Digital SLR vs Digital Super-Zoom Cameras on Safari - Digital Photography School

Digital SLR vs Digital Super-Zoom Cameras on Safari

Digital SLR vs Digital Super-Zoom Cameras on Safari.jpg

In the past I have worked as a safari guide in South Africa and during that time, not only did I have many opportunities to take great wildlife photos, but many of my guests would come out to Africa with the latest photographic equipment. Apart from my interest in wildlife and the outdoors, I am also a keen amateur photographer and so as well as the wildlife, also take a keen interest in the cameras that would come out on safari with us!

Of the many types of cameras, the most popular amongst guests who wanted to take quality wildlife photos were either Digital SLR cameras or Digital Super-zooms. My personal preference for a camera specifically for safari holidays is the Super-zoom and I have written an article on what I believe to be the best digital camera for safari and travel on my Safari Holiday Guide website and yes, it is a Super-zoom, but why a Super-zoom and not a SLR camera?

First let’s take a look at the main characteristics of each type of camera:

Super-zooms

A Super-zoom camera main characteristic is it’s a very long zoom range, at least 10x or greater. The lenses are attached to the body of the camera and cannot be removed. While traditionally bulkier and heavier than compact cameras as the technology improves, manufacturers continue to design them to be smaller and lighter. Using lightweight parts there are some that now weigh as little as 14 ounces (about 400g).

SLRs

SLRs, the largest and heaviest type of digital camera. The offer the most versatility and power as well as interchangeable lenses and will come with a million features including: instant start-up, minimal shutter lag for fast, continuous shooting, a large image sensor, RAW images, and excellent battery life. The new digitalSLRs now also have the best features from the compact digital cameras incorporated into them including on screen help guides and real-time or “live view” framing on the LCD screen rather than only through the viewfinder.

There is no denying that Single-lens reflex cameras are more serious cameras, with the ability to capture fast action or produce high quality images from the most demanding light conditions, so why then do I recommend a Super-zoom digital camera as a safari or travel camera?

Size and Weight

Professional photographers will always use SLR cameras, but you must remember that this is their job, they are not going on holiday! A good camera for any holiday should be as small and light as possible. Not only for your luggage allowance on the flights, but also remember as a tourist anywhere in the world, you are a target and there may be times that you would like to conceal the fact that you are carrying around a very expensive piece of equipment. Whilst bigger and heavier than a compact digital camera, Super-zooms are much more compact than a SLR with a reasonable telephoto lens attached to it. On a safari holiday, I would also highly recommend you take a good pair of binoculars and possibly some wildlife books, it just makes sense to have a camera that is as small as possible without sacrificing picture quality too much.

Cost

Even though your guide will do their best to get you in and as close to the wildlife as possible and you may even sometimes wish you as close to that elephant bull as he ambles past your vehicle. Most of the time you will be taking photos at maximum zoom. Not only do Super-zooms continue to get smaller and lighter, but their zooms continue to get stronger. For example the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 has an impressive 18x zoom, equivalent to 504mm. To achieve this on a SLR will require a very expensive telephoto lens and that is not including the fact that the body of good qualitySLR’s, whilst getting cheaper, could not be described as cheap. The chances are nothing will happen, but the odds increase when you go traveling that your camera could get damaged, lost or stolen and so I would also use this rule of thumb when going on holiday: never travel with anything you can’t afford to loose.

To Summarize:

If you are a professional photographer or just want to get the ultimate quality photographs, no matter the cost, size or weight then an SLR with a big telephoto lens is the way to go. If however you main intention is to go on holiday and take some excellent photographs along the way, I would go for a quality Super-zoom camera.

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Jason Whitehead was born and grew up in Zimbabwe, he currently lives in the UK working on SEO and web site marketing projects. Passionate about wildlife, travel and a keen wildlife and bird photographer, he is a qualified Field Guide (safari guide) and has worked on safari lodges in South Africa. He owns and runs the Safari Holiday Guide, the Best Binocular Reviews and the Beach Holiday Guide that keep him behind a desk most of the time, but is always looking for an excuse to get back into the bush.

  • Alex

    I’ve missed so many good shots when I had P&S just because it was too dark or too bright or it couldn’t focus too fast or because I had to spend minutes trying to set appropriate setting, so when I got dslr it was like day and night difference, yes p&s is more convenient to carry around and you can probably make more pictures just because of this and shooting in the bright day will give you almost the same result as with dslr so it all comes to the question whether you even need dslr?, do you need the possibility it can give you? is photography you hobby or you just like shooting family gatherings? and if talking about traveling how often do you travel and what do you do there, do you relax on the beach or explore unseen? because if you have dslr what is the point of leaving it at home when you travel to the places you never been before and where you can make pictures you can’t make anywhere else in the world?

  • PASCAL Philippe

    Nice article…when ppl read it from beginning to the end :D

    I think most ppl don’t understand the : “never travel with anything you can’t afford to loose”
    And the fact that you NEED to change lens to obtain what bridge can offer without it.

    Are you ready to swap lens in the middle of anywhere ?
    Not me, because if i kill a lens or a DSLR sensor, i can’t buy it again.

    I got an FZ38 second hand for 150 euros and i can bring it anywhere.
    Are you ready to do it with a full DSLR set (body + 2 lenses at least) and be prepared to loose it partially or fully ?
    Not me.

  • http://thenerdyrobot.com/get-wireless-with-a-bluetooth-keyboard/ Kassie

    Good site you have here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!

Some older comments

  • Kassie

    August 16, 2013 11:15 pm

    Good site you have here.. It's hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!

  • PASCAL Philippe

    February 22, 2012 05:06 am

    Nice article...when ppl read it from beginning to the end :D

    I think most ppl don't understand the : "never travel with anything you can’t afford to loose"
    And the fact that you NEED to change lens to obtain what bridge can offer without it.

    Are you ready to swap lens in the middle of anywhere ?
    Not me, because if i kill a lens or a DSLR sensor, i can't buy it again.

    I got an FZ38 second hand for 150 euros and i can bring it anywhere.
    Are you ready to do it with a full DSLR set (body + 2 lenses at least) and be prepared to loose it partially or fully ?
    Not me.

  • Alex

    June 6, 2011 12:34 pm

    I've missed so many good shots when I had P&S just because it was too dark or too bright or it couldn't focus too fast or because I had to spend minutes trying to set appropriate setting, so when I got dslr it was like day and night difference, yes p&s is more convenient to carry around and you can probably make more pictures just because of this and shooting in the bright day will give you almost the same result as with dslr so it all comes to the question whether you even need dslr?, do you need the possibility it can give you? is photography you hobby or you just like shooting family gatherings? and if talking about traveling how often do you travel and what do you do there, do you relax on the beach or explore unseen? because if you have dslr what is the point of leaving it at home when you travel to the places you never been before and where you can make pictures you can't make anywhere else in the world?

  • Daos

    May 19, 2011 09:06 am

    Thanks for nice article, Jason.

    I have no my own SLR yet but I know myself well to predict: if I go travel I will prefer lightweight super-zoom over bulk and heavy SLR w/ telephoto lens.

    I think who comments here "SLR have higher quality image" and so on - just photo-snobs. Who argue medium format have higher image quality than full-frame? Full frame - higher than APS. APS - higher than four thirds. It is obvious. But imagine 800mm F4 medium format lens ;) Even mid-sized telescopes will lost somewhere in shade of such lens. And imagine tripod for such setup. But from snob's point of view it will "rulez" and any other (including full frame!) will just "sucks".
    I believe photos taken with cheap point-and-shoot camera which always in my pocket if far better than photos from professional grade $10K+ camera which I leave in heavy box in my home :)
    I hate photos taken with mobile phones but even such photos is better than words "my SLR could take really cool photo if it were here".
    One of my friends have super-zoom Kodak P850 (while my camera is compact Fuji F11) and my camera really sucks when I try to photo birds or other relatively small objects from distance above 10m. But in fact I have more bird photos just because my camera always with me!
    Even if I buy SLR it probably will never shoot as many photos as my pocket-size camera... Most beautiful shots I take when I was least ready for them. So many beautiful moments of life I had no camera in my hand. What a point in SLR instant shooting ability if it have cap-closed lens or it covered in bag because of its fragile?

  • Gowri

    April 30, 2010 03:17 am

    I do agree with most of the points. I own a super zoom camera (Canon SX1 IS) and also a Nikon D90. Although the p&s offers better zoom capabilities, convenience of carrying and relatively good video recording, the DSLRs simply beat them hands down on performance. DSLRs are better for spontaneous photography as opposed to p&s cams. DSLRs offer superior performance with very quick AF.
    However, P&S offer an unassuming look as we need not be much wary of carrying a highly expensive and fragile equipment (well, compared to DSLRs).
    As I own both of them, I would really leave the decision of which one to carry for that moment weighing the options equally.
    Note: I do appreciate you sincere attempt in bringing out the advantages of super zoon bridge cameras against DSLRs.

  • jamie h

    February 25, 2010 10:32 am

    Thank you so much for finally writing a post that lists the advantages of a Super Zoom over a DSLR! I am a huge advocate for Super Zooms over DSLRs for those who simply want to take good photographs of the things around them (ie. their kids). Everyone out there seems to think they need a DSLR but when I talk to a lot of my photography friends they actually carry a P&S camera for every day use! Thank you for being one of the few people that recommend Super Zooms!

  • Fredshome

    September 23, 2009 10:02 pm

    To Thomas just above,

    first, I am so jealous because I'd love to do this ;)

    Second I've been to Africa a few times, I'll go back soon to Ethiopia to go see the volcanoes and the animals. My first post was a quickie so I'll elaborate here.

    I've been a (kind of admittedly weird because I never got along with the industry, ad and TV) image professional for a lot of my life, but I've never made a living with photography (of course like a number of people here I'd like to, but there's no market and weddings really aren't my thing).

    Anyway, I'm really into "the right gear for the right task", but I certainly wouldn't overdo it. And nowadays there are a number of bridge cameras (or superzooms since some like to call them that) that are definitely good enough. (I mostly take nature photos, I still haven't figured out why, but I can't take portraits worth a damn... I've started to work on it... with no discernible result so far). So If you want to go with that, it's probably a valid choice, depending on what the images are for.

    On the other hand, I know that on my camera, I default to aperture priority because it lets me control depth of field easily, and Pentax's "green button" lets me switch to auto mode in a pinch (and I can change speed with the back wheel anyway). This lets me control what *kind* of image I want to take which IMO is in part what makes the difference between a vacation snapshot and a photographer's image. Of course this is a very personal POV so each person will have to figure it out on his/her own. Experimentation with as wide as possible a range of hardware is the best way to find what you're comfortable with.

    IMO, you need two cameras. One for wildlife, one for "street" photography. Although you didn't really say what your interest was (or your lens set), one would tend to use a SLR body in the wild (a stabilised one like the Sony would do fine with the right lenses), and something smaller in villages or cities (a bridge or compact).

    You definitely need a backup (if your bridge can double for wildlife, it's certainly better, since your SLR is the most fragile), because you will *not* find service in the field. You will need at least two batteries (or sets) for each of your cameras because power sources can be hard to find. You will need a laptop (or dedicated "dump drive" to dump your data to because you certainly won't find any spare flash cards (well, you will, but good luck to you if you try using them).

    Now I don't know how familiar you are with Africa (subsaharian). You'll meet lots of awfully nice people who will go way out of their way to be agreeable to you, as long as you are just a regular nice person (just make sure you're more or less current on the local do's and don't, although they'll be tolerant on account on your being foreign). You'll meet a lot of extremely poor (by western standard) people. In places you'll meet some actually *starving* people. As in "I don't have the strength to chase the flies from my eyes" starving.

    In any case do *not* give money (except to the village chief if you have been properly introduced). Presents are fine (recommended really although their nature depends on the location) if you visit people. To children that will pester you, pens, bottles, notebooks, *never* money. If you want to, find a local non profit thingie and give money to *them*.

    Sorry, I strayed a bit...

    In short. My ideal hardware for Africa would be my Pentax SLR (and assorted lens) plus some sort of G-series Canon compact (I've tried numerous compacts and I'm *very* partial to those). Beyond that, you *absolutely* need a PC (any kind of laptop, PC, a fruity one, whatever, they're all the same), or a portable disk to dump your cards into. Remember that you will *not* find any kind of broadband (above 28K, it's broadband in the bush) link to backup your images. Y'ou'll be able to upload a few pics to a blog, sure, but something like a backup is right out.

    Remember to check with your insurance company if your camera(s) and your lens(es) (and all the assorted hardware crap that we all carry along side) are covered.

    And get your shots. And go see a doc beforehand to get what you might need in the bush (trust me, I'm the type that kind of dismisses doctors it but being unable to walk because of a bug caught in the bush because of a *scratch* I had in Paris was kind of weird). And no, you won't find it there.

    And I know reading this was kind of alarmist. But you'll have lots of fun. Lots. And you'll take great pics. And you'll have great stories to tell.
    You'll love it (well, maybe you won't love the continent, it *is* kind of weird), but you *will* love the experience.

    And You'll want to do it again.

    Trust me.

  • Thomas Dönnebrink

    September 23, 2009 05:47 pm

    Hi Jason,

    your article popped up as search result when I typed in: import Lumix DMC-FZ18 pics in iphoto '09 into Google.

    I loved to read your article and the many responses it received - a quick thanks to you Jason and the other folks. - I do agree with Jason . i have traveled quite a bit and found it more and more inconvenient (and sometimes kind of inappropriate in a social or cultural way or context) to carry around a big SLR equipment and having to change the lenses often (or at least I feel inclined to do so since I spent some money to buy different ones). So for the consideration of the trade-off between best quality and price, weight, convenience there can also be this social component interesting. Trying to say: everything that helps to reduce handling and worrying about the equipment leaves more time for and a better focus on the stuff you are trying to shoot, be it wild game, landscape, local people, events etc. So trying to get more involved personally and mentally into the environment you are in - be it in the bush, among people or in an event - and trying to grasp the spirit, getting a better understanding or a closer contact might also improve the possibility (or occasion) to take a better shot, even with a less quality equipment.

    Which equipment or mix of equipment to take for my next big trip - just started to plan a year-long across Africa trip - most likely with a LandRover all the way overland. - is an important question for me at the moment. Safari and shooting animals (with the camera, of course) will be an important part of the journey, but just one among others - like meeting travelers, expats and especially local people, seeing the countries and understanding the culture and society about which I would like to report (via pictures, small videos and articles).

    Suggestions from you guys are highly welcomed concerning choice and mix of equipment. Given the fact that I will be traveling with my own car (LandRover) I guess I will stick to rhermans suggestion to take a
    a) DSLR (Currently I have a Sony Alpha 100)
    b) compact superzoom (Currently I have Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18)
    c) back-up (Currently I Panasonic Lumix FZ5)
    And take out (and carry) concerning the occasion and event.
    But, as necessary and as affordable I would like to upgrade on the equipment. For the intentions I have camera a) and b) need to have the feature to write the GPS data into the picture. So recommendations or insights of you are HIGHLY WELCOMED

    Thanks and greetings to you all
    Thomas

  • Mark Thompson

    August 31, 2009 02:33 am

    Great article - thanks Jason (and everyone else who has contributed).

    As you know, having been on one of our safaris to The Gambia in December 2007, I run an adventure & wildlife safari holiday company - Hidden Gambia Holidays. I've just returned from the British Birdwatching Fair last weekend where I was trying to weigh up the merits of buying a good superzoom vs. SLR.

    Your article has helped sway me towards the former, specifically the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 which has received some great reviews. Whilst I'm sure the purists are correct that SLRs have some benefits over superzooms, portability & cost are important factors for me. And I'm sure the improved video handling will come in handy. At £245 - it seems like a good purchase to me!

    PS. Good to see you're still on top of the SEO game - well done!

  • Lorraine

    May 15, 2009 11:17 pm

    Thanks again douglasec, your insight is very much appreciated.

  • douglasec

    May 15, 2009 11:04 am

    Lorraine - just personal experience - I got 2 brands of cards for a recent trip to VietNam and formatted one of each in the camera, but the other two were recognized by the camera and seemed fine so I didn't bother (not that I was trying to experiment, I was just in a rush to pack) - I could shoot and see the photos on the display in JPEG+RAW on my Canon XS with all of them, but when it came time to import them, the ones i had NOT formatted in the camera had all corrupt RAW files (but luckily the JPEGs were all OK) but the shots from the camera-formatted cards transferred fine in both JPEG and RAW - when I reformatted the "bad" cards in the camera, they worked with RAW, too. So I'm not sure why that happened, but I'm now a believer that you format IN THE CAMERA at least once when you first get the cards. After that the format should stay consistent if you just erase photos, but I've also heard from others that the cards are more reliable if you format them once in a while anyway. The camera companies all use the same types of cards, BUT they apparently come differently organized from what some of the cameras need to see to work correctly.

  • Lorraine

    May 15, 2009 06:52 am

    Thanks so much for all the great info and advice. I have been trying to get through all the features by reading the manual but there's nothing like in the field training. Would prefer not to be learning in Africa so I have taking photos everyday and may even take a trip to the Central Park Zoo just for more practice. The various features of this camera will keep me busy for a long time (i have not read anything about that self leveling feature - something I really need - that fabulous!) I've already gotten 2 extra batteries (replacements but supposedly of good quality) and I have the polarizer along with the lens brush. Probably going to take it down to the wire on the final decision about the extender. I just don't want to have any regrets once I am there. I am curious though about douglasec's comment about the memory cards. I am planning to bring 4 new 2gig cards and I will also have a few more that have dispensible photos on them - my question is about "formatting" the cards. I have actually never done that before. It never seemed necessary. Is there a reason/advantage?

  • douglasec

    May 12, 2009 06:28 pm

    That's an impressive page showing the teleconverters (30x!), and sometimes if you need one of those lens adapters (like I do on my Canon) it also gives you a place to thread on filters and also keeps the dust out of the extending lens assembly (big problem on some Canons, anyway - error E13). Better get used to holding your breath and using that beanbag (or tripod if you're lucky) except in full daylight, if you're using 30x much. Burst mode can be good here, too, to make sure you get at least one sharp shot, and I set my camera on "stabilize on shoot" instead of constant IS - seems to stabilize better on the Canons, anyway. I had always historically tried to avoid teleconverters and tele-extenders, because in my antediluvian days they sacrificed edge contrast and sharpness and often a stop or more of exposure as well. Maybe all that has now been overcome (I hope), but it might be worth looking for a lens test on ANY extra optics you're thinking of adding, not to mention the camera's built-in lens (though you don't have any real options there, it can at least alert you to your lens' strengths and weaknesses; for instance, if it's sharpest at f8, you could try to use aperture priority to keep it there as much as possible.

  • Jason

    May 12, 2009 03:21 pm

    Lorraine,

    I recently bought the Olympus 1.7x Tele Conversion Lens (TCON-17) for my Panasonic - which not only works great but is cheaper than the Panasonic version.

    I have written an article on it with some sample photos that I recently took whilst on Safari in Zimbabwe that you may wish to look at here:

    Telephoto Conversion Lenses for the Panasonic DMC-FZ28 Digital Camera

    I hope this helps.

  • douglasec

    May 12, 2009 11:06 am

    Frankly, the FZ28 should be a GREAT camera for safari WITHOUT an extender, and especially an off-brand one which might compromise the very good quality of the built-in lens. You'd be much better off just framing in as close as you can (18x will hardly ever be too little!) and doing a crop in Photoshop (or Elements or Picasa or Lightroom or iPhoto or Aperture) as necessary after the fact. Since you have that 18X zoom AND you can do 30fps HD video if I recall correctly, you might not even need a camcorder for those action moments (I'd bring LOTS of memory cards if you do, however, and remember to format EACH of them in your camera before use). Check the online reviews for how the noise increases at higher ISO speeds and keep that in mind when choosing exposures. As I mentioned in an earlier post, many camps get you close enough where even a superzoom is actually more than you'll need for most shots, so check by email with them before you leave and prepare accordingly. And the FZ28 has pretty great wide angle capability compared to most superzooms for those "up close and TOO personal" moments. Extra batteries are a must, check online at Amazon or even eBay as well as the usual camera sites and you should be able to track some down, and remember to check on your camp's policies on game drives and AC availability. You can get hundreds of shots (more without flash and if you turn off your display when you can) so one spare each day is usually sufficient. And get ready to use burst mode and video mode on that little wonder - no time for reading the manual in the Land Rover when the time comes! Keep tthe backup batteries charged as possible; i found some charge fine but self-discharge a LOT faster than I'd like, so even if it was charged before you left for the trip, don't make any assumptions that it still has a full charge if you don't top it up along the way. Your camera even has "self-leveling" of the images so you don't have to watch the horizon as carefully when you're being charged by that elephant! A great small versatile camera choice for safari (remember to check lens cleanliness often and have a lens brush in all that dust, though, or a 1A filter or polarizer if it takes filters).

  • Lorraine

    May 12, 2009 02:51 am

    This is such great news since my friend and I both just purchased a Lumix fz28 for our African Safari at the end of May 2009. Unfortunately, we are having trouble (understatement) purchasing the 1.7x extender - it seems Panasonic has it on back order and NO ONE has it in stock either in New York City or anywhere on the web!!! Even the proprietary batteries (we bought 2 extra generic) are out of stock everywhere - (I called Panasonic and complained to no avail). We are praying someone will get this equipment in before we leave - although without having much time to play with the lens who knows if it will be worth it. I am crazy into photography and this is a huge dissappointment to me. One website recommeded a Rayox 2.2x lens they say is compatible but I never heard of it or this company so I was afraid to take a chance. What do you think?

  • Alex

    February 27, 2009 04:53 pm

    Funny article, why not use mobile phone, it is always with you after all?
    Or it can even be easier - Internet is full of nice safari images with such quality that you will never be able to shoot, just download them and enjoy.

  • Berta Cavness

    February 23, 2009 03:05 am

    Haven't you already posted this? I'm sure I've seen it before.

  • douglasec

    February 15, 2009 05:22 am

    Oh, and obviously if you get a vest, shop for one that actually holds useful camera stuff rather than fishing hooks! There are photo vests (for a high price) but I found one at a local sporting shop that worked well for about $30 (even if I didn't use the hook holders)! Don't count on them for SLR camera bodies or tripods (maybe a gorillapod) or even extra SLR lenses, but maybe batteries and memory and filters and beanbags, maybe a flash, and perhaps your Panasonic (take it along when you look for one).

  • douglasec

    February 15, 2009 05:15 am

    My main use of the vest was to circumvent the onerous luggage limits to the remote game parks by hiding lots of camera accessories (and their weight) in the pockets and secondarily to keep everything easily accessible in a Land Rover where you're stuck for 4-5 hours at a time with no opportunity to get supplies from your luggage. Also, being in Southern Africa in the winter, the vest actually provided a little warmth for those pre-dawn drives! Alaska's a different story, you might want to invest in some mosquito netting that hangs from your hat! Most of Alaska is mountainous coastline so there aren't too many places with easy hikes. Juneau's glacier is an exception, and walking around Sitka or Ketchikan is mostly flat, but that's why so many coastal towns don't have roads to connect to the rest of the world! Skagway does connect by road and has some lovely meadows, ponds and flowers up by the Canadian border a few miles (uphill) out of town. If you go to Glacier Bay or any of the glacier faces you'll need a VERY wide angle or need to learn how to use the panoramic "stitching" mode and take multiple photos that overlap. Many Panasonics have a much better wide angle than most point and shoots, it might be enough, but some of those glacier faces go on for miles! Zoom is great for bears and eagles (check the local garbage dumps if you want to see tons of eagles). And be ready for some whales if you're lucky on the cruise - always keep your camera with you! We got 2 nights of aurora borealis by luck - good time to try your tripod or high ISO but ships DO rock a little so long exposures are trouble. Ask the crew to call you even in the middle of the night if the aurora shows up or they'll let you sleep! In Vancouver, Stanley Park is a nice level walk and the aquarium is really good and the UBC botanical gardens south of town are nice. Check out Granville island just a few hundred yards across the water from downtown (take the aquabus or drive over a bridge) which has a great farmer's market for an ad hoc meal and some artist studios and theatre spaces. Don't forget the DEET!

  • Davey

    February 15, 2009 01:47 am

    Jason,
    Douglasec spoke of purchasing a fisherman's vest to wear his camera gear on the trip with the extreme luggage weight limit. I've recently purchased a "Sportsman's" vest, and have been using it locally... my question is what are your thoughts on this/these.

    Since I just found out that I may have an opportunity to "safari" in Alaska(!) this summer and I already have the same panasonic camera you do...is there anything else you might recomend? Remember that unlike most of the young spry folks I will definitely be doing this safari-style in that I am not physically mobile to be taking long hikes in the "outback' of Denali,

    The good news--I automatically get the front seat next to the driver--my long suffering spouse who is gentle and kind about my hobby/obsession. (He's noticed I'm much nicer to be with when I'm doing something rather than sitting... :)

    Further, at least part of this proposed adventure will be on a cruise ship where I'm told the vistas and shots are also amazing.

    Also I am not totally immobile but basically I need to be taking fairly unadventurous hikes of no more than an hour--in length-- (I can do an hour there and back--with minimal ill effects... if we go slow... after that... it starts to dramatically impact what I'm able to do the following days in that my back starts to lock up on me making it difficult for me to walk or even sit up for long periods...

    Jason, I don't know if you (or anyone else) has taken this kind of trip (Vancouver to Ancharage with a week in and around Anchorage... but if you find this to be semi-relevant please consider responding... :)

  • Jason

    February 14, 2009 08:01 am

    douglasec: I pretty much agree with everything that you are saying and I do think we agree that the most important point is to talk to the lodge and the guide about your needs as a photographer before and during your safari to get the most from it.

    This discussion has prompted me to create a page on my Safari Holiday Guide website on Safari Holiday Tips for Photographers based on many of the points that you and others have raised, so thanks very much.

  • douglasec

    February 13, 2009 04:56 pm

    I certainly didn't mean to disparage the guides at all, all the ones I encountered did a great job finding animals (and crushing random saplings), but when you know you'll be giving them a nice tip at the END of your stay, it just shows your good intentions and trust in them to offer it ahead of time, so as not to make a guessing game out of it as you depart (assuming you planned to give the same anyway). The response shouldn't be "i'll do whatever you want," but maybe more like "OK, I see you're excited about photography as a special way of experiencing this, so I'll try to stay at a location until you've gotten the shot you wanted successfully." Just talking to them about your interests could (and probably should) accomplish the same goal, but for that one-time-only encounter where it's a judgment call, it couldn't hurt! My safaris were with family and I was the designated photographer, so they didn't want me going out without them, they wanted the photos to help bring back OUR collective memories of the experience, so a second drive (which was never offered anyway) wouldn't have helped if they weren't along. And, honestly, if you did take out a special drive afterwards just for the photographers, wouldn't you expect some acknowledgement of that extra effort when time for tips came around? It's a great thing to have done, but it's extra time and effort for you and should be rewarded appropriately, whether it's profuse thanks or sending photos or a gift or a larger tip or a recommendation. I do NOT recommend or even suggest trying to bribe your way into whatever you want in preference to the other passengers, though camps should try to group people by family or interests (or bladder control) anyway. It's tough to know how well different camps achieve this without "interviews" before vehicle assignment, but that's one more reason to ask before you book a camp just how these things get arranged. At least the guys who show up with 12 pounds of camera bags and two pounds of clothing can be counted on to share some interest in certain angles and lighting and proximity. One of our drivers went around a pond at my request so I could catch a photo of a herd of zebras reflected in the water; it was visually stunning and everyone enjoyed all the black and white ripples, but at some level it was still a photo (or at least visual) request, so it was nice to have a friendly relationship in my favor. It's not always easy to tell if the driver or guide has any visual sense of what works best for photos, so a little direction can sometimes do wonders (although subservient to safety issues, of course). And I was ALWAYS on those pre-dawn drives (not that I remember being given a choice, but after the first pre-dawn drive I was hooked)! They're great (if sometimes a little chilly)! And, yes, some of our guides were perfectly happy to return quite a bit earlier (like right after sunset) to give people a "chance to rest before dinner," while others stayed out with spotlights to find some nocturnal creatures long after dark. Guess it depends on the camp and the particular guide, and that's hard to foresee. We often had both a tracker/guide and a driver, but it usually seemed that the driver called the shots as to when was "enough," though the tracker/guide provided sightings and information; the drivers always spoke English and usually had the radios, and the guides/trackers were often local and non-English speaking and had everything translated by the drivers. In those cases it would have been very hard to express a particular interest to the guide but easy to discuss with the drivers who would then translate as necessary. If both spoke English, it would be easier and maybe some camps plan things that way, but it only happened once or twice in 3 countries for us, so the driver ended up being our advocate by default. YMMV (Your Masai May Vary)

  • Jason

    February 13, 2009 03:51 pm

    douglasec: I think you have some excellent points there, pretty much all I would agree with apart from giving the "nice tip to the driver at the start of your time in a camp"

    I think most Field Guides would rather not be called drivers after spending hours and hours in the bush learning animal behaviour and hours and hours with the books learning the theory including things like the latin names of many of the mammals, reptiles, birds and plants around you. Then there are the things like rifle handling, as well as the good people skills that you need to work on a lodge. If you go on Safari to photograph many many potentially dangerous animals and all the person who has your life in their hands is a driver, I would be worried. So you should also check with the lodge that you plan to stay at if their feild guides are fully qualified. Unfortunately there are many lodges, especially in Kenya that if you say you like wildlife... you can become a "Safari Guide"

    Second point: I really don't think a serious Field Guide need to be bribed with a tip to "stay at a particular sighting, and even how long to stay out before packing it in on each drive, and sitting right behind him can be the best way to make your desires known quietly." I personally would probably take offence to it. Any good guide knows that their job is to make the guests stay at the lodge as enjoyable as possible - and this means all guests, even the ones who don't use a camera!
    What should happen if there is a potential problem with serious photographers wanting to stay longer at particular sightings that may bore the casual wildlife observers, is a good lodge with enough resources would split you up and take you out on safari separately. If there are not enough vehicles or guides, I would either arrange at dinner for the serious wildlife viewers to come out with me really early in the morning as this is when most of the game is active, the light is better in the mornings and when most casual wildlife observers would rather stay in bed and rise to a leisurely cup tea in bed. If this is not enough I have even accommodated photographers before by once the morning game drive is over, going out again, just with them to go and see what we can photograph together. If you guide has an interest (and he should) he should gladly do it - I know I would as for me these are the best game drives, when you know you are going out with a person who enjoys something as much as you do.

  • douglasec

    February 13, 2009 09:13 am

    To clarify, once you get past the battery/memory/optical zoom/spot meter/ potential lack of AC recharging for days issue, don't forget to check out the game-following practices of the specific camps you're thinking of; how many in a Land Rover, do they go off-road to follow game, do they communicate with other drivers to help everyone find the "good stuff" and then patiently wait so everyone gets a chance to sit quietly and experience the presence of the animals (and get some good shots). A nice tip to the driver at the start of your time in a camp can be of particular use in affecting his judgement of how long to stay at a particular sighting, and even how long to stay out before packing it in on each drive, and sitting right behind him can be the best way to make your desires known quietly.
    Luggage can be a big issue; we had 70 lb limits on luggage to South Africa (now down to 50 in economy on most airlines) which is fine for those SA camps, BUT we had a 14 pound single soft-sided luggage limit flying the puddle-jumpers into Botswana and the Okavango Delta, and those bags got stomped into any available crevice in the plane, so you wouldn't want your DSLR in there! I ended up buying a fishing vest and squirreling away all my camera stuff in the pockets with just the camera in a small bag (and they weighed that bag to add to the luggage total, BTW). We were going on to Zimbabwe afterwards (farmers were being booted out of their farms the weekend we were there and the black market exchange rate was orders of magnitude better than the "official" rate) though currently I'd recommend Zambia instead just for safety (still a great view of the falls from that side) so that 14 pounds had to cover us until returning to Johannesburg where we had arranged to leave all our other luggage at the airport "left luggage" office before the Botswana/Zimbabwe flights. If we hadn't been routed back through that same airport before our flight home it would have been VERY difficult to arrange what to do about the rest of our luggage!
    So:
    1) Investigate your camps and their game policies (and land rover occupancy - 4 or 5 is good)
    2) Find out the airline luggage "bottlenecks" getting to the remote camps and plan to deal with overweight luggage
    3) Take the least you can get away with (a superzoom, UV filter that can be really cleaned each day, some spare AAs, Memory, a charger, a beanbag)
    4) If you've bought new equipment, PRACTICE on it a lot before the trip so it becomes automatic - a safari is a lousy learning environment when you screw up and wish you'd known better - there will be once-in-a-lifetime shots you will otherwise miss, and you don't want your memory of the experience to be trying to get the camera to work!
    5) Don't forget the VIDEO function of many cameras as an option to taking a separate camcorder (with it's own set of "batteries/ chargers/ tapes/ cases/ fumbling/ can't use both at once" issues, but allow extra memory cards if you do as video is a memory hog. Some Canon superzooms allow you to zoom while doing video thanks to a quiet USM in the lens; many cameras don't (even my S2IS did 640x480 in stereo with adjustable mic level and wind filter and zoom during video and photos during video too!)
    6) Turn OFF all noises (startup, focus, shutter) from the camera to avoid angering those wild animals sitting next to you in the Land Rover (i.e. your fellow passengers)
    7) Factor in some wide-angle binoculars (image-stabilized if you can afford it, but Nikon makes some really sharp 8x40s for under $100 if that's out of budget) and if you love birds, you MUST go to the Okavango Delta camps. The Big 5 you can get in a day or two at Mala Mala and still keep all your luggage and have A/C and also AC!
    8) Our summer is Africa's winter (and dry season) - lower heat is a very nice thing in an open Land Rover, and dry conditions force the game to gather around the few remaining water sources so they're easy to spot.
    9) Enjoy the benefits of all that planning ahead with a relaxed safari!

  • Alexander Dombroff

    February 13, 2009 05:11 am

    who did use the name Alexander Dombroff over here ? is that a real name

  • Quinten

    February 8, 2009 06:57 pm

    I think that if you do not have a camera and doing a safari that a superzoom is great, or else you must invest in a 400+ lens, not a cheap exercise. A lot of the game is just too far for standard kit, and you could be very dissapointed. It would cost me a kidney as well as an arm to upgrade my kit to DSLR and get the same results.

  • KAD Imaging

    February 8, 2009 02:18 pm

    With today's bridge (aka super-zoom) digicams, the only "true" difference is lens flexibility and higher ISO performance. Speed, control, fps, megapixels are all pretty much on the level with the exception of the "super dslrs like the MarkIII & D3.

    I own a Panasonic Fz20 which has a 36-436mm F2.8 Leica Vario Elmarit lens with IS. Even with a lower end dslr body like the 510, covering 36 to 436mm in IS lenses will easier cost several $1000!! If your not shooting in total darkness or need to print 24 x 36 prints, a solid bridge unit like the Panasonic FZ series or the Fuji S series will serve you fine.

  • Sandra

    February 7, 2009 12:43 pm

    I agree 100% Tracey. I have never thought it was the camera but the person behind the camera that determines how a photo will turn out. Just because some of us don't own dslr cameras doesn't mean we can't make decent photos.

  • tracey

    February 7, 2009 08:15 am

    I have digital superzoom - Panasonic Lumix FZ28 - Wow!! Easy to use, light, incredible camera...who needs dslr?? :) maybe one day but for now I love what this baby does! Its still new so still playing with it....and probably always will...
    I've taken pics on fz2 that people have thought were on dslr.....its about how you use it...

  • Jeremy

    February 5, 2009 11:59 pm

    Thanks for the article. It's very interesting. I tend to prefer SLR but in a safari the advantage if a super zoom that first comes to mind is the fact that you get less dust entering your camera, especially if you need to change lenses.

  • Fred Albrecht

    February 5, 2009 10:10 pm

    This is an interesting topic to me since wildlife is my main subject when I'm out shooting and I've been in the wild in Africa on several occasions.

    So once I figured out what a "superzoom" was (a bridge), I was able to factor that into my thoughts.

    Basically there are two cases. Either you want to enjoy a safari and see stuff or you go there to take photos like the maniac you secretly are.

    On a safari, you will typically be in some sort of vehicle that will hold between 4 and 8 people that will be standing and looking around through an open roof. Your driver (possibly assisted by a guide or just doubling as one) will take you to a number of places in the bush where various critters are currently located and where you (and the others in your vehicle) can shoot to your heart's content.

    Most of the animals in the areas that you will be touring are used to those vehicles moving around and consider them more or less like part of the scenery. So they aren't especially afraid of them, meaning you can get quite close, even to some herbivores which are usually quite twitchy. Some other large animals might feel that their personal space is invaded when you get to close so you'll only get to see them at a reasonable distance, or when they happen to pass in front of you (like elephants). Your guide is used to this, he will do his best to get as close as possible while keeping you safe. Of course you'll always stay in the vehicle. Remember that you are a valuable source of proteins and that you don't run very fast compared to a random antelope. Always listen to the guide, he knows better than you do.

    Now the problem with being packed with a number of other people, is that you're part of a packaged tour and just get to see what you're shown. Which in most cases is just fine really. However, if you want to spend an extra hour looking at some beastie, you can just forget about it. Because the others want to get a move on and aren't interested in a weird looking bird.

    However, you *will* get some nice pictures. They will just be random and you'll have to make the most out of your equipment (you won't always have time to figure out how to get the perfect shot). Therefore, a bridge can be a good solution since they are nowadays of decent quality even if you let them make most of the work.

    Second case : You want to take *pictures*.

    There's only one way to do this : You rent your guide and your car (no, no park will let you go on your own). Then you'll be able to go out before dawn. You'll be able to track a leopard, etc. In short, you'll be able to take your time, a thing a group of tourists are woefully short of. Of course, you'll have to spend a bit more...

    Or you can go in other areas (like in Madagascar to go shoot lemurs) and do it all by yourself at your own speed.

    Regarding equipment, it's all a matter of budget. You'll need some kind of wide lens for landscapes (consider getting a polarising filter), possibly a wide zoom like a 10-20 or maybe something more versatile in the 15-50 range. After that a the ubiquitous 70-200 f/2.8 is always extremely useful. Then you'll need some sort of long lens. This depends a lot on your budget. From the Sigma "Bigma" 50-500 (cheap but surprisingly good) to a 500 f/4 (expensive but *really* good) or a 300 f/2.8 with an extender, it all depends on how much money you want to waste invest.

    Oh, and if you're on foot, get that camo scarf. It comes in handy every now and then. And if it doesn't, it'll protect you from the sun. Or make you look cool at the bar. Or something.

  • douglasec

    February 5, 2009 04:56 pm

    Most safari shooting is from a vehicle where size and immediate availability of the camera count for a lot. When I went to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe a six years back the DSLRs were still too expensive, so I ended up with a Minolta film SLR with 2 zooms and my Powershot S10 (2Mp, 2x) as a backup. Dirt and dust were constantly flying around the Land Rover, so I always dreaded changing lenses except inside a bag I carried. Many if not most of the good shots were at dawn and dusk, though the light was constantly changing, and a spot meter was almost necessary with the contrast of the sun and shadows. My other issue at the time was that the digital Canon took a proprietary battery that needed its own 120v charger, and battery life was poor compared to today's cameras, and there was no guarantee of AC for recharging at a lot of the safari camps; many ran on generators ONLY while safaris were out just to charge their own camp batteries for evening lights so as not to disturb the peaceful setting once the guests returned, and it was tough to get someone to add my charger into the mix and hope it was enough of a charge before the generator was cut off. So SLR won just for the number of days I could go without AC; I could afford a backup set of lithiums for that camera. Carrying loads of film through all the security was a different issue, but ASA200 seemed to survive and be fast enough for most dim shots with a moderately fast (f4-5.6) telephoto. A zipped sack full of beans from the camp kitchen provided a perfect improvised base for the camera on the land rover's edges; I would have preferred image stabilization (not around at that time).
    So, if I were doing it today, I'd look at the superzooms for a number of reasons. I'd want long zoom, low noise at higher ASA, a hot shoe for a coupled flash, spot metering, and long battery life with the ability to use AA NiMH cells for easy recharging or substituting AA alkaline cells just in case my charger blew up in the Okavango Delta. The Canons fit this profile well, from the S5IS on to the new SX models. Just prefocus with the spot meter engaged and triple-shot turned on with IS at time of shooting. The one thing the new Panasonics seem to have is a wider lens for those camps where you drive right up to the animals (i.e. Mala Mala, a private camp, rather than Kruger, a national park). There are no fences between them, so it's the same animals, but Kruger restricts you to the roads where the game may be 1/4 mile away, while Mala Mala is next door and has land rovers smashing around off-road all day getting right next to the animals. This alone could make the difference for your photos! If I were in Kruger I never would have had a long enough lens for most of the sightings there, especially adding in the dawn/dusk lighting demands and my lack of IS. Instead I sometimes wished I had a real wide angle, but couldn't change on a moment's notice in the vehicle, like when a lepoard used our truck as cover while stalking an Okampi and was about a foot away and I had to maintain absolute silence. Practice pre-trip where you can make adjustments while watching the game, and always have spare film/memory/batteries! You can't go back and take most of those shots ever again! Then back up the cards to CD or DVD as possible (many countries offer this now, I even saw it in Vietnam a few weeks ago). And format your cards IN the camera if you use RAW - I lost all my RAW Canon SX shots from Vietnam because I forgot this step - they showed in the camera and imported but were all corrupt - glad I saved as JPEG + RAW! At least the JPEGS work, but travel and jet lag can screw up the best laid photos, er, plans!

  • ddd

    February 5, 2009 10:55 am

    Olympus E-520 or even smaller E-420 will great with 70-300. You've got amazing 600mm! With 500-series (E-520) you've also have an IS.

  • Samuel Bangura

    February 5, 2009 05:38 am

    How would an Olympus E-520 DSLR fair?

  • NormMonkey

    February 3, 2009 12:51 am

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) "10x" zoom means nothing unless you know the focal lengths to compare to your other options. I have a 10x zoom that goes from 20mm to 200mm (35mm equiv.) but my dSLR came with two kit lenses: one goes from 100mm to 400mm (35mm equiv.). That's a 4x zoom lens but it has a much longer "reach" than my 10x zoom camera.

    To compare options it's easiest to convert to 35mm. equivalent, which eliminates differences in sensor size from your comparison.

    2) For dSLR users, if you want that long reach but don't want to fork over big dough for a really long lens, consider teleconvertors. Typically found in 1.4x and 2.0x, they can significantly increase your "reach" at a cost of 1-2 stops of light.

    NOTE: If you're going to be shooting at dawn/dusk, that 1-2 stops might be really important to you. Also consider whether your lens or body has image stabilization. Most common cause of suckage on long-zoom shots is camera shake due to not being able to achieve a fast enough shutter speed (which in turn is due to lack of light b/c long lenses (a) need lots and (b) have relatively small apertures).

    Lastly, when shooting from a safari vehicle, a pillow, beanbag or folded up sweater on the window frame makes a good rest for your camera/lens to reduce or eliminate shake. Wise users will attach a rope or string so that their makeshift support doesn't fall out and land in a pile of muck :)

    Whether or not you'll be carrying a super-zoom or a dSLR, consider a tripod. Your equipment might have image stabilization, but NOTHING beats the stabilization of a shot properly taken from a steady tripod.

  • chudez

    February 2, 2009 06:08 pm

    i can appreciate the sentiment behind this post; yes, superzoom P&S cameras offer great "bang for buck". i own a DLSR and i know there are times when you just want to take pressure free snapshots and a superzoom gives a lot of flexibility as long as you don't ask too much from it.

    it's when you start wanting to do more that a DSLR starts showing it's value. i went to Singapore's Night Safari with a P&S and all i had were grainy, ISO 800 pics because flash photography was strictly forbidden. i also had trouble capturing the action at the Jurong Bird Park -- a swooping eagle can be hard to chase with a P&S stuck at F/4.5.

    a fast lens, usable high ISOs and noise reduction gives DSLRs a LOT more flexibility and more shooting opportunities. with that said, these are just tools. it's using them properly that counts.

  • Alejandro Z.

    February 2, 2009 08:19 am

    Davey: If it works for you, then great. I made some of my favorite shots on a Powershot A540 (which is seriously outclassed by superzooms). It's not about the camera, after all, but the shots.

  • Ryan

    February 2, 2009 06:11 am

    There is also the option of renting a lens for a specific trip.

    I've heard good things about lensrentals.com, though I have not personally used them.

  • Davey

    February 2, 2009 05:12 am

    @Louie... :)

    I agree... if I were buying now (instead of early 2008) I would seriously be considering the cannon he listed. (Although it has some of the same indoor issues as the one I have!) I might also consider the Panasonic FZ-28 as the focal length is comparable (a bit shorter) but the 10mp could help with some pixelation/noise issues at the long end of the lens. :) Though the canon does shoot HD video it may not have a raw setting... (if memory serves...) also I accidentally lied about the filters on the FZ18--they are 46 mm and I found them from a California located photo shop on e-bay fairly inexpensively. (They also seemed to be more widely available overseas).

    Another thing that I didn't mention--I have recently purchased a "Sportsman's vest" As I am now a 2-3xl sized guy... I couldn't get a photo vest at a reasonable type price. So in the big and tall catalog I get I found a khaki colored sportsman's vest which is lightweight and holds all my memory cards, batteries, chargers, filter. mini-tripod etc. I bought a larger than my size 4xlt (yes I have the shoulders for it!) so that I can wear my camera securely under it when not in use--I even have room for my two mp3 players (one for tunes and one for podcasts) it saves me a carry-on at the airport, and lets me have all my electronica with me. :)

    @Alejandro-- :) I agree with you as well--if I already owned a dslr I would have chosen my lenses carefully and gone with it. :) But since I didn't have one and was choosing something entirely new... and I shouldn't carry large bags (although wearing the equivalent of one doesn't seem to hurt) b/c of my back isssues. Physiologically I don't think I could manage a safari.. (I had enough trouble with the plane ride and the Road to Hana going to HI! ) but a lot of you are younger, svelter and more spry than I :) (Which is good!)

  • Alejandro Z.

    February 2, 2009 03:31 am

    While I like the superzoom design, I'd rather take an SLR. Why?

    1) I already own an SLR, like most of DPS readers. I wouldn't buy a special safari camera for a once in a lifetime event.
    2) Even the EF 75-300 (one of Canon's lowest IQ lenses) has better IQ on a DSLR than a superzoom, while giving you 480mm effective focal length. Cheap telephotos + cropped sensors = REALLY fun lens.
    3) Speed. Faster and better AF. No shutter lag. You need those for good animal pics.
    4) Handling. I don't see the problem with a small DSLR in the wild. I've taken mine (EOS 450D) for long hikes, and I definitely didn't care about weight. My biggest concern with large cameras is the possibility of them being stolen, which I don't see happening in a safari.

    Sure, if I were BUYING a camera for safari pics, I might choose a superzoom. But since I already own a decent camera, I'd just rather spend the same money in a good lens for safari pics.

  • Jason

    February 1, 2009 07:53 pm

    PPUsa: I cannot speak for the Canon PowerShot S3 as I have never used it, but If I am not mistaken, it was released in February 2006. Before using the Panasonic Lumix FZ-18, I had the even older Canon PowerShot Pro90 IS, which like you I often missed vital shots due to the slow auto focus.

    Super-Zoom cameras have come a long way since then and the autofocus on the Panasonic Lumix is excellent, take a look at these Photographs of The Gambia taken with it - including mid air photographs of the fast moving Pygmy Sunbird.

  • louie

    February 1, 2009 05:45 pm

    you should try out Canon Powershot SX10 IS and SX1 IS. with 20x super zoom and the latter with HD video recording! check out all the reviews in youtube :)

  • Jason

    February 1, 2009 03:13 pm

    I don't disagree that DSLR's take better quality pictures (in the right hands!) and on the whole are better cameras but as frenzy says "a Canon 1000D with a 55-250 IS, with less than 400 euro you have a 400mm zoom equivalent"

    A Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 Super-Zoom costs around £190 / $270 (210 euro) - so almost half the price as the Cannon 1000D and with a bigger 510mm zoom equivalent and I reckon the photos that I can take with it are not less than half the quality of the DSLR - so therefore it is better value for money. All this and I haven't even taken into account the size and weight difference, which for me is a real factor on how much you enjoy your holiday as I would highly recommend that you have binoculars and bird / mammal books with you on both walking and vehicle safaris and so weight and size are vital.

  • Davey

    February 1, 2009 01:44 pm

    I have this camera! :) (Panasonic fz-18) I bought it because I had the opportunity to go on a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel with family to Hawaii. When I read all the reviews of the different cameras and put them in my hands it was the most comfortable and had the best combination of all the needed features. Frankly, I was just guessing. Read the reviews about it... they are all correct--the strengths of its outdoor features and the weaknesses it has in low light--especially indoors without a tripod.

    Well... It was a really really really good guess!!! :)

    I'm pleased to say that for me (A guy with a really bad back and some other mobility limitations) for whom traveling light is always a better way to go... this thing is wonderful--I was even able to get filters for it!!! (47 or 49mm):)

    I have shots that my brother in law with his much more expensive dslr set up (which is wonderful in it's own right) couldn't get because I was set and ready to go where he would have to fuss fiddle and THEN focus.. where I could just kind of fiddle focus and shoot or set it in auto and just shoot! :) I have some wonderful landscapes.. and great shots out the car window.. fantastic surfing shots, extreme close-ups of tropical flowers, sunsets that you wouldn't believe, and amazing architectural shots (the wide angle kicks it!).

    I have a series of 3 shots of a waterfall that I'm standing a mile a way from that shows it as a little white line in the midst of a group of trees, a medium shot of the waterfall from a much closer distance and then shots of the swimmers in the pool below that while in soft focus would be identifiable to their family.

    Another nice thing about this camera was that when I wear it across my chest and when not in use, it fits nicely under my arm.. When you wear a light jacket or safari vest over it or (in Hawaii) an open-buttoned aloha-wear masterpiece over a t-shirt suddenly your medium sized camera isn't terribly conspicuous.

    I also shot my first and to date only wedding outdoors with this camera. (I'm not a professional photographer but the tips here were very useful!!!). The professional photographer had all the wonderful posed shots, and I had about 1000 candids from the that I was able to put in digital frame which was the wedding gift. But what was wonderful was that I had wide angle and close-ups that the bride and groom loved, and I was able to stay out of the way well enough that the professional photographer wasn't bothered by me. They had photos for the after-reception party at their home to show everyone and they were pleased that I had close-ups of all of the relatives and folks that weren't posed--because I was 50-100 feet away.

    The point... :) This camera has helped do something that years with a counselor couldn't... It's given me a stress release and hobby that has nothing to do with my work. ;) And I've gotten some da*n fine shots. :)

    And I haven't even started to try to learn raw photography... YET! :)

  • PPusa

    February 1, 2009 09:40 am

    I used a super zoom (Canon PowerShot S3) on a safari and when I got home I bought myself a DSLR (Canon 40D). I missed several safari shots due to slow auto-focus and I got too many blurry shots on situations where I always get acceptable results with my 40D. The difference between the cameras is so huge that I really regret going with the S3.

    Like frenzy said, after the introduction of Canon 1000D (or even 400D) I see very little point of getting a super zoom for a safari. To get good results with a super zoom you really need to understand how the camera works and what are its limitations. Once someone gains that knowledge, she is probably going to buy a DSLR anyway.

    When you are on a safari, the size of the DSLR is not an issue. When you are in a city and want to keep a low profile, you need a smaller camera than a super zoom.

  • rhermans

    February 1, 2009 06:38 am

    My last point and shoot I bought was a superzoom (panasonic fz5) and I really like that camera.
    Still use it for places where I can't carry a dslr in, just as Sadra I've carried it to concerts.
    But I would find it very hard not to take a dslr with me to a safari.
    With the current superzoom lenses available for dslr's I would take one of those + the dslr with me, (and the pana fz5 as backup).

  • Dude

    February 1, 2009 04:10 am

    Dude, why don't u just bring your DSLR with a SuperZoom lens?

  • Frenzy

    February 1, 2009 03:53 am

    With crop-sensors this is not so true, take for example a Canon 1000D with a 55-250 IS, with less than 400 euro you have a 400mm zoom equivalent with 4 stop stabilization and all the advantages of a DSLR (first of all NO shutter LAG which i think is quite useful in safari stuff) and all the kit is pretty light also.

  • DailyTrains

    February 1, 2009 03:25 am

    I think SLR's are the best way to go. If you are going on safari, you might as well take the best camera you can to take good quality shots.

  • Photography

    February 1, 2009 02:51 am

    Thanks for the tip. I think that most people would choose the smaller camera, just because of the size/weight. However, a Nikon D40 with a decent lens is not too heavy itself, and might be a suitable dSLR to take.

  • Sandra

    February 1, 2009 02:44 am

    I am so happy to finally see an article written about the advantages of using a super-zoom camera over a DSLR in certain situations. DSLR's are great and I admit I would love to own one, but there are times when a DSLR would not be practical. I have noticed where tickets for different venues allow no recording equipment and only small personal cameras. I take that to mean only point and shoot cameras are allowed. My trusty Olympus SP-560 UZ has been with me to a major music festival and several other concerts. I have taken many great photographs from less than perfect seats at these venues. Also, I don't think a bulky DSLR would have been easy to carry after about 8 hours of sightseeing on many of my vacations.

  • Alexander Dombroff

    February 1, 2009 02:06 am

    Thanks for the tips Jason, I've never even considered a super-zoom. I've always used my DSLR and love it. I don't think spending the extra money would be worth the cost. I'd rather put part of that money towards a nice lens.
    - Alexander Dombroff

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