While photography is far from being my field of expertise (for expert advice, check out these wonderful folks: Kerry, Gerry, Morkel, Andrew and Uwe), the following is a series of tips that, in my mind, will help you choose the most appropriate camera equipment for your African safari.
1. What are you after/Objectives of your stay?
In other words, what is the purpose of your safari? Are you out and about just to have a good time, relax and enjoy nature, or do you consider yourself a “serious” photographer, looking for the “best” possible shots?
By defining clear goals and knowing what you’re after, you’ll be able to choose the adequate camera equipment easily.
2. Scenic Vs. Portrait Photography
Are you more of a scenery fan, or do you enjoy capturing animal photography, portraits and close-ups?
Smaller camera models (compact digital cameras) are usually the best buy for the general public. They are very easy to use, lightweight and are equipped with a variety of different zoom lengths, from wide angle to super zoom. The major downside of compact digital cameras, nevertheless, is that they don’t accept interchangeable lenses (although some models can use add-on converter lenses).
The best alternative to compact cameras is DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) photography. DSLR cameras are excellent for both landscapes and close-up photography. All you need to do is change your lens accordingly. Use wide angles (18-35 mm) for picturesque photographs and super zoom lenses (18-200 mm usually does the trick; 28-300 mm for best results) for animal portraits and close-ups.
3. Packing light or heavy?
How much weight can you allow for your camera equipment in your luggage? Bear in mind that while compact digital cameras are usually lightweight (100-500 g), some of the DSLR equipment can be extremely heavy. For instance, certain types of super zoom lenses can weigh between 2 and 5 kg alone (+ add another 600 to 1200 g for the body).
Please notice that digital camera accessories are not only heavy, but are also much larger in size and thus take up a lot more space. Carrying them around can be a challenge.
What kind of budget do you want to allocate to your photography equipment? Yet again, it all comes back to point 1. : the objectives of your stay. The price you put in will ultimately affect the overall quality of your shots (provided the photographer’s good enough of course 🙂 ), but then again (as mentioned previously), there are pros and cons for each type of camera equipment you choose.
Generally speaking, buying a compact digital camera is by far the cheaper option, and perhaps also the better one for the majority of “amateur” photographers. Prices, in this case, range from $50-$500.
If you consider yourself more of a connoisseur however, you may want to consider more expensive and, overall, higher quality camera equipment. DSLR cameras range from $300-$2000 +, and camera lenses are often to be bought separately. Expect to pay anything between $200 and $7000 + extra depending on lens type, performance and precision (aperture quality is key).
5. Camera Brands
- For compact digital cameras, the market is extremely competitive and most models give you similar options and quality products. To keep it safe though, any of the following camera brands should give you great satisfaction: Pentax, Canon, Olympus, Sony, Nikon, Panasonic and FujiFilm.
- When it comes to DSLR cameras, stick to the big guns: Nikon (the D90 is top notch equipment already, available from $899), Canon (EOS family), and alternatively Sony (my current camera 😉 ).
I personally use a Sony Cybershot DSC-F828, and am very happy about it. Although it’s a little outdated (out since August 2003), you won’t need anything else if you’re looking for semi-professional results.