A trip to Africa is an experience of a lifetime. Many people will want to capture the experience for the future. To do this right we have some recommendations for the camera kit you will need. Here are our Top 5 Camera Kit Tips For Visiting Africa.
1. Choose The Right Camera
We recommend you invest in a DSLR camera with at least a 75-300mm lens. This gives you optimum zoom length while photographing the animals from the Safari cars. We also recommend a 17-85 lens to use for closer shots. There are some things to remember when picking your camera:
- Digital SLR cameras come in two formats. Mirror and Mirrorless. The simplest way to understand the difference is the way the light hits the sensor. As you might expect with a mirrorless camera the light is directed onto the sensor without a mirror redirecting it. This limits the amount of moving parts in the camera, but for mirrorless cameras, with a large sensor, they can be a more expensive option. Cameras with mirrors often have better battery life and larger sensors but the size is the trade-off. Mirrorless cameras are lighter because of less moving parts, but most do not have an optical viewfinder which might be an issue for the SLR purest. Some mirrorless cameras do not have the same lens options as their SLR counterparts. They are quickly catching up to DSLR and adapters are available. However, do your research because the “glass” (lens) will always be the key to a great shot.
- Affordable options: If you don’t want or can’t afford to invest too much money, opt for a point and shoot camera that has a long optical zoom. When on safari there are often large distances between you and the subject (animals). A good quality lens with optical zoom (not just digital) will improve the quality of your shots for subjects further away.
- Video Camera – Almost all DSLR and point and shoot cameras have a video mode included, there are other options such as Go Pro and 360 cameras.
- Phones – Smartphones have pretty good cameras in them these days. Maximize your phone camera storage to take pics that you can instantly upload to FaceBook and Instagram.
Here is what we traveled with:
A good quality theft proof camera backpack ( but keep in mind the less it looks like a camera bag the less likely someone will steal it)
- Canon 50D with 3 lenses. (17-85mm,75-300mm & 50mm Prime)
- Canon SX710 HS point and shoot.
- Samsung Gear 360 (2017) Spherical Camera.
- GoPro with Adapter Parts (depending on the trip activities).
- iPhone 7 (multiple).
- iPhone adapter lens (Macro and Fish Eye).
- Spare Batteries.
- Battery chargers and USB power supplies.
- Cube tap power adapter.
- Multi-region international power adapter.
- Monopod with small tripod feet.
- Mini Tripod with flexible legs.
- Tonnes of Memory Cards.
- Cleaning Kit.
- Laptop and USB Drives.
- Ziplock bags (be warned plastic bags may be illegal in some countries like Kenya).
2. Memory And Storage
Be prepared to take a lot of photos on Safari. This may be your only time to have this experience and you don’t want to fill up a memory card in the 1st few days and risk the rest of the trip. You should invest in a high size GB card (16-32GB in size) and have multiple for each type of device you have. You also want to pick a memory card with a fast speed. This will be vital for shooting video, but also handy if you want to take rapid-fire shots or long exposure night time images. The Mbps speed is the amount of time it takes to write the data on the card. The higher the better.
HOT TIP – after each day of Safari, review the photos you have taken that day and immediately delete any that you do not like.
Also, note – when shooting with an SLR camera you have an option to shoot in RAW or JPEG format or both. The benefit to shooting in RAW is better resolution and much lower or no compression. Plus you are able to non-destructively edit the images in photo editing software. If you edit a JPEG photo and save over the original there is no going back. Keep in mind that shooting in both RAW and JPEG format with chew up your memory space significantly.
If you are taking a laptop on your trip, we also recommend that you transfer off the cards to a backup device or Cloud Service. Then you can reformat your cards at the end of each day. But be careful you don’t delete the wrong files. Also remember that internet access in Africa is slowly improving, but not like other more developed countries. Uploading to Cloud Services might have very low bandwidths and be unreliable in remote areas.
3. Date And Time
Set your date and time zone for the country that you are traveling in. This will make sorting through your photos after your trip much easier. If you are like us you will come home with thousands of images and videos. The frustration of sorting through the wrong time references is very avoidable.
4. Protect Your Gear
Safari is an extremely dusty and dirty endeavor. This means that your cameras are going to get very dusty. Make sure you are cleaning your lenses on a regular basis to avoid dust specs on the lens. Take care if you are changing lenses out in the open. You want to avoid getting dust on the inside of your camera. Remember you will likely have dust on everything, to the extent that you can’t tell what is dusty anymore (because everything is). When in doubt clean your hands and change your lens inside your bag. The last thing you want is the camera shutting down midway through your trip.
5. Live In The Moment
Put your camera away and enjoy the.moment. While we understand you want to capture the memory and experiences, don’t miss out because you are lost in camera settings. You don’t need to spend the whole trip looking through a viewfinder. It’s a big wide world and there is no better device to capture a panorama than a human eye.
What are your tips for taking photos in Africa? Leave your comments below:
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CommentsAdd Your Comment
I haven’t been to Africa yet, but I can imagine how I would want to photograph everything on a safari. When we’re traveling, us too carry our camera in a normal bag, we don’t want to scream “tourist!” from afar. Also, we always carry multiple cards as one gets full very fast! Going through all the safari photos when you come back home must be such a joy!
We had over 180GB of photos, videos and 360. So it was a joy and a mammoth job!
Great tips, especially number 5! Although I’m a lover of photography and there’s so much pressure in the blogging world to capture those perfect shots, I have to admit I miss travelling back in my university years – before I had a proper camara and before phone camaras were worth anything! What countries did you visit in Africa?
We went to: Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, which you can read about in our travel diaries and itineraries.
Plus Zambia is coming soon!…
Thank you for explaining the difference between mirrorless and mirror camera. As an amateur photographer, I have finally found the explanation. I appreciate your tips much and have to admit I like the most your tip No 5. To enjoy the moment is something that we often forget on a trip!
GREAT tips! Since Therese and I travel as a team for HITravelTales.com, we invariably travel with two camera bodies — I shoot a Panasonic G5 (for video primarily though it is very good at images) and she opts for a Sony 6500. We travel with tons (tonnes) of SD cards too, and an SD card wallet. In places where the internet is wonky or not reliable, the we simply stow the cards and do not wipe them. We also travel with USB drives — preferred is a Lacie 4 terabyte armored case. Every night, without fail, we backup everything we have shot to the computer and two separate drives (losing photos is a great fear). Your best advice — put the cameras and smartphone down and remember to take in what you traveled so far to see and experience.
Some great tips – especially the last one, as sometimes we’re so busy taking pics we forget to enjoy the moment !
These are some really valuable tips. I remembered a trip to Rwanda last year when I ran out of Camera memory at a critical time when I was bang in front of the Mountain Gorillas of the Volcanoes National Park. I had to fall back on my iPhone at that juncture. Good optical focal length is a must as you suggested for good pictures of the wildlife. Have been toying with going in for a mirrorless camera, but it is too expensive right now.
Those are all really useful tips. I love what you suggest about making sure your date/ti;me is local; I’d not thought of that and it makes great sense. The nightly cleardown of pics is something I always do, and it’s a great way to recap the day as well as get some space back on your memory card. My kit list is a lot shorter than yours, and you’ve given me some good ideas for what my next purchases might be. I’ve currently got a new piece of kit on loan, and am looking forward to trying it out.
Thanks for sharing wonderful tips for camera. Africa is photogenic place and yes we need to carry bigger memory for this. My camera too run out of memory and I do carry lots of memory sticks. The last tip is most important that capture from human eye- forget camera as it is the biggest memory we can keep with us.
Great tips here. A zoom like a 70-300mm is absolutely crucial for wildlife. I have never been to Africa but that lens is what I use for any wildlife photography. I love the advice about living in the moment – you want to be able to experience it with your own eyes rather than always through a camera lens. It’s easy to forget about that but I always make a habit of enjoying a new place without my camera for at least a little bit, just to really soak in the atmosphere. That way, sometimes, you also get a new perspective for how to frame your next image!
We from Africa and love Cannon! You are spot on here. Yes there is so much to see and do here so you do end up taking probably thousands of photos so you will need lots of memory saving space. Great advice!