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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Choosing Your Tele-Zoom

Some of the best nature photographers share thoughts and tips on their favorite medium telephoto zoom lenses

Click Images To EnlargeThis Article Features Photo Zoom
John Isaac
John IsaacJohn Isaac
After 20 years as the United Nations’ chief photographer, John Isaac turned to nature and wildlife to recuperate and find some joy in the world again. "Just like in photojournalism, when one photographs a portrait of a subject in his or her own surroundings, I like to photograph my wildlife subjects the same way. A medium-range zoom is more than adequate and is in some ways the best choice, since I want my audience to see the surroundings of my subjects."

The Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 50-200mm ƒ/2.8-3.5 and 90-250mm ƒ/2.8 are Isaac’s favorite lenses for wildlife and landscapes. He likes their sharpness, flexible range, beautiful color fidelity and contrast. And with the Olympus Four Thirds system, the lenses are double the focal length of 35mm format, pushing them out to 400mm and 500mm, respectively.

Bob Krist
Bob Krist
Whether it’s wildlife in East Africa, Badrulchau stone monoliths on the island of Palau or the Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland, Bob Krist always has a telephoto zoom along. The AF VR Zoom-Nikkor 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6D ED has been a favorite on trips to Tanzania, as well as Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. With a magnification factor of 1.5x on his Nikon D300, it gives Krist the 35mm equivalent of 120-600mm—an ideal reach for photographing wildlife there.

"Lately, I’ve also been playing with the AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm ƒ/4.5-5.6G IF-ED," says Krist. "This is another gem, lighter than the 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 with a bit more reach, going out to an equivalent 450mm with the magnification factor. It’s definitely easier to tote around, and with Vibration Reduction and the good performance of the D300 at higher ISOs, I’m able to get more use out of this lens.

"Several months ago, I was traveling very lightly on an assignment in Mongolia. When I went out on a camel trek over the Hongoryn Els dunes in the Gobi Desert, the Vibration Reduction of the 70-300 was a great help when shooting from the back of a Bactrian camel."

Connie Bransilver
Connie BransilverConnie Bransilver
Nature and conservation photographer Connie Bransilver says a day in the field often means being on site where chimps or lemurs are just leaving their nests, then an all-day follow ensues through the rain forest until dusk. "I’m a five-foot, two-inch, 115-pound female, so I have to give high priority to light weight and versatility," says Bransilver. "For me, the Canon EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6L IS USM is my basic lens for those situations."

On one expedition, Bransilver was following a community of habituated chimpanzees for days through the Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania. While Bransilver had a porter carrying the bulk of the gear, she carried only the 100-400mm lens as she rarely had time to set up for a perfect shot, and this lens got her close enough for revealing portraits of the chimps.

Kerrick James
Kerrick JamesKerrick James
Adventure sports and travel photographer Kerrick James is shooting a new guidebook to Grand Canyon National Park for Fodor's. In late October, Kerrick did a four-day backpacking trip, hiking west 30 miles along the Tonto Trail after descending the very steep Grandview Trail.

"My 26-year-old uberstrong cousin was my model for photos," says Kerrick, "and we carried close to 70 pounds, exiting the Grand Canyon on the South Kaibab Trail. Because we couldn’t count on water sources, we had to carry two gallons each, and photo gear weight was a real factor."

"I chose to carry the Pentax smc P-DA 50-200mm ƒ/4-5.6 ED lens instead of my old favorite film lens, the 80-200mm ƒ/2.8, because the new lens is about one-fourth the weight. I had never used the 50-200mm lens for a serious project and was truly delighted with it's image quality and feather weight. By far, the 50-200mm is the lightest ED lens I've ever used, and it will be in my hiking bag wherever I go from now on."

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