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Thread: Suitable lens for safari pics

  1. #1

    Suitable lens for safari pics

    Hi All,

    I am new to the community and photography in general. I have a D3000 18-55mm kit and am looking to get a lens that would work for wildlife/ travel photography. The two options i am considering are Sigma 70-300mm or Nikon 55-200mm, the Nikon is at the top end of my budget. I would appreciate any advice or suggestions regarding whch to choose.



  2. #2
    rpcrowe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Southern California, USA
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    Re: Suitable lens for safari pics

    Rather than recommend individual lenses, I would strongly suggest that any photographer attempting a safari have at least two bodies.

    Being able to switch focal lengths without needing to remove the lens from your camera is not only faster but will minimize the chance of dust or other debris on your sensor...

    I would NEVER travel to any once-in-a-lifetime location (which a safari would be for me) without a backup camera. I fell during a ten day trip to Alaska's Kenai Peninsula and broke my Canon 40D. My 30D camera as a backup saved the trip for me...

    Equipment might be influenced by the area and type of safari as well as the type of vehicle (if any) in which you are riding...

    Here are some websites which can provide insight into lenses and other equipment for safari:


  3. #3
    bfkimball's Avatar
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    Sep 2010
    Yosemite National Park, CA
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    Brian Kimball

    Re: Suitable lens for safari pics

    200 is too short. 300 is OK paired with a crop sensor. From my most recent safari, 4 of my 10 favorite photos were shot with a focal length equivalent to 560mm on a 35mm camera. Fully half of these photos, all of them close-ups of animals, were beyond 200mm.

    I would suggest getting a teleconverter along with one of these lenses or just plain renting. has some decently priced options, e.g.:

    My photos:

    Not too bad for a Powershot (all I could afford, don't ask). My headaches were focusing accuracy, focusing speed, continuous shooting speed, and tons of noise at anything higher than 400 ISO.

    Get the fastest lens you can. Most safari game drives start before sunrise, come back in the late morning, and then you might have a second one that will stay out well past sunset. You will frequently need to shoot in very poor light.

    Bring a monopod. I can't see tripods being of any use inside the vehicles. You won't be allowed to stand up or move excessively.

    Don't forget to put the camera down occasionally and remind yourself that, holy moly, you're in Africa. Seriously.

  4. #4
    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
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    Re: Suitable lens for safari pics

    I did a safari in Africa about 2 years ago and carried a 70 – 300 as my longest lens on a Nikon body with 1.5x crop. I also carried a smaller zoom for general work. This was ample for the job. Most times the driver gets you so close you do not even need this.

    My lenses are not all that fast and I did have to push to ISO 800 for the first 20 minutes or so of the game drives but we really didn’t see much in that first period, it was more a case of getting out there. I generally shot with the aperture wide open to get the fastest shutter speed I could. Watch the light as the sun comes up/goes down and move the ISO up/down when you need to.

    As Brian said a tripod is useless, as you cannot get out of the vehicle. I did take one and never used it. I could have kept the legs together and used it as a monopod but didn’t even do that. There is normally a grab-bar across the back of the seat in front and I lent my camera on that. What I did find useful was an external flash. As I said we got pretty close so a good flash can help very early or late in the day. It can also help get catch lights in the eyes of the animals even on a sunny day. The first leopard I saw was after dark and we got within 30 - 40 feet of him in the vehicle. The driver used a hand help spot to show him off to everyone but no-one else got the shot because they didn’t have a flash. I also used the flash to get a cheetah and cub finishing of dinner (an impala) at sundown. Balanced fill-flash also allowed me to get a leopard cub up a tree finishing off a warthog. Flash does not worry the animals; they just think it is lightening.

    I do agree with Brain, don’t forget to put your camera down and just take it all in, its wonderful.

  5. #5

    Re: Suitable lens for safari pics

    Thanks all for the much appreciated advice. I will have a look at the various links posted. Thanks.

  6. #6
    New Member Butzy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Lower Zambezi, Zambia

    Re: Suitable lens for safari pics

    I would go for the 70-300, take a look at the Nikon with VR, as it can be hand held quite easily and is not too heavy. It will be suitable for most photography, but there will be situations where 300 mm is too short (bird photography for instance).
    If your safaris are all going to take place by car, then forget about the tripod or monopod, take a bean bag instead (or make one up while you are there).
    For walking safaris, you don't want a tripod. Too heavy to lug around, but a light monopod might be an idea.
    As for Peter's comment: I'm very surprised they let you use a flash. It can scare off the animals and cause unpredictable behaviour. They might think it is lightning, but lightning scares them as well!
    By the way: where are you going for your safari?

  7. #7

    Re: Suitable lens for safari pics

    Hi Anne-Marie,

    Thanks for the tip. I have gone for the Sigma 70-300 AF - considerably cheaper than the Nikon version. Most pf the safari will be by car, so the 300mm should suffice. We'll have to wait and see results. I will be going to Kenya - have not decided whether the safari will be in the Mara or perhaps Samburu, Tsavo.



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