Tanzania photography advice


Jan 23rd, 2013, 05:48 PM
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Tanzania photography advice

Hello, I'm travelling to Tanzania in July and was hoping to get some advice on camera gear. We'll be on safari for 8 nights in Serengeti, Ngoro Ngoro and Tarangire National Park.

Currently I have a Canon 60D with a 17-85mm lens. My plan is to purchase a 100-400 lens and probably hire a 500m f/4 if it's not too expensive. I want to bring a second body and what I'm trying to decide is whether to purchase a used 60D/7D body and resell after the trip. I'm a keen amateur photographer, but want to make the most of this trip and get the best pictures possible. Would anyone recommend upgrading my gear to 5D and 60D combo, or even hiring two 5D bodies? I could probably only afford 5D Mk1. I've heard I should spend more on lenses than bodes, but what do people think?

I'm touring in a pop-top landcruiser so, from what I've read, the best method of stabilisation is to use sandbags. Can anyone recommend what size/brand and how many? Is it best to buy empty bags and fill them in Arusha?

I was planning on using UV filters on all lenses. What do people think about using ND filters for sunrise/sunsets and polarisers for bright conditions. Oh, and which flash is recommended? I've been looking at a 580EXII, but if a cheaper model would suffice, I would consider that.

Finally (for now), the tripod debate...I like sunrise/sunset photos, but not that keen to carry a tripod. Thoughts?

Thanks all
fletch99 is offline  
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 06:44 PM
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I would suggest renting not buying a second body. A full frame body has far superior IQ to an APS-C and this would be the way to go. Check out lensrentals.com or another rental company (assuming you are in the US) for a 6D. The 500mm is an overkill (8.5 lb lens)- I would suggest the 70-200 2.8 II lens with a 1.4 and 2.0 TC instead. This with the 100-400 along with an APS-C and full frame bodies would be close to an ideal set-up without spending much more.

Also I recommend the following book specifically for an photographer going to Tanzania.


Most quality outfitters will include sandbags. If not, carry one- 18lbs is about the right size (the weight after you fill with sand, rice or beans on location)

A tripod is very useful, no way around that. Get a very lightweight carbon fiber one rated for 5 lbs with the set-up above (will NOT work with the 500mm)
AKR1 is offline  
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Jan 23rd, 2013, 10:49 PM
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Well, you need a wide angle 17-85mm, is perfect. And then a zoom such as the 100-400. And you need two bodies, put the 17-85 on one and the 100-400 on the other. You then reach over and pick up the one you need, no lens swapping. Forget the 500 F4 unless you are very experienced wildlife photography and truly know when and how to use it. Whether the bodies are so called FF or APS-C really makes little difference. How you set up the camera and your Photoshop skills are more important.

UV filters not needed on digital lenses. Unless under extreme environmental circumstances. If you simply have to have them, get the best, B+W. Most important is the lens hood.

More important than any of the above for photography is being allowed to go (drive) off road. Off road to best position the subject, the light, and yourself. Some places in TZ you can, e.g. Ndutu area, some you can not, e.g. Serengeti, nor Ngronogoro Crater. Tarangire NP I don't know.

Sand bags work great for pop-top vehicles. Tripods only if you plan a -lot- of sunrise-sunset photos. You can get nice ones with the bean bag. I use flash only for building interior shots. Don't care for flash on wildlife. The 60D has pop up flash so it's probably good enough.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
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Jan 24th, 2013, 11:53 AM
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Check with your tour operator to find out if sandbags are included in the vehicle. When I went to Tanzania they were - and they were large heavy ones that were perfect for steadying the camera.
Cateyes555 is offline  
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Jan 24th, 2013, 12:20 PM
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While UV filters aren't "needed" on digital lenses, they can certainly save your lens from scratches or hits. You'll be rough, dusty conditions and a filter is cheaper to replace than a lens.
ShayTay is offline  
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Jan 24th, 2013, 07:38 PM
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When we ran into very dusty conditions in TZ, not often, and caused by vehicle(s) ahead, we put our whole camera in a (bed) pillow case. Dust/dirt -inside- the camera/lens mechanisms is not good. A dusty front lens element can be easily cleaned using proper procedure - blow, brush, lens cleaner fluid on a fresh unused lens tissue. Throw away those micro-fiber multi use cleaning cloths (for lens). AKRI above mentions Lensrentals, here is how they clean 250-500 lenses per day.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
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Jan 24th, 2013, 08:00 PM
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Here's another lens topic from Lensrentals. "How to Test a Lens".
So you buy a new lens, it should be perfect, it's new, right?
Probably, but maybe not, here's how you can check over your new lens -

Over my (70) years I've purchased few lenses/cameras, only around 10-15. And there was only one new lens, Minolta 100mm close-up, that disappointed me. I sent it in to Minolta and they repaired it saying an element was off-center. It was then after a great lens.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
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Feb 4th, 2013, 02:17 PM
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My last Trip New Adventure Safaris did all for us, ask them.
crowncat is offline  
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Feb 6th, 2013, 11:14 AM
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As an alternative to sandbags, in both Kenya and South Africa, I used supermarket bags of split peas or lentils. Two pound bags work great (or stuff a couple of one pound bags in an old gym sock). Buy them at home or in a local market when you arrive. Give them to your guide or a local on your way out of the country.
astein12 is offline  
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Feb 6th, 2013, 11:21 AM
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Beyond the sandbag advice, I'm a Nikon guy, so refuse to contribute any recommendations!

Seriously, my current lens setup is a 50mm f1.4 Nikkor, a 17-50mm Tamron, an 80-200mm Nikkor and a 50-500mm Sigma (with two D300 bodies). It's worked fine for wildlife safaris.

That said, my first safari was shot on film with an old Olympus OM-PC with a variable aperture Vivitar 100-250mm zoom. Looking back at those photos, the quality is probably as good if not better than the new digital images. I wouldn't worry to much about equipment... take decent stuff, take lots of pics, but remember to put the camera down and just enjoy the animals and scenery.
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