It Pays To Convert: Greg McCall-Peat

Recently I went on a 10 day trip to the famous Kruger National Park, where I saw it as an opportunity to use an unusual setup, the 150-600mm DG OS HSM Sport lens coupled with a Sigma TC-1401 1.4x tele-converter. Now the reason I say it’s an unusual set up is because it gives you an f-stop of f7.1 at the lowest focal length and f9 at the highest, so you would automatically think that you will be limited when it comes to when you would be able to take photos. It would also mean that night photography or any low light photography would be extremely difficult unless you have a camera that you can bump up the ISO to crazy high levels, but then I thought about it, when driving in the Kruger you only do so in the daylight hours, this means I wouldn’t be limited at all and in fact I may just have the perfect “Kruger setup” and perhaps these initial thoughts could very well be incorrect. This lens and converter does have a huge advantage to begin with after all, in the National parks one cannot off road to get closer to animals like we do in the private reserves, so a maximum focal length of 840mm which is achieved with this setup means that even when it is a long distance photo op you can potentially get the shot you want and even if your subject was close to the road then an extreme close up photo would be more than possible.

To say I was eager to test this theory and setup out is an understatement and little did I know that I had in my hands essentially a super lens, the following images are the results.

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This male lion and his coalition partner had pulled down a young buffalo a good 100m off the road, but with the converter and zooming in to 840mm I brought the action of the male dragging his kill to the shade of a tree right closer giving the impression that it was happening right in front of me.

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I was pleasantly surprised when taking photos in this sighting, despite it also being long distance the sun was low being just before sunset, however the high f-stop didn’t play a part and I was still able to capture the mood of the dust, golden light and zebra in all its glory and the dust created a shallow depth of field so that my camera settings didn’t have to.

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Now as I mentioned earlier, night time photography technically should be impossible, but on one particular night my campsite was visited by this Thick-tailed bushbaby, so I decided to try my hand at some night photography and once again was blown away by the result and quality of the image that I got. The important thing to remember is that when it comes to photography sometimes trying new things yields unexpected results and always worth it to give things a go.

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Once again the massive reach of the setup put me into the thick of the action when this big male leopard killed a warthog a fair distance from the road, what really impressed me was the detail that I was still able to capture, the conditions weren’t ideal being a cloudy day but that didn’t hinder the performance of the lens and converter combination.

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When it comes to capturing detail, I decided to try for a few up close and personal shots when the chances arouse and as can be seen not an ounce of detail lacks and yet again my ultimate setup didn’t let me down.

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A comparison between an image without the 1.4x converter at 600mm(left) and with it at 840mm(right).

All in all I would have to say that after giving this setup a proper run for it’s money that it really is the ultimate for wildlife photography under just about any circumstance as I solely used it over my entire trip, to be honest I was skeptical at first but after really putting it through its paces I can say that I was very impressed at the performance, quality and abilities of the 150-600mm and 1.4x converter and would even go so far as to say I wouldn’t just use it when I am in the Kruger National Park either and actually found myself preferring it to the standard lens and recommend the setup to anyone to at least have it in your photographic arsenal.