Help with lens selection for rainforest trip.

Jan 13, 2006
I’m going to Costa Rica in August. The reason I’m posting this early is because I may need to purchase equipment that I don’t already have. And if I do that, I’ll need time to investigate, buy and try out before I go.

The Costa Rica trip will include:

Arenal Volcano – the best shots are apparently of the lava at night. But you get smoky volcano shots during the day. I’m thinking that you can’t get too close, so that a telephoto would be needed. There’s also a visit to hot springs and caverns here.

Monteverde – Cloud rainforest – canopy tours (rope bridges high in the trees to be on monkey level), hikes through rainforest, zip-line (I don’t think you take pictures doing this).

Manuel Antonio Park – rainforest – flora, fauna, beaches. Butterfly garden nearby.

Hours of driving – pictures of landscape and small towns

Lots of family activities – rafting, horseback riding, hiking, eating, etc. lots of family pictures!

Other considerations –
- I’d like to travel relatively light (but that probably won’t happen, will it?)
- Lots of rain expected.
- I love macro.
- Although I’d prefer to use lenses I have, I don’t mind buying a used lens for the trip and then selling it (or something else) afterward.

So, this is what I was thinking:

-16mm f/3.5 fisheye
-35mm f/2 AFD for “normal” POV and walkaround with family. I don’t have this lens – I’d have to buy. I already do own a 35-70mm f/2.8 which is a great lens and would work well as a walkaround lens, but it's obviously not as small or as fast as the 35 and 50mm lenses.
-50mm f/1.4 AFD for low light. (but if I get a 35/2, I probably don’t need this too?)
-105mm f/1.8 (or f/2.5 – I have both) for darker rainforest telephoto
-Canon 500D filter for 105mm for mild macro.
-1.4x teleconverter for 105mm
-SB-800 for rainforest and other dark times.

Should I bring:

Carbon fiber tripod – not really going to want to lug this around the rainforests, am I? Maybe get a ‘mini” tripod for macro shots? Or get one of these (anyone ever use one?):
If I bring the tripod then I’ll bring my Nodal Ninja for panoramas.

My macro lenses – Nikkor 70-180mm f/4-5.6 and Lester Dine 105mm f/2.8. I love them both, but the 70-180 is relatively big and heavy and it’s not a very fast lens for dark rainforest use. The Lester Dine is a great macro, but IMO is not good at anything else (i.e. not good at portrait distance or infinity) so if I brought either of these macros, they would not serve double duty.

My newest lens, the Sigma 100-300mm f/4 HSM EX. It probably would be great to have, for example, for shots of kids on the beach and monkeys flying through the trees. But that would be the end of my traveling light.

Thanks for helping me think this through.

PS – I could also leave everything at home and get a Canon G7! I’m not sure if I’m serious about this or not.

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