If you’re planning an African Safari you’re probably already looking into bringing the perfect camera for your adventure. 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?
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Luckily, most DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras take fantastic photos so as long as you have appropriate gear you’ll come back with some perfect shots.
While I am not a professional photographer, I do have some experience shooting animals, northern lights, landscapes and city streets.
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As of the publishing of this post, I currently own a Leica XU, a Canon 6D (full-frame weather resistant DSLR) and a Sony A7III (full-frame, mirrorless interchangeable lens camera).
Both lenses are weather resistant and perform extremely well on the Canon 6D. They would also work on any other Canon full frame sensor cameras.
The 17-40mm is a fast lens that takes great photos. It performed well during my 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.
Shooting with 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 too late 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.
Keep in mind that the lens can get pretty heavy. You can use supportive aids such as a bean bag or a monopod to stabilize your camera and heavy lens.
On safari to Tanzania and Botswana I brought the Sony A7II (now upgraded to the A7III). 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 I used the Sony 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 FE OSS lens. This kit lens is honestly just okay. It performs well enough, is solidly built and covers a very useful range. However, I was left wanting more.
In Tanzania I 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 and A7III. The 240mm maximum focal length, however, just wasn’t long enough for Safari and I ended up using the Canon 6D with the 100-400mm more than any other lens on the trip.
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 in the wild.