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Wondering what camera to take on safari? Here’s everything you need to know.

A camera should be top of your safari packing list. Capturing photos of the animals you spot on safari is all part of the fun, but also a great way to keep those magical memories forever.

Taking good safari photos – and potentially one that you would hang on your wall – starts with having the right camera equipment. 

But what makes a good safari camera? And how can you choose the best camera for safari photography for you?

We’re going to cover everything you need to know about finding the best safari camera in this post.

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THE BEST SAFARI CAMERA FOR EVERY BUDGET
 

 

Do you need a good camera for safari?

You’re probably wondering if you need a “good” camera to take great safari photos. 

While you don’t need to splurge on a top of the range camera, your phone won’t cut it. I’ve seen lots of people try to take safari photos on their phone – and it’s never ended well. 

On safari, the animals are nearly always too far away to take a great phone shot.


RELATED READ: 8 types of safari you need to experience!


Wildlife photography is ones of the trickiest types of photography. That doesn’t mean an amateur can’t take great photos – I’ve seen some incredible wildlife photos taken by brand new photographers. 

But having the right camera gear will certainly help you get the shot. A camera will mean you can capture movement and work with the tricky frames you’re often dealt while on safari. Things like picking out camouflaged animals, often hidden behind layers of foliage, is far easier with a camera that’s made for the job.

 

 

Woman taking photos on a telephoto lens and Canon DSLR camera on safari
Ready for a safari in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa

What to look for in a safari camera

A good camera is a travel essential for me. If you don’t yet have a quality camera, your safari trip is a great excuse to invest in one! You’ll wonder how you ever travelled without one… 

Choosing one can be tricky, though. If you want a camera that will take good photos without breaking the bank, it’s going to be a balancing act.

There are certain features you definitely need, and others that will make your safari photography much easier (and better!).

Here’s what to look for when choosing a camera for safari:

 

 

 

Frame rate

The frame rate of a camera is the number of frames it can take per second. You’ll probably see it written as FPS (Frames Per Second).

For wildlife photography, the more frames per second the camera takes, the better. Wildlife can be unpredictable and a high frame rate gives you more chances to get the shot – especially when an animal is moving quickly!

I’ve shot wildlife photography on cameras that have everything from 4FPS to 6FPS. You can get higher, but there’s really no need if you’re not planning on becoming a professional. 

Sensor 

The sensor is the part of the camera that picks up light and turns it into the image you see. 

You don’t need the best sensor to capture great safari photos, but a good sensor will make it easier to focus well and pick up details. If you’re hoping to print your safari photos, that might be something to keep in mind.


TRAVEL TIP: A canvas print from Hello Canvas can make a great gift.


Durability

One of the most important things to look for in a camera you plan to travel with is durability. 

That goes for pretty much any destination – from the Icelandic winter to the Amazon jungle – but especially on safari.

At the very least, you’ll want to make sure your camera is dust- and shock-proof. If you can get one that’s fully weather-sealed, even better.

Lenses available 

The lens is nearly always more important the camera. All camera brands offer a wide selection of lenses, but some are far more expensive than others. 

When choosing a camera, it’s a good idea to research the lenses first. For safari, you’ll generally want around 400mm.
 

 

taking safari photos on a dslr camera out of a car window
You usually have to stay on designated tracks when on safari, so a long lens is crucial.

How to choose the best safari camera 

Now you know what to look for in a safari camera, that still leaves a LOT of options. Here are some more ways to choose the best camera for you.

Budget 

Budget is one of the most important things to keep in mind when buying a camera for safari. 

Again, don’t just look at the price of the camera body – check the lenses, too. It’s always better to go for a more budget-friendly camera if you can then afford a better lens.


TRAVEL TIP: If you’re travelling with camera gear, make sure it’s protected! I detailed everything you need to know about insuring your camera gear for travel in this post.


Weight 

Depending on where you’re going on safari, you might have luggage restrictions to keep in mind.

Some safaris involve small flights which are strict on hand luggage allowance. If you’re going to be taking any internal flights, make sure you check what you’re allowed. 

Even if you have no luggage restrictions, you might want to keep the weight in mind. 

Lifting a heavy telephoto can get pretty tiring, especially if you’re not used to it! Make sure you’re comfortable carrying the camera and lens you choose, and holding onto it for hours at a time.
 

 

 

Ease of use

If you’re new to photography and don’t have much time to learn, it might not be a good idea to pack a pro camera.

Even though it has the potential to take better wildlife photos, you won’t get much out of it if you don’t know how to work it. In fact, it could end up making it much harder for you to capture photos that you love!

If you have the time to learn and you’re serious about photography, by all means go ahead and choose a more professional model. Otherwise, consider sticking to the beginner favourites. 

Rent or buy?

If you’re not planning on going on safari more than once, it might be better to rent a lens in the destination.

Not only will you avoid having to lug it around the airport, but you’ll save a bunch of money. You’ll also be able to choose a better lens for your safari trip.
 

 

The best cameras for safari and wildlife

Now you have a good idea of what you’re looking for, here are some good safari cameras to consider. 

Best point and shoot camera for safari

The Canon PowerShot SX740 HS isn’t just one of the best cameras for safari, but for travel in general.

If you want a camera that you’ll take on other adventures long after your safari, it’s a great option. Click here to check out my full review and see some sample images.

The Canon PowerShot SX740 HS is pocket-sized but made photographers who want to zoom. Since it’s a compact camera, there’s no need to change lenses. All you need is this one camera!

The main downside of this camera is the lack of RAW images. If you don’t know what that means, though, there’s a good chance you won’t need it.

CHECK THE PRICE


Canon PowerShot SX740 HS-7
The Canon PowerShot SX740 HS is a powerful little camera with lots of zoom.

Best mirrorless camera for safari

Mirrorless cameras are my favourite type of camera to use for wildlife photography. They have lots of little features that make capturing wildlife much easier!

Perhaps the most useful feature of all is manual focus peaking. This allows you to highlight and select the areas of an image that are in focus with the lens ring. That means you can make sure you’re capturing the animal rather than the bush or foliage around it.

Many mirrorless cameras also have eye tracking, which can be useful for making sure the right part of the animal is in focus. 

I shoot most of my wildlife photography on the Canon EOS RP, a mirrorless full frame camera. I absolutely love it because it offers great value for money and is impossible to beat for the price. 

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Close up of the Canon EOS RP Mirrorless Camera with 50mm lens


Best DSLR for safari

With the progress mirrorless cameras have made in recent years, there’s really no need for a DSLR camera any more. 

If you want the absolute best camera you can buy, though, the Canon 1DX is the camera of choice for many wildlife photographers. 

The Canon 5D comes in a close second and was my camera of choice last time I shot wildlife in Africa. It’s a great, versatile camera for safari photography, with lots of great lens option.

It’s also a great option if you’re serious about photography and willing to carry the extra weight.

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Woman taking photos on a telephoto lens and Canon DSLR camera on safari
The Canon 5D is the camera I’ve used on most of my African safaris

Other useful camera equipment to take on safari

Once you’ve chosen your safari camera, don’t forget the other bits! Your safari camera kit will probably include the following:   

A telephoto lens

If you only take one lens on safari, make it a telephoto one. 

If you’re shooting on a full frame camera, you’ll want 200mm as a bare minimum. If you’re going on a jungle safari, you can double that to 400mm. 

If you’re shooting on a crop sensor camera, you can get away with a little less lens. Aim for at least 150mm on an African safari or 300mm on a jungle safari

My favourite lens for safari is the Canon 100-400mm but the Sigma 100-400mm is a great budget option.


READ NEXT: What to wear on an African safari


A tripod

Unless you’re shooting with a heavy lens – such as the Canon 600mm – you probably won’t need a tripod.  

You may still want to bring one, though, especially if you’re planning on a night safari. 

I rarely use a tripod on safari, but sometimes take the monopod leg. My 3 Legged Thing Leo travel tripod has a detachable leg that’s great for getting a little extra stability – and avoiding a tired arm! – on safari.

A large SD card

You’ll take far more photos than you think you will on safari! Make sure you have a large SD card – or several SD cards – so you never run out of space.

I recommend having at least 16GB of storage per day when shooting wildlife. That’s 112GB for a one-week trip!

I only ever use SanDisk SD cards because I know I can trust them. When I’m on safari, I take a couple of 128GB SD cards so I can shoot without worry.


RELATED READ: All the camera gear I travel with.


Spare batteries 

Storage isn’t the only thing you’ll whizz through on safari – your batteries will get used up quickly too! 

Make sure you have at least a few batteries on safari, especially if you’re going wild camping at any point and won’t have anywhere to recharge.

It’s always best to buy the branded batteries, but I also have a few off-brand ones as back-ups. Just make sure you check the battery size before you buy!


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HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST CAMERA GEAR FOR SAFARI