Lenses for Canada (wildlife + whales) in the summer

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by Qiou87, Feb 7, 2014.

  1. Qiou87

    Qiou87 Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 15, 2013
    Paris, France
    Hi guys,

    I'm looking for some first-hand feedback and advice, from people who have visited (or live in) Canada. Specifically I plan to go there for three weeks in the summer, and I'll fill the trip with visits of the major eastern cities (Toronto/Ottawa/Montreal/Quebec). I'll probably visit a couple national parks, trying to see some wildlife that we do not have the luxury of having in Europe (bears and deers mostly).

    I've already booked a stay in Rivière-du-Loup, where I'll take one of the excursion boats to see the whales in the St-Lawrence. My question is this: is 300mm (equiv., so basically my Oly 40-150mm) enough to shoot decent pictures of whales from a boat?

    I have an OM-D E-M5 so the stabilization should help with the boat movements. I'm just worried that 300mm might be too short (I have no idea how close the excursion boats get, or can get, to the whales). My lens line-up is otherwise covered for this trip, I believe (see sig), and to be honest I do not wish to spend 500€ on a 70-300 or 100-300mm lens right before going on holiday (I'd rather spend the cash there to see and experience more things). I know I'd probably not use it much afterwards either. On the other hand, I do not wish to miss many shots of bears, birds or whales just because I didn't have the proper lens equipped. Keep in mind there is no renting option for MFT lenses in France.

    So here it is, I'd like to know your own experience in shooting wildlife and big fishes with a telephoto in these parts of the world. Do I need something longer than 300mm (equiv. 24x36) or is what I have more than enough?

    Bonus question: anyone seen shots of whales in infrared? I have a second body modified for IR and I'd be curious to try that, see if it makes them stand out (if they turn white in infrared, it would make for good contrast on the grey/dark blue sea). Same goes for bears and deers, btw, I'd be curious to know if anybody has tried.

    Second bonus question: is covering up the lens and body with plastic mandatory to avoid any damage, especially for an unsealed lens like the Olympus 40-150mm?
  2. quatchi

    quatchi Mu-43 Veteran

    May 17, 2012
    Munich, Germany
    Usually, the boats get quite close to the whales, which are big animals to begin with. :) There your 45-150 should be sufficient.

    As for bears, elks and whatnot, I would highly recommend investing into one of the x-300 lenses. I know, there isn't a renting option for us here in Europe, but you can buy used and sell it again after your trip. An alternative would be a 300mm legacy lens in case you are fine with MF.
  3. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    I'd call 45-150 a good minimum; half the fun is also being able to get good detailed close-up shots. I've never regretted having MORE reach for wildlife shots, although you may occasionally need to swap lenses for the wider stuff when they do get closer. I'd go with a 75-300 or panasonic 100-300 (owned the latter, liked it quite a lot; have an E-M1 and decided to go for the faster/better optical quality 50-200 now, may add a 100-300 for traveling extra light where there is some wildlife, but said wildlife is not the main attraction).

    As for the infrared shots: go for it! I have seen some infrared Antarctica photography somewhere, can't dig it up, but since there are a fair number of whales swimming around the southern ocean you may find some shots of them there, if you google well.
  4. Qiou87

    Qiou87 Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 15, 2013
    Paris, France
    Thanks to both of you, you kind of confirm what I already thought. I've played with the 100-300mm from Pana (a friend has it, but no, I don't think he'd let me borrow it for 3 weeks :) ) and I find it quite large. I'm not sure I'd find one used (France is not a big market for MFT at all) and it's too much money for a single trip. Usually the 40-150mm is plenty long for my needs...

    I also saw the Samyang 300mm f/6.3 mirror telephoto, which is not all that expensive (especially if I could find it in Canada directly and profit from the great €/$ rate). But it's got manual focus only and I fear that MF on a 600mm lens will be a nightmare...
  5. Edmunds

    Edmunds Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 16, 2012
    I would definitely take an Olympus 75-300mm for a wildlife trip. Back when I was on a trip through Alaska I only had a 40-150mm zoom, and as far as wildlife was concerned I definitely found myself wishing for a longer lens... like 80-90% of the time. I analyzed the pics with ExposurePlot and it looks like I used the 150mm focal length more than all the other focal lengths combined.

    That said, that's only the case if there actually is wildlife to photograph. Unless you specifically plan for it, the number of wildlife encounters may be so few that purchasing another lens just for that may not be worthwhile. That's pretty much why I don't own a 75-300mm lens myself.
  6. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Jan (John) Kusters
    I would go for the 75-300 or 100-300. The boat might get close enough to use even a standard zoom, but chances are you will get a lot more keepers if you have a longer zoom. Not just the 'normal' pics, but also close ups and things that happen further away get in reach. And for other wildlife you will always want more reach, no matter what you bring...
  7. walter_j

    walter_j Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Sep 10, 2013
    Hagwilget, B.C., Canada
    It might be tricky to even frame a whale with a long lens if you're in a small boat. Maybe try going on a short trip in a small boat just to try it. I have trouble handshooting anything longer than 75 on something in motion. For video, a shorter lens may be preferable.
  8. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I would stay away from mirror lens, never liked the little circles. If you are ok with manual focus pick up a old lens. My only wildlife lens is a Canon FD 400mm f/4.5. Focusing is pretty easy and is actually easy to shoot handheld. Here is a link to my photos taken with it. Most are with my Fuji X-E1 which has no IS and all but the last few are taken handheld.

  9. Qiou87

    Qiou87 Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 15, 2013
    Paris, France
    You (and Edmunds) make a valid case for the purchase of a very long telephoto (I'd be inclined towards the Panasonic one, even though they seem pretty even in terms of image quality, for the wider maximum aperture).

    Again, good point, though from the few pictures I have seen on their website, the company taking people on trips to see whales from Rivière-du-Loup use medium-sized boats. It will probably still move with the waves (although it is not the open sea so I'm not expecting big ones) but I'm guessing it's still pretty stable.

    Thank you, you have some very good shots in there! I like the ducklings very much. ;)

    MF is not really my cup of tea ; I started photography with a manual camera but have been oh so happy to use AF for the last decade, don't know if I could bring myself to focus manually again (ultra-wide being the exception, but using hyperfocal its just plain simple). Although if they bring focus peaking to the E-M5 it might become a lot easier... I've got a few old FD lenses lying around (including a crappy old telephoto), maybe I'll buy a cheap adapter and give it a try.
  10. dav1dz

    dav1dz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 6, 2012
    In Ontario, Henry's is very popular camera retailer, they also rent.


    35-100 & 75-300 II are both available in their rental catalog. If you dug around more I'm sure there are equivalent stores in Quebec as well. Unfortunately I don't speak French so I can't help you in that regard.

    Why don't you rent here after you arrive? Reserve the lens you want before arrival and stop by the store.
  11. tomas

    tomas Mu-43 Regular

    Been to Alaska 2x. For megafauna on the ground micro 4/3rds 100mm-150mm lenses won't be long enough most of the time. Usually the animals are not that close to the bus. You really need x-300mm something. I've owned both the Olympus and the Panasonic. I kept the P 100-300 as the better of the two for me.

    For whale watching on a bobbing boat, the long telephoto zooms are very difficult to manage. I'd go with the P 40-100 or maybe even the P12-35 or OL12-40. Sometimes the boats get very close to the diving whales.

    In both of the above situations you'll find yourself wishing for another lens from time to time. I'd go with two bodies, with your best guess lens on each lens.
  12. Biro

    Biro Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 8, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    How about this? Ask if your friend will loan you his Pansonic 100-300 for the trip on the promise that if you break it, you'll buy it. Otherwise, in Montreal, Lozeau Camera has the Panny 100-300mm for $599 Canadian:


    And they have the Olympus 75-300mm for $519 Canadian:


    The only other thing I could suggest is a superzoom bridge camera. The total cost of one of these cameras would be less than either of the lenses listed above. That or you'll simply have to crop some of your photos.

    EDIT: Here's a superzoom that might make sense for the OP: The brand-new Fujifilm S1 which goes on sale in March. Yes, it's a small sensor but the zoom range is 24-1200mm and the camera features five-axis image stabilization, a decent-resolution electronic viewfinder and rear LCD screen and - most importantly - weather resistance for use in the rain or when there's water spray around.

  13. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Jan (John) Kusters
    Another word of advice; using very long tele's takes some practice...
  14. Qiou87

    Qiou87 Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 15, 2013
    Paris, France
    I remember seeing somewhere that you needed some discipline, or a tripod, to get a good keeper rate with a 600mm (equiv.) lens. I certainly understand that, and I guess it could be near impossible to stay still on any kind of boat. with such a long lens.

    I already have the P12-35 for any kind of close-up action with the whales (and 97% of all other shots I'll take on that trip). A second body would be nice but unless there is a killer deal on the EM-5 (or the new EM-10, even less likely) that's not gonna happen. And I ditched a full frame DSLR when moving to MFT, I'd like to avoid carrying 5kg of gear on vacation all over again.

    The idea of renting locally might make the most sense since I'll make a round-trip from Montreal and back, so I could try and rent something there and return it at the end of the trip. The only problem I see (with Lozeau at least) is that they require you to be from Quebec in order to rent something... Or I'll try to convince my friend to lend me his 100-300mm and pay for it if I damage it. It might be hard since we are not so close.

    I'll continue to consider my options. Gear aside, I'm also planning the trip with a little more details, checking where I'll be able to go and what I'll be able to see. I'm not traveling alone so I also have to compromise a little, which explains why I'm planning ahead in order to get the maximum out of those few weeks. I'd like to thank you all for the input, it certainly helps me to plan this whole thing right.
  15. Kilauea

    Kilauea Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 9, 2012
    Hi, I'm from Montreal. When are you coming and when are you leaving ? I'm from Montreal and I have a 75-300mm. Depending on the dates of your trip, maybe we could find some arrangement.
  16. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    I live in Toronto. In Toronto, you may need a somewhat longer lens than 300mm to capture photos of whales... ;-) Just sayin'...

    I bought the 75-300 after borrowing a Panasonic 100-300 for a few days. I didn't like the weight or size of the 100-300.
    The 75-300 is deceivingly small and that's what I bought for my zoo excursions. I rarely use it zoomed all the way out to 300mm at the zoo and damn this lens is sharp. Don't let the weird aperture at the long end scare you away.
  17. Qiou87

    Qiou87 Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 15, 2013
    Paris, France
    Wow, that's a very generous offer considering I'm a complete stranger! I land in Montreal on the 20th but I'm heading west at first (Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa...). I'll be visiting Quebec, including the whales and hopefully a couple of national parks for the wildlife, from july 30th until august 8th (I also fly home from Montreal). The way I see it I'd only need the super telephoto for that second part of the trip.
  18. Kilauea

    Kilauea Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 9, 2012
    Well, the way I see this is that we have a community here and if its possible, why not try to help each other. If we were to do this, the way I can imagine it, is that you "pay" me let's say 500$ for the lens which I give back to you upon the return of the lens. So, yes you technically do have to pay for it and factor it in your budget, but at the same time, you know that you will get your money back in the end. The only rather big problem is that for now I am probably coming back from a trip on August 4th, but things could change; however, I doubt they would change by 5 days.
  19. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 29, 2012
    Bears and deer in summer time for eastern Canada will require long glass, so a 300 will be good. Be prepared to get up very early, 5am or earlier.

    Most of my wildlife shooting has been in western Canada, where the Panny 20mm is plenty for elk, deer etc. Had a few bears come much too close for comfort.

    Here in the Ottawa area, winter time is much better for deer and they get very close.
  20. Qiou87

    Qiou87 Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 15, 2013
    Paris, France
    @kilauea: again, thank you for the generous offer. I'll be in Quebec city on the 4th so it might be a bit too late, but I do appreciate your offer nonetheless.

    @kinlau: after spending some time on various websites, including Sepaq, it seems that I will indeed have a hard time seeing wildlife. This is a general trip, not specifically focused on wildlife since that's more of a personal hobby than a shared passion, so some things are doable (waking up at 5 and driving for a bit is definitely doable if Mrs. can therefore sleep until 10am :rolleyes:) but others (like a 2-days hike) are out of reach. I've seen some pretty interesting locations around Montreal and Quebec and will try to find tours organized with a guide to maximize my chances. I'm sure I won't be able to see bears, but eagles, deers/orignals/elks would already be very interesting for a city boy like myself!

    On the lens side, I changed my mind a bit and would consider a 75-300mm from Olympus for its relatively compact size and 58mm filter thread (just like my 12-35mm and 40-150mm which means shared lens hoods and filters). The canadian prices put it at an attractive price point so I might buy one locally if the budget allows for it, and sell it in Europe after a few months if I realize I don't need such a long lens. The price difference for the new lens is about $250 (CAN) which would reduce the penalty from selling it, provided I don't get caught by the border police at the airport of course.
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