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Best telephoto lens for travel/wildlife?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by krauskim, Jun 11, 2012.

  1. krauskim

    krauskim New to Mu-43

    3
    Jun 11, 2012
    I have read a few responses to "best telephoto lens?" postings and most ask for more qualification on what "best" means, so I will try to provide some additional context. I'm inexperienced and had abandoned the hobby (this is just a hobby for me) before going digital. I'm returning to photography as a hobby and have invested in an OM-D EM-5 kit with 12-55 ED M.Zuko EZ Lens.

    I will be going on an Alaskan cruise and want to get a telephoto lens for taking shots from the ship and while out hiking. I plan on investing in a trekking monopod to use on hikes.

    So with those parameters: novice, OM-D EM-5 body, wild life and landscape photos, supported from monopod… what would be the best telephoto lens option?

    Right now I am leaning towards the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300 lens, mostly due to cost and because it is one step faster than the Olympus M.Zuiko 75-300 lens.

    Thank you for your responses, and any other advice would be appreciated – particularly on filters.
     
  2. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    I'd probably go with the Panasonic 100-300 for the reasons you've suggested. Unless you plan on doing a lot of wildlife shooting after your cruise, you might consider renting the long telephoto for your trip. Both LensRentals.com and BorrowLenses.com have the P100-300 available.

    Your Alaska cruise notwithstanding you're likely to get much more use out of a fast prime like the Panasonic 20mm, the Olympus 14mm or the Panasonic-Leica 25mm in the long term, so that's where I'd spend my money.
     
  3. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    I think like most choices in photography always comes down to which criteria is *most* important.

    If wildlife is what you're after specifically, I'd probably go with the Panasonic 100-300 (either buying or renting, as appropriate for your needs). I don't have one of these yet, but my thinking is if you're shooting wildlife or far subjects, then the extra reach of the 100-300 is almost always going to be a plus.

    Assuming you're buying rather than renting: if cost is a major concern, the Panasonic 45-200 is a good option at an affordable price. I got mine for around $180 used in great shape, and I've seen several more for sale around that price point. I'm quite happy with the sharpness and quality I'm getting for that kind of price point.

    FWIW, here's my thoughts... I'm actually going to Alaska this summer myself, although not on a cruise. I have the Panny 14-140 and 45-200 now. After my experience with them I will likely be replacing the 45-200 with a 100-300 someday. There's not enough difference (to me) between 140mm and 200mm to make it worth carrying both lenses, and I definitely prefer having the short range options of the 14-140 if I'm going to pick just one. The 14-140 offers a huge range of options without swapping lenses and even though I've only had mine a short time I quite enjoy having that much versatility at hand for walkaround use.

    One more note... I'll have two camera bodies at my disposal since I already have a GF2 and a G3. If you only have one body to work with, something to consider is lens changes and versatile focal range. If you're using a 100-300 it'll be great if everything is far away (likely on the boat I'd imagine?). The 45mm on a 45-200 is relatively far as it is, let alone having your short F.L. at 100mm. Just something to bear in mind in terms of versatility of each lens, if you're planning to use it for things other than wildlife photos (and don't want to switch off to your 12-50).
     
  4. jnewell

    jnewell Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 23, 2011
    Boston, MA
    I was recently trying to re-rationalize things and bought a 14-140...which made my 45-200 more or less useless, especially if adding (via purchase or rental) a 100-300, as jloden observes. I have two bodies also, and think the 14-140 will stay on one more or less full time, and the other body will alternate between a 7-14 and (if I buy or rent one) a 100-300.
     
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  5. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Exactly where I'm at right now :smile: 14-140 on one body, 7-14 on the other if I anticipate wanting a wider shot, or the 100-300 if I anticipate wanting the long end like wildlife shots.

    I've also found it works well throwing a prime lens on the second body, like the Oly 45 f/1.8 or Panny 25 f/1.4 for grabbing portraits and candids. This past weekend I had the 14-140 on my G3 doing the bulk of the shooting, and alternating between the 45 or 7-14 on the GF2. Worked out great... I was able to get a nice variety of shots.
     
  6. krauskim

    krauskim New to Mu-43

    3
    Jun 11, 2012
    Lots of great points in these two posts. Thank you both for the thoughtful feedback. At this point I don't have enough experience to know what lenses I will be using the most, so I don't know where to invest my money. With that in mind, renting sounds like a great option! :thumbup:

    Also, having something that covers the gap between the kit lens I have and the 100-300 is a great idea. If I rent I can get both, and it will give me an opportunity to try more lenses.

    I do plan on getting a bag that should be able to accommodate 3 lenses + body + various other small items. I may have to get some lens cases to make sure I don't break the rented equipment.

    Down side is that I won't be able to gain any experience with the lenses before the trip, but I will live with that.

    Some followup questions.
    1) If I were to rent two lenses, what would be a good combination to have on hand, 14-140 rented + 100-300 rented, or maybe 12-50 kit I have + 75mm/f1.8 prime rented + 100-300 rented.
    2) Should I be concerned with switching lenses? The idea of having more than one body is not something that occurred to me, but like I said, I'm new. (Although I do know how things like this can collect. Cycling is my other hobby, and I have 9 bikes :rolleyes:.)

    Thanks again for the feedback.
     
  7. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    Rentals: If you really wanted to rent multiple lenses, the superzooms like the Panasonic 14-140 or Olympus 14-150 is hard to beat for versatility. With an Oly body, you don't need the OIS on the Panasonic lenses, and renting means the price isn't as big a factor, so be sure to look at Olympus offerings too for more options. If you had a superzoom and a 100-300 you'd be fully covered across the whole spectrum. That said, I don't think you'll find you're missing all that much in between the 12-50 and a 100-300. Bottom line, I'd say rent whatever you're most interested in trying out and think you'll get the most value from.

    If you wanted to rent the 75mm (assuming if it's available by then for rent) then I'd say go for it. For me personally a 75mm prime isn't a big draw, because it's too long for general photos, and too short for most wildlife. My understanding is it's meant to be a fairly specialized portrait lens, but that's just what I read here - I've no experience with a 90mm equivalent prime myself! :smile:

    Switching lenses - I do try to avoid it, mostly because it can sometimes be a pain in the field, and I hate being "that guy" holding up a group (or even just my wife) while I swap lenses or set up tripods or whatever. However, I went on a number of trips with my GF2 and 2 lenses - all I owned at the time - and swapped as I went. See the Tips and Tricks for Changing Lenses thread I started for some helpful info on dealing with lens changes, especially the "one-hand" lens swap. It's not a huge deal and you definitely don't need multiple bodies. As you say, these things accumulate :biggrin: I just got a G3 recently so I happen to have both my older GF2 and a G3 so I figure why not take advantage of the dual body setup, at least when I know I'll be setting out to take photos.

    I picked up the dual body idea from my What's Your Travel Setup thread. Lots of great tips in there for my Alaska trip, so you may find it worth a read also.
     
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  8. MizOre

    MizOre Mu-43 Veteran

    201
    Dec 26, 2011
    Rent if you don't shoot wildlife or birds outside very special trips. If you do like shooting wildlife and birds as a regular thing, buy. I'm in Nicaragua where i see birds I haven't seen before in the US, and being able to just put on a long lens and sit in the yard watching for birds is part of having a camera for me, anywhere. Otherwise, I use the 20mm Panasonic.

    The usual question -- is the trip for photographs or are photographs a way of documenting the trip? When I first visited Nicaragua, I was traveling with a fairly tolerant friend and had a point & shoot and a Nikon F3 with me, no monopod or tripod. Most of the photos were taken by the point and shoot. I'd left the D300 at home.

    If you're taking the trip for the photographs, knock yourself out -- get another body and rig up for one for the basic zoom and the other for the specialized lenses. Take the monopod and maybe even a tripod. If the others traveling with you are also photographers, this will work well.

    However, if the people traveling with you aren't photographers and if they're not really patient, put on a lens like the 14-140mm for most shots, and only put on the 100-300mm when doing so won't slow the party or when the party is really caught up in watching the bears or seals or caribou or whatever, too.

    Bird photography tends to involve a lot of waiting and watching for anything other than fairly large birds. It's probably the one that doesn't go well with traveling with people who aren't birders. If you're going to become passionate about that, you'll find lots of birder oriented tours. I found that I had to be patient with my dedicated birder photographer friend who visited, and I also take bird photographs. "If we stay here a little longer..." is a birders' joke on themselves.

    Most non-photographers' ideas of travel photographs are quick snapshots. Make sure you and whoever you're traveling with understand what you plan to do. If that's not fun for them, see about arranging some time alone or with a guide and arrange another activity for the person or people who aren't so interested in photography.
     
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  9. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    MizOre, that is some great advice about traveling with others. I am rarely on a trip with other photographers, so I have to plan to "run and gun" much of time, or risk annoying/boring the rest of the group.

    I want my wife and friends to appreciate that we come home with great photos of our trips, not feel like I spent the whole trip setting up camera equipment and slowing them down :tongue:
     
  10. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Patrick
    Very sound advice indeed, MizOre!
     
  11. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    As Jay noted, I wouldn't worry overly much about that gap between 50mm and 100mm. That's a bit of no-mans land much of the time for me. If you had only the 12-50 and 100-300 I doubt you'd find yourself often hoping for something in between.

    Part of the beauty of renting is that you don't have to worry too much about that. :wink: Actually I think the rentals companies will ship the lens in soft cases, so you shouldn't have to worry about that.

    This is really the biggest negative to renting something like this that you don't have a lot of experience with. The good news is that you'll have some time on the boat before you get up to where you're likely to really start seeing the Kodiaks and stuff. Of course that's dependent on your traveling companion not minding you spending the start of your trip playing with your new toys. That might not go over so well if this is a honeymoon or something.

    Yeah, but all those bikes have a different purpose, right? Seems totally normal to me. :rolleyes:

    Depending on your budget, you might want to consider purchasing one lens so that you can have some time to build a comfort level before you go. The reason I suggested renting the 100-300 is that a lens that long is really a specialty lens (for me, at least). I don't spend a lot of time shooting wildlife/birds which are the things those long lenses are really suited best for.

    I'm not overly concerned with switching lenses -- it's easy enough to do once you've done it a time or two. Obviously each time you switch you run the risk of getting some dust or muck inside the body and onto the sensor, but as long as you're not swapping lenses in a dust storm, you're likely to be okay. I feel like you're better off to invest in lenses at this point than second bodies.

    I would be very surprised if the 75mm lens is available in the rental "fleet" in time for a cruise this summer. I also agree with Jay that 75mm is a fairly niche focal length. That lens appears to be targeted as a long portrait lens.

    If I were going on an Alaska cruise with 3 lenses I would want one really long lens (e.g. the 100-300mm) for wildlife shots, one walkaround zoom (e.g. the 12-50) for daytime use and a fast (i.e. big aperture) prime for night/indoors shooting.

    I would suggest buying (not renting) the fast prime because most users who have these end up using them a lot and the cost of renting a 20mm/1.7, for example, is a large enough percentage of the cost that renting doesn't make sense. Even if you buy a 20/1.7 new and use it on your trip then find you don't want it, you'll be able to re-coup 90%+ of your cost on resale and come out ahead of renting (as long as the hassle of selling doesn't bother you).
     
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  12. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    This brings up an excellent point - a hole in your camera & lens setup would be a fast lens for indoor and low light photos. If nothing else, I bet you'll want to take photos inside the ship, etc. and a fast aperture lens like the 20mm f/1.7 is indispensable. Hard to beat the Panny 20 for price to value ratio, and it's a great focal length for general or "snapshot" type photos.
     
  13. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    You can't every have too much reach when shooting things from a ship, and particularly when doing so, a second body can be an absolute godsend. I don't know if your cruise is 'expedition style' at all, i.e. shooting from Zodiacs and the like, but this counts double under those circumstances.

    I went on an Antarctic cruise this past December and took a pair of 5DII's with me, with a 24-105 glued to one and the 100-400 glued to the other. Simply having both wide-angle to super tele covered in immediately accessible packages allowed me to get a lot of 'spur of the moment' shots that would otherwise have been impossible. Some of the best were off of moving boats (ship, zodiac) and with limited time to frame and compose. Shooting in RAW also saved my butt, because metering scenes with that much white and contrast tended to confuse things from time to time.

    It looks like more 'stuff' to drag around, but it's actually less stressful and faster than switching lenses if you don't have time to simply set up. It also lets you absorb more of the place, witness the beauty of nature and occasionally capture some of it on your sensor rather than worrying about glass selection overmuch.
     
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  14. dre_tech

    dre_tech Mu-43 Veteran

    314
    Jan 31, 2012
    I would personally buy the Panasonic 100-300 and if you don't get much use after you can sell it. I'm not sure how long your cruise is, but a 14 day rental to New England appears to be $139 with the damage waiver.

    Of course that's much easier to deal with, you have the damage waiver and everything. Depends if you'll want to use it later.

    Regarding the panasonic 20mm, it's a very nice lens, I have it and I keep it on my camera a lot. On the other hand you don't need it for this trip. Latest generation body with good high ISO performance (no problem at 1600) and IBIS for slower shutter speeds than usual. You'll be able to take very nice photos inside the ship.

    I wouldn't bring more than 2 lenses if you're just getting started. You'll probably want to use the 12-50 inside the ship to get a wide angle. The 20 isn't nearly as wide.
     
  15. djonesii

    djonesii Mu-43 Regular

    42
    Aug 18, 2011
    my kit is .... 14-140 and 100-300 when I;m out and about in nature ....

    For MOST of my needs, the 100-300 does not really ever make the camera when just out. On a photo trip, its the most used.

    horses for courses...

    Dave
     
  16. krauskim

    krauskim New to Mu-43

    3
    Jun 11, 2012
    Yes and no. A few are impulse buys that I 'thought' would be used, but have not been. They need to be sold. In reality, 4 get regular use and each servers a very different purpose.

    There are too many great points of advice to quote. Thank you all for the thoughtful feedback.

    This trip is not for taking photographs, it actually is my honeymoon. :smile: My bride to be is very patient and I have already cleared it with her that some time will be take up when we are out and about to frame up photographs. This trip will likely be a mix of shoot and run, with pauses to frame up when a great opportunity present itself.

    Her idea of taking a photo is just to capture the memory, for which a point-and-shoot is fine. I also want to capture memories, but want to do it by framing up a great photo.

    I'm going to stick with my 12-50 kit and rent a 100-300, and live with the gap between 50-100. I see the logic in using my money to buy and resell if needed, instead of renting. Personally, I'm much more comfortable spending money to rent and try, than reselling.
     
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  17. jnewell

    jnewell Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 23, 2011
    Boston, MA
    Your point on fast primes is right on target, and my gear range for my FX/DX Nikon DSLRs includes them...I have not yet gotten there with m4/3...I identify it as a gap in flexibility, but I haven't thrown either bag space or cash at it yet. :) If I did, I think my choices would be the Oly 12/2 and 45/1.8...
     
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  18. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    That sounds like a good approach. As dre_tech noted, the kit zoom on the OM-D should be more than capable for most low-light environments given the camera's high-ISO capabilities. On my first/second generation camera, the need for a fast lens is greater.

    I'm not sure how I guessed it's your honeymoon, but to me that cements the "less is more" ethos, at least for this trip. There's no need to be juggling lenses all day when the point of the trip is more to enjoy the company.

    Have fun and don't forget to share some of the shots you get here in the forum when you get back.
     
  19. dre_tech

    dre_tech Mu-43 Veteran

    314
    Jan 31, 2012
    Sounds like a good plan. Enjoy your honeymoon!

    You also asked about filters. Are you interested in ND for longer exposures during daytime? Foamy rivers & streams? At about 6 stops it starts being useful if it's bright out and you want long exposure times. Some go for 9-10 stops. I had a 3-stop ND on my big Australia/Thailand trip and it was only ever useful to allow me to shoot with a wider aperture.

    Polarizers, if you think you want one, go for it. I have a Hoya HD, Pro1D are also very good. I rarely use mine, my ND gets a lot more use.

    As the pros always say: It's not really about the gear...

    I'm only an enthusiast, sharing what I've learned and tried. Just get comfortable with the camera and the shooting mode you prefer. Save the RAW files from the trip even if you don't have any intention to work on them in the near future.

    Also, do you have a little tripod? A gorillapod or something? I use a gorillapod hybrid, but maybe the SLR Zoom will be more appropriate for the 100-300.
     
  20. MizOre

    MizOre Mu-43 Veteran

    201
    Dec 26, 2011

    Asking your new bride to be patient with your hobbies on her honeymoon strikes me as game on her part. :)