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  1. #1
    Member erikzen's Avatar
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    Question Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    I was checking the forums today and got the message that I haven't posted in a while. OK, I've got a question so here goes.

    At the end of the month I will be going to Cape Cod with the family and we will be taking a whale watching trip from Provincetown. I have the E-510 with the 40-150mm kit lens that it came with, as well as the other kit lens 14-42mm and the 50mm macro lens (love that macro!).

    Although I will of course be taking my camera, this is a family trip and not a photographic expedition. Most of the time I will probably just bring the camera out with one lens so as not to get bogged down or be tempted to spend too much time taking photos when I should be playing with my kids.

    That being said, I've been on this particular whale watch trip before and there is a very good chance we will be relatively close to the whales. In fact the last time I took this trip one whale came so close to the boat that I could smell its breath when it opened its mouth. I would love to be able to capture a shot of one of these magnificent beasts.

    So here's the question: would it make sense to purchase a more powerful telephoto lens in order to capture a better shot, or will it be difficult to use something like the 70-300mm on a moving boat? I do not want to bring a tripod and I know that if I do use a more powerful telephoto I will have to bring another lens so I can take photos of the family on board.

    I don't own the lens so I would have to buy it. After this trip I don't have any other particular use in mind for it although I know it would get used over time.

  2. #2
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    Why would you want a powerful telephoto to take shots of a whale that is close enough to smell?

    just asking!!

    I'd think if they were that close, a wide lens like the 7-14, 11-22, or siggy 10-20 might be better. A wide shot of a whale's head coming out of the water with the boat and your fascinated kids in the same frame would be a good shot.

    Of course, I'd probably stick with the 14-54 or the 50 macro, just for pure versatility.

    On the other hand, the 70-300 will give you some really nice compression, might be possible to get a shot of the whale with land in the background, that would make a good shot. That lens would also make up for any chances that the whales will be out of range.

    In short, your shooting style will determine what the best lens for the situation is.
    Erik Williams

    Olympus E3, E510
    12-60 SWD, 50-200 SWD, 50 f/2 macro, EX25, FL36's and an FL50r.

  3. #3
    Member erikzen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sushigaijin
    Why would you want a powerful telephoto to take shots of a whale that is close enough to smell?
    That is a good point. If we are lucky enough to have a whale come that close again my wife can grab a shot with her point and shoot.

    It is far more likely the whales will be a good distance away.

  4. #4
    Member erikzen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    Maybe an even better question is can you use the 70-300 without a tripod?

  5. #5
    Senior Shooter Greg McCary's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    You didn't mention budget? But I think this Sigma would really get the job done. It really depends on the lighting. The 70-300 could be slow at f/4 and even slower on the 300mm side. The Sigma is $800.00 but a fixed 2.8 it would be fast. The IS isn't going to help with motion blur. I think i would head out with the zoom but I would carry a small bag and would carry the 14-42mm.

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  6. #6
    Member Atomic2's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    I think that the 40-150 will be a good lens for whales at a distance, and up close. though you will have to scoot a little back to take pictures of your family, but 40mm isnt all that narrow that it will be impossible.
    E-3, E-510
    12-60 2.8-4.0
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    Sigma 30 1.4
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  7. #7
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    That's why I love the versatility of my 50 - 500. Everything from portraits to long reach and everything in between. I would still bring my E500 with the 14 - 45 on it for close in stuff or get my wife to shoot it with her P&S just like you suggested.

    Now the 70 - 300 can easily be shot hand held if you have a steady hand ( I regularly shoot at 500 hand held as slow as 1/100th....with lots of practice anyone can) and for those who say that the IS doesn't help at max zoom I beg to differ. I leave it on all the time and I know for a fact that my keeper vs. trash bin percentage is better because of the IS. When I am shooting wildlife I am almost 90% of the time at the far end of the lens and the IS most definitely helps.
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  8. #8
    Member erikzen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    I guess I should have mentioned a budget. I'd like to keep it under $500.

  9. #9
    Member Atomic2's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    that really leaves either sticking with the 40-150, or getting a 70-300. id just tough it out with the 40-150.
    E-3, E-510
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    Sigma 30 1.4
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  10. #10
    Senior Shooter Greg McCary's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    Photo John has used the 70-300 and was quite impressed if I remember. I think for under 500 that's what I would go with.
    I am like Barney Fife, I have a gun but Andy makes me keep the bullet in my pocket..

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  11. #11
    Member erikzen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    I think I'm leaning towards sticking with the 40-150. I can spend the money on lobster rolls instead!

    Does anyone have any tips for shooting in this environment? I will be on a boat, in the water, possibly rocking. I don't want to bring a tripod with me, but what about a monopod, will that increase stability? I will make sure to bring along the lens hood.

    What f-stop and shutter speed should I be aiming for? I would guess that I will want the fastest shutter speed possible to freeze any motion. As long as the weather is good lighting should be quite bright. We plan to set sail around 10:00 AM.

  12. #12
    Member Atomic2's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    You should have no problems if you have plenty of light. Just set the camera to aperture priority mode and adjust it for how much depth you want. though I dont know how close those guys will be to you.
    E-3, E-510
    12-60 2.8-4.0
    40-150 3.5-4.5
    Sigma 30 1.4
    Zenit 58 F2 [with M42 adapter]
    Metz 48

  13. #13
    Senior Shooter Greg McCary's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    I would just keep an eye on the LCD. I would probably shot 200 to 400 ISO and keep the shutter speed high and keep the IS on. I would practice some on the trip out and take a lot of memory crads and an extra battery. I think I would start out around f/8. I think at that time of day you should have plenty of light. Good luck and I want to see pictures.....
    I am like Barney Fife, I have a gun but Andy makes me keep the bullet in my pocket..

    Sony a99/a7R

  14. #14
    Spamminator Grandpaw's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    Haven't taken shots like this before but I would think a polarizing filter might be something that would come in handy whatever lens you choose, Jeff
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  15. #15
    Member erikzen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg McCary
    Good luck and I want to see pictures.....
    Thanks for not putting any pressure on me, Greg!

  16. #16
    Color me obvious dumpy's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    I would bring along a monopod, between the rocking boat and the longer focal lengths it will come in very handy.

    I will second grandpaw on the polarizer recommendation. If not a polarizer then at least a UV filter to keep saltwater spray off of your lens.
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  17. #17
    Member erikzen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    Would there be any merit to buying the EC-20 teleconverter as opposed to the 70-300 lens? Both come in under the $500 budget. The EC-20 might be better on a trip and could be used with other lenses. The 70-300 on the other hand would probably give superior image quality and would be faster thant the 40-150 with the EC-20.

  18. #18
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    I'd be surprised if you get good results out of the 40-150 and the ec-20. The 40-150 is a pretty slow lens as it is, and it will probably have focusing problems with the teleconvertor attached. I'd go for the 70-300 myself, or maybe a flash even.
    Erik Williams

    Olympus E3, E510
    12-60 SWD, 50-200 SWD, 50 f/2 macro, EX25, FL36's and an FL50r.

  19. #19
    Member erikzen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sushigaijin
    I'd go for the 70-300 myself, or maybe a flash even.
    I assume you mean that for the money it would be better spent on a flash as opposed to a teleconverter, and not that it would be useful in this application.

    I do have the FL-36 which for my needs is fine.

  20. #20
    Senior Shooter Greg McCary's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    I think the tele converter would slow an already slow lens down even more. If the lighting was great it might work. But in the long run I would go or the 70-300mm.
    I am like Barney Fife, I have a gun but Andy makes me keep the bullet in my pocket..

    Sony a99/a7R

  21. #21
    Member erikzen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    I couldn't resist. It's a few days before my trip and I just got the 70-300, although judging by the looks I got from my wife I don't think she's all that happy about the expenditure. I'm going to either go straight to B&H to buy my equipment or have it delivered to my office if I'm going to get anything else in under the radar.

    No chance to try out the lens yet, other than a quick shot at my lawn furniture from my bedroom window. When I first tried to zoom, it seemed to stick a little at about 200mm, so much so that I thought I had zoomed all the way in by feel. When I looked at the lens I realized I could zoom in more. It seemed like after my initial turn that the zoom no longer stuck. Still not the best way to start a relationship with a lens.

    The lens is shorter than I had imagined. Even though it was early evening and I was shooting outside through my bedroom window, focus seemed pretty decent. I'm sure in full daylight it will work very well. The weight seems very manageable.

    Someone suggested a monopod and I'm definitely putting one on my wish list but I might not be able to sneak another piece of equipment past my wife prior to our trip. We're leaving on Friday.

  22. #22
    Senior Shooter Greg McCary's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    Get you a small bean bag. If you can find something to prop on it makes for a fairly good tripod. Easy to carry too. Good luck and I want to see pictures.
    I am like Barney Fife, I have a gun but Andy makes me keep the bullet in my pocket..

    Sony a99/a7R

  23. #23
    Member Atomic2's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    try to keep it in good condition and then sell it after the trip if you have no need for it. you can probably make all your money back. then buy it later when it drops in price.
    E-3, E-510
    12-60 2.8-4.0
    40-150 3.5-4.5
    Sigma 30 1.4
    Zenit 58 F2 [with M42 adapter]
    Metz 48

  24. #24
    Member erikzen's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    Quote Originally Posted by Atomic2
    try to keep it in good condition and then sell it after the trip if you have no need for it. you can probably make all your money back. then buy it later when it drops in price.
    I will do, but unless I absolutely hate the lens I think I'll hold onto it for a while. Although it's not that practical for everyday use, it's a nice addition to my lenses. With 2 young children, if they ever get into sports this may come in handy. I now have the two kit lenses, the 50mm f/2.0 macro and this one. Other than upgrading the 14-42 I have everything pretty much covered. The pancake 25mm would be nice but not necessary.

    If I were to get a monopod for use with the 70-300, what would you recommend in the under $100 category?

  25. #25
    Member Atomic2's Avatar
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    Re: Lens for Whale Watching Trip?

    I have no experience with Monopods, but I can say that you will be much happier selling the 70-300, and using that money for an upgrade to the 14-54, or even the 12-60. this will make you VERY happy.
    E-3, E-510
    12-60 2.8-4.0
    40-150 3.5-4.5
    Sigma 30 1.4
    Zenit 58 F2 [with M42 adapter]
    Metz 48

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