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Ask NK: Should I use a 2x Teleconverter on my Fuji 100-400mm for a Safari?

I get questions via email from readers from time to time, here’s one that I thought could be useful.

Joel asked for my opinions on using an 18-135mm lens with a 100-400mm + 2x TC for a Safari trip.

 I am doing an African Safari this Saturday with a fuji system and have a few questions about equipment based on your experience.  I like your idea of using two bodies with two good lenses permanently attached.

I currently own:

Cameras:
X-H1
X-T2

Lenses:
100-400mm
18-135mm
10-24mm f4
80mm f2.8 macro
56mm f1.2
23mm f1.4

2x teleconverter
1.4x teleconverter

I only get 15kg total on the airplane so I need to make the photo gear as light as possible without sacrificing great photos.  Based on what you said about dust and using the 1.4x teleconverter on the 100-400mm I think you found a great way to have a constant 50-560mm with f2.8 from 50-140mm.  I don’t currently own the 50-140mm f2.8 lens but would be willing to get one for this trip.  Do you think it would be worth it for me to buy this lens instead of using the 18-135mm f3.5-f5.6?  Was having the faster f2.8 valuable to you?

If you would have had the 2x teleconverter, would you have put it on the 100-400mm instead of the 1.4x or would you have left the 2x at home since it is heavier and requires more light?

Joel has two great cameras and I’m sure he’ll be well sorted with them. I think the 50-140mm F2.8 is definitely a must have for an on vehicle safari. If you’re already travelling so far for the Safari, the last thing you want is to be missing some spectacular shots just after sunrise or before sunset. For perspective, even the 100-400mm will be faster than the 18-135 between 100-135mm.

I would not have put the 2x TC unless you’re plan on capturing lots of birds. Two reasons:

  1. It makes it very slow during sunrise and sunset, when most of the ground based animals are most active.

  2. Heat haze makes long range ground captures very difficult in broad daylight.

The only situation I can think of when the 2x TC would add value is capturing birds during the day. Even then, you have to watch out for backlit situations.

It might be tempting to have a wider angle perspective permanently on the camera, but my experience is that you’ll be caught off-guard with photo opportunities on the telephoto end rather than the wide angle end.