River Safari revisited and still thinking what camera lens to buy next.

Last week, I had the opportunity to revisit The River Safari and was pleasantly surprised by the lack of people visiting the attraction. This time, I went with my new Olympus OMD EM-5 Mark II camera, and was eager to take snapshots of our famous Jia Jia and Kai Kai, two utterly cute pandas on loan from China. I also brought along with me, my kit lens, the telephoto lens 14-150mm f4.0-5.6, just in case I might need it to catch some of the more distant animal subjects. I have been using my 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens and have been on my camera body ever since I bought it. So in a sense, my kit lens have become sidelined and underutilised. This is perhaps a good chance to use the kit lens again. Thanks to a friend of mine who invited me to go with her for free using her corporate pass, we set off in the morning and were immediately struck by the lack of people at the entrance. A good start to a good day, taking photos of animals have never been easier, and I rarely had to jostle for space amongst the mothers and fathers with their kids just to get a good shot of the animals exhibited in the River Safari.

The River Safari showcases animals big and small that lived in and around the major rivers around the world. They include the river Nile, the Ganges River, the Mississippi River, the Yangtze River, and Mekong River and the Amazon River. With such diverse habitats comes with diverse animals species. But the highlight of the River Safari is always the Pandas, Jia Jia and Kai Kai. Adorable as they are, they are fiercely shy and it is not uncommon to not see them in their usual habitats. But I was pretty lucky that day. Coupled with my telephoto lens I managed to get good shots of them from afar. I could safely say that this is probably my first time trying my hands on wildlife photography, despite that fact that you are in a zoo, in a safe and family-friendly setting and all the animals are kept safely away from the public within their own respective enclosures. I know it feels unexciting, unlike taking photos of cheetahs, lions and tigers on the vast savannahs of Central Africa. It was also my first time taking photos of animals using a telephoto lens, with pretty impressive results. The applications of a telephoto lens was applied really well given the circumstances and the subject matter that I was going to shoot in. Overall, it was a terrific learning experience, expanding my capabilities as an enthusiastic photographer.

As for the kit lens’s performance? I think I underestimated how well the kit lens could perform given the circumstances. It’s useful to have a telephoto lens just in case you need that extra reach, and on that day, reach was what I needed to get good shots of some of the animals there. And while it may not be extremely sharp or having nice creamy bokeh in the background, but in tight situations, it worked wonders for me. Having a decent photo is better than having none at all. Though I don’t foresee myself using it often in the future, I will still keep the lens as a backup, since its an improved version of the previous iteration of the lens and it comes weather sealed as well. Weeks ago I have been mulling on the idea of getting a prime lens, perhaps the Olympus 25mm f1.8 lens. But after going through my options again, and evaluating the kind of photographer I am, I feel that what I need is versatility. And having a good telephoto lens would do just as well if not better in terms of its full range of capabilities. While prime lens are superior in terms of image quality, I am willing to let go some of that for versatility. And to minimise the difference between the image qualities of a prime lens and a zoom lens, it seems that the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens might fit the bill. I never realised the usefulness of a telephoto lens until that day, especially when you need that extra reach in tight situations. And apart from that to suit my other needs, such as taking portraits, street and wildlife, the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens might give me a better value, despite it costing so much more. Need to take portrait shots? Check. Wildlife photography? Check. Landscape photography? Check. Semi-macro shots? Check. Street photography? Check. The Pro lens can do so much more.

Currently the price of that lens is holding me back. It is a huge investment, especially when I don’t see myself making money from photography. I am merely an enthusiast. But to expand my capabilities as a photographer, I just might need to invest on that lens after all. I was smitten by the quality and build of the PRO lens that I currently owned, the 12-50mm f2.8 PRO lens, and even that was a hefty investment decision that I did not take it lightly. But now that I have it, that lens never failed me. Throw in dust, water or even ice on that lens and it still performs admirably due to its weatherproof and dust-proof construction. To see myself owning two PRO lenses is just insane. the 12-50mm f2.8 costs SGD 1200. It would be crazy for me to fork out another SGD1800 for the 40-150mm f2.8 lens just to feed my hobby.

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