i have a panasonic lumix fz20. i am heading to africa and will be visiting a lot of game parks. i have a pretty good zoom on my camera, but am keen to get extra zoom with a tele converter lens. i have found one for around $300 (2.2 x zoom). can anyone make any recommendations for using tele lenses? will it be useful for me ? i am worried i might need a tripod, or that the lens may not be as useful as i think.
I don't know much about panasonic camera & available lenes, but for Africa you really shouldn't need a tripod. Much more useful will be a beanbag or even a sweatshirt or small pillow. When I visited Africa I used beanbags and clothing to brace the camera. You usually will need some camera support because you take lots of pics early in the am and late in the afternoon when the animals are active.
If you are visiting a large number of game parks, you should be able to get good closeup shots of most of the species. I used an slr camera the first time I visited africa and had several lenses and did get some good shots but you will be shooting most of your shots, I assume, from some sort of vehicle so the beanbag method works better than a tripod. All other trips have been done with a panasonic lumix also (12x zoom) and I never added a converter and got some great shots. Digitals are great for this type of photography because the shots can come so often and be spectacular and you don't have to worry about running out of film, just watch your battery level and carry an extra one. I did miss some good shots while changing film and lenses because the animals won't wait on you, you just have to be ready when they are doing their thing. Are you going to east or south africa for your trip? The Serengetti and Mara are huge and the amount of wildlife is prolific in areas. The Norongoro has fewer animals but they are all in a compact area. The elephants inside the Norongoro have the longests tusks of any I have seen in Arica. Lake Nakuru has wonderful birdlife, the shore looks pink from a distance because of all the flamingos. The south african parks are pretty much all great for photography, the Zimbabwe parks are a little sparse because of poaching and other issues but Botswana has some nice photo ops. Sheer number of elephants is best in Botswana. Have a great trip.