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What is the best camera for a safari in Africa?by Edward Duckitt from Cameraland

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Photographing the African continent is part of the safari experience, but capturing photographs of that moment an elephant charges an aggressive lion does not necessarily require a $10 000 camera. So, what is the best camera for a safari in Africa?

Current cameras tend to fall into price driven categories where feature sets are very similar across all camera makes. With that in mind, below is a guide based on price, features, pros and cons to help you decide which type of camera you will be taking on your safari.

1. Olympus TG-320 on an African safari

Price: R2 249.00

Olympus TG-320

Camera Specifications
Body type Compact
Max resolution 4288 x 3216
Effective pixels 14.0 megapixels
Sensor size 1/2.3" (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
Sensor type CCD
ISO Auto, High Auto, 80 - 1600
Focal length (equiv.) 28–102 mm
Optical zoom 3.6×
Articulated LCD Fixed
Screen size 2.7″


“An underwater camera? Why would I take that to Africa?” - you may think. Africa is well known for its unpredictable weather and having a camera on safari at your side that can endure almost anything that can be thrown at it, is a definitive advantage. The Olympus TG-320 is a tough camera that is designed to be submersed to a depth of 5 meters, it's both drop proof and dust proof.

Who is this camera for?

This camera is perfect for the traveller who decides to go to Victoria Falls to take photos of the experience from the rope bridge that crosses the Zambezi (which is notorious for destroying cameras due to all the mist in the air). Because of its durability, this camera is also perfect for someone who is heading to Namibia for an adventure among the dunes. It's also great for that snorkeling experience in Lake Malawi.

Who is it not for?

Someone who wants to take a camera on safari that can catch the cheetah chasing after a gazelle on the plains of the Serengeti. With only 3.6X zoom and average autofocus speed, this camera is not made for action.

2. Canon SX280 on a safari in Africa

Price: R3 495.00

Canon SX280


Camera Specifications
Body type Compact
Max resolution 4000 x 3000
Effective pixels 12.1 megapixels
Sensor size 1/2.3" (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
Sensor type BSI-CMOS
ISO Auto 100 - 6400
Focal length (equiv.) 25–500 mm
Optical zoom 20×
Articulated LCD Fixed
Screen size 3″

Sometimes that extra bit of zoom on a camera will get you close enough to the action. The SX280 improves on a long tradition of superzoom cameras from Canon. Now with DiGiC 6 processor, the camera has built-in Wi-Fi and can record full HD video at 60 frames per second.

Who is this camera for?

Do you find yourself never having enough zoom on your camera? With 20X zoom, excellent optical image stabilisation and manual controls, you are guaranteed to get a close up of that elusive leopard pulling its prey up an Acacia tree. For the tech-savvy, this camera will let you connect via Wi-Fi to many smart devices, enabling you to share your safari moments with your family back home.

Who is it not for?

No one. Who wouldn’t want this camera in their pocket? It is excellent!

3. Panasonic FZ200 on a safari

Price: R5 999.00

Panasonic FZ200


Camera Specifications
Body type SLR-like (bridge)
Max resolution 4000 x 3000
Effective pixels 12.1 megapixels
Sensor size 1/2.3" (6.17 x 4.55 mm)
Sensor type CMOS
ISO Auto, 100 - 3200, (6400 with boost)
Focal length (equiv.) 25–600 mm
Optical zoom 24X, constant f2.8 maximum aperture
Articulated LCD Fully articulated
Screen size 3”

Winning Bridge Camera of Year 2012 (DPReview.com) says this camera means business on an African safari. The Panasonic Lumix camera range has evolved rapidly into a brand known for its high-quality Leica optics combined with excellent image quality. The FZ200 is the first, and only, superzoom bridge camera to have a constant maximum aperture of f2.8.

Who is this camera for?

The serious amateur photographer who needs performance in a compact body. With a sharp 24X (25-600mm 25mm equivalent) constant f2.8 Leica lens, the FZ200 will convince your pro photographer friends that you spent $10 000 on pro photographic gear. From class leading auto focus speed to excellent low-noise high ISO performance and excellent durability, the FZ200 will always put a smile on your face.

Who is it not for?

If you worry about space and pocketability, then rather get yourself a super-zoom compact like the Canon SX280 HS. The FZ200 is just a bit smaller than most DSLRs and needs a decent camera bag to protect it.

4. Canon 650D + Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS MACRO HSM

Price: R11 490.00

Canon 650D + Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS MACRO HSM


Camera Specifications
Body type Compact SLR
Max resolution 5184 x 3456
Effective pixels 18.0 megapixels
Sensor size APS-C (22.3 x 14.9 mm)
Sensor type CMOS
ISO Auto, 100 - 12800 (25600 with boost)
Lens mount Canon EF/EF-S mount
Focal length mult. 1.6×
Articulated LCD Fully articulated
Screen size 3″


Lens Specifications
Body construction Aluminium/steel
Focal length 18 - 250mm
Maximum aperture f3.5-6.3
Stabilisation 4-stop optical stabilisation
Focus system Hypersonic motor

Canon was the first manufacturer to offer a DSLR for amateur photographers with the 300D. The company's continual evolution of a tried and tested formula has created a mature camera system that is very popular worldwide. Excellent image quality coupled with class-leading ease of use keeps Canon at the top in this category.

Who is this camera for?

The serious hobbyist photographer who is looking for excellent image quality in a well-rounded platform with access to the massive Canon lens line-up. The 650D is also a highly capable video camera with a sensor optimised for video auto focus and face recognition while the 3” touch screen allows camera settings to be changed swiftly via an intuitive menu system. The Sigma 18-250mm OS lens means you never have to change lenses when you want to capture a sweeping landscape and a distant vulture landing on a rocky outcrop, in the same moment. This makes it an excellent camera for an African safari.

Who is it not for?

The complete novice photographer. Buying a great DSLR camera system does not guarantee great images. Spending money on enrolling in a decent photography course will go a lot further than buying an expensive camera.

5. Nikon D7100 + Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM

Price: R23 799.00

Nikon D7100 + Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM

Camera Specifications
Body type Mid-size SLR
Max resolution 6000 x 4000
Effective pixels 24.1 megapixels
Sensor size APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)
Sensor type CMOS
ISO ISO 100 – 6400 Hi-2 (ISO 25,600)
Lens mount Nikon F mount
Articulated LCD Fixed
Screen size 3.2″

 

Lens Specifications
Body construction Aluminium/steel
Focal length 120 - 400mm
Maximum aperture f4.5 – 5.6
Stabilised 4-stop optical stabilisation

Nikon DSLR cameras are designed to just work, and do so exceptionally well. The D7100 inherits many features of the autofocus system from the top of the range D4 as well as class leading environmental sealing and a tough magnesium alloy body.

Who is this camera for?

For the photographer who asks no questions and expects nothing less, the D7100 will not let you down. With an advanced 51-point autofocus system and 6 frames per second, and coupled with the excellent Sigma 120-400mm OS HSM telephoto zoom lens, you are guaranteed to get the wildlife shots that you are looking for.

Who is it not for?

If you are looking to replace your basic bridge camera rather spend your money on lenses and get an entry level Canon 650D or Nikon D5200.

Getting bang for your buck

Fortunately for the consumer, the highly competitive nature of the photographic industry has driven innovation and camera technology leaped forwards in the past 5 years. Current optical and electronic advances have allowed manufactures to develop compact cameras with 20X plus zoom and the ability to shoot images in dim light while maintaining excellent, blur and noise free, image quality.

No matter your photographic skill level or enthusiasm for taking photographs, there is a camera on the market which is perfectly suited to you. Understanding your photographic needs will go a long way in choosing the correct camera that matches your skill level, and will leave you feeling confident in using it on your African safari journey.

It might be a cliché but the best camera for the job is often the one you have with you. So in order to answer the question of which camera is best for a safari in Africa, it's simply a matter of deciding what you want your camera to be able to do and whether you have the skills to help it do that.


Author Bio


Edward Duckitt - Cameraland

Edward Duckitt from cameraland

Edward is a specialist fine art landscape photographer. He is currently located in Cape Town and spends the majority of his free time trying to capture perfect landscapes across South Africa. Edward can always be found exploring the Mother City with a camera in hand.

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