Our Recommended Camera gear for an African Safari

If you’re planning an African Safari you’re probably already familiar with cameras.  Perhaps you have a decent camera but you’re wondering if your equipment will produce the kind of photos you’ve seen other travellers capture?  Luckily, most DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras take fantastic photos so as long as you have appropriate gear you’ll come back with ‘keepers’.

Zebra mom with baby in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

We are not professional photographers but we have some experience shooting animals, northern lights and city streets.  We like to think we’ve come away with some good shots…

Elephant family hanging out by the water hole in Central Serengeti, Tanzania

As of the publishing of this post, we currently own a Sony Cyber-shot RX1r (35mm full-frame compact), a Canon 6D (full-frame weather resistant DSLR) and a Sony A7II (full-frame, mirrorless interchangeable lens camera).

Olive baboon monkey on a tree stump eating insects

On Safari to both Tanzania and Botswana we brought the Canon 6D with both a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens and the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM.

Elephant mother and baby in a mud hole

Both lenses are weather resistant and performed well on the Canon 6D.

Elephant in the grass in Central Serengeti

The 17-40mm is a fast lens that takes great photos.  It performed well during our Safari for wide angle shots and is also great street photography and/or city life lens…you’ll definitely want at least one wider angle lens with you for animals that are daring enough to venture close.

Lioness walking next to safari truck in Central Serengeti

Wildebeest heard in Cental Serengeti

Cheetah resting over a kill in Central Serengeti

The 100-400mm was a dream.  When paired with the Canon 6D, autofocus was fast and accurate.  With a f/4.5-5.6 aperture, it produces a nice bokeh and is plenty fast for everyday lighting conditions while on safari.  There are strict restrictions preventing Safari tourists from touring at night.  You’ll likely only be photographing animals during daylight so low light performance shouldn’t be an issue.  A lens with at least 400mm is must.  You will not regret investing in a lens that will capture photos of a lifetime.

White Browed Coucal sitting in a tree

Lioness sleeping, siesta in a tree in Serengeti

Lilac Breasted Roller on a tree stump in Serengeti

Lion sharpening claws on tree in Serengeti

On safari to Tanzania and Botswana we brought the Sony A7II.  It is a very capable camera with good low-light performance and a very manageable size.  Its sensor produces photos with great resolution and low noise which will come in handy if you crop your photos during post-processing.

Hyenas sleeping resting in Ngorongoro crater

In Botswana we used the Sony 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 FE OSS lens.  This kit lens is, pretty good.  It performs well enough, it’s solidly built and covers a very useful range but we were left wanting more.

Hot air balloon in Central Serengeti

In Tanzania we used the Sony 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 FE OSS lens.  This lens covers a fantastically useful range, had decently fast autofocus and produced good photos when paired with the A7II.  The 240mm maximum focal length, however, just wasn’t long enough for Safari and we ended up passing the Canon 6D with the 100-400mm back and forth between us depending on the animals’ distances in relation to our vehicle.

Wildbeest and Zebra herd crossing Mara river in Northern Serengeti

Ultimately, you will want the extra focal length reach of a 400mm (or more) zoom lens.  Most of the animals will always be slightly further away than you’d prefer…but they are doing their own thing, so who can blame them.

Giraffes at dusk near campsite in Northern Serengeti

Mother black rhino with baby in trees in Northern Serengeti

Lion cubs heading toward a fresh kill in Central Serengeti

As a note, if you don’t have a full frame sensor camera, there may be a focal length conversion depending on the type of lens you purchase.  A camera with a sensor smaller than full frame will end up adding to some lens’ focal length, essentially giving them more reach.

Most of all, enjoy your safari and appreciate how close you are able to be to these magnificent creatures.

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