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Digital cameras you are considering for upcoming safari???

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Feb 6th, 2005, 07:42 AM
  #1
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Digital cameras you are considering for upcoming safari???

I was just wondering which cameras other Fodorites are considering for their next safari?

My Sony F707 served me well for my short time at Singita in 2002 and while at Vuyatela in 2003, both in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, as well as for my non safari pictures in South Africa and Chile.

However, the camera, despite being 5.0 megapixel with like a 5x optical zoom, is really hit and miss while on safari in Zambia where the animals do not usually pose for you and smile when you say "cheese," as they have been taught to do in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

I am willing to spend up to about $1,500 with all accessories, including sufficient memory chips...$2,000 maximum. I want something that is very user-friendly and I am not interested in changing lenses. While not wanting to change lenses bay cost me some panoramic type shots, I am willing to sacrifice such photos.

If I see a leopard and it is 25 meters away, I still want to be able to take a nice photograph. Plus, I don't how many eagles, owls and interesting birds I have come across where I have not been able to take a quality photo. Plus, a good camera would REALLY help with the hippos, as any sane person will not get too close to a hippo. While I got some decent shots last year at Kaingo in South Luangwa, they would have been showcase quality had I possessed a better camera.

Anybody have any recommendations? Also, is there anybody knowledgable enough to tell me if there is any really great camera scheduled to come out in the next 3 - 4 months that is worth waiting for its debut? Although I don't leave until the end of August, this time I really would like to practice a little, as these trips are TOO EXPENSIVE to come home with more bad photographs than good photographs.

Thanks (and again, user-friendliness is key).
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Feb 6th, 2005, 08:44 AM
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We like our Nikon D70 and took it on our 2 month trip to Africa as well as to Antarctica.

But for a number of reasons decided to move to Canon for long term. Yesterday we bought the Canon 20D after a long period of thought and research.

Both are SLRs and aren't cheap but are worthwhile if you are willing to learn about how to use the cameras and get most from them.

But SLRs are not for everyone...

Good luck with your decision.

Kavey

PS Did you Tomboy print arrive yet? That was taken on my older film SLR as it was before we had the D70.
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Feb 6th, 2005, 08:50 AM
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Sorry Rocco, I missed the line where you said you didn't want to change lenses.

So SLRS are out unless you get one lens with a heck of a range and the quality of a lens like that won't be as good.

A site that may help is dpreview.com which offers really good feedback on lots of models across the spectrum.
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Feb 6th, 2005, 09:28 AM
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I want the camera Rocco wants--all those same things. Does it exist? Thanks for any help.
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Feb 6th, 2005, 10:27 AM
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atravelynn,

As they would say in grade school...COPYCAT!!!
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Feb 6th, 2005, 10:35 AM
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Kavey,

How often did you need to change lenses with your Nikon D70, and how often will you need to change lenses with your new Canon 20D?

If 90% of my photos of the animals that we stumble upon can be taken with the same lens, then I could live with changing lenses when I have time to really think out a photo and there is not such a rush to just take the shot.

As far as the print goes, I have not received Tomboy yet, but I am sure it will be here anytime now. When I ordered my book, "Kakuli" by Norman Carr, recently from England, it took a good month to arrive, but when it did it was totally worth the wait. So, if the print is not here in a couple weeks, then I will look into it, but I am not yet concernced.

Once Tomboy does arrive, it will grace the wall of my upstairs living room wedged between a leopard from Singita and a couple ostriches, with wave breaking behind them, in the Cape Peninsula. A so/so picture of Table Mountain with clouds just is not making the grade anymore and will be replaed by Tomboy!

Any additional feedback you are able to provide on the Nikon D70 and Canon 20D will be appreciated. Basically, I know how to point and click, but hopefully I would be able to figure out how to remove one lens and replace it with another!
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Feb 6th, 2005, 11:29 AM
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Roccco

There are so many different opinions about cameras, computers, cars etc so I'll give you mine. You are kind of at the upper edge of the "point & shoot" type range of cameras. You get great photos with your camera. But you want more. I don't think I've read or heard about any cameras that will give you much more than you already have.

The next step is a DSLR. A digital SLR camera that comes without a lens. There are so many people that use DSLR/SLR's for so many different purposes that they purposely do not put the lens on it so it "fits" everyone. Then you choose the accessories that you need. 10mm for wide, wide landscapes or 600mm for closeups of wild animals. The DSLR/SLR's all have automatic settings just like your current camera. You don't have to know anymore about photography than you already do. You will get the same good pictures that you are already getting.

So if you choose the buy a DSLR then you have to pick a lens that will be best for you. I have a 70-200mm zoom lens and a fixed 300mm lens. The 70-200 is definitely more versatile. I have been way too close to animals to use the 300mm. I used the 300mm here http://www.pbase.com/cjw/image/28912466. It is not a zoom lens so I couldn't use the lens to get closer or further away. You have to move yourself closer or further away. I used the 70-200 here http://www.pbase.com/cjw/image/30640773. I could zoom in and out to compose the shot the way I wanted. When you choose a Digital SLR camera such as Canon Digital Rebel, or 10D, or 20D or Nikon N70, the camera has a built-in multiplyer of 1.6 which makes the effective focal distance on this lens a 112mm x 320mm (the same lens on a film SLR will truly be 70mm x 200mm).

So if you choose a DSLR and the right lens you can put the lens on and never take it off. You've solved your problem.

Then if you WANT to learn more about photography you can use more of the features that the camera has. You can actually change the "film speed" on digital to take advantage of the light. This picture http://www.pbase.com/cjw/image/34583809 was taken inside where it was fairly dark (you can see the lamps are on). I changed the "film speed" to be fast so it could capture the picture without enough light and without using flash. You can do the same thing with a film camera by removing the 100 speed film and putting in 800 speed film. I think the Canon 20D ISO's are 100, 200 ,400 ,800, 1600, & 3200. You lose some of the quality of picture the faster the speed.

One other thing you should know is that you can buy a teleconverter of 1.4 or 2.0. I use both on both of my lenses. It makes the focal distance 1.4 times more or double. So with the 70-200 on a DSLR you actually start with 112 x 320 and a 1.4 attached makes it 156mm x 448mm. If you use the 2.0 converter it is 224mm x 640mm. That's equivalent to having a 600mm lens. You do have to attach the teleconverter between the camera and the lens but it's simple to do. I actually have a 10D and a 20D with a lens on each so I don't have to change the lenses out but I do have to attach the teleconverters when I want to get closer.

There are many articles about the different lenses all over the web. You can buy the 70-200 with a f-stop of either 2.8 or 4.0 and I think both are USM (Canon's name for image stabilizer). There are also other zooms - I believe a 75-300. And other brands that will fit the Canons & Nikons. I read alot before I bought mine and you should too. One thing you'll probably read is some lenses don't take such great shots with the 2.0 teleconverter but are okay with the 1.4. Lots of information in the forums at http://www.naturescapes.net. You have to register (free) to read the forums but you get more than your money's worth. They also have a classified section with used equipment. Lots of information at dpreview.com

Also, if you take the camera you currently have you will have the ability to do closeups with it and use the other for longer shots.
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Feb 6th, 2005, 12:35 PM
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Roccco
ps: To change the lens you push a button on the camera which releases the lock on the lens. You twist the lens and it's off. To put the lens on you line up the red dot on the lens with the red dot on the camera and give it a twist until it locks on. Easier than removing the lid off a jar of pickles.
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Feb 6th, 2005, 12:57 PM
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sundowner,

Those jars of pickles have always given me problems!

Seriously, though, I think it is time to get a little more serious with my photography. Thanks for all the feedback. I will carefully consider everything you said after I have had time to print it out and give it my undivided attention.
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Feb 6th, 2005, 01:02 PM
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Roccco

If you re not really wanting to continually change lens etc, i would suggest you get a canon DSLR. THe 20D with the 1.6 crop factor is a good option. In terms of glass, i would not go for a prime if you are looking not to change lens. People may recommend the 75-300mm, but with this you will be nothing but disappointed. It is a terrible lens IMHO, you may get one good shot from 300. THe contrast, bokeh etc is all poor. i would only buy L series glass. This will give you those national geographic photos that you crave. The 70-200 has already been suggested. The 2.8 with IS is a great lens, perfect for those lowlight situations. Though you will have to get used to a shallow DOF. Overall, with the crop factor, that gives you a 320mm, not bad.

My personal favourite would be the allround safari lens. This is the canon 100-400mm F4.5-F5.6. Admittedly it a little on the slow side compared to the 2.8, but just think of the range. It is a 160-640mm. Great for all shots, including birds. Being from the L series it produces a fantastic picture. It also has IS, so handheld shooting is made easier. With such a long range of lens, there is little need for you to change lens whilst on a game drive. The only thing you may wish to do is put a wide angle on for landscape work. Though that will be more during sundowners and around camp.

I would suggest that if you go this route you invest in some accessories. Firstly, if you get this setup, look at getting the manfrotto self-standing monopod. It will not support this lens like a tripod, but will give addittional support in the vehicle, as opposed to a bean bag. A quick release ball head on top give you versatility and the option to quickly handhold. It is the Manfrotto 682B monopod.

Secondly, dont succumb to the pressure of buying a UV filter. There is a reason why a lens costs over $1000, why put, as in most peoples cases a cheap piece of plastic in front of it. It will give some protection, but it will also degrade the image quality. A filter that i would recommend in the dry season is the 81 A, 81B or 81C. These are known as warm up filters. It takes away that harsh barren look that is common in many photographs. Richard Du Toit uses mainly a 81A. It sudues the blue tones in favour or the orange/reds. Being at altitude, as in botswana, it removes that blue haze that also appears. It will make your sunsets spectacular.

I could go on for hours on this subject. A DSLR will give you a lot move control over your photos. The ability to change the aperture will mean you can choose what is in focus. Like all the animals at the watering hole rather than just one. That beautiful afterglow can be caught with slow shutter speeds etc.

Hope this helps, if you start, it is a long and painful road to get those pictures you crave.

Though just remember the lesson that i have also read for those sharp pics.

Mirror Lock up, tripod and cable release
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Feb 6th, 2005, 03:42 PM
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Hi Roccco,

Long time, no chat.

We have been spending the last few months carefully researching cameras and while we have not bought it yet, we are firmly decided. Note: we are NOT camera people, so we were looking for the best digital non-SLR on the market. In other words, a very sophisticated point-and-shoot with the option to take more control ONLY IF WE WANT.

The camera we have decided on is a Panasonic Lumix 5.6 megapixel DMCFZ20. It is supposed to be the best of the non-SLRs. It has a 12x Optical zoom using a Leica lens (camera geek's favorite lens brand). The camera comes with image stabilization (which is very important for high zoom and wildlife photos) and a lens hood to help manage bright daytime photos. There are many more wonderful features - you should google it and see for yourself. We expect to buy the camera, extra batteries, and 2 gigs of memory for about $1,000.

The great thing about digital cameras is that they are reviewed so extensively online.
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Feb 6th, 2005, 05:18 PM
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Thanks Ericka and even though this is an Africa site, please give some feedback on that camera once you test it out. That sounds like what I've been seeking. I want the digital technology to allow me to focus less on the photography not give me more reason to fiddle with it.
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Feb 6th, 2005, 07:23 PM
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I've been using a Nikon F100 with a 200mm-400mm zoom lens, but I think I'm finally going to go digital before my trip to Madagascar in May, and I've been researching the Nikon D100 since it will take my Nikon lenses. Even though I'm able to switch lenses, I generally keep the zoom lens on my F100, and I take my older Nikon 6006 for black and white with a smaller lens.

Does anyone have any info on the D100? Thanks, Michael
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Feb 6th, 2005, 08:30 PM
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Sundowner,

This may sound like a dumb question, but in your photo at http://www.pbase.com/cjw/image/30640773 I am wondering if you had to do anything special to focus on your subject warthogs in order to sort of blur out the background, or if that effect is just automatic. I like that the subjects are highlighted while the background just sort of blurs into oblivion.

Wow...I have so much to learn about cameras before I am able to make an informed decision!
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Feb 6th, 2005, 11:25 PM
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Roccco,

Most telephoto lens will throw the background out when used on a DSLR. There is another consideration for going this route that i did not mention. If you follow Ericka, spend $1000 on a non-slr, it will become redundant when you upgrade. Say you bought a 20D, but realy got into it and fancied a 1Ds MArk 2. We are talking $7,000, you now have two camera bodies, like sundowner. This means you can have most focal lengths covered. 16-70mm and 100-400. Or you may fancy a superior optical prime lens. Either way, it increase your options. So, instead of replacing your current camera, the 20D still remains part the arsenal. www.fredmiranda.com has a number of reviews on equipment.

In your original post you also talk about a learning before august. Just go for it, some photos will be good, some wont. Jst get as many books as possible, richard du toit's field guide etc. Practice is important, though the real learning curve is being their and taking those shots.

Finally, i would shoot canon, not nikon. The glass is of a better standard. ESpecially the image stabilisation. Nikon may claim to have the VR, though this was leased to them by canon. No firm is going to give their rivals a technological equal! THe VR does not quite cut the mustard. How many photographers do you see with expensive white L glass? Nearly all
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Feb 6th, 2005, 11:37 PM
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Rocco, two ideas to consider:
- If you buy an SLR, buy a quality third party lens for it. I took a Canon Rebel SLR to Africa last summer, and my main lens was a Tokina 80 - 400 zoom. It worked fine and I loved it.

- Pick up a good small digital with a non-removeable 10x zoom lens. My wife had the Olympus 765. The camera is tiny, but takes great pictures.

Note I said quality third party lens. If you get a good one, it will be as good as the original manufacturers product but cost a lot less. I'm not going to get into companies, you can do the internet research.

Telephotos are big and heavy to begin with, especially when you get up above a 300 focal length. Image stabilization makes them steadier, but adds weight, complexity, and cost.

Little cameras like my wife's Olympus aren't as powerful, but are a whole lot handier, and they can take short movies.

You can also look at extenders for your camera. They eat light and reduce picture quality a little, but can double your focal length.

There were four on our trip. I had the Canon Rebel, my wife had the Olympus 765, my daughter had the Olympus 745? (same lens, less pixels, 1 year older, my son had an HP ? with an 8x zoom. We all swapped out a lot and all camera produced good results. There were honestly times when I was fiddling with interchangeable lenses and the others were getting the good shots.
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Feb 7th, 2005, 01:53 AM
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Hi

My wife and I went on a safari near the Kruger park in December 2004. I brought a long my Canon Powershot S1 IS and I was pleased with some of the pictures. I guess the main thing is to have a good optical zoom. On my camera I have 10x zoom and also an image stabalizer. I guess it can't compete with the best SLR camera but as an all round camera it worked out pretty good. I have posted a trip report and some pictures on my homepage http://gardkarlsen.com by the way

Regards
Gard
Stavanger, Norway
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Feb 7th, 2005, 04:08 AM
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Roccco - when you take a picture the camera, lens and settings you use determine which part of what you are viewing will be in focus.

That's hard for me to put in words but if you line up 100 blue bottles on the top of a fence that angles away from you and try to take a picture. You want all the bottles in the picture but you focus on the bottles in the middle. If you set the camera to use a small depth of field, like f/2.8, only some of the bottles will be in focus and the rest won't. Here is another example http://www.pbase.com/cjw/image/30631492. I'm not real good at it but if you'll remember I bought my camera before my safari summer 2003 and I haven't practiced much. It is possible using depth of field the have a birds eye in focus and the beak out of focus. To take a picture of the bottles on the fence and get them all in focus you use a setting of f/16.

Look at this picture and imagine that I had used a smaller depth of field. The lizard would be in focus and the background would be blurred to just a color with no detail. It would be a much better picture. http://www.pbase.com/cjw/image/39498911

There is a setting on the camera, aperture priority, where you set the f/stop and the camera sets the shutter speed. It's like using automatic on a P&S camera but you've chosen the depth of field.

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Feb 7th, 2005, 04:51 AM
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Rocco
I have lots and lots and lots to add to this thread but am training a class today and tomorrow.
If you can wait a couple of days I'll post on Wednesday, though I'll see if I have time tonight!
Kavey
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Feb 7th, 2005, 07:19 AM
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thit_cho - I have seen some beautiful images taken with the D100. Quite a number of the images posted at naturescapes.net are taken with a D100. If you want to see them do a search there and just type D100 in search box. Most of the pictures posted there show the camera, lens, and camera settings used.

A quick google brought up this "conversation" D100 v. D70 here http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/176580/0#1434472 so if you google I'm sure you'll find more.

There is also a Nikon D100/D1/D2 Forum here http://www.dpreview.com/forums/forum.asp?forum=1021

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/comp...n_d70&show=all is a comparison between the features of a D100 and a D70.

I have also read that Nikon may be announcing a D100 replacement this spring so you might be interested in waiting to see what happens.

One other thing, Michael. Your 200-400mm lens will become a 320-640mm lens on a digital camera body because of the crop factor (or multiplyer effect). So that can be a bonus as long as you have a camera or lens to cover below 320mm!

Maybe someone here will have first hand knowledge. If not, I would say go for it. Good luck!
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