Is it even worth going to Africa without a good camera?
You’ve booked your African safari, you’ve googled countless packing lists, you’ve had your shots and now you’re wondering if you should buy an expensive camera to take with you
If you’ve always had a keen interest in photography and have a real desire to learn how to use a DSLR, then yes, this could be a good option for you – just make sure you’re making that investment months in advance and learn to use it well before you step foot in Africa.
However if you’ve always just relied on the phone in your pocket then buying a camera just for this occasion may not only be a waste of money, it may actually get in the way of the amazing experiences you’ve just paid good money for.
In-phone cameras have really come a long way and the big players have recognised the massive dent they’ve made in camera sales. This means that as every model is updated, there’s generally a camera update to boot.
But is an iPhone only safari even possible, and what do I need to consider in order to know if this is right for me?
Like buying a diamond, let’s consider the 4 C’s…
Clarity (Image quality)
There’s no doubt a DSLR delivers higher quality images vs a phone camera. The real question is can you deliver better images on a DSLR with ease?
Buying a good camera is not going to automatically mean your photos are better. You need to learn to use the camera properly before you can start delivering safari shots like the ones on Instagram you’ve probably been drooling over.
If your purpose for going on safari is to have incredible wildlife experiences, does it really matter that your images may not be Nat Geo worthy? Or is your enjoyment of the whole experience more important?
As I mentioned earlier, you really need to learn how to use a DSLR properly before launching yourself into a safari, so this category is not just about capability, but also confidence.
Having just spent a significant chunk of your hard earned cash on a safari, the last thing you want to do is be fannying about trying to get your camera settings correct while something incredible is unfolding before you. Things can happen fast on safari, and you need to be able to respond quickly and confidently in order to capture the action.
I’ve taken iPhone shots when the action has been right by the truck, and even snagged stills whilst videoing.
For the purposes of bragging on Insta or wowing my friends back home, they seemed to do just fine.
Most people will already have spent a fair amount of change on a phone. If you haven’t already invested in camera equipment, you’re going to need to consider an outlay of at least $5,000 (AU$). Make no mistake, it’s not the actual camera itself that will cost the most in many cases, its a lens that will be long enough (and good enough!) to stack up to the images you’re trying to emulate that will really set you back.
If you’re not familiar with camera gear, then you’re going to have to also invest in a lot of time, firstly to research the equipment that will be good enough (glass ain’t glass), and then even more time learning to use it.
And then you’ll go online asking what lens to take and the pros will tell you to take two cameras – see my post What Lens Should I Take on Safari?.
I will bet my last dollar that every one of you will already have a fairly decent phone camera already on you when you travel.
Not only that, but I’ll bet you’re already fairly comfortable with using it. It can fit easily in your pocket, or in the seat pocket in front of you, and will turn on quickly when you need to take a snap or a video.
After a thrilling day out in the wilds of Africa, all your images are already on your phone ready to share. Apply a few editing tweaks* and you’re ready to start Insta-bragging.
* I use Snapseed but most phones will have editing software already.
But I won’t get photos of things that happen far away.
No, you won’t. But do you need them?
Take a pair of binoculars and consider just enjoying watching the action unfold. If the animal comes close enough to your truck, then you can start taking photos, but is there anything wrong with just enjoying the experience without have a shot of every minute?
Or you can try and take a shot through your binos!
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go on safari without a DLSR, and the last couple of times I’ve been lucky enough to borrow a friends high quality Canon 100-400mm II lens which has delivered some stunning images (if I do say so myself!).
But then I wouldn’t go on any holiday without a DSLR – I already have an interest in photography, have been using a DSLR for 14 years, have quite a bit of camera equipment already, and have a working knowledge of editing software such as Lightroom. So for me, it’s business as usual.
There are plenty of people online who are more than willing to tell you what you must do, but in reality only you can decide what’s going to work best for you, and what will result in the best possible experience.
Consider the 4 C’s, and Happy Travels!