View topic - How big is too big for a fly in trip?

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PostPosted: March 7th, 2018, 9:43 pm 
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I'm planning for a fly in trip this summer. That's a new thing for us. I'm also upgrading camera gear, or at least I think I am, well I've started but haven't gone that far yet.

I know that I want more reach than a 300mm lense gives me and have been thinking about a 200-500mm lense but the one I'm thinking about comes in at 5lbs just for the lense. Add in the other camera gear and it feels like it could be too much.

On the other hand this is probably a once in a lifetime trip, should be a fairly relaxed pace with lots of time for photos and wildlife is never close enough.

So, I'm looking for input from folks who have done fly in trips and are fairly serious about their photography as to what is reasonable to carry for gear.

My current thinking/dreaming is:
1 or 2 camera bodies, both APS-C, I'm not in the full frame market yet.
10-20mm wide angle
18-140mm "walk around"
and was thinking of a 200-500mm lense but that's the 5lb one

I could just go with a 70-300mm lense that would be a big improvement on the old non-stabilized one I have now, but I'm worried I'll be disappointed in the reach - which I already have been - well not so much disappointed as I know what I can't do with that range. On the other hand it would come in at about 1 1/2 lbs.

I'll also note that while I have loved the range of my upper end point & shoots I am specifically looking for both much better image quality and much stronger autofocus systems which makes this specifically a question about DSLR equipment. I'll probably still want to pack my Canon SX30 but I'm no longer thinking of it as a good alternative to a longer DSLR lense.

Or should I be taking a look at the newer superzoom bridge cameras with the 1" sensors? They would have the range but still wouldn't have the image quality of a current DSLR or the same autofocus systems.

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PostPosted: March 7th, 2018, 11:02 pm 
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I'm not clear what fly-in has to do with the amount of camera gear you might take. Whatever you take you just don't want it to be brutal on the portages and fit in your boat. If you have a big boat and few ports just take it all!

FYI - A beaver will take about 1000lbs of payload with the external load at 3 x actual (passengers count, pilot not usually).

I have an SX40, the zoom is ok but when I compare to others using DSLR with proper lenses I'm always disappointed.

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PostPosted: March 8th, 2018, 8:07 am 
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Well I can tell you you about the lens :D
If you have a reasonable wildlife chance you will be happy :P
(actually more than happy)
I have a dedicated barrel for my camera stuff.
And yes it means an extra carry.
And if photography is one of the aims of the trip and you don't take the gear you will be disappointed. :-?
If I plan to hike I take the 60L Barrel because my camera backpack fits into it.
40 L if I don't, but stuff is packed in and around to keep it stable.
Also there is a good supply of moisture absorbent packets as moisture will condense in the barrels.
The lens I use the least is the macro lens, but there are times that might be the only neat shot on the trip.
So many lenses.... :thumbup:
So I opt for the extra carry :roll:
What you will also need to do is practice getting your gear out fast when you paddle.
(as the same time stay stable)
Because sometimes wildlife just shows up.
(there is always time to prep right for a landscape)
Shooting with the big lens with no unipod or tripod can be trickey.
So I practice. I have the camera set up low F stop higher iso and and high shutter speed to make sure I get a least one shot.
Then If I have time I play with the settings and then add the unipod.
You need to shoot like a biathlete when not using a stabilization device, focus, aim, hold your breath.
And yes there has been trips where I carried all that stuff and got no amazing shots. 8)
Take the GEAR! 8)
Jeff

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PostPosted: March 8th, 2018, 8:09 am 
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What about that 70-300IS backed by a Canon EF 1.4x III tele-extender. Takes you to a 420mm with minimal distortion and the loss of only 1 f-stop, and the whole rig would only weigh 2lbs. (A 2x extender is also available taking you to 600mm/losing 2 f-stops/a little more loss in picture quality/weighs only 12oz)


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PostPosted: March 8th, 2018, 9:04 am 
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Opens advice is spot on all the way. 70-300 is a good deal for $ weight reach combo then pair it as needed with the extender/converter. You gain some reach, the centre stays pretty sharp, only lose one stop of light, small and light. The 2x comes with more compromises. If it's at a lower light or shade situation the 2 stop loss probably cooks you. It isn't as sharp but having said that you can these days spend time in photoshop or equivalent working on improving the contrast etc of the keeper shot you might get. The longer and faster lenses are really a grinding pain in the butt unless that is exactly and all you are doing. Have fun.


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PostPosted: March 8th, 2018, 9:45 am 
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I recently bought a Tamron 18-400mm lens (which I love!) & I now take just this plus a Canon 10-18mm. It's MUCH smaller & lighter than carrying a whole lot of lenses. My camera is a Canon 70D - APS-C. These I can fit into my day bag....so everything is easy to access whether in the canoe, on a portage or on land.

The other thing I bring is a waterproof Olympus Tough which I attach to my PFD - this is for use for the times when I wouldn't bring out my better (& non-waterproof) camera.


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PostPosted: March 8th, 2018, 3:55 pm 
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I knew this was the right place to ask. :D Thanks for all the input so far.

Recped - Good questions. The trip is on the Keele River with no planned portages. That part is easy. The part I've been worrying about is that I think I'm working with approx. a 30lb weight limit for personal gear because of it being a fly in trip. That's the part I'm not used to. You're question reminded me that I don't actually know how much the 'personal' gear in terms of clothes, sleeping bag, etc. that I usually pack weighs. I should figure that out and then I'll have a better idea how much room I have to work with for camera gear. I'll also double check how much leeway there is in terms of weight.

Jedi Jeff - Yep, you said pretty much everything I've been thinking. :thumbup:

Monopod is a given and tripod is highly probable but adds more weight in itself. I'll be looking at hybrid monopods with legs later in my shopping process. I'm not sure if a hybrid monopod would hold up to 6+lb camera + lens setup.

On the water, the first shot is likely to be with the waterproof point & shoot. That would also be where the superzoom bridge camera still comes in. I've always kept that in a ziploc ready to grab. Still want the DSLR handy, but taking more care with protecting it from water and of course making time to put it to good use.

Open Side Up & Steve of London - I spent time yesterday adding up weights on the combinations of shorter lenses plus teleconverters. I'm looking at Nikon gear so the options don't line up directly with the Canon lenses. In particular, Nikon doesn't have a 70-300mm lense that will work with a teleconverter so I'd have to go with a 70-200mm lense which would force me to use a 2X teleconverter to get more than 300mm range.

There is a 70-200mm f4 lense which combined with the 2X teleconverter comes out to just over 2 1/2 lbs which would be a good weight savings but it also means the camera is down to using f/8 focus points and on a D500 body that reduces the autofocus system from 153 points to 9 points which is a pretty crippling trade off.

There is also a 70-200mm f2.8 lense but the weight on that combined with the teleconverter comes out over 4lbs which is getting close enough to the weight of the 200-500mm that I don't think it's worth the trade off.

If I was looking at Canon then I'd be going with the 100-400mm which weighs in at 3.6lbs and deferring the teleconverter for later.

Unfortunately there just aren't any Canon bodies that I want right now. I've spent a lot of time over the last year or so looking at image quality, usable ISO range, dynamic range, and autofocus performance. Canon still has an edge in video focus but I'm not seeing huge differences and Nikon has 4K support that Canon doesn't. I was hoping to see upgrades to the 80D or 7D early this year but it doesn't look like that's happening any time soon. I'm not ready to spend the money for full frame at this point but I am choosing lenses that will transfer to full frame where I can.

BTW - From what I'm seeing Canon doesn't list the 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM as being compatible with the 1.4 teleconverter.

Marscanoe - I had seriously considered an 18-300mm lense but I've been talked out of it. I do see differences in image quality when comparing shots from an 18-140mm and 70-300mm combo compared to the 18-300mm. I think I'd still like one for more urban travel photography but I'm resigned to using 2 camera bodies to cover more range and I really do want the bigger lense for wildlife.

Of course carrying 2 camera bodies isn't perfect either. Just reaching for the 'other' camera can be enough to miss a shot, but it's better than having to change lenses. One of my missed opportunities was a bald eagle on Grand Manan a couple summers ago.I had the short lens on my DSLR and my superzoom P&S had the range but not as good an autofocus. I got a couple shots but nothing worth printing or posting. Moving to 2 DSLR bodies will hopefully help with that.

I also carry a Canon Powershot D30 waterproof point & shoot in the canoe similar to your Olympus Tough.

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PostPosted: March 8th, 2018, 6:06 pm 
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Splake, I think I must have juxtaposed the Canon from the SX30 onto all your equipment. Sorry 'bout that. Anyway, the search should keep you busy while the water is still hard.


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PostPosted: March 8th, 2018, 7:04 pm 
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No worries. I do have a Canon T5i but only the 18-55mm kit lens and a non-IS 70-300 that I got used for about $100. Both those lenses are getting upgraded regardless of where I end up. I gave a lot of thought to moving to an 80D but the Nikon D500 is head and shoulders above it and half the price of going to a full frame Canon.

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PostPosted: March 8th, 2018, 8:26 pm 
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I've been dragging a ton of camera gear around the bush for years, and have done quite a number of fly-in trips with it as well. Most of the time the trips are solo and involve a load of portaging for 3-4 weeks at a time. If one of the primary goals of the trip is photography then I just suck it up and bring the right gear for the job. That said, you do have to cut it off somewhere. Here's my set-up for most photo-canoe trips...

Nikon DSLR (full frame)
70-200 f2.8 + teleconverter
16-35 f4
20mm f1.8 (great for night shots)
Macro lens (optional)
tripod
a few filters

Sometimes I bring along a flash unit and pocket wizards (radio controlled flash triggers) for some low light creativity. A nice thing to have, but this type of photography is anti-social and labour intensive. On a social trip I leave this stuff at home in favour of the travel guitar.

Where you're headed I can understand wanting some big reach. However, with a crop sensor you've got some flexibility in that department. The 200-500mm f5.6 looks like a ton of fun, especially for wildlife, but for landscapes my guess is you'll be frequently keeping it dialled back, especially on a crop sensor. Another option is to get the 70-200 f2.8 + TC-20E III teleconverter. The 70-200 f2.8 is such a versatile workhorse lens that it just makes sense to invest in it. With the TC you'll have effectively a 140-400 f5.6 lens with the versatility of the 70-200 f2.8 with TC removed.

Looking forward to seeing your photos post-trip!

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PostPosted: March 8th, 2018, 9:03 pm 
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Ok, so I'm not out to lunch thinking about a 70-200 f/2.8 with the 2X teleconverter. That comes out about a lb lighter. Psychologically I might feel better about it too, just not quite as bulky. Even looking used it won't come out any less expensive but it's in a similar ballpark.

I had considered the 70-200 f/4 but with the 2X teleconverter I'd be down to an f8 maximum aperture and while the D500 would work with that, the autofocus would be pretty crippled.

The Nikon 10-20mm F/4.5 is the closest DX equivalent to the 16-35 f/4 with a full frame. It isn't an ED lens and won't be the same quality but I'd need the full frame to really get the value 16 -35.

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PostPosted: March 8th, 2018, 10:06 pm 
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Just to follow up, you're correct that the 2X converter is not right on the f4 lens for a variety of reasons. The 70-200 f4 is a great, lighter weight alternative to the f2.8. It's got great optics and very capable VR. I own this lens and really like it. I wouldn't recommend using it with more than the 1.4X TC. You can get away with the 1.7X, but forget it with the 2X. For a great kit with great quality and flexibility I'd highly recommend the 70-200 f2.8 with the TC-20E III. You simply can't go wrong with this combo.

If you're going this route I'd be getting a new generation 70-200 and the TC-20E III, not the older versions of either. Not that there is anything wrong with the older versions (they're actually great), just that if you're going to make the investment, the new versions will work very well together. The newest generation of VR is reason enough. While you may replace your camera body someday, this lens set-up will be in your bag (Pelican Case) for a long time to come, and you'll really love using this gear.

Also, if you're getting a Pelican Case, opt for the removable inserts rather than the pick & pluck foam. MUCH more versatile.

Regarding tripod vs monopod...many modern lenses have great VR. Aside from shooting at very long focal lengths or in dim light you can quite effectively hand-hold your camera and get very sharp images. No monopod required. A tripod can double as a monopod. A monopod cannot be a tripod. Without a tripod creative low light shooting is very limited.

One last thought. Have you considered the full frame Nikon D750 or D610? That would solve your wide angle lens quandary.

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PostPosted: March 9th, 2018, 11:05 am 
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Thanks Mike

I really want the D500 for the focus system and the crop sensor helps with the range. I hadn't looked at FX bodies at all but you made me go look and the D610 is lot less expensive than I thought. I know I eventually want a full frame setup particularly for landscape, still I think that option will be left in the "next year" bucket.

On a related note, I have not figured out good low light photography yet.

For some reason I had been overlooking the Nikon 80-400mm lenses. From what I'm seeing the new version of the 80-400mm is sharper and faster focusing than the 70-200mm f/2.8 + 2X TC combo. It also weighs less which helps with my concerns there while providing a larger working range and leaves open the option of adding a 1.4X TC later on.

Valid point on the tripod vs monopod. My prioritization of the monopod is because I use it regularly. I also take most of my photos while moving around. I'm planning on taking the tripod but if it came to a crunch I'd take the monopod and get creative on ways to make up for not having the tripod.

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PostPosted: March 9th, 2018, 3:40 pm 
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Something I am doing is switching to my phone pics for trip reports. It takes great movies and the wide screen is great for landscapes.
What is even better is you can shoot in raw.
I have a Samsung Galaxy S7.
From what I have seen online is the IPhone can shoot those milky water fall shots, hand held.
I went Samsung because well it was free with the plan, and the big selling feature was it was waterproof, which I accidentally tested on my Agawa trip. (complete submersion) I can turn everything off and just use the camera and movie function.
The zoom functions suck, but it does take great pics for story telling!
Jeff

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PostPosted: March 12th, 2018, 10:48 am 
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Weight shouldn't be a problem for the bush plane aspect of your trip, I did a nature documentary for the Discovery Channel on the Thelon River and had a Betacam with a bunch of batteries, that's a lot of weight.

For still photography I use a Canon 5D with a 400mm 5.6 with a 2X extender. I've used that lens with the appropriate adapter on my Canon XL-1 for video work. That said, wildlife in the north is often more approachable so you can often get great shots without having to haul out the heavy artillery.

I use a manfroto carbon fiber tripod with a heavy duty ball head. One suggesting I have to upsell a tripod over a monopod is that I've often spread two legs of the tripod and held that over my head to look like antlers. Its been very helpful to let you get much closer to grazing animals like caribou or moose.


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