Camera Gear

Going on SA Elegant Adventure - what kind of camera equipment are you taking? Camera body, lenses?


  • You might want to check out the archives for this tour and the other two African Tours (K&T Classic Safari, and Zambia, Botswana and South Africa). This topic has been discussed at length. It also depends on what you consider your photographic experience and the type of gear you own. The archive posts will give you an idea of what others have taken and help you refine and focus your question.

  • AlanS, thanks. I actually did look at the archives, just wanted to get a more current view on what others are taking with them. I looked under Camera Gear, Photography, what others can you suggest? Thanks!

  • On this trip I took a Sony A7RII body with two lens. A 24-70mm, and 70-200mm with a 2x multiplier. I used the 24-70mm mostly when not on safari and the other while on safari. You will love this adventure.

  • edited November 2019

    JTGoldstein25, 7:49AM, AlanS, thanks. I actually did look at the archives, just wanted to get a more current view on what others are taking with them. I looked under Camera Gear, Photography, what others can you suggest? Thanks!

    You can search the applicable forums using common camera and photography terms, or just scan the subject lines in each archive (see right margin). (Don't forget about Google- "best camera to take on a safari") But again, without knowing your photo interests, skills, goals, equipment (or how much you are willing to spend on camera and gear), etc. it is hard to make a recommendation, e.g. will you be doing post processing, will you be enlarging and printing photos, or will you just be sharing on social media. You'll get detailed suggestions like Ed's, but also ones saying all you need is a cell phone! Some people load up on gear- multiple bodies, multiple lenses, etc. The archive posts will also often discuss potential downsides to various approaches, like the danger of swapping lenses in a likely very dusty environment or a bouncing safari vehicle, total lack of space and time to set up and use a tripod, luggage weight and size issues with a camera bag full of gear and maybe a bean bag, etc., etc. All these topics have been discussed in previous threads. You'll also see discussions of the dangers of missing the big picture if you spend all your time looking through a view finder as well as the excellent suggestion that, whatever you take, you need to be comfortable with and really know how to use it- some of the greatest photographic opportunities can be fleeting- spend more that a second or two messing with a camera setting, and the opportunity is gone.

    Personally, I take a middle ground- a mid-grade Canon DSLR with an after-market 16 - 300mm Tamron lens. That gives me good wide angle (16mm) yet almost the max telephoto (300mm) usable without some sort of camera/lens stabilization, but again, this info is in the archives.

  • My wife and I recently were on the September 25th K&T trip. I brought two Canon camera bodies, one with a 24mm to 105mm f4 stabilized lens, and the other with a 70mm to 200mm f2.8 stabilized lens. Also had a 1.4x and 2.0x to use with the 70 to 200. The two bodies were used to avoid changing lenses during the dusty parts of the safaris, which occurred quite a bit. I had UV filters on both lenses to protect the front lens element. I also had the 1.4 extender with the 70-200 (ie: 98 - 280) on the second body most of the time and sometimes stacked the 2x extender with it which gave me a range of 196mm to 560mm when I needed it. I never felt that I needed more than this because we were always fairly close to the wildlife. However, the Zoom capability was definitely a must.

    Below is a link to a youtube video slideshow of some of my favorite shots and videos using the above equipment.

  • I’ll be really interested in the Photo equipment that I see on my return to K and T next month. On my recent China tour, I met a guy who has a degree in photography but he now just takes his cell phone for photo taking. On another travel website, I follow a woman who takes amazing photos, she loves to take street photography. Her most recent ones were with a new iPhone, they were wonderful. I’m wondering how many others will ditch a traditional camera.
    I’m taking my camera, but this time I may take my iPhone along, although I will be very cautious if I take it out since I’ve seen phones dropped right by wild animals more than once. Then it’s goodbye phone.
    Peter, your photos are very good but I challenge that they could be taken equally as well with a much simpler camera since mostly we are able to get right next to the wildlife on safari.

  • The wife and I are doing this trip over the holidays and I think after doing a good bit of reading we're going to keep it pretty simple. I have a Sony A6500 with a Sony - 35mm f/1.8 Prime lens for portraits and around town and a Sony SELP18105G E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS for out on safari. I'm an average photographer at best but I've been working for a couple of months on changing settings quickly and setting up some of the customizable buttons for likely scenarios. She'll likely user her iPhone and I expect I'll use mine a fair amount. They do take really good pictures.

  • edited November 2019

    Someone once said that the best camera is the one you have with you. From that point of view, cell phones are great, because most people have them with them all the time. And there are pros that do whole series of photos with cell phones that are gallery worthy. That being said the difference in image quality between a cell phone and a good camera can be dramatic. A DSLR gives the educated shooter so much more creative control over the image than a cell phone. You are very limited on cell phones with regard to controlling shutter speed, depth of field, focusing and iso, if you can control them at all. Learning to control those elements creatively can change a shot from OK to wow. While some cell phones overcome this to an extent with multiple lenses and software tricks, there's only so much you can do with a simple tiny lens and tiny sensor. And those tiny sensors just can't perform in low light. Plus, because cell phones don't have a viewfinder, they are hard to hold steady and it can be hard to frame the composition. Also, with most cell phones, the zoom function is a digital crop, rather than an optical zoom. That means when you zoom in you are throwing away much of the resolution of the sensor. So if you try to blow up those pictures, they will look awful.

    I'm not saying that everyone should go out and buy a DSLR. I always get a chuckle out of people I see on tour with an expensive DSLR that they don't even know how to hold properly and never take out of full auto mode (total waste of a good camera).

    As you learn about photography, you also learn to view photos with a more critical eye. For example, if you're taking a portrait of an animal (or a person for that matter) it is important that the eyes be in tack sharp focus. That's hard to do with a cell phone, but relatively easy with a DSLR. Where you might look at a photo and say "nice lion picture", I might say the eyes are too soft.

    Anyway, I think the best cameras for the casual photographer on safari are the superzooms or bridge cameras. The can zoom in close without loosing resolution (not all animals are that close) and are fairly reasonable in price. They also have a viewfinder, which allows you to better frame the subject and make holding the camera steady easier. But for people with the knowledge and the money, nothing beats a good DSLR with the right lens.

    Anyway, people should choose a camera based on their desire to learn about photography. If you don't have the desire to learn, a cell phone or a point and shoot camera are the right choice. But educated shooters with a good camera can take photos that you couldn't come close to matching with a cell phone.

  • Another item to consider- since you loose picture quality any time you use digital zoom (on any camera), you might consider an add-on lens adapter for your phone. A friend on our last trip (Botswana) used one on her iPhone most of the time and got some incredible photos. I think the adapter was similar the one pictured below. I believe it was a protective case equipped with a small wheel holding 3 add-on lenses. To change lens she just rotated the ring until desired lens was over the main phone lens. Sorry, but I do not know the name, cost, or specs of the lenses. Quick Google and Amazon searches yielded many brands and styles, most at very reasonable prices.

  • edited November 2019

    To answer the challenge British stated in her post, it is true that some of the photos taken with a good cell phone or simpler camera can match a good DSLR. However, there are many situations you can encounter on safari that require the capabilities of a good DSLR, quality optics, and ability to know how to use them to produce exceptional results. Ken from Vegas did a good job of explaining the reasons for this.

  • To PeterU. We watched your slideshow last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing it on the Tauck Community Forum.

  • To AshvEd. Thanks, glad you enjoyed the slideshow. The K & T trip was a wonderful experience.

  • Just wondering if 'cathyandsteve' could describe the amount of space and weight in their luggage/carry-ons that was committed to photography equipment and accessories, including the PCs. It seems like you were equipped as well as a small photography laboratory. You certainly were prepared.

  • Cathy and Steve did not stick to the 44 pound guideline that Tauck asks. They have said this before. It’s not really that luggage didn’t get weighed, it’s about consideration of local people working for Tauck having to lug really heavy cases around. Yes, I know the airlines say 50 pound In most cases, but it is not what Tauck asks of us. As I pay the same as everyone else, I would like to think that we all equally keep to the rules, like we do not using our cell phones to talk while on the bus and adhere to seat rotation and things like that which make Tauck a superior company to travel with compared to much of the competition.

  • Don’t want to labor this anymore but Tauck ask you to have a 44 pound limit on your checked bags.

  • Ken from Vegas, I read and learned from a few of your older posts on another thread before going on the K&T tour in October. We purchased a bridge camera you had mentioned (the Sony RX10 IV) in time to get some practice in before we left, and we shot in RAW + JPEG. I'm a very amateur photographer but knew I wanted to make the best I could of the incredible opportunities the K&T safari provided. The camera was everything I had hoped and I'm very pleased with it. Now, further following your sage advice, I've purchased Adobe Lightroom (Classic) and am currently completing a course on CreativeLive's website to learn all of Lightroom's features before tackling the processing on my RAW images. I'm not sure how my finished photos would look to your educated eye, but even my untouched JPEGs have me smiling from ear to ear. As I work in Lightroom, I'll be sure to watch for tack-sharp focus on the eyes ;) I can't thank you enough for your advice and for your willingness to share your knowledge on this forum!

  • Miguelado - good choice with the rx10iv. Ive had one for about a year and use it for everything except street photography. My other cameras are getting jealous. 😁

  • miguelado-
    Thanks for your kind words. I am so happy you are pleased with your camera. Good luck with Lightroom. I think you will be amazed at the difference it makes, but it is definitely a skill that takes some practice. You'll find that starting with the RAW image, you'll want to add a little contrast, vibrance and clarity to most images (+5 to 10 on the contrast and vibrance sliders and +15 to 20 on the clarity). That's the kind of processing that most cameras do to get to the JPEG.

  • cathyandsteve, thanks so much for your in depth response. Did you have to use a monopod for your 100-400mm lens? Was it easy/hard to hold it steady in the jeep?

  • The rule of thumb on handholding long lenses is to choose a shutter speed faster than the inverse of the length of the lens. So if you're shooting at 400mm you would want to shoot at 1/400th or faster. This rule is for full frame cameras. If you are using a crop frame sensor (if you don't know what type you have it's probably a crop frame), you would need to multiply focal length by the crop factor (1.5 for Nikon, 1.6 for Canon). So a 400mm lens on a Canon would need a shutter speed of 1/640th or faster. This ignores any image stabilization. If your lens provides 2 stops, you can (in theory) reduce the shutter speed by half for each stop (so 1/160th). This assumes that you are in a good holding stance (arms into the body and on stable ground). On safari, I used the rule of thumb and let the extra stops of the image stabilization compensate for the engine vibration and people jostling about in the vehicle.

  • Ken from Vegas,
    Thanks for the info on RAW to JPEG adjustments cameras make to contrast, vibrance, and clarity. I have only four more chapters of the 20 chapter Ben Willmore course to complete before beginning my work in Lightroom. Don't want to hijack this thread, but my next trip is a northern lights cruise in late January along the coast of Norway. I would love to hear any suggestions you might have on capturing the lights (if we're lucky enough to see them).

  • edited November 2019

    Haven't photographed the aurora borealis myself, but looking around on the web I found a little info. You will need a good sturdy tripod (maybe a small table top one if you don't want to carry a full sized tripod). Shoot in manual mode with your lens wide open or close to wide open. Probably zoom to the normal to wide range. Your light meter is worthless in this case. Choose an ISO in the 100 to 400 range. Exposure times will be in the 15 to 30 second range. Use a remote shutter release, if your camera will handle this, or use the self timer (to lessen camera shake when your push the button). The light from the aurora will vary rapidly and the exposure is pure guesswork, so it may take a number of tries. If you were using a DSLR, I would say to put a lens hood on, but that obviously isn't an option. If you're in an area with street lights or other manmade light around, it will be very hard to do this shot, so try to find a dark area with a clear view of the ski and nothing in the foreground. Don't forget warm clothes and a small flashlight. I have some gloves with finger tips that fold back so that you can operate your camera. They are made by Freehands and available at (and probably elsewhere). Good luck.

  • Ken from Vegas, once again, thanks for your advice. I do have an old Canon EOS 30 and Canon EFS 17-55mm lens with image stabilization, as well as a lens hood, that I had considered taking as well. Tripods are supposed to be provided by the guides we've booked to chase the lights, but I'd rather err on the side of caution and bring one I know to be sturdy--your table top suggestion is great, and one I had not thought of. We scheduled the trip for a time with minimal moonlight, and the guides will try to optimize our chances by finding areas of clear, dark skies. I'd planned on buying a remote shutter release for the Sony from Adorama at some point, so I'll order one for the Canon as well and add on a pair of the Freehands gloves. There are several shutter release models available for the Sony, and although the bells and whistles are tempting, I'm a bit skeptical of the ability of some of the more sophisticated ones to operate well for me in the cold conditions. I'll probably go with one of the most basic models. I've ordered extra batteries in anticipation of the cold temperatures as well.
    Since the ship is always moving at least a bit, I'm thinking of trying one of the Iphone apps solely for any middle of the night wake-up announcements to grab your coat and camera that the crew makes when the lights are sighted from the bridge. It won't be ideal, but possibly better than missing a fleeting opportunity entirely.
    Thanks again--as always, your advice is spot-on!

  • miguelado - Good luck. I don't think you can photograph the lights well from a ship. Remember to always shut off your image stabilization when you mount your camera on a tripod. Surprising as it may be, image stabilization actual works against you when you are using a tripod.

  • Ken from Vegas--I did not know that about image stabilization. Thank you once again.

  • An extract from the South Africa: An Elegant Adventure website.

  • An extract from the South Africa: An Elegant Adventure website.

  • This subject has been discussed rather exhaustively, but, one might note that the technology in photography is changing so fast that it is possible to bring less and less equipment -- one can capture some excellent images with the latest cell phone technology. That being said,
    1. One has to know what level of skill, what level of interest, what level of bother one is willing to endure on a trip, and what your goals in creating images are. Like Steve, I am a fairly serious amateur, and was fortunate enough to have one of my KT photos published in a two page spread in an international photography magazine. You can view my Africa Collection here:
    2. You can tailor the amount of gear you bring to the particular trip. For Africa, I used a whopping 840mm equivalent lens to get the above photo, "Leopard In A Tree." But for India and Australia, I was content with a 24-200mm equivalent, plus a portrait lens.
    3. Tauck guests are wonderful. I mentioned that I would share my images with them on the Africa trip, and they went out of their way to ask if I wanted a particular position in the vehicle, etc., but I usually declined. If you are facile with your gear, you'll get enough good shots.
    4. Irregardless, if you're going to use semi-professional equipment, you need to know it thoroughly, so that you won't become anxious and lose opportunities. So, that might include things like being able to change batteries in the dark, knowing to use your camera on Manual mode, etc. But, if you aren't that avid and a photo nerd, then just enjoy yourself. You'll get enough good shots to be happy.
    5. Be mindful and considerate of other guests, and of bringing an unwieldly amount of equipment. Even travel tripods usually prove not worth the weight and space, and not usable in vehicles. Bean bags can be substituted by a piece of clothing or a soft hand, and a low f-stop lens. Plan to use only one seat in the vehicle. Keep in mind the 15 lb. limit for carry-ons for the intra-country airlines. You can take a camera and a spare within that limit. I usually take a back-pack, like the Tumi Westwood for the 15 lb carry-on, and a smaller "brief-case size" back pack to fit under the seat. Between the two, one can get two cameras, a laptop, medications and "stuff".
    6. It seems to me that most Tauck folks aren't that heavily into photography, so one sees fewer and fewer people loaded up with gear.
    7. As an example, I just came back from India, using only an Olympus with a 12-100mm (24-200 equivalent) and a 75mm portrait lens. You can see the results here:
    8. It's really how avid one is, and how you wish to divide your time and attention to creating images or just enjoying the sights and food on the trip.


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