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Old 01-04-2013, 08:31 AM   #1
rivan
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Default Photo safari camera rental recommendation

A coworker is going on photo safari in South Africa in May and asked me for tips on the trip, as I've done one. One of my primary recommendations was a great low-light camera. The excursions will be dawn and dusk, and many of the animals will be fairly far from the vehicles. Low light sensitivity and long reach are top priorities. I went with a dRebel and a 75-300 and it did fine on reach but was not a spectacular performer in low light, as you'd imagine.

I'm totally out of the loop on the state of cameras over the past 3-4 years. She's open to rental or might buy if there's a reasonably priced P&S option.
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Old 01-04-2013, 09:04 AM   #2
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Is she a competant DSLR shooter? Does she have any existing gear?
On the Nikon side, a very popular lens for safari is the 200-400 f/4G AF-S VRII. Is a good blend of reach, speed (focus and constant f/4), while maintain flexibility of zoom. And it is still a reasonable size and weight compared to the long f/2.8 or f/4 telephoto primes.

It work well on higher end DX (like D7000) or FX (full frame) cameras.

But unless she has some experience with DSLR's and long glass this may not be a good idea.

High end micro 4/3 cameras might be another nice way to go. You can get great low light performance plus a lot of reach in a much smaller/lighter setup that the larger sensor DSLR's.
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Old 01-04-2013, 10:42 AM   #3
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I had a trip to South Africa a few years ago, and I used a Canon SX10 IS. It was perfect. Today I would not hesitate to use my SX50 HS with much better low light and a hunongous zoom reach. Got the SX50 from B&H last month for $360 including S/H.
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Old 01-04-2013, 06:47 PM   #4
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I'm a Nikon guy, but I'm sure there are Canon equivalents to what I'd recommend.

The D3s is hard to beat for high ISO sensitivity. I believe the D4 might get another stop out of its sensor, but that's probably in limited supply right now in rental shops. If that's too much money, the D700 is very respectable as well.

For lenses, the 200-400mm f/4 was mentioned and that is a quite versatile lens. But it's pretty expensive and not the fastest around. You might be better off with a 300mm or 400mm f/2.8. If you need extra reach only some of the time, a teleconvertor could be a good idea. Obviously you lose a bit of light, but it's an economical compromise.

Anywho, it really depends upon budget and availability. Do you know what rental shop will be used?
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Old 01-05-2013, 09:17 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rivan View Post
A coworker is going on photo safari in South Africa in May and asked me for tips on the trip, as I've done one. One of my primary recommendations was a great low-light camera. The excursions will be dawn and dusk, and many of the animals will be fairly far from the vehicles. Low light sensitivity and long reach are top priorities. I went with a dRebel and a 75-300 and it did fine on reach but was not a spectacular performer in low light, as you'd imagine.

I'm totally out of the loop on the state of cameras over the past 3-4 years. She's open to rental or might buy if there's a reasonably priced P&S option.
I've done half a dozen safaris in Africa. Lets start with the basics:

1. You need extra batteries. Doesn't matter which camera you have if you have no juice. Every safari I was on had these people with no extra batteries and out of power before the first day was up. Do the math on how many shots you can take on a charge and then bring more than that. 1-2 batteries per day was fine for me depending on if I was taking pictures from morning until dark. Some safari days are only half day.

2. Point and shoots are stupid. They're pretty much a complete waste of your time. I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule (I never saw it) but in a nutshell I saw these people bring them and often they couldn't get the thing to turn on fast enough before the animals were gone. Then if it was an easy shot they just take crummy pictures compared to a DSLR unless the animal was right next to the jeep in perfect light (elephants). If you have a DSLR with no video capability though and a point and shoot that does, bring it along for some short clips.

3. Generally you don't need tripods or monopods. However I'd still bring a tripod. The night skies in Africa are beyond description and she'll want to have one for some of those late night shots out in the wilderness. Bring an ultra wide angle lens just for some amazing shots of the milky way. Also some safaris have hides that you stop at.

With all that said you'll want to rent a DSLR. If low light is important to you bring a D600, D700, D800, D3s, D4, or the equivalent from Canon.

Lens selection really depends. The biggest problem is that you really need two cameras with you. One with a telephoto on it and one with something on the wide end. 200mm is the bare minimum. I'd bring nothing less than a 70-300mm but that's a slow lens. Generally the animals are pretty close to you. If you have a high MP camera a 300mm lens will allow you to get close enough and then crop for a decent picture. If you want amazing shots you'll want something like a 300mm 2.8 prime with you and a 2x TC. Bigger than that would probably be too heavy and no fun at all.

These new cameras can shoot with very little noise at ISO 6400. One of these cameras with an F2.8 lens on safari will be able to handle anything.

If budget is an issue or she wants to bring a crop camera bring a D7000 or a 7D. Lens recommendations stay the same.

Last edited by randomrogue; 01-05-2013 at 09:35 AM.
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Old 01-05-2013, 03:37 PM   #6
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As for lenses I might recommend renting the sigma "bigma" 50-500 OS HSM.
This is only a consideration if she's only going to go with 1 lens though.
It's heavy (4.2lbs/1.9kg).

It'd probably be better to get an ultrawide angle i.e. sigma 8-16mm, or canons 10-22mm or 16-35
http://www.sigmaphoto.com/shop/8-16m...6-dc-hsm-sigma
and a long zoom like the canon 100-400mm
http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consum..._5_5_6l_is_usm
Also a rather heavy lens (3.1lbs/1.3kg).

these options are all on the heavy and somewhat slow side though f4-5.6.
the only easily available decently fast telephoto zooms are the 70-200 f2.8s

Then, maybe she could bring specific prime lenses for night shots.

Last edited by fralexandr; 01-05-2013 at 07:09 PM. Reason: pronouns
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Old 01-05-2013, 07:51 PM   #7
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The bigma is a definite option but it is a slow lens. It could work but you'll be cranking the ISO up. The thing that's really nice about it is that you can get all your shots on one camera. It's give and take.

For reference the 70-200 f2.8 is 1.5kg, the 300mm f2.8 is 2.9kg, 300 f4 is 1.4kg, and 70-300 is 750g.
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Old 01-07-2013, 09:21 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randomrogue View Post
2. Point and shoots are stupid.
What he said.

Key to any 'photo safari' is the 'photo' part, and I can't believe anybody'd consider taking a P&S for it.

I dunno when I'll be able to afford going on one such myself, but if you can afford the safari, you can definitely afford a DSLR! (And don't quibble about 'bulk' )
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Old 01-07-2013, 07:50 PM   #9
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Safaris are much cheap if you book them in Africa. Don't ever do it from overseas. I met these fools that paid $4500 for a safari that cost me $150 a day. I then met an American guy (black) who showed up in town a few days ahead, mingled with the locals, and did it for like $50 a day.
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Old 01-13-2013, 08:02 PM   #10
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IMHO, weight is a major concern on any trip, hence a full frame body with the Sigma 50-500mm OS lens (or, 100/200-400mm +1.4X converter) would be great to have (a little soft compare to Canon L or Nikon, but software can do amazing things). A fast 24-70mm f2.8 on a second body and flash, or a good point and shoot would be great to have for wide and general usage.

I just got back last night from 5 weeks of travel in SE Asia with a Canon 5D mkII and 5 lenses, and I found the weight of a DSLR was a pain in the ass.

Canon S95 was use for the majority of the trip, and always was on my body, while the
Canon 5D mkii (FF DSLR) sat in the hotels deposit or safe box for 75% or more of the time.
Amount of time DSLR lens stay on camera body when it is in use.
60% -- 70-200L f4 IS II
30% -- 24-105L f4 IS
10% -- 14mm Samsung
0% -- 100L macro
0% -- 50mm

The DSLR may see more action if it is the only camera I had, and the 24-105mm usage would be greater than the 70-200mm.

Sorry for stealing the thread.

Last edited by iGas; 01-13-2013 at 08:12 PM.
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Old 01-14-2013, 03:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by radhak View Post
What he said.

Key to any 'photo safari' is the 'photo' part, and I can't believe anybody'd consider taking a P&S for it.

I dunno when I'll be able to afford going on one such myself, but if you can afford the safari, you can definitely afford a DSLR! (And don't quibble about 'bulk' )
This.

Unless you're just recording memories, a P&S will most likely not cut it.

However, if she has no idea how to use an SLR, then it probably won't really cut it either and both will be used to record a large bulk of slightly out of focus memories and a small handful of decent shots. :-)


Just going on experience from a few folks who did these sorts of things and ended up with mostly nothing worth printing. :-P

If her experience is limited to family album snaps around Christmas and she can't tell you the difference between the "A" and "P" setting on a higher-end camera, the money might best be invested in a 2-day course on photography to go along with a slightly lower-end SLR for the trip.

Nobody shooting in "P" mode should be carrying around a 400mm f/2.8 lens. The camera in "P" mode will stop it down to f/5.6 most of the time anyway, so you're carrying around an extra 5-8 pounds of (very expensive) glass that won't ever get used. :-)
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