Binoculars and cameras on safari

Mar 7th, 2010, 12:36 PM
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Binoculars and cameras on safari

I have been reading posts about cameras for hours. My husband and I don't even qualify as amateurs. We rarely take pictures. However, we have been informed that if we don't take a good camera on our first ever safari (in South Africa), we will regret it.

We will also regret it if we have to carry anything too heavy, or if we are so busy with the camera, it spoils the experience.

So, will any of the major brands' megazoom point and shoot do? We are most interested in good snapshots without a lot of weight. My daughter can lend us her Canon SD1000, but it is only 3x zoom.

Also, as I was reading camera posts, I came across some opinions that binocs are not even necessary on safari. We own multiple Bushnell 7x35 binocs that were a legacy from my father, a racetrack aficinado. Will these do? Should we take 1 or 2? Do I need anything?

We are leaving in one week!

Thanks, Judy
jgourdji is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:12 PM
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Do take binoculars -- one pair per person. The ones to take are the ones you are already used to and comfortable with. If you're leaving in a week, I'd say the same goes for the camera. You don't want to spend a lot of safari time learning to use it! Have a wonderful trip -- how can you miss?!!
samcat is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:22 PM
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As you have only week to go take a camera with you which is easy to handle without joining a photo class ;-)
Take yourself some time and head out do some shooting to get a feel for what the cam can do.
You should have a cam as well as bino. The latter particularly for birding. But also generally< speaking. I don't use it often on safari but I am always grateful to check here and then what's on the horizon or up in a tree.

You can spoil your experience by just watching thru a lense. But taking a pic once in a while as memory will be appreciated later on and helps memorizing the experience.

Happy travels! You will LOVE it!

spassvogel is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:31 PM
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Judy - As Samcat says, take a pair of binocs for each. If the ones you have (7X35) work properly, use them. 7X35 works fine and are not so heavy to hold up for extended periods.

The simple point-and-shoot camera you have will take some great pix. If you want to have more range, you might look at a point-and-shoot with more optical zoom (its less expensive every month it seems), but don't go into an SLR with a big wonking telephoto lens that you are unfamiliar with, it will just aggravate you. Do worry about having sufficient media to store photos and batteries (replacements or ones you can charge up). Jim.
Otis72 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:39 PM
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A pair of binocs per person is fine. What you describe is fine.

3x optical zoom is no good on safari. You'd have regrets with that.

Go to a camera or appliance store that has high end point and shoot cameras. Look for these qualifications:

--10x optical zoom or higher (you can get 15, 18 so no problem there)

--Image Stabilization (almost all have it)

--High megapixels of at least 5 (most have that)

Get someone in the store to help you and see which camera feels good. Practice some shots on automatic and plan to just use automatic otherwise you'll confuse yourself with only one week to go. The automatic will give you great stuff and you can spend more time doing what SV counsels--just looking and enjoying.

Spend as much time as you can in this last week taking shots so you become as familiar as possible with the camera.

Take the manual with you.

Take plenty of memory cards. You WILL take more photos than you could imagine. Have extra batteries. Don't know where you are coming from but the South Africa adapter (for recharging the batteries) is unique (almost in the world). Those kits that have many adapter options for worldwide travel probably don't have the SA one.

Some cameras take AA batteries so you could take quite a few and not worry about recharging, but don't remove the batteries from their original packaging. I had a problem with that once. Which cameras take AA batteries? My Sony DSC H2 does, but it is a discontinued model. There may still be some around. I love mine. The Canon high end Point and Shoots took AAs at one time.

Have a great trip.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 01:42 PM
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check this out for converters and adapters
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 05:05 AM
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I agree with the other responses. It is worth while bringing a camera with a bigger zoom, but don't upgrade to an SLR if you are not used to one.

I'd get a nice digital point-and-shoot with a 10x zoom (no lenses you have to switch!). Be sure to get it with image stabilization (although I think that is pretty standard now). If you are not used to them, I would not worry about a tripod or a beanbag.

Binoculars can be kind of tricky because the more magnification they give you, the bigger they are. You need to decide your own preference for magnification vs bulk and weight. Be sure to try them out first. If you wear glasses, be sure to get a model with 'long eye relief'. Make sure you can easily focus them -- I found that travel mates liked my binoculars better than their own even though theirs were 'better' because mine were easier to focus for some reason.

Practice with your camera before you go, too. The great thing about digital is that you don't waste film when you practice. The last camera I bought, I found that I needed to press the shutter a little more firmly and a little slower than I expected. Until the clerk at the store told me that, I thought the camera was defective!

Most things can be shot with a pure automatic setting, but there might be a couple of situations where you want to try something a little more sophisticated -- you might want to choose a couple of functions to try beforehand just in case (but feel free to ignore this if you'd rather just relax and hope for the best).

Three functions available on many decent point-and-shoots that can be useful to try manually on the camera are 'bracketing' and 'burst' and 'video' modes. Different cameras might have different names for this. Bracketing is used for tricky lighting situations. The camera automatically takes 3 pictures at slightly different settings. This is useful for example if you are taking a picture of a leopard in deep shadow under a tree on a bright day.

'Burst' mode lets you hold the shutter down and take several shots very quickly in a row -- nice if the animal is moving and you don't want to have to risk everything on hoping to get one perfect shot. You might get 8 shots in 4 seconds, for example, and then afterwards can choose the best one.

'Video' is what it sounds like -- you get a tiny little movie.

And as a non-sophisticated photographer myself, I learned a nice trick that can help you take a wonderful sunset picture.
First, point your camera at the sky, choosing a part of the sky that is medium gray. Press the shutter half-way down and hold it half-way down while you point the camera toward the sunset, then press the shutter all the way down. The reason for doing this is that it will help you get vivid sunset colors instead of their being washed out.
ann_nyc is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 05:14 PM
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You should have purcahsed that camera or be planning on getting it tomorrow.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 05:17 PM
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I agree with the comments above, but just wanted to say that even if you are somewhat disappointed with your photos you will never be disappointed with your memories. Enjoy your trip!
Leely2 is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 07:57 PM
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A relative of mine purchased a Kodak digital camera and left for Spain without ever opening the box. He called me from Madrid and asked if I knew anything about it because he could not get it to do anything, dead. I said nope, suggested he take it to a Madrid camera shop that might know something about it. He had no luck, brought it back home and turns out it was defective, DOA, as new. I'm not sure if he has ever gotten another digital camera!!!

As for binoculars, I simply don't like to use them and neither does Carolyn. Maybe it is because we also wear glasses?? But I can understand them required to identify birds, etc.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Mar 9th, 2010, 02:37 AM
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You might want to try the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 or if in Europe TZ7. I'm going on my first Safari in August and bought this camera at a great price $219 USD (was on sale). The positives are as follows:
12x Optical Zoom
10.1 Megapixels
HD movies (at 720p)
Intelligent Auto Focus and many special modes
"stereo" sound
Most important is that you can use the Optical zoom while in movie mode (I don't believe other cameras allow you to Optical Zoom in movie mode) and there is an easy one touch movie start/stop button.

Not too many manual options
Proprietary battery (just buy extra)

I've been using this camera the last few weeks and photos and video are great and I'm extremely happy with this camera that I feel like a sales person for Panasonic as I want to recommend to all.

Also, a few days ago I purchased Panasonic's latest Blu Ray Player BD65 and I can take my SDHC from the camera and place directly in SD slot on player and my movies go directly from camera to my HDTV. I must say I'm impressed by Panasonic and I'm generally a Canon camera person and my HDTV's and Laptops are all Sony, but for now I love my new camera and it was at an incredible price. A new model is coming out soon, but it will be a few hundred dollars more and for me it will not be worth the few extra features.
Good luck and enjoy your safari.
nycjv is offline  
Mar 9th, 2010, 08:36 AM
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Some more on the Panasonic ZS3 -
Panasonic has lots of choices, not to mention Sony and Canon.

Note ZS3 does not have a viewfinder, you hold the camera out and use the back screen for shooting. May work fine for you but not for me. Typical of many cameras now so if important to you, check for it. Also, that zooming while in movie mode is not unique, many cameras can do that.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Mar 9th, 2010, 09:16 AM
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Another vote for the Panasonic ZS3. I just bought it for my trip to South Africa next month. So far, the pictures and videos I have taken have turned out amazing. The price is really good too. Jump on it!
mcbg1 is offline  
Mar 9th, 2010, 04:04 PM
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I COULD NOT FUNCTION WITHOUT A VIEWFINDER. The caps are intentional. Screen on the back of the camera only? Wouldn't even consider it.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 9th, 2010, 04:23 PM
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The LCD screen on the ZS3 has double the pixels of most cameras so is much better and has automated features that assist with the screen brightness. I was also like you and thought I couldn't live without a viewfinder, but I found it hard to find anything in a compact camera that had everything I wanted so I had to forgo the viewfinder and so far all has worked out well.

It is true that many cameras may zoom in video mode, however if you're looking for a compact megazoom camera (and not a video camera), you will only be able to zoom in with digital zoom and not optical zoom which is of a much higher standard. I always turn off the digital zoom as it is inferior to Optical. Currently Canon, Sony or Nikon do not have a compact megazoom camera that has Optical Zoom while in video mode and somehow Panasonic is the only one that has perfected in compact megazoom camera. I really wanted to find a Canon but decided on the Panasonic because of the Optical Zoom in Video mode which I feel is essential for a safari. Another bonus with this camera is the lens is a Leica lens which is one of the best.

I've researched this extensively on the internet and talked to the experts at B&H Video in New York and they were very impressed with what Panasonic has put together and how they outsmarted the other companies with this feature that is lacking in most compact megazooms.

The next few months most camera companies will be coming out with new models so hopefully they'll catch up with Panasonic with this option in compact megazoom models.
nycjv is offline  
Mar 9th, 2010, 06:22 PM
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Do you do most of your photography outdoors, maybe midday near the equator?

I have not seen the new megazoom and may have to take a look at it or through it, as the case may be.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 10th, 2010, 02:02 AM
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The photos and video I've taken so far are in New York and on a trip to visit family in Napa Valley which are not along the equator! I used camera mostly outside and a nice video of 2 feet in central park when we recently had 2 feet of of very bright white snow and some inside with my sister's new lab. All turned out great and again the LCD has worked fine everytime I've used the camera.

I understand your concern with the LCD as my last camera I had to search very hard to find a camera that had a viewfinder and finally settled on the Canon SD850 for an ultra compact. Only challenge with the Canon camera is that it is only 4x zoom and video is sketchy and not HD so that is why I bought the Panasonic. Hopefully you can visit a camera store and check out the various options.
nycjv is offline  
Mar 11th, 2010, 01:32 AM
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I just want to add that for my tastes, the more zoom the better. So I use a camera with 18x optical zoom (can go up to 32x optical for lower resolutions) and on top of that I may add two teleconverters, 1.7x and 1.5x, for a total zoom of 46x. With such magnification and VERY good light, it is possible to take good handheld pics. When the light conditions are not very favourable you have to use a tripod/monopod or lower the magnification.

If you go to Kruger I think you will appreciate the higher magnification. But you have to practice before your safari, and birds are very useful for practice. I suppose you do have birds where you are
micmic is offline  
Mar 11th, 2010, 02:09 AM
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mm - do you have any photo examples on web that you've taken at 46x?

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Mar 11th, 2010, 03:38 PM
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A trip to the camera store is exactly what I'll need and good advice before buying any camera.

46x? That's almost laughable in a warp speed sort of way!
atravelynn is offline  

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