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Thread: Wildlife Photography Using Pentax 645Z - Masai Mara

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    Wildlife Photography Using Pentax 645Z - Masai Mara

    Hello friends,

    It is nice to be a part of this forum. I have long been a Pentax user starting with K-1000 and at present with 645Z and Ricoh GR Digital II. I also have a Canon 50D. BTW, I have been a serious amateur for the past 2 decades and I am 50 years old.

    This is my first post, and I hope to get some sage advice on an upcoming event in my life.

    I am heading to Masai Mara in August 2019 for a 6 day safari. This will be the very first time that I will be trying my hand at wildlife photography. Otherwise, I am only into landscape photography so far.

    My Kit comprises the following:-

    Pentax 645Z with the following lenses:-

    (a) HD PENTAX-DA645 28-45mmF4.5ED AW SR
    (b) HD PENTAX-D FA645 35mmF3.5AL[IF]
    (c) smc PENTAX-D FA645 55mmF2.8AL[IF] SDM AW
    (d) HD PENTAX-D FA645 MACRO 90mm F2.8ED AW SR
    (e) smc Pentax-A* 645 150mm F3.5
    (f) SMC pentax-FA* 645 300mm F4 ED [IF] OR SMC pentax-A* 645 300mm F4 ED [IF] (One of them will be purchased in next two days)
    (g) smc Pentax-FA 645 400mm F5.6 ED [IF]
    (h) Pentax 645 Rear Converter 2X

    Canon 50D with the following lenses:-

    (a) 50mm f1.8 II
    (b) EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM

    Finally, the one of its kind Ricoh GR Digital II (2007 vintage).

    I also have the Kaiser Tiltall TC-284 carbon fibre tripod with an Arca Swiss Mono Ball Head. I own the Photodiox Pentax 645 to Canon EF adapter. Then I have some Singh-Ray graduated ND filters, some suitable Hoya circular polarisers, the IR remote control for the Pentax and the Canon both, and two batteries each for all three cameras. I guess that's about all :-)

    I have essentially been a landscape photographer for the past two decades, and never thought in terms of wildlife photography. A chance meeting with a friend resulted in this trip to the Mara getting finalised in Aug 2019.

    I have the following questions:-

    (a) I would be shooting landscapes, but would also love to try my hand at wildlife photography. Considering this, and the fact that I may not be going to the Mara anytime soon, what would be your recommendations for the kit that I should carry. There is no backpacking involved. We shall be always in a vehicle. Besides, I do not think that I would be concentrating on actions sequences between a sprinting Cheetah and its prey. I would be content in making images of the wildlife in their habitat with some close-up shots displaying emotions.

    (b) Which one of the two lenses should I buy : SMC pentax-FA* 645 300mm F4 ED [IF] OR SMC pentax-A* 645 300mm F4 ED [IF]? I understand that the Pentax lenses are not amenable to doing wildlife photography like the Canon and Nikon lenses can (fast apertures, image stabilisation, better and faster autofocus etc). Is the manual focus lens on the Pentax 645Z good enough or having the autofocus is far more desirable? The cost difference for mint condition used lenses is almost double (approx USD 400 for the A* versus USD 750 for the FA*), but I won't mind paying extra if the FA* is a much more suitable lens and offers distinct advantages.

    (c) I really do not know what distances the wildlife would be at from our vehicle. Anyway, can I take only one of the 300 and 400mm lenses? If yes, which one should it be?

    (d) Is the Pentax 645 Rear Converter 2X such a bad piece of glass? I do not seem to be able to get any good reviews of it. So am I better off using the zoom lenses as they are or should I use the 2X rear converter or buy the 1.4X converter? And If I buy the 1.4X converter, with which lens should I used it.

    (e) I would be taking the Canon only as a back-up. But with the Pentax to Canon lens adapter, will it be worth mounting my Pentax telephoto lenses on the Canon 50D? I won't have autofocus and will have the use only the manual and aperture priority exposure modes in this case. How difficult it would be to focus the Pentax telephoto lenses on the crop-sensor Canon body?

    (f) I really would love to use my available gear. The 300mm FA* or A* lens, after visit to the Mara, would go in cold storage for a long time. With the 400mm already with me, should I buy the 300mm, even if money was no consideration?

    (g) If I should also use the Canon 50D in the field (at least to avoid changing lenses frequently on the Pentax 645Z), then would it be worth renting an image stabilised zoom for the Canon? If yes, which one should it be? I would like to avoid this option to save on money, but if it is a wiser choice, I would go ahead with it.

    (h) Are two fully charged and fairly new batteries enough for the Pentax for a full day's shooting? Or should I carry more?

    (j) Is the Tripod worth carrying if all shooting would be from the vehicle? We would be provided the bin bags. And there will be 4 persons in the vehicle other than the driver.

    (k) How does one go about changing lenses safely during the photo shoot? Any hacks to keep the Pentax 645Z and the lenses safe? I can't afford another 645Z body, and if any great opportunity presents itself, I would rather capture it with the Pentax than the Canon. That includes the wildlife images. That means I would have no choice but to change the lenses sometimes (if not frequently). Or can I do it this way - start with the wide-angle 28-45mm or the 35mm to shoot landscapes during the golden hours and then switch over to a telephoto lens as the sun comes up? This will be a basic strategy and it would be adhered to unless some great opportunity is anticipated which necessitates change of lenses. I reckon that the Mara would be lush green in end of August and not really dusty. But I am not sure.

    (l) Are there decent quality rovers available on the internet in case I decide to use remote control to move the camera around in the field? How much would be reasonable price for one? Any recommendations on the make and model?

    (m) I can only carry limited stuff in my hand bag during the flight. I will have to keep the balance stuff in my check-in luggage? How can I ensure that the camera/ lenses do not get damaged or stolen during transit? Are there special cases available for transporting the gear by air as check-in luggage?

    (n) Since every extra gram matters, would be any use taking the Ricoh GR Digital II?

    (p) Any specific advice for making decent images of the wildlife using the Pentax 645Z?

    Finally, I am keeping my expectations moderate. I hope to get some decent landscape shots. But as regards wildlife, if I make even two images worth sharing with public, I would be happy.

    I kindly request the guidance of esteemed members of this forum. Thank you in anticipation.

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    Re: Wildlife Photography Using Pentax 645Z - Masai Mara

    Welcome.

    My first reaction is you are carrying a lot of lenses. If you have the 28-54mm, why do you need the 35mm prime? For you, is the difference between 45mm and 55mm significant? I might drop the 55mm also. (or keep the primes and drop the zoom.)

    For wildlife, I would default to the 400mm with a 1.4X teleconverter. If you already have the 2x, then test it and see if you are happy with the combination, including the loss of light. The believe the TC works with the 150mm, and so that would take a number of focal lengths from 45mm to 90mm to 150mm to 210mm to 400 to 560mm (in the case of the 1.4 TC).

    But how much do you shoot all those lenses? Generally speaking, I do not find my shooting style changes when I travel, but I have never been on safari.

    I would spend a few weekends shaking down your gear. Put it in a bag and then go to an area near you and take pictures for a day. That will let you know how and what equipment you are using. It will give you a sense of whether your batteries will last a day and whether you want to carry all that gear. You will not enjoy your safari if you feel like a donkey all the time.

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    Re: Wildlife Photography Using Pentax 645Z - Masai Mara

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    Welcome.

    My first reaction is you are carrying a lot of lenses. If you have the 28-54mm, why do you need the 35mm prime? For you, is the difference between 45mm and 55mm significant? I might drop the 55mm also. (or keep the primes and drop the zoom.)

    For wildlife, I would default to the 400mm with a 1.4X teleconverter. If you already have the 2x, then test it and see if you are happy with the combination, including the loss of light. The believe the TC works with the 150mm, and so that would take a number of focal lengths from 45mm to 90mm to 150mm to 210mm to 400 to 560mm (in the case of the 1.4 TC).

    But how much do you shoot all those lenses? Generally speaking, I do not find my shooting style changes when I travel, but I have never been on safari.

    I would spend a few weekends shaking down your gear. Put it in a bag and then go to an area near you and take pictures for a day. That will let you know how and what equipment you are using. It will give you a sense of whether your batteries will last a day and whether you want to carry all that gear. You will not enjoy your safari if you feel like a donkey all the time.
    Thanks for your advice Will.
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    Re: Wildlife Photography Using Pentax 645Z - Masai Mara

    Quote Originally Posted by pentaxitin View Post
    Thanks for your advice Will.
    I would decide if your image planning is animals in habitat or close up portrait like. This will limit the lens line up, and Iím confident that you can make the trip successfully. If you are going to buy gear ??? (Rent first) you should have two bodies one on a gimbal with long glass. With two bodies and 4 lenses maximon.
    If you never shot wildlife with a long lens you in for quite a learning curve, that will keep you from landscaping for fear of missing the other shot.

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    Re: Wildlife Photography Using Pentax 645Z - Masai Mara

    Quote Originally Posted by bab View Post
    I would decide if your image planning is animals in habitat or close up portrait like. This will limit the lens line up, and Iím confident that you can make the trip successfully. If you are going to buy gear ??? (Rent first) you should have two bodies one on a gimbal with long glass. With two bodies and 4 lenses maximon.
    If you never shot wildlife with a long lens you in for quite a learning curve, that will keep you from landscaping for fear of missing the other shot.
    I will be shooting both close up and animals in in habitat as the opportunities present themselves. I guess I will be practising a bit around before trying my hand at wildlife photography in Africa. Thanks for your valuable suggestions.

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    Re: Wildlife Photography Using Pentax 645Z - Masai Mara

    Iíve only gone onone safari (about 5 years ago) in Uganda so what Iím telling you are generalized tips. Youprovably donít need more than one wide angle option and Iíd limit it to the smallest lens that you have. For safari landscapes, ďnormal to short telephotoĒ lenses in the (40-105mm range in 35mm terms) become your wide angle lenses, medium telephoto lenses (110-200mm in 35mm terms) become your normals, and any long telephotos become your longer range setups. For the 645z Iíd stick to your smaller normal and short telephoto lenses or if you have a zoom that may be even better. A smaller format camera (35mm FF or APS-C) with a long zoom will likely be your workhorse. Iíd take at least one fast aperture zoom like a 70-200/2.8 for lower light shooting... the animals are generally most active (for photography purposes) at dawn to early morning and leading to dusk.

    Most safari parks are massive and getting too close to wild animals can be a mixed bag. Some donít mind. Some will begin their defensive warnings.
    Visible Light & IR Photographer
    http://www.iiinelsonimages.com

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    Re: Wildlife Photography Using Pentax 645Z - Masai Mara

    Quote Originally Posted by iiiNelson View Post

    .......... getting too close to wild animals can be a mixed bag. Some don’t mind. Some will begin their defensive warnings.
    Just an excuse to post this untypical shot of mine:
    Shot from a completely open vehicle with the wide-ish end of a zoom but I'm still here .


    I'm not going to give gear/lens advise to the OP as it depends on YOUR style of shooting; I'm not interested in producing reference book style photos of animals and birds - I like putting them in a context.

    I will just say, keep things simple - you are often capturing fleeting moments and by the time you've selected your camera/lens combination you could well have missed the shot.

    Also very important are your guide, the type of vehicle and what time of year you go.

    Enclosed Land Rovers with a hatch are imo not great; we had a little Suzuki Maruti, very quiet engine and completely open.

    If you go when there's too much grass, you'll only get clear shots of the largest animals.
    If you go when it's too dry, most of the animals will not stray too far from water holes and the chances are that their locations will become rather busy with others on safari.
    Ian.

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