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