If you’re looking for images of wildebeest crossing the mara river, predators taking down wildebeest and gazelle, leopards in trees and big BIG african skies then you’ll be disappointed with this post. However, you can get your fix from this blog post on that front!
This post will be a bit more technical and will look a the last 3 years worth of metadata from my time in the Mara. Using Lightroom to filter a range of metadata I looked at the 9042 images captured in the Mara between 2013 and 2015 and looked specifically a focal length and lenses used.
What gear do I need?
This is a common question for guests that have travelled with us to the Masai Mara and, although all of our team have a feeling for wha focal lengths work best, I thought it would be interesting to see how the images I’ve captured over the last 3 years have been spread across a range of focal lengths.
Now, bare in mind that this will obviously be skewed in favour of my shooting style and also by the gear which I have with me at the time. For example I used the Canon 800mm F5.6 for an entire week and pretty much focussed on that as my primary lens in an effort to force myself to think a bit more about composition and capturing tight portraits.
This is also based on the actual focal length on a full frame body and does not include any sort of crop factor.
Number of Images by Lens – 2013 to 2015
Based on this, almost 20% of all images take over the last 3 years were captured at a focal range of 70-200mm on a 70-200mm F2.8. his has always been one of my preferred lenses and is a real go-to in so many instances. It is no surprise then that it makes up such a large percentage of the total number of images captured.
43% of images were captured at a focal length of between 200 and 600mm. Some of these would have been on 300mm, 400mm and 600mm prime lenses and the Canon 200-400mm but many were also captured using a combination of the prime lenses and 1.4 and 2 x converters.
Anything shot a a focal length in excess of 600mm would have been captured with either the 400mm F2.8 and 2 x converter or the canon 800mm F5.6 and this accounts for 20% of all images. In reality I feel that this figure is slightly distorted by the fact that I focussed almost exclusively on using the 800mm for our extended migration safari last year. This is supported by the fact that a quick analysis of my “hero” shots shows that most of these fall within the 200 – 600mm focal length bracket.
So, what gear do you need in terms of focal length in the Masai Mara?
There is no set recipe for this but based on my shooting style and this quick analysis of the metadata, I would say that you need to try and cover as wide a range as possible – without carrying every single lens in your arsenal. The ideal situation for me would be to have a full frame body with a 70-200mm F2.8 lens for some of the wider and more scenic shots. This is regardless of what brand you shoot on.
That leaves us with a need to cover the 200 to 800mm focal length range. Quite a range I’m sure you’ll agree!
Canon has their new 100-400mm MKII which when paired with a crop sensor body like the 7D MKII would give you a rang of 160-640mm. That would give you two bodies and two lenses which cover you from 70mm right the way through to 640mm with a 40mm overlap between 160mm and 200mm.
Similarly, Nikon has their new 80-400mm which when paired with the D7100 and D7200 combine to give you a focal length of 120 to 600mm.
Throw something like the Sigma and Tamron 150-600mm into the mix and you’ll end up with 240-960mm on Canon, and 225- 900mm on Nikon.
Personally, I’m loving the combination of the 400mm F2.8 which when paired with the 1.4x and 2 x converter yields a focal length of 560mm and 800mm respectively. Even with two full frame bodies the combination of the 70-200 and 400mm prime allows me to shoot at 70-200mm, 400mm, 560mm and 800mm. Two bodies, two lenses and a range of 70 to 800mm. Not bad right!
One of many other benefits of these prime lenses is of course their ability to perform in low light, which is not that much of an issue in the Mara as one can only be out on drive between sunrise and sunset. This graph shows the range of ISO values used over the last 3 years.
ISO Ranges for Images Captured in the Masai Mara 2013-2015
More than 85% of images were captured between ISO 100 and ISO 1000, a range which even the most basic of DSLR’s today are capable of. The images captured beyond his range were more than likely captured in first or las light, under cloudy weather conditions, or a night in and around camp.
If you’re worried about joining us because you think you don’t have the right gear, ask us and we will help you out with a rental unit to ensure that you’ve got your focal ranges covered!
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