Best Lens for an African Safari

Started Mar 9, 2010 | Discussions thread
Billx08 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,373
Re: Best Lens for an African Safari

Safari Lara wrote:

I'm traveling to Africa this fall for a safari. I've got a new DSLR Cannon xsi and would like a recommendation on a good zoom lens that isn't terrifically expensive. I have a 55-250 that isn't going to cut it. I'm also recruiting other photographers interested in a photography focused trip this fall. Either Southern Africa or Tanzania.

Canon's 70-300mm IS is a better lens than the 55-250mm, but it may not cut it either, although a high quality 2x teleconverter might help. They have drawbacks though, especially when used with lenses that don't have maximum apertures of f/4, f/2.8 or less. Thom Hogan's "African Photo Safari" article should provide you with a number of good ideas despite referencing mostly Nikon cameras and lenses, and he recommends "Photographing on Safari" by Joe McDonald. Dust can be a big problem with African safaris so it's best to minimize or eliminate lens changes. Thom has the luxury of owning lots of equipment so he can bring several bodies and lenses, which not only helps to keep out the dust but also eliminates critical time lost when lenses need to be changed quickly. In one of his recent articles he mentions a useful tip. He can keep the long lenses mounted on his DSLR(s), but instead of bringing a wide angle lens for landscape shots, he sometimes uses a small digicam, such as (IIRC) his Olympus E-P1. Even this is a fairly expensive camera, but in the bright daylight that you'd probably be shooting in most of the time for landscapes shots, much less expensive cameras such as Canon's G9, G10 or G11, Panasonic's LX3 and similar cameras would also do an excellent job (as would slightly cheaper digicams), and it would also provide a little peace of mind as a backup camera if your XSi or lens fails is dropped or fails for some other reason, which isn't all that rare an occurrence in Africa. Here's one of his non-equipment related tips :

  • Larium (the most commonly prescribed malaria preventative) has strange effects on some people. I had hallucinations and personality changes on the evening that I took my weekly pill. If you're taking the medicine correctly, you'll know that well before you get on the plane, giving your doctor a chance to prescribe an alternative.

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