debating about which lenses to take. Weight is an issue of course as well as the number of bags to take so I’m trying to be conscience of how much
too pack. In a nut shell I would like your advice as to weather the 600mm AFS VR is a better choice than the 200-400 AFS. I own the 200-400 but have a chance to take the 600mm with me. Is it worth packing the big monster around with me? Maybe taking both is also an option?
All the best.
Nature Quest Images
Hi Doug –
If you are focusing on bird photography, then the 600mm will be indispensable. If you will be shooting mostly mammals and other Tanzanian creatures, then the 200-400mm is best. I bring three cameras that are a mix of FX and DX. I put the 200-400mm with 1.4x TC on the DX (D300s). On the FX camera, I usually put a 70-200mm or a 24-70mm.
The 600mm f4 is a monster lens and can be very difficult to work with. I’ve had a few people bring them on their trip, but they were traveling with a spouse/friend, so one person carried the 600mm and the other carried the 200-400. If you are doing this alone, then it will be very tough logistically. Everywhere you go on your trip you’ll have guides and porters, so you won’t have to carry the weight yourself. But, just schlepping the 600mm around the airports and camps can be a chore in itself.
Also, the 600mm can often be “too much lens” for many of the animals we come across on the Serengeti. Frequently, you’ll be photographing just the eyes or face of the animal with the 600, but wish that you could back off a bit to capture a bit of the environment. A 200-400mm gives you this option.
My recommendation is to take the 200-400mm, 1.4x TC (or 1.7x TC), a 70-200mm, a 24-70mm and at least two camera bodies. This will be a very flexible setup and you won’t get a hernia from all the weight.