Safari etiquette, camera and/or binoculars

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Aug 11th, 2005, 10:29 AM
  #1
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Safari etiquette, camera and/or binoculars

I was invited a few weeks ago to Africa with a group of friends for my first time this Nov. need advice please. Does one need to take binoculars AND a 35mm camera with zoom lens on safari. My thought is that I would be looking through the zoom lens most of the time waiting for that photo op. Another concern is the noise my camera makes, it even bothers me at times. My Canon T50 is old but I really don't want to buy all new equipment at this time. Seems like it would disrupt the wildlife and disurb my fellow travel companions as well. I want to make friends on this trip and not be one of "those people" on the pet peeve list. I would like to bring home some great photos and don't have the budget to purchase all new photo equipment. Anyone have past experiences and solutions?
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Aug 11th, 2005, 10:48 AM
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Hello,

Lucky you -- I wish my friends would invite me on safari! I'll just have to settle for Martha's Vineyard...

I'd strongly recommend bringing both binoculars and a camera with zoom lens on safari. Binoculars have a much wider field of view, which is very helpful for seeking out faraway animals -- finding them looking through a camera will take forever because the camera has such a narrow field of view. Some cameras are also pretty heavy, and if you have AF continually using the zoom lens will drain the battery as the AF keeps re-focusing. Most photographers locate the animal with binoculars and then switch to the camera.

I'm not familiar with your camera or the amount of noise it makes, but very noisy cameras can be a problem. One man I shared a vehicle with had to hide his camera under a couple of jackets to change the film because the rewinder was so loud, and even then it was pretty noticeable and did bother people (and some of the wildlife). Digital cameras that beep all the time are annoying as well.

How long is your lens? Most photographers recommend a minimum 300mm for good wildlife photography (500mm for birds). If you're going to the Sabi Sands or somewhere similar where the animals are very used to vehicles, you may be able to get away with something shorter.

I'm not sure what your budget will sustain, but you may be able to buy a new camera body (perhaps a basic digital SLR) which will take all of your old lenses. Canon makes some nice digital SLRs which are designed to take Canon lenses. This will cut down significantly on your expenses while enabling you to upgrade your kit. Alternatively, a new film SLR body would be a less expensive option.

Hope this helps!

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 11th, 2005, 06:23 PM
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We are the lunatic fringe of Africa travellers here. Thus we spend alot of time talking about photography. But in fact many people go on safaris without either a camera or binoculars. (Remarkable, but true!) However most people, when they see this wildlife for the first time, have an overwhelming desire for photographs. However since you are travelling with friends, one option is to ask for prints of THEIR best photos. Think about whether this would satisfy you...because photographing wildlife is rather demanding, and it will take a big investment of either time or money or both to get photographs that capture the feeling you had when you are there. As Julian says, you really want at least a 300mm lense (10X optical in digital point and shoots) AND you need a camera that can handle low light situations.

If getting prints from friends satisfies you (and it will flatter them!), then either (a) take your old Canon for "holiday" as opposed to wildlife photos (b) see if you can borrow a camera from friend or family or (c) skip the camera and rely on others.

If you really do want a new camera...Julian has some good advice!

However I think that binoculars are important, and everyone needs their own. Nothing will increase your enjoyment of a safari as much as binoculars--it literally opens a whole new world. And because it is wider angle, it is diffent than a camera, and you'll find you are using it when you are too far from something to get a good photo. If you don't have binoculars, you'll be left out when everyone else is fascinated something in the distance.
Again, borrow binoculars if you can, because on a first trip you don't know if you will ever use them again. Most people recommend 8 power (I prefer 10) and personally, I much prefer full size as opposed to minis. So I like 10X40s or so...but everyone has their own preference. Visit some shops and try them outside looking at a bird in hte shade or something else small...then figure out what you prefer. But if you can borrow binoculars, I'd try to do that first.
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Aug 11th, 2005, 08:34 PM
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Thank you Julian and Tashak. I just returned from a visiting my local camera shop and will take your advice about borrowing some good binos. We also discovered my zoom lens has a "mold" starting inside so it will have to be buried. Now I have a real dilema. The old SLR camera will be useless without the zoom. So, it seems I will need to get all new equipment which I really didn't want to do. Should I go digital? What a difference in bulk and weight! It doesn't make sense to buy a used zoom for my old Canon. We will be at Chobe NP, river and land safari's. Maybe the animals will just jump up on the hood of the Jeep and I won't need a zoom??? I saw a brochure photo like that somewhere.
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Aug 11th, 2005, 08:52 PM
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Hi, Carla,

As a photography teacher, I can only add my voice to the previous posters -- binoculars are essential to a full enjoyment of African wildlife, and a necessary accessory for any photographer. They need not be expensive or heavy either. I just purchased Nikon Sportstar 10x25 binoculars for $52 at REI, and they weigh only 10 ounces and fit in a small pouch on your belt, so you don't have to deal with still another thing around your neck while on safari.

To clarify the optical specifications for you, the
"10" means ten power magnification -- these binoculars make the subject ten times larger. Some people prefer "8" power -- but for Africa, I think 10 power is more suitable, particularly for nesting birds, etc. The larger the magnification, the harder it is to hold the glasses steady.

"25" is the field of view -- the larger that number, the wider and brighter the view. You can go much wider and brighter than "25" but that will add a lot of weight.

You can read more, and order at:

http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...vcat=REI_HP_LD

Note that these are on sale through August 18th. (Before buying, I ran a search and could not find them cheaper elsewhere.)

Hope this helps,

Phil
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Aug 11th, 2005, 09:12 PM
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Hi again, Carla,

Your response to Julian and Tashak came in while I was writing the above note about the binoculars.
I see now that you are also asking about digital zooms. You are not obligated to invest in a new digital single lens reflex system, particularly since you would have to buy a new lens for it.

Have you considered 12x advanced compact digital camera? They are all-in-one cameras, so you need not buy lenses for them. They zoom from 35mm to over 400mm. They are very light and much more compact than a single lens reflex. I use one myself -- the Panasonic Lumix FZ-20, which has a Leica lens with image stabilization that helps you avoid blurred pictures due to camera shake. It has just been discontinued, because its replacement, the FZ-30 is coming out next month. So you might find one at a good price. I don't know where you are located, but here in the US, Circuit City is now selling them at $580. (They sold new for $700).

Here is a link to Circuit City's info on that camera:
http://www.circuitcity.com/ccd/produ...&cm_keycode=66

Since I own this camera, I would be glad to answer any questions you might have about it, or about digital photography in general. Just send me an email.

Phil
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Aug 11th, 2005, 09:47 PM
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Hi,
Suggest you also consider the Panasonic DMC-FZ5. Much like the FZ20 but around $100 less cost and smaller/lighter. My wife and I each got the new Canon S2 IS which I also recommend.
regards - tom
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Aug 12th, 2005, 01:45 AM
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Hello,

If you can borrow a set of binoculars, I would highly recommend a 10x40. You'll be in Land Rovcers most of the time so the extra weight won't matter too much, and they work much better in low light situations than 10x25.

My trusty old 10x40 binoculars finally gave up the ghost on my last trip to South Africa, and the 10x25s I borrowed from my guide were fine during the day but very frustrating to use in the evening -- I would be able to see something in the distance, but the binoculars were pretty useless because of their limited light-gathering ability. I love watching leopards, so this was particularly frustrating as they're much more active at night.

If you're interested in the FZ-20 but want to save still more money, let me know -- I will be selling my FZ-20 and upgrading to the FZ-30 when it comes out. My camera is less than a year old and has both the manufacturer's warranty and a 5-year worldwide MACK warranty. You can reach me on [email protected]

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 12th, 2005, 01:53 AM
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Julian,

In your own interest you should not publish email adresses in clear text form at Fodor's. I know from my own experience that the Fodor's forums are address sources for the spam and phishing industry.

If you ever publish an email address you should do it in the form nameATdomain, [email protected]THISdomain or similar.

Mitch
 
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Aug 12th, 2005, 01:59 AM
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Thanks for the tip Mitch -- I've seen other people (like Rocco) publish email addresses so I thought it would be all right.

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 12th, 2005, 02:00 AM
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Or just get a secondary email address with hotmail or yahoo or similar...
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Aug 12th, 2005, 02:01 AM
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Didn't mean to put a clown in, just a regular smiley : o )

Rocco and I both use hotmail email addresses rather than our "main" ones.

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Aug 12th, 2005, 02:03 AM
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Oh well, I'll have to hope that the spambots are taking the day off.

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 12th, 2005, 02:30 AM
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Aug 12th, 2005, 12:06 PM
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Hi, CarlaM

I just noticed that Amazon.com seems to be selling the Panasonic FZ20 for $485.

See:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...797261-5583947

Phil

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Aug 12th, 2005, 08:48 PM
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Wow! Be careful what you ask for on this board. Lots of great advice, thank you all. Today my boss offered to let me borrow his brand new (still in the box) digital zoom for my trip. Don't know the specs yet, but am anxious to find out. As far as binos are concerned, I have my eye on a pair of pre-owned ones on Ebay, Nikon Monarch ATB 8x42. The price of $225 is do-able. There are some good writeups on these. They are a little on the heavy side 21 oz. My thoughts are that the trip is in the Emerald season and it will be difficult to see birds and small animals with all the foliage so I don't need the 10x extra weight to carry around, if that makes sense?? I appreciate all your input and suggestions.
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Aug 13th, 2005, 08:32 AM
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That's great news about the camera Carla! Now, especially since it is borrowed, you'll want to protect it from bumps and dust. Bring a couple big ziplock bags for extra protection...if your boss doesn't have a UV filter over his lense, you might want to buy one, use it during the trip (shouldn't be very expensive) and give it to him as a little thank you for loaning you this camera. It will protect the lense from scratches, and that is important everywhere, especially with a borrowed camera.

I think you are on the right track with binoculars...I don't have specific advice about the Nikon Monarchs, but do shop around, and perhaps call some places for advice. BTW, when the magnification of binos increases (say from 8 to 10) it does not affect the size or weight, but when the objective size does (say from 32 to 42 to 50) it does (but this also increase the brightness & width of the field of view.
I do think that you are on the right track with 40-42-- these are excellent for safaris. And since you are not carrying a big camera, the weight won't be a big deal.
Unless you ebay frequently, be careful about buying pre-owned equipment from individuals...sometimes stuff like this gets misrepresented, so I personally feel safer with a dealer. I'm not sure that $225 is good for used Monarchs, but a bit of a search will tell you.
Also Roccco posted a link to a site in response to a question about places to buy Leica binoculars just yesterday,so that site is worth a visit for comparitive pricing.
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Aug 13th, 2005, 03:17 PM
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This may seem obvious, but get your hands on whatever camera equipment you plan to take/use as soon as you can and then practice with it! Even point and shoots take better pictures if you are familiar with them!

(I know, this is all obvious, but I have met people who got fancy cameras for trips and then got lousy pictures or really frustrated because they hadn't practiced enough!)
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Aug 14th, 2005, 09:55 AM
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Tashak, thanks for your input. I bought a NEW pair of binos last night, the Nikon ATB (All Terrain Bino-sounds like a Jeep!)Monarch and stepped up for the 10x42, $230!!! I compared the Leica's which are great but $1300-1600, way out of my price range. If I was using them frequently it would make more sense but for occasional use these will do the trick.

Phil, I will definitely look into your digital camera advice if I have to purchase one. Hopefully my boss's camera will suffice.

The lens cover/filter gift is a nice gesture that I would of course do for him.

Glovely, I will be practicing at the San Diego Wild Animal Park next week and the San Diego Zoo the following week. It is about an hour drive and my favorite thing to do on my days off work. Thank you all! You were very helpful.
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Aug 14th, 2005, 10:11 AM
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Hi Carla,
The Nikon's sound great, and I think you will like the 10X power on safari. Opens up a whole new world of enjoyment!
And I didn't mean you should even consider the Leica's...they are for people who know they will use them alot...for the rest of their life! These binos cost more than my first car! The Nikon's will be perfect. I know they got good reviews on some birding sites, and although you will not be birding exclusively, birders know their binoculars. Now you just have to learn how to use that camera...
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