Getting the balance right to choose a camera for safari can be a difficult one. How much do you want to spend and how much weight do you want to carry?
My First Safari Camera
When I went to Kenya, I had a nice little compact camera with a bit of a zoom. With that camera I was able to take some pictures that I’m proud of. This is an example of one of my favourites:
This camera is small, easy to use and didn’t get in the way too much. However, the zoom at times fell short. Also because there was only a screen and no viewfinder I often couldn’t see what I was photographing because of sun glare and most annoying I didn’t get the right exposure. I had the setting on auto, and sometimes the animals were left in the dark.
I simply love taking pictures of wildlife, and from the lovely compliments I had after that trip, I think it shone through. If you don’t have a big budget and your happy to stick with the auto setting then a point and shoot with a reasonable zoom, will get you some pictures you will enjoy.
For my next safari I wanted to be able to take some better pictures
This was the kind of things I put on my must have list:
- View finder – I knew that only having a screen is difficult with strong sunshine and much easier to compose a picture when you can see what it is you’re taking a picture of.
- Better zoom – to get closer pictures of the animals.
- Light weight – as I’m travelling I didn’t want to be carrying around a heavy camera.
- Wi-fi / NFC – I wanted to be able to transfer pictures easily to my phone. As I wasn’t taking my laptop I wanted somewhere to backup my pictures and the ability to share them easily.
- A touch screen – OK not a must have, but thought it would be nice and easier to navigate around the menus.
- Good quality pictures – who doesn’t want to have good quality.
I started to look at DSLRs. They give the best quality picture because they have a big sensor. I won’t go into detail, but the bigger the sensor the better the quality. The size of zoom lens I wanted would have taken up a lot of room, and as one of my prerequisites was size, I decided against this expensive option. Thinking if I really do get into photography I’ll look at one then.
If you already have a DSLR with long telephoto lenses (or happy to spend the money), and the extra weight won’t cause you a problem, then there really is no other choice than a DSLR. For the rest of us, there are still more options.
Compact System Camera?
Next I looked at the CSC or mirrorless cameras (not to be confused with a compact camera). As they have no mirror, they are smaller and lighter but they still have a big sensor, so quality is still high. I then discovered I’d have the same problem and expense with the zoom lens.
If you want to travel light and still have the high quality, then a CSC is probably ideal. For those of us who don’t want to spend so much money there are yet more options.
What Options Are Left?
As I’d ruled out a point and shoot camera, as I’d discovered changing settings such as ISO and shutter speed were a pain to dig deep into each menu to change them. This left with me the bridge camera option. A bridge camera (also known as a super zoom), looks a lot like a DSLR, but the lens is fixed to the body of the camera. This means there is no need to change lenses and less chance of getting dirt and dust when switching over. Whilst the sensor is smaller, and therefore the quality isn’t as good as a DSLR (but still better than a point and shoot), this has the added benefit that the lens itself doesn’t need to be as big to give you the same zoom ability.
OK, so now which bridge camera. I narrowed down my choice based on all my main requirements.
I looked at Nikon COOLPIX P900 and also saw this amazing youtube video of how far it can zoom video test on the moon. The main reason I didn’t pick it, was just the weight although there was once or twice I wished I had this camera for the zoom.
I discovered that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ330 fit all my requirements and had a superior lens than other bridge cameras. Meaning the aperture stays at 2.8 even when fully zoomed out at 600mm, allowing you to have a shallow depth of field (giving the hazy look behind my subject). I’ve been more than happy with the results and handling of this camera. I don’t know what I’d do without it!