Camera for Safari Trip

The safari offers the opportunity to literally take thousands of photos. The most successful armature photographer in our group had a Canon 60SX (newer version is 70SX) “bridge camera” which was quite compact and had a range of 1,365 feet. She got amazing photos that those of us with higher end DSLR cameras couldn’t match, because some of the best subjects (lions) were too far away for a 400 mm lens. The Canon is available for $400 - $500, and similar Nikon models (P900 and P1000) that have a range of 2,000 & 3,000 feet are available for less than $1,000. Leave your DSLR at home and get a good long range bridge camera and you will have the best photos of your group.

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Comments

  • Almost every time I have seen lions, they have been within a few feet of the vehicle.

  • MIH34685 -
    I agree with you that superzooms like the SX60 are a good choice for casual photographer going on safari, but I have to correct some misimpressions you may have.

    First of all, the SX60 does not have a "range" of 1,365 ft. Range is a meaningless concept in photography. What it does have is a 1,365 mm lens (35mm full frame equivalent focal length). Those words in the parentheses are important. What is really has is a 247mm optical lens and a tiny little sensor (4.55mm high vs. 24mm for a full frame camera). That tiny sensor multiplies the effective focal length of the lens. The tiny sensor introduces other problems into the mix. Given the small size of the sensor, it performs really poorly in low light conditions (compared to a DSLR). So if your shooting in dusky conditions (as we were much of the time on safari). it will introduce quite a bit of graininess and noise into the picture.

    Second, the SX60 has a "digital zoom" of 4x. This means when you reach the limit of the lens it goes further by "digitally zooming." Digital zooming is really cropping the picture (i.e. throwing away parts of the picture). I suspect she may have been using this to get some of the shots you describe. You can do the same thing in post processing with your DSLR photos, but most photographers view this a last resort. Digitally zooming to the full 4x would throw away 15/16 of your pixels, leaving you with a image of about 1 megapixel on that camera. I always tell people to turn off the digital zoom on their cameras (you can do this in the menus).

    Finally, even with image stabilization, she would have had to had a fast shutter speed. In order to achieve this with an f6.5 lens, I'm guessing that the sensitivity of the sensor (ISO) would have to be increased substantially (depending on the light). This makes the photo even grainier.

    In short, her pictures may have looked amazing on the 3" screen on her camera, but would probably show their weaknesses when enlarged, particularly if she was using "digital zoom."

    I used a 400mm lens on a Nikon APS-C camera (effective focal length 600mm) and got excellent results on safari. I think Cathy and Steve's approach is a good one. Steve's full frame Canon with the teleconverter would yield similar results at the long end to my setup (I also carried a high end point and shoot for the wider angle photos).

    Happy travels!

  • edited August 2019

    I encourage everyone to read Ken's excellent post. Thanks, Ken. A similar argument can be made against cell phone cameras- regardless of the claims made by the manufacturers they suffer with the same issues.

    That being said, if all you want to do is share your photos on social media those cameras are just fine. However, if you have any plans to have photos enlarged and printed (on paper, canvas, glass, metal, etc) for framing or wall mounting, you'll want a good DSLR or mirror-less camera with a good lens.

    Also, as British pointed out, many of the lions and other animals are so close to the vehicles that you may need as wide angle of a lens as you can get while at the same time avoid carrying and switching lenses in the vehicle for distance shots. So, you may want a lens with the widest range you can find. While it doesn't match the quality of expensive Zeiss, Nikon, Leica, etc. lenses (but is much, much cheaper!!), I use a Tamron 16 - 300 mm lens for all my situations. 16 mm is wide enough for close-ups while 300 mm is fine for all but very distant shots. One comment about long range telephoto and zoom lenses- even the ones with image stabilization require that you hold them very still. Above 400 mm you'll need a bi/tripod which are difficult to impossible to use in a safari vehicle.

    My biggest suggestion, however, is that whatever camera/lens combination you take, make absolutely sure you know how to use it, practice with it, and are comfortable with it. Sometimes the opportunities for the best shots are fleeting. You may not have time to fiddle with settings and must be ready to shoot with little or no warning (that is one reason I generally leave my camera in the "full automatic mode.")

  • Ken from Vegas, what is the high end point and shoot camera that you carried and that you recommend? I am planning to purchase a camera in the next few weeks and want a lightweight camera-a point and shoot with as much zoom as possible. I don't need to be carrying a heavy camera around my neck due to a very bad fall that I had on a Tauck tour last year. We are going on the Warsaw, Budapest, Vienna, and Prague tour in a few weeks and have the Great Migration tour booked for next year so I need a lightweight camera with lots of zoom. Any recommendations?

  • edited August 2019

    Here’s a few shots from with either Mr. B‘s Tamron lens or it could be my not so fancy camera, proving how rarely you need a long range lens. You will pretty much get close up to every kind off animal your heart desires



  • HuntNfun

    Really tough to recommend a good point and shoot. Lots of "it depends" in the discussion and I don't know your budget. I use an old Canon S100. Pocket size and will shoot RAW (if you don't know what this is, you won't use it). High end when I bought it, but definitely obsolete. The S series has since been discontinued and doesn't have the zoom you want anyway. It doesn't have a viewfinder, which is annoying in bright sun. I use it when I want a small camera to stick it in my pocket or as a backup when I don't want to change lenses.

    The latest Sony RX100 VII is a pocket camera that has a large 1" sensor and zooms to 200mm. It also has a pop up video viewfinder, although I found it hard to use when I played with it in a store. Long enough lens for most travel, but short for a safari (although as British and Alan say, many of the animals get up close). It's $1200 (don't know if you want to spend that much). If I were replacing my S100, that's probably what I'd buy (or one of the Canon G series cameras).

    For a longer lens, but a heavier camera, I would go with the Sony RX10 III or IV. Same 1" sensor as the RX100, but built as a bigger bridge camera with a viewfinder. 600mm equivalent, perfect for safari. However, you're looking at $1500 or more for these cameras.

    Both of these are more camera than most people need or can make use of. As Alan discussed, If you're just doing snapshots or social media posts, you're probably better off with a cheaper camera with a smaller sensor (like the Canon SX70 - $550). The smaller sensor cameras are lighter, too.

    Here's a link to article from PC Magazine on the best bridge cameras:

    pcmag.com/roundup/348745/the-best-bridge-cameras

    The discussion of sensor size vs. zoom should be helpful to you. It also shows the weights.

  • Ken has another good point- if you get a point & shoot with an LCD screen make sure you can use it in all lighting conditions to frame your shots. Though I can use either one, I always use the view finder rather than the screen for still shots. However, when I shoot videos, by design the mirror must lock in the up position so I am forced to use the screen to frame, zoom, and sometimes focus- that can be a real pain. Depending on lighting and sun angle it can be very hard to see a good image on the screen when in the field.

  • Agree with the above, just a couple more suggestions

    a) Don't buy a camera right before you leave, get one 6 months before you leave and learn all the features that you think that you might use. You want to know what you are doing when that once in a lifetime shot is presented to you

    b) Your camera comes with a manual....read it before you go

  • I agree with Ken on the Sony choices. I have had the original RX100 for at least 6 years and I use it as my everyday street carry. Wish I could justify a new RX100vii but my original version keeps on going. I also have the RX10iv and used it on our recent Rhine Enchantment River cruise. The longer lens let me capture the Rhine Castles and other far away scenery. If you want a quality point and shoot you really do need the 1” sensor.

  • Ken, can you post any of your pics? To be honest, I know so little about cameras that I could not even tell you what brand it is unless I was to take a look, but I do know how to use it pretty well now. All this info is mind blowing, thanks Ken.
    The photos I posted were mainly taken in Namibia, my camera was ruined by the sand despite being in a plastic bag most of the time. . It was about 12 years old, we bought an equivalent new one. It was fun looking at those photos today.

  • British,
    If you look in the South Africa, an elegant adventure forum, I posted some pics on June 8. These were taken with my Nikon D7200 DSLR with a Tamron 100-400mm lens. Just to confuse you even more, I shoot RAW (no in camera processing) and post process my photos in Adobe Lightroom.

  • For comparison, here's a picture I took with my old S100 on the same trip. The S100 is 8 years old and 13 megapixels. All images I upload have been resized for internet use, so you don't get the full resolution anyway. The photo was cropped a bit and enhanced in post processing from a RAW file.

  • Cathy-
    While most cell phones zoom only by cropping, most all point and shoot cameras do have an optical zoom. They may also have "digital zooms." When you reach the limit of the optical zoom, the digital zoom (unless you turn it off) kicks in and starts cropping. Superzoom bridge cameras often have very long effective optical zooms. They do this by combining a tiny sensor with a long(ish) lens. Smaller sensors make the effective focal length much longer. For example, the SX60 discussed has a tiny sensor less that 1/5" high (like a cell phone). Combined with a 247mm lens it gives the equivalent magnification of a 1365mm on a full frame camera. For a more technical explanation read the Wikipedia article on "Crop Factor." The size of the sensor and the generally lower quality optics mean that your DSLR should definitely beat it by a long margin (especially with a good lens attached). The original poster was impressed with the SX60's ability to zoom, but didn't recognize the loss of image quality and the low light performance problems.

    I hope you know that your Rebel T7 has a Canon APS-C sensor with a crop factor of 1.6. So a 100mm lens on this camera has a effective focal length of 160mm on that camera. Your 5D is has a full frame sensor with a crop factor of 1. So if you want a long lens, put your 100-400mm on the Rebel and you will get a 640mm equivalent focal length at the long end. Something to consider when deciding which camera to use with which lens.

    You should think about using Lightroom. While it is more limited than Photoshop (no layering or masks), the workflow is much, much faster. They work well together, so you can do basic editing and organize in Lightroom and move to Photoshop when you need the extra power. Assuming you have the photography subscription to Adobe, Lightroom is included in the cost.

    If you want to share photos on the internet, Shutterfly lets you create personal websites for free and post your pictures on them at full resolution. No charge and no limits on the number of photos you post, you just have to have a Shutterfly id. Other people can then download the full resolution file (JPEGs only and sRGB color space). You can put security on the downloads, or just let anyone with the URL to download. I did this for a couple of Tauck tour groups, but I found that only a few people shared their photos.

    You're taking a lot of gear to Africa. I don't know which trip you're taking, but make sure you will meet the carry on limits on your internal flights. There were times I wished for my 70-200mm F2.8, but I wasn't going to carry two big lenses or change them in the field.

  • All beyond me. The pics I post here are unedited, I do that when I make my photo books on Shutterfly. I’ve just finished my Rhine River Cruise one. I went to a lecture on camera use on our Panama Canal tour given by one of the tour directors which was useful. Otherwise, on safari, I try not to dominate my time taking photos or. I miss the bigger picture. I studied Geography to A level in the UK and especially loved physical geography, geology, how volcanoes are formed, ox bow lake formation and things like that, so my photobooks have lots of landscape pics which are very important to me. Unfortunately, my favorite landscape ever is not available on my iPad to post because they were not invented when I went to Tanzania either time. On the Tanzania Zanzibar tour, one of the drive days took us through meandering countryside, baobab trees all around, it was Eden for me.
    Some more random unedited pics







  • British - you may claim to know very little about photography but you sure know how to capture some amazing shots. Thank you for sharing.

  • Gee thanks. Have to admit that the Leopard was probably from Mr B.

  • edited August 2019

    Cathy-
    I'm not sure what you mean about Lightroom "controlling" you. Maybe the confusion is that I'm using Lightroom Classic (not the program just called Lightroom that wants to store everything in the cloud - it's junk). So when I say Lightroom, I'm referring to Lightroom Classic (if you look on your list of Adobe CC apps, you'll see they are two separate programs- there's also Lightroom Web). If you have a file system that works for you (I do), Lightroom will work with that just fine. I guess the only control problem I know of is that if you add, delete or move files you have to do it within Lightroom otherwise it loses track of where the files are (you can fix this, but you're better off not creating the problem). While you can use collections, ratings, face recognition, and keywords to organize, those are purely optional. I started with Photoshop and moved to Lightroom after watching a online class. The amount of time it saves me is amazing. The big advantage of Lightroom is that once you have imported your photos, they are all immediately available. No opening or saving individual files. That is because Lightroom doesn't change your file, rather it saves a list of edits in its catalog file (this also saves disk space). Writing the edits to the disk is causes no delay. This saves a tremendous amount of time. The develop tools are all on one page so you work quickly. The other speed advantage is the ability apply the same edit to multiple files. If you're like me, you find yourself applying the same edits to most photos to go from a RAW file to a more finished photo (for me a little contrast, vibrance and sharpening). For each our cameras, I have developed a profile of base edits that I apply on import. Then I just have to do a little fine tuning on each picture (or sometimes more). Lightroom saves me hours of editing time on every trip.

    Like any photo program, there is a learning curve, but Lightroom is easier than Photoshop. There's a good online learning website at creativelive.com. Their classes are free if you watch them live or you can buy the recorded classes to watch anytime. Ben Willmore does excellent classes on Lightroom and Photoshop.

    I know you have your way of doing things, and I respect that. But when I switched to Lightroom, I was blown away by the time savings. I really think you should give it another look.

  • I'm with British on this....this is so far out of my knowledge base you all lost me with Ken's first post. Our pictures are similar to British's (perhaps not quite as good) and we are happy...I really respect those of you that are so technically competent in this area. I also agree with British's point about sometimes just sitting back and taking it all in. IMHO, it enhances the incredible experience.

  • British and Taxare-
    Photographs are wonderful reminders of the people and places in our lives. People can achieve wonderful results with simple cameras (even cell phone cameras) and that is just great. For those of us who have taken up photography as a hobby, we're looking a higher standard and more control over the image. We get that through more complicated cameras, editing our photos afterwards, and learning as much as we can about the art form. So if you're not into the technical aspects, just smile and move on.

    By the way, I agree with your comments about taking it in and putting the camera down. I saw a great photo from a professional photographer. It was of a boatload of people with a whale surfacing in front of them. Every one had a camera on their face!

    People who are avid travel photographers will travel someplace and spend a hour or more at one place working the perfect shot. Than's not me (not really compatible with Tauck, anyway). I'm a traveler who photographs, not a travel photographer.

    When friends ask me what camera they should buy, I always ask, "what are you going to do with the pictures and how much are you willing to learn about photography." I hate it when I see someone with a really expensive camera, little knowledge of how to use it, and they're just posting to social media. Total waste of money.

  • Cathy-
    One more set of comments on Lightroom and then I'll give it a rest.

    I think you misunderstood what Lightroom was doing when it built the catalog. Lightroom never, ever touches your files or file structure, period. The only exception is if you intentionally issue a command to specifically copy, move, delete, rename, export or import a file or folder. The catalog and the previews work in concert with your original files. They are supplements and not a replacement. Your files and structure are never touched, not even when you edit them. Here's how Lightroom works. When you install it, it creates the catalog which tells Lightroom where the files are. Then it creates the previews, so you can quickly see all the pictures. The picture files stay where they are and you see the file folder structure on the left side of the screen (your original structure, unchanged, untouched). All your original files stay exactly where they were. Even when you edit in Lightroom, the original files are untouched and you don't have to save an edited copy of the file (unlike in Photoshop). The program saves your edits in the catalog and applies them to the image you're looking at. The edit history remains, even if you back to it years later (unlike in Photoshop). You can always remove the edits and revert to the original image. When you import new photos, you can put them anywhere you want on the hard drive, just as before, you just need to do it from within Lightroom. If you want to use Photoshop, you can go directly from Lightroom and when you save, the Photoshop file is carried over to Lightroom. Most of the time, if you're not doing layers, masks, multiple images, etc. all of your editing: ACR, cropping, basic retouching, etc. is done on one screen in Lightroom. Your Qimage software plugs into Lightroom as well.

    I haven't used Bridge, but my understanding is that if you're just doing photographs, Adobe recommends using Lightroom for your organization and basic editing. Bridge is recommended if you're doing graphics work using apps like InDesign or Illustrator, since Lightroom doesn't support those file formats (I just subscribe to the Photo apps, so that's not a problem for me). Here's a video on YouTube with Julieanne Kost of Adobe about Bridge vs. Lightroom. It's really old (pre-creative cloud), but most all of what she is saying still applies.

  • I am loving all this information even if it’s so very hard to understand. If either my hubby or me suddenly get the urge to learn more, there are plenty of classes around here, I’ll certainly look for both other posts. Right now, we are about to start our second semester of weekly Spanish lessons....and wouldn’t you know we have no Spanish speaking tour areas booked right now. The teacher is great fun and so were our class mates, so hoping some will be back for Beginners part 2.
    I do have a question for Cathy and others who have taken your upcoming tour lately. Unless things have changed since I was there, internet. Especially for things like uploading photos and things like that was very very slow, especially if everyone was trying to do the same thing. Please bare that in mind Cathy or you will be driven to distraction.
    My husband’s camera automatically downloads his photos to his iPad when he has it with him, such as in the Safari vehicle with us, so no Wi-Fi needed, just proximity to each other. He finds it super useful, at least if the camera breaks or is stolen, or whatever, his photos are safe on another device. Can’t remember what make his actual camera is but he has the Tameron lens that Alan has. He was recommended by a friend who used to be a professional photographer and it was only when I read about Alan’s lens some time ago that I realized that’s what my hubby has. It made his photo shooting abilities become awesome overnight.



  • Two of my favorite pictures. Used the Tamron lens which goes to 275 for them.

  • Nedda. Do you have more comments about your recent trip? You seemed so excited before you went. Do you have a passion for Africa like me now, or are you once and done?

  • edited August 2019

    Comments about uploading (to the web) and downloading to a tablet or laptop while on safari:

    It was nearly impossible to upload photos to the web during K&T and B,SA,Z (except in Cape Town). The bandwidth is just not there (I don't re-size).

    I always use large (64GB) SD cards in my camera. A 64 GB card will easily hold an entire trip's worth of photos and videos (videos take tons more storage). The card will hold many more photos if I set the camera to shoot in a lower resolution, but I often crop or blow up and mount my pictures so take and leave them in the highest resolution possible

    Note, I only have an 18 mp camera and don't shoot in RAW so the file size of a typical photo is only about 5 MB. A 64 **GB **SD card will hold over 12,000 photos, but only about 26, rather long (45 seconds), videos, so I take extra SD cards. A short (15 seconds) video with my Canon uses about 90 MB, a bit less with my GoPro.

    After doing a quick scrub using the camera's screen to delete obvious badly framed or focused photos, I down-load everything to my iPad but keep the originals on the SC card. That way I have two copies of everything, just in case. My camera is a bit older so I must use an SD card reader or cable to download photos from the card or camera to my iPad.

  • I don’t think Mt B needs a cable to download from his camera to his iPad. We sit in the Safari vehicle and I watch his photos appear on his iPad as we go along. But I’ll ask him and check that is correct. We certainly don’t have Wi-Fi our in a Safari vehicle, the camera and Ad just need to be in close proximity

  • edited August 2019

    I'm sure a cable is not needed- many of the newer DSLRs and mirror-less cameras connect wirelessly with built-in wifi, Bluetooth, or NFC e.g. the Canon Rebel T-6 DSLR description says this

    "Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC. Allow easy sharing to compatible smart devices, select social media sites and the Canon Connect Station CS100 device."

    (NFC = near field communications. The wifi is self-contained between devices, no connection is needed with an internet connected wifi hotspot though just like the tablet, the camera may be able to communicate with one directly.)

  • British: I am still enthusiastic about Africa. We both loved it. Some parts more than others. I have been very tired so not posting much and today started going through the 1000 or so pictures to edit, delete, etc. I would love to go back but there are so many other places we want to see that we probably won't get back to Africa for a while. Forgive me if I repeat myself... we loved the tents at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, thought they were the best even had great hot and cold water. The Four Seasons was beautiful, no question about that! and I loved the idea of the water hole. But it also had the least African atmosphere. I feel that our TD may have had her favorites and gave them the best rooms when it came to viewing the animals but I could be wrong. It just seemed that way. The buffets had way too much good food, the stress was on Indian food which we love but can't have too much because it is too spicy for me these days. But I was able to have dessert and didn't gain any weight which is a good thing!!!! Everyone was kidding that when asked how they could improve the trip the answer was the roads. I would hate to see what they are like in the rainy season!!! I could see why the dry season is the easiest to spot the animals, grass is lots shorter. One thing that disturbed me a lot was the lifestyle of the Maasai. The women are not allowed to say no to getting pregnant according to one of our guide/drivers. If she doesn't get pregnant and he has a child with another wife he can send the non-pregnant wife back to her father who has to provide him with a substitute. Also the amount of flies settling on the children...I took a picture of a child with flies on his eyes, mouth, teeth, nose and he didn't even flinch. One fly and I freak out~! In Nairobi, we were told to not go out unless escorted (told this as we were leaving, so killed a day chilling in our room), and if we did go out to take off all jewelry, even costume jewelry and carry no purse or money. Too dangerous. The airport there is crazy too. You have to have a driver who lets you out and all your bags stay in the vehicle. You walk through security, he drives through a scanner, you meet on the other side, get your luggage, it goes through another scanner, then you pick it up and take it to where it gets dropped off for the flights. Fortunately it all went as smooth as possible except for one piece of luggage getting stuck in the cart and the guy had to help us pull it loose...And all arrived safe and sound in Atlanta for customs which was smooth sailing too.

  • Thanks Nedda. We don’t usually take any jewelry to Africa, even wedding rings. We take cheap watches. The airport obviously has stepped things up than when we were last there.
    It is absolutely not so that the Tour Director has favorites and gives them better rooms, Tauck does not work that way. Did you have Susan! She’s lovely and a great photographer. She gave us all photos she had taken of our tour with great photos of us together. She even took us to a local clinic/hospital that we sponsor. Many lives have been saved there and we particularly applaud the care of moms and babies.

  • Nedda- it sounds your experience with like airport security in Nairobi was exactly the same as when we went in 2015 about 6 months after the fire. If you take B,SA, Z you'll find 2 of the 3 "tents" and 2 of the 3 camps in Botswana are as nice or nicer than those at the Fairmont Mara.

    If you've read the threads about people with back problems who are considering K&T, would you say that those of us who posted gave accurate descriptions of the "roads?"

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