My Choice of Two Lenses and One Camera Body

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Last week I asked which two lenses you would choose from the gear I took up to our Madikwe Wildlife Photography workshop.

The bag looked like this:

And this was the gear in the bag:

  • Nikon D3s
  • Nikon D800
  • Nikon 200-400mm VRII
  • Nikon 70-200mm VRII
  • Nikon 24-70mm
  • Nikon 14-24mm
  • Nikon SB-600 Speedlight
  • Clik Elite Pro Elite Camera Bag
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The comments on the blog made for interesting reading, and it seems that overall the 70-200mm and 200-400mm focal lengths proved to be the most popular, closely followed by the very wide angles.

So, now it’s my turn.

I’m gonna keep my choice of one body and two lenses to the gear included in the bag I took to Madikwe.  Remember that the question asked in the previous blog mentioned that you don’t know where you going, so with that in mind, here are my choices.

Camera:  D800


Since first shooting with this camera I have loved it.

The dynamic range on this camera is incredible and the 36.3MP makes for loads of options to crop and tweak your compositions.  I am not a fan of ‘shooting in the middle’ and then cropping after the fact, but it does most definitely come in handy in wildlife photography.

One of the things that a few people have mentioned when using this camera for wildlife photography is the slower frame rate of 4 fps, but I have never had a problem with this. By understanding your subject’s behaviour and choosing your moments, you can most definitely shoot fast action when it happens.

Lens 1:  Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8


No matter where I go this is always the first lens in my bag.

The focal length allows for images ranging from portraits to animals in environment type shots, and the f/2.8 allows me to shoot when the light gets a bit low.

From a versatility point of view, the lens has served me well in a very wide range of environments, and with proper bush craft and patience you can get close enough to your subjects to create tight portraits that most wildlife photographers are after.  I am not too big on my bird photography, which is probably one of the only negatives that comes to mind as to what you will struggle to shoot with this lens.

Also, as mentioned above, the D800’s ability to crop in to your images more than usual does give the option of getting tighter on subjects during your post processing.

Bottom line, like mentioned earlier, this is always the first lens in my bag.

Example Images:

gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

70 t0 200mm shot at 70mm

gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

70 to 200mm shot at 150mm

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

70 to 200mm shot at 200mm

Lens 2:  Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8


This second lens was a very, very tough choice.


I absolutely love the 200-400mm focal range and I have had great success with it in very diverse environments in both South Africa and East Africa. Then there is the 24-70mm, which is a lens I have often wanted when out in the field especially, when you get close to subjects.

In the end I decided on the 14-24mm for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, from a story telling point of view I find it works very well to have a really wide scene setting shot – especially on the full frame D800 – and then present a tighter image with something like the 70-200mm type range.  Secondly, I need to get better with wide angle images. Telephoto lenses are easy to shoot – fill the frame, click – but with wide angles you need to work a bit harder.

By including this wide angle in my arsenal, I force myself think differently about the images I am trying to get as well as how to work a scene. Think of it as a creative crutch of sorts which forces me to pay attention to the basics while also thinking out of the box.

Example image:

gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

14 to 24mm shot at 20mm

So there you have it, my choice of lenses and camera body should I just have to grab and run.

It’s always a difficult thing to decide on what gear to pack in your camera bag, but if you think about the types of images you want to create, what your photographic strengths and weaknesses are and the destination you are heading to, your choices might just be a little easier.

Until next time!

Gerry van der Walt

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Comments 0

  1. Nic Basson

    Interesting choice on the D800. For birding it would be nice choice but for the actions shots of say a kingfisher diving in for prey, it would be too slow. Just my opinion and experience.

    1. Post

      Agreed Nic, it is great for stationary subjects like birds. Must say that since I’ve been using it for a while – and I shoot short bursts at the bet of times – it is very possible to capture action with it as well. Here is one of the Kingfisher images I got in the Chobe a few months ago – Got three images in the sequence and all were perfect! 🙂 Sure, if you want 11 frames back to back then this is not the camera to go for but when you pick your shots you can capture some incredible moments!

  2. Peter Connan

    Gerry, that kingfisher is absolutely magnificent!
    I know this is drifting off the point, but I would not be able to choose just two lenses.

    I would want to take your whole gear bag, with two changes and one addition. I would swop the 200-400 for a 500 (I concentrate heavily on birds), and I would swop the 24-70 for a macro lens of some sort. The addition would be a macro flash setupof some sort.

    1. Post

      That’s a great combo Peter! The 500mm is a great lens especially for birds! 🙂 Macro is also something I would love to do more of so hopefully one day! Thanks for your input!

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