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Suggested Kit for the Safari Holiday Photographer

Camera: 'Prosumer' super-zoom with a minimum 10x optical zoom and image stabilisation.
  • The Panasonic FZ series receives some of the best reviews in the super-zoom category, primarily because of their extremely fast (f/2.8) high quality Leica lenses and the superb anti-shake system incorporated into the design.
  • Canon also makes excellent super-zoom cameras in their PowerShot IS series.
    • If possible, we recommend a camera with a dedicated viewfinder (rather than just the LCD on the back of the camera). You will be taking a lot of photos at maximum telephoto while you are on safari which magnifies camera shake, and having to hold the camera out in front of you (rather than bracing it against your face) magnifies it even more, especially when shooting from a moving vehicle as you follow animals on the move.
Filters: A lot of people don't bother with filters for their super-zooms, thinking they are only for SLR users. A good basic set of filters will go a long way towards getting the shots you want.
  • UV and circular polarizing filter (multi-coated to minimise flare).
Camera support: Vital to help you make the most of your photographic opportunities.
  • 'Beanbag' (I fill a giant Ziploc bag with beans or rice when I arrive in camp, and stick that inside another Ziploc bag for leak insurance).
Batteries: Super-zooms tend to really eat battery power (probably because the zoom is incorporated into the camera body itself) so this is particularly important.
  • If your camera uses special lithium-ion batteries, you'll want 4 camera batteries (1 in camera, 2 spare, and one charging in camp).
  • If your camera uses AA batteries, you'll want to get long-life rechargeables and have the equivalent of four sets of batteries (1 in camera, 2 spare, and one charging in camp).
  • If you plan to record video, bring extra batteries as video recording drains them very quickly.
Cleaning Kit: Blower (Giotto Rocket or similar - NOT a blower brush, which will blow dirt all over your lens); cleaning solution; lots of lens tissues; lens pen with brush for touch-ups in the field.

Camera Bag: Don't skimp here!
  • Crumpler Three Million Dollar Home
Photo Storage: Lots of memory cards, or a few cards plus a portable storage device (PSD). If you plan to record video, bring larger cards as video recording (especially in HD) eats up memory very quickly and you don't want to run out of memory at a crucial moment!

Car Chargers: Note that many safari companies in Southern Africa will not allow the use of invertors/car chargers that plug into the cigarette lighter (with the exception of mobile safaris). Since you don't have the long six-hour drives which are typical in East Africa and can charge your equipment in camp, it's not really an issue. A car charger can be very useful on ground-based safaris in East Africa.

Lessons from the Field:
  • You can never, ever have too many batteries.
  • Filters are worth their weight in gold for rescuing shots under the bright African sun.
Pros and Cons

Pros: Lightweight. Inexpensive compared to DSLR. Relatively easy to get very nice results. Manual override features allow for some experimentation with photography. Most models also record video (often in HD).

Cons: Less flexible than a DSLR as you are limited to the lens the camera came with. Limited capacity for low-light photography as viewfinders do not tend to function well in low-light situations.