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Getting ready for our July/August 2020 safari in Kenya/Tanzania

We have a great safari booked for next year. I have tried to decide what camera that I should take for the safari.

I once had an SLR camera (film) what detachable telephoto and wide angle lenses that I used years ago, but when going digital, I decided that I didn't want to carry a large camera case with all that stuff.

I purchased a digital Nikon camera that was something between a flat camera and an SLR. It gives me about 90% of the photos that I once made with the SLR and it is easy to carry.

Still, I won't be taking photos of historical places, Alaskan glaciers or city scapes. Photographing wildlife while in a vehicle with a pop up roof would be nice to have the option of a real telephoto lens. My camera does include a telephoto feature, but not like in an SLR.

Any suggestions

Posted by
3789 posts

I limited myself to a bridge camera after out old film SLR was stolen, but I know the quality is not the same.
I haven't done a Kenya safari, nor that time frame, but did safaris and Tanzania travel of over 30 days in Feb, Nov and April.
If this is your first safari, here are some things to keep in mind.
When you are in your jeep, the animals only see the jeep. They are acclimated to having vehicles around all the time, so they learn to use it as a tool. Cheetah may sit on the hood as an elevated searching platform. Lions use the jeep shade to cool down....which means if you rolled down the window and stuck out your arm (not wise) you could pat his mane. If you leave the window, roof or door open at the Ngorongoro Visitors Centre, you may find a baboon sitting beside you while you are reading your kindle. In none of these occasions is a telephoto going to be useful. You can photograph the ticks on the lion's nose quite easily with a simple zoom.
Dust.....it will be all pervasive.
Photos of your memories are great, and I assume your timing and location is to try and see the iconic Nat Geo river crossings, but nothing is as rewarding as putting the camera down and being in the moment with the 'smell'evision, sights, sounds, tragedy that is the real action of the African plains.
Lastly, is this a private bespoke safari, or do you share the vehicle with others. If the latter, consider what a long lens is going to do in crowded surroundings. It may not be the best way to make friends or even get satisfactory shots.

Posted by
2166 posts

We did a S. Africa safari in 2016. I bought a “wildlife lens” for the trip. I was unhappy with my photos for the most part because they were not sharp enough. My long lens needed a tripod which is impossible in a jeep. Also, every time you will take a photo, someone in the jeep will move and add to camera shake. I’m not sure what the solution is. Balancing your need to get some great photos, with being “IN” the moment, with not wanting to pack too much gear. I had fun playing wildlife photographer and definately have new respect for those awesome safari photos we have all seen!

Let us know what you decide. I definately want to go back!

Posted by
5458 posts

Thanks for the helpful advice.

We will be four persons in a mini type bus with a pop up roof. My research indicates that safaris usually have either the jeep type vehicle where people sit outside, exposed to the elements or the mini bus with pop up roof.

With four persons, we should have enough room to move around a bit, but I do agree that perhaps I won't need a telephoto lens with an SLR camera.

My digital Nikon takes excellent photos. I find its primary limitation is that the telephoto feature is not huge, but it is workable.

Also, the camera doesn't have the flexibility to avoid poor photos when taking photos with sunlight facing the camera. Still, I am able to get a great photo about 90% of the time.

Posted by
2166 posts

I would take your Nikon and just be at peace with the fact that there will be some shots you will not be able to get. Hard to accept, I know. And keep your expectations low.....that way if you get a few great shots, you will be happy!

Posted by
1386 posts

I have used an older version of this camera for many years and the primary reason being the large optical zoom which i love for taking pictures of birds and animals. (Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ70 16.1 MP Digital Camera with 60x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3-Inch).

The one downside I have found is that after many years, dust may get sucked into the camera and hence you will then need to replace the camera. But for ease of use and getting good close ups, i love it.

More important than the camera is the question of what binoculars are you taking. Please spend enough time researching and buying a pair that works for you unless you already have one. If going with your SO, please get separate pairs for each of you - you will not want to be sharing the binoculars while trying to see the animals and birds. Since I do a lot of birding, I carry an expensive pair of Image Stabalizing binocs - these help to take away the hand shakes and gives one a clear picture. However, these are not cheap.

Posted by
3789 posts

Arnold has a point about good binocs, but I didn't mention it as it is another contentious topic in some arenas. Some will say their camera lens zooms enough to replace binoculars. I didn't want to open up that can of worms....but it may make for a more rewarding experience than a new camera you may not have gotten to know well.

Posted by
16 posts

This is great info. Geovagriffith, I had the same question as our Safari is in May. Guess I won’t be taking my SLR with lenses. Any recommendations for a small, easy to carry camera with some amount of telephoto? We have been using our phone cameras for that last few years with pretty good photos.

Posted by
5458 posts

JKcottons,

I have a NIKON Coolpix L120 that is now 7 years old and it has done me great service. I had a couple of film (not digital) SLR cameras before that, one a Nikon the other a Olympus OM-4 that was great for the time. I didn't want to have to carry the large camera bag with all the lenses. The L120 is perfect for about 85% of the photos that I want to take. The one main disadvantage is when facing the sun and the object of my photo will not take so well with sunlight directly into the camera. In my old SLR's I could spot meter a place in the shade and it would compensate for the sun. Still, I get pretty good photos and there is a zoom feature that is not as good as my old telephoto lens, but not too bad.

The L120 is not quite a pocket camera, it has a lens that sticks out a few inches from the body of the camera. Still, the camera is easy to carry and not bulky.

Posted by
50 posts

I took my SLR that has a 18-200 mm lens. Loved it, My boyfriend had a new compact camera with a 30 x zoom. (my pictures were much better!).
I am very happy that I had my camera, and the lens zoomed close enough. I love my 18-200 and it suits all that I would need. I have a wide angle and macro lenses but I find that I never put them on.

My vote is for the SLR

Posted by
102 posts

Hi Geovagriffith,
Next summer I too will be on safari in Kenya and Tanzania. This will be my 7th safari and I have visited K&T before. "Once you get the sands of Africa in your shoes you can never get them out."
In the past, I have traveled with two camera bodies each with a different lens so I'd be ready for most picture taking opportunities. I've also traveled with a Sony mirrorless camera. The body was lighter but I still needed an array of lenses and other stuff. The problem with both scenarios was that when I changed lenses I could not help but get dust in the camera body, and my camera bag was heavy.

Instead, I now travel with a Sony RX 10 IV bridge camera. This model while pricey is state of the art for a bridge camera with a Zeiss 24-600 2.4 lens so I'm ready for almost all situations. The cons are that its pricey and weighs 2.4 pounds, heavier than I would like. I used this camera when on safari for a month in Southern Africa and my travel mates were so impressed that two of them returned home and purchased the camera. Also, friends who enjoyed our images when we returned home also purchased the camera. It sells itself when you view the results.

Most people on safari are either interested or can appreciate others being interested in wanting to get the best pictures possible. If you gently explain that while photographing any movement in the jeep will ruin the result most are happy to cooperate and keep their movements to a minimum while others are photographing.

I first learned of this camera from the pro, Gary Friedman. I took a three day workshop with him and he showed us enlarged pictures taken with his big Canon and very pricey lens and the Sony RX 10 IV and none of us could tell the difference. His go to camera for travel is now the Sony.

Good luck with your decision making and enjoy every moment in K&T.