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Decide my safari backup: 180mm 2.8 or 70-300mm VR?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Sir Dave of Wessex, Aug 23, 2008.

  1. Take the 180mm 2.8 and lay off the coffee dumbo!

  2. Take the 70-300mm VR as it's a safer option!

  3. Take neither - use your 50mm and run very fast!

  4. Man, I hate polls but just have to choose something so ...

  1. Ok lads and ladies you have a unique opportunity to shape a poor saps life choices and possibly shift the axis of humanity off its current course into a more positive dimension.

    I am heading off leading my annual Africa photo safari on Wednesday and much of the shootin' work will be done with my trusty and highly competent Canon 1D mk II N and 400mm 5.6 L combo, plus my 1.4x tcon as needed.

    However, this year I have mainly shifted to Nikon and so my equally trusty and 'prime-like' 70-200mm 4.0 IS L 'closer work' back up lens is no longer in my bag. Instead I have choice of the respected 180mm 2.8 primer or 70-300mm VR zoomster to take along.

    So the quiz for y'all is which to take?

    On the one hand the 180mm has exceptional image quality and is small and fast so a bit of shutter speed could/should be Ok to avoid shake, even though I drink way too much good coffee :eek: 

    On the other hand we have the slower, longer, more flexible and VR'd 70-300mm to add a bit of all-rounderness at the expense of a little IQ ... perhaps.

    On safari 400mm and up and 200mm or so are pretty much all I'd shoot 98% of the time, so either could do it. But will I be very disappointed in the zoomster? Will I be ever disappointed in the shakin' images I might get with the primer? Sure I could take both, but that could just confuse matters and sounds like a wimpy way out of making a tough decision.

    Decide for me forum fans and I promise to post some jaw-droppin' shots and a 'D700 on safari' review on my return.

    PS: All my gear is in my Signature :wink:
  2. I'd vote for the 70x300. While the 180mm is a great lens, but I use it more for getting background blur with the lower aperture settings. I haven't compared these two lenses (I have them both), but I would suspect that at 180mm and F/5.6 there would be no real advantage to having the 180.
  3. nancyr


    Feb 14, 2006
    La Jolla, CA
    I'd go for the flexibility, since you already have a fine prime. Then again, if prime is more your style and you want the low light capability... well, you know how it goes. Are you weight-limited? That may be a consideration too.

    A safari every year? Color me jealous.
  4. I would love to see some lion closeups taken with your 50mm but then we would probably miss the D700 in depth review :biggrin:

    So I think you should take the 70-300 just because of the versatility of the lens and it comes close (in range) to the 70-200 you leave behind.
  5. Wow ... 9-1 to the VR. I see the sense but I wonder if it has the quality?
  6. If your using the D700, you will want big glass. Take the longest piece of glass you have you will need it for the close dramatic shots. For full frame cameras I took a 600 f/4 and used it quite a bit, my second most used lens was the 80-400 VR. Been to Africa twice, and used big glass both times.
  7. jaysinnva


    Nov 1, 2007
    Having owned both, I reach for the 70-300 VR FAR more than I ever did the 180 (nice as it is). I sold the 180 awhile back, and am still loving the 70-300 every time I use it.
  8. I am using the Canon 400mm L and 1.4 Tcon if needed (mainly not needed) on the 1D which is a 1.3 crop body. This is my primary kit. I am wondering here which Nikon glass to take as a shorter range option on the D700. For this specific trip I won't need more than 400mm much of the time as I know the areas well. With the tcon 560mm will be fine.

    Cheers :wink:
  9. rgordin


    Jun 3, 2008
    Washington, DC
    In June, I did my first safari and that caused me to buy a SLR. I took the D40 and the 70-300. I loved the 70-300. A lot of my shots were over 200 but under 300. I think you will lose too much flexibility with the 180 as your only alternative.
  10. Butlerkid

    Butlerkid Cafe Ambassador Moderator

    Apr 8, 2008
    Rutledge, Tennessee
    Neither -just get a used 80-200/2.8 or and new 70-200/2.8 AF-S VR!

    Why compromise on quality or range? :biggrin:
  11. I don't mind being 'constrained' with a prime, but my concern is shake. I have noticed the last couple of years it is difficult to hand hold like I used to. Back then I had a Bigma and used it hand held. Wouldn't even consider it now. From that POV the 70-300mm VR is a safer option, especially as I won't be using the 180mm wide open.

    Weight, vignetting on full-frame, size, new VR model due out soon (apparently!) and they won't fit in my carry-on Peli case with the other stuff - I checked :cool: 
  12. Ok, so 180 scores 3, 70-300 VR scores 26 and joke responses score 3. Clearly there is a landslide and taking the 180 can be considered almost a joke. So I have taken the lateral approach and rearranged my Peli case to allow both and I'll tell you why. The 70-300 VR seems to hunt somewhat and judder rather weirdly at times when I am focusing. This should not happen IMO and so I am taking a back up in form of 180mm. Doesn't seem to like Matrix and continuous AF much :mad:  Very irritating the day before I leave!
  13. sreeves31


    Jun 25, 2007
    Mason, OH
    From my experience on African safaris (one), three things are important in choosing a lens:

    1.Focal length
    2.Focal length
    3.Focal length

    Seriously, I took my 80-400VR and daily found myself wishing for more reach (and this was on a crop body.) Take the longest lens you can beg, borrow or steal. You won't regret it. Same goes for backups.

    80-400VR at 170 mm

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2008
  14. Yeah, I'm taking my 400mm L which will auto-focus with the 1D Mk II N and a 1.4x. That one isn't the issue. But it is all decided now anyway as with both back-up lenses in the case the lid won't 'quite' shut with the laptop on top as well, so the 180mm has come out now. Fingers crossed. Thanks for all the votes y'all. My first thought was to take the 180mm and so I guess the weight of popular opinion gives some small comfort :) 
  15. fscherz


    Jul 28, 2007
    I am very happy with my 70-300VR on D700!
  16. Ok, the case is finally done ... the tough choices made: all I must have is in the case, including the laptop. All else is in cargo or left at home. Life goes on and God save the Queen and all who sail in her :evil: :D 


    OK, I changed my mind on the 35mm 2.0. Now I'm takin' the 85mm instead :) 
  17. So the 70-300mm VR has proven a great choice and I have been exceptionally impressed that such a 'cheap' lens can manage to produce such sound results. The VR was awesome and enabled steady 'keeper' shots even in 6.30am light shooting across the passenger side of the 4x4 from the driver side, as shown below - I know the 180mm would have given shake. The extra length was also helpful many times.

    Thanks for the encouraging advice y'all ...

  18. Yeah Dave!!!! Those shots are amazing. It's just a great lens... Superb value and functionality...
  19. The 70-300VR is way underrated for IQ. Read the numbers off www.photozone.de 's review of both lenses and I think you'd be surprised. Add in the flexibility of having both a zoom for easier composition and VR for the coffee factor, and I think it's hands down the one I'd take, with all due respect to the 180.
  20. Great shots! Glad the 70-300 VR came through for you. Yes, it's an amazing value - IQ is pretty much on par with the 80-400 VR, AF is faster - it can even keep up with the 70-200 VR + 1.7 TC quite well...


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