Lenses to bring on a trip to the jungle (Costa Rica)

turtleboy133

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Oct 13, 2011
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I'm heading out to Costa Rica in a few weeks and am having difficulty deciding which lenses to bring on the trip to pair with my E-M5 III. Usually I bring my 14-150mm on vacation for general use along with with either the 20 or 45mm for low-light and evening pictures. However, I'll likely be spending some time in the jungle and plan to get some wildlife pictures. Hence, I will bring my 75-300mm. However, I'm not sure what other lenses would be good to bring. I'd prefer to keep the total number of lenses to three (possibly four if two of them are primes).

I have the following lenses:

Olympus 12-40mm PRO
Olympus 14-150mm II
Olympus 75-300mm II
Olympus 12-50mm
Panasonic 20mm f/1.7
Olympus 45mm f/1.8
Olympus 60mm f/2.8
Bower/Samyang/Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye

I'm definitely bringing the 75-300mm for wildlife shots. Probably will have to bump up the ISO, but that's OK. I'm now trying to decide whether to bring the 12-40mm PRO or the 14-150mm. The 14-150mm is more versatile and may enable me to get some animals that cross the path when I'm not expecting them. In contrast, the f/2.8 aperture of the 12-40mm is pretty important especially in the dim light of the jungle. Then, the next decision is which of my four primes (7.5, 20, 45, 60mm) I should bring. I'm leaning towards the 60mm since it may enable me to get some low-light shots of wildlife that I may not otherwise be able to get with the 75-300mm (f/2.8 at 60mm vs f/4.8 at 75mm is a huge difference in light).

If you were in my situation, what would you do? What lenses would you bring? I don't have the funds to purchase any of the high-end lenses that I routinely see discussed on such excursions.
 

bassman

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When I was in Costa Rica, the jungle was very dark. At the time I only had a P&S (probably a Canon S60) and it was really hard to get decent images. I also would expect that you wouldn’t have a long range of visibility given the dense foliage. Therefore I would bring the 12-40/2.8.
 

Acraftman

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12-40,60. Having been there three times but not in twenty years and driven from Nicaragua to Panama I would want to include what lenses for the beaches and volcanoes , tree frogs, Caiman, water falls, humming birds, unbelievable sunsets,(your going to the west coast I hope) surf boarders on and on.lol I would also consider a small flash if possible. Hopefully not TMI, have fun!
 

turtleboy133

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Oct 13, 2011
Messages
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Thanks @Acraftman and @bassman! Will bring the flash that came with the E-M5 III although I'm not very skilled with photography using a flash. Will need to study up on that. Sounds like 12-40 and 60mm are the key lenses to bring. Will bring the 20mm as well since it's so small and the 75-300mm. I really appreciate your perspective.
 

mumu

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Jan 16, 2012
Messages
313
I'm heading out to Costa Rica in a few weeks and am having difficulty deciding which lenses to bring on the trip to pair with my E-M5 III. Usually I bring my 14-150mm on vacation for general use along with with either the 20 or 45mm for low-light and evening pictures. However, I'll likely be spending some time in the jungle and plan to get some wildlife pictures. Hence, I will bring my 75-300mm. However, I'm not sure what other lenses would be good to bring. I'd prefer to keep the total number of lenses to three (possibly four if two of them are primes).

I have the following lenses:

Olympus 12-40mm PRO
Olympus 14-150mm II
Olympus 75-300mm II
Olympus 12-50mm
Panasonic 20mm f/1.7
Olympus 45mm f/1.8
Olympus 60mm f/2.8
Bower/Samyang/Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye

I'm definitely bringing the 75-300mm for wildlife shots. Probably will have to bump up the ISO, but that's OK. I'm now trying to decide whether to bring the 12-40mm PRO or the 14-150mm. The 14-150mm is more versatile and may enable me to get some animals that cross the path when I'm not expecting them. In contrast, the f/2.8 aperture of the 12-40mm is pretty important especially in the dim light of the jungle. Then, the next decision is which of my four primes (7.5, 20, 45, 60mm) I should bring. I'm leaning towards the 60mm since it may enable me to get some low-light shots of wildlife that I may not otherwise be able to get with the 75-300mm (f/2.8 at 60mm vs f/4.8 at 75mm is a huge difference in light).

If you were in my situation, what would you do? What lenses would you bring? I don't have the funds to purchase any of the high-end lenses that I routinely see discussed on such excursions.
Yes, you'll definitely want to bring the 75-300. Most wildlife you see Costa Rica will be small. I bought a Panasonic 100-400 for my last trip to Costa Rica and although I often shot at f/6.3, the dual IS really made it much more manageable.

The 2nd lens I'd bring is the 12-40/2.8. In my case, I brought the 12-35/2.8. I used it about the same amount as the 100-400. The faster aperture is particularly handy for under the tree canopy on overcast days.

After that, I'd probably opt for the 60/2.8 if you're into macros (lots of interesting bugs and flowers).

And finally the 20/1.7 for evening photos while walking around small towns (the towns and even some cities are relatively dark).

I understand the idea behind considering the 14-150 but I think you'll find it too short for virtually all of the wildlife opportunity photos. If you see something where 75 is too long then you can photograph it with your smartphone camera in a pinch (assuming you have a relatively recent smartphone).
 

turtleboy133

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Joined
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Messages
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Yes, you'll definitely want to bring the 75-300. Most wildlife you see Costa Rica will be small. I bought a Panasonic 100-400 for my last trip to Costa Rica and although I often shot at f/6.3, the dual IS really made it much more manageable.

The 2nd lens I'd bring is the 12-40/2.8. In my case, I brought the 12-35/2.8. I used it about the same amount as the 100-400. The faster aperture is particularly handy for under the tree canopy on overcast days.

After that, I'd probably opt for the 60/2.8 if you're into macros (lots of interesting bugs and flowers).

And finally the 20/1.7 for evening photos while walking around small towns (the towns and even some cities are relatively dark).
This is exactly what I think I will do. Thanks so much for the advice!

I understand the idea behind considering the 14-150 but I think you'll find it too short for virtually all of the wildlife opportunity photos. If you see something where 75 is too long then you can photograph it with your smartphone camera in a pinch (assuming you have a relatively recent smartphone).
I do have a Pixel 3, as does my wife. They take amazing photos, so at least I will have that as a backup.
 

mumu

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Joined
Jan 16, 2012
Messages
313
Thanks @Acraftman and @bassman! Will bring the flash that came with the E-M5 III although I'm not very skilled with photography using a flash. Will need to study up on that. Sounds like 12-40 and 60mm are the key lenses to bring. Will bring the 20mm as well since it's so small and the 75-300mm. I really appreciate your perspective.
The little flash that comes with the camera isn't going to be of much use unless you're photographing things that are really close. I carry a small, white rain umbrella which I can also use for bouncing or for shoot-through (I find Costa Rica too humid for a rain jacket). Here's an example of using that little Olympus flash plus the rain umbrella:
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 

mumu

Mu-43 Veteran
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Jan 16, 2012
Messages
313
I do have a Pixel 3, as does my wife. They take amazing photos, so at least I will have that as a backup.
I've only had 3 types of animals literally cross my path while in Costa Rica (3 different trips): agoutis, coatamundis and boars. The boars were very stealthy and literally crossed the trail and were gone, leaving only their very strong smell. Agoutis and coatamundis were much more laid back, rustling around on the sides of the trail or, in the case of the coatis, literally walking down the path and passing me within a few inches. With either of the latter two, you would probably have time to swap lenses if needed. I think the more likely scenario for wanting a lens swap is for scenery shots but your Pixels can handle that task rather well, I would think. We have 3 Pixel 2s in our family and I'm always impressed by their photos.

By the way, I *INSIST* that you hire a guide for at least one of your jungle walks. Absolutely the best use of your money if you want to see wildlife. In busy areas (eg: Manuel Antonio) you can linger near any of the many tour groups but in quieter places, definitely book a guide. I'm a cheap traveler but I don't mind spending the money on a guide because the results and added enjoyment are worth it.
 

Motmot

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Three-fifths of the photos I've taken in CR over the last five years have been with the 40-150mm pro + mc14 (I'll have MC20 on my next trip). This is my daily walk-around combo, as I'm always out looking for birds (and whatever else). Surprisingly, my adapted 63mm Kodak cine lens is my next most used, followed by the 14-40mm pro. I also always bring my 60mm macro, but it hasn't seen much use.
 

turtleboy133

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Joined
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Messages
70
By the way, I *INSIST* that you hire a guide for at least one of your jungle walks. Absolutely the best use of your money if you want to see wildlife. In busy areas (eg: Manuel Antonio) you can linger near any of the many tour groups but in quieter places, definitely book a guide. I'm a cheap traveler but I don't mind spending the money on a guide because the results and added enjoyment are worth it.
We actually have a guide with us for most of the trip who is supposedly great about finding wildlife. He's connected with a company, Global Family Adventures, that specializes in organizing trips for families with little kids. They handle all the logistics and itinerary to ensure we're staying in family-friendly places. So far they've been great in providing advice on how to make sure our little one is happy and comfortable on the trip.
 

turtleboy133

Mu-43 Regular
Joined
Oct 13, 2011
Messages
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Three-fifths of the photos I've taken in CR over the last five years have been with the 40-150mm pro + mc14 (I'll have MC20 on my next trip). This is my daily walk-around combo, as I'm always out looking for birds (and whatever else). Surprisingly, my adapted 63mm Kodak cine lens is my next most used, followed by the 14-40mm pro. I also always bring my 60mm macro, but it hasn't seen much use.
Thanks! In some ways, my kit will be the "poor man's" version of yours. Not quite as good aperture on the long end. I thought about buying the 40-150mm PRO, but couldn't justify it due to the size (I'm trying to travel light while I have young kids, perhaps when they're older I'll be able to carry bigger lenses).
 
Joined
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The little flash that comes with the camera isn't going to be of much use unless you're photographing things that are really close. I carry a small, white rain umbrella which I can also use for bouncing or for shoot-through (I find Costa Rica too humid for a rain jacket). Here's an example of using that little Olympus flash plus the rain umbrella:
View attachment 791164
Holy wow
 

turtleboy133

Mu-43 Regular
Joined
Oct 13, 2011
Messages
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The little flash that comes with the camera isn't going to be of much use unless you're photographing things that are really close. I carry a small, white rain umbrella which I can also use for bouncing or for shoot-through (I find Costa Rica too humid for a rain jacket). Here's an example of using that little Olympus flash plus the rain umbrella:
View attachment 791164
This is a gorgeous picture.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
North Yorkshire
On my recent trip https://www.mu-43.com/threads/costa-rica-top-30-image-heavy.103652/ I used my Panasonic-Leica 50-200 the most. My plan was to use the 12-100 on another body to avoid lens swaps in the rain but a body failure on the day I arrived scuppered that idea so I used my Canon G1X for general shots unless I fancied a lens swap to the 9-18.

Flash was usefull, even the FL-300R which is the biggest I have. I didn't use my macro lens much - the 50-200 seemed to do the job because a lot of subjects aren't that close so you need the reach.

Bigger lenses such as 300mm f4 or 100-400 may be better but you have to decide how much you want to carry.

Lots of exposure compensation required when shooting towards the canopy and the 50-200 handles it well.
 

mumu

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Jan 16, 2012
Messages
313
Flash was usefull, even the FL-300R which is the biggest I have. I didn't use my macro lens much - the 50-200 seemed to do the job because a lot of subjects aren't that close so you need the reach.
I was seriously considering buying a Better Beamer for my flash but couldn't see myself carrying it along with my other stuff. I'm not that serious of a bird photographer. But if you are, it might be useful.

Lots of exposure compensation required when shooting towards the canopy and the 50-200 handles it well.
Yes, that's one of the great things with a mirrorless camera: the live view makes it very easy to figure out exposure compensation which you'll use a lot when shooting up into the canopy.
 

danelkins

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If I were going to Costa Rica I would take a camera with 22-40/2.8 and a PL 200/2.8 w/1.4x
Both lenses would give relatively good close up shots along with low light capabilities needed for jungle lighting. That is my personal thoughts as I don’t much care for high iso bird photography with m43. Enjoy your travels!
 

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