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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Considering giving up on digiscoping (2 Viewers)

Joker9937

Well-known member
Hello Scott
Long time no speak. Hope you & all of your family are well.
Pleased to see your post...
I got frustrated with the lack of versatility of the scope & phone although still use them very often, so bought a Nikon d500 (1.5 crop sensor), Sigma 150-600 Lens & Sigma 1.4 Teleconverter...giving me 1260mm at 600. After trial, error & research I eventually mastered the required techniques and now am obsessed with handheld bird photography. If you research it you can pick up some really good gear on line at reasonable prices. It's so satisfying to be able to react to small birds & BIF.
As we both know, you can get some really good vids & photos with a scope but the camera is better.
Some of my birder friends use easy to carry bridge cameras - Sony RX10 iv & Panasonic Lumix and get great photo & vid.results but in my opinion full frame & dslr cameras give better results.
I take a lot of camera/lens advice on YouTube from 'Tony & Chelsea Northrup'... real American pros who explain everything brilliantly.
I post most of my stuff on Instagram.com/ianfbyrnes & Twitter - @ianbyrnes2 & get a better response 😊.
Did you re-invest in another scope?
I think I may have said... Zeiss sent me a new zoom eyepiece because of the dust problem & I changed to an S10 like you.
By the way...(in my opinion) don't bother putting a camera on the scope, it's not only too fidely but the results are not what you expect. I got a Novograde adapter from BHP in the States.... its a good bit of kit but the camera is far more convenient.
Any way...nice to see you posting.
Take care.
Ian
Thanks, Ian. We are well. I hope you guys are too!

I feel your frustration. I am a bit of an accidental birder, though. So, might be a slightly different feeling. Regardless, the birding aspect is still a big part of it. But, it flows a little like this for me; 1. Hiking/exercise/hunting type focus. 2. Digiscoping what I am treated to on those hikes 3. Birding. Sometimes they switch priority positions, but mostly that is the way it is. Also, by hunting, I do not mean necessarily to shoot something. Hunting to find it to look at it. Although, I do still hunt some. Just not often, and not birds.

Anyway, I think we have similar introductions into the hobby of digiscoping and have encountered similar frustrations. I am not quite ready to abandon it, but we will see.

Yes, I thought I would try a Kowa, and I sold the Zeiss to buy one. I cannot say that one is far superior to the other. I like much about the Zeiss, and regret selling it. Primarily because I got such a great deal on it, that I should have just kept it and bought the Kowa outright instead. But, either way, I sold it. The Kowa is now sold too. I bought it from a BF member used. It was a great scope, and a fair buy. I only lost maybe $100 on it. But, I sold it, because I decided to either start over with camera equipment, or drive 3 hours to a store that sells all of the alpha spotters, and pick my favorite from sidexside comparisons. That way, hopefully, I nip the "I wonder what I am missing" curse in the bud. We will see.

I will definitely check out the youtube site, and will try your instagram. I do not have instagram, so can I see it?

That is great customer service with Zeiss. That is amazing. I really liked the glass in mine. For the money I paid, I should have kept it.

I appreciate your input on cameras on scopes. I am definitely torn.
 

Joker9937

Well-known member
Excellent question. Read this link for a detailed explanation.

What is F-Stop, How it Works and How to Use it in Photography

I just arrived at a bird sanctuary in Rhode Island and will send more info later. After you read the article this next part will be more clear. The 800mm I mentioned is unlike most other lenses. You can't change the aperture, it is f11. Adding the 2x extender adds 2 more f stops or f22.

I will explain more later.

Joe
Wow! Thanks for the link. MANY variables, that need attention. That was a great link, though, and helped me understand...I think.

So, now the question can be answered, I think, with knowing what f stop the spotting scope/camera or phone combination, at a given magnification on the zoom ep, produces. Right?

I guess I seized on that, because one of my biggest frustrations with digiscoping is in low light. I see a great buck at dusk and my phone switches to a shutter speed that gives me time to eat lunch before the picture is captured. Even when I try to speed it up, it either results in a picture so grainy that it looks like a completed jigsaw puzzle, or so dark that it is a waste of time. Understanding this stuff might help me fix that, but probably not with a phone.

This pic was with a Nikon Monarch 82ED and my S21 Ultra. I am not sure of the distance, but I am pretty sure it was no less than 40 yds. I had crop and edit the photo. I included the RAW image too. I returned the Monarch. It fizzled at high mags at the ep. But, it was a nice scope. Just too dark too. If given the opportunity, I would not shy away from an excellent Monarch with a WA ep. For the money, it really is a sleeper.

With a 95+mm scope and a camera, I know my image would have been seriously improved, but I am not sure by how much. With the R5 and the kit you described, I doubt it would have been like the noon day sun, but exponentially better(???). Granted, it was not a great photo, with all of the brush in his face, but still could have been cool.
 

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Ian Byrnes

Well-known member
Wow! Thanks for the link. MANY variables, that need attention. That was a great link, though, and helped me understand...I think.

So, now the question can be answered, I think, with knowing what f stop the spotting scope/camera or phone combination, at a given magnification on the zoom ep, produces. Right?

I guess I seized on that, because one of my biggest frustrations with digiscoping is in low light. I see a great buck at dusk and my phone switches to a shutter speed that gives me time to eat lunch before the picture is captured. Even when I try to speed it up, it either results in a picture so grainy that it looks like a completed jigsaw puzzle, or so dark that it is a waste of time. Understanding this stuff might help me fix that, but probably not with a phone.

This pic was with a Nikon Monarch 82ED and my S21 Ultra. I am not sure of the distance, but I am pretty sure it was no less than 40 yds. I had crop and edit the photo. I included the RAW image too. I returned the Monarch. It fizzled at high mags at the ep. But, it was a nice scope. Just too dark too. If given the opportunity, I would not shy away from an excellent Monarch with a WA ep. For the money, it really is a sleeper.

With a 95+mm scope and a camera, I know my image would have been seriously improved, but I am not sure by how much. With the R5 and the kit you described, I doubt it would have been like the noon day sun, but exponentially better(???). Granted, it was not a great photo, with all of the brush in his face, but still could have been cool.

Wow! Thanks for the link. MANY variables, that need attention. That was a great link, though, and helped me understand...I think.

So, now the question can be answered, I think, with knowing what f stop the spotting scope/camera or phone combination, at a given magnification on the zoom ep, produces. Right?

I guess I seized on that, because one of my biggest frustrations with digiscoping is in low light. I see a great buck at dusk and my phone switches to a shutter speed that gives me time to eat lunch before the picture is captured. Even when I try to speed it up, it either results in a picture so grainy that it looks like a completed jigsaw puzzle, or so dark that it is a waste of time. Understanding this stuff might help me fix that, but probably not with a phone.

This pic was with a Nikon Monarch 82ED and my S21 Ultra. I am not sure of the distance, but I am pretty sure it was no less than 40 yds. I had crop and edit the photo. I included the RAW image too. I returned the Monarch. It fizzled at high mags at the ep. But, it was a nice scope. Just too dark too. If given the opportunity, I would not shy away from an excellent Monarch with a WA ep. For the money, it really is a sleeper.

With a 95+mm scope and a camera, I know my image would have been seriously improved, but I am not sure by how much. With the R5 and the kit you described, I doubt it would have been like the noon day sun, but exponentially better(???). Granted, it was not a great photo, with all of the brush in his face, but still could have been cool.
HI Scott
I see we are answering one another in real time.
Just for info... I appreciate what Joe says but I never spent any where near that amount.
I got my D500, which is a semi pro body with fantastic reviews from a place in London. It was pre-owned with low usage & paid £900 instead of £2000 new. The lens was from Amazon @ £750 - special offer. Instead of £1000 & the Teleconverter was £100 from EBAY- no box instead of £240. I'm a great believer in shopping around.
The picture quality at distance is excellent.... although they never look quite so good on here.
As you most probably know, modern cameras unlike scopes have auto stabilisation & auto focusing - such an advantage when it comes to locking on to the subject then taking a steady photo.
Any way, I hope you come to a decision that suits your needs.
BY THE WAY..... just, while posting this, found out that I have COVID.
Oh well, I've been treble vaccinated so hope I'll be ok.
All the best
Ian
 

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Joker9937

Well-known member
HI Scott
I see we are answering one another in real time.
Just for info... I appreciate what Joe says but I never spent any where near that amount.
I got my D500, which is a semi pro body with fantastic reviews from a place in London. It was pre-owned with low usage & paid £900 instead of £2000 new. The lens was from Amazon @ £750 - special offer. Instead of £1000 & the Teleconverter was £100 from EBAY- no box instead of £240. I'm a great believer in shopping around.
The picture quality at distance is excellent.... although they never look quite so good on here.
As you most probably know, modern cameras unlike scopes have auto stabilisation & auto focusing - such an advantage when it comes to locking on to the subject then taking a steady photo.
Any way, I hope you come to a decision that suits your needs.
BY THE WAY..... just, while posting this, found out that I have COVID.
Oh well, I've been treble vaccinated so hope I'll be ok.
All the best
Ian
Ian, I
HI Scott
I see we are answering one another in real time.
Just for info... I appreciate what Joe says but I never spent any where near that amount.
I got my D500, which is a semi pro body with fantastic reviews from a place in London. It was pre-owned with low usage & paid £900 instead of £2000 new. The lens was from Amazon @ £750 - special offer. Instead of £1000 & the Teleconverter was £100 from EBAY- no box instead of £240. I'm a great believer in shopping around.
The picture quality at distance is excellent.... although they never look quite so good on here.
As you most probably know, modern cameras unlike scopes have auto stabilisation & auto focusing - such an advantage when it comes to locking on to the subject then taking a steady photo.
Any way, I hope you come to a decision that suits your needs.
BY THE WAY..... just, while posting this, found out that I have COVID.
Oh well, I've been treble vaccinated so hope I'll be ok.
All the best
Ian
Ian, I will keep you in my prayers. I wish you the best with your COVID recovery. I think nearly everyone around me has had it at some point, but so far I haven't. Most recently, last week, my friend, who has a desk right next to mine, came down with it. All the best.

Those photos look great. I love the kingfisher, and wish we could see that one around here. The Belted is great, but yours are brilliant. Thanks for the pics!

I found this article. Digiscoping: A Look at Using a Spotting Scope as a Telephoto Lens Seems to cover some of what we are all discussing.
 

Ian Byrnes

Well-known member
Ian, I

Ian, I will keep you in my prayers. I wish you the best with your COVID recovery. I think nearly everyone around me has had it at some point, but so far I haven't. Most recently, last week, my friend, who has a desk right next to mine, came down with it. All the best.

Those photos look great. I love the kingfisher, and wish we could see that one around here. The Belted is great, but yours are brilliant. Thanks for the pics!

I found this article. Digiscoping: A Look at Using a Spotting Scope as a Telephoto Lens Seems to cover some of what we are all discussing.
Yes I've read it.
Thanks for your support...take care Scott. 👍
 

jlacasci

Active member
United States
Hi Scott, let me start by saying that I am only offering advice based on my photography experience. I was not very successful with a spotting scope, even a Kowa, meeting my needs. On the other hand, I do want to tack sharp images. I don't want to turn this thread into a photography lesson or have folks think I'm trying to sound like an expert. There are many sites to explain some of these concepts and the various tradeoffs in photography.

I would encourage you to check out this site: Learn Photography. Now that you have a working knowledge of f stops, it's essential to understand the relationship between ISO, f stop, and shutter speed. Understanding ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture - A Beginner's Guide

This is the fundamental knowledge required when deciding what camera and lens to purchase to meet your needs. Everything in photography is a tradeoff.

In the simplest terms, you need a certain amount of light to expose an image properly. The amount of light is determined by ISO (in digital cameras today, how sensitive the sensor is to light. Or in the old film days, how sensitive the film is to light. An ISO of 400 is more sensitive to light than 200, 200 is more sensitive to light than 100). Next, the shutter determines how long the shutter blades stay open, allowing light to strike the image sensor (in a DSLR), or with the newer technology without a shutter, how long the sensor stays "on," receiving light. Finally, there is the f stop of the lens, how large the aperture is allowing light in through the lens.

Some examples: let's assume that an image requires an ISO of 400, shutter speed of 250 of a second, with an f stop of f/5.6 to expose an image properly. These three variables are all related. If you wanted to freeze a moving subject, you might require a shutter speed of 2000th of a second. You could achieve the same level of proper exposure with:

ISO 400
Shutter 2000th second
Since you dramatically reduced the time the shutter was open by 3x (250 doubled is 500, 500 doubled is 1000, and 1000 doubled is 2000), you need to adjust the f stop 3 stops. Or down from 5.6 to f 2.0. If your lens can't get to f/2.0 you could also leave the f stop but increase the ISO from 400 to 3200.

These settings allow the same amount of light to expose the image but change shutter or f stop which changes what action can be frozen and/or depth of field.

ISO 400, shutter 250, f/5.6
ISO 3200 shutter 2000, f/5.6
ISO 1600 shutter 2000 f/4

Again, everything is a tradeoff. If you require faster shutter speeds, you need a lens that can be very open, or you need a higher ISO. Here's the tradeoff. Lenses with lower f/stops allow FASTER shutter speeds; this is why some folks refer to how "fast" a lens is. Faster lenses cost more money. You can increase the ISO, but the tradeoff there is a higher ISO leads to more noise.

This is why the Canon 800mm at f/11 is just $1,000, but the Canon 800mm with f/5.6 is $13,000.

I have never used the 800mm f/11, but I suspect it would be challenging to use in the golden light hours. I'm not saying it isn't possible; this is where other variables come in. If you have a camera with excellent low-light capabilities, this will help. Also, if you have the right tools during post-processing, this will help too. But you most likely will not be happy trying to freeze birds in flight with an f/11 lens with limited light. But, during the day, you can't beat what this lens can do, being so light and sharp.

Finally, I agree with Ian that less expensive options can be found. I recently sold my old Canon pro bodies and EV L series lenses for the R5 and RF lenses which are not inexpensive, but I did to meet my needs. You can still get great DSLR cameras that may meet your needs. It depends on what you want to accomplish. I've been a Canon guy, so I know Canon equipment well. The best money you can spend is on quality lenses, "generally speaking." As camera bodies can change almost as quickly as cell phones. But good glass can last decades. The new RF Canon lenses are far more expensive than their former EF lenses. However, the quality is said to be better than their former EF lenses. The RF lenses are designed for Canon's new mirrorless systems.

There are so many variables to consider; it really depends on your goals and budget. I used the 100-500 with a 1.4x today in cloudy conditions. This lens was great for today, even with birds in flight. But, if I had been out earlier during those golden hours, I would have had to shoot at 6400 ISO or higher and deal with the digital noise. I can't see springing for the $13,000 800mm right now, but who knows, maybe someday.

Best,
Joe
 

Joker9937

Well-known member
Hi Scott, let me start by saying that I am only offering advice based on my photography experience. I was not very successful with a spotting scope, even a Kowa, meeting my needs. On the other hand, I do want to tack sharp images. I don't want to turn this thread into a photography lesson or have folks think I'm trying to sound like an expert. There are many sites to explain some of these concepts and the various tradeoffs in photography.

I would encourage you to check out this site: Learn Photography. Now that you have a working knowledge of f stops, it's essential to understand the relationship between ISO, f stop, and shutter speed. Understanding ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture - A Beginner's Guide

This is the fundamental knowledge required when deciding what camera and lens to purchase to meet your needs. Everything in photography is a tradeoff.

In the simplest terms, you need a certain amount of light to expose an image properly. The amount of light is determined by ISO (in digital cameras today, how sensitive the sensor is to light. Or in the old film days, how sensitive the film is to light. An ISO of 400 is more sensitive to light than 200, 200 is more sensitive to light than 100). Next, the shutter determines how long the shutter blades stay open, allowing light to strike the image sensor (in a DSLR), or with the newer technology without a shutter, how long the sensor stays "on," receiving light. Finally, there is the f stop of the lens, how large the aperture is allowing light in through the lens.

Some examples: let's assume that an image requires an ISO of 400, shutter speed of 250 of a second, with an f stop of f/5.6 to expose an image properly. These three variables are all related. If you wanted to freeze a moving subject, you might require a shutter speed of 2000th of a second. You could achieve the same level of proper exposure with:

ISO 400
Shutter 2000th second
Since you dramatically reduced the time the shutter was open by 3x (250 doubled is 500, 500 doubled is 1000, and 1000 doubled is 2000), you need to adjust the f stop 3 stops. Or down from 5.6 to f 2.0. If your lens can't get to f/2.0 you could also leave the f stop but increase the ISO from 400 to 3200.

These settings allow the same amount of light to expose the image but change shutter or f stop which changes what action can be frozen and/or depth of field.

ISO 400, shutter 250, f/5.6
ISO 3200 shutter 2000, f/5.6
ISO 1600 shutter 2000 f/4

Again, everything is a tradeoff. If you require faster shutter speeds, you need a lens that can be very open, or you need a higher ISO. Here's the tradeoff. Lenses with lower f/stops allow FASTER shutter speeds; this is why some folks refer to how "fast" a lens is. Faster lenses cost more money. You can increase the ISO, but the tradeoff there is a higher ISO leads to more noise.

This is why the Canon 800mm at f/11 is just $1,000, but the Canon 800mm with f/5.6 is $13,000.

I have never used the 800mm f/11, but I suspect it would be challenging to use in the golden light hours. I'm not saying it isn't possible; this is where other variables come in. If you have a camera with excellent low-light capabilities, this will help. Also, if you have the right tools during post-processing, this will help too. But you most likely will not be happy trying to freeze birds in flight with an f/11 lens with limited light. But, during the day, you can't beat what this lens can do, being so light and sharp.

Finally, I agree with Ian that less expensive options can be found. I recently sold my old Canon pro bodies and EV L series lenses for the R5 and RF lenses which are not inexpensive, but I did to meet my needs. You can still get great DSLR cameras that may meet your needs. It depends on what you want to accomplish. I've been a Canon guy, so I know Canon equipment well. The best money you can spend is on quality lenses, "generally speaking." As camera bodies can change almost as quickly as cell phones. But good glass can last decades. The new RF Canon lenses are far more expensive than their former EF lenses. However, the quality is said to be better than their former EF lenses. The RF lenses are designed for Canon's new mirrorless systems.

There are so many variables to consider; it really depends on your goals and budget. I used the 100-500 with a 1.4x today in cloudy conditions. This lens was great for today, even with birds in flight. But, if I had been out earlier during those golden hours, I would have had to shoot at 6400 ISO or higher and deal with the digital noise. I can't see springing for the $13,000 800mm right now, but who knows, maybe someday.

Best,
Joe
Yes, I did not intend to make this thread into something it shouldn't be. However, I do appreciate the advice from all of you. Thanks!
 

Figge

Active member
Sweden
Excellent question. Read this link for a detailed explanation.

What is F-Stop, How it Works and How to Use it in Photography

I just arrived at a bird sanctuary in Rhode Island and will send more info later. After you read the article this next part will be more clear. The 800mm I mentioned is unlike most other lenses. You can't change the aperture, it is f11. Adding the 2x extender adds 2 more f stops or f22.

I will explain more later.

Joe
I refrained from photo with long expensive tele lenses for a long time.

I tried video due to the availabilty of cameras very long lenses with zoom at decent prices which were available at that time but it did not produce the results I wanted. The autofocus was to slow, the screen was not very detailed etc. I gave up. I realized I had pay more.

Digiscoping has its uses. It is nice to have for identification purposes. A smartphone with an adapter works rather well for that purpose. Digiscoping with a dslr is in my humble opinion best avoided.

If you have been a professional photographer and require professional results you have to open your wallet and get a dslr with good lenses. The fun starts at around 500mm. Personally I prefer f4.0 lenses which are very expensive. Why? You can actually use converters. A 1.4x converter loses one stop but you should use an additional stop to compensate for loss of picture quality. Your 500mm behaves like a 700/8.0, 1050/8.0 or slightly more if you use a camera with a cropped sensor. Consider lack of light, the need for short exposures and the very long focal length. You need all the light you can afford. You can compensate by using very high ISO numbers, but not without some noise. How much can you tolerate?

With slower lenses I feel severely handicapped when I need converters. My 2.0x converter sees very little use.

What I suggest is expensive, I know, but I have not found any shortcuts to good results. Results good enough for decent size prints in exposition quality.

If you do not need that and only need pictures for family use and look at them on your ipad, you can of course be satisfied with cheaper gear.
 

jlacasci

Active member
United States
Figge,

You are absolutely correct. If you have high standards, you must spend on the correct gear. I've owned a Canon 400 EF L f/2.8, and shot with the 600 Ef F/4 and the results with a 1.4 were stunning. Less so with the EF 100-400 L with the 1.4. I never owned the 2.x for the reasons you've described. As I indicated, I do have very high standards and recently purchased the R5 and the RF 100-500 L along with the RF 1.4. Believe it or not, but there is very minimal image degradation with the 1.4 on the 100-500 L lens. The two RF's I purchased thus far, the 100-500 and the 24-70 L f/2.8 test slightly better than their EF counterparts (100-400 anyway) for sharpness and contrast. At some point, I will rent the 800mm f/5.6 to test it before I make such a substantial investment. The newer technologies in the R5, 6, and R3 (from what I've read on the R3) are amazing. ISO 3200 on my old EOS 1d Mark iii produced enough digital noise to be a real problem. However, the R5 at 12,800 is useable and really quite good when processing RAW files with DxO PureRAW. But again, you are right on target with opening your wallet. I sold my Kowa, 2 older pro bodies, and 4 older EF lenses. My R5, 1.4, 100-500, and 24-70 cost roughly $10,000 US. By the time I'm done (RF 10-22 when released, 70-200 f/2.8, and perhaps a 800 f/5.6) I could be looking at another 17 - $18,000. It's not cheap being a perfectionist.

Joe
 

Joker9937

Well-known member
I just pm'd you, Joe, but same point. Perfectionism is what is making me nervous about taking the plunge. LOL.

Plus, I just bought a carbon tripod and Sachtler head in prep for my new scope. I could still use them, but a gimbal, if I am using a tripod, would be better than the video head, correct?
 

jlacasci

Active member
United States
I just pm'd you, Joe, but same point. Perfectionism is what is making me nervous about taking the plunge. LOL.

Plus, I just bought a carbon tripod and Sachtler head in prep for my new scope. I could still use them, but a gimbal, if I am using a tripod, would be better than the video head, correct?

I picked up a Manfrotto 3 section carbon fiber myself when I purchased the Kowa - 057 3. I needed a better tripod for landscape photography and knew I would need a very steady pod with digiscoping. Anyway, I used the Manfrotto MVH500AH for the scope and it worked great. Thus far I have not used the tripod for birding and have handheld my gear with very good success. The image stabilization between the in-camera (IBIS) and the RF lenses has been amazing. That being said, take a look at this video from a fellow birder discussing gimbal and video head. At the moment for my needs, I'm going to stick with the MVH500AH.


Joe
 

jcwu88

Active member
United States
Hi Joker,
I have R6, RF800 F/11, and 2x converter for a while. As Joe mentioned, RF800 is fixed F11 lens and RF800+2x extender will be F22. It sounds crazy small aperture but the new R5/R6 can handle high ISO pretty well. I attached two photos (R6, RF800+2x converter, 1/1000sec, F22, ISO 2500). For me, they are plenty enough for my bird documentation.

I tried to attach DSLR camera to scope but the result images can’t be compared to images from dedicated lens. DSLR-scope combo has challenges of manual focus and no lens Image Stabilization (IS), which contributes many mis-focus and blurred images.

Jay
A219939C-131B-45AE-A62A-D69E61E817B5.jpeg
C8B35C6F-5ECF-46D7-84B4-3295476976E7.jpeg
 

jlacasci

Active member
United States
Hi Jay,

Very nice images for sure. I haven't had the pleasure of trying out the 800 yet but the images do look very good. I'm actually surprised with the blurred background on the first image considering f/22, nice. It looks like you had plenty of light for these shots. Do you have any experience in dawn or dusk with the 800? That is one of the key questions Scott was asking. Thanks for sharing!

Joe
 
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jcwu88

Active member
United States
Hi Joe,

Those photos were under good sun light.

Due to F11/F22 is the physical limit, I will not use RF800 during dusk. I seldom take bird in flight under poor light because I know I will delete most of them. (Instead, I will take video by RF800 or iphone-scope during dawn or dusk. Video can tolerate poor light)

Jay
 
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Joker9937

Well-known member
Thanks to both, again. I appreciate the info.

I agree on the two types of heads. The Sachtler I bought is the "budget" model, I think, but is super smooth. We will see how it works.

At the moment, still leaning towards sticking with the digiscoping for the moment. I realize more of the limitations, and my expectations are a little lower. But, if I had the time and money, I think I would start working towards real photography.

Even though I was not the starter of this thread, I sure appreciate all of the info.
 

jlacasci

Active member
United States
Thanks to both, again. I appreciate the info.

I agree on the two types of heads. The Sachtler I bought is the "budget" model, I think, but is super smooth. We will see how it works.

At the moment, still leaning towards sticking with the digiscoping for the moment. I realize more of the limitations, and my expectations are a little lower. But, if I had the time and money, I think I would start working towards real photography.

Even though I was not the starter of this thread, I sure appreciate all of the info.
Hi, Joe. I hope you and the family have a good Thanksgiving!

I have another question(s). I have been looking at different wildlife photos, considering their quality, and checking out the info that the photographer posts regarding their equipment and settings.

I am missing something, I think. Most of the photos I see are taken with a 600mm lens that is f4ish. However, photos of hippos, leopards, and other dangerous animals appear to be very close. Is this due to editing after the fact, and the photos that are displayed are actually subject to serious crops, or some other factor?

Some photographers are dumb (in my opinion) and take risks that they shouldn't, but I have a hard time believing that these photographers are mere single digit yards away from their subjects. Do photogs actually risk it, and get within 20-30 yards of a grizzly?

Thanks, and take care.

Scott


Good morning Scott. Great question. Let's first start with the equipment. Since I'm familiar with Canon, I'll focus on this. You can tell how much I love photography because of how long my post can be ;-)

Today, the highest quality prime lenses Canon sells are the 600mm f/4, they have this in the older EF mount and the new mount RF for mirrorless cameras. They still have an 800mm f/5.6 but so far only in the EF mount. These lenses cost $13,000 US. I assume they will make the 800mm for the RF also, but am not sure. At least with the 400 and 600mm, RF lenses Canon is not charging more for the RF versions. For less expensive lenses like the 24-70 f/2.8 L, they are charging more for the RF ($500 more).

To begin with, yes, some photographers may get dangerously close to wildlife. But it is difficult to know for sure by looking at the image. For example, years ago I was on an Alaska cruise and one of the excursions was to photograph bears in a world-renowned location led by park rangers. Special permits were required, a very limited number were allowed per day, it was at a world-famous spot where bears fished for salmon. The spot was from a blind that was protected by location but very close to the bears. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go as I learned about this excursion too late. I'm confident that the images looked like the photographers were dangerously close but little danger was present.

I'm not sure of the images you saw, but I know there are photographers that host shoots of wildlife all over the world. For example, the Yellowstone camera store is a leader in these types of photography adventures. I met the photographer and owner Chris Balmer while visiting his store in the town of Yellowstone. Although I've not attended one of his adventures, I'm confident they are safe for the folks attending. International Photography Tour Workshops | Photography Travel Tours
I know a couple of people that have been on a tour (or safari) in Africa where the people are on the upper deck of a vehicle. The animals are used to this and they can get pretty close to the wildlife.

However, I do believe in many cases people are cropping their images.

For example, here's an image I took with my older equipment. It was taken with a 100-400 mm at 400 mm. But my camera was the Mark 1ds Mark III thus a 1.6 crop factor due to not being a full-frame. So the effective lens was 640 mm. And here's the same image processed and cropped a bit. This image was taken very early in the morning with no one around on the way to Lamar Valley. I'd estimate I was 600 to 800 feet from the bear. We say it as we were driving.

This link provides some examples of focal length distances and comparisons.

 

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Joker9937

Well-known member
Hi, Joe. I hope you and the family have a good Thanksgiving!

I have another question(s). I have been looking at different wildlife photos, considering their quality, and checking out the info that the photographer posts regarding their equipment and settings.

I am missing something, I think. Most of the photos I see are taken with a 600mm lens that is f4ish. However, photos of hippos, leopards, and other dangerous animals appear to be very close. Is this due to editing after the fact, and the photos that are displayed are actually subject to serious crops, or some other factor?

Some photographers are dumb (in my opinion) and take risks that they shouldn't, but I have a hard time believing that these photographers are mere single digit yards away from their subjects. Do photogs actually risk it, and get within 20-30 yards of a grizzly?

Thanks, and take care.

Scott


Good morning Scott. Great question. Let's first start with the equipment. Since I'm familiar with Canon, I'll focus on this. You can tell how much I love photography because of how long my post can be ;-)

Today, the highest quality prime lenses Canon sells are the 600mm f/4, they have this in the older EF mount and the new mount RF for mirrorless cameras. They still have an 800mm f/5.6 but so far only in the EF mount. These lenses cost $13,000 US. I assume they will make the 800mm for the RF also, but am not sure. At least with the 400 and 600mm, RF lenses Canon is not charging more for the RF versions. For less expensive lenses like the 24-70 f/2.8 L, they are charging more for the RF ($500 more).

To begin with, yes, some photographers may get dangerously close to wildlife. But it is difficult to know for sure by looking at the image. For example, years ago I was on an Alaska cruise and one of the excursions was to photograph bears in a world-renowned location led by park rangers. Special permits were required, a very limited number were allowed per day, it was at a world-famous spot where bears fished for salmon. The spot was from a blind that was protected by location but very close to the bears. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go as I learned about this excursion too late. I'm confident that the images looked like the photographers were dangerously close but little danger was present.

I'm not sure of the images you saw, but I know there are photographers that host shoots of wildlife all over the world. For example, the Yellowstone camera store is a leader in these types of photography adventures. I met the photographer and owner Chris Balmer while visiting his store in the town of Yellowstone. Although I've not attended one of his adventures, I'm confident they are safe for the folks attending. International Photography Tour Workshops | Photography Travel Tours
I know a couple of people that have been on a tour (or safari) in Africa where the people are on the upper deck of a vehicle. The animals are used to this and they can get pretty close to the wildlife.

However, I do believe in many cases people are cropping their images.

For example, here's an image I took with my older equipment. It was taken with a 100-400 mm at 400 mm. But my camera was the Mark 1ds Mark III thus a 1.6 crop factor due to not being a full-frame. So the effective lens was 640 mm. And here's the same image processed and cropped a bit. This image was taken very early in the morning with no one around on the way to Lamar Valley. I'd estimate I was 600 to 800 feet from the bear. We say it as we were driving.

This link provides some examples of focal length distances and comparisons.

Thanks, Joe! I am glad you figured out the photo thing. I just now had a chance at the computer. Those grizzly photos are great! I hope to someday have a chance to at least see grizzlies. Those pics are awesome. (I realize that they are the same shot)

I see your point about distances having varying degrees of importance, depending on from where someone is shooting. If they are in a vehicle or protective hide, then being close matters less. So, knowing the distance at which they shot the photos and whether it was a good or bad idea is unknowable, only seeing the photo.

But, you still mostly answered my question. The 600mm lens is in fact sufficient to reach out a good distance, but the photo might need cropped to be a "good photo". Having a good lens, and other variables in order too, a long distance photo like that would likely have better quality than a digiscoped photo, it sounds like. But, to get a prime lens with that quality, a person is likely spending at LEAST twice the money one would spend on an alpha spotter and a decent mirrorless camera. At the moment, I am back to the spotter being the wisest move...for now.

As much as I would like to dive into that rabbit hole, I think I need to put on my brakes a bit.

That being said, theoretically, if I comprehended stuff correctly, a camera with high ISO capability and quality would be a good idea for a digiscoping kit. Light seems to be the most important thing for a good photo, and light is very limited with a scope. You can answer in a PM if you don't want to do it here.
 

jlacasci

Active member
United States
Thanks, Joe! I am glad you figured out the photo thing. I just now had a chance at the computer. Those grizzly photos are great! I hope to someday have a chance to at least see grizzlies. Those pics are awesome. (I realize that they are the same shot)

I see your point about distances having varying degrees of importance, depending on from where someone is shooting. If they are in a vehicle or protective hide, then being close matters less. So, knowing the distance at which they shot the photos and whether it was a good or bad idea is unknowable, only seeing the photo.

But, you still mostly answered my question. The 600mm lens is in fact sufficient to reach out a good distance, but the photo might need cropped to be a "good photo". Having a good lens, and other variables in order too, a long distance photo like that would likely have better quality than a digiscoped photo, it sounds like. But, to get a prime lens with that quality, a person is likely spending at LEAST twice the money one would spend on an alpha spotter and a decent mirrorless camera. At the moment, I am back to the spotter being the wisest move...for now.

As much as I would like to dive into that rabbit hole, I think I need to put on my brakes a bit.

That being said, theoretically, if I comprehended stuff correctly, a camera with high ISO capability and quality would be a good idea for a digiscoping kit. Light seems to be the most important thing for a good photo, and light is very limited with a scope. You can answer in a PM if you don't want to do it here.
Hi Scott,

I followed the previous thread from a link in my email, which took me to the private message. I didn't realize it was a private message as it looks very similar to a normal post thread. I asked a question about posting images on the "say hi" forum and one of the admins learned that just admins and developers can post an image to a PM.

Yes, the images of the bear (a black bear not a grizzly) were the same, to show the unprocessed vs processed and that I cropped it. The first one was unprocessed and uncropped, whereas the second was cropped a bit more. I will provide a better example in a bit. Distance has a huge impact on the quality of a shot, as does the quality of the glass. Honestly, a 600 mm isn't long enough for quite a bit of wildlife photography. However, the 1.4 or 2.0 extenders do work really well with a 600 mm prime lens. And yes the professional lenses like the 600 mm f/4 or the 800 mm f/5.6 are expensive at $13,000 US. The reason distance itself is important is that the farther away the subject is you are then dealing with atmospheric challenges like haze or heat waves. The other issue is if the subject is filling up a small part of the sensor, say just 10% then you are only using a very small percent of the image capacity of the sensor. For example, even on the R5 which has a 45-megapixel sensor, if the subject is too far away and only fills up 10% then your subject may only be 4.5 Megapixels image if you cropped it in close.

Digital noise is another challenge. Some cameras handle noise much better than others. And the modern mirrorless does a fantastic job. I never would have thought, 20 years ago, that I could shoot at an ISO of 12,800 or more and still get an okay shot. The beauty of this is that photographers can get away with a lens like the 800 mm f/11 (very low light or slow lens) and compensate with a higher ISO to accommodate for the f/11. The downside of this though is that you don't get the beautiful bokeh (blurred backgrounds) you get when shooting with a much lower f/stop lens. This is the reason why wedding or portrait photographers will pay a LOT more money for an f/2 or lower lens than the equivalent lens in an f/4. In addition, there is very good software now to dramatically eliminate digital noise in post-processing. Two of the best products in my opinion are DxO PureRaw (for processing raw files, this is all I shoot is raw), and Topz labs DeNoise which also does a great job with Raw and jpg files (DeNoise I think will work with other file types too but I'm not 100% sure).

I've been very interested in the Canon 800 mm f/11 and have been looking at dozens of reviews. A camera shop near me had one in stock and I purchased it on Tuesday along with the Canon 2.x extender. There is a Snowy Owl that visits Sachuest Point National Wildlife Preserve in Rhode Island most years. It was sitting out on some rocks in the ocean roughly 500 feet off-shore. See the Google Map image below:
1637934870400.png

If you see the wooden platform near the path that says Fint Pt Lp trl (upper left hand corner) and the outcropping of rocks in the lower right corner, the distance according to Google Maps is roughly 500 feet. It was a cold and very windy day, a bit hazy, and the lighting on the owl was terrible. Standing on the platform all you could make out with the human eye was a white dot. You couldn't even tell it was an owl. I had my Canon R5 on one of the best carbon tripods that Manfrotto sells, the new 800 mm and the 2.0 extender. Thus I was shooting a 1600 mm at f/22. I'm not proud of the image as the conditions where not very good and the distance was too great.

I don't have a shot from a 50 mm to show what the human eye would see. But trust me, it would have been a small white dot.
The image was shot at 1600 mm, ISO 2000, f/22 1/500 sec shutter.
Here is the unprocessed image and the processed image (Run through DxO PureRaw, Adobe LRC and cropped). Again, I'm not happy with the quality at all but it was due to conditions and distance, not the lens. I will either go back and get better images under better conditions and lighting rather than deal with the blown out whites due to lighting challenges. Notice though that the image is taking up very little of the sensor so I don't have much in the way of Megapixels to work with. So even at 500 feet away, and a 1600 mm, the distance was too much. The sizes of the files are to large to attach so I had to cut and paste screen captures.

As seen looking through the camera 1600 mm, a good spotter with the 25-60x eyepiece would be closer to 2500 mm.

1637935759973.png

Same image, processed and severly cropped.

1637935806929.png

As to picking the best spotter, I agree, you must look through them to see which has the best quality. This is what I did after reviewing many reviews and studying lots of images. I think the f/stop of the spotter will all be the same based on the formula previously discussed. Selecting a spotter is all about the quality of the image which is due to the quality and size of the front lens, gases in the tube, and of course the quality of the eye-piece.

Again, I hope this helps.

Here's a few more pics taken with the 800 mm without the 2.x (shots had to be cut and pasted from a screen capture due to the size of the files):

800 mm f/11 ISO 1600 1/250 sec 200 feet away, shot is processed and cropped.

1637936293526.png

800 mm ISO 1600 f/11 1/250 sec, 400 feet away this has been processed and cropped and not 100% in focus either.

1637936486351.png

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

Joe
 
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Figge

Active member
Sweden
Hi, Joe. I hope you and the family have a good Thanksgiving!

I have another question(s). I have been looking at different wildlife photos, considering their quality, and checking out the info that the photographer posts regarding their equipment and settings.

I am missing something, I think. Most of the photos I see are taken with a 600mm lens that is f4ish. However, photos of hippos, leopards, and other dangerous animals appear to be very close. Is this due to editing after the fact, and the photos that are displayed are actually subject to serious crops, or some other factor?

Some photographers are dumb (in my opinion) and take risks that they shouldn't, but I have a hard time believing that these photographers are mere single digit yards away from their subjects. Do photogs actually risk it, and get within 20-30 yards of a grizzly?

Thanks, and take care.

Scott


Good morning Scott. Great question. Let's first start with the equipment. Since I'm familiar with Canon, I'll focus on this. You can tell how much I love photography because of how long my post can be ;-)

Today, the highest quality prime lenses Canon sells are the 600mm f/4, they have this in the older EF mount and the new mount RF for mirrorless cameras. They still have an 800mm f/5.6 but so far only in the E

To begin with, yes, some photographers may get dangerously close to wildlife. But it is difficult to know for sure by looking at the image. For example, years ago I was on an Alaska cruise and one of the excursions was to photograph bears in a world-renowned location led by park rangers. Special permits were required, a very limited number were allowed per day, it was at a world-famous spot where bears fished for salmon. The spot was from a blind that was protected by location but very close to the bears. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go as I learned about this excursion too late. I'm confident that the images looked like the photographers were dangerously close but little danger was present.

I'm not sure of the images you saw, but I know there are photographers that host shoots of wildlife all over the world. For example, the Yellowstone camera store is a leader in these types of photography adventures. I met the photographer and owner Chris Balmer while visiting his store in the town of Yellowstone. Although I've not attended one of his adventures, I'm confident they are safe for the folks attending. International Photography Tour Workshops | Photography Travel Tours
I know a couple of people that have been on a tour (or safari) in Africa where the people are on the upper deck of a vehicle. The animals are used to this and they can get pretty close to the wildlife.

However, I do believe in many cases people are cropping their images.

For example, here's an image I took with my older equipment. It was taken with a 100-400 mm at 400 mm. But my camera was the Mark 1ds Mark III thus a 1.6 crop factor due to not being a full-frame. So the effective lens was 640 mm. And here's the same image processed and cropped a bit. This image was taken very early in the morning with no one around on the way to Lamar Valley. I'd estimate I was 600 to 800 feet from the bear. We say it as we were driving.
Hi, Joe. I hope you and the family have a good Thanksgiving!

I have another question(s). I have been looking at different wildlife photos, considering their quality, and checking out the info that the photographer posts regarding their equipment and settings.

I am missing something, I think. Most of the photos I see are taken with a 600mm lens that is f4ish. However, photos of hippos, leopards, and other dangerous animals appear to be very close. Is this due to editing after the fact, and the photos that are displayed are actually subject to serious crops, or some other factor?

Some photographers are dumb (in my opinion) and take risks that they shouldn't, but I have a hard time believing that these photographers are mere single digit yards away from their subjects. Do photogs actually risk it, and get within 20-30 yards of a grizzly?

Thanks, and take care.

Scott


Good morning Scott. Great question. Let's first start with the equipment. Since I'm familiar with Canon, I'll focus on this. You can tell how much I love photography because of how long my post can be ;-)

To begin with, yes, some photographers may get dangerously close to wildlife. But it is difficult to know for sure by looking at the image. For example, years ago I was on an Alaska cruise and one of the excursions was to photograph bears in a world-renowned location led by park rangers. Special permits were required, a very limited number were allowed per day, it was at a world-famous spot where bears fished for salmon. The spot was from a blind that was protected by location but very close to the bears. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go as I learned about this excursion too late. I'm confident that the images looked like the photographers were dangerously close but little danger was present.
Hi, Joe. I hope you and the family have a good Thanksgiving!

I have another question(s). I have been looking at different wildlife photos, considering their quality, and checking out the info that the photographer posts regarding their equipment and settings.

I am missing something, I think. Most of the photos I see are taken with a 600mm lens that is f4ish. However, photos of hippos, leopards, and other dangerous animals appear to be very close. Is this due to editing after the fact, and the photos that are displayed are actually subject to serious crops, or some other factor?

Some photographers are dumb (in my opinion) and take risks that they shouldn't, but I have a hard time believing that these photographers are mere single digit yards away from their subjects. Do photogs actually risk it, and get within 20-30 yards of a grizzly?

Thanks, and take care.

Scott


Good morning Scott. Great question. Let's first start with the equipment. Since I'm familiar with Canon, I'll focus on this. You can tell how much I love photography because of how long my post can be ;-)

Today, the highest quality prime lenses Canon sells are the 600mm f/4, they have this in the older EF mount and the new mount RF for mirrorless cameras. They still have an 800mm f/5.6 but so far only in the EF mount. These lenses cost $13,000 US. I assume they will make the 800mm for the RF also, but am not sure. At least with the 400 and 600mm, RF lenses Canon is not charging more for the RF versions. For less expensive lenses like the 24-70 f/2.8 L, they are charging more for the RF ($500 more).

To begin with, yes, some photographers may get dangerously close to wildlife. But it is difficult to know for sure by looking at the image. For example, years ago I was on an Alaska cruise and one of the excursions was to photograph bears in a world-renowned location led by park rangers. Special permits were required, a very limited number were allowed per day, it was at a world-famous spot where bears fished for salmon. The spot was from a blind that was protected by location but very close to the bears. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go as I learned about this excursion too late. I'm confident that the images looked like the photographers were dangerously close but little danger was present.

I'm not sure of the images you saw, but I know there are photographers that host shoots of wildlife all over the world. For example, the Yellowstone camera store is a leader in these types of photography adventures. I met the photographer and owner Chris Balmer while visiting his store in the town of Yellowstone. Although I've not attended one of his adventures, I'm confident they are safe for the folks attending. International Photography Tour Workshops | Photography Travel Tours

I know a couple of people that have been on a tour (or safari) in Africa where the people are on the upper deck of a vehicle. The animals are used to this and they can get pretty close to the wildlife.

However, I do believe in many cases people are cropping their images.

For example, here's an image I took with my older equipment. It was taken with a 100-400 mm at 400 mm. But my camera was the Mark 1ds Mark III thus a 1.6 crop factor due to not being a full-frame. So the effective lens was 640 mm. And here's the same image processed and cropped a bit. This image was taken very early in the morning with no one around on the way to Lamar Valley. I'd estimate I was 600 to 800 feet from the bear. We say it as we were driving.

This link provides some examples of focal length distances and comparisons.

Regarding dangerous animals and some of my experiences.

Sometimes you get very close. If you stop a safari vehicle to let elephants pass, the elefants choose where they go and they may come very close. Lions sometimes use vehicles as cover when they hunt and you may find them right beside you. Do not worry, drivers and guides read the animals and know how to act. E.g. once we were charged by some cape buffalo bulls which can be quite grumpy. The driver revved the engine into a roar, let the clutch go and the jeep made a quick jump towards the angry buffalos. They backed off.

Do not expect to much. Some encounters are rare. After many trips I have seen a lot of different species, but I still have not seen wild african dogs, and only the top of a cheetah in tall grass. To see the big five in one trip may require serious effort and luck. A leopard spotting may require days and a really good guide.

Sometimes you get surprised. In India there are up to 85 people killed by tigers each year. However visiting the Western Ghats the locals showed very little fear for tigers. Probably because healthy tigers do not see humans as dinner. Maneaters are rare.
Once we had a tiger encounter, face to face, at very close range. We were a stetched-out group, walking along a path. After rounding a boulder some of us saw a tiger right in front of us. The tiger calmly looked at us before disappearing into the bushes. After some time the tiger appeared again resting in full view on a cliff a little further away. Even the last members of our group which had missed the first encounter thus got the opportunity to see it. Quite an experience and our local guide was extatic. We were not in a tiger conservation area so the encounter was not expected.
Earlier we had heard a tiger during a walk and our local guide started a ”conversation” with the tiger. The tiger responded. Our guide suggested that we should go and find it. He was not joking and we had a lenghty discussion. It was late in the day and getting dark. In the end our team leader was worried and did not approve so we had to abort. Luckily we got our tiger encounter later.
One animal the locals feared much more than tigers was elephants. At the slightest noise or encounter with fresh elephant dung, we had to back off as quickly and silently as possible.

I have only encountered bears from safe hides or seen them from a car.

Some animals are more of a nuisance. E.g. baboons. Let the locals/staff handle them. They probably have powerful slingshots and know how to use them. Beware, these animals are very strong and can give nasty bites. When parking do not let windows open for ventilation. Animal bandits take advantage of every opportunity.

Be reasonably observant. You may encounter snakes, scorpions and other nasty creatures. In some places checking your clothes and footwear before jumping into them is not a bad idea. Do not appoach a cute ”kitten” if you find one in the shadows on your way to dinner at the lodge. Mama leopard might be very close. Do not panic but back off!

Follow the rules. Once a member of our group went for a swim, disregarding warning signs for crocodiles. When it is forbidden to leave your vehicle exept at certain resting places, you have to obey, no matter what. I have seen people leave their vehicle within striking distance of lions which were hidden in the grass. Idiots.

If you behave sensibly you do not have to worry. Accidents are extremely rare. It is probably more dangerous to drive a car at home than to participate in a safari.

The real dangers are people and disease.

People. Once our birding group spent a night in a very basic and dirty hotel in Africa. Usama bin Ladin was obviously well regarded . We even found his portrait attached to our room keys. Some places are bandit country and you may be kidnapped or even killed. On one occasion we had to hire two guards with AK-47s before we were permitted to proceed. Check with your foreign office before you go. Sometimes it is prudent to check safety issues with your embassy and local police and get your presence and plans approved and recorded. On a trip in the Middle East, we had to report to our embassy every day.

Disease. Take recommended shots and pills and use mosquito nets when available. You do not want to catch malaria or other diseases. You may have to consider the risk of catching e.g. bilharzia. Once a roommate caught malaria by disregarding such rules.

Especially in hot and humid conditions when you sweat a lot, take good care of your passport and other travel documents. Keep them dry in a plastic enclosure. If you turn up at airports, customs or border controls with your documents in disorder, damaged by moisture and turned into loose pages you will have issues!

To illustrate how close you can get I attach some photos. All pictures are slightly cropped. The hyena is almost not cropped at all. Still, the elephant was a little to close.

Regarding high ISO. Yes, I agree that todays cameras are very good at handling high ISO. But it comes at a price. You loose dynamic range. This can become an issue. With most lenses the smallest aperture is f16. There is a reason for that. If the aperture gets small enough you loose sharpness due to diffraction. As a matter of fact f16 is already at the limit and should be avoided if possible. If max sharpness is your goal. Perhaps something to keep in mind when combining slow lenses with powerful converters. A important issue is AF performance. Earlier the camera manufacturers specified good AF performance at f5.6 or better. Recent cameras can manage f8 or better with good AF performance. These limits are of course specified at certain light levels. In my experience the limits are not so carved in stone as the specifications suggest, but you definetely pay a high price in AF speed if you go to far.
 

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jlacasci

Active member
United States
Regarding dangerous animals and some of my experiences.

Sometimes you get very close. If you stop a safari vehicle to let elephants pass, the elefants choose where they go and they may come very close. Lions sometimes use vehicles as cover when they hunt and you may find them right beside you. Do not worry, drivers and guides read the animals and know how to act. E.g. once we were charged by some cape buffalo bulls which can be quite grumpy. The driver revved the engine into a roar, let the clutch go and the jeep made a quick jump towards the angry buffalos. They backed off.

Do not expect to much. Some encounters are rare. After many trips I have seen a lot of different species, but I still have not seen wild african dogs, and only the top of a cheetah in tall grass. To see the big five in one trip may require serious effort and luck. A leopard spotting may require days and a really good guide.

Sometimes you get surprised. In India there are up to 85 people killed by tigers each year. However visiting the Western Ghats the locals showed very little fear for tigers. Probably because healthy tigers do not see humans as dinner. Maneaters are rare.
Once we had a tiger encounter, face to face, at very close range. We were a stetched-out group, walking along a path. After rounding a boulder some of us saw a tiger right in front of us. The tiger calmly looked at us before disappearing into the bushes. After some time the tiger appeared again resting in full view on a cliff a little further away. Even the last members of our group which had missed the first encounter thus got the opportunity to see it. Quite an experience and our local guide was extatic. We were not in a tiger conservation area so the encounter was not expected.
Earlier we had heard a tiger during a walk and our local guide started a ”conversation” with the tiger. The tiger responded. Our guide suggested that we should go and find it. He was not joking and we had a lenghty discussion. It was late in the day and getting dark. In the end our team leader was worried and did not approve so we had to abort. Luckily we got our tiger encounter later.
One animal the locals feared much more than tigers was elephants. At the slightest noise or encounter with fresh elephant dung, we had to back off as quickly and silently as possible.

I have only encountered bears from safe hides or seen them from a car.

Some animals are more of a nuisance. E.g. baboons. Let the locals/staff handle them. They probably have powerful slingshots and know how to use them. Beware, these animals are very strong and can give nasty bites. When parking do not let windows open for ventilation. Animal bandits take advantage of every opportunity.

Be reasonably observant. You may encounter snakes, scorpions and other nasty creatures. In some places checking your clothes and footwear before jumping into them is not a bad idea. Do not appoach a cute ”kitten” if you find one in the shadows on your way to dinner at the lodge. Mama leopard might be very close. Do not panic but back off!

Follow the rules. Once a member of our group went for a swim, disregarding warning signs for crocodiles. When it is forbidden to leave your vehicle exept at certain resting places, you have to obey, no matter what. I have seen people leave their vehicle within striking distance of lions which were hidden in the grass. Idiots.

If you behave sensibly you do not have to worry. Accidents are extremely rare. It is probably more dangerous to drive a car at home than to participate in a safari.

The real dangers are people and disease.

People. Once our birding group spent a night in a very basic and dirty hotel in Africa. Usama bin Ladin was obviously well regarded . We even found his portrait attached to our room keys. Some places are bandit country and you may be kidnapped or even killed. On one occasion we had to hire two guards with AK-47s before we were permitted to proceed. Check with your foreign office before you go. Sometimes it is prudent to check safety issues with your embassy and local police and get your presence and plans approved and recorded. On a trip in the Middle East, we had to report to our embassy every day.

Disease. Take recommended shots and pills and use mosquito nets when available. You do not want to catch malaria or other diseases. You may have to consider the risk of catching e.g. bilharzia. Once a roommate caught malaria by disregarding such rules.

Especially in hot and humid conditions when you sweat a lot, take good care of your passport and other travel documents. Keep them dry in a plastic enclosure. If you turn up at airports, customs or border controls with your documents in disorder, damaged by moisture and turned into loose pages you will have issues!

To illustrate how close you can get I attach some photos. All pictures are slightly cropped. The hyena is almost not cropped at all. Still, the elephant was a little to close.

Regarding high ISO. Yes, I agree that todays cameras are very good at handling high ISO. But it comes at a price. You loose dynamic range. This can become an issue. With most lenses the smallest aperture is f16. There is a reason for that. If the aperture gets small enough you loose sharpness due to diffraction. As a matter of fact f16 is already at the limit and should be avoided if possible. If max sharpness is your goal. Perhaps something to keep in mind when combining slow lenses with powerful converters. A important issue is AF performance. Earlier the camera manufacturers specified good AF performance at f5.6 or better. Recent cameras can manage f8 or better with good AF performance. These limits are of course specified at certain light levels. In my experience the limits are not so carved in stone as the specifications suggest, but you definetely pay a high price in AF speed if you go to far.
Thanks for contributing to the discussion Figge, great images too. I hope to do some nature travel as I get closer to retirement and definitely will once I do retire. I really want to do one of the Alaska Grizzly shoots I described earlier. It sounds like you've had some fantastic adventures and opportunities! As I've mentioned previously, I'm really impressed with the Canon R5 compared to my much older gear (1ds Mark III). The AF is amazing and still works well at higher f/stops (at least with the RF lenses). As I've been stating for quite some time here, everything in photography is a compromise.

Thanks again,
Joe
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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