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Which camera to take on a safari holiday

DSLR camera

For many people, a safari holiday is a unique event, perhaps something they might do only once in their life. It’s wise to give some serious thought to the choice of camera to take with you. It’s also good policy to familiarise yourself thoroughly with a new camera prior to the event, and this can be done in your garden, at a zoo or local wildlife park. On safari, you’re very likely to have brilliant sunshine, so unless you intend to do a lot of dusk photography, the low-light capabilities of the camera will be of lesser importance.

Generally speaking, a Digital SLR with interchangeable lenses is the optimum choice, but for those who want to travel light, the performance of compact cameras, with their built-in lenses, is improving on a regular basis. If choosing a Digital SLR, it may be good policy to take your cue from the professionals; for many years, Nikon and Canon have been their first choices, both from the point of view of quality, and of general reliability.

Choosing a DSLR body

Broadly speaking, you should consider one main factor – the quality of the sensor, expressed in megapixels (Mp); the higher this figure, the better. Any of the Canon and Nikon ranges will suffice in this respect – there are improved sensors as you get toward the top of the ranges, and it’s likely that your budget will be the main factor dictating your choice. At entry level, you could consider the Nikon D3100, with a 14.1Mp sensor, or the Canon EOS 1100D, with 12.1Mp. Toward the top of each maker’s range, you could consider the Canon 5D, with its 21.1Mp resolution, or the Nikon D700. Both makers have a number of other models spanning the full budget range.

Choosing DSLR lenses

Generally speaking, the longer the focal length, the better. Unless you’re lucky enough to get close to some semi-tame animals, it’s likely that your subjects will be a good few hundred metres away, and you need a long lens to pull them into your frame, probably something of the order of 300-400mm. For the best results, you should choose a fixed-length, telephoto lens. A zoom lens, with variable focal length, will allow you to frame closer subjects, but there’s little value in a zoom if it’s left permanently at its maximum zoom because you’re too far from the subjects. Bear in mind, though, that a telephoto of this size won’t be cheap, and also that a lens of this size is quite heavy, and you may want to also consider a monopod or other support system to ease the strain, and to aid you in supporting the camera.

Choosing a compact camera

Whilst the DSLR is undoubtedly the best choice, some will prefer the portability and convenience of a compact camera. The quality of zoom lenses on compacts, and the various image stabilisation features associated with them continues to improve, and once again, there’s a good choice from both Canon and Nikon. It’s also worth mentioning Panasonic, in view of their inclusion of the highly-regarded Leica lenses on their compact cameras.

The Canon Powershot range of compacts (as opposed to the Ixus range) is aimed at the enthusiast photographer, and includes more flexibility. From this range, you could consider the SX240 or SX260, both of which feature 20x optical zoom. Both offer the choice of manual or automatic shooting modes, and high-speed repeat shooting.

New for 2013 in the Panasonic compact range are the Lumix DMC-TZ40 and DMC-TZ35, both with 20x zooms, and with the TZ40 offering extra features in terms of GPS and WiFi connectivity.

Newly-introduced to the Nikon range, however, is the Coolpix P520, a ‘bridge’ camera, which is larger than a compact, but smaller than an SLR. The P520 offers almost double the optical zoom capability of the Canons or Panasonics, and, despite its slightly larger ‘bridge’ format, is surely worthy of serious consideration on this basis.

In summary, compacts have much to offer, but DSLRs still lead in terms of flexibility, durability and quality.


This article was produced by My Adventure Store who are a leading safari tours operator and offer a wide range of safari holidays

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