The 600mm f/4 VRII on a Safari in South-Africa
Funny enough: 99% of the opinion on the web about “which lens to bring to a safari in Africa” says to “leave the 600mm or 500mm f/4 at home” and to “bring a 70-300mm”. Do yourself a favour and pay no attention to those out-of-their-mind advices.
I brought my big 600mm f/4 VRII to the Addo National Park and it was one of the best decision that I’ve made this year. DO IT. If you can afford it…If you already have them…Bring a 400mm f/2.8, a 500mm f/4, or a 600m f/4 VR to an Africa safari and you’ll have ZERO regrets!
I think that it is absolutely crazy that so called expert are telling to leave the big lenses behind: Yes, it is true that you’ll want something around 90-150mm range lens: but that is not exclusive. A 200-500mm f/5.6 would do the trick: albeit lesser sharpness than a prime super telephoto. If budget is no object, just get a 600mm f/4 FL or VRII (nano-crystal) and add a 1.4TC III in the bag (you’ll need it more than you think, specially for Kruger National Park, and even Addo National Park).
Here’s the thing with wildlife: You CANNOT predict how far they will be from you. The internet tells you that a 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII will be enough, but those are the voices of people that have 1) no budget to afford a super telephoto lens and 2) never been to Africa.
For those in the know, two good prime lenses with two good bodies is all you need. I had a Fuji X-Pro2 (24mp) with a 60mm f/2.4 macro (equivalent 90mm f/2.4 lens on 35mm) and a Nikon Df (same sensor as the Nikon D4/D4s, but in an all-magnesium, all-external-dials body, Nikon D610 autofocus module) mounted on a 600mm f/4 VRII (aka Nano-Crystal version, which came just before the newest FL version).
In a perfect world, three cameras is what you need: A wide-angle, 24-70mm f/2.8 on APS-C (crop-factor camera), so about a 35-100mm equivalent on full-frame; a body mounted on a 70-200mm f/2.8 (kinda of mandatory: a f/4 COULD be enough, but fuck it, life’s short. Get a f/2.8, it is SO worth it. Pay no attention to wanna be photographers that say that a f/4 is better or the same thing that a f/2.8: I owned every version, and the f/2.8s are just, actually, SO MUCH BETTER. So get them); and a body on a super-telephoto lens: it could be a 400mm f/2.8 (Sony, Canon or Nikon), it could be a 100-400 (Canon) or a 200-500mm (Nikon). A 600mm f/4 VR or a Canon 600mm f/4 IS are absolutely worth it for an African safari! Throw a 1.4 teleconverter and you got yourself a nice 840mm f/5.6 stabilized lens: that should be plenty. Switch your camera to a APS-C format, and you got a nice 1200mm f/5.6 lens, and that’s plenty. You WON’T need more than 840mm f/5.6 IS/VR stabilized lens on a full-frame camera, not for Addo National Park. For Kruger, get yourself a 1.7TCIII (the version 2 is terrible, the third edition is GOOD), and you’ll be fine. Just make sure you’re shooting with a D5/D4/D850.