PICKING THE BEST PHOTO EQUIPMENT FOR YOUR SAFARI
Given the endlessly captivating subject matter, every safari is a photographic safari, and every traveler, from the casual photographer to the serious shutterbug wants to return home with an array of stunning wildlife images to share.
Unforgettable photographs begin with selecting equipment that takes Africa’s unique conditions and the range of camera options into consideration. Here we offer tips for digital photography equipment, which gives instant feedback on images and allows adjustments in the field to ensure that one’s photographs are correctly exposed.
Super-zoom bridge cameras offer an incredible focal range – from capturing that close-up of an elephant’s eye to Namibia’s dune landscape – while being far more affordable and portable than a SLR camera body and range of lenses. They can also be a good option as a second, back-up camera.
The new high-resolution digital cameras are outstanding and give superb quality images, especially if you are using a digital SLR camera body, with interchangeable lenses. Semi-professional camera bodies are fairly light, easy to hold and all produce excellent results. Top of the range include the Nikon D4 or the Canon 1D MKIV or Canon 1DX – the ultimate in durability, high frames per second (ideal for capturing action scenes) and weather sealing, however, these are expensive and heavy to carry around.
A zoom lens can be extremely useful on safari and the minimum recommended size is 70 mm - 200 mm, although a 100 mm – 400 mm or 70 mm – 300 mm is ideal. Modern image-stabilized lenses are best as they allow photographers to handhold their cameras at slower shutter speeds with sharper results. Fast fixed prime lenses have an edge when it comes to sharpness and low-light performance, however, one loses some versatility being confined to a fixed focal range. A more cost-effective way to obtain further reach (without the bulk of a fixed 500 or 600) out of your camera is to use a teleconverter, particularly on f2.8 lenses – the 1.4X being ideal.
Spare Batteries, Recharging Facilities and Additional Storage
Spare batteries are essential and a storage device of some sort is recommended. Make certain you have enough card storage – most people take more photographs than they expect to. Also try investing in the newer generation UDMA cards as they write data much faster so you can catch that split-second lion kill. Many camps have facilities for recharging batteries. Strips for charging more than one device are suggested for more serious photographers.
On the back of a safari vehicle a monopod can be a compact, light-weight solution for providing additional stability for larger lenses.
Protection from the Elements
- Camera bags like the Lowepro or Tamrac range are ideal to transport all your camera gear.
- Out on game drives remember to pack something to cover your camera gear and minimize dust – an inexpensive pillow case often does the trick perfectly. A Giotto Rocket Blower is excellent to remove unwanted dust from a camera sensor and for general cleaning before doing any lens changes in the field. A rain-proof cover for your camera bag is a wise investment particularly in the rainy season.