What serious wildlife photographers really need:
A telephoto - zoom 4,5/200 600 mm,
with a weight of 3 kilogram (approx. 6,66lbs)
The weight of a 4.0/600 mm Canon Nikon, or Minolta lens is 6 kg (approx. 13.5lbs).
The weight of a 5,6/600 mm Nikon lens is 3 kg ( approx. 6.66lbs).
The weight of a 2,8/300 mm Canon, Nikon or Minolta lens is 3 kg ( approx. 6.66lbs).
The weight of a 4,0/300 mm Nikon or Canon lens is about 1,5kg (approx. 3.33lbs).
From this you can conclude, that if the strength of a lens is doubled, the weight of the lens is doubled as well.
Tokina has announced a 4,5-6,3/50-500mm lens. The rumors in Canada talk about a Canon 4.0/200-600 lens in the year 2002. Both of which are most likely not the urgently longed for telephoto -zoom.
The Tokina lens will certainly turn out to be not good enough and the Canon most certainly too heavy.
All the retailers are complaining about the low quantity manufactured: here is my piece of advice for a lens that will be the hottest item for all wildlife photographers in the whole world: a 4,5/200-600mm.
Why this combination of all things? Well, 4.5 instead of 4.0 would enable a reduction of 1,5 kg in weight; for that we would gladly sacrifice a half - point speed.
So now Nikon introduced a new 2,8/400 mm on the market with the weight reduced by 1,5 kg, according to Nikon, made possible by using new types of materials. So, by reducing the light factor by half a point together with using new types of material, you could minimize the weight by about 3 kg.
A few years ago a 4,5 speed was a "small problem" (see Canon 4,5/500mm) because the AF-Cameras only had a speed of up to 5,6, worked with an auto focus and so in turn, the lenses were not usable for AF with a 1,4x converter. This problem has been solved by the EOS-3, the F5 and the F-100. These cameras work with AF up to a aperture of 8,0 so that a 4,5/200-600 mm with a 1,4x converter equals a 6,3/280-840 mm and with that is back in the league where auto focus works without problems.
The 4,5/200-600 would weigh no more than a 2,8/300 mm today!!!! and with the 1,4x converter it would even reach an AF mode of up to 840 mm. A dream lens.....!!! The first manufacturer to offer such a lens, no matter if the brand name is Canon, Nikon or Minolta, would have all wildlife photographers in the world as customers. He would have unbelievable sales in Europe and North America. Alone the NANPA and GDT members would purchase more than 2000. But this is obviously of no interest on the upper floors where decisions are being made........ .
Literature on the subject:
What we need, what we dream about
Among colleagues the following conclusion is undisputed: If you do not want to sacrifice auto focus and still utilize every possibility of modern Nature Photography, you can only turn to two camera types: Canon and Nikon.
High motor frequencies, usable exposure meters and highly functional automatic exposures, as well as better and more improved auto focus systems have made the dreams of many a Nature Photographer come true. Whoever was able to turn out a sharply focused picture of an approaching bird of prey 15 years ago was the king and usually in line for an award. Today the making of such a picture is not so difficult any more so that we can concentrate on the really important aspects of photography once again: imaging, color and lighting. Many thanks to the new cameras.
There is something that Nature Photographers do not seem to have: a lobby. How otherwise does one explain the fact that even though we may continuously wish for important pieces of equipment, we can´t get them or something else is being offered to us which we can´t use. For years it is known that Nature Photographers crave a telephoto zoom lens, a 200-500 mm/4 or better yet, a 200-600/4,5 (see also publications of F. Pölking in "Fotoproject Masai Mara" and E. Pottin "Fotographie draußen" (Photography Outdoors), issue 4/96, with the title "Viele verpasste Chancen" Many missed opportunities - ). You can´t document the need for building such a lens better than in these mentioned articles. So and what do we get? From Nikon nothing! and from Canon a 100-400/4,5 5,6. Nice for amateurs maybe but for professionals too short and too dim. And why? Because ".....we asked the photographers and they told us....." And which photographers were asked? I have never read an article in which someone has asked for a 100-400 mm zoom lens with above mentioned weaknesses.
Often the wishes of Sport Photographers are used as a basis of comparison on all things and referred to for us. How many Sport Photographers are there? And how many Nature Photographers? Canon and Nikon should finally come to the realization that at every major sporting event, there are a few hundred accredited Sports Photographers and that is it. But there are thousands and thousands of Nature / Wildlife Photographers that are underway on weekends and during vacations (and as professionals on excursions and expeditions) in meadows, woods and fields of Holland, Southern France, Scandinavia, Siberia, Eastern Africa and the Antarctica and wherever else, with highly sophisticated photo equipment to ambitiously take high-quality pictures, and these are not catered to.....and that is scandalous.
The economic viability.....? I know of at least 25 people who would purchase a zoom lens as described above, and many would even change the brand their using for it. So you can´t talk about a lack of demand.
What do we get instead? Useless toys, that help no one to take better pictures (if they even work). The best example is the eye control of the auto focus measure on the EOS-3, an achievement which is comparable to the invention of the fat free fried potato. How can an imaging photographer, who has to continuously overlook his range finder work with it? I do have to admit though, that I am solely talking about the use in connection with telephoto lenses.
( Excerpt from: Marketplace for Nature Photography, issue 3/1999 )
"Well, let´s just see", I said to myself the other day, "Let´s take a look at the Nikon sales program of 1994/95, under lenses and accessories, to be exact: under "zoom lenses".
Available in the field of manual focus : 4.5/50-300 mm, 5.6/100-300 mm, 8.0/180-600 mm, 5.6-8.0/1200-1700 mm. In the field of auto focus it is a bit clearer: 4.5-5.6/75-300 mm. I did´nt list all the small stuff on purpose because I´m only interested in the field of telephoto equipment that is used in Wildlife Photography.
The reason for my literary study in this matter lies purely and simply in frustration and financial loss. How so???
Does´nt every one of us Wildlife Photographers know the situation where you can´t change a camera position, but would/should need to react flexibly for a photo subject? ! The last encounter regarding this matter that I had in the Masai Mara in Kenya, was painful. You just can´t change the lenses continuously, let alone fast enough, not to mention bringing the jeep into a fitting position, when you´re in the middle of the action.
Animals just tend to move away or towards you continuously, or you just want to switch suddenly from a panorama to a portrait picture or maybe you just want to catch the amber colored eyes of a Leopard. Why we Wildlife Photographers shortly before the change into the 21st century can´t react in this situation by zooming in, can not to be explained plausibly.
Frustrating Lens Change
Frustration on the whole line, when you miss situations or pictures because you had or should have had to change the lens system or your position. For a professional an opportunity missed is a picture missed and in turn a financial loss.
A quote on that matter from the "Photo project Masai Mara" from Fritz Pölking:
"It is too bad that you have to concentrate way too much on the technical equipment with three lenses and three cameras. That is time sorely needed to concentrate on your subject. A sensible and decent telephoto zoom 4.0/200-500 mm AF with 1,4X converter and then waiting and watching for your opportunities to catch your subject would be so much better rather than to juggle with three lenses..."
The "Zoom of Desire" for Wildlife Photographers
A quick glance at the mentioned Nikon offer at the beginning confirms the statement of Fritz Pölking: The longer zoom lenses from Nikon are not very useful because they are either too short, too long, exposure is not high enough or it is simply a manual focus. It is not much better on the Canon side.
Counter measures: Over Tusker Beer from Kenya, but with a very clear head,
Winfried Wisniewski, Fritz Pölking and I designed a lens in the Mara that filled all of our needs, dreams and wants. It should have the following specifications:
Of course this "Zoom of Desire" has to automatically include those specially designed lenses and similar wonderful things from Schott and Co., because the optical quality has to be beyond any discussion naturally. To be mentioned here for the ladies and gentlemen of Nikon especially, who up to the present still have not been able to accomplish this on the 2,8/80-200 mm: it has to be equipped with a tripod shoe. Finally, the lens should have a detachable handle for transport or in order to attach it to the tripod. Better yet, include a milled groove to give your eye an aim, just like Pentax has demonstrated on their 5,6/600 mm for the P-645. And last but not least, a 1,4X converter should be included in the package.
A lens not just for "The Three From The Mara"
We "Three from the Mara" would order a zoom according to these specifications immediately and would even consider changing our brand, because pictures are primarily still made with the lens and only secondary with the camera casing. But what for example is with the American Colleagues? A quick check, because we happen to have had Allan Carey and Kevin Schafer here in the Mara at the same time that we were. These two professionals have the same viewpoint as we do on the above described difficulties and the in turn mentioned wishful thinking. Their opinion on the "Zoom of Desire" : "We´d buy it in a heartbeat."
Why do we keep getting trying to be convinced by the economic market orientated West, that the economy always satisfies the customer or better yet, advertisement arouses the needs of customers, so that these can be catered to. Absolute nonsense.
One Zoom rather than three set focal lengths
I say right here and now, that the lens as specified above can be produced - and that for quite some time without ifs or buts. Nikon has shown us already 10 years ago that this is possible with their 4.0/200-400mm: this zoom is now as well as then visually and mechanically outstanding (by the way, it weighs 3.659 kg) and highly sought after because they don´t manufacture it any more. So why do we Wildlife Photographers not get the lenses we really need for our work? Should we really buy three set focal lengths rather than one good zoom?
Like in the US where smokers are suing the cigarette industry on grounds that they produce addicting substances from which you can get cancer and die of, I am inclined to initiate a model lawsuit against Nikon, Canon, Minolta or whoever. The argumentation would be as follows: Because company x does not manufacture the above described zoom in spite of the feasibility, I have missed x amount of good shots. X amount missed shots mean a loss of x amount in missed royalties so compensation is due. How about that?
I think that many a Wildlife Photographer would join together in this. Besides I can just imagine that our colleagues from the sport photography would find good use for a zoom lens like our "Zoom of Desire" as well. So, my dear colleagues (from whatever branch of photography you may be), why don´t you comment on the above described zoom...... The written comments I´ll collect, copy and may even send to the appropriate firms. Whatever reaction that may bring is hard to judge.
Oh and to Mr./Mrs. Nikon, Mr./Mrs. Canon, Mr./Mrs. Minolta or to whoever Mr./Mrs. XYZ, : Why don´t you prove to us that you orientate yourselves on the needs of your customers........
Dr. Eckhart Pott, Kaiserstuhlweg 3, 70469 Stuttgart, Tel.: 049 711 814121.
(Published in the magazine FOTOGRAPHIE DRAUSSEN (Photography Outdoors), issue 4, April of 1996)
December 3rd , 1993
To Hell with Nikon and Canon.
This morning around 9 o´clock I missed like so many times before two super shots. The jeep was stopped and the female Leopard drifted slowly towards it. About 10 meters ahead of me, there was a perfectly photogenic bush and I wanted to photograph the two together. So I had my F4s with the 4.0/100-300 mm in front of me in the car window.
But suddenly the lady Leopard stopped a bit further away and gazed towards the direction of my jeep, where she had apparently discovered some Impala behind me.
She stood there so still and tense, with huge amber eyes tone in tone with the surrounding amber grass and in front of a wonderfully quiet background.
So, quickly, the camera with the 100-300 mm lens out from the car window, the prepared second camera with the 600 on it into the car window frame.
The lady Leopard had of course turned her head in the meantime and gazed interestedly toward the left. But through the viewfinder you could just imagine that this would be a perfect portrait, as soon as she would turn back toward the front with her huge eyes. That was what I was waiting for, the 600 ready for the shot.
Suddenly, from behind and not noticed or not heeded by the mother, the now one year old daughter of the female Leopard came carefully closer, apparently seeking body contact with the mother, who´d been denying the contact for days as she had a new litter of 9 youngsters.
The little one came as far as being next to mom. I suddenly had two Leopards directly next to each other in my viewfinder.
But for this picture, the focal length was too wide. So away with the 600 and the camera with the 100-300 zoom back into the window frame. Exactly at that moment, momma Leopard realized that her daughter was standing directly next to her. She moved against her daughter in such a rage, that the startled young Leopard practically jumped about 1 meter straight up and was for a moment all fours in the air and laying sideways suspended in the air, a good distance above the ground, almost the same level as her mother´s head.
Two incredible pictures, both missed because our folks at Nikon and Canon offer a professional camera with both the F4 and EOS-I, but none that has a sensible auto focus zoom with sensible speed. I could surely have taken these pictures with a 4.0/200-500 mm or a 4,5/200-600 mm auto focus attached to the F4s or the EOS-I.
So once again half a work day with running costs was wasted without results, because it seems that no-one in the photo industry feels obliged to manufacture usable tools for wildlife photographers.
(Excerpt from the theme booklet:" Photo Project Masai Mara", from the GDT (Association of German Wildlife Photographers) Marketplace for Wildlife Photography, Issue 4, 1995)