Good wildlife camera equipment on safari can make the difference between pictures you will be proud to show your friends and family when you get back and ones where it’s difficult to figure out exactly what you were photographing because it’s only a fuzzy black dot surrounded by green vegetation.
I take wildlife photographs for a living and I have had to quickly figure out what the best cameras and lenses are to get the job done effectively.
Digital or Film – Which is better for a safari?
Wild animals are very unpredictable. That’s one aspect of safari photography that makes it so exciting because you never know what you are going to get but this also means that the number of pictures you need to take to get a keeper increases.
And if you use film that can become very expensive whereas with a digital wildlife camera you can take as many as you want and then just delete the ones where the lion has ducked behind a bush, the cheetah has blurred because the autofocus locked onto a twig in front of it and the exposure of the hippo was way off because of the reflected sunlight in the water.
You can also make consistent use of bracketing to get the perfect exposures without worrying about cost or running out of film which can be a problem in certain remote areas of Africa where safaris take place.
So more is better in this case but what about quality? The fact is that digital quality is fast catching up to film unless you fall into the professional category and are going to be selling your safari pictures or entering them into competitions. In that case it might be better to stick to film because the trained eye will be able to spot the difference but in most other cases digital quality is more than adequate.
Digital also gives you valuable feedback while you are still on safari so that you can try and improve on that elephant picture with the ear cut off the next day. You also have a lot more control over the final product because you can use software like Photoshop to enhance and fine tune your pictures.
Digital SLR or Compact Wildlife Camera
A safari is the dream trip of a lifetime and it’s a great opportunity to get some fantastic wildlife pictures but it’s not necessary to buy the latest and greatest digital SLR and lenses to get them unless you are planning to take nature pictures for a living or are a serious photography enthusiast and are going to make regular use of the camera and lenses after the safari anyway.
The cost of a digital SLR wildlife camera is high compared to a compact but that is only half the story. The lenses that you need to purchase for decent wildlife photography often cost more than the camera itself making it a very expensive business indeed.
And a bulky camera body and multiple interchangeable lenses do add to the weight of your luggage and the inconvenience of carrying everything around with you.
Digital compact cameras on the other hand are not extremely expensive and the results that you can obtain from them are almost on a par with a digital SLR camera and you don’t have to worry about any additional lenses if the compact you buy has a decent zoom covering the range from 80mm to about 300mm. There are a few of them on the market that do have lenses like this and the range of the zooms increase every year.
And compact cameras live up to their name by being relatively small and light and one lens means no additional weight or carrying and no time wasted changing to another lens to suit the situation.
The Best SLR Digital Wildlife Camera for Nature Photography
If you have decided to go with a digital SLR then by all accounts the best one to purchase for wildlife photography at the moment is the Canon EOS 20D due to the blinding speed of its shutter release (near instantaneous) and its continuous shooting speed of 5 frames per second to a maximum burst depth of twenty three frames. It also powers up in next to no time at all.
This wildlife camera is as fast as you will ever need to freeze wildlife action and get the picture in the can before the animal moves off into the undergrowth.
There are other SLR cameras that are nearly as good like the Nikon D70 and the Pentax ist D so take a look at them too before making a decision.
The Best Compact Digital Wildlife Camera for Nature Photography
Canon comes up trumps again in the compact camera category with the Canon Powershot S2 IS. The factor that makes this camera ideal for safari wildlife photography is its huge 12X optical zoom lens (36 – 432mm equivalent) with a built in image stabiliser which cuts down on blur when using such a massive zoom lens.
A 5 megapixal sensor is more than enough to produce stunning safari images and as long as you can live with a slight shutter release lag and power up delay this compact wildlife camera is perfect for a safari trip.