Going on safari might literally be a once in a lifetime experience for most of us so you want to make the most of it.
This means having the best camera for safari and wildlife photography is essential, bonus points to make all your family and friends jealous when you get home!
However, there is a lot to consider with safari photography.
So let’s go through what I think are the best cameras for Safari in 2020, read on for tips on what to look for when buying a camera and answers to some frequently asked questions about gear.
- TOP 10 Best Cameras for Safari 2020
- How to Choose the Best Camera for Safari Photography
TOP 10 Best Cameras for Safari 2020
Review: The A7III is one of Sony’s most popular mirrorless cameras for the enthusiast/professional level. Its 24.2 Megapixel full-frame sensor is packed into a relatively lightweight frame compared to similar DSLR models.
There’s no doubt this will come in handy while you’ll be at safari with your camera in your hand non-stop. It is also a low light beast and comes with inbuilt image stabilization to help you out whilst shooting at dusk when most safari animals become active.
Overall some of the best mirrorless cameras for travel will provide great results.
- Full frame sensor.
- 4k video.
- Image stabilization.
- Great in low light.
- Poor battery life.
Canon EOS 80D
Review: If the Sony A7III is a bit out of your price range then you may be interested in the Canon 80D. It has an APS-C sensor you will drop in image quality from the A7III but the price difference probably makes it worth it.
With 24 megapixels, the image quality is still great and it still performs well in low light. Of course, being a Canon, there are a million lenses for you to choose from including relatively cheap third party lenses.
The 80D is aimed at beginners but you can also grow with it as it offers more manual controls than point and shoot systems. With a couple of lenses, this could be the best entry-level camera for safari.
- Huge lens range available.
- No built-in stabilization.
Sony RX100 IV
Review: If you are looking for an easy-to-use point and shoot camera for safari then the new RX100 IV is your best bet. It will fit right in your pocket and is still capable of 4k video and gives and optical zoom of 24 – 200mm.
Having such a compact camera will let you live the experience of being on safari instead of spending the whole time looking through a viewfinder, but the RX100 IV still produces good quality images with its 20.1 Megapixel 1-inch sensor.
It has ‘Steady shot’ which is Sony’s built-in image stabilization technology to help with camera shake and even boasts 20fps burst shooting with autofocus! This means you can take 20 photos in one second all while the camera sorts out the focus for you.
- Good zoom range.
- 4k video.
- Fast autofocus.
- Easy to use.
- Fixed lens.
- Expensive for a point and shoot.
Fuji Film X-T3
Review: Sitting firmly between the Sony RX100 IV and the Sony A7III listed above come the retro-styled Fuji Film X-T3. A mirrorless system with a 26 Megapixel APS-C sensor, it stays light and compact but doesn’t compromise on image quality.
The insanely fast burst shooting will make sure you get a good shot from moving wildlife subjects and if you are going to shoot video then you have 10 bit 4k to play with here.
There is no image stabilization, which could put some off but with the X-T3 you get a nicely affordable camera that produces great images and video.
- 30fps shooting.
- Great auto focus.
- 4K video.
- No image stabilization.
Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ1000
Review: A step up from point and shoots, the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ1000 offers an easy to use and affordable option for a safari camera.
It has 16x optical zoom, giving you an equivalent of 25 – 400mm, which is great for getting close-up wildlife shots without being eaten, and its large sensor will give you images closer in quality to the more expensive DSLR or mirrorless systems.
The only real downsides are the fixed lens, which could be limiting, and the lack of image stabilization.
- Easy to use.
- Good zoom range.
- Large sensor.
- Fixed lens.
- No image stabilization.
Canon EOS-1DX Mark II
Review: The granddaddy of Canon DSLR cameras, the 1dx Mark II is a professional level camera with a professional level price to boot.
It can shoot 14fps in burst mode allowing you to freeze time and make sure you get sharp images of fast moving objects. The 20.2 Megapixel full-frame sensor is known for its insane image quality and is why it has been at the top for years now.
The 1DX Mark II is definitely not for you if you are looking for an easy to use holiday camera but if you want to take your images to the professional level then this is the camera for you. Just don’t underestimate how big and heavy it is.
- Full frame sensor.
- Great lens selection available.
- 14fps shooting.
- 4k video.
- Very expensive.
- Also very heavy.
Sony Alpha A6000
Review: The A6000 is a few years old now but still has a place on my list, mostly because if the price. Although not technically a bridge camera, its ease of use and compactness make it what I would call the best bridge camera for safari.
It’s got fast auto focus for those quick wildlife encounters and does extremely well in low light conditions. The lens selection is always growing and you can pick up some great third party lenses, from companies like Tamron and Sigma, relatively cheaply.
I would also list the A6000 as the best option if you are going to be vlogging on safari, so it could also be listed as one of the best cameras for travel vlogging.
- Very affordable.
- Good in low light.
- Compact and light.
- No 4k video.
- Somewhat outdated.
Panasonic Lumix S1R
Review: A full-frame mirrorless camera with 47.3 Megapixels, the Panasonic S1R gives Sony and Canon a run for their money.
The coolest feature here is the ‘Multi Shot High-Resolution Mode’ which takes eight photos with small changes in the sensors angle, stitches them together, and gives you images with 187 Megapixels!
This won’t help you for wildlife shots as the camera will have to be on a tripod and the subject needs to be perfectly still, but for landscapes, it could be a very fun feature.
- 187 Megapixel images!
- 4k video at 60fps.
- Dual image stabilization.
Review: Nikon have finally come to the full-frame mirrorless table with the 45.7 Megapixel Z7. If you are a Nikon fan you may be interested and it will certainly get the job done in safari.
It features a Vibration Reduction system, effectively a built-in image stabilization, and shoots 9fps in burst mode. One downside is that it features a new lens mount, meaning a very minimal selection of lenses at least for now.
- 4k video.
- High resolution.
- Vibration Reduction built-in.
- A tad expensive.
- Only 3 native lenses available so far.
Sony Alpha 7R IV
Review: Another entry for the aspiring professionals out there, the A7R IV is the new pro-level full-frame mirrorless camera from Sony with 61 Megapixels!
This is the largest resolution in a mirrorless system at the moment; if you are looking for maximum image size and detail then this is your camera. It costs a pretty penny of course but the results speak for themselves.
It has everything you could ever want in a safari camera; image stabilization, 4k video, and 10fps burst mode. With this beast, you can return from safari and print your images the size of a billboard!
- Huge 61 Megapixel resolution images.
- 4k video.
- 10fps shooting.
- Might be overkill for beginners/enthusiasts.
How to Choose the Best Camera for Safari Photography
On safari you will have your camera in your hands a lot, not wanting to miss anything, so you will want to keep your gear light and easy to transport. You will want to have a telephoto lens which is going to weigh a lot so try and keep your camera light.
It is also important to think about your mode of travel and whether you will be able to bring a large heavy bag.
The most common mode of travel on safari is modified jeeps which you will be on along with other tourists so it will be beneficial to keep your gear light and as small as possible.
Full Frame vs Cropped Sensor
The larger Full Frame sensor cameras provide more surface area for light to hit which means more detail and better performance in low light situations.
This will, of course, come in very handy on safari but it will cost you a lot more. Cropped sensors, while lower in resolution, provide a magnified field of view which can help in telephoto photography and are also considerably lighter and smaller.
In most cases, a Full Frame camera is only necessary if you need maximum resolution (for example if you are shooting for large prints).
The first thing everyone thinks of in safari photography is telephoto lenses. You want to get those awesome National Geographic close up wildlife shots to show off to your friends and family and for that you need a long lens.
These will cost a lot of money, in some cases more than your camera itself, and are heavy to boot but the results don’t lie. If there is ever an excuse to go out and buy an expensive telephoto lens then a safari trip has got to be it.
You don’t absolutely need one of course and a wider lens can help you get safari photos showing wildlife in its habitat. You also need to take into account the amount of dust in the air on safari, changing your lens in the field give dust the opportunity to infiltrate your sensor which is bad news.
Because of this it is wise to pick something like a 70 – 300mm which gives you some versatility without having to change lenses.
Batteries and Data Storage
On safari you may be away from a power supply for long periods of time so it is important to carry enough battery power to take you through a day or two.
Imagine getting to the later part of your day and missing out on the glory shots of a pride of lions eating their kill because you ran out of battery! Spare batteries can be bought cheap or you may want to invest in one of the best portable power banks with which you can charge your batteries on the go.
This would be especially useful if you are shooting video as this will drain the battery much faster.
The other thing that could ruin your day is running out of space on your SD cards. Make sure you have at least one spare; I personally carry 4 or 5 and also have a laptop and portable hard drive with me to back up photos on the go.
SD cards come in various storage sizes and you may be tempted to buy one large capacity card but I would suggest having multiple smaller capacity cards so that if you lose one or it get damaged you don’t lose all your photos.
Frames per Second
One of the biggest challenges in safari wildlife photography is being able to capture shots while the animals move. This can be near impossible, especially with birds. To get the best chance of producing sharp images of moving wildlife you will need a fast burst rate.
This refers to the number of photos a camera can take in 1 second. Some cameras perform better than others, such as the Fuji Film X-T3 listed above which can take 30 images a second with its electronic shutter!
This will allow you to take sharp images of fast moving animals all while you are in a moving vehicle.
Weather can be unpredictable on safari, but one thing you can count on in Africa for example, is dust.
A weatherproof camera is a good idea to help protect the delicate sensor from dust and the odd surprise down pour. A rainproof case can be purchased for most cameras if you still fancy taking photos in the rain.
Another thing to consider is filters for your lenses; these will protect the front elements from dust and water and can be purchased relatively cheaply.
Do I Need a Tripod for Safari Photography?
Depending on your specific safari I would say a travel tripod is not necessary. You will spend most of your time taking photos from a vehicle and end up carrying around a tripod for no reason.
However, if you are going to be staying overnight in a tented camp a tripod could come in handy for night time shots of the stars.
Think about what you will be doing specifically that would require a tripod and then you can decide whether it is worth the extra weight in your pack.
Is 300mm Enough for Wildlife?
I would say 300mm is enough for most people. The pros will use 600mm and up to get high-quality frame-filling images but these are incredibly big, heavy, and cost thousands of dollars.
For the average amateur to enthusiast photographer 300 – 400mm will give you plenty of reach for capturing close up wildlife.
Is a GoPro Good for Safari Photos?
A GoPro is great for travel as it is so tiny you can have it on you at all times and you will never miss a moment.
Of course, if your aim is to take close up shots of wildlife then a GoPro will be pretty useless to you. It will, however, be able to take big wide landscape shots and selfies
Can I Fly My Drone on Safari?
Drones have become very popular in the last few years with companies like DJI producing pocket-sized drones capable of high-quality images and video.
Drone flying is prohibited in most national reserves as the can distress wildlife, you may be able to get permission in some game reserves but flying without permission is a big ”No No”.
If you need video then consider filming from the ground instead, and there is no doubt that the best cameras for travel video capture will provide great results.
So now you are equipped with all the info you need to decide on your camera for safari! It all comes down to budget and your desired outcome.
Let me know in the comments if I have missed your favorite camera for safari on my list!
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