Gardyloo - Camera Question for Safari

Sep 21st, 2018, 01:56 PM
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Gardyloo - Camera Question for Safari

I am getting ready to buy the Panasonic FZ1000, having thought it over and decided that a DSLR would be heavier than I would like and that I was unlikely to want to use it on other trips. My question is, did you find the zoom on the FZ1000 sufficient for safari? I'm concerned that 16x won't be enough. My current FZ200 has a 24x and that didn't seem excessive. I will be in reserves, if that makes a difference as to how close I'm likely to get to the animals.

The other candidate is the Sony RX10 III, which is more than twice the price and doesn't have an articulated screen, a feature that I really really really like for multiple reasons. It is a 25x, but the reviews also say it doesn't focus quickly in low light, which is also a consideration in this case.

Please let me know about any reservations you might have about the FZ1000.
artsnletters is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2018, 03:51 AM
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Artsnletters, I have the Sony RX10 iii. I bought that after my Nikon P510 lens became unreliable. This has slightly shorter reach than the Nikon but I found on my last safari that I didn’t miss it. I also have none of the problems with focus in low light. In fact I liked it better for pre-dawn and evening game drives. I suspect it has to do with the 1” sensor which handles light far better. I never used the articulated screen on the Nikon so don’t miss it on the Sony. Happy to upload some samples if you want to see them.

Editing to add: why I don’t miss the reach. It turned out on my first 3 safaris that any time I was using super long reach, the photos weren’t anything more than proof of what I’d seen. Sure, it was great that I saw a purple orange beaked warbler, but if it’s blurry, grainy or otherwise not great quality because it was so far off, I felt like what’s the point? Most of those shots never got enlarged or put in the photo books I made, they were just reminders of sightings I wasn’t close enough to. I find that for the majority of the shots I wanted, I could get close enough to not need superzoom or even the benefits of digital zoom. It’s purely subjective, of course, and your mileage may vary.

Last edited by amyb; Sep 22nd, 2018 at 04:33 AM.
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Sep 22nd, 2018, 06:56 AM
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Artsnletters, I got my FZ1000 after my last safari, but I used its predecessors (a pair of FZ-28s, one of which was liberated by me in a NYC taxi - Doh!) extensively. But here's my take on cameras for safaris.

Back in the days of Dektol and hypo (look it up) a professional photographer I worked for (babies and weddings - ugh) told me that the cheapest telephoto lens ever built came with shoelaces. This was in analog days, but the lesson still holds. Except nowadays, the cheapest telephoto often comes with an $80 computer program (cheaper than new shoes, alas.)

The FZ1000 comes with a one inch sensor and is rated at 21 megapixels. It also possesses a very rapid autofocus function and an excellent image stabilization system. Why are these things relevant?

Because it means you don't need a lens that can let you zoom into the giraffe's eyelashes or the leopard's whiskers. Instead, it means if your image is just of the animal's head and neck, or even its whole torso, a 21 mp sensor offers such extreme resolution (dots per inch) that you can "zoom" into the closeup on the computer screen years later by simple cropping. The one inch (diagonal) size of the sensor means it takes less light to capture the image, so you can "stop down," i.e. reduce the aperture size, to create more depth of field, i.e. the zone in which things are in focus. Or, because so many safari experiences occur in poor light (morning or evening game drives for example) having the big sensor means you can stop movement or obtain sharp focus in conditions that slower or smaller-sensor cameras will fail. The fast autofocus means the camera won't be "searching" for a focus point while the impala vanishes into the thicket or the lioness runs out of the picture, and the image stabilization means that even when you're zoomed out, your body shake won't blur the image.

Amyb's experience is spot on. Unless you're planning to rent a billboard to show off the leopard picture, the odds are that most of your photos - the keepers, that is - are going to end up either on a website where a 4000 x 2500 image is just going to fall off the edges of everybody's monitor, and certainly their phones, or if you print them, they're unlikely to be bigger than 8 x 10, or maybe 16 x 20 if you want to mount them on a wall. At those sizes, any camera with more than 8 or 12 mp in resolution is going to produce images that are indistinguishable from those taken with some zillion-dollar pro rig.

But when you're in the back of the Land Rover (or Hilux, more likely) having a camera that allows "grab shots," or one that doesn't require you to schlep a monopod because the glass weighs 15 pounds, or one that doesn't require you to fiddle for thirty seconds to find the right focal length or adjust the ISO because the light's crappy... well that's a more useful rig. Grab the shot; if the beast is stationary you'll have time to bracket several zoom lengths or play with the settings, but if it's not, then using a medium focal length as the "default" setting is likely to get you perfectly acceptable results, maybe even great ones once you're back home and can fiddle with the image on a computer. Your "desktop darkroom" is infinitely more versatile and powerful than anything we dreamed about back in the baby and wedding days (ugh).

So go with the FZ1000 and focus on the image, not the settings.

(Sermon ends.)

A couple of examples:

Here's a picture of a ground hornbill that's been cropped to roughly 1/2 of the original image, taken from maybe 30 feet with a 12 mp camera. It's certainly sharp enough for me. It's also been shrunk by roughly 75% so it can be posted on a website.

And here's a sunbird captured on a protea flower in very low light one afternoon along the Garden Route. This was a pure "grab shot" taken from a car window.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Sep 22nd, 2018 at 07:09 AM.
Gardyloo is online now  
Sep 22nd, 2018, 03:24 PM
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Thanks, amyb and Gardyloo. That settles my mind about the next camera and what I need to learn to do before I go!
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