Please help. Photo newbie heading on safari


Sep 23rd, 2005, 06:24 PM
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Please help. Photo newbie heading on safari

Hi photo pros
I apologize for these simple questions in advance since I am definitely a beginner photographer. I am heading to SA on safari and am taking my Canon PowershotA60 Digital camera. It is 2.0 megapixel with 3x optical zoom and 7.5x combined zoom. We will also be purchasing the teleconverter for this camera which will give us another 2.4 x optical. Do you all think this will be a satisfactory combo for game drives? Also curious how to decide when to use the teleconverter or when to pop it off an simply use the regular zoom? Just curious what distances are best for each. Lastly, when we use the teleconverter do we fully zoom the original lens or do we not zoom at all and then rely on the teleconverter? Thanks so much for any advice.
fallgirl is offline  
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Sep 24th, 2005, 03:15 AM
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As far as I can gather the Powershot A60, is an extravagant "point & shoot" type camera.

This will give you some great day time pics, however will not be that productive in the evening light or at night. The flash capacity is just not powerful enough.

Wher and when to apply the zoom is entirely your decision. However using the attachment is preferable to the digital zoom: the latter loses resolution quite rapidly and is practically redundant in low light conditions as it is vulnerable to the slighest movement.
mkhonzo is offline  
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Sep 24th, 2005, 10:53 AM
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I could be mistaken, but I think the only thing that matters as far as zoom goes is the optical zoom. The digital zoom will help you see things in your viewfinder but images that appear clear at anything over 3x zoom (105mm) will not translate into clear images on your finished photo.

105mm is, quite honestly, insufficient for a safari. I would be hesitant to recommend anything less than at least triple the zoom of 105mm.

Panasonic makes a very nice point & shoot camera called the Panasonic FZ20 that you may get for as little as about $450 USD. Here is a link to copy and paste:

This will give you 12x optical zoom for a maximum length of 420mm with 5 Megapixel.

I just returned from safari and the majority of my photos were taken from anywhere from about 300mm - 500mm, however there were a couple occasions that I extended it to 896mm. So, given my experience, you definitely need to upgrade your camera. It will make all the difference in your photos, trust me.

Best of luck.
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Sep 25th, 2005, 12:02 AM
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Roccco's right. My first safari, I followed my agent's advice and took a 70-200 zoom as the bare minimum requirement. You quickly learn. I'd now say that 300mm is the bare minimum for longest focal length. I've since taken 800mm (still not enough for most birds), but because of the weight of such equipment, I've dropped back to 600mm (300mm fixed focal length with a 2x extender). On our latest safari, we were so close to some animals that I sometimes wished I could zoom out to 100mm because 300mm was too big, but I'd lent my 100-400 zoom to my wife and could hardly steal it back from her. But on balance, you really must be able to zoom to at least 300mm.
afrigalah is offline  
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Sep 25th, 2005, 12:15 AM
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Perhaps I should explain why I lent the 100-400 lens to Y. The fact is, she has a Sigma 80-400 OS (image stabiliser) which she is very unhappy with. It is inferior to the Sigma 50-500 non-OS which she owned previously and which she took to Africa with good results. So on this latest trip, she used my Canon lens exclusively and was ecstatic with the results. It is a far more responsive and sharper lens than the Sigma equivalent, and I very much regret suggesting that she replace the 50-500 with it. It would have been better for her to spend the money on a second-hand 100-400 IS.
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Oct 1st, 2005, 01:23 PM
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I saw your post on Roccco's thread and I am adding comments to that one for people considering dSLR vs SLR-like digitals. For a number of reasons which I may detail on Roccco's thread, I opted for the latter: Panasonic Fz20K that I got off ebay used for around $350. I wanted to post some info on this thread more for photography beginners such as you (and, to a large extent, me).

Perhaps the biggest factor is the amount of money you'd like to spend. I completely agree that the A60 won't meet your needs and I think the money you were planning to spend on the teleconverter would be better spent on a new ultra-zoom camera.

If you wanted to keep costs low and stay with Canon, look at the S1 IS. It offers a STABILIZED 10x zoom and a high-quality movie mode that allows zoom use during filming (the clips are limited to ~8 min in length, but I find I get sick of most digicam movies after 30-90 seconds anyway). The camera is only 3.2 megapixel but it can be had for ~250 USD because in the spring Canon released its successor, the S2 IS. Even though 3.2 MP seems archaic, it would be a huge leap forward from your 2MP camera and I have blown up several 3MP pictures to 8x10 inches with nice results.

If you're willing to forgo image stabilization (I don't recommend that for long zooms, but with a beanbag for support you might be satisfied) you might go a little cheaper with older versions of the Konica Z series Olympus Ultra Zoom series. has had some rebate offers on the 4MP Olympus C-750, but none are active now.

If you're up for spending more, check the "Which camera should I buy" forum at for posts about ultra-zooms. This link is good, but there are others:

Here is an incomplete run-down of the leading image stabilized contenders, drawing on some comparisons made in the above link:

Canon S2 IS: Now 12x zoom, 5MP and great movie mode is even better. Could almost double as a camcorder. Over $450.

Sony H1: 12x zoom, 5MP with hi-res movie mode but no zooming during filming. Other drawback is memory sticks are more expensive than secure digital cards. Can be had online from solid merchants for $415.

Panasonic Fz5: 12x zoom and 5MP, but the movie mode is much weaker. The bonus is that it has special hi-speed focus modes that might get some shots that other cameras miss. $340 delivered from reputable merchants, and if you can live w/ 4MP and no audio in your movies, the Fz4 is an outstanding value at $270. The Fz5 came out while I was looking for a used Fz20 and I was sorely tempted. In retrospect perhaps I made the wrong choice.

The Fz20 has been discontinued and replaced by the monstrous 8MP Fz30 ($540+) that has hi-speed focus, manual zoom, a better movie mode, etc. The problem with the new camera seems to be noisy pictures, and many Panasonic devotees feel let down. Anyway, the upshot is that the Fz20 is now available new with warranty for $400! Nonetheless, I think the Fz5 is a better bet for the casual safari shooter. Here's why I picked the Fz20 in the spring and why I might not today.

I chose the Fz20 because the lens was slightly faster (2.8 vs 3.3) and the flash hot-shoe and manual focus ring offered more creative control (I thought this could be a transition camera on the way to dSLR). I also liked the heft and professional feel of the Fz20 vs the toy-like feel of the tiny Fz5. Finally, I was wary of paying a premium for the newly-released model (MSRP $500, I think street was around $450 at the time). I used the camera on a trip to Alaska and took some excellent pics, but I recommend the Fz5 over the Fz20 today because:

1. Manual focus on the Fz20 is of limited value because the EVF resolution is so poor. I think hi-speed autofocus of the Fz5 is probably ten times more useful for amateur shooters of wildlife.

2. The heft that I liked has a downside that I read about beforehand but didn't fully appreciate: You are less likely to have a big, bulky camera with you for less "special" occasions. This means that you spend $400 on a camera you mmight only use a few weeks of the year on a special trip. I didn't take my Fz20 to a friend's wedding in San Diego because it was too much trouble and then I wished I had it an the zoo. Someone else at the wedding had his Canon S2 with him the whole time, which was viable because it is much, much smaller.
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