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live_aloha Jun 15th, 2010 12:35 AM

camera and binocular recommendations for the amateur
I have seen some AMAZING photography on this forum, and thinking the equipment used must be over the top in quality and cost. But how about recommendations for the amateur who doesn't want to spend the big bucks for top end equipment?

I know, I know---you get what you pay for. But does anyone have any suggestions on a camera that is easy to operate, takes good pictures and is under $300.? How about binoculars? Any suggestions?

cary999 Jun 15th, 2010 01:00 AM

What do you have now in the way of cameras and binoculars, anything?

regards - tom

long2travel Jun 15th, 2010 08:08 AM

Hi elizabethj,

Unfortunately, I can't give any advice on binoculars. As a matter of fact, I need my own, so I'll be taking notes based on your responses.

As for cameras, a relative of mine just bought a Kodak Easyshare Z981 which I think would be perfect for an amateur. I personally am a Canon fan myself but I was impressed by this one. It seems to be a fairly low end camera with some great features. First, it 14MP with 26x zoom. Second, it has the fastest "burst" mode I've ever seen. It actually has a lower resolution setting (I think 8MP) to get the shots even faster. You have to see it to believe it. Last, is it's got a panoramic stitch mode that seems to work great with an assist to help you line it up. I personally have never used an auto stitch mode on any camera, I'm not even that crazy about Photoshop's version, but this seemed to work really well. The zoom, burst, and panoramic features seemed like perfect "safari" features to me. I have a Canon 20x zoom (SX10 IS) and the Kodak is noticeably lighter too. It was around $250. Again, I never thought I would consider a Kodak camera but I'm tempted by this one.

Elizabeth_S Jun 15th, 2010 10:25 AM

I took Nikon 8 x 42 ATB binocs to Africa earlier this year - they were fabulous and I am so glad I had them

I debated back and forth regarding the Nikons versus the Canon Image Stabilized model - was happy with the Nikons.

My husband loves his Sony cameras - one is a cybershot (point and shoot) and the other is the A300 (DSLR)

Axel2DP Jun 15th, 2010 11:27 AM

Remember that it's the person behind the camera that responsible for the picture ;) Simply pointing an expensive camera at a scene and clicking won't necessary give you a good photograph unless you're lucky. I've seen beautiful photographs from entry-level DSLRs that can match those taken from the more high-end DSLRs.

If you're new to photography then look into the entry level DSLRs from Nikons or Canon. They're around the $300 range. If you think you want something more portable then look into the powershot cameras that can fit in your pocket, etc.

Old_dude Jun 15th, 2010 01:53 PM

I second Axel2DPs comment. Most local photo shops have classes and are IMO worth the time and effort. Photo shops also have equipment rentals that will allow you to try various models before you invest. As for binocs, I brought my Asahi Pentax 8X40 and ended up using my wife's Bushnell 8X42 Permafocus (autofocus)(<$60.) most of the time as they were small and light. Here again, check out the sporting goods stores and try them out and see how quickly you can aquire an object across the store and get a good focus, also how steady can you hold them at your eyes. Another, for me at least, is what is the "eye relief" on the binocs. If you wear glasses a pair with a decent eye relief means you do not have to remove your glasses to use the binocs.

BTW my cameras are both older Nikon D40 (entry level) and although I did pop for a 70-300MM VR lens, not the top of the line.
You can see some of my shots at

Otis72 Jun 15th, 2010 03:41 PM

There are a number of good point&shoot digitals out there with lots of zoom. I've used both a Canon S3 and S5 with great success. As for binoculars, we've found that 7X35's are plenty and are light enough to use for extended observing. You don't need to spend a whole lot of money for something that will wear you out (Bushnell's make a good product.)

The trick is to avoid safari-through-the-camera-viewfinder, and to enjoy watching what is going on with and without binoc's. You'll have plenty of opportunities for amazing photos, let that happen as it comes.


atravelynn Jun 15th, 2010 07:20 PM

All good advice.

You could buy the 7 x 35s and be happy or read lots more here.
I have Monarch 8 x 42s and find they are great. I wanted waterproof for uses other than Africa.

I like the binocular harness as opposed to hanging them around my neck. Helps if you have any neck problems.

Those high optical zoom, Image Stabilization Point and Shoot cameras yield tremendous results. Canon, Panasonic Lumix, Sony, Olympus all have some varieties. Probably even more out there. One hint I'd give is to try the camera out to be sure you like it first, don't just order it on line. I have some Sony 12x and 15x optical zoom that are no longer sold, but work great for me. You can get higher than 15X now.

live_aloha Jun 16th, 2010 12:39 AM

WOW! You guys are great---thanks for all of your responses and information.

Guess I know what I'll be doing this weekend.

Tom---I'm pretty much starting from baseline. The camera I used on Africa trip #1 20+ years ago took some great pictures, but it's not something I would use now (have you seen Antiques Roadshow???)

On recent vacations I've opted to keep the beauty in my brain (as in no camera), but for this trip I definately want some pictures---especially after seeing what I have seen on this forum!

Thanks again to all of you..

cary999 Jun 16th, 2010 10:39 AM

"Guess I know what I'll be doing this weekend."
That's the way to decide, go look, touch and try out. Both camera and binocs.

Assuming it is a safari camera your after then you will need a 12 times (12x) or 15 times zoom lens. In 35 mm film terms that would be about at 28mm or 35mm at one end and about 400m at the other end. Many to choose from and all good. The thing to watch for and try is the viewfinder. Some don't even have a viewfinder, you hold the camera out at arms length and shoot. Those with an eye view finder are electronic finder/screens and vary in quality. You must really try them. These so called "super zoom Point and Shoot (P&S)" change model numbers every year. If your timing is right you can get the the "old" model at a good discount.

Finally as Axe12DP said it is really up to you for making a good photo. Whatever camera you choose play/use it a lot, a lot, the more the better. Do you have a PC on which to view the photos? Half the capability of digital photos is being able to make them better out of the camera. If you need a nice little program to do this on a PC, this one by IrfanView works great, -free-, allows you to crop, lighten, color correct, many things and easy too use.

regards - tom

cary999 Jun 16th, 2010 12:29 PM

If you'd like to do some research/reading on compact travel super zoom cameras, my favorite web camera site ( just did a comparison of 13 such cameras. Price range of $199-$359. Their conclusion is that most are good, some better than others in some areas such as whether outdoor or indoor light. They like the Casio Exilim FH-100 and put it on top. Anyway here's the link -

FWIW, Apparently non of these have an eye-level view finder. For all you have to look at the back to shoot.

regards - tom

crosscheck Jun 16th, 2010 02:09 PM

This is the point and shoot we took to the Galapagos (recommended by photographer/cinematographer friends). It was a little more than you want to spend, but well worth it because our photos turned out great even though we are lousy photographers. Has the eye-level view finder.

crosscheck Jun 16th, 2010 03:30 PM

Oops - just noticed that it is a good deal more than you wanted to spend. I thought we had paid less...sorry.

cmp6e Jun 16th, 2010 08:52 PM

I second the recommendation for the Canon Powershot S5 or a similar model. I considered taking a DSLR, but I climbed Kilimanjaro just before my safari, and I didn't want hike up the mountain carrying the expensive (and heavy) zoom lenses that I would need for a safari. The S5 gave me all the zoom I needed for the safari and all the convenience I needed for Kilimanjaro. It's lightweight and small enough to carry easily. It also has an impressive super macro mode, which I had lots of fun with. Objects can literally touch the lens and it will still focus on them. It's extremely convenient, easy to use, and durable. Even though I've graduated to a DSLR camera now, I'm pleased with the images I got and am so glad I selected this camera for my trip to Africa.

If you want to see some examples, I posted the pictures I took with it at the link below. Like you, I am very much an amateur, but I was pretty pleased with the results:

live_aloha Jun 18th, 2010 12:55 AM

Thanks again, to all of you who have taken the time to respond and share your experience, expertise and advise---truly appreciated!

Tom, your suggestion about "look, touch and try out" makes a lot of sense. I'll have to see what I can find---one of the drawbacks of living on an island is having less shopping options to choose from (although this can be a benefit in many ways, too).

Appreciate the web site links and everyones recommendations.

Elizabeth_S Jun 18th, 2010 04:36 AM

When you do get your new camera - someone here had a great suggestion for practice before the safari. Go to a zoo and take lots of animal pictures and evaluate the results.

atravelynn Jun 18th, 2010 06:34 AM

<b>"FWIW, Apparently non of these have an eye-level view finder. For all you have to look at the back to shoot"</b>

Using those screens in the outdoor sun is not good. Also when the camera is against your face as you look through the traditional viewfinder, that's added stability.

I believe Sony DSC HX has a view finder.

cary999 Jun 18th, 2010 09:06 AM

FWIW, don't believe the Sony DSC HX5 has an eye view finder -

I'll bet 95% of the compact P&S cameras do not have an eye-viewfinder. I simply would not enjoy using that type of camera. Even if it does have an eye electronic view finder, if you are used to an optical SLR view finder, nothing else will satisfy you. The optical SLR/DSLR is big and bright.

As they say, YMMV, obviously some people find it quite ok to hold the camera out, frame, and shoot. Whatever, you need to check it out with the real camera, real time in real life. AND OUTDOORS, that's where you safari :)

regards - tom

laurie_ann Jun 18th, 2010 09:30 AM

My husband and I debated a long time whether to just use a good point and shoot or purchase a digital SLR before our safari. (We had a DSLR before but it was stolen which is another story.) In the end we purchased a Canon elph super small point and shoot with good zoom and stabilization technology for about $300 and we could not have been happier, a. the pictures were great and b. we didn't have to lug around a bigger camera bag. You might also get some tips from this free guide to safari photography http://www.african-safari-pictures.c...otography.html

We were also very glad that we also both took very good binoculars. I don't remember what kind as we had bought them about 7 years ago for an Alaska trip but I had browsed some websites for reviews and recommendations of features to have for wildlife viewing binoculars.

TC Jun 18th, 2010 01:55 PM

I have a Pentax K-x with Pentax-DA 1:3.5-5.6 18-55mm and the Pentax-DA 1:4-5.8, 55-300mm lens. Got it to take to Tanzania on safari this past January. I LOVE it. My photos are on

Lots of discussion on the following post when tinydancer was shopping.

As for binoculars, my husband and I each bought a pair of Leupold Acadia 8x42 FOV7.5 We found them in the Bargain Cave at Cabela's. They were half price -- about $100 each. I think they are great. Very clear and good for close as well as distant objects. Light weight and easy to focus. If you have a Cabela's near you, go to the Bargain Cave and have a look.

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