Costa Rica lens choice

DynaSport

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My wife are planning a trip to Costa Rica in the next year or so. I hope to buy an additional lens with this trip in mind. Of course I want the chance to take photos of birds, but I will also be taking photos of everything. I already own quite a few lenses, including primes and zooms, including the P100-300, P14-140, P14, PL25, O45, O75, and more. My camera is an E-M1.

Here’s what I’m thinking. I have heard that often the birds are in low light because of the trees. I have also heard that you can often get close to the wildlife so you may not need as long a lens as in other places. Those factors have me leaning toward the 150 f2. Alternatively, I am considering the 300 f4. I’ll probably end up with both eventually, but I don’t think I can swing them both before the trip.

So, for those familiar with Costa Rica, what do you think? Or can I do ok with my 100-300 and save the money for something else?

Thanks
 
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Motmot

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I have been to CR several times, and am here now for a couple months. I have never had the opportunity to try the Oly 300mm pro, though I would like to. I have had quite good results with the oly 40-150 Pro w/ mc-14 teleconverter. I have the E-M5II, so I am not as well-equiped for BIF.

This trip I left the Oly 75-300 home (don't like the way the lens extends when zooming, and its not weather sealed - the 40-150 pro addresses both of these for me).

I also brought along the Oly 14-40 Pro, 7-14 Pro, and 60mm macro. It's my first time out with the 7-14 and I am not falling in love with it. The other two haven't made it out of the bag yet this trip, thought they have in the past.

This is probably less helpful to you, but the lens I am using the most on this trip is my 63mm Kodak Cine Anastigmat from the 1940s. I have been finding it a heck of a lot of fun and more inspiring on this trip. I also brought a 300mm Pentex m42 mount, but have only played with it a little (the idea is to see if it might be worth investing in the Oly 300mm pro someday).

Whereabouts do you plan to go in CR? That might influence your decision some. We are spending this trip in Monteverde, and in January and February, you can expect wet (cloud forest) conditions and low-light environments.

FWIW and worth what you paid :)

Dan
 

Apollo T.

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Hi Dyna,
Consider that it’s a country; has 2 coasts with mountains and jungle in between.
A lot of your choices will be determined by where you’ll be going, what you’ll be doing, etc. We were in CR for a week’s vacation several yrs ago— coincidentally about 2 wks after bro and SIL had been there. Our tour was a bit more adventurous- zip lines, river tubing, rock wall, etc. So my cam was safely bundled away. Our tour group moved a good deal so we had less ops to shoot since we spent a lot of time on bus.
OTOH their tour was more nature flora and fauna centered. They spent more time in ways that were more conducive to shooting. For example their group went to an aviary and a butterfly garden. So they got a P&S frame of SIL with 2 toucans. Their pace was also slower, so they had more ops to shoot. Ironically, they aren’t togsb but did get some decent shots.
Are you going on a tour?
Which places will you visiting?
Activities?
Wife and I both had a greta time.
 

DynaSport

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Several of you have correctly stated that where I go in Costa Rica will impact what lenses will benefit me the most. As of today, I don't know. We haven't made set plans yet. I can say, we won't be going on a group tour. That's just not our thing. We will try to see several parts of the county, including waterfalls and volcanoes. We are still in the research phase. I believe we will do a variety of things. A couple of days at the beach. A couple of days in the mountains. My main concern is a lens to capture some of the native birds and other wildlife. I think the light may be less than optimal in the forest, but as I have said, I hear you are able to get closer to the animals so reach may not be as important. Perhaps the 40-150 2.8 is the best lens for this purpose. It's a lens I'm sure I would use outside of this trip. Part of me just wants the 150 2.0, but I am afraid it wouldn't get that much use outside this trip.
 

retiredfromlife

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Or can I do ok with my 100-300 and save the money for something else?
Thanks
Different country but I recently purchased the 100-300 for my upcoming trip to Borneo. I realise low light will cause me a few problems, but I want to take a lens that wont cost the earth to replace if I kill it on the trip. So my 40-150 2.8 pro and converter will stay at home.
 

flamingfish

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Seconding what Motmot said about being prepared for rain. I was in CR in November (years ago) and as I remember, I spent the entire week wet for one reason or another. Some of it was our choice of activities (scuba diving, river rafting, cloud forest), but we also had a fair amount of rain, including at the volcano (Arenal). We heard it erupting all night, but couldn’t see it because of the fog.

If I were going again (and I’d like to be), I’d take a long lens, a landscape lens, and my little waterproof P&S (Oly TG-4).
 

oldracer

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If I were to go back and wanted to travel light, I would carry only the 14-140 and the 100-300. Last time I also had the Tokina 300mm mirror lens, bought just because it looked like fun. It was like looking at the world though a soda straw. Totally hopeless to find a bird in a bunch of trees and brush. With the zoom I can quickly center the subject and then zoom in. Big difference!

I get it that you want to buy a lens, but my experience is that zooms are nearly essential for travel. I have sold most of my primes as travel is my main photo objective. If you just have to buy, the 9-18mm is a great lens for indoors (churches, caves, etc.) and for street photography, though you probably won't be doing much of either in CR. That's my third lens for travel though. I just tried a 7-14mm Panny in Vietnam and Myanmar. Big, heavy, and nearly hopeless due to its very limited zoom range. I hauled that thing for three weeks and I think I have one "keeper" from it.

With the kind of ISO numbers we can use these days my concern about low light situations is pretty well gone. Especially since I travel with a carbon monopod.
 

Derek

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While I can't be of much help with your lens conundrum--I don't even take photos of birds when I'm at home, and I usually travel with either a single (often prime) lens or just a fixed-lens camera--I can add a very off-topic suggestion: when you're out to eat, if it's not at the table already, ask for a bottle of Lizano (Salsa Lizano), a Costa Rican condiment I find quite tasty; I really like it on eggs, beans, and rice at breakfast. It's a wonderful place: beautiful scenery, good food, very welcoming people. Lots and lots of nature, and it can be as adventurous as you want it to be. Good choice of destinations!
 

DynaSport

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Having worked there, my biggest regret was not having a fast 300 or 400 lense. Many great bird shots were missed in darker, denser foliage areas.
Are you referring to 300 to 400 in full frame field of view or 300 to 400 actual? I guess I am asking if the Olympus 40-150 2.8 lens (giving a 300mm full frame field of view) would be long enough in Costa Rica, or if I would need longer. Thanks.
 

mumu

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Dynasport, Have you gone to Costa Rica yet? We're going in the middle on next month (Mar). I've mostly settled on the following gear:
  • G85
  • GX7
  • Hero 7 Black
  • For sure lenses: 12-35/2.8, 15/1.7, 35-100/2.8, 100-400/4-6.3
  • Godox TT685o -- I just ordered it yesterday. I've been meaning to get one of these new flash units that can do TTL over radio frequencies AND this one has a guide number almost twice as strong as my Olympus FL600R. I haven't been able to talk myself into the hassle of also carrying a flash extender, btw.
  • Rogue Flash Bender to provide soft light when photographing flowers, insects and other stuff up close.
  • Raynox 150 diopter for macro-like shots. I don't shoot enough macro to warrant buying or renting a macro lens.
  • White collapsible rain umbrella which I can also use to block out harsh sunlight or as a light modifier for my flash.
  • Sirui 025X tripod (which I'll also use as a short monopod that I can rest against my waist pack when standing and trying to shoot video with the 100-400)
  • Not sure: I usually bring a super wide zoom but when I was in Costa Rica in 2016, I didn't use it very much at all. Also, I've since sold the 9-18 and replaced it with the larger 8-18 which is why I'm contemplating leaving it at home.
 

Neil_jo

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It really does depends on when and where you go. We went the 1st week of March 2013, landed in Liberia and stayed in the Guanacaste region and it is their dry season. These are of our resort on the first couple of days and as you can see not many leaves to worry about. I think the rainy season is from November to mid January and have heard the east coast has more jungle not 100% sure on that. I was shooting a Nikon D800 and had a Sigma 120-300 2.8 with a 1.4 TC and found I had enough reach. I have the Oly 300 now but if I went again I would probaby bring the 40-150 with the 1.4 TC. We went on 2 side trips, driver cruse and the rain forest. The river cruse was great and you can get pretty close to birds and animals, the rain forest was cold windy and wet and we had to buy plastic rain suits that they sold at the gift shop or we would have been drenched.
Sorry should have added, I also brought the 24-120 and the 105 macro.

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The Capuchin monkey was from the river cruse.

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The humming bird from the rain forest.

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