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Old Oct 7, 2008, 12:20 PM   #11
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My vote:

Sony A700 ($1299 list).

Carl Zeiss 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 (around $699 now)
Note that this lens would give you the same angle of view you'd have using a 24-120mm lens on a 35mm camera (multiply the focal length by 1.5x for comparison purposes on a dSLR using a Sony APS-C size sensor)

Africa, huh? How about something like this:

Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3
around $1159 now at reputable vendors like http://www.bhphotovideo.com

This lens is known as the "Bigma", and is well regarded for sharpness, especially considering it's very flexible zoom range from wide to long. Make sure you're OK with it's size and weight. It would give you the same angle of view you'd have using a 75-750mm lens on a 35mm camera (again, multiply by 1.5x to see how angle of view compares when using a dSLR with a Sony APS-C size sensor).

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Old Oct 7, 2008, 12:29 PM   #12
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OK,

Here's one recommendation:

Gitzo 1531 CF legs (support 17.6 lbs) = $525

Bogen 490RC4 (supports 26 lbs) = $200 - I like this because it has a level on both axis. Acratech and Arca-swiss are going to be more professional but they get very pricey in a hurry. $200 is not a lot for a ballhead and based on what you're shooting I think it would be a while before you outgrew this head.

So that's $725 for the tripod.

I'm a canon guy so I'll give you a canon solution. Given your price range I think it's a mistake to go with superzoom style lenses. So the question becomes what lenses make sense. I get the feeling landscape/general purpose is going to be 90% of your requirement. The challenge becomes - if you use a 1.6 crop camera like the 50d you really want at least a 17mm lens. Preferably something better than the 17-85. BUT if you want better you get shorter which hurts the "all purpose" part of your photography. Your wildlife needs are pretty basic from a camera perspective. Deer in the backyard aren't going to bemoving much. Much easier than birds in flight.

So here are a couple Canon solutions:

kit 1:

Canon 5d with 24-105 = $2700

Canon 70-300 IS USM (not as good as the 100-400 but much smaller/lighter = good for travel. When your trip to Africa comes around then look to spend bigger $$$ on a lens) - $560

Total 3260.

Kit 2:

Canon 5d with 24-105 = $2700

Canon 100-400 IS USM = $1400

Total $4100

The 2 above kits with the 5dmkII ups the price by $800 ($4060 & $4900).

If I were to cast a vote it would be for the kit1 with mkII ($4060).

That would bring your total solution (camera, 2 lenses, tripod, legs) in just under the $5000 limit. Fantastic camera with great all-purpose lens and a very compotent lenss for shooting deer in the back yard. Upgrade the wildlife lens when it becomes more important..


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Old Oct 7, 2008, 12:31 PM   #13
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Another similar option compared to the Sony A700 kit I mentioned would be a Nikon D300 (which also uses a Sony 12MP Sensor), with a Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens (not as bright as the Sony/Carl Zeiss 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 on it's longer end, but you may not care about that for use in good light). Then, go with the same Sigma 50-500mm for wildlife photos.


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Old Oct 7, 2008, 2:50 PM   #14
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I agree with John on this one. The 5DII with the 24-105 L is a fantastic combo for general purpose shooting.

As you are looking for larger wildlife you don't need to start off with very long lenses. For a safari it's often a good idea to rent a specialist long lens just for a couple of weeks. But the 70-300 will be useful for all sorts of things, not just wildlife.
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Old Oct 7, 2008, 6:56 PM   #15
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Since everyone else is jumping in with specific recommendations, I'll say that the Carl ZeissĀ® Vario-Sonnar T* DT 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 Zoom Lens and the Sony 70-300mm Gf4.5-5.6 Telephoto Zoom Lensare the best lenses of their kind available for any camera, and they only work with Sony dSLRs.

Sony has the 14MP A350 if you want 'Live View', or the 12MP A700 if you don't.
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Old Oct 11, 2008, 12:22 AM   #16
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John

Can you tell me why you think that is the best camera for me over the 50d so I can understand the thought process?

Also, later when I want to do the Africa trip what would I be looking at as far as lenses?

I am hoping to go look at some cameras this weekend....thanks.
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Old Oct 11, 2008, 8:21 AM   #17
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inthemoment wrote:
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John

Can you tell me why you think that is the best camera for me over the 50d so I can understand the thought process?
You listed landscape as your most important type of photography. A full frame sensor is going to provide better dynamic range and more detail as well as better per-pixel image quality. So, the Canon 5d, 1ds, Sony A900, Nikon D700, D3 would all be candidates. Another benefit is outstanding high ISO performance which can be important when you do the safari since the best shooting will be done at dawn and dusk. The D700 and D3 are phenomenal in that regard. Early indications are the 5dmkII will compete very well in that category.

Also the 24-105 lens is outstanding. It's a professional lens - quality optics and great build quality.

The Canon just happens to be the least expensive of the above.

And as I said I shoot canon so I'm more familiar with their gear than others. Just like Jimc will recommend Sony because he shoots with their gear. Every system has great options. I merely suggest that from the Canon system the 5dmkII offers you the best IQ for the shooting needs you specified (in the order in which you specified them).


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Old Oct 11, 2008, 9:38 AM   #18
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Make sure you go and handle the cameras quite a bit. If you are a hiker and are going to be taking your landscape pictures during a 10 mile hike, imagine carrying the camera's weight for a long time. It won't be a problem for some, but my weight-carrying capacity is limited, so any of the full frame cameras wouldn't work for me, and the 50d might be possible/marginal, depending on how the rest of the ergonomics are (I use the Pentax K20, which is a littlelighter than the 50D, and think that's as heavy a camera as I'm comfortable carrying for long distances- you might not have a problem with the extra weight). Remember that the camera that's the right answer for you might NOT be the one that is capable of giving the best image, all other things considered.
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Old Oct 11, 2008, 12:22 PM   #19
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I agree with everything everyone has said here (for the most part), but I'd like to also mention that, in order to take advantage of all the benefits of a full frame image sensor, you really need excellent lenses. If a lens isn't very sharp, the greater resolution of the image sensor is going to waste. If the lens doesn't have a neutral color cast, then the increased dynamic range will go to waste. So, having a full frame dSLR puts a great demand on your lenses.
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Old Oct 11, 2008, 12:53 PM   #20
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TCav wrote:
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I agree with everything everyone has said here (for the most part), but I'd like to also mention that, in order to take advantage of all the benefits of a full frame image sensor, you really need excellent lenses. If a lens isn't very sharp, the greater resolution of the image sensor is going to waste. If the lens doesn't have a neutral color cast, then the increased dynamic range will go to waste. So, having a full frame dSLR puts a great demand on your lenses.
Agreed - the 24-105 was designed specifically for full-frame DSLRs. So it's a perfect match :|
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