Beginner Amateur Photographer needs camera for trip to South Africa

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#1
Hi All,

Apologies in advance for such a long post

I am off to South Africa for 6 months from June and am finding it extremely difficult to decide which camera would be best for me. I have not done much photography at all, but after a recent trip to Zimbabwe, one of my biggest regrets was only having my smart phone and so have decided to invest in a camera.

I have decided on a bridge camera for ease of use and price. Would people agree this is the best option?

Also, how important is weather proofing going to be? So far I have only managed to find one bridge camera which is advertised as weather proofed!

Finally, any recommendations on cameras you may have used for wildlife photography/ safaris etc would be greatly appreciated! Finding it extremely difficult to know what suits my needs best.

p.s. At this moment in time, I am swaying towards a Panasonic Lumix fz300/330 (this being the only weather-proofed one I have seen so far), and getting a tele-conversion lens for extended zoom. What are people's thoughts on this?

TIA! :)
 
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I have decided on a bridge camera for ease of use and price. Would people agree this is the best option?
No... not really.

The 'Problem' with bridge cameras is that they are usually very consumer-marketing driven, trying to pack an awful lot of presumed sales features on the packaging, and consequently tend to be a bit of a camel, a horse designed by committee, and neither fish nor foul. If you want cheap and easy to use, then the point and press simplicity of a compact or smart-phone, is exactly that, and they are convenient and compact. If you want the versatility and quality offered by a DSLR, then you have to accept the bit of bulk, inconvenience and need to learn a bit to use them, but you could get the better photo's you hope for. The bridge 'promises' to be as easy to use as Point & Press, but often isn't; it promises to be a bit less bulky than a DSLR, but often isn't, it promises to be cheaper than a DSLR.. and might be... but it doesn't do what a DSLR might, just encourages you to try.... and be disappointed, because it doesn't.

But... they take pictures....... so it's a dilemma, if you have the patience to get the best from one, then, it might be ideal... but, chances are you wont, and even if you do, it's still very compromised, and that know how would get you far more from a DSLR. If you dont have the know-how, then by serendipity you might get some decent shots that please you with it... but you probably would with a smart-phone or compact.... whether, by serendipity, you'd get more 'better' shots is pretty much down to chance, and I suspect that many do, purely because having bought one, they are enthusiastic about using it and just take more pictures upping their chances.

Also, how important is weather proofing going to be?
Depends on how worried you are about the weather, really. And how conscientious you are about looking after your camera.

In the list of things that might threaten your camera, very top of the list is YOU. If you sling the thing around or leave it on a trestle table under the scaffold, good chance its going to get dropped on the floor or have a hammer drop on it..... weather-proofing or protection filters probably wont really help much here! Common sense might! A little more realistically, is the protection filter argument, where again, the biggest threat to the front lens element is you, and the biggest risk of scratching it is you wiping it clean, and a protection filter wont 'save' a lens being broken cos you drop the camera or drop a hammer on it! Back to common sense.

So, risk vs reward.... eg; Weston-Super-Mere motorbike beach races. Pretty 'harsh' environment, with wet and wind and sand and motorbikes chucking rooster-tails of sand off their tyres at you. Biggest risk of damage is still 'me' and the likelihood I'll wipe the front element and make a scratch dragging sharp sand down the glass. But a bit of common cocum and no long lasting ill-harm to the camera after some diligent post even cleaning. Same beach, kidling with digi-compact, rushing off to take picture of thier sand-castle... and one bludgered electric lens-cap, cos sand got into the mechanism..... and kidling not so diligent! Aided and abbeted by overly complicated consumer product engineering, that suggests an automatic electric lens cap is a good sales feature to have on the box! But what are you prepared to stake for that win? Risk-vs-reward.

As suggested a bridge camera wouldn't make my short-list of potential camera purchases. Weather that had weather-proofing or not, then would be something way way down the list of features that might tip my decision to buy... and it certainly wouldn't be something that was a deal breaker!

Finally, any recommendations on cameras you may have used for wildlife photography/ safaris etc would be greatly appreciated! Finding it extremely difficult to know what suits my needs best.
Is safari/wildlife ALL you are going to see, or want to photo on that continent?

My mother was born in British-East-Africa.. It was a family joke, that the first time she saw a lion was in London Zoo when she came back to the UK aged 9 to see her gran! How much do you really think you will use a camera to take photo's out on the savanah? Even on a holiday, you would likely take more pictures at a hotel or around town than you would at a watering-hole. How much do you think that this idea of wild-life photography do you really expect to be of all the photography you may do whist there? And even IF most of your photo's are taken on safari... how many of them do you expect will be wildlife shots, and how many the camp-site, the tour guide or the party round the camp-fire?

Actually taking photo's of lions and stuff at the watering hole, or flamingos in flight, I suspect, will be a TINY fraction of the photo-opportunities you'd choose to try capture. A-N-D, little bit more thunks, as essentially a tourist newbie, with an over-the-counter consumer camera, and not a lot of know how or experience, either of the wildlife or the camera.... what do you expect to get, and just how good do you expect it to be, compared to the post-cards.... shot by pro's that can spend months, in a hide, with gazzilion $ worth of gear and a tripod, waiting for the subject, the light and the 'perfect moment'? Hint..... post-cards are cheap! And you don't have to hang around a watering hole for months swatting mosquitoes!

"Ah yes, BUT, that was the actual lion... well, its bum anyway.... that charged the rangers Land-Rover while we were there!"..... yeah? Nice talking point, but. As a bit of serendipity, would it be much more of a talking point because you took it with a better camera? Or that you had more 'zoom' to make that lions bum bigger in the frame, would it be any more of a talking point, or would having more zoom, and having to be that much more accurate or lucky to capture that lions bum, actually make it more likely you got a shot of a bit of desert, and were telling your party guests, "Ah, yes, well, just over there.. you might just be able to see its tail... was the lion that charged the ranger's land-rover... oh you should of seen it! It was hileriouse! He'd just gone for a wee, and was trying to belt his shorts up as he ran!"

Me, personally? If cost was a large consideration, rather than looking for a bridge camera on the high-street, I would be looking for a DSLR second hand on here, or the trade sites, or e-bay. A 'cheap' bridge might cost around £200 in curry's. Second hand, I could get a pretty good 'starter' DSLR, bag, spare batteries and memorty cards for the same money.... and actually, for daughter doing GCSE then A-Level then degree photography.... I have!

Bigger and bulkier, and less 'convenient', but not a lot less convenient than a bridge that's not as 'handy' as a samart-phone or propper pocket compact, its a shift of the compromise of an already compromised job. Meanwhile, on green-box auto, daughter spent an afternoon with O/H's 3 year old granddaughter running around with the thing snapping away, and they got some pretty good pictures. It's just as easy to point and shoot use. But, when daughter had learned a bit, then DSLR gave her the chance to do that, she could get alternative lenses for it, and not have to buy a complete new camera, to let her explore new genres and tackle trickier subjects... having box of cameras and lenses she could try already, sort of helped, but? Sticking to the mainstream makers of Canon/Nikon, there's a plethora of know how and expertise and accessories on offer, and for not tooo much money, if you want to progress and experiment. And you dont have so many mule made compromises as with an all in one bridge that is neither fish nor.

Between 13 and 30, I circumnavigated the world a few times, thanks to globe trotting father, and my constant companion was a little Olympus XA2, compact film camera with a fixed 35mm mild wide angle lens..... I still have one, its still one of my most used cameras, and probably half of my photo archive came out of that first XA2 compact... Yes, I have the odd picture of an elk in the rockies or a cow in the Punjab, but mostly by serendipity, and as said, if I wanted a really good photo of a moose in a lake or a tiger in a tree... post-card rack was full of them, and I could have bought the entire rack for less than a roll of film... rather than even try re-inventing the wheel, or moaning that my little compact camera wouldn't get me the picture I hoped for...... let alone, that without the know-how, without the experience, without the time and without the patience, EVEN with the pro-grade gear, I would still struggle to match anything that was on the post-cards! Little compact, got me shots of 'most' of what I saw, and a lot of them things that weren't on the post-cards, like the people I was with, and some of the daft things they did.. for which it, or a smart-phone, was not just entirely adequete, but particularly suitable, bein i9n my pocket when oportunity presented itself, being quick and easy to use, so I could grab a shot, not spend ten minutes faffing with the camera waiting for the screen to come on and get the right 'mode'... food for thought.

What 'really' do you hope to achieve? BUT... key is that either way, its YOU who takes the photo, not the camera. How much do you want to learn photography or to spend time an observer taking photo's rather than a participant doing other stuff? Pick a camera suitable to that aspiration, with a bit of realism of what you could actually achieve dialled in, and remember that a Bridge camera is a bag of compromises, a jack of all trades, master of none, and most of the compromises in them are ones that best suit the marketing men that have to sell it, than you, the person that wants to use it.
 
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#3
@Teflon-Mike speaks a lot of the troof. I'd just add that you really can't go wrong by buying a small travel compact with a superzoom starting at 24mm equivalent. Even if you start using it and find it limiting enough to need to expand to a full system camera it will still have a place in your pocket. Something like a Lumix TZ200 would do everything you need and would be there when you want it. Bridge cameras aren't sufficiently better to warrant the bulk.
 
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I agree in the most part.. however in actuality, the current crop of 1 inch sensor models are extremely superior and not massively bulky. Take the Sony RX10 3 or Pansasonic FZ1000 (both now replaced with new models). I've had both of these and have pretty much no complaints overall - the lens are exemplary, the sensor and ISO performance is a world away from how things used to be in the old days; Check out the high end bridge camera thread, or have a look at these models on DP review (they have good samples you can download). Both these cameras are quick, flexible and delivery great images considering. I don't think you would be disappointed. Best bet would be to read up further online before entirely discarding the thought
 
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#5
<cough>The TZ200 has a 1" sensor, just sayin'

For someone who, like the OP, wants to move from phone photos to something more capable, the form factor of the compact travel camera is going to be much easier to use, the bulk of a bridge camera turns it into a completely different animal.
 
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Pansasonic FZ1000 (both now replaced with new models).
Uh, hmmmm, yeah... its sort of more neither nor, and more expensive for it, begging that much more expectation.
For the money, you are over and above that of a pocket-compact for the 'features' as well as that of the mid-range entry level DSLR outfits. There's no money to be saved, buying a high-end bridge..... unless you are completely convinced by the sales-mans hype that with a very compromised all in one built in zoom lens, its 'all the camera you would ever want!"... which is probably wrong. Chances are that an all in one bridge, will encourage a user's enthusiasm, but leave them lacking, and wanting/needing a DSLR to get what they hope, with a lot of effups along the way, where a compact or smart-phone, might not have delivered the 'wow' factor, but got them 'something' for the family album.
The big sensor? Well, its 'better' than micro-sensor bridge, compact or smart-phones, I suppose; but it's still only the sensor size of an APS-C sensor DSLR. Its a neat sales feature, but, its still neither fish-nor foul, and chasing 'better' bridge cameras, means looking further up the market, where they pack them with more and more features they can stick on the box, to charge more money for, without giving them the actual usability or versatility of a DSLR, you could get, even new, for less money.
Nice 'idea'... and if considered a not-so-compact, compact point and press, they probably are quite useful... but, they are still neither fish nor foul... its like going to burger-bar rather than a butty van or proper resturant; convenient, yes, cheap, probably not, heut cuisine, definitely not.... just convenient.
Quick look at curry's webby; Nikon D3500, £360. Panasonic Lumix FZ1000, £580!!!
I'll take the Nikon and a couple of spare batteries and SD cards of e-bay, and a 55-300 lens to stretch the kit, and likely still save some money; especially if it all ends up on e-bay in a years time! I think.
Actually; that 1" sensor... probably not even an APS-C sized sensor; specs seem to say its 13x9mm, compared to 24x16mm for APS-C, so its not even a particularly big-sensor compact!
 
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#7
I took a bridge camera to Zimbabwe a few years back - the images were very disappointing to say the least, and water did get inside at Vic falls. A 1" sensor will give better images than a tiny compact sensor, but OTOH you won't get such an amazing superzoom lens.

What do you want to photograph? Wildlife pretty much requires an enormous telephoto length, while for street & scenery you'd probably be fine with the equivalent of 24-105mm. Bear in mind too that SA is not a 'happy' place, and there's a good chance that any kind of flashy camera will be a temptation to thieves, possibly accompanied by murder. On that basis it might be better to have something small & inconspicuous for use in town, plus a second super-zoom camera for wildlife.
 
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#8
I was in the same boat last year, I had a 3day job in Cape Town and didn't want to take my Nikon (not know how safe the place is) so I bought and Olympus OM-D EM1 and the 12-40 but also the Sony Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV, the later being an amazing little camera which I could pocket quickly if needed, but you have more lens choice with the Olympus.
 

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#9
A good compact will serve you well. It's a useful camera to have anyway, but you really need a DSLR and at least one long lens for wildlife. Used gear is usually available in the classifieds, although you'll need more posts to get access, and there are various online dealers you can also try. It's also worth bearing in mind that you'll take a big knock on a new camera if you decide to sell it on later, used gear doesn't depreciate so quickly.

I'd also think about renting. Have a look here https://www.outdoorphoto.co.za/rentals. They're based in Pretoria, and the business is owned by Hedrus Van Der Merwe who is a professional photographer. For the record, I bought my 30D from him years ago, but I have no other relationship/connection with them. I'm sure there are other rental options, such as Orms at https://www.ormsdirect.co.za/rentals in Cape Town, but I don't know where you're going to be based.

Have a great time. SA is stunning. I'm South African on my mother's side, I lived there for + 30 years, and I still love the country despite its challenges.
 
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#10
I took a bridge camera to Zimbabwe a few years back - the images were very disappointing to say the least, and water did get inside at Vic falls. A 1" sensor will give better images than a tiny compact sensor, but OTOH you won't get such an amazing superzoom lens.

What do you want to photograph? Wildlife pretty much requires an enormous telephoto length, while for street & scenery you'd probably be fine with the equivalent of 24-105mm. Bear in mind too that SA is not a 'happy' place, and there's a good chance that any kind of flashy camera will be a temptation to thieves, possibly accompanied by murder. On that basis it might be better to have something small & inconspicuous for use in town, plus a second super-zoom camera for wildlife.
That's interesting to hear you found it very disappointing. Which bridge camera was it? Was it weather proofed? Should I be concerned about dust getting in and potentially ruining a camera?

I'm doing a conservation internship so will be working 6 days a week, and would therefore imagine it would be mostly wildlife rather than street and scenery photography.
 

MartynK

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#11
That's interesting to hear you found it very disappointing. Which bridge camera was it? Was it weather proofed? Should I be concerned about dust getting in and potentially ruining a camera?

I'm doing a conservation internship so will be working 6 days a week, and would therefore imagine it would be mostly wildlife rather than street and scenery photography.
That changes the perspectives quite a lot. I'd look for a decent, used, DSLR and at least one telephoto in the 300mm - 400mm range. If you go for Canon, the most popular 'safari' lens is the f4.5 - f5.6 L but it's expensive. You might still be able to find a good used example of the earlier Mk 1, which was replaced a few years ago, but it's still not going to be cheap.

Don't forget that wildlife/outdoor photography in Africa isn't all about animals at a distance. A standard lens or short zoom and a macro lens for insects and spiders will also serve you well.

The best opportunities often follow sunrise and in the evening, when animals are on the move and at the water holes/rivers. Grab the latter when you can, the light goes fast in Southern Africa, we don't have the long, light, evenings of Northern Europe.
 
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#12
That's interesting to hear you found it very disappointing. Which bridge camera was it? Was it weather proofed? Should I be concerned about dust getting in and potentially ruining a camera?
Fuji HS30. It wasn't weather-proofed, so I couldn't expect it to keep out water, and I wasn't prepared for the torrential downpour in the area around vic falls, though that had nothing to do with my disappointment. The things that disappointed me were that images were not always well exposed, often highlights would blow and shadows were muddy (little ability to recover shadow detail with jpg images) and nothing was ever really crisp, especially at the longer end of the zoom.

Examples
Zimbabwe examples-2.jpg

Zimbabwe examples-3335.jpg

Zimbabwe examples-3369.jpg
 
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#13
And there you have it. Be interesting to hear what the OP has to say on the matter. I suspect someone who has been using a camera phone would be overjoyed with those and struggle to see any issues.
 

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Fuji HS30. It wasn't weather-proofed, so I couldn't expect it to keep out water, and I wasn't prepared for the torrential downpour in the area around vic falls, though that had nothing to do with my disappointment. The things that disappointed me were that images were not always well exposed, often highlights would blow and shadows were muddy (little ability to recover shadow detail with jpg images) and nothing was ever really crisp, especially at the longer end of the zoom.
I suspect that nothing short of a full underwater housing would work at Vic Falls, particularly during the wet season!

The light and contrast can be very harsh/extreme in Southern Africa, which can complicate exposure. Wildlife also tends to blend in with the landscape/vegetation, and I don't think a bridge camera is the best tool for this sort of photography. On the other hand, you have shots to bring back memories even if you were disappointed with them. :)
 
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Going to be selling a Canon 7D MK II has a few marks on it but spot on otherwise.Out of warranty just over three years old and grey market.
If you’re interested let me know and when I post it up I’ll PM you.
 

TheBigYin

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Going to be selling a Canon 7D MK II has a few marks on it but spot on otherwise.Out of warranty just over three years old and grey market.
If you’re interested let me know and when I post it up I’ll PM you.
as the OP only joined on the 4th of April and has only made 2 posts, they can't see the classifieds, and obviously, you'd only be selling your wares via there and not by PM, wouldn't you...
 
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as the OP only joined on the 4th of April and has only made 2 posts, they can't see the classifieds, and obviously, you'd only be selling your wares via there and not by PM, wouldn't you...
As it states I will PM you when it’s posted up,Ie giving him the heads up that it’s available in the classifieds.
 

TheBigYin

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As it states I will PM you when it’s posted up,Ie giving him the heads up that it’s available in the classifieds.
doesn't help if they can't see it for another month and a half and 23 more posts, does it... though it COULD be seen as an incitement to trade off classifieds by more cynical members of the moderation staff or management...
 
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#20
A fairly inexpensive option would be the Pentax K70 DSLR and Pentax DA/DA*/D-FA WR lenses (quite an extensive range) if weather proofing is a consideration.. I've never hesitated putting my Pentax kit under the shower after a trip to sandy/muddy places and it is fairly lightweight compared/compact with the 7D2 and L-series lens (70-300 or 100-400). My Pentax gear has done torrential downpowrs, pacific waves and niagara falls with no issues.

But there is the factor of buying a camera just for the purpose of photographing Africa for a few months to capture memories and then potentially leaving the camera idle for months on end afterwards... so it makes the OP wonder how much they want to pay (I won't say invest because photography gear does not constitute investment) if you do not make money from your photographs).
 
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