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jh6000 May 25th, 2007 07:09 PM

DSLR Camera Dust Protection and Stabilization for Safari

I just bought a new digital SLR (Canon Rebel xti) and zoom lens (went with the 70-300 IS lens). I was looking for any sort of advice in terms of dealing with dust or dirt that might cause problems for the camera or lens. Specifically:

How does one best change lenses, if at all, on a safari outing (or is it best to just keep one lens on for each outing?); and,

Is any sort of dust protector cover available for the camera/lens while actually shooting photos?

Also, I have read some past threads on monopods, beanbags and the like: any input on what worked best for different folks here would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your help.

John H.

jh6000 May 25th, 2007 07:26 PM

I apologize for not being very clear in my headline. The "stabization" part of the question relates mostly to ways to get good quality pictures while using the 70-300mm zoom lens, i.e. stabilizing the camera while shooting with the zoom. I know I can increase the ISO rating in lower light to shoot at higher speeds (and still get good quality, from what I have read about the Canon camera/lenses). But, I would like to hear more about photographers' actual experiences with monopods, bean bags or other accessories [like "table-top" tripods with highly flexible "legs" (I have seen some that appear capable of being wrapped around a variety of surfaces, like horizontal metal poles or tree limbs of various sizes)].


John H.

hills27 May 25th, 2007 07:43 PM

Where are you going?

mytmoss May 25th, 2007 08:17 PM

There have been a number of threads on this. The best thing to help protect your camera is to not change lenses while on the game drive, and if you have to, do it while you are stopped. You can keep your camera under a jacket or something similar to protect it while not using it or store it in a camera bag.

As for stabilization, I have not taken any. Tripods will not work in vehicles and monopods likely will not be of much use unless you have a ranger who allows you to stand in the vehicle. So far I have not had permission. The animal sightings can be 360 degress and I feel you need the flexibility of hand holding the camera.

You have a fine camera and a lens with IS. This will go a long way to give you great pictures. Below are links to shots taken on my last trip that were all hand held. While there is no doubt you can get better shots on a monopod or tripod, it just may not be practical.


jh6000 May 25th, 2007 10:36 PM

Hi, Mike,

Thanks for your note and the links --very much appreciated. Great photos!

hills27, the safari will be in Botswana starting June 22 (with Cape Town prior and Victoria Falls afterwards).

John H.

hills27 May 25th, 2007 10:49 PM

Okay, so open vehicles...then a bean bag would not be very helpful. Plus, you've got the IS lens, so you're in good shape.

Mike's right, there are a lot of posts about camera dust and different techniques.

For VF, you'll probably want a rain jacket that's loose enough for your camera to fit inside, so you can keep it from getting too wet, pulling it out just to take shots. That's what I've done in similar situations and it's worked well.

jh6000 May 25th, 2007 10:51 PM

Thanks so much, hills.

John H.

PacoAhedo May 25th, 2007 11:20 PM

I am taking my monopod and my beanbag to my Botswana safari next november.
I did it in my previous Botswana and Namibia safaris and used both of them, but most of the time use the monopod and not the beanbag(in east africa with close vehicles beanbags are the best solutions)

My lens weight around 2 kg so handheld is not the best way to get sharp photos.A monopod have result helpful to me ,it is light, easy to use and move in a vehicle and you donīt have to stand up to use it.

You can find many photo tips for safaris by doing a google search and in most cases they will recommend something to have your camera steady plus many more nice tips that can help you improve your pictures.


Silverback May 26th, 2007 10:02 AM

Right on Paco. Of course you can use a monopod without standing and it works well in open vehicles. You can place the base of the foot in your belt or extend it until it reaches the floor of the vehicle. It just depends on the particular vehicle and the seat clearance between rows.

hills27 May 26th, 2007 10:14 AM

Paco, do you have an IS lens?

jasher May 26th, 2007 03:18 PM


I solve the lens-changing problem by bringing two bodies, and keeping my 70-200 IS on one of them and a 24-105 IS on the other -- this covers me for the majority of situations.

In Southern Africa I normally use a monopod with a ball head and quick-release plate so I can go to handheld instantly if need be. I stand the monopod on the floor in front of my seat or on the seat itself depending on the situation.

For a beanbag, I bring two empty Ziploc bags. When I get to camp, I ask to borrow some beans or rice to fill one bag, and then tuck it inside the other to prevent leakage. This works very well and takes up no room in my luggage, though I don't use the beanbag nearly as much as the monopod in Southern Africa (it did see quite a bit of use in Tanzania).


Bill_H May 26th, 2007 04:05 PM

John, this camera model has a software feature that maps the dust specks and then removes them when you convert the files (my wife has one of these bodies as a back-up). I think it's called 'dust data delete' or something like that and I tested it and it works very well ... so you would generate a new map each time you change the lens (takes about 5 seconds) and then in the unlikely event you have really noticeable specks on the image you can auto-magically clean them by enabling this feature when you convert. Only works with the Canon converter though.

All that said, don't really worry about the dust, just change the lenses if you need to, keeping the camera pointed down as you do it. On one very dusty trip I had to clean the sensors each day on four cameras but on two trips during the wet season I only cleaned the sensors every 2-3 days with a blower. We've never 'lost' an image to dust specks, at worse it takes a few seconds to clone them out in Photoshop, but the DDD feature on the new Rebel XTi does this automatically for you.


jh6000 May 26th, 2007 09:05 PM

Thanks for all of the additional info. I think if i can find a very unobtrusive monopod, I might consider taking one along. Will see.

I am hoping the IS and ability to use higher ISO as needed will do the trick in terms of picture quality.

John H.

I_HEART_TRAVELING May 27th, 2007 09:11 PM

Thanks for all the advice (I have a similar question). Mine specifically deals with cases for an XT. I have the 100-400 lenses with it so the normal cases arent big enough. Any suggestions on what to use to carry the camera in when Im not shooting? Any good cases out there to choose from? I googled and found the Canon EH18L Semi-Hard Case but it read that it as for the XT plus the kit lens (not big enough obviously). Dust on safari is issue 1......

Finally, I know its not a good idea to flaunt anything valuable, especially a big camera and lens. So that is issue 2. Ive never brought anything this big and obviously valuable on a trip before even in America. Suggestions on how to carry it through airports, to safari, when to NEVER consider bringing it out? I know it will ever see the light of day in a city but Im a little worried about carrying it in my carry on then....Thanks

hills27 May 27th, 2007 09:43 PM

I love my Naneu Pro bags ( The Military series (in black or khaki) looks like a backpack, not a camera bag. The Alpha is plenty big for your camera, 100-400 lens, another lens or two, and some accessories. The interior padding can be moved around to fit a wide variety of body and lens combinations, and it has a nice separate compartment for everything else. The Bravo is probably big enough too, but I like the bigger Alpha for double use as a carryon because of the extra additional space.

The camera portion is accessed from the part against your back, which has two benefits. First, it's harder for a thief to access your camera equipment. Second, when you put it down on the ground to access your equipment, the front gets dusty, not the part that you are about to put on against your back.

I have the Echo for when I'm traveling without the giant lens.

They are also a lot cheaper than most camera bags I've looked at.

jh6000 May 27th, 2007 11:39 PM

Hi, all,

Having been out shopping much of the day, I have a few follow-up questions:

1) Insect repellants with DEET: We looked at 3M, which we seemed to like best. It comes in lotion (35% DEET and lasts 12 hours), aerosol (25% DEET and lasts 8 hrs) and a pump (19% DEET and lasts 3 hours). It would seem that the lotion would be best to actually spread onto one's skin (especially face and neck areas), but that an aerosol or pump would be best to spray on clothes. is that how this stuff works? Does bringing two types of repellant (one lotion, one aerosol or pump) make sense? Can you bring aerosols onto airplanes? (I didn't think you could). Any advice appreciated related to this brand or other brand of repellants.

2) We are using Wilderness safaris. Their brochure states that in Botswana, due to local customs, the staff will wash everything daily but will not wash "underwear". Does underwear only apply to underpants, or does it apply to undershirts as well? (I'd guess the former, but wanted to check).

3) Duffel bags: We bought two REI duffel bags for the two of us -- bought a 30" and a 24" for now, but may opt for two 30" (they hold twice as much). The 30" is just under $30, the 24" is just under $25.00. They metal zippers aren't as solid as I'd like, the material seems adequate but maybe not as thick as the Eddie Bauer (which I will check out tomorrow). Any feedback from people who have used the REI duffel bags would be appreciated. Are they more durable than they might appear at first? Or, would you spend the extra money and choose the Eddie Bauer duffel? [I was a little concerned that the exterior zippered pouches on the 30" Eddie Bauer bags might cause them too wide for the small transport planes].

Two comments that may be helpful to others:

Binoculars: We looked at binoculars today and thought the Nikon Action 8x40 were very good and great value for money, so we will buy two of these bincoulars. Thanks for the advice. (By the way, if anyone is a binocular fanatic, the Canon Image-Stabilized binoculars are amazing! I just couldn't justify buying these on top of buying an IS zoom lens for my camera).

Day/back packs: We found some great day/back packs at The North Face today (they have an Outlet in Berkeley, CA; web site is Their "Strker" model really appealed to us for the way it keeps weight off the back. Check it out. At the outlet, it was selling for $40 (vs. $60 in stores), and was marked an additional 25% off.

Thanks again for the ongoing feedback and help.

John H.

jh6000 May 27th, 2007 11:48 PM

I realize I posted the above to the wrong thread -- apologies.

John H.

safarichuck May 28th, 2007 03:26 AM

Bean bags are great for camera-lens stabilization in the closed safari vehicles used in Tanzania and Kenya. In Botswana however the vehicles are open and some people use monopods while others have special rigs that use Wimberely Sidekick mounts clamped to the bars that run transversely (in front of each row of seats). To help with the dust you can use two cameras, thus minimizing lens changes. That's a bit more money and more gear than many people are willing to commit to however. I find that a waterproof pillowcase (available at Walmart for about $5) is a great way to store a camera with lens while on your lap in a game drive vehicle. Plastic bags don't work (to slippery and uncomfortable) but the pillow case is fine. Wash it out in the shower and it dries overnight. As far a bean bags are concerned, I think you should look at the Safari Sack, made by Kinesis. This cleaver design offers a lot of useful features and subtle design inovations that a lot of professional safari photographers find helpful (see for example Andy Biggs). One last thought, don't be too uptight about dust, while it can be bad on safari, it usually does not show up until you begin to use apertures of F16 or smaller. Since I'm usually not doing landscape work while on safari, I seldom shoot at such small apertures. If yours is one of the new Canons with the dust mapping feature, I think I would concentrate on other aspects of the camera (exposure, depth of field etc) and not worry about dust.
Good Luck,

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