Safari Photography Guide

Embarking on an African safari promises an exhilarating and memorable adventure, and ensuring you have the appropriate camera gear is crucial for immortalizing those rare and exceptional moments. Canon stands out as a top choice among camera brands for safari photography, renowned for its superior image quality and robust build. This article delves into the optimal Canon cameras and lenses to seize breathtaking photos during an African safari. This safari photography guide focuses on Canon as it is the brand that I use for all my photography and I have found the bodies and lenses robust and able to withstand whatever nature chooses to throw at you while on safari.

Behind the Lens: A Peek into My Camera Bag Essentials

In the dynamic world of photography, having the right gear can make all the difference in capturing those picture-perfect moments. Here’s an in-depth look into what’s in my camera bag, a carefully curated selection of equipment that empowers me to unleash my creativity.

  • Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II (Camera Backpack)

The backbone of my photography setup is the Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II. Crafted with precision, this camera backpack is a perfect blend of durability and functionality. Its customizable interior ensures a snug fit for my gear, while the all-weather cover provides protection against the elements. With its versatile design, this backpack is a reliable companion for photographers on the move.

  • Canon R7 Camera

At the heart of my kit is the Canon R7 Camera. Boasting advanced features and a mirrorless design, it delivers outstanding performance and portability and with its crop sensor is perfect for safari photography. With a high-resolution sensor and rapid autofocus, the Canon R7 empowers me to capture crisp and vibrant images, making it an indispensable tool for both amateurs and professionals.

  • Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

Enhancing the versatility of my setup, the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R allows seamless integration of my EF lenses with the Canon R7. This adapter ensures compatibility across the Canon lens ecosystem, giving me the flexibility to explore various shooting styles and perspectives.

  • CANON EF 100-400MM F/4.5-5.6L IS II USM (Telephoto Lens)

When it comes to capturing distant subjects with precision, the CANON EF 100-400MM F/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is my go-to telephoto lens. Its impressive focal range and image stabilization technology enable me to achieve sharp, detailed shots, making it an essential tool for wildlife photography.

  • SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD 2TB (Storage Solution)

Storage is never a concern with the SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD 2TB. This high-speed, compact storage solution ensures that I have ample space for my extensive collection of photos and videos. Its rugged design adds an extra layer of security, making it the perfect companion for on-the-go photographers.

  • Lexar SILVER Series Professional 1667x 128GB UHS-II SDXC Memory Card

The Lexar SILVER Series Professional 1667x 128GB UHS-II SDXC Memory Card complements my camera’s capabilities with its high-speed performance. With rapid read and write speeds, this memory card ensures smooth data transfer, a crucial factor in capturing high-resolution images and recording 4K videos.

  • CANON EF 24-105MM F/4L IS II USM (Versatile Zoom Lens)

The CANON EF 24-105MM F/4L IS II USM is a versatile workhorse in my kit. Its wide focal range and constant aperture make it suitable for a variety of shooting scenarios, from landscapes to portraits. The built-in image stabilization ensures sharp results even in challenging lighting conditions.

  • MacBook Air 13-inch  Apple M2 (Editing Powerhouse)

For on-the-go editing and organization, the MacBook Air 13-inch with the Apple M2 chip is my trusty companion. Its lightweight design and powerful processing capabilities allow me to review and edit photos with efficiency, ensuring a seamless workflow during and after photo sessions.

  • Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones (Immersive Audio Experience)

These headphones provide an unparalleled audio experience with exceptional noise cancellation, perfect for long flights and allowing me to focus entirely on my work, whether I’m editing photos or reviewing footage, or listening to music.

  • Manfrotto Element Travel Tripod (Stability on the Go)

Stability is paramount in photography, and the Manfrotto Element Travel Tripod delivers just that. With its lightweight design and quick setup, this tripod provides a steady platform for capturing long-exposure shots, group portraits, or any scenario where stability is key.

  • Spare Canon LP-E6NH Lithium-Ion Battery

To ensure uninterrupted shooting, I always carry a spare Canon LP-E6NH Lithium-Ion Battery. With extended battery life, I have the peace of mind that I won’t miss a crucial moment, especially during extended photo sessions or while exploring remote locations.

  • iPhone 15 Pro Max (Smartphone Camera)

Lastly, the iPhone 15 Pro Max serves as a versatile tool for quick captures and behind-the-scenes moments. With its advanced camera capabilities, it complements my professional gear and allows me to document scenes spontaneously, ensuring no moment goes uncaptured.

Photography Tips  

Engaging in safari photography offers a rare chance to capture breathtaking wildlife images in their native surroundings. Yet, achieving these moments can be daunting without a grasp of the optimal camera settings. Armed with the right configuration, you can produce sharp, well-exposed photographs with vibrant colors. This section will explore the most effective camera settings and offer tips for successful safari photography.

Shutter Spee d

Capturing the essence of movement is crucial in safari photography, making shutter speed a vital setting. Opting for a faster shutter speed proves effective in freezing the motion of swift-moving animals. Typically, a recommended shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second or faster is advised for wildlife photography. Adjustments to the shutter speed may be necessary depending on the animal’s movement and the prevailing lighting conditions.

Slow shutter speed can also play a crucial role in enhancing the artistic and dynamic elements of safari photography. While a faster shutter speed freezes fast-paced movement, a slower shutter speed introduces intentional blur, imparting a sense of motion to the image. This effect can be particularly useful when capturing the graceful movements of animals, such as a herd of wildebeests or a bird in flight.

By deliberately slowing down the shutter speed, you allow more light to enter the camera, contributing to a longer exposure time. This can result in visually striking photographs, showcasing the ambient light and creating a sense of drama in the scene. It’s important to note that using a slow shutter speed requires a steady hand or, preferably, a tripod to avoid unwanted camera shake.

Experimenting with slow shutter speeds in safari photography opens up creative possibilities, offering a unique perspective that goes beyond simply freezing action. Consider incorporating this technique when the opportunity arises, and adapt your settings based on the specific conditions and subjects encountered during your safari adventure.

In safari photography, mastering the relationship between aperture and depth of field is key to creating compelling and visually striking images. The aperture, the opening in the camera lens that controls the amount of light entering, plays a dual role by significantly influencing the depth of field in your photographs.

A wide aperture, represented by a smaller f-number (e.g., f/2.8 or f/4), is advantageous for safari shots. This setting allows more light to reach the camera sensor and creates a shallow depth of field. This shallow depth of field results in the main subject, such as a magnificent lion or an elegant giraffe, being sharply focused, while the background is beautifully blurred. This technique not only isolates the subject but also adds a pleasing aesthetic element to the image.

On the other hand, a narrow aperture, represented by a larger f-number (e.g., f/11 or f/16), increases the depth of field. This is useful when you want to keep both the foreground and background in focus, capturing the broader context of the scene. It’s essential to strike a balance between aperture and depth of field based on your creative vision and the specific composition you aim to achieve.

Understanding how to manipulate the aperture for optimal depth of field empowers you to adapt to different safari scenarios and improve your safari photography. Whether you’re highlighting a single animal against a dreamy backdrop or capturing the expansive landscape with various subjects in sharp focus, mastering aperture settings enhances the storytelling potential of your safari photography.

ISO is a measure of your camera’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO can help you achieve a faster shutter speed in low-light conditions. However, a high ISO can also introduce noise or grain in your images. You should try to use the lowest ISO possible to achieve the desired shutter speed and aperture. A good starting point for ISO is 400, but you may need to adjust it based on the lighting conditions.

When capturing animal photographs on a safari, selecting the right focus mode is crucial to ensure that you achieve sharp and well-focused shots, especially considering the unpredictability of wildlife behavior. Here are some focus modes and considerations for taking animal photographs on safari:

  • Continuous Autofocus (AI Servo or equivalent): This focus mode is essential for photographing moving subjects, such as animals in action. Continuous autofocus allows the camera to track the subject and adjust focus continuously, ensuring that your shots remain sharp even as the animal moves within the frame. It’s particularly useful for dynamic scenes like animals in motion or engaged in activities. This is the mode in which I normally have my camera set.
  • Single Autofocus (One-Shot AF): When photographing stationary animals or capturing portraits, using the Single Autofocus mode can be effective. This mode locks focus on a specific point, and it’s suitable when your subject is relatively still. It allows you to achieve precise focus on the animal, especially when capturing detailed shots or portraits.
  • Face and Eye Detection: Many modern cameras, including those used for safari photography, come equipped with advanced face and eye detection technology. When photographing animals, especially those with distinct facial features, enabling face and eye detection can help the camera automatically focus on the eyes or faces of the animals, resulting in compelling and engaging images. This needs to be set in your camera menu.
  • Zone or Expanded Area Autofocus: For situations where your subject may move unpredictably within a certain area of the frame, using a zone or expanded area autofocus mode can be beneficial. This allows the camera to focus on a broader region, making it more forgiving if the animal moves slightly within the selected zone.
  • Manual Focus: In certain scenarios, such as when dealing with challenging lighting conditions or when the camera’s autofocus might struggle, switching to manual focus gives you full control over focusing. This can be particularly useful for capturing shots where the autofocus system might have difficulty, such as in dense vegetation or low-light environments.

When on a safari, it’s essential to be ready for various shooting conditions and animal behaviors. Experimenting with different focus modes and being familiar with your camera’s autofocus capabilities will help you adapt to different situations, ensuring that you can capture stunning and well-focused animal photographs on your safari adventure.

Exposure mode

When on safari, selecting the appropriate exposure mode on your Canon camera is crucial for capturing well-exposed and visually appealing photographs in a variety of lighting conditions. Canon cameras typically offer several exposure modes, and the choice depends on the specific shooting scenario. Here are some exposure modes to consider:

  • Aperture Priority (Av): This mode allows you to set the desired aperture while the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed to achieve a proper exposure. Aperture Priority is useful when you want to control the depth of field, especially in wildlife photography where isolating the subject with a blurred background might be desirable.
  • Shutter Priority (TV): Shutter Priority lets you choose the shutter speed while the camera adjusts the aperture accordingly. This mode is beneficial for capturing fast-moving animals or freezing motion in dynamic scenes. For example, when photographing wildlife in action, a faster shutter speed can help avoid motion blur.
  • Program (P) Mode: In Program mode, the camera automatically sets both the aperture and shutter speed based on the scene’s lighting conditions. This mode is convenient when you want a balance between control and automation, suitable for situations where lighting is relatively consistent.
  • Manual (M) Mode: Manual mode provides full control over both aperture and shutter speed. This mode is beneficial when dealing with challenging lighting situations or when you want precise control over exposure settings. It’s particularly useful for capturing diverse safari scenes where lighting conditions may vary.
  • Auto (Green Square or Scene Modes): The Auto mode is suitable for beginners or situations where you want the camera to handle most of the exposure settings. Many Canon cameras also offer scene modes, allowing you to select a specific scenario (e.g., landscape, portrait, sports) for optimized settings.
  • Exposure Compensation: Regardless of the exposure mode you choose, exposure compensation is a valuable tool. It allows you to adjust the exposure up or down in increments to compensate for challenging lighting conditions. This can be crucial when dealing with backlit subjects or scenes with high contrast.

When on safari, be prepared to encounter a variety of lighting situations, from bright sunlight to low-light conditions during sunrise or sunset. Familiarizing yourself with the different exposure modes on your Canon camera and understanding how they affect aperture, shutter speed, and ISO will help you adapt to the diverse and dynamic environments of a safari, ensuring you capture stunning images with optimal exposure.


When embarking on a safari adventure with your Canon camera, the choice between shooting in RAW or JPEG format becomes a crucial decision, each with its own set of advantages and considerations. My safari photography is done solely in RAW.

RAW Format:

  • Maximum Image Quality: RAW files contain uncompressed and unprocessed data captured by the camera’s sensor. This results in the highest image quality and provides more flexibility in post-processing.
  • Greater Dynamic Range: RAW files retain more information in highlights and shadows, allowing for better recovery of details in post-production. This is particularly useful in challenging lighting conditions often encountered on safaris.
  • Extensive Editing Options: RAW files offer a broader range of editing possibilities, enabling adjustments to exposure, color balance, and sharpness without significant loss of quality.
  • White Balance Flexibility: RAW allows you to fine-tune white balance settings during post-processing, providing greater control over the final appearance of your images.
  • Optimal for Print and Large Prints: RAW files are well-suited for large prints due to their higher resolution and superior image quality.

JPEG Format:

  • Smaller File Sizes: JPEG files are compressed, resulting in smaller file sizes. This can be advantageous for conserving storage space on memory cards and hard drives.
  • In-Camera Processing: JPEG files undergo in-camera processing, applying settings like white balance, sharpness, and color saturation at the time of capture. This can be convenient if you prefer minimal post-processing.
  • Quick Sharing: JPEGs are easily shareable as they are ready to be uploaded or sent without the need for extensive post-production. This can be beneficial when sharing images promptly, such as on social media.
  • Faster Burst Rates: Shooting in JPEG allows for faster burst rates and longer continuous shooting, beneficial when capturing rapid sequences of wildlife action.


Storage Capacity: RAW files consume more storage space than JPEGs. Ensure you have sufficient memory cards and storage devices, especially if you plan to shoot extensively.

Post-Processing Skill: If you are comfortable with post-processing and desire maximum control over your images, shooting in RAW is recommended. However, if you prefer minimal editing and quicker workflows, JPEG may be suitable.

Backup: Given the larger file sizes of RAW, having a robust backup strategy is essential to avoid the loss of valuable images.

Ultimately, the choice between RAW and JPEG depends on your preferences, post-processing workflow, and the level of control you seek over your safari photographs. Many photographers opt for shooting in RAW for the superior image quality and flexibility it provides during post-production, especially when capturing the diverse and challenging conditions of a safari environment.

Familiarize Yourself with Your Camera Settings

Before embarking on your safari, take the time to acquaint yourself with the settings of your Canon camera. Knowing how to manipulate factors like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO is crucial for capturing captivating photos of wildlife and landscapes. Opting for manual mode grants you complete control over your camera settings, enabling adjustments tailored to the specific shooting conditions. For beginners, Aperture Priority mode serves as a viable option, providing control over depth of field while the camera automatically adjusts other settings.

Use a Telephoto Lens

When embarking on a safari adventure in Africa, having the right telephoto lens can significantly enhance your wildlife photography. Canon, a renowned camera and lens manufacturer, offers a variety of telephoto lenses designed to capture the beauty and essence of African wildlife. 

To explore these lenses further and make an informed decision, you can check out real reviews from experienced photographers by clicking on the respective links. These firsthand experiences will give you valuable insights into the capabilities of each lens and help you choose the perfect companion for your safari photography journey.

Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM Lens

  • Compact, lightweight, and high-image quality RF Tele zoom lens
  • Optical Image Stabilizer with up to 5.5 Stops of shake correction
  • High speed, smooth, and quiet autofocus with Canon’s Nano USM
  • 9-blade circular aperture for beautiful bokeh
  • Control Ring for direct setting changes

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM :

  • Versatile zoom range for flexibility in framing distant subjects.
  • Advanced Image Stabilization (IS) for sharp handheld shots.
  • Excellent image quality with fluorite and super UD glass elements.
  • Fast and accurate autofocus for capturing fast-moving wildlife.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM :

  • A professional-grade telephoto zoom lens with a wide aperture.
  • Ideal for capturing wildlife portraits and details.
  • Superior image stabilization for handheld shooting.
  • Durable build suitable for rugged safari conditions.

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM :

  • Exceptional image quality with a wide aperture for low-light conditions.
  • Super telephoto reach for capturing distant subjects.
  • Advanced IS technology for stable handheld shooting.
  • Lightweight design for easier portability during safari excursions.

Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM :

  • Designed for Canon’s RF mount, offering compatibility with mirrorless cameras.
  • Impressive zoom range for versatile composition.
  • Image Stabilization for sharp images at longer focal lengths.
  • Compact and lightweight design for travel and safari use.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM :

  • Super telephoto lens with an ultra-wide aperture for exceptional light gathering.
  • Ideal for capturing distant or elusive wildlife with incredible detail.
  • Advanced IS system for handheld stability.
  • Robust build with magnesium alloy construction.

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x :

  • Unique built-in extender for increased focal length flexibility.
  • Versatile zoom range suitable for a variety of safari scenarios.
  • Advanced optical design for high-quality images.
  • Durable construction for challenging environmental conditions.

When selecting a telephoto lens for safari photography, consider factors such as focal length, aperture, and image stabilization. The choice depends on your specific preferences, the type of wildlife you plan to capture, and the shooting conditions you expect to encounter during your African safari.

Consider using a Wide-Angle Lens

When embarking on a safari adventure in Africa, a wide-angle lens can be a valuable addition to your camera gear. While telephoto lenses are often associated with wildlife photography, wide-angle lenses offer unique opportunities to capture the vast landscapes, stunning scenery, and the broader context of the safari experience. Here are some Canon wide-angle lenses to consider and why you might use them on a safari:

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM :

  • Versatile Wide-Angle Zoom: This lens covers a broad range of focal lengths, making it versatile for capturing both expansive landscapes and closer subjects.
  • Large Aperture: The wide f/2.8 aperture allows for excellent low-light performance and creative control over depth of field.
  • Durable Construction: With weather-sealing and robust build quality, it’s suitable for varied safari conditions.

Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM :

  • Designed for Mirrorless Cameras: This lens is part of Canon’s RF series, providing compatibility with their mirrorless cameras.
  • Image Stabilization: The inclusion of image stabilization is beneficial for handheld shooting, especially in low-light situations.
  • High Optical Performance: Offers sharpness and clarity across the frame, capturing the vibrant details of African landscapes.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM :

  • Wide Aperture: With a wide f/1.4 aperture, this lens excels in low-light conditions, allowing you to capture the magical moments of sunrise or sunset on the safari.
  • Prime Lens Quality: As a prime lens, it delivers exceptional optical performance and is well-suited for capturing wide-angle scenes with stunning clarity.

Canon RF 14-35mm f/4L IS USM :

  • Ultra-Wide Angle: This lens offers an ultra-wide focal length, ideal for capturing dramatic landscapes and immersive safari scenes.
  • Image Stabilization: Equipped with image stabilization for handheld stability, even at wider angles.
  • Compact and Lightweight: Designed for portability, making it a practical choice for travel and safari expeditions.

Why Use a Wide-Angle Lens on Safari:

Landscape Photography: Wide-angle lenses are perfect for capturing the vastness of African landscapes, showcasing the sweeping plains, majestic mountains, and expansive skies.

Environmental Context: Wide-angle lenses help tell a more comprehensive story by including the surroundings, and providing context to the wildlife and their habitat.

Creative Perspectives: Wide-angle lenses allow for creative compositions, emphasizing foreground elements and creating a sense of depth in your images.

Group Shots: When photographing groups of animals or scenes with multiple subjects, a wide-angle lens ensures you can fit more into the frame.

In summary, incorporating a wide-angle lens into your camera kit for an African safari enables you to capture breathtaking landscapes and diverse environments, providing a well-rounded photographic narrative of your safari experience.

Best Canon Cameras For Safari

Choosing the right Canon camera for an African safari involves considering factors such as budget, features, and the level of photographic expertise. Here are recommendations for affordable, mid-range, and professional-level Canon cameras that are well-suited for capturing the diverse and dynamic scenes encountered during an African safari:

Affordable Cameras:

Canon EOS Rebel T7i (EOS 800D):

  • Budget-Friendly: The Rebel T7i offers an affordable entry point for those on a budget.
  • 24.2MP APS-C Sensor: Provides decent image quality for capturing wildlife and landscapes.
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF: Ensures quick and accurate autofocus, handy for spontaneous wildlife moments.

Affordable RF Canon Cameras

Canon EOS R100

  • Entry-Level Mirrorless: A budget-friendly mirrorless option24.1 Megapixel (APS-C) CMOS Sensor with ISO 10025600 (H: 51200
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC Technology.
  • 9-point AF System and AI Servo AF
  • Optical Viewfinder with Approx. 95% Viewing Coverage
  • 3.0-inch LCD with 920,000 Dots
  • Scene Intelligent Auto Mode – Full HD 30p 
  • Canon EOS Rebel SL3 DSLR Camera
  • Lightest, Smallest EOS DSLR camera.
  • High Image Quality with 24.1 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) Sensor
  • Fast and Accurate Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Eye Detection AF
  • 4K Video, 4K Time-lapse Movie
  • Vari-angle Touchscreen, 3.0-inch LCD.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Technology with Auto Image Transfer.

Mid-Range Canon Cameras :

  • Canon EOS 90D
  • Fast continuous shooting, Capture the action at up to 10fps
  • 32.5 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, For exquisite detail
  • Intelligent optical viewfinder, Comfortable to use even over long periods
  • 45 cross type AF points with multi-controller, Focus quickly and accurately even in low light
  • iTR focus tracking, Keep even fast-moving subjects in focus
  • 4K filmmaking and Dual Pixel CMOS AF, Superb quality video and audio
  • Canon EOS 6D Mark II
  • Full-Frame Power: A mid-range full-frame option.26.2 Megapixel Full-frame CMOS Sensor
  • Optical Viewfinder with a 45-point All Cross-type AF System
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase-detection & Full HD 60p
  • DIGIC 7 Image Processor, ISO 100-40000
  • Vari-angle Touch Screen, 3.0-inch LCD
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth and GPS
  • Canon EOS R7
  • High Image Quality with a 32.5 Megapixel (APS-C) CMOS Sensor
  • High-Speed Shooting
  • Blazing Fast Autofocus
  • 5-axis In-body Image Stabilization with auto-level technology
  • Record each clip over 30 minutes
  • Get professional quality video with Smart Shoe integration for audio and HQ 4K


Pro Canon Cameras

  • Canon EOS R3 Mirrorless Camera
  • High Image Quality with a Back-illuminated Stacked 24.1 Megapixel Full-frame CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC X Image Processor with an ISO range of 100-102400; Expandable to 204800
  • The First EOS Digital camera to feature Eye Control AF
  • 5.76-million-dot & 120fps blackout-free EVF with quick response, as well as a Vari-Angle Touchscreen
  • Capable of recording 6K 60P RAW or 4K 120p 10-bit (uncropped) with Canon Log 3
  • Dual Card Slots for CFexpress and UHS-II SD Memory Cards
  • Canon EOS 1DX Mark III
  • A new era in autofocus speed and accuracy
  • Outstanding stills and video
  • High speed camera communications
  • Always ready to perform, whatever the situation
  • Enhanced DIGIC Processor
  • New CMOS Sensor

Considerations When Buying a Canon Camera for Your African Safari:

Focal Length and Lens Compatibility: Ensure the camera is compatible with the lenses you need for wildlife and landscape photography, considering both EF and RF lenses.

Autofocus Performance: Wildlife photography demands reliable autofocus, so look for advanced autofocus systems like Dual Pixel CMOS AF for quick and accurate focusing.

Weather Sealing: Given the varied conditions on safari, having a camera with weather-sealed construction is crucial for durability and protection against the elements.

Portability and Weight: Consider the size and weight of the camera, especially if you plan to carry it for extended periods during safari excursions.

Battery Life: Longer battery life is beneficial for extended periods in the field. Consider having spare batteries for backup.

Video Capabilities: If you plan to document your safari in video format, consider cameras with advanced video features, such as 4K recording and high frame rates.

Low-Light Performance: Given the early morning and late evening safari excursions, good low-light performance is essential for capturing wildlife in natural lighting conditions.

Budget: Determine your budget range and choose a camera that offers the best features within that range. Consider investing in good lenses as well.

  • It Is Important To Pay Attention To The Lighting. 

Lighting is a crucial aspect of photography, and when on safari, capturing the vibrant colors, textures, and details of wildlife and landscapes depends significantly on understanding and utilizing available light conditions. Here are considerations and tips for handling lighting while on a safari photography expedition:

  • Golden Hours:
  • Early Morning and Late Afternoon: The golden hours around sunrise and sunset provide soft, warm, and directional light. This lighting not only enhances the natural colors of the environment but also creates long shadows, adding depth and dimension to your photographs.
  • Harsh Daylight:
  • Use Shadows Creatively: Embrace the challenges of harsh midday sunlight by incorporating shadows creatively. These shadows can add contrast and drama to your images, especially when capturing textured landscapes or wildlife features.
  • Cloudy Days:
  • Even and Soft Lighting: Overcast or cloudy days can provide even and soft lighting. This diffuse light reduces harsh shadows and can be advantageous for capturing details and colors without the distraction of strong contrasts.
  • Backlighting:
  • Silhouettes and Rim Lighting: Experiment with backlighting, especially during sunrise or sunset. This technique can create silhouettes and add a beautiful rim light to your subjects, highlighting their contours against the backdrop.
  • Adapt to Changing Conditions:
  • Be Flexible: Safari conditions can change rapidly, from bright sunlight to overcast skies. Be prepared to adapt your settings and compositions accordingly. Stay alert to the changing atmosphere and adjust your approach as needed.
  • Use Natural Frames:
  • Utilize Trees and Vegetation: Take advantage of natural elements like trees or bushes to create frames within your composition. These frames can add interest to your photos and also help control the intensity of sunlight.
  • Consider the Animal’s Perspective:
  • Capture Catchlights: When photographing animals, pay attention to the catchlights in their eyes. Position yourself so that the light enhances the catchlights, bringing life and sparkle to the subject’s eyes.
  • White Balance:
  • Adjust for Conditions: Set your camera’s white balance according to the prevailing conditions. Different lighting situations may require adjustments to maintain accurate and natural color tones.
  • Avoid Direct Flash:
  • Opt for Natural Light: While flash can be useful in certain situations, especially for fill-in light, try to rely on natural light as much as possible. It provides a more authentic and visually appealing look to your safari photographs.
  • Patience and Observation:
  • Wait for the Right Moments: Patience is key in wildlife photography. Observe the behavior of animals and be ready to capture those magical moments when the lighting is just perfect.
  • Silent and Respectful Approach:
  • Minimize Disturbance: Approach animals silently and respectfully to avoid disturbing their natural behavior. This not only ensures ethical photography but also allows you to capture them in their most relaxed and authentic state.
  • Lens Hoods and Filters:
  • Minimize Lens Flare: Use lens hoods to minimize lens flare caused by direct sunlight. Consider using polarizing filters to manage reflections and enhance colors.


Lighting is a dynamic element in safari photography, and understanding how to adapt to different conditions will significantly impact the quality of your images. Whether you’re capturing the warmth of a sunrise, the drama of a storm, or the soft glow of an overcast day, being attuned to the nuances of lighting will help you create stunning and evocative safari photographs.                                                                                                       

Best Software To Edit Safari Photos

Editing safari photographs requires software that can handle various aspects such as color correction, exposure adjustments, and fine-tuning details to bring out the beauty of wildlife and landscapes. Here, I’ll discuss three popular software options for editing safari photographs: Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and Luminar Neo.

  • Adobe Lightroom: 
  • User-friendly interface: Lightroom’s intuitive interface makes it accessible for both beginners and experienced photographers.
  • Non-destructive editing: Lightroom preserves the original image, allowing you to experiment with edits without altering the original file.
  • Efficient organization: The software offers robust cataloging and organizational tools, helping users manage large collections of safari photographs.
  • Synchronization: Edits made in Lightroom can be synchronized across multiple devices, facilitating a seamless editing workflow.
  • Key Features: Global and local adjustments: Lightroom enables users to make overall adjustments to the entire image or target specific areas using the Graduated Filter, Radial Filter, and Adjustment Brush tools.
  • Presets and profiles: The software includes a variety of presets and profiles, allowing users to apply predefined settings or create their own for consistent editing.                                                                     

Advanced editing capabilities: Photoshop is a powerful software for intricate and detailed edits, making it suitable for tasks like retouching and compositing.

Layers and masks: The ability to work with layers and masks provides a high level of control over specific elements in the image, enhancing flexibility in editing.

  • Key Features:
  • Retouching tools: Photoshop offers advanced retouching tools, such as the Healing Brush and Clone Stamp, which are useful for removing distractions or imperfections in safari photographs.Advanced color correction: Photoshop provides extensive color correction tools, allowing photographers to fine-tune the color balance and enhance the vibrancy of safari images.

Luminar Neo:

  • AI-powered editing: Luminar Neo leverages artificial intelligence to streamline the editing process, making it easier for photographers to achieve impressive results quickly.

One-click enhancements: The software includes AI-driven features like Accent AI, which automatically enhances images with a single click, saving time in the editing workflow.

  • Sky replacement and AI filters: Luminar Neo offers creative tools like AI Sky Replacement, allowing photographers to change the sky in their safari photographs easily. Additionally, AI filters enhance specific aspects of the image, such as details and colors.

In conclusion, Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, and Luminar Neo are all excellent choices for editing safari photographs, each offering unique features and strengths. Lightroom is ideal for efficient organization and global adjustments, Photoshop excels in detailed editing and retouching, while Luminar Neo stands out with its AI-powered enhancements and creative tools. Choosing the best software depends on the specific needs and preferences of the photographer.

Patient, Observant Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photography is a fascinating and challenging genre of photography. It requires a lot of patience and observation, as well as technical skill and knowledge of animal behavior. In this article, we will discuss some tips for being patient and observant in wildlife photography.

Research and Plan

Before heading out to photograph wildlife, it’s important to research and plan your trip. Research the animal behavior and habitat, as well as the best time of day and season to photograph them. Knowing where and when to find your subject will save you time and increase your chances of getting the shot you want. Planning also involves choosing the right gear, clothing, and accessories for your trip.

Be Quiet and Still

Wild animals are sensitive to noise and movement, so it’s important to be quiet and still while photographing them. Avoid making sudden movements, rustling leaves, or loud noises that could startle or scare the animal away. Move slowly and deliberately, and keep a low profile. Wildlife is more likely to approach you if you look and act non-threatening.

Observe the Animal Behavior

Observing animal behavior is essential to capturing great wildlife photos. Pay attention to their movements, body language, and interactions with other animals. This will give you insight into their behavior and help you anticipate their next move. Knowing when and where to point your camera will increase your chances of getting the shot you want.

Wait for the Right Moment

Wildlife photography requires patience, and waiting for the right moment is key to getting a great shot. Observe the animal and wait for it to do something interesting or unique. Be prepared to wait for hours or even days to get the shot you want. The key is to be patient and ready for when the animal does something interesting.

Be Respectful of the Animals

Respect for the animals and their habitat is crucial in wildlife photography. Avoid disturbing the animal or its environment by keeping a safe distance and avoiding feeding or touching them. Respect their space and be mindful of their safety and well-being. Remember, the animal’s welfare comes first, and photography comes second.

Patience and observation are essential to capturing great wildlife photos. Research and planning, being quiet and still, using a telephoto lens, observing animal behavior, waiting for the right moment, being respectful of the animals, using natural light, and shooting in continuous mode are all important techniques to master. With practice, skill, and a lot of patience, you can capture stunning wildlife photos that will inspire and delight others. Remember, the key to great wildlife photography is to be patient, observant, and have fun with creativity.

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Best Camera Settings for Safari Photography

I recently went on my first safari in Tanzania, and through a combination of research plus trial and error, I learned a lot about the best camera settings for safari to capture photos of wildlife. Photographing wildlife on safaris can definitely be a challenge – you’re working with fast-moving animals, low-light conditions, and bouncy vehicles. Oftentimes, your first try photographing wildlife on a safari may not give you the results you want.

If you’re looking for some guidance on recommendations for the best camera settings for safari, look no further. This article is not geared toward professional photographers, but rather people with a camera looking to capture those amazing photos like you see in National Geographic.

You don’t have to be a pro to improve your wildlife photography, but it does help to understand how to optimize your camera settings to ensure you have the best camera settings for safari. This article will walk through the three main camera settings: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO; additionally, it will cover four camera shooting modes and how to best use them on safari: Auto, Manual, Shutter Speed Priority, and Aperture Priority.

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Best Camera Settings for Safari

When determining the best camera settings for safari photography, there are three main settings to consider: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. The optimal settings will be dependent upon what type of wildlife you’re photographing and their speed of movement, as well as the time of day and amount of ambient light. Depending upon your conditions, you’ll incorporate different camera settings.

shutter speed for safari

Shutter Speed for Safari

Shutter speed refers to the amount of time the camera allows light to enter to shoot the image. Shutter speed is measured in seconds, so 1/25 would translate to 1/25 of a second. If you are shooting long exposure (for example, Northern Lights), you would shoot closer to 6, meaning that the duration of the shutter would be a full six seconds. The higher the number, the more light enters the camera.

Shutter speed is a very important part of choosing the best camera settings for safari photography.  To capture crisp images with moving animals, you’ll need a relatively quick shutter speed. Here are my suggestions:

  • 1/100 for landscape if your camera is supported (either via a tripod or camera bean bag )
  • 1/400 for static animals. The rule of thumb is to make sure the shutter speed is at least as fast as the focal length in use. I used a 400mm lens, so used a 1/400 rule to ensure I didn’t get camera shake .
  • 1/1250 – 1/2000 for fast moving animals. My shutter speed choice will depend upon time of day and amount of light. I’d lean toward 1/1250 toward dawn and dusk and toward 1/2000 in the middle of the day
  • 1/2500 for most birds in flight
  • 1/4000 for little birds with extremely fast wing movements (e.g. kingfishers) or for freezing water (i.e. capturing movement of water)

Keep in mind that with extremely fast shutter speeds, you’ll need to have a low f-stop (aperture) and a relatively high ISO.

shutter speed for safari

Aperture for Safari

Aperture regulates the amount of light that enters the camera lens when shooting the image. This setting is measured in f-stops, so you’ll see numbers like f/2.8, f/4, and f/5.6. Smaller numbers mean that more light enters the camera, and these are considered the widest aperture settings.

Generally speaking, low light conditions require wider aperture (f/2.8) while lots of ambient light generally means a narrower aperture.

Another important consideration with aperture settings relates to depth of field . With a wider aperture (f/2.8), you will have a shallow focus, so your subject will be sharp, but the background will be out of focus. At the other end of the spectrum, a narrower aperture (f/16) will increase the depth of field. If you are trying to capture an animal in its environment, you’ll want a larger field of depth. Field of depth is more of an artistic choice, so make sure you experiment with what works for you.

Understanding aperture is one of the most important components of selecting the best camera settings for safari photography, so I’d recommend experimenting with your camera so you can get a feel for how the different aperture settings translate to photos on your camera.

wildebeest migration in Northern Serengeti, Tanzania

ISO for Safari

ISO measures the sensitivity of the camera to light and essentially changes how bright your photo is. You will see values written as ISO 100, ISO 600, ISO 1000, etc. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your camera is to light, and the brighter your photos appear. When there is less light (i.e. at dawn and dusk), increase your ISO settings for best results.

However, note that if you dial up your ISO values too high, you’ll start to get grainy photos, which is one of my biggest pet peeves. If I’m between ISO settings, I tend to choose lower ISO values and brighten up the photo post-processing.

Optimal ISO values vary widely based on what type of camera you have. ISO 100 will give you the best image quality, but will be way too dark with the fast shutter speeds needed for safari photography. Most entry level cameras are pretty good up to ISO 1000, while newer full-frame cameras can be good until ISO 6400 or even higher. However, this is highly dependent based on your camera.

safari camera settings at sunrise

My best recommendation here is to do lots of test photos in advance, especially in low light conditions. It sounds ridiculous, but I practiced shooting my dog running around the backyard just after sunset…just do what you need to do! If you’ve invested in a safari vacation, definitely invest the time in working through your optimal safari camera settings.

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Balancing Shutter Speed, Aperture

Balancing the three key camera settings will set you up for success in capturing epic wildlife shots on your safari.  In low light conditions, you’ll tend toward longer shutter speeds, wider aperture, and higher ISO setting. In the middle of a sunny day, you’ll lean toward a shorter shutter speed, narrower aperture, and lower ISO setting.

With safari photography, one of the most common issues is blurry images due to too long of shutter speeds. It is key to pay attention to your shutter speed when trying to capture crisp images of moving animals.

Camera Shooting Modes for Safari

With most cameras, you’ll have multiple shooting modes to choose from: Auto, Manual, Shutter Speed Priority, and Aperture Priority. I’ll walk through each of the settings and give you my recommendation on preferred modes and best camera settings for safari photography.

When you set your camera to Auto, the camera assesses the image, and automatically adjusts settings to give you a combination of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. You might ask – why don’t we just shoot in Auto and let the camera pick the best combination of settings?

Auto is basically a guess from your camera on what will be best, and the big issue with this is that it will often not select the correct shutter speed to capture the best shot of wildlife. This means that your shot may be blurry, and this mode really isn’t geared toward capturing images of wildlife.

Sometimes your camera will pick the best settings, but I was not willing to risk missing “the shot” if my camera elected the wrong settings.

jackal in Serengeti, Tanzania

Manual mode is just how it sounds – for each shot, you’ll manually choose settings for shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Most photographers prefer shooting in Manual in order to have complete control of all creative aspects, but this is not my preferred mode while on safari.

Here’s why…Manual is great when you have time to play with and adjust your settings. It is not so great when you are trying to capture a rhinoceros thundering at warp speed across the Serengeti. Going into our safari, I knew trying to shoot Manual would be way too stressful for me and take too much time. Because of that, I’d recommend either Shutter Speed Priority or Aperture Priority. I switched back and forth between these camera modes on my safari and actually really liked both.

lion yawning on the serengeti

Shutter Speed Priority (S)

When you’re on safari, wildlife is moving quickly, so you often won’t have time to shoot in manual mode. With the shutter speed priority mode, you can set your shutter speed, and your camera will automatically adjust aperture. You can set your ISO to Auto or manually adjust.

I liked shutter speed priority when I needed my shutter speed to be extremely fast (for example, shooting birds with fast wings or freezing water). However, the downside is that with low ambient light (when animals are usually most active), if you keep a fast shutter speed, you run the risk of pushing your ISO too high and getting grainy photos. I really enjoyed shooting  with shutter speed priority, but it is critical to keep an eye on aperture and ISO values with this mode.  

giraffe on the Serengeti in Tanzania

Aperture Priority (A)

With aperture priority, you’ll set the aperture and then let your camera select the optimal shutter speed and ISO. Aperture priority is a favorite for safari photography.

Here is how the process works: for safari photography, we typically want to leave the aperture at the widest setting to allow in the maximum possible light and really focus in on the wildlife instead of the background. Once you have the aperture set to its widest value (f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6), take a test shot with your camera. If your photo is a bit blurry, you’ll know the shutter speed is too slow, so you could increase your ISO in order to increase your shutter speed.

If your test photo has too shallow of a field of depth, you could select a narrower aperture setting and then repeat the process, adjusting for ISO in order to increase or reduce shutter speed.

I’d recommend aperture priority if you have the time to take a test shot and adjust your ISO to impact shutter speed. This will give you good control over the process, and will result in some epic safari photos.

adult lion on the Serengeti

Final Thoughts

I hope this post gives you a better understanding of the best camera settings for safari photography. Understanding the balance between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO will go a long way in helping to produce the crispest safari photos.

To sum up my recommendations on best camera settings for safari photography, I’d choose to shoot in Aperture Priority if you have the time for test shots; from there, adjust ISO up if your photos are blurry to increase shutter speed. If you are trying to capture a very fast animal, I liked shooting in Shutter Speed Priority to ensure that I got a crisp photo with no shake.

Have you been on a safari or photographed wildlife? I’d love to hear some of your recommendations on best camera settings for safari in the comments! Photographing wildlife can be done so many different ways, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For some more travel inspiration, check out some of the posts below!

Tanzania Itinerary : Tanzania 7 Day Itinerary Tanzania : Kikuletwa Hot Springs: 14+ Things to Know Before You Go Safari Photography Tips: 14 Outstanding African Safari Photography Tips Safari Outfits: What to Wear on Safari for Women: 10 Cute Outfit Ideas Safari Tips for First-Timers: 20 Top Things to Know Before Going on Your First Safari Tented Safari Camps : Top 13 Things You Always Wanted to Know About Tented Camps

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shutter speed for safari

Love these practical tips! We’re heading to Botswana in January and I’ve spent a while playing with camera settings…this is a great reference guide. Thank you!

Happy to help, hope you have an amazing trip!

Thank you for your tips. We are going to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Cape Town. I am anxious to to try the settings.

Happy to help, Julie! Hope you enjoy an amazing safari and take some beautiful photos!

Wonderful, helpful article! Can you also suggest some beginner level cameras? We will have weight and space restrictions and would love to find the most bang for the buck. Thanks!

If you’re looking for a point & shoot camera that is reasonably priced with good zoom, check out the Canon Powershot SX70. It has 65x zoom, which is pretty impressive! If you’re interested in mirrorless (which is usually a little lighter than DSLR), I love the Sony a6000 – it has been around for a while, so you can likely find some well-priced refurbished options. Hope this helps!

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Wildlife bird photography & shutter speed

The Five shutter speeds you need for Wildlife Photography

In the video below you will watch Director of Pangolin Photo Safaris , Guts Swanepoel, explain the only five key shutter speeds you need to know to improve your wildlife photography .

Enjoy and we hope to see you on safari soon!

When it comes to camera settings, Guts shares his five key shutter speeds you need to know, to improve your wildlife photography .

‘These are my 5 go-to shutter speeds, that I always used for wildlife photography.’

1. Let’s start at the slowest one. The slowest one is a tenth of a second (1/10 sec). I use this setting to pan slow-moving animals. A tenth of a second works the best for me.

2. The next one we’re going to talk about is 1/60, or 1/80 of a second. Some people prefer 1/60. Some people prefer 1/80. Personally, I like 1/60…and that works for birds in flight panning. When you want to get a proper bird in flight panning shot, you want a lot of movement in the wings, and obviously, you want to keep the head as still as possible.

3. The third one I’m going to talk about, is your personal shutter speed that you should use on your camera, or your absolute minimum shutter speed for a fast, sharp image. That’s a personal rule…please don’t quote me on this, but you go to your lens and you look at your maximum millimetres. Your maximum zoom. This specific lens is a 100-400mm lens, so I am going to work with 400mm. I multiply the maximum zoom with that, and you’ve got nice crisp images!

4. The fourth one is that golden setting of 1/2500. For me, that’s an absolute go-to if you have enough light, and you can shoot anything with that. From birds in flight, to animals running, to absolutely anything…and, it is a very fast shutter speed, in the sense of no movement from your side, the boat, the vehicle you’re on. It’s a brilliant go-to setting!

5. The last one I use is 1/4000 or faster. I use this setting for your little birds like malachite kingfishers and pied kingfishers in flight. That’s to freeze the wings, and absolutely crucial when you shoot water images. With water splashing, you need to be on, or over, 1/4000 to freeze the water when it splashes.

A quick recap…

1/10 for panning your big mammals. 1/60 of a second for your bird in flight panning. Double your focal length in speed for a crisp clear image. 1/2500 if you have enough light for that go-to setting and fast birds or to freeze water.

Additional note from Guts

Please, guys, be aware that this is only for your shutter speed settings. You have to compensate with your f-stop and your ISO to accommodate the specific shutter settings.

Remember when you shoot the panning shot, you cannot shoot that on a low f-stop. You have to push your f-stop quite high to say f/22 or even a f/32. If you do it like a 1/10 – those of you that shoot on manual – make sure you’re on Auto ISO. You still have to bring your f-stop down for the low shutter speeds. Obviously, the opposite is true if you have a fast, fast shutter speed. You need to bring your f-stop as low down as possible…and also your ISO as high as you’re comfortable with.

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a young male lion profile sitting in the grass

The Best Camera Settings for a Tanzania Wildlife Safari

It’s always a bit lofty to call any camera setting “the best”, as people have different styles and preferences, and the environment is always changing.  However, you have to start somewhere, so here is a listing of what I view as the best places to start with , in terms of camera settings, so you’re ready to capture the wide range of photo opportunities on a Tanzania Photo Safari .

The Best Landscape Settings for Tanzania

Fortunately, you’ll likely have pretty great light the entire time.  The sky is big and the sun is shining.  Although you’ll usually be setting out early in the morning, and also be enjoying many evening wildlife drives, there will be plenty of time in between with great light.  This means that you can photograph at a wide depth of field without concern for slow shutter speeds.

If you shoot with a point-and-shoot , I recommend setting your camera on “landscape mode”, to force it to photograph at a wide depth of field.   If you shoot with a camera capable of custom aperture settings ( DSLR or mirrorless ), I recommend f/8.0 and above. In a photo like the above, with good lighting, you can shoot at f/11 for maximum depth of field, which translates to a sharp foreground and background.  By setting your camera on “aperture mode”, your camera will choose the corresponding shutter speed, which again, because of all the light ought to be plenty fast for nearly every shot.

The Best Settings for Wildlife Photos in Tanzania

The bountiful light on the African savanna means that you won’t have to shoot at low aperture numbers, but I recommend that you start there.  There are two key advantages for photographing at what we call a “wide aperture”, or “low aperture number” (f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4, and f/5.6.  The first being that it gives you a very fast shutter speed.  This allows you to freeze motion in the photo, which in Tanzania, can be very helpful as wildlife can often be moving fairly fast.

For cameras that do not allow manipulation of your f-stop number, there is an easy shortcut.  Simply set your camera to “portrait mode” and this puts your camera at the lowest f-stop number automatically.

The other thing a “low aperture number” does is that it helps blur the non essential parts of the photo.  This is a bit more of an artistic thing, but it also serves to help isolate the subject and avoid any distractions from errant grasses or tree limbs that sometimes get into your shot.  See how in the above photo the grasses are slightly blurred, helping you concentrate on the hyena?  That’s what we’re after.

Take, for example, the above photo.  If I used the same settings as I did for landscape photography I’d likely be distracted by whatever is in the background – grasses, trees, other wildlife.  However, by deliberately choosing a shallow depth of field, my subject really stands out and pops in a very vibrant way.

The Exceptions

Rules are always meant to be broken, right?  Here are a few examples with both landscape and wildlife photography where I’m not following my own advice.

When the light gets low, you really can’t afford to shoot with a wide depth of field any longer.  You must shoot at low aperture numbers to give your camera as much light as possible.  If you’re not sure what I’m talking about here, I recommend reading my Aperture section .

In the above shot, I’m not trying to get everything in focus like I would for a normal landscape photo.  Because most of the foreground is silhouetted, I’m not all that worried about how perfectly sharp the leaves and branches are.  Thus, by dialing in a lower f-stop number, my camera will give me the fastest shutter speed it can in these lower light conditions.  (usually f/5.6, f/4, or even f/2.8 at this time of day).

I’m a big fan of photographing African landscapes with animals in them.  Why not, right?  Well, as a bit of explanation, I personally feel this provides excellent context to the scene.  Landscapes always look better when there is a specific thing to look at first (like a stream, rock, mountain peak, or in this case, animal), and wildlife looks better when surrounded by gorgeous landscapes.

While I normally may use a shallow depth of field with wildlife, to get that background blur, I don’t want that here.  In this photo, I’m treating it more like a landscape shot that just so happens to have wildlife in it.  My settings?  Wide depth of field so that everything’s in focus, aiming for f/7.1, f/8 or maybe even f/9.  As you may be able to tell, this was early morning light, so I was a bit reserved with the aperture, as a  very wide depth of field like f/11 would not let quite enough light for the shot.

There are no doubt many tried and true techniques for photographing in Tanzania .  If you have a particular style or tip that is your go-to, please do share with us in the comments!

Go forward and give it a shot,

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Court Whelan, Ph.D.

Court Whelan, Ph.D.

Court is an avid nature and wildlife photographer and naturalist Expedition Leader for Natural Habitat Adventures. His background in wildlife and conservation biology led him to pursue a joint Ph.D. in ecotourism and entomology. As Editor in Chief of The Natural Photographer, he is eager to share his photography knowledge and creative guidance with readers through comprehensive tutorials and blog posts. You may view more of his photography at



Wish I had known this when I went to Tanzania. Great trip but all my pictures are not tact sharp at 100%

Good info for next time

Court Whelan, Ph.D.

The great thing about Africa is that there is always a reason to go back! Hope you can join us, and sometimes it may be nice to consider a special photographic version of a safari, as your leader will really be able to help get you the perfect shot over and over again. But yes, there’s always a next time — especially in a place as magical as Africa!


What lens selection would you suggest for the animals. I have a 100- 400 which I can hand hold quite well. I also have a 600 which I mostly use for birds but obviously needs a tripod and is bulky. Many thanks

I think we spoke on the phone, but yes, the 100-400 is a great all around lens in Africa. 600 is good, too, but very limiting when wildlife is up close, which can be often on our expeditions! You’ll very likely get more shots with your 100-400 because of its versatility.


Extremely right information

Thanks, Kiran!


What a great post! Leaving for safari next week and just got my first DSLR for the trip and having these recommendations are fantastic and extremely helpful!

so great to hear, Liza! Enjoy the adventure!!


Hi Court, this all sounds good on A setting but my pictures still come out a little dark even at the recommended Aperture settings based on landscape and light. Do you leave ISO on auto as well as Shutter Speed in the A setting? I’ve found when I up my exposure to 0.7 or 1.0 that helps with the lighting but I’m not sure if that’s the best way to do it?

Hey Blake, great question here. First off, and this might seem silly, but it might be worth checking your LCD screen settings. There is an “auto dim” setting that often makes your camera’s screen lighter and darker based on ambient light. I only say this, as I was having a similar problem a few years ago with a new camera, finding everything was WAY too bright. Then I realized it was actually just the screen in the back of the camera, not the actual image and exposure :).

Now, assuming this is not the problem, and the shots are actually coming out too dark on their own, I do have a few comments. First off, AUTO ISO is a great setting, and now that it’s getting more accurate in newer cameras I use that a lot. And shutter speed will always be automatic when shooting on Aperture Priority (A) setting. In fact, the camera is designed to expose properly at whatever exposure setting you have regardless of auto ISO or not. So, I’m kinda thinking it could either be your own preference or tolerance for light and dark, or perhaps an LCD issue. At the end of the day, if that still doesn’t fix it, I would honestly just set your camera to +0.7 or +1.0 on the exposure meter and keep it there as long as you’re seeing the photos as too dark. It’s indeed a good fix and won’t impact the quality of the photos…it’s just a shortcut way to calibrate the light/dark balance :).

Hope this helps!

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Best Shutter Speed for Wildlife: My Expert Guide to Crystal Clear Shots

Finding the best shutter speed for wildlife photography isn’t a cut-and-dried case. It’s influenced by a multitude of factors, ranging from the speed of the animal movement to the available light. These factors can affect the sharpness of the image, potentially turning a breathtaking scene into a disappointing blur.

As a seasoned wildlife photographer, I’ve learned that one of the keys to a phenomenal shot is understanding and tweaking shutter speed. It’s all about capturing a fleeting moment in time and preserving the beauty of the wild in its natural habitat. Shutter speed plays a vital role in this. It’s the difference between freezing a hummingbird’s wings or capturing their rapid flutter in a blur of motion.

A good rule of thumb is to set your shutter speed high – often at 1/1000 of a second or faster – for fast-moving animals. Slow-moving animals, on the other hand, won’t require such high speed. However, the choice wholly depends on the creative output you’re after. Sometimes, it isn’t all about sharpness. A blur of movement can represent the dynamic nature of wildlife, creating a different yet equally stunning result.

Understanding Shutter Speed: The Basics

Shutter speed, it’s a fundamental concept in photography – especially wildlife photography . Essentially, it’s a measure of the duration that your camera shutter is open, allowing light to hit the sensor. This setting controls not only the level of brightness captured in your images but also how motion is expressed.

Now, what happens when we adjust the shutter speed? Decrease it , and you’ll let less light in while also freezing action. On the flip side, increase the shutter speed , and more light comes in – but you might inadvertently capture a blurred motion effect. Wildlife in action, it demands a balance between these two extremes.

Here’s a quick view of what I’ve just explained in a table to show clearly how shutter speed affects your images:

The key to success in wildlife photography, it often lies in mastering the use of shutter speed. Imagine you’re trying to capture a bird in flight. If your shutter speed is too slow, you’ll end up with a blurry bird, and that’s not typically what you want. But, if the shutter speed is too quick, the image may appear dark due to lack of light.

You might be wondering, “What is the average shutter speed recommended for wildlife photography?” While it’s highly variable depending on the situation, a rule of thumb is that your shutter speed should at least match the focal length of your lens. For instance, if you’re using a 500mm lens, aim for a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second or faster.

Most importantly, remember that optimal shutter speed varies depending on the situation. A peacefully grazing deer could be captured with a slower shutter speed, while a fast-flying bird may require an extremely quick shutter speed. I suggest you experiment to truly understand how each setting affects your photos. Through practice, you’ll be able to capture those perfect wildlife shots. Don’t be discouraged by initial failures; it’s a learning curve and part of the thrilling process of mastering wildlife photography.

Why the Right Shutter Speed Matters in Wildlife Photography

It’s no secret that I’m fascinated by the art and science of photography. And out of all forms, wildlife photography holds a special place in my heart. Today, we’re zooming in on shutter speed in wildlife photography. Shutter speed isn’t just a spec on your camera settings — it’s a linchpin that can dramatically affect the success of your wildlife shots.

One might wonder, what’s the big deal about shutter speed? Well, it’s all about capturing the moment. When you’re photographing wildlife, you’re dealing with dynamic subjects. Whether it’s a bird mid-flight, a galloping deer, or a squirrel scampering up a tree, their movements are quick and often unpredictable.

Shutter speed essentially controls how long the camera’s shutter stays open. The longer it’s open, the more light it lets in, revealing a vibrant palette of colors and shades. But here’s the catch: leave it open too long, and you risk blurring the image due to movement in the frame. This is why you need a sweet spot — a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the movement, yet slow enough to admit sufficient light.

To illustrate its importance, let’s look at some numbers. For a stationary or slow-moving subject, you might get away with a speed of 1/250s. But for faster creatures, you’ll need something in the realm of 1/800s – 1/2000s. Here’s a simple table to depict my point:

It’s important to note that these are rough estimates, and real-life situations may necessitate adjustments. For instance, factors like lighting conditions, how much of the frame your subject occupies, or a flying bird’s wing flap speed could influence your optimal shutter speed.

Bear in mind that the “right” shutter speed is largely a question of experience and intuition. It involves experimenting with your camera settings, understanding your subjects’ behaviors, and a fair dose of patience. Mastering shutter speed is a critical aspect in wildlife photography. And I assure you, once you’ve got a handle on it, your shots can only get better.

General Guidelines for Choosing the Right Shutter Speed

Dynamic and engaging , wildlife photography presents a unique challenge, especially when it comes to choosing the right shutter speed. It’s not always easy, but don’t worry, I’m here to break it all down for you.

First off, it all hinges on the behavior of your wildlife subject and the lighting conditions. Big, slow-moving animals like elephants or bears? You’re safe setting your shutter speed around 1/500th of a second. Birds in flight or quick, darting creatures like squirrels? You’ll want to increase it to somewhere around 1/1000th-1/2000th of a second. These speeds will freeze most actions. For very fast birds or animals, try a shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second. Here’s a quick summary:

Remember, these are just guidelines. Actual shutter speeds can vary based on factors like the distance of the subject, the lens focal length, and your desired depth of field.

Second, consider the light. If it’s bright out, a faster shutter can be used without issues. In low light situations, though, you’ll need a slower shutter speed, paired with a higher ISO to avoid motion blur.

Finally, don’t ignore the artistic side of photography. Sometimes, capturing motion blur intentionally can create a magical effect, showing an animal in movement. In this case, you might want to opt for a slower shutter speed, maybe 1/30th of a second.

Mastering shutter speed in wildlife photography is largely about balance. It’s a balance between freezing the action and getting the right exposure. More than this, it’s about telling a story, capturing a moment that speaks not only about the animal but also about the world it inhabits. And I’ll be here to guide you on this journey. You don’t need to worry about getting it perfect the first time. Practice makes perfect!

Best Shutter Speed Practices for Small, Swift Creatures

Photographing small, swift creatures can present quite a challenge. In the blink of an eye, the tiny hummingbird flits away, or the scampering squirrel darts off the frame. Quick movements require quick reactions, which is exactly why mastering shutter speed is crucial.

Faster shutter speeds, typically above 1/500th of a second , provide the sharp, precise shots necessary to capture smaller wildlife in action. Now, let’s get into the specifics.

For birds physically airborne, like hummingbirds, I recommend a shutter speed of 1/1600th of a second or faster. This is because their incredibly rapid wing movement results in a lovely blur effect at any slower rate.

But you ask, what if the creature is not flying, but running? In that case, it’s best to consider the exact speed of the animal. For instance, the average squirrel would need a shutter speed range of 1/500th to 1/1000th of a second . Here’s a reference table:

Every scenario will differ, depending on factors like light availability and your equipment’s capability, but these values should provide a rough ballpark to start with.

Remember, practicing and experimenting with your setup will give you the best results in the long run. Trying with different subjects and lighting conditions will only strengthen your ability to adapt and capture that perfect moment.

But here’s a hint; if you’re ever uncertain about the speed, it’s always better to err on the side of a quicker shutter speed. It increases your chances of securing a sharp, in-focus shot, rather than missing it altogether due to motion blur.

Perfecting Your Craft: Shutter Speeds and Large Animals

Let’s talk about shutter speed – a fundamental aspect of wildlife photography. When you’re shooting large animals, knowing the ideal shutter speed makes a world of difference. Now, I won’t say there’s a single “correct” shutter speed for every occasion. Instead, I’d highlight the importance of adaptability and experimentation.

Depending on the situation, you might need a fast shutter speed or a somewhat slower one. With quick, unpredictable movements, a fast shutter speed freezes the action, typically around 1/1000th of a second or faster . Picture a galloping horse or a soaring eagle – you’d need the speed to capture them sharply.

Don’t get me wrong, slower shutter speeds have their uses too, especially when capturing static or slow-moving wildlife. Animals like a grazing elk or perched owl allow you to drop to shutter speeds of 1/250th to 1/500th of a second without sacrificing sharpness.

It’s not always as straightforward, though. Let’s consider variable factors, like light conditions. In low light, you might have to compromise on shutter speed to maintain a well-exposed image. Upping the ISO could be a solution, but remember, this increases noise.

The lens you’re using could also factor in. Here’s a handy rule – the reciprocal rule: keep the shutter speed faster than the inverse of your focal length. For example,

This rule, though not an absolute, aids in reducing blur from camera shake – especially essential when you’re out in the field, sans tripod.

Some points to keep in mind:

  • Experiment. The “perfect” setting varies from shot to shot.
  • Balance between shutter speed, ISO, and aperture for the best results.
  • Understand your subjects and their movement – adapt your settings accordingly.

At the end of the day, it’s more than just numbers and settings; it’s about instinct and timing . Armed with these tips, you’re now better equipped to perfect your craft, capturing stunning snapshots of wildlife in action.

Variable Outdoor Conditions and Shutter Speed

Capture the perfect wildlife shot? I’d be crazy to say it’s a walk in the park. It’s all about timing, location, and most importantly, your camera settings. Let’s tackle one of the crucial parameters: shutter speed. Now things start getting a bit tougher when we step outdoors as a significant factor to consider is the variable nature of outdoor conditions.

The first thing I’d like to highlight is your subject’s speed. A bird in flight or a running deer requires a faster shutter speed to freeze motion. You’re looking at around 1/1000 of a second or faster for these instances. However, when photographing slower subjects like a calmly grazing animal, you could drop the shutter speed to about 1/500 of a second.

Next up, let’s chat about lighting. It’s no secret that outdoor lighting can be a bit of a wild card. It’s here where shutter speeds could range greatly depending on the available light. For instance, if you’re shooting in bright daylight, you may need to use a faster shutter speed, say around 1/2000 of a second. On the flip side, sunset or sunrise shots may need slower shutter speeds to compensate for the less abundant light.

Remember that changing shutter speed isn’t the only way to change exposure. You could also adjust the aperture or ISO values. In fact, here’s a couple of tips you might find handy:

  • When photographing birds or fast animals, open your aperture to its widest (which is a smaller f number) to allow more light in.
  • If your wildlife subject is in a shadowy or dimly-lit area, consider increasing your camera’s ISO setting.

Lastly, be aware that outdoor elements like wind and rain may affect how you use your shutter speed. Rapidly moving leaves or raindrops can add fascinating texture to your wildlife photos. Sometimes, using a slightly longer shutter speed to show movement in these elements can greatly enhance your photos.

In the world of wildlife photography, there are no hard-and-fast rules. But understanding these basics of shutter speed under variable outdoor conditions, I believe you’re well on your way to taking those jaw-dropping shots you’ve always aimed for.

How to Tweak Shutter Speed for Underwater Wildlife

Navigating the realm of underwater wildlife photography requires its own set of rules. When you’re submerged beneath the waves, one of the first things I’ve found to play a significant role in capturing the perfect shot is the shutter speed. Let’s dive into the fundamentals of tweaking shutter speed for underwater wildlife.

The behaviour of light in water differs from that in air, affecting the way we perceive and capture images. When photographing underwater wildlife, I’ve often noticed the challenge in getting crisp, sharp images. However, adjusting your camera’s shutter speed can go a long way in helping alleviate this hurdle.

Fast shutter speeds – I’m talking about settings like 1/500s or even faster – are your go-to tools for freezing motion. They are particularly handy to capture fast-swimming fishes or darting marine mammals that seldom sit still. Yet, the drawback is that these settings can cause the image to appear darker, considering we’re already dealing with limited light underwater.

This is where tweaking our shutter speed and balancing it with other elements of exposure comes into play. Slower shutter speeds, say around 1/60s , let in more light and can be used when your subjects are slower-moving, like a gently floating jellyfish.

However, don’t forget that more light implies potentially more blur. To counter this, ensure your camera is steady, perhaps by using a tripod.

Our camera settings for shutter speed will be dependent on various factors such as:

  • The speed of the creature
  • The available light
  • The water clarity

Here’s a quick guide:

In the end, the art of marin wildlife photography is a game of balance. Tweak, adjust, and experiment with shutter speed to find your sweet spot. The key lies in understanding the relationship between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, consciously adjusting each to suit your underwater environmental conditions and the creature you’re trying to capture. Ultimately, that’s what’ll allow you to dive deeper into the realm of spectacular undersea shots.

Special Tricks: Capturing Birds in Flight

Out in the field, and your camera in hand, you spot a bird taking flight. Naturally, you want to capture this moment perfectly. I strongly believe that shutter speed plays an essential role here. However, just turning up the speed isn’t the magic solution. On the contrary, a moderate shutter speed might capture the movement in a more dynamic, creative way.

Let’s talk numbers. If we aim for the entire bird to be sharp, start with a shutter speed of about 1/1000s . This speed should eliminate any motion blur caused by the bird’s rapid movements. But remember, it’s not about achieving an entirely sharp bird.

A slower shutter speed, say 1/500s , can surprisingly lend character to your image. You may notice some blur in the wing tips while the bird’s body stays sharp. This variety in sharpness can bring an appeal to the image—it shows movement, a dynamic element that makes wildlife photography wonderful.

Confused about where to start? Here’s the skinny:

  • Start with a high shutter speed, around 1/1000s when the bird is still.
  • If you notice the bird starting to take flight, lower the speed to about 1/500s to capture the mesmerizing movement.
  • Continue experimenting with these settings as different birds, light conditions, or even different movements can require some adjustments.

Remember, photography is an art. Your goal is to communicate the beauty and dynamism of these wild creatures. The above tips are just starting points, and with practice, you’ll develop your style, one that best captures your vision. As with any art, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, and I firmly stand by this, especially when it comes to immortalizing nature’s gifts through our lenses. So next time you’re out in the wild, don’t just adjust the speed. Instead, aim for capturing the spirit of flight!

The Role of Camera Gear in Achieving Ideal Shutter Speed.

It’s impressive how much advanced camera gear can contribute to obtaining the best shutter speed for wildlife photography. And I’m here to break it down.

High-end DSLR and mirrorless cameras offer precision control over shutter speed settings. The ability to manually adjust this in fractions of a second really makes all the difference. The speed you’ll want will depend on the animal’s actions. Rapid winged movements of birds require faster shutter speeds, typically 1/1000s or above . But if you’re capturing stationary or slow-moving creatures, a lower shutter speed like 1/250s to 1/500s can do just fine.

Likewise, improved autofocus systems in modern cameras significantly affect your shutter speed selection. Faster and more accurate focus tracking means you can manage with slower shutter speeds, even with moving subjects. This can work particularly well with continuous autofocus (AF-C or AI Servo) modes.

Gradually, we’re realizing how the lens comes into play. The general rule? The longer the lens, the faster the required shutter speed. Reason being, camera shake is magnified with a longer lens. So, if your lens focal length is 300mm, your minimum shutter speed should be 1/300s.

But don’t fret if you can’t reach such speeds. Thankfully, many lenses offer vibration reduction (VR) or image stabilization (IS) features. These marvels can let you go to shutter speeds about 3-4 stops slower than otherwise necessary.

To convey things more concisely, here’s a quick markdown table for possible shutter speed range:

To wrap things up:

  • High-end cameras are a must for detailed control over shutter speed
  • Advanced autofocus systems can provide flexibility with selected shutter speed
  • Lens length influences shutter speed; the longer, the faster needed
  • VR or IS features in lenses can compensate for longer lens-induced camera shake

I hope this gives you a clear understanding of how your camera gear will play its part in attaining the best shutter speed for wildlife photography. Mastering these aspects is a surefire way of upping your wildlife photography game!

In Conclusion: Mastering Shutter Speed for Stunning Wildlife Shots

I’ve concluded our exploration of the best shutter speed for wildlife photography. One of the key takeaways is there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to shutter speed. However, few guidelines have proven helpful for taking stunning shots.

Remember fast, active creatures I’ve talked about? They typically need a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 to freeze their movement. For animals that are slower and more sedate, I recommend a shutter speed between 1/250 and 1/500.

Light conditions can influence your choice of shutter speed. In low light conditions, it’s required to slow down the shutter speed to allow more light in. Bear in mind, though, stability becomes vital when using slower speeds to avoid blur caused by camera shake.

Those pursuing bird photography should take note of differences in shutter speed when capturing birds in flight versus when they’re still. Birds in flight, especially smaller faster species, often require speeds of 1/2000 or faster.

Let’s not overlook the creative possibilities slower shutter speeds offer. Experimenting with motion blur can yield excellent results, adding dynamism and energy to your images.

To sum it all up:

  • Practice and adapt according to the movement of the animal.
  • Let the light conditions guide you.
  • Always aim for clarity, unless using blur for creative intent.

With practice and careful attention to these factors, you’ll soon master the art of selecting the optimal shutter speed for wildlife photography and capture that perfect shot. Remember, though, every situation is unique, and flexibility is the key. I hope these insights serve as a solid starting point. Happy shooting!

shutter speed for safari

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20 Easy Tips for Better Safari Photos

I hate to break it to you, but it’s impossible to get good safari photos with your phone’s camera . Yes, even with the latest iPhone or Pixel, what good safari photos require is physically impossible to fit into a phone. I mean, if we didn’t need to lug around big lenses, I’m pretty sure no one would do it?

So if you need to bring a “real camera” on safari, exactly what camera equipment do you need for safari? Which equipment is optional? And how can you make the most out of the camera equipment that you already have?

Here are the essential photography equipment for going on safari, including my personal recommendations for gear, ideas for how to save money on your safari photography setup, as well as safari photography tips to help you make the most of any gear you get your hands on.

Bring the right photography gear for safari

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get great photos, but you do need more than an iPhone to snag great photos. If this list sounds daunting and you don’t already have a suitable camera, consider renting a camera or lens if you are certain you won’t use it again. You can also buy gear used on eBay or Amazon to save some money.

  • Camera – I used the Fujifilm X-T2 with great success.
  • Zoom lens – For the Fuji system, I can recommend the Fujinon XF 50-140mm f2.8 + Fujinon 2x Teleconverter .
  • Wide angle / mid-range lens – I took the Fujinon XF 16mm f1.4 + Fujinon XF 35mm f1.4 + Fujinon 56mm f1.2 .
  • Lens cleaning equipment (lens pen, lens wipes) – I recommend this lens pen and these lens cleaning wipes .
  • Spare batteries – Choose whatever fits the camera you have, fully charged! I usually bring two spares.
  • Spare memory cards – You want something with a fast write speed, like this 64GB UHS-II 300MB/s SD card
  • Camera bag – Bring anything with easy access. You’ll be sitting on safari so size and weight is not a big deal.
It might look silly, but you can bet I got the best photos!

Use the burst shooting mode

Burst shooting mode allows you to hold down the shutter, and take between 5 10 photos in a single second! This can be extremely useful on safari, when animals are moving quickly or simply when you know the animals are likely to disappear into the bush or an area you cannot drive to. That’s why it’s super useful to get a camera that supports this setting!

For example, here there are two water bucks, sparing with one another in the morning sun. Since they’re moving around quite a lot, there weren’t a lot of photos where I could see their antlers interlock. But since I could take a bunch of pictures, I could just pick the best one.

Here, the rhinos are not moving very fast, but it’s a super special moment to capture a baby rhino on camera! Owing to the vegetation, I knew I wouldn’t have a view of both the mother and baby for long, but burst mode saved me and I had a number of pictures to choose from. Thanks burst mode 🙏

Learn to use your camera in advance

Nothing is worse than trying to figure out how your freaking camera works while you’re already ON safari! You’ll just be frustrated trying to get the settings right, while an amazing wildlife moment just passes right by. Spend time practicing with your new camera. You’ll want to learn a few things like:

  • How to make the shutter speed faster
  • How to turn on burst mode
  • How to change the focus point

That’s just for beginners, but these are really important things to have down second-nature before your safari 🍃

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Bring equipment for dealing with dust or fingerprints

When you’re driving out in the bush, there’s a good chance you’ll need to deal with some dust. How much dush depends a lot on where you’re driving and recent weather conditions (has it rained recently?). In any case, don’t forget to bring along a lens pen for cleaning smudges off your lenses (which can make your photos blurry!) and some lens cleaning wipes for more serious dirt or water droplets 💦

Bring back up memory cards

When you’re using burst mode, it’s easy for your memory card to fill up fast . Don’t get caught on safari having to delete photos just to free up space on your memory card. I personally filled up THREE memory cards during my two-week trip to South Africa, and about half of that was just safari photos. Be prepared, buy extra.

shutter speed for safari

Bring a telephoto lens

If your goal is to take wildlife photos, then a telephoto lens (also called “zoom lens”) is the one piece of equipment you can’t leave behind. The question is always, how much zoom do you need for safari? For many systems, the most common zoom lenth is somewhere between 50-150mm and 100-400mm. In general, you won’t regret having plenty of zoom – it doesn’t go as far as you’d think. That said, be sure to complement your zoom lens with a wide-angle or mid-range lens because there will be times where you need to capture a landscape, a whole herd of animals, or a complete scene with multiple animals in it.

This crocodile was super far away, but I could capture him with my zoom!

Support your zoom lens to avoid camera shake

An interesting caveat to having a big zoom lens is that the more you zoom, the more likely you are to get blurry photos . That’s because more zoom means less light coming in, and your camera needs to compensate for it. If you already have the aperature (also called “f stop”) as open as possible, the next step for the camera is probably to slow down the shutter speed.

That’s why you need to be as still as possible and support your lens with your hand to keep camera shake down. You can also hold your breath during a shot, to avoid introducing shake, or balance your lens on a bag or something soft on the edge of the safari vehicle or hand rail. Anything to help the lens keep still!

Many zoom lenses also come with OIS (optical image stabilization), so look for that when you are picking a zoom lens!

shutter speed for safari

This two-week South Africa itinerary can show you some of the best of the country, from wine regions to urban life, from safari to city, and from the sparkling Indian Ocean to the deserts of the Karoo. Here is how to spend two weeks traveling South Africa.

Bring a tripod for long exposures at night

Even though this isn’t strictly a safari tip, the fact is that if you’re staying in a private safari lodge , you’re going to have incredible views of the stars . Bring along a tripod for some very special photos at night!

Include the environment

Sometimes the environment with the animal in it is way more interesting than the animal itself! Here’s an example of that, with the hippo yawning as the sun sets over his favorite watering hole. These guys were so loud with their howling, it was a really memorable moment on safari while the sun was going down.

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Be prepared for low light photos

When choosing lenses for safari, make sure you find one that has the lowest f-stop number (meaning, the widest aperature) that you can find. For example, the lens I used was f2.8. That’s pretty good for a zoom lens. Many wildlife lenses will be f4, but that can also mean you get less light for the evening drives. Strive for a balance between zoomm power and f-stop.

At night, our tracker scans the landscape for the gleam in the eyes of nocturnal animals. On one night, we spotted this beautiful African barn owl who was patient enough to let me take his photo!

You can hover over any photo on this blog to see the camera and lens that the photo was taken with. Click on the information to see reviews on Amazon.

Don’t forget about the details

It can be really easy just to focus on animals, but safari is also about the overall experience, not just the so-called “Big Five”. On safari you’ll learn about the plants that animals feed on, and how it affects where they move to, as well as the smaller creatures that drive the ecosystem in the bush, like the venerable Dung Beetle!

Above: Mopane trees are a favorite food of elephants, and one of the reasons they come to the Timbavati Game Reserve. Below: A Dung Beetle crafts its ball of dung, intended to attract a mate.

Include people or other objects for scale

It can be incredible how big animals are on safari! But usually in photos it’s hard to convey how big they really are. By including people or other objects for scale, it can be easier to communicate visually how big something really is. For example, this Giraffe is totally huge standing next to a fully grown tree! No trouble getting to those leaves, eh?

Go to where the animals are

In most parks, this means watering holes! Especially during high sun, you’ll see animals coming to watering holes for a drink or to take a mud bath. Even if you don’t see animals right away, you can stay and sit at a watering hole for a while and there’s a pretty good chance that some animals will swing by in no time.

Watering holes are also a great place to see herds of animals. At Addo Elephant Park we saw herds of zebras and especially elephants congregating at the watering holes. The best part is watching the elephants chase the zebras away! 🐘

shutter speed for safari

Going on safari is the number one item on top of many tourists' lists when visiting Africa. No matter what your budget is, there is a safari option that will fit your budget. Here are different ways you can get the safari experience and their pros and cons!

Wear neutral colors

There’s a reason why safari-goers tend to dress in neutral colors! That’s because animals are less likely to see it and run away. In most areas that are popular for safari, the animals know that safari vehicles are not to be feared, but plenty of prey animals are likely to run anyways. Dress neutral and keep your visibility to a minimum.

Dressing neutral usually means tan and olive-colored clothing. You’re meant to avoid white or neon colors in particular.

Join a bush walk

One of the best ways to experience the African bush is going through a bush walk! You’ll get a chance to see smaller animals and get up close to plants and insects you typically don’t get to take your time with when driving through. Check that your safari lodge offers a bush walk.

WARNING – You should never go on a bush walk on your own, or leave the safari vehicle without your guide telling you it’s fine. On a self-drive you should not get out of the vehicle at all. Only walk through the bush on guided tours, with guides who are usually armed.

Travel early in the morning or around sunset

Not only do you get some of the best photos possible during the “golden hours”, but it’s also the time when animals are the most active. Although we saw animals at all times of the day, you’ll see different animals active at each time during the day. Most private safari lodges will take you on early morning and late afternoon game drives, but be sure to verify that before you book!

Above: Hyenas venture away from their den for a late afternoon drink near our safari lodge. Below: A bull elephant eating his leafy breakfast 🍃

Talk to other safari-goers for tips on sightings

If you’re doing a private safari, there’s a good chance your guide and tracker are communicating with other guides and trackers about their sightings. That’s one of the big benefits of going on private game drives. But even if you don’t have the budget for that, don’t be afraid to slow down your car on a self-drive and roll the window down to talk to people! That’s how we got a tip about one of the best elephant herd sightings we had.

shutter speed for safari

It can be really hard to pick a safari lodge in South Africa with so many great options. Here is my incredible experience at Motswari, a private game reserve in part of the Greater Kruger National Park.

Don’t just zoom in all the way

Sometimes the best photos include the full body of the animal, or even some of the environment. It can be so so so tempting just to use your zoom for animal portraits, but make sure you’re also getting some of the landscape in the picture too!

Focus on the eyes

Whether you’re photographing animals on safari, or you’re taking portraits of people, the principle is the same: set your focus point on the eyes! This is what makes the photo look sharp and feel engaging.

Make sure the settings on your camera are correct

Before heading out for the day, check that your camera settings didn’t get changed, or that they’re not the same settings you used when you were out at night! Nothing’s worse than having an awesome early morning sighting and screwing it up because you still had your ISO too high.

Don’t forget to enjoy the safari!

Photography is supposed to help you remember your safari experience, not to BE the experience in and of itself. Bring some binoculars to inspect the animals more closely, and enjoy whatever gifts nature has brought you that day!

shutter speed for safari

Have you ever been on safari? What animal did you think was the most photogenic? What was the best spot you’ve been for viewing animals?

Share your experiences in the comments! I’d love to get your safari tips.


About the author

Hi there! I'm Monica, an American expat living in Germany for over six years and using every opportunity to explore the world from my homebase in Berlin. My goal is to capture my memories in photos and posts that show how easy it is to start from scratch and travel the world by working abroad.

Follow along on Instagram , Twitter , Bloglovin , & Facebook .

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The Best Camera Settings for Wildlife Photography (Complete Guide)

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Best camera settings for wildlife photography

When it comes to creating great wildlife photography, getting your camera settings right is so important.

This is my list of the best camera settings for wildlife photography and some alternative techniques as well.

The Best Camera Settings for Wildlife Photography…

There are two main types of autofocus, single and continuous. These will be called different things depending on what brand of camera you have.

Nikon: AF-S & AF-C

Canon: One Shot & Ai Servo

Sony: AF-S & AF-C

So what’s the difference?

Continuous focus is when your camera will continuously reanalyse and refocus rather than staying in one spot.

Continuous auto focus

This mode is used for moving subjects as the camera will readjust its focus as your subject moves.

Single focus is when your camera will focus on a point and not move from there until you press your focus button again.

Single auto focus

This can be used if an animal is very still as you can focus on your subject and then recompose your image as you like.

In summary…

Continuous focus is for moving subjects.

Single focus is for static subjects.

Next up is the focus area, this is what the camera uses to know which part of your frame to focus on.

The focus areas range from a single point to your whole screen. So which one should you use?

If you are photographing a slow moving fairly predictable animal, that you can easily focus your single point on I would use the single point.

Single focus point for wildlife photography

(Bonus tip, always put your focus point on the animals eye if you can. The eye is the most important part to be in focus)

If the animal is moving a little faster and less predictably and you think you will struggle to keep your point on them easily, then go for a slightly bigger area.

Focus area for wildlife photography

And if you have an animal coming in and out frame faster than you can get any sort of aim on them, you can let the camera do the work by having it in auto AF area mode.

Automatic auto focus for Wildlife photography

Back Button Focus

So now I have told you the difference between single and continuous focus and when to use them, I am going to tell you a technique which means you don’t have to choose between the two (typical haha).

So what is back button focusing?

Well, usually when you focus a shot you will half press the shutter button. Back button focusing is essentially separating the focus and shoot functions so they have their own buttons.

So why is this useful?

The first reason is that it stops the camera refocusing when you press the shutter button. Sometimes you will attain your focus, recompose and then when you press the shutter button the camera will refocus again.

By using back button focus this is not an issue, you only use the shutter release when you want to take a photo.

The main advantage of back button focusing however is you are essentially combining single and continuous focus modes.

When you press the focus button once, your camera will focus on your target and won’t change this focus until the button is pressed again.

If you want to continuously track a subject just simply hold down the focus button.

So how do you engage back button focusing?

Back button focus

Most new cameras have an AF-ON button that is specifically designed for back button focusing. If this is the case simply remove the focus function from the shutter release button.

If your camera does not have an AF-ON button all you need to do is create one. This is done very easily by going into your button configuration settings and changing an existing button’s function on the back of your camera to auto focus.

This one is very short and simple, have your camera in burst mode. (High speed continuous)

This is an essential setting to have on as wildlife can be gone within a few seconds so getting as many shots in that time is crucial.

Burst mode for wildlife photography

It’s so important that when choosing a camera the FPS (frames per second) is one of the first things wildlife photographers will look at.

Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO

These 3 things make up what’s called the exposure triangle. Knowing what they do and how to balance them correctly is essential if you want to take excellent wildlife photographs.

Let me give a quick explanation of what each of the three elements are and then we will discuss how to use them.

(If you already have a full understanding of what shutter speed, aperture and ISO are you can skip this part and scroll down to the how to use them section)

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is how quickly your shutter closes. If you think of your camera as an eye, it is how quickly it blinks.

The faster the shutter speed the less light the camera lets in and the slower the shutter speed the more light will be let in.

Shutter speed for wildlife photography

Fast shutter speeds are used to stop motion and are used for moving subjects. The faster the subject is moving the faster your shutter speed will need to be.

The aperture is the opening in your lens that allows light in. The wider the aperture the more light is let in and the narrower the aperture the less light is let in.

Aperture is expressed using f numbers e.g f/2.8, f4, f5.6 etc… You can think of the f standing for how fat your lens is if that helps.

The confusing part is the lower the number the wider the aperture and the higher number the smaller the aperture.

Put very simply…. Low f number = more light and High f number = less light.

So apart from more or less light how does aperture affect our photos…

Well the wider the aperture (lower f number) the shallower your depth of field will be. This means less off the image will be in focus.

Having a wider aperture can create some beautiful blurry backgrounds but be careful as sometimes things you want in focus like an animals ears or nose can become blurred.

A narrower aperture (higher f number) as you have probably guessed means you will have a larger depth of field. This means more of your image will be in focus.

Aperture for wildlife photography

A lot of time in wildlife photography people will have a very wide aperture, especially in low light situations.

The reason for this is letting more light in by having a wide aperture allows you to have a faster shutter speed, which as we have discussed is often essential for wildlife photography.

Having a really wide aperture is not always the right choice though. As I mentioned before it can leave part of an animals face or one of a birds wings out of focus. You will have to judge each situation individually.

It’s about balancing what you think is more important. Do you need a faster shutter speed more than you need that other wing in focus?

The only way to get better at judging this is practice, practice and more practice.

ISO is how sensitive your cameras sensor is to light. In situations where you have a lot of light hitting the sensor you will be able to have a lower ISO.

In low light situations or when there is less light hitting the sensor you will need to raise your ISO (making it more sensitive)

So how does ISO affect your images…

Having a lower ISO number means you will have the least amount of noise/grain in your photo.

The higher your ISO the more noise/grain your photo will have. This is especially noticeable towards the top end of the ISO’s capabilities.

ISO for wildlife photography

In an ideal world you would always have a low ISO but this not possible, especially in low light situations or when you need to have a fast shutter speed and a narrow aperture.

Again, it comes down to what you think the most important thing is for that particular image.

In my opinion if you have to choose say between having a higher shutter speed and higher ISO or lower shutter speed and lower ISO.

(Essentially picking between motion blur or noise) I would pick a noisy photo 9 times out of 10. Just my opinion though.

So now we know what the exposure triangle is and what each element does lets talk about how to use them…

How to use them?

There are three different modes in which you can control the exposure triangle from. Let’s discuss them and which are best for wildlife photography…

Shutter speed priority

Shutter speed priority

(Expressed as Tv on Canon cameras)

Shutter speed priority is when you decide the cameras shutter speed and the camera will in turn decide your aperture to make sure your photo is properly exposed.

As we discussed shutter speed is probably the most important thing to get right in wildlife photography. Surely then being in shutter speed priority would be the ideal mode? Well not exactly, let me explain...

Like I said, in shutter speed priority mode you control the shutter speed and the camera picks the aperture. The problem is lenses have a maximum aperture.

This means if you put your shutter speed too high, your camera can’t open the lens wide enough to let an adequate amount of light in to properly expose the image.

You can of course then adjust your ISO to achieve correct exposure but it means if you don’t get it right the photo will be under exposed.

So this is why I think aperture priority is a better option...

Aperture Priority

aperture priority

(Expressed as Av on Canon cameras)

Aperture priority, as you have probably guessed, is when you change the aperture and the camera decides the correct shutter speed to properly expose the image.

In my opinion this is a better option than shutter speed priority because there is no limit to how slow your shutter speed can go, meaning your photo will never be under exposed.

If you feel you have your aperture as wide as you want it and your shutter speed is not fast enough, just increase your ISO and this will in turn increase your shutter speed.

(Bonus Tip)

Your shutter speed should be equal or more than your focal length. For example 400mm lens means 1/400 shutter speed.

In terms of animals a general rule for minimum shutter speeds would be…

Walking: 1/250

Fast Walking: 1/500

Running: 1/1000

Birds in Flight: 1/1250+

Manual Mode

Manual mode for wildlife photography

Manual mode is when you are in control of everything. This is by far my favourite mode to shoot in and the one I use the most.

I would also say using your camera in manual mode is the best way to learn how to use it properly.

When I would not suggest to use manual is if you have one chance to get the shot and you aren’t confident in your settings.

If you have say, a 50% chance of getting the shot in manual and a 70% chance if you use a semi automatic mode then use the semi automatic modes for sure.

Also if the light is constantly changing and so is the speed of your subject then changing all the settings in manual is not practical and a semi automatic would be better.

One technique that people use is having their camera in manual mode but the ISO in auto. This means you will control the shutter speed and aperture while camera changes the ISO to make sure the photo is properly exposed.

This method can be useful however, I feel sometimes if the camera is controlling the ISO it can get pushed higher than necessary and create a lot of noise/grain.

Each situation is different but if I had to pick my top 3 shooting modes in order it would be…

1)Manual mode (Auto ISO)

2)Full manual mode

3)Aperture priority (Manual ISO)

So those are my best camera techniques for wildlife photography. This is not a one size fits all though, try all of the settings in different situations and see what works for you. I hope you found the post useful, please like and share if you did.

If you are interested in improving your photography skills whilst capturing images of some of the most unique and incredible animals on earth, check out my Costa Rica wildlife photography workshops for 2024 below…

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Jess on safari with camera

The Best Safari Camera, Lenses and Photography Accessories – Plus How to Choose

Last updated: June 2, 2024 . Written by Laurence Norah - 53 Comments

Probably the biggest decision you’ll have to make before going on safari is what camera equipment to take with you. This is a big decision, and it’s important to get it right before you go.

When you are on safari, you’re going to see people taking photos on everything from their smartphones through to super high end professional equipment with gigantic lenses.

Choosing a camera is a personal decision where you have to weigh various factors including budget, ease of use, size, and the type of pictures you want to get.

I’ve been a professional photographer for many years, and I also teach photography online . I’ve also been lucky enough to spend time on safari photographing animals in a number of countries around the world.

Based on my experiences, I’ve learnt a lot about what sort of camera works best for safari, and what to consider when choosing a camera for a safari.

In this post, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about how to choose a camera setup that’s right for you and your safari. I’m also going to recommend some cameras and lenses across a range of budgets and styles.

I recommend reading this post along with my guide to getting great photos on safari , so you’re fully prepared for your trip.

What to Look for In a Camera for Safari

Before I recommend specific cameras and lenses, I wanted to share the things that are important to look for when choosing a camera for safari. This information will help you to make a fully informed decision, rather than just picking something off a list.

We’re going to assume you are looking for a new camera for your trip, but for those who already own a camera, this can help you decide whether or not your current camera equipment will be able to give you the photos you want on your trip.

Before you even start to think about what kind of camera you want and the features it has, you are going to have to decide on your budget. This will make a big impact on the camera you end up getting, and it’s important to set a realistic budget from the outset so you can then find something suitable that meets your budget.

Obviously, budget will vary for everyone. Don’t forget that your budget should not just include the camera itself. If you are buying a camera where you can change the lens, then you will want to include a lens in the purchase, and these can be just as expensive as the camera body.

Additionally, you will likely need accessories like a camera bag, camera strap, memory card, and spare batteries as well.

In general, the following price estimates in USD should give you an idea of what you can get for your money:

  • $200 – $800 – an entry level camera which will help you capture great memories of your trip
  • $800 – $2500 – a mid-range camera that will be capable of getting great photos in the majority of situations
  • $2500+ – moving up into high end territory now, as you start to spend over this amount you are looking at more professional oriented cameras which will capture amazing images in a wide range of lighting conditions if you put the time into learning how to use them properly.

As you can see, there’s a wide range of price points, and you can easily spend a great deal of money on camera equipment. However, you can also spend less and still get great results.

Elephant eating Kenya

Type of Camera for Safari

Once you have set a budget, you have to decide on the sort of camera you want to actually take with you on safari.

You have four main options for choosing a camera for safari. These are a smartphone, a compact camera, a bridge camera , or an interchangeable lens camera (DSLR or mirrorless).

Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages, and I’ll quickly go over each option now.

  • Smartphone . A smartphone is a good option if you really don’t want to carry any extra equipment and are happy to just get some images to remember your trip. They are generally easy to use and the latest models include some level of optical zoom. However, you will struggle to get great shots of any wildlife further away than several yards, and images taken when there is less light will likely be quite grainy.
  • Compact camera . A compact camera is a good compromise between a smartphone and a bigger setup. They are very portable and lightweight, but models are still available with good optical zooms. They are also easy to use, hence are often also called point-and-shoot cameras. However, some models do include more manual modes and advanced features for those who want more control. The main downsides are reduced image quality compared to a larger setup, and they don’t perform so well in low light.
  • Bridge camera . One of the more popular options for safari is a bridge camera , also sometimes known as a superzoom camera. Bridge cameras are larger than compact cameras and they tend to have big zoom lenses that can capture far away subjects. Like with compact cameras, you can’t change the lens like on mirrorless or DSLR. They tend to offer a good balance between image quality, zoom, weight, usability, and affordability.
  • Mirrorless / DSLR Camera . If you want the best results in terms of image quality, then a mirrorless or DSLR camera is the option to go for. These have larger sensors so can capture more light than other camera types, meaning you get better results in lower light conditions. These cameras also let you change the lens, so you can pick a lens or lenses which suit your budget and needs. They also have far more manual controls than the other options in the list, so you have more control over how your images look. The downside is that they are larger and heavier, take more time to truly master, and are usually more expensive.

In terms of which type of camera body to choose, there is no correct answer from the above.

Your decision will depend on your budget, how big a camera you want to carry, and how much time you want to spend learning how to use it. Below are different images from a number of different cameras to show you what is possible.

A quick note when it comes to DSLR cameras. These are pretty much end of life for most manufacturers now, as they have moved on to mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless cameras offer the same image quality as a DSLR in a smaller body.

These days I would recommend a mirrorless camera over a DSLR as they offer much improved features and usability in a lighter format. The choice of camera bodies and lenses is also sufficient that there is no reason to purchase a DSLR over a mirrorless.

shutter speed for safari

Sensor Size for a Safari Camera

The sensor is one of the most important components inside your camera. The sensor is the digital equivalent of a piece of film. It is what records the light and saves it as a digital file.

Unlike a roll of film, which came in a fixed size for most cameras, a digital sensor can be as big or small as the camera manufacturer wants. Smaller sensors are found in smaller cameras like smartphones and compact cameras, whilst bigger sensors are found in mirrorless (and DSLR) cameras.

The size of the sensor affects a few things. First, it affects the actual size of the camera and lens. A larger sensor needs a bigger camera body to house it, and a bigger lens to capture the light. A smaller sensor will fit into a smaller camera body.

Larger sensors are also capable of capturing more light, in much the same way that if you leave a large bucket out in a rainstorm it will catch more water than a small bucket over the same period of time.

This means a larger sensor will normally perform better when there is less light available, and it will produce less noisy images. You can also use faster shutter speeds.

Larger sensors are however more expensive to produce and as a result tend to be found in higher-end and more expensive cameras.

Common sensor sizes you’ll come across are listed below in order of size from smaller to larger. However, you should be aware that there are a lot of variations, especially in the ultra-competitive smartphone market.

  • 1/2.5″ – 5.76mm x 4.29mm (25mm²). Found in smartphones, as well as some compact cameras and bridge cameras. The sensor sizes around this point vary a little but this is around the average.
  • 1-inch sensor – 13.2 x 8.8mm (116mm²) found in high-end compact cameras and high-end bridge cameras. The 1″ name is a marketing term which has nothing to do with the size of the sensor.
  • Micro Four thirds – 17.3mm x 13mm (225mm²) found in “micro four-thirds” cameras from Olympus and Panasonic.
  • APS-C Canon –  22.4mm x 14.8mm (329mm²) found in most consumer-oriented Canon DSLR and mirrorless cameras
  • APS-C Nikon, Sony, Pentax – 23.6mm x 15.7mm (370mm²) found in most consumer oriented DSLR and mirrorless cameras from other manufacturers like Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Fuji etc. Nikon calls these DX sensors.
  • Full Frame –  36mm x 24mm (864mm²). Found in high end professional DSLR and Mirrorless cameras from Sony, Canon, Nikon etc. So called because it is roughly the same size as a piece of 35mm film.

The important thing to compare is the surface area in square millimeters. This shows the comparative size of each sensor. A full frame sensor for example has more than double the surface area of an APS-C sensor, and over 30x the surface area of a smartphone or compact camera sensor.

That leads to big differences in real world performance.

Generally, the larger the sensor, the better photos you will be able to get. This will be most obvious in lower light situations.

Ideally, for the best photos, you would want an APS-C or full frame sensor for safari as this will gather the most amount of light and be useful in more situations.

However, the trade-off is that these cameras tend to be more expensive and larger in size. So I’d recommend getting the largest sensor that fits with your budget and preferred camera size.

Laurence with cameras on safari

Focal Length / Optical Zoom for Safari

A really important specification to think about when picking a camera or lens for safari is the focal length of the lens. This is also often referred to as the “zoom”. The focal length is particularly important if you want to photograph birds, smaller animals and more distant wildlife.

A bigger zoom lens will let you get clearer images of more distant as well as smaller wildlife like birds or small animals.

When it comes to zoom, you will often see the terms optical zoom and digital zoom. The key specification is optical zoom.

Digital zoom is effectively the same as cropping an image after you have taken it, so has no real use as you could do this yourself with an editing application.

Optical zoom involves moving the optical elements in the camera to actually magnify the image.

When it comes to choosing a zoom amount for safari, if you’re picking a camera which has a built-in lens like a compact camera or a bridge camera, then you would want at least a 10x optical zoom. But ideally I’d recommend a 16x optical zoom or larger.

If you’re in the market for one of these cameras, remember that the optical zoom number is just a marketing number. It refers to the underlying focal length, which is the more accurate way of comparing magnification across lenses. Let me quickly cover that for clarity as it can be confusing.

All lenses have what is known as a focal length, which is measured in millimetres (mm). If the mm number is small, say 20mm, then it’s a wide-angle lens, so will get a lot of the scene in the frame. If the number is bigger than 50mm, then it’s a telephoto lens, meaning it magnifies the image.

Here are a couple of examples of the same scene at two different focal lengths so you can see the difference. These are uncropped images.

shutter speed for safari

As you can see from the images above, the 400mm focal length obviously lets you get much closer to the subject. You could crop down the top shot to a similar result, but it would be much less sharp and more grainy as a result.

When a camera has a zoom lens, it means that you can change the focal length, to make the image appear bigger (zooming in) and smaller (zooming out). The optical zoom number refers to the difference between the smallest and largest focal length number.

For example, if you have a camera like the Sony RX10 IV , this has a 24mm – 600mm equivalent focal length. 600 divided by 24 is 24, so this camera has a 24x optical zoom.

If you had a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a 150mm – 600mm lens, this is technically just a 4x optical zoom because 600 divided by 150 is 4x. However, both the Sony and the DSLR camera would give the same result in terms of framing when zoomed all the way in.

The difference is that the Sony would also let you take wide angle shots. However, if you compare a 4x number with a 16x number, the Sony sounds much more impressive! This is why it’s important to understand the underlying numbers, so you can get past the marketing.

In general, for wildlife photography on safari you want a camera with a lens which will let you zoom between 70mm and 400mm. This range will work well for most wildlife photography scenarios, and especially on safari as you normally can’t get out of the vehicle or leave the road, so are restricted by how close you can get to the animals.

Now there are also ultra-telephoto or superzoom lenses out there that start at 400mm and can go up to 1200mm. These lenses are going to be too large and too expensive for most people, but may be of interest to ardent wildlife photographers with big budgets, particularly those interested in bird photography.

Although your main focus is likely going to be photographing animals and birds while on safari, chances are that you are also going to want a camera that you can use to take photos of landscapes, buildings, food, people, etc. as well.

So you may want a camera that can also take wide angle shots (around 20mm). That might be a versatile zoom lens on your existing camera, a separate wide-angle lens, or you might consider using a different camera such as your smartphone for wide angle shots.

Aperture for Safari

As well as focal length, every lens has a specification known as an aperture. The aperture is the hole inside the lens which the light passes through. It’s a bit like the pupil in your eye.

Like the pupil in your eye, the aperture can get bigger and smaller to let more or less light through.

Every lens has an aperture, and the main specification to look out for is how big this aperture will go. Aperture is measured in f/stops, with a smaller number meaning the hole is bigger.

For example, an f/2.8 aperture lens features a bigger hole than an f/5.6 aperture lens.

Generally, the larger the aperture the more desirable. A larger aperture hole lets more light through, meaning you can use a higher shutter speed or a lower ISO, both of which can be of benefit.

You may notice when looking at cameras or lenses that the aperture is shown as a range, for example f/3.5 – 5.6. What this means is that the maximum aperture changes as you change the focal length. At the widest angle, the maximum aperture will be f/3.5. At full zoom, it will be f/5.6.

This is particularly common on compact cameras and bridge cameras with very big zoom lenses, as well as less expensive lenses. This means that the more you zoom in, the less light will be hitting the sensor and so you’ll need to use a faster shutter speed or higher ISO value to compensate.

The more expensive high-end standalone lenses for DSLR and mirrorless cameras may feature a fixed aperture throughout the focal length. These also tend to be the biggest and heaviest lenses.

For safari, the larger the aperture (and smaller the f/stop number) the better, although of course you will have to budget this against weight and cost. In an ideal world, you’d want a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or f/4 for safari, but this isn’t always practical when cost and weight are taking into account.

Ease of Use and Learning Curve

Cameras are not created equally when it comes to ease of use. A smartphone camera for example tends to be very easy to use, in that you press a button and it takes a photo. They also come with a lot of clever technology, known as computational photography, which tries to get the best results for every image you take. This is also likely a device you are very familiar with and use regularly.

However, other types of cameras are going to have a steeper learning curve, especially mirrorless and DSLR cameras. Of course, mirrorless or DSLR camera will also have an automatic mode which works in the same way as a compact camera or smartphone, in that you can press a button and take a photo, although they are normally missing the computational photography element.

This is why smartphone camera images can look better than shots from a mirrorless or DSLR, especially when taken by a novice user.

The good news is that you can get amazing results with a high-end camera if you take the time to learn what all the buttons and dials actually do, as then you’ll be able to make the camera do what you want it to do. But this does require an investment of time and practice.

The decision you have to make is how much time you want to spend learning how to use your camera. If you really would prefer a more point and shoot experience, then a smartphone, compact camera or bridge camera is probably the best option. You will of course still get better results if you learn its various features, but it should still get good results with its out of the box settings.

On the other hand, if you would like to spend some time really learning how your camera works, then a DSLR or mirrorless camera is a good option. This will have a wide range of shooting modes, including fully manual options, giving you total control over the end result.

If you are planning to get a new camera and want some help in using it and improving your photography there are a lot of books, workshops, and classes out there. For instance, I run an online travel photography course that is designed to help anyone improve their photography.

Megapixel count

Every camera sensor has a megapixel count, usually in the range of 12MP through to 50MP+.

The higher the number, the more pixels the camera sensor will record when saving your image. A megapixel just means 1 million pixels, and would refer to an image 1000 pixels wide and 1000 pixels high. 1000 times 1000 is a million, hence megapixel.

More megapixels means the final image will be bigger in terms of image width and height. The advantage of this is that it can let you crop your images more without losing detail.

The disadvantage is that image files are bigger, and higher megapixel images can be slightly grainier.

I would not worry too much about megapixel count unless you plan to do a lot of photography of smaller subjects like birds from a further away distance or plan to print a lot of your images at a larger size. In these cases a high megapixel count (30MP+) will let you crop the shot more and still get a good result.

Otherwise, for smartphones anything over 12MP is good, and for other cameras anything over 20MP will be enough for safari. You can also get away with a lower megapixel count if the camera has a very big zoom, as this negates the need for cropping after the shot.

Image stabilization

When you are taking photos and holding the camera in your hand, any movement in your hand can translate into motion blur in your images. This will result in images that aren’t sharp.

This impacts images taken with slower shutter speeds, such as when you are shooting in low light. It’s also more apparent when using longer zooms, which can exaggerate hand movements. This is similar to the effect you get when looking through binoculars or a telescope – even small movements translate to the image being blurry to look at.

Cameras with image stabilization can compensate for this up to a point, meaning your images will be sharper. Image stabilization can be built in to either the camera body or the lens (or both), and I’d suggest picking both a camera body and lens with image stabilization for the best results.

Just be aware that image stabilization can only do so much, it’s not a fix all for image sharpness! So be sure to try to stabilize your camera as well as you can before taking photos, and use an appropriate shutter speed for the focal length you are shooting at.

Weather sealing

A safari can be a very dusty place, and cameras tend not to like dust too much. If you are going to a tropical part of the world or visiting a country during its wet season, you are also likely to encounter rain and moisture. Some cameras on the market, particularly the more expensive models, offer weather sealing.

A weather sealed camera normally has various features to prevent ingress of moisture into the camera, such as rubber protection on the lens mounts and memory card slots. This helps prevent water getting into the camera in a rain shower, but also helps to prevent dust getting into the camera.

Dust inside the camera can have a variety of negative effects, from creating unseemly spots on your images if it lands on the sensor, through to causing it to not work at all.

If you have a camera which offers some level of weather sealing, this can protect against both water and dust, meaning you have one less thing to worry about. Ideally, you will want a camera with weather sealing for safari photography, although this is not a feature which is available on all cameras.

Beeeater Uganda

Autofocus system

Taking photos of moving wildlife can be challenging, especially when it comes to getting and keeping focus. Getting a camera which has a good autofocus system is key.

Modern autofocus systems can automatically identify and track things like animals and their eyes, so all you have to worry about is keeping the subject in the frame.

When looking at a camera for safari photography, check to see what features the autofocus system has. You are specifically looking to see how fast it can focus (faster is better), and if it offers any kind of subject detection or eye tracking. This will make getting sharp photos a lot easier.

Baby lions running

Burst speed

The burst speed of a camera refers to how many photos it can take in a second. A high-end camera will be able to take between 12 and 30 images per second. A mid-range camera will be able to do around 4 – 12 images per second.

A higher burst speed means you’ll be more likely to capture specific moments, especially of faster action like a bird in flight or an animal running.

In addition, because burst speed is directly related to the overall technical capabilities of the camera, a camera with a higher burst speed will be better specified than a camera with a low burst speed.

For safari, a camera that can shoot at least five frames per second is a good idea, but higher is always better.

Leopard lying down

A factor you might also want to consider when choosing a camera for safari is the weight of the system. Whilst a lot of safari’s take place in a vehicle, where weight may be less of an issue, there are situations where you weight will be an issue.

For example, there are some locations where you can do guided ranger walks, which will require you to carry your gear. Similarly, if you are doing a tracking experience, such as gorilla trekking or chimpanzee trekking , that will also often require you to carry your gear.

In addition, if you are planning on using planes to get around when at your destination, you should be aware that domestic flights to safari parks tend to operate on fairly small planes which can have strict weight limits. So you will want to be sure that your gear meets these requirements.

Generally, a smartphone, compact camera or bridge camera will be fairly lightweight. Larger mirrorless and DSLR camera systems, especially those with full-frame sensors and large telephoto lenses, can weigh a lot more.

The Best Camera for Safari

I’ve now covered the main features to look for in a camera for safari. I’m now going to provide a list of some of my recommended cameras for safari. This list is not exhaustive as there is obviously a lot of choice out there.

Combining this list with the information on what to look for in a safari camera should give you a good starting point. For those cameras which allow you to change lenses, I also have some recommended safari lenses in the following section.

These cameras are ordered approximately by price, from low to high, but you will of course want to check prices yourself as they do vary. Prices start from around $400 and go to over $3,000 for high end models.

Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 / FZ82

If you want a great value camera for safari that is easy to use and has a good zoom, the Lumix DC-FZ80 bridge camera from Panasonic is an excellent option to consider.

The Best Bridge Camera 2022

Launched in March 2017, this is the lowest priced option in our list of cameras for safari, but you still get a lot of camera for your money.

First, there’s an image-stabilized 20-1200mm (60x) lens with around five stops of stabilization. That’s paired with an 18.1 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor which also supports 4K video.

The screen on the back is fixed, but it is touch enabled. The camera is WiFi enabled, and is a lightweight 616g (21.7oz). The main downside is there’s no weather sealing, although that isn’t a surprise at this price point. Battery life is also not spectacular.

However, you do get a great zoom and this is a solid budget safari camera option with a zoom that will let you capture even further away subjects.

Key Specifications : 20-1200mm (60x) focal length, f/2.8-5.9 aperture, 10 images / second, 18.1 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor Weight : 616g / 21.7oz Battery life : 330 shots Price : Check latest price on  Amazon here ,  B&H here , and  Adorama here

Panasonic Lumix ZS70  / (TZ90 in UK)

If you want a compact camera for safari at a budget price point, check out this Panasonic Lumix model. You get a 30x optical zoom lens (24mm – 720mm), a 20.3MP 1/2.3″ sensor, image stabilization, full manual controls and even RAW support.

There’s also an electronic viewfinder, a definite bonus in a compact camera at this price point. This can make composing images in bright sunlight easier.  Speed wise it can shoot at up to 10 frames per second.

The Best Travel Camera 2022: Compact, DSLR, Mirrorless & Phone!

A newer model was released in 2019 – the ZS80. This adds Bluetooth and a higher resolution EVF but not much else.

We’re not sure that is a sufficient upgrade to justify the price difference, but it’s up to you. If you find them at the same price, then you might as well get the ZS80, otherwise the ZS70 remains our pick while it’s still available.

Key Specifications : 24-720mm (30x) focal length, f/3.3-6.4 aperture, 10 images / second, 20.3 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor Weight : 322g / 11.36oz Battery life : 380 shots Price on Amazon here ,  B&H here  and  Adorama here

Canon Powershot SX740

Canon have been making a wide range of cameras for decades, and you’re going to find a few of their cameras in this list. This would be our recommended Canon option if you’re looking for a great value compact camera with a good zoom for safari.

The Best Travel Camera 2022: Compact, DSLR, Mirrorless & Phone!

For your money you get a 1/2.3″ 20.3MP sensor and a 40x optical zoom (24-960mm) As with other  compact cameras with a long zoom, it comes with the tradeoff that the maximum aperture only goes to f3.3, and at maximum zoom, is all the way down at f/6.9. Battery life is also not great at 265 shots and there’s no viewfinder.

Still, it’s one of the best value compact zoom cameras out there especially at this price point, and the price is excellent for what you get. Just don’t expect miracles in terms of image quality or low light performance, especially when zoomed all the way in.

Key Specifications : 24-960mm (40x) focal length, f/3.3-6.9 aperture, 10 1images / second, 20.3 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor Weight : 299g / 10.55oz Battery life : 265 shots Price on Amazon here ,  B&H here  and  Adorama here

Panasonic Lumix ZS200 (TZ200 in UK)

If image quality and low-light performance are more important to you than zoom, check out Panasonic’s Lumix ZS200.

The Best Travel Camera 2022: Compact, DSLR, Mirrorless & Phone!

This compact camera comes with a 20.1 megapixel 1-inch sensor, making it around four times larger than standard 1/2.3″ compact camera sensors.

You also get a 15x (24-360mm) lens with a variable f/3.3 – f/6.4 aperture and image stabilization. This is actually a pretty reasonable zoom for most safari situations, with the exception of small distant birdlife.

It also has full manual controls, a touchscreen interface, electronic viewfinder, and RAW shooting.

It’s definitely a slightly more expensive option when it comes to compact cameras for safari, but that optical zoom is a definite bonus especially in the 1-inch sensor category.

Key Specifications: 24-360mm (15x) focal length, f/3.3-6.4 aperture, 10 images / second, 20.1 megapixel 1-inch sensor Weight: 340g / 11.99oz Battery life : 370 shots Price on Amazon here ,  B&H here  and  Adorama here .

Canon Powershot SX70 HS

Canon’s bridge camera offering is another capable option. It features an impressive 21-1365mm (65x optical) zoom lens, which has a variable f/3.4-6.5 maximum aperture. It’s also one of the lightest bridge cameras on the market, if weight is a consideration.

The Best Bridge Camera 2022

The lens is optically stabilized, providing up to five stops of stability. The 1/2.3″ sensor offers 20 megapixels, which is enough for most users, especially considering the impressive zoom means you shouldn’t need to crop very much.

It has full manual controls as well as RAW support, and you get both Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity as well as 4K video support.

There are some drawbacks. Image quality at the zoom and wide angles is a little soft, and there’s no touch screen or weather sealing.  The screen does flip out and tilt though.

My parents have an earlier model of this camera (they provided the tiger photo earlier in the post) and they have been very happy with the results from safaris in destinations around the world.

Key Specifications : 21-1365mm (65x) focal length, f/3.4-6.5 aperture, 10 images / second, 20 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor Weight : 610 g / 21.5 oz Battery life : 325 shots Price : Check latest price on  Amazon here ,  B&H here , and  Adorama here

Canon EOS R50 

The Canon ROS is one of Canon’s more affordable mirrorless cameras, however despite being available at a more reasonable price point, there is a lot about this camera that makes it great for safari.

shutter speed for safari

First, it’s one of the smallest mirrorless cameras on the market, making it a more lightweight and portable options compared to more expensive models. It also offers great performance for an excellent price.

Specs include a 24.2MP APS-C sized sensor, WiFi, up to 440 shot battery capacity, 4K video support, movable touchscreen and compatibility with all of Canon’s lenses.

There’s no image stabilization, but there are a great many lenses available which do feature this technology. It’s also not weather sealed.

Another option at a lower price point is the entry-level mirrorless Canon EOS R100 . I’d personally opt for the R50 as the R100 loses the touchscreen, which can be very helpful for navigating and selecting a focus point. The R50 also has a wider ISO range and much faster burst shooting capability.

More crucially though, the R100 has a much less advanced autofocus system, which crucially doesn’t have animal tracking autofocus and eye recognition. This can be a very helpful feature when trying to get sharp photos on safari. The R50 is only a little bit more expensive and well worth the upgrade in my opinion.

Key Specifications: 15 images / second, 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor Weight: 375g / 13.2oz Battery life: 440 shots (LCD), 310 (EVF) Price on Amazon here , B&H here and Adorama here .

Nikon Coolpix P950

The Nikon Coolpix P950, released in 2020, has a lot going for it. First, you get an impressive 24-2000mm lens, which is an 83x optical zoom. That should be more than enough for any kind of safari photo, and in particular for those of you looking for a camera for bird photography.

The maximum aperture starts at a wide f/2.8, and narrows down to f/6.5 when zoomed in. Given the length of the lens, this is to be expected.

The Best Bridge Camera 2022

The lens is stabilized, and the stabilization offers an impressive 5.5 stops of improvement. Sensor wise, you’re looking at a 1/2.3″ 16MP sensor, which offers a good balance between size and low light performance.

Image quality is good although softens as you zoom further in. This is quite common on compact and bridge cameras with big zooms. There is a reason high end mirrorless and DSLR lenses cost thousands of dollars after all! However, I think most users will be happy with the performance.

The megapixel count isn’t particularly high, but you are unlikely to need to crop much given you have an incredible zoom.

The P950 has support for RAW photography as well as manual modes that let you set shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. There’s also 4K video support as well as WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity options.

There are a few downsides. Battery life is quite low at 290 shots, and the huge lens means this camera is quite heavy for a bridge camera, weighing just over 1 kg (2.2 lb). There’s also no touchscreen, or weather sealing.

Key Specifications : 24-2000mm (83x) focal length, f/2.8-6.5 aperture, 7 images / second, 16 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor Weight : 1005 g / 35.4 oz Battery life : 290 shots Price : Check latest price on  Amazon here ,  B&H here , and  Adorama here

The Z50 is Nikon’s more entry level mirrorless camera, which features a 20.9MP APS-C sized sensor, which Nikon calls DX sized.

The Best Travel Camera 2022: Compact, DSLR, Mirrorless & Phone!

Despite being entry-level, you still get a lot for your money. There’s 11fps burst shooting, 4K video support, a tilting touchscreen display and an OLED viewfinder.  You also get Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, with battery life rated to around 300 shots.

This is a great lightweight mirrorless camera at a good price, however do be aware when comparing this and other mirrorless cameras to other cameras on our round up that you will have to buy a lens as well. It is also compatible with most of Nikon’s lenses via an adaptor, which gives you a huge choice.

It even has some weather-sealing, although the pop-up flash means it isn’t considered as weather-sealed as some of its more expensive siblings.

Key Specifications : 11 images / second, 20.9 megapixel APS-C sensor Weight : 450g / 15.87 oz Battery life : 320 shots Price on Amazon here ,  B&H here , and  Adorama here

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II

If you like the idea of a bridge camera but would prefer improved image quality and low light performance over a huge zoom, check out the FZ1000 II from Panasonic.

The Best Bridge Camera 2022

Released in 2019, this camera features a 20.1 Megapixel 1 inch sensor. This means you get better low light performance than bridge cameras with smaller sensors, as well as higher image quality.

Unfortunately, a larger sensor comes with some tradeoffs, namely the zoom. The FZ1000II features a 25-400mm lens, equivalent to a 16x optical zoom. This is definitely on the low end for a bridge camera, but if you’re not too worried about shooting very distant subjects, 400mm is still on par in terms of magnification with DSLR or mirrorless zoom lenses.

When I go on safari, I find a 400mm lens works fine 99% of the time. The only exception really is for small birds, where a longer lens is nearly always helpful.

The other nice thing about this lens is that it features a wide f/2.8 aperture. This drops to f/4 when zoomed in, which is still very respectable. A wider aperture lets more light in, meaning you can shoot at higher shutter speeds and lower ISO values. The lens is also image stabilized, offering 3-5 stops of stabilization.

The display tilts and swivels out from the camera and is touch enabled. You also get WiFi and Bluetooth support, as well as a relatively good battery life of 440 shots. Video wise, you get 4K video support. Despite having a larger sensor, the camera is not too heavy at 810 g (1.79 lbs).

There’s no dust or water protection, which is a shame in a camera at this price point, and probably the main downside. Otherwise though, if you are happy with the zoom range, this is a solid option.

Key Specifications : 25-400mm (16x) focal length, f/2.8-4 aperture, 10 images / second, 20.1 megapixel 1″ sensor Weight : 810 g / 28.5 oz Battery life : 440 shots Price : Check latest price on  Amazon here ,  B&H here , and  Adorama here

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra / iPhone 14 Pro Max

I appreciate it’s a little jarring to go from cameras to smartphones, but I know that many of you might not want to take anything other than a smartphone on safari. For many shots, a smartphone will work just fine, especially in those scenarios where the animals are very near.

shutter speed for safari

If you are going to take a smartphone for your safari camera, then you might as well pick the best option. The two contenders I recommend are either the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra or the iPhone 14 Pro Max. I’ve put these together because at this point, most people have likely settled on Android or iPhone.

Specs wise they are not dissimilar when it comes to the camera technology. The most important feature, and the reason I chose these two phones for safari photography, is that they both have a relatively good optical zoom (by smartphone standards at least). That means you’ll still be able to shoot wildlife that is a little further away and get good results.

The Samsung S23 Ultra actually has four cameras, each with its own sensor. Most importantly, there’s a 10x (230mm equivalent) optical zoom on a 10 megapixel 1/3.52″ sensor. It’s quite a small sensor even by smartphone standards, but that 10x zoom could definitely come in handy.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max has three cameras. The longest reach it has is from a 2x (77mm equivalent) optical zoom on a 1/3.4″ sensor.

Both phones offer a range of photography focused features, from image stabilization through to powerful computational technology to improve how your images look. If you really want a smartphone for your safari, one of these two options would be our pick.

Price on Amazon for Samsung here , Apple on Apple store here .

Sony RX100 VII

If you like the idea of a compact camera but don’t want to sacrifice too much image quality, consider the RX100 VII. Released in August 2019, in our opinion this is one of the best compact cameras for safari that money can buy, and we travel with an earlier version ourselves.

The Best Travel Camera 2022: Compact, DSLR, Mirrorless & Phone!

The RX100 VII has an 8x optical zoom, equivalent to a 24mm – 200mm lens. That’s about the absolute minimum focal length we’d recommend for a safari. It also has a 20.1 megapixel 1-inch sized sensor like the Panasonic ZS200, which is the closest alternative.

The main differences are that the ZS200 has more zoom at the expense of a narrower aperture. The RX100 has a faster burst rate at 20 frames per second, and it also has a much-improved focus system which can lock on and track subjects very quickly. As you might imagine, that can come in very handy for safari photography.

Sony have used the learning acquired from the focus technology in their high-end professional cameras and it definitely shows.

Image quality in the Sony is also a little better than the Panasonic.

The RX100 also has image stabilisation, a tilting screen and an impressive electronic viewfinder. This is a great all-round compact camera, although it is quite expensive. If the price is too high, the ZS200 offers a great deal at a much more reasonable price.

Key Specifications: 24-200mm (x) focal length, f/2.8-4.5 aperture, 20 images / second, 20.1 megapixel /1″ sensor Weight: 302g / 10.65oz Battery life: 240 shots Price on Amazon here ,  B&H here  and  Adorama here

Sony have been making excellent consumer oriented mirrorless cameras for a long time. The A6600 is the current top of their A6xxx range.

shutter speed for safari

The A6600 has a lot of technology packed into its relatively diminutive body. There’s a 24.2 megapixel APS-C sized sensor which can shoot at 11 frames per second. It has Sony’s impressive real-time subject tracking which can recognise and track human and animals’ eyes very quickly.

You also get in body image stabilization, a flip up touch screen, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, an impressive 810 shot battery life and weather sealing. All in all, this is a feature packed camera that would be a great option for safari photography when paired with a good telephoto lens.

Key Specifications : 11 images / second, 24.2 megapixel APS-C sensor Weight : 503g / 17.74oz Battery life : 810 shots Price on Amazon here ,  B&H here  and  Adorama here

Canon EOS R7

This mirrorless camera for Canon was launched in 2022, and it is packed with features that make it an excellent choice for a safari camera. In fact, a lot of the technology in this camera, especially around autofocus, is borrowed from Canon’s high-end EOS R3, a camera which retails in excess of $6,000 USD.

shutter speed for safari

At the heart of this camera is a 32.5MP APS-C sized sensor. That is fully image stabilized, and it supports shooting at 15 frames per second (mechanical) and a staggering 30 frames per second (electronic).

Perhaps the most impressive feature though is the autofocus. This can identify and track a range of subjects, including animals and birds. I have used this system extensively and it is amazing how well it can lock onto even a fast moving subject to enable you to get sharp shots every time.

You also get a touch-enabled flip screen, weather sealing, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and compatibility with a massive selection of Canon lenses. Battery life is reasonable at 660 shots, and the weight without a lens is also good at 612g/ 21.58oz.

If you are looking for an APS-C sensor camera for safari photography, this would be at the top of my list.

Key Specifications : 30 images / second, 32.5 megapixel APS-C sensor Weight : 612g / 21.58oz Battery life : 660 shots Price on Amazon here , B&H here  and  Adorama here

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV

If you love the idea of a bridge camera but don’t want to sacrifice image quality, speed and weather sealing, look no further than the stunning Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV. Sony has been leading the way with high performance camera sensors for a number of years, and the RX10 IV is the current pinnacle of their bridge camera offerings.

This is probably the best bridge camera for safari, although as with every decision, there are of course some compromises. The main one being price. This is definitely a premium offering. However, you do get a lot for your money.

The Best Bridge Camera 2022

To start with, this is a 1″ sensor camera, with 20.1 megapixels of resolution. That is paired with a 24-600mm (25x optical) lens, which we think will be enough for most safari needs.

The lens starts out at a very wide f/2.4, meaning lots of light can reach the sensor. At 600mm the lens stops down to f/4. This is still very impressive, when you consider that a  600mm f/4 lens for a mirrorless camera will set you back five figures! The lens is also stabilized, offering around 4.5 stops of improvement.

You also get one of the fastest autofocus systems in the world, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4K video, superb image quality, a touch-enabled screen, a weather sealed body, and a truly impressive 24 frames per second shooting speed. Naturally there are full manual controls and RAW support.

With all that tech onboard, combined with the relatively large sensor and wider aperture zoom lens, this camera does weigh quite a bit. In fact, at 1095g (2.4lbs) it’s heavier than some larger cameras. However, if quality and performance are your key goals, and you just want an all-in-one camera that will just work, then this camera still offers excellent value for money.

If the price is a bit much, then consider the earlier model  RX10 III , which offers similar features at a lower price point. You will lose the touchscreen, and the autofocus and shooting speeds are a little slower.

Key Specifications : 24-600mm (24x) focal length, f2.4/4 aperture, 24 images / second, 20.1megapixel 1″ sensor Weight : 1095 g / 38.6 oz Battery life : 400 shots Price : Check latest price on  Amazon here ,  B&H here , and  Adorama here

Sony Alpha 7c II

If you like the look of the Sony A6xxx line but want something with a full frame sensor, consider the Sony Alpha 7C II.

shutter speed for safari

Somehow, Sony has managed to fit a full frame sensor into a body that is almost identical in size and weight to the A6600, making it one of the smallest full frame mirrorless cameras on the market today.

They haven’t cut corners in terms of features either. You get a 33MP sensor, 10fps shooting, in body image stabilization, 4K video, WiFi, Bluetooth, vari-angle touchscreen and weather proofing. It also has excellent animal and people tracking with Sony’s eye-tracking autofocus system.

It even manages 540 shots on a charge. A fantastic option if you want something with a full frame sensor but in a relatively compact size.

The only downside is that it can feel a bit small and fiddly in the hands. However, that is a minor niggle for what is otherwise a standout option.

Key Specifications : 10 images / second, 33 megapixel full frame sensor Weight : 514g / 18.1oz Battery life : 540 shots Price on Amazon here , B&H here , and Adorama here

Canon EOS R6 Mark II

In late 2022, Canon launched the R6 Mark II to replace the already excellent R6. This features improved battery life, a slightly larger sensor, and a much faster burst shooting speed compared to the original R6.

shutter speed for safari

Overall the R6 Mark II is an incredibly capable camera, and even outperforms the more expensive R5 in some areas.

It has a 24.2MP full frame sensor, autofocus that can track people, animals, and vehicles, up to a staggering 40 frames per second burst shooting, Wi-Fi & Bluetooth, 4K video, as well as a flip-out touchscreen. It’s also dust and drip-proof.

The fantastic autofocus system is brilliant on safari, as is the high burst shooting rate.

There’s a lens adaptor which will let you use all EF and EF-S Canon lenses with the camera, which opens the door to a massive choice.

The main downside is that on paper the megapixel count does feel a bit miserly when stacked up against the competition. Honestly though, we don’t think it’s that big of a deal, and it does mean that high ISO and low light performance is fantastic.

You can see our full  Canon EOS R5 review here , which covers a lot of the features of the R6, to see if it might be the camera for you.

Key Specifications: 40 images / second , 24.1 megapixel full frame sensor Weight: 670g / 23.63oz Battery life: 760 shots Price on Amazon here ,  B&H here  and  Adorama here .

Sony Alpha a7 IV

Sony effectively started the mirrorless camera revolution, and the Sony a7 IV, as the name suggests, is the fourth iteration in their excellent a7 range.

Sony a7 IV

It comes with a full frame 33MP full frame sensor, flip out LCD display, a high refresh rate EVF, WiFi, 10fps burst shooting and a fast autofocus system that includes Sony’s excellent animal and people eye tracking.

It also has good battery life at 580 shots per full charge, and includes weather sealing, meaning it’s an excellent all-round camera and a solid option for safari. The burst rate is a bit slower than the Canon R6, but you do get a higher resolution sensor as a trade-off, as well as extended battery life.

Key Specifications : 10 images / second, 33 megapixel full frame sensor Weight : 659g / 23.25oz Battery life : 580 shots Price on Amazon here , B&H here  and  Adorama here .

Nikon Z7 II

The Nikon Z7 II is the second iteration of the Z7 model, which is towards the upper end of Nikon’s mirrorless camera range. You get a lot for your money. There’s a 45.7MP full frame sensor, weather sealeding, tilting touch screen and it has WiFi and Bluetooth. Battery life is also good enough at 420 shots.

shutter speed for safari

The main downside is reviews suggest the autofocus system, whilst good, isn’t quite up to the performance of the Sony and Canon options. A burst speed of 10 frames a second is also at the lower end in this price bracket, similar to the Sony A7 IV.

However, Nikon users will likely appreciate the familiar interface and the fact that it’s compatible with the whole range of Nikon lenses with an adaptor.

Key Specifications : 10 images / second, 45.7 megapixel full frame sensor Weight : 705g / 24.87oz Battery life : 420 shots Price on Amazon here , B&H here  and  Adorama here .

Canon EOS R5

I will admit to being a little bit biased as this is the camera I actually use on a day-to-day basis, and that I have shot my most recent safaris on. I wrote a full review of the R5 here .

shutter speed for safari

In summary though, I think this is a phenomenal camera. Let’s look at the specs. You get a 45 megapixel full frame sensor, with built-in image stabilization. It can shoot up to 20 frames a second. The autofocus system for tracking animals and people is truly incredible. It’s also remarkably versatile as an all-round camera, able to do everything from landscapes to wildlife.

There’s WiFi, bluetooth, a flip out touchscreen, and loads of customization options so you can set it up to work for you. It also supports 8K video, if you want to shoot video. You also get access to Canon’s massive range of lenses, including the older EF and EF-S lenses via an adaptor.

The only real downside is that it’s expensive, and the battery life at 320 shots means spare batteries are an essential purchase. Other than that though, this was my pick for my favourite camera for safari.

Key Specifications : 20 images / second, 45 megapixel full frame sensor Weight : 738g / 26.03oz Battery life : 320 shots Price on Amazon here , B&H here and Adorama here

Safari Camera Recommendations Summary

If you are finding the above list of recommended cameras and their specifications a bit overwhelming but have a general idea of your budget and what kind of camera you want, here are some personal recommendations of the best camera for safari across budgets and types of cameras:

  • Best Safari Camera Under $500 : Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 / FZ82
  • Best Safari Camera under $1000: Nikon Z50 or Canon EOS R50
  • Best Safari Camera under $5000: Canon EOS R5
  • Best Smartphone for Safari : Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
  • Best Compact Camera for Safari : Sony RX100 VII
  • Best Bridge Camera for Safari : Sony DSC-RX10 IV
  • Best Mirrorless Camera for Safar i: Canon EOS R5

Hopefully if you are having a hard time deciding, the above list will give you a good place to start your search for a specific camera.

But if you have any questions, just ask me in the comments section at the end of the article and I am happy to try to provide advice on which camera (and lens) might be best for you given your budget and what you want to do with it.

The Best Lenses for Safari

If you decide to buy a mirrorless (or DSLR) camera, then you are going to also need to buy a lens to go with it. Whilst some cameras may come with a lens, in most cases this won’t be ideal for safari as it won’t have sufficient reach.

There are a great many lenses on the market, and they are not generally compatible with different camera systems due to different mounting systems. If you want more background on lenses and what to look for in general, see my guide to the best lenses for travel photography , which breaks down all the terminology in detail.

I’m not going to be able to cover every lens out there, but I will provide a quick rundown of what I think are some of the best options on the market across a variety of camera systems and price points. This should give you some ideas for what to look for.

I’m going to primarily focus on longer focal lengths for wildlife photography, but do also consider bringing a wide-angle lens for the landscape opportunities as well. Ideally, for wildlife photography you want around a 400mm lens if your budget will allow for it.

I will also be recommending zoom lenses, meaning you can change the focal length, as this gives a lot more compositional control compared to a fixed focal length lens. There is a small loss in image quality and maximum aperture as a result, but this is very much worth the trade-off in my opinion for most users.

shutter speed for safari

70-300mm lenses for safari

Sony, Nikon, and Canon all have at least one 70-300 lens available, which tends to be a fairly reasonably priced offering.

Most of these lenses have a variable aperture of f/4-5.6 and offer a good compromise between size, weight, image quality and affordability.

For example, see this Canon 70-300 , this Nikon 70-300 and this Sony 70-300 . This popular focal length is also available from third party manufacturers, such as with this Tamron for the Sony mount. If you are looking for a more budget safari lens, one of these is likely going to be a good pick.

300mm would be the absolute minimum I’d recommend for a lens for safari. However, I appreciate not everyone wants to spend a huge amount on camera equipment, and one of these lenses is a good way to get a reasonable reach in a relatively lightweight package.

100-400mm lenses for safari

The 100-400mm range is one of the most popular for safari photographers. 100mm lets you get quite a lot of the scene in shot, whilst 400mm will let you zoom in quite close on most subjects. Most of these lenses come with a variable aperture of around f/4.5 – f/5.6.

There’s a wide range of choice at the 100-400mm range across a number of systems. At the higher end you have the weather-sealed, heavier options like this Canon 100-400 , this Sony 100-400 and this Nikon 100-400 .

If you are willing to sacrifice your maximum aperture, you can save a bit of money with something like this Canon 100-400 f/5.6-8 for RF mount cameras, or this Sigma 100-400 f/5-6.3 .

Generally, I’d advise trying to get the widest aperture you can afford as it will make a big difference in low light situations. However, I did want to make it clear that there are options out there across a range of budgets.

Other telephoto lens options for safari.

There are of course other options that are worth considering. If you want more reach, consider the Canon 100-500 f/4.5 – 7.1 for RF mount , or the excellent Sony 200-600 f/5.6-6.3 .

If you want more reach but don’t want to spend as much, you can save money by using third party lenses from the likes of Sigma and Tamron for example. Image quality and autofocus speeds might be marginally impacted, but the price difference can be significant.

For example, check out this Tamron 150-600 f/5 – 6.3 , which is available in a range of mounts for different camera systems. You get an excellent focal range, image stabilization and weather sealing at what is a very reasonable price. Sigma also do a range of 150-600mm lenses for different mounts.

Lens and Camera Rental for Safari

A high-end camera and lens can be a very expensive investment, which might not make a lot of sense for one-off usage. You obviously want to get great photos on your trip, but buying an expensive telephoto zoom lens or high specification full frame body that you only plan to use once might not make sense.

In this case, consider renting your camera equipment. A company like Lens Rentals will allow you to rent a lens and a camera body at a much lower cost than buying it outright. They also give you the option to purchase the gear rather than return it, so if you love the experience then you can invest having tested the gear out.

This is definitely worth looking into if you want high end gear but don’t want to invest into an expensive setup for long term use. You can browse what they have available here .

If you go with Lens Rentals, you can save 15% on any rental with the code “LAURENCE15”. Just enter it at checkout to redeem.

Accessories for Safari

Now that you have your camera and lens figured out, I wanted to share some tips for what camera and photography accessories you may want to bring on safari.

Memory Cards

You are going to be taking a lot of photos when on safari. Memory cards are not very expensive these days, and it is worth having a backup memory card as well as plenty of memory.

I recommend at least a 64GB memory card. If you are travelling with a laptop then you can back up your photos as you go. If you prefer to travel light, then you will want to pack many more memory cards so you don’t run out of space on your trip.

Spare Batteries

It is definitely worth bringing at least one spare battery for your camera, and ideally two. These are easy to keep on you or in your photography bag and come in handy when you are out all day.

You don’t want to be half way through a busy day and run out of battery, and then potentially miss some great shots. Modern mirrorless cameras in particular can eat through batteries quickly, so a spare or two is definitely a must in my opinion.

USB Battery Charger / Power Pack

As well as spare batteries, you might consider bringing a USB power pack and USB powered camera battery charger . This will allow you to charge your camera batteries while on the go from the battery pack (or a USB outlet in your vehicle).

Some locations you stay at on safari may also have limited power outlet availability, especially in the more remote areas or if you are staying in tented camps. In these scenarios, they often have USB power outlets from solar panels, but might not have higher voltage outlets.

In these situations, a USB battery charger for your camera batteries will be invaluable. I travel with both a USB battery pack and a USB powered battery charger for my Canon camera batteries, and it has come in handy many times.

Monopod / Tripod

A common question is whether or not you should take a tripod on safari. I would say that in general, for wildlife photography from a vehicle, a tripod is not going to be very useful. There likely won’t be enough room to set it up unless you have a vehicle specifically set up for it.

Another option is a monopod, which is certainly something to consider, depending on your vehicle configuration. If you are also likely to be doing foot-based safaris and have big lenses, then a monopod is definitely something to consider.

For example, I used a monopod when shooting chimpanzees in Uganda, a trip which required a hike through the jungle. A monopod allows for very quick movement of your camera, often necessary in wildlife photography, whilst still taking most of the weight off your shoulders.

A good option if you want to pack a tripod for your safari trip but are maybe also thinking you may want a monopod is to bring a travel tripod that can convert to a monopod such as the recent VEO 3 range from Vanguard .

I’ve been an ambassador for Vanguard for many years now. If you see something on their store that works for your equipment, you can save money using our exclusive Vanguard discount code. This will give you 20% off everything in the  Vanguard store.

Just use the code  FindingTheUniverse for your discount! This code works in the Vanguard USA, UK, Australia, Spain, and Germany stores.

Photography Bean Bag

For vehicle-based photography, the most useful accessory in my opinion is a photography bean bag rather than a tripod or monopod. I used these every day we did vehicle safaris on our recent trip.

Photography bean bags can be placed on the roof of the vehicle for use when looking out a pop-up top, or over a window or window sill for in-vehicle use.

Photography bean bags are normally made out of a durable canvas (or similar material), and have a zipped opening so you can add or remove the contents. These can be polystyrene beads, or you can simply fill them with something environmentally friendly like dried kidney beans when you arrive in a destination.

I used a photography bean bag extensively on my safari trips, and they are really an invaluable item. We have a guide to some of the best options photography bean bags here , but recommend checking out either the Kinesis SafariSack 4.2 or LensCoat LensSack Pro Jr as a starting point.

Photography bean bags for safari

Appropriate Clothing

Whilst this isn’t camera specific, having the right clothing for your safari can improve your overall experience. If you are comfortable and prepared for the weather, you are also likely to get better photos.

Personally, I prefer clothes with lots of pockets where I can store things like spare batteries, lens wipes and lens caps. Most safaris tend to be hot, so you also want lightweight clothing.

A vest is a popular option for photographers such as those by ScotteVest , and I own a couple of these vests. They are great for travel days and airports as well.

But my preference on safari are the safari focused shirts from the brand Craghoppers . These have a range of features for travel, including being quick-drying and sun proof.

They are really lightweight, and are available in safari appropriate colors (light greens and beige are good, blue and black are bad if going to teste fly infested areas). Some models, like the NosiLife line, even come with built-in insect repellent.

The main thing I love about them though is that they have lots of pockets and so it’s easy for me to quickly access a spare camera battery without having to root around in my bag. You can get them from the official Craghoppers store here as well as on REI in the US here and on  Amazon here .

For more packing tips, see our  detailed guide to what to pack for safari .

Comfortable Camera Strap

A safari trip is going to involve you carrying and using your camera a lot. You are likely going to be bumping along on dirt roads, sticking your head out of the safari vehicle, and hiking along in forests during your trip. So you want to make sure you have both a secure and comfortable camera strap.

It is likely that your camera came with a manufacturer branded strap such as one from Canon or Nikon. This strap may be fine for some people. For others, especially if you have a heavy camera setup, it may not provide enough support or comfort.

I personally use Peak Design straps, as I find them much more comfortable than a standard camera strap. We put together a full review of the Peak Design camera strap system here .

You can purchase them from Peak Design here , as well as on Amazon or B&H Photo .

A Good Camera Bag

A safari can be a dusty and bumpy experience, two things that can cause damage to cameras and lenses. To protect your gear in between shoots, I highly recommend getting a good camera bag.

Camera bags are specially designed to provide padding and protection for your gear, and many of them also come with rain covers. This means that you have somewhere safe, protected and padded to put your gear.

Personally, I use Vanguard photography bags and I’ve been an ambassador for Vanguard for many years now. If you see something on their store that works for your equipment, you can save money using our exclusive Vanguard discount code. This will give you 20% off everything in the  Vanguard store.

There are of course a range of other camera bags available, you can see the options on Amazon here and B&H Photo here .

Camera Cleaning Kit

No matter how well you protect your camera and lens, it is inevitable that it is going to get some dust or dirt on it. To help keep it clean, I recommend picking up a camera cleaning kit. These are normally fairly inexpensive and some come with carrying cases which are handy for travel.

They can come with a range of different items. My recommendation is to get one which includes a blower and a lens cloth like this , which will make it easier to remove the dust.

Further Reading

That’s it for my guide to the best safari camera. If you found this useful, you might enjoy some of my other photography content. Here are some articles to get you started.

  • I have a detailed guide full of safari photography tips to help you get great photos whatever your camera is. We also have a detailed guide to what to pack for safari
  • I have a guide to my favourite  photo editing applications , as well as the best  alternatives to Lightroom
  • Once you’ve taken all your photos you don’t want to lose them! Read our guide to backing up your photos for an idea of how to keep them all safe.
  • Wildlife photography can often result in noisy images. See my guide to the best noise reduction software for some ideas on how to get the best out of your photos even when they might be a bit noisy
  • We have a guide to  how to use a compact camera ,  how to use a DSLR camera , and  how to use a mirrorless camera . We also have a guide to  how a DSLR works
  • Knowing how to compose a great photo is a key photography skill. See our guide to  composition in photography  for lots of tips on this subject
  • We have a guide to what  depth of field  is and when you would want to use it.
  • We are big fans of getting the most out of your digital photo files, and do to that you will need to shoot in RAW. See our guide to  RAW in photography  to understand what RAW is, and why you should switch to RAW as soon as you can if your camera supports it.
  • You’re going to need something to run your photo editing software on. See our guide to the best  laptops for photo editing  for some tips on what to look for.
  • If you’re looking for more advice on specific tips for different scenarios, we also have you covered. See our guide to  Northern Lights photography ,  long exposure photography ,  fireworks photography ,  tips for taking photos of stars , and  cold weather photography .
  • If you would like to make a living from your photography, see our guide to how to make money from photography
  • Color accuracy is important for photography – see our guide to  monitor calibration  to ensure your screen is set up correctly.
  • If you’re looking for a great gift for a photography loving friend or family member (or yourself!), take a look at our  photography gift guide ,
  • If you’re in the market for a new camera, we have a detailed guide to the  best travel cameras , as well as specific guides for the  best cameras for hiking and backpacking , the  best compact camera ,  best bridge camera ,  best mirrorless camera  and  best DSLR camera . We also have a guide to the  best camera lenses .
  • If you want a camera or lens, but the prices are a bit high, see our guide to  where to buy used cameras and camera gear  for some budget savings options.
  • We have a guide to  why you need a tripod , a guide to  choosing a travel tripod , and a round-up of our  favourite travel tripods

Looking to Improve Your Photography?

If you found this post helpful, and you want to improve your photography overall, you might want to check out my  online travel photography course .

Since launching the course in 2016, I’ve already helped over 2,000 students learn how to take better photos. The course covers pretty much everything you need to know, from the basics of how a camera works, through to composition, light, and photo editing.

It also covers more advanced topics, including astrophotography, long exposure photography, flash photography, and HDR photography.

You get feedback from me as you progress, access to webinars, interviews and videos, as well as exclusive membership of a Facebook group where you can get feedback on your work and take part in regular challenges.

It’s available for an amazing one-off price for lifetime access, and I think you should check it out. Which you can do by  clicking here .

And that’s it! I’d love to hear about your thoughts on wildlife photography on safari, and am happy to answer any questions you have. Just pop them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

A detailed guide to the best cameras for safari, with what to look for as well a guide to lenses and accessories for safari photography

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Hannah Stearns says

15th May 2024 at 11:03 pm

Hi I am going on safari in South Africa next month. I went to my local camera store today and was recommended the Canon EOS R100 with the 18-45mm lens and the 55-210mm lens. I am a beginner and have only really worked with point and shoot cameras. I would like to stay under about $750. I would like something more compact but if this is a great camera I would be willing to just bring a larger bag. Please let me know your thoughts! Thank you!

Laurence Norah says

16th May 2024 at 4:06 pm

This is a great question. So whilst I do think the R100 is a great camera, there are a couple of things about it that would make me recommend its slightly more expensive sibling, the Canon EOS R50 instead as a safari camera, were you to go down the Canon mirrorless route.

The main thing is the autofocus system. The R100 uses a less advanced autofocus system compared to the R50. The R100 can track and lock onto people’s eyes, but crucially does not support recognising and tracking the eyes of animals or birds. When shooting an animal or bird, you nearly always want the eye to be what you focus on, and you don’t always have time to pick a focus point in the moment as things can happen quickly. Canon’s animal eye recognition is amazing (I have it in my camera), and it can make a big difference to whether or not you get a great shot or not.

The R50 also supports a wider ISO (better for shooting when there is less light available) and a higher burst rate (good for capturing fast action events).

Finally, the R50 also has a movable touchscreen. This can make selecting a focal point a lot easier if necessary, and makes interacting with the camera menus a lot easier. The R100 has a fixed non touchscreen, which helps keep the cost down but is a major downgrade.

The R50 is also available as a bundle with the two lensess you mentioned, and is only an ounce or so heavier than the R100, so the size isn’t really a differentiatior. The price is a bit higher and I appreciate at current pricing it’s $100 over your budget, but I honestly think if you are thinking of the R100, then the R50 in your scenario is going to make a lot more sense.

I hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions, I’m happy to help! Otherwise, have an amazing safari!

19th May 2024 at 3:22 pm

Thank you for this very thoughtful reply and for linking the product! My husband is hesitant to have a camera with different lenses and the bulk of that. Is there a point and shoot camera that you recommend that would have similar quality of photos and zoom? We discussed increasing our budget closer to $800-900. Thank you so much!

19th May 2024 at 4:35 pm

It’s my pleasure! So there will unfortunately be a slight step down in quality when going to a smaller camera, just because this necessitates a smaller sensor which won’t be quite as good. That said, you can still get great results. If you want to keep a good zoom then I’d suggest looking at a bridge camera or a high end point and shoot camera.

The bridge camera would be a bit larger than a point and shoot, but will give you better results and normally a better zoom. So I would say probably the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II . A bridge camera basically “bridges” between a point and shoot and an SLR, offering a good balance of zoom, image quality and size. The lenses aren’t interchangeable but you will get good results.

If you would really prefer a compact camera then the best option at your budget is going to be the Panasonic ZS200 . This has a slightly larger sensor than most compact cameras and still has a good enough zoom for most situations. The only problem is going to be finding one, most manufacturers have stopped making compact cameras so finding them is becoming a bit challenging these days unfortunately.

Hopefully this helps with your decision!

25th May 2024 at 2:19 pm

Yes that is very helpful. I have had so much trouble finding stock in a point and shoot so I have settled on a bridge camera. I have one more comparison to ask you your opinion on— if you don’t mind! My local camera store recommended the Nikon P950. I think I’ve narrowed it down to that or the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II that you recommended. Which would you pick between these two? I’m hung up on the amount of zoom the Nikon has but again not sure if that is worth it for the size difference. Thank you so much again for all your help!

25th May 2024 at 2:52 pm

So those are both good options. Obviously the zoom on the Nikon is very impressive, however to achieve that zoom there are some trade offs compared to the Panasonic. The sensor on the Nikon is smaller, and it weighs a bit more. The weight is a personal preference thing, but the sensor size will make a difference to image quality when there is less light available. This is often the case when on safari as you are often shooting around dusk and dawn (when the animals are more active), and there is less light available. In these situations the Panasonic will have a slight edge.

Honestly, shooting above the 400mm equivalent of the FZ1000 is rare when on safari, unless you are particularly interested in bird photography. When you start to shoot very distant subjects, other factors come into play that affect image quality, such as dust in the air and heat haze. So you might be able to zoom in a lot with the Nikon on a distant subject, but the image won’t necessarily be great.

So personally I’d pick the FZ1000 II, but I think you will be honestly happy with either option. The bigger zoom on the Nikon can be nice to have in a pinch if you must get a shot to prove you saw something! Also just to note the Nikon doesn’t have a touch screen. Not a deal breaker but just worth noting.

Hope this helps, have a great trip!

Virginia Bechtold says

31st December 2023 at 1:59 am

Hi! Thank you for amazingly detailed offering of information! Not sure if my previous comment/question posted.

Going to Kenya on safari in a few weeks. Looking for a dummy proof camera for my 77 year old mother and I to take high quality photos of wildlife and scenery in all light situations with not a lot of effort/programming. Would like to spend under $1K.

From my notes, it seems like the following are good bets? Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 Panasonic Lumix ZS200 Canon Powershot SX70 HS Panasonic FZ1000 II Panasonic Lumix FZ 2500 (Gathered from this safari list and the best travel camera list)

Still need some help deciding, thanks in advance for your guidance! I hate making decisions!!! Virginia

Thank you in advance for the guidance!!! Virginia

31st December 2023 at 10:21 pm

Hi Virgina!

It’s lovely to hear from you. So I would say, from your list and based on your requirements, that the Panasonic FZ1000 II would probably be the best option. It has a 1-inch sensor and a wide aperture, which means it will performer better in low light than many of the other options. So I think that’s probably the one I would go for. If you put it in Auto mode it should be fine for the majority of situations I would say.

I hope this helps, have an amazing time on safari and let me know if you have any more questions!

Alessia Sacchi says

27th October 2023 at 9:20 pm

Hello Laurence, Your posts are just fantastic. I love how you write, crystal clear, easy wording. Please keep writing, we have so much to learn from you. I would really appreciate some advice from you in regards to my next safari in Zambia. I have had a Sony Nex 5R since 2013 which I love, the main issue is the lack of the view finder. I am fond of wildlife photography and under certain circumstances I am struggling to use the LCD. I have two lenses: sony 10-105 and sony 55-210. I am looking at the sony 100-400 combined with a full frame. What would you suggest me? I am leaving in 3 weeks time and I am also a bit concerned I might not have enough time to learn howo use the new setup. however I am concerned the 55-210 won’t be enough. what do you think? thank you so much !Alessia

27th October 2023 at 9:59 pm

Hi Alessia!

It’s my pleasure and I am glad you found my content useful. So the NEX 5R is definitely getting a bit older now. You will definitely notice a massive improvement in areas like autofocus speed and low light performance if you switch up to a newer Sony full frame. In terms of focal length, for safari 210mm is going to be on the edge of what is useful. With a crop sensor like you have at the moment it’s ok, but if you step up to full frame I’d say the 100-400 would be a great choice.

In terms of the learning curve, there will be a bit of a change but if you stay in the Sony system it should be easier as the menus etc will be familiar. The main system you will want to master will be the autofocus system – knowing how to set it up to track eyes, and how to override it in the rare cases it gets it wrong. It’s also handy having an understanding of how to adjust shutter speed, ISO and aperture quickly, as you can go from stationary animals (where a lower shutter speed is ok) to fast moving animals (where you want a fast shutter speed) in quite a short time period.

I think a safari tends to be a once in a lifetime, or at least, a not very often experience, and having a camera that can do it justice is a worthwhile investment 🙂 If you are able to spend a good amount of time in the coming weeks trying to get practice with local wildlife (even a domestic cat or birds outside), then this should help.

Let me know if you have any more questions, and have an amazing time on safari!

Joao Nabais says

27th June 2023 at 4:55 pm

Do you have any examples with a lens of 70-300mm? I’m thinking on getting the eos 250d with EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6, but would like to see some zoomed photos of animals with a similar setup.

27th June 2023 at 5:29 pm

I don’t have that specific setup to share photos from, but the good news is that you should be able to find those sorts of images on flickr, using their camera search feature.

For example, this page of search results show photos taken with an EOS 250D, with the additional filter of “300”.

Lots of images come up that should meet your requirements, including this one and this one .

Hope this helps!

Barry Ritter says

12th June 2023 at 3:30 pm

Excellent article! There are four points that I’d like to add:

– Weight. The article did not mention weight but it can become a factor when spending a long day in the field. An advantage of a mirrorless is that it weighs less than a traditional DSLR but it will require a larger budget. Mirrorless can offer (in the right hands) a sharper focused image, but often other than close-ups, most people viewing your images will not notice the difference. – For many travelers, this is a trip of a lifetime, and rather than purchasing an expensive gear set-up you can rent all or some of the equipment for this trip. It will save money and avoid the investment if you don’t have a long-term need for the equipment. With improvements in post-processing in the last year or two, many “flaws” in your images can be resolved and you can still end up with once-in-a-lifetime images. – Lastly and most important, don’t get lost in the technical stuff around taking pictures. You will miss much of the adventure of a safari.

14th June 2023 at 2:51 pm

These are great tips! I will definitely incorporate some of these suggestions into the article 🙂 I did already cover lens / camera rental as I think that can be a great option, and I touched on weight briefly when covering the different types of camera but that could be expanded on.

I also thoroughly agree with the final point. You don’t want to end up watching your safari experience through a screen or viewfinder. Definitely get the photos you want, but I don’t think that should be the main focus.

Thanks again for your input!

Amy G. says

2nd June 2023 at 4:22 am

Hi Laurence, This article has been amazingly helpful. We are heading this summer to the KAZA region for a 10-day safari, 3 days of which will be on a river boat. We have an additional 6 days in and around Cape Town. I was looking at the Sony RX10 IV as a great camera for this trip, but noticed that the Lumix FZ 2500 has most of the same features for half the price here: Do you know why there is such a price differential? Is the Sony worth it, or should I go for the Lumix? (no time to wait for new models) Thank you!

2nd June 2023 at 4:53 pm

So there are some differences between the two, but probably not enough to justify the price difference. Autofocus might be a bit faster on the Sony and you can focus closer, plus there’s a bit more zoom. However, as is often the case with photography gear, there is a law of dimishing returns. Spending twice as much doesn’t normally yield gear that is twice as good! So I would say the Panasonic would be a great option as well 🙂

Have an amazing safari!

Lauren B says

21st May 2023 at 6:20 am

Hi Laurence,

This article is the most helpful I’ve seen! Thank you. But I’m still a bit lost and hoping you can steer me in the right direction…

I currently have a 13-year-old cannon rebel (t1i) with a 18-55 and 70-300 lens. I’m an amateur/hobby photographer, took photography classes through high school/college and for the past 10+ years (aside from a few trips) my camera has mostly lived in a closet.

I’m going on a safari next month and have been back and forth on the sonyrx10 bridge camera (probably a used one to save a bit of money), or if I should replace my cannon body for a newer model (maybe the t8i) and use the lenses I have already or if I do that will I still need a longer zoom lens? Or if I should go in a completely different direction that I haven’t thought about yet?

I follow a number of wildlife photographers and my goal is to take a couple of great photos that I can print in large-format for my home and be able to hang my own art rather than having to spend the money on someone else’s, so quality is very important.

That said, I know that after this trip this camera will spend most of its future life in a closet (I thought about renting but because it’s a 14-day trip, it’s more economical to buy, plus then I’ll have it for the future), so I don’t want to go too crazy in my spending. And we will be flying on those tiny planes, so weight is an issue.

Extremely interested in your opinion.

Thanks! Lauren

21st May 2023 at 4:46 pm

Hey Lauren,

My pleasure. So this is a good question. I’d say that the Sony is going to be easier to use and give you more zoom. In terms of image quality, between that and say a t8i there’s probably not going to be a lot in it. The RX10 will have better autofocus and faster burst performance, so it’s going to give you better safari results. To get a major step up in quality / performance whilst staying with Canon you’d need to be looking at one of their newer mirrorless cameras like the EOS R10 or the R7. However that might be outside your budget. Those would work with your existing lenses (with the RF adaptor), but honestly, I think you will likely find the RX10 to be a better all round solution as you wouldn’t need a new zoom lens as well.

I hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions!

Lauren says

21st May 2023 at 5:01 pm

Thanks so much! This has been most helpful.

21st May 2023 at 5:31 pm

It’s my pleasure! Have an amazing time on safari 🙂

Michael says

4th May 2023 at 2:54 am

Thanks for the great informative article. I am going to Kenya on safari during the summer and am struggling between acquiring a Canon R6 Mark II or a Canon R7. I had been using a Rebel T2i for over 10 years but it no longer works. I have both EF as well as EF-S lenses. Specifically, I have an EF 100mm-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L. While I like the reach of the R7 (and the price), I am not sure where to compromise most (I have considered getting a speed booster if I get the R7 to mock a full frame when doing landscapes, etc. and maybe get the best of both worlds (but am not sure if that is really effective or just a bit of a gimmick)). The low light capabilities and the better auto-focus/tracking on the R6 Mark II are very attractive in theory, however I do not know how much better they are than the R7 (and how much better they would be for the specific purpose of this safari). Mostly, I am concerned that the lower megapixel count on the R6 Mark II will be problematic and limiting (or maybe this is just a red herring and 24 MP is more than sufficient). If I had one camera to bring on safari in Kenya (and use as my primary thereafter for whatever life throws my way), which of the two would you recommend? Thanks.

4th May 2023 at 6:22 pm

Hi Michael,

My pleasure. So personally I would go with the R6 Mark II. The larger sensor is going to make much more of a difference in the difficult low light situations you often find yourself facing when on safari (dawn and dusk being the best time for wildlife viewing). The megapixel difference of 24.2 vs 32.5 is honestly negligible. 24.2 MP works out to a 6000×4000 pixel image, whilst 32.5 is 6960 x 4640. So you are only looking at 960 extra pixels in width and 640 in height. It’s not going to make a huge difference, and the larger sensor on the R6 Mark II will make much more of a difference in my opinion. The ISO performance on the R6 is also better.

Either camera will of course be a massive upgrade from the T2i, especially when it comes to things like the autofocus and shooting speed, and the image stabilization will be handy as well. One thing I would say is that you should expect to factor in a bit of learning time, whatever camera you go for. I upgraded from a 6D to the R5 and whilst a lot remains the same, there was still quite a learning curve moving to the Canon mirrorless system. I love it, but it took me a little while to get comfortable, especially with the autofocus system.

Happy to answer any more questions you might have and have an amazing time in Kenya!

Melissa says

9th March 2023 at 4:58 am

Hi! I’m struggling to decide what camera to get. I was originally thinking the Sony Rx10 iv however, I saw the Sony 200-600mm lens and thought that on like the Sony A6600 body might be more what I’m looking for. I’ve always had bridge cameras, but Im wondering if it’s worth the jump to the mirror less to learn. I am typically in a vehicle when I see wildlife I want to photograph and I want my pictures to look very clear when I am at a distance. I was thinking I could use my iPhone as just a more landscape kind of camera. Thoughts? I did see that there’s rumors of another ASP-C camera coming out soon. I also noticed that the Sony a7 iii is on sale that has the larger sensor. Thanks so much for your great article!

10th March 2023 at 9:49 am

Hey Melissa!

So this is a tricky question to answer because a lot of the decision will come down to what you are willing to carry. The RX10 IV is going to be a much more compact setup compared to even a smaller mirrorless body like the A6600 and the 200-600. That said, the sensor in the a6600 is a lot bigger, and the resolving power of the lens will be greater. So you will get better results, especially in lower light situations (very common on safari when you are often shooting in early morning and early evening when the light is fading).

The A7 III is also of course another option. If it was me, I would probably go for the A7 III as I personally feel that the image quality and low light capabilities of a full frame sensor are more important than weight, but that’s a personal choice.

If you have the opportunity to visit a store and try out one of these cameras with the 200-600 lens you can get a feel for the weight and how it feels.

In terms of using the iPhone as a landscape camera, that will definitely be an option. You could also use it for when the animals come closer, which can definitely happen on safari. But it should be fine in those situations for sure, and save you switching lenses around (not normally a great idea in the dusty environment of a safari).

You are correct that there are rumours around a new APS-C Sony camera, likely around to be released around summer. So if you are not in a rush that is something you might want to wait for, if only because even if you don’t get it it will likely push prices of the older cameras down. But I would definitely suggest whatever you get to make sure you leave some time to learn how to use it before you go on safari, you don’t want to miss a shot because you are learning on the go if that makes sense.

Let me know if you have any more questions, I’m happy to help!

Janez Zavrl says

6th February 2023 at 4:50 pm

Dear Laurence, I’m planning a Safari trip in September. I read your article and tips. I’m really impressed. I have one question. I own Olympus E-30 with 2 lenses 3/4 12-60mm 1:2,8-4 and 50-200mm 1:2,8-3,5. Since the camera has Image Stabilisation, do you think, this is a sound system or should I consider investing for example in Nikon Coolpix P1000 which has very nice reviews? Thanks, Janez

9th February 2023 at 8:28 am

This is a good question. So the E-30 is definitely an older camera now, although there is a lot to be said for familiarity when it comes to photography, so if you are used to the camera and how it works then you might get better results than if you invested in a new system that you are not as familiar with. That said, the P1000 will give you a lot more versatility, especially when it comes to being able to zoom in on further away wildlife compared to your existing system. My recommendation would be to take your existing setup and try to photograph some wildlife around your home. Try and photograph things like birds or even pets. See how well the camera performs in terms of tracking the autofocus, and check the results are how you would expect. If you find you regularly miss shots due to slow focus or not having enough zoom, then an upgrade might be a good idea.

I hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer any more advice, I am happy to help. Otherwise, have an amazing safari!

9th February 2023 at 5:37 pm

Thanks for the advice Laurance. I think it’s a fair comment. In a way, I’m very satisfied with my current system and I will do more work on how to get the most out of the system. I just read one nice recommendation from a famous s photographer from Slovenia, Arne Hodalič . For good photography, you don need the best camera. A good photo is created in our brain, the camera is only an extension of our thoughts, knowledge and experiences.

Rachel Phillips says

29th December 2022 at 3:27 pm

Thank you for such an incredible summary Laurence

I am trying to decide if it’s worth spending money on a new lens for my Sony alpha 7, for a planned safari this summer to have a greater zoom

I use a tamron lens, 17mm-28mm f2.8 for landscapes and a sony 24-240 f4.5-4 (wt 780) for sports and wildlife.

I don’t want anything too heavy, or too expensive.

Would it be worth buying the Sony 70-350 f4.5-6.3 (wt 625) or tamron 50-400 f 5-6.7 ( wt 1150) instead of what I have now. I want a zoom closer to 400mm but will be sacrificing aperture with the lenses I am considering.

I have a tripod to help when lower light , but I won’t be able to use it most of the time

I am also aware that I could have a gap from 28 to 50 or 70 that I might need to fill.

Thanks in advance

29th December 2022 at 3:41 pm

It’s my pleasure! So I would definitely say that you are going to have more flexibility in terms of what you can take photos of if you take a longer lens. So I would definitely recommend ideally 400mm, although more can be helpful.

I would probably suggest considering either the Sigma 150-600 f/5-6.3 or the Tamron 50-400 f/4.5-6.3. I would personally lean more towards the former as it gives you greater reach, which is really the goal of a telephoto lens.

In terms of aperture, this is unfortunately a downside of a longer lens. Even the most expensive prime telephoto lenses tend to top out at f/4. As you will need to be using faster shutter speeds for wildlife in general, the only solution is to use higher ISO settings. The good news it that modern camera sensors are pretty competent even at ISO’s of 3200 and higher, so you can still get great images at those ISO levels. I shot gorillas at ISO 12800 on my Canon R5 and the images turned out very good. And these days, noise reduction software like these products I review can improve most images for a pretty low price.

In terms of the gap, yes, that is something to think about. Personally I shoot with a 16-35 and a 100-400 when on safari, and I don’t really notice the gap. With a high megapixel sensor you can generally crop in if you need to, and 100mm was “wide” enough to be usable.

I hope this helps a bit, but do let me know if you’d like any further help, I’m happy to offer advice of course. Otherwise, have a wonderful safari and an awesome year!

Sally Bignell says

19th November 2022 at 9:05 am

Oh my goodness Laurence, what a brilliant article. Thanks so much. Even I can understand (most of) what you’ve outlined, so I have a question if I may.

I’ve had an ‘all of the gear with no idea’ camera set up previously. Meaty camera, lenses etc and while I was okay using it as a point and shoot, I didn’t do much else with it. But it took amazing photos.

I’m off on safari next year, and I’d like to get a good bridge camera for photographing all the amazing animals I desperately hope to see. Between now and then I intend learning how to use the camera properly, so I’m well prepared when we go away.

Is there much difference between the Panasonic FZ330 and the Sony DSC RX10vi? The monetary difference is vast, so it’d be good to know if the Sony is genuinely worth the extra?

Any help gratefully received, thank you

19th November 2022 at 4:35 pm

Thank you so much, it’s appreciated! I definitely agree that having a camera that suits the way you plan to use it is a great option, which is why a bridge camera is the right camera for many people. That’s especially the case on safari where that long lens can make all the difference.

So the RX10 is definitely a much superior camera compared to the FZ330. The biggest difference that will make the most impact is the size of the sensor. That’s going to give you better image quality and better performance in low light. As safari often involves shooting around dawn and dusk, that can be a big difference. The Sony also has an improved autofocus system, so should let you lock onto targets more accurately.

All that said, I would say that the price difference doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality difference, as it often the case. The price might suggest it is four times better, but it’s probably more like twice as good. Sadly, diminishing returns and a lack of real competition at that level mean that it is just priced highly. It is definitely a great camera, but you will also get good results with the Panasonic in most situations. And if you don’t have both to compare between, I feel you would definitely be happy with something like the FZ330.

I hope this helps some! I would also add that rumors have been swirling about an RX10 V. Nothing has been announced and it’s all quite speculative, but if you are not in a hurry it might be worth holding off for a couple of months to see if they come to anything, as that could either be a better deal, or result in the IV going on sale 🙂

Have a great safari!

19th November 2022 at 4:55 pm

Thanks Laurence. I’m not in a desperate rush, so will hold off for the time being, and wait and see what happens with a possible Mk V leading to a price drop on the VI. Hubby has the FZ330 (only found that out today!) and he took it on our last great adventure. It did a pretty good job, but my similar pics with my old set up were better quality (don’t tell him I said that). So I think it’ll be the Sony for me! Keep up the excellent info blogs, and love the life you’re living! Sally

19th November 2022 at 4:59 pm

It’s my pleasure, and thanks again. If you already have the FZ330 then that’s great as you can compare the images. No bridge camera is going to be quite as good as a high end setup, but the RX 10 definitely comes closer and at a fraction of the cost. A 600mm f/4 lens would set you back five figures!

Feel free to stop by and ask a question any time!

5th May 2023 at 5:42 pm

Hi again Laurence. It’s been 6 months since our last exchange and sadly no Sony Rx10 V has appeared on the scene. I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet and buy a camera, so I can learn how to use it. Question, in your opinion would you purchase a second hand RX10 iv (around £1k), or a new Canon SX70HS (around £570)? This is for an African safari, so early morning / late evening photography of likely far-distant animals and birds

9th May 2023 at 5:23 pm

Yeah, it seems Sony are dragging their feet on this one. So personally I’d probably opt for the second hand RX10. The larger sensor will make a difference as will the more powerful autofocus and wider aperture. So I would go with that if your budget will stretch to it.

Have a great safari and let me know if you have any more questions!

26th September 2022 at 3:44 am

Hey – I’m driving myself crazy trying to decide between the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II or the Sony RX10 for safari in Uganda and Kenya. Will the superior construction of the Sony really make it worthwhile to spend 2x what the Lumix costs? What does the weatherproofing really, truly, mean?

26th September 2022 at 9:40 am

So there are quite a few differences between the Sony and the Panasonic other than the weather sealing. The Sony has better optics, so images tend to be sharper corner to corner than the Panasonic. You also get more zoom, 600mm equivalent vs 400mm, although 400mm is good for most scenarios except the more distant subjects and smaller birds. The autofocus system and burst speeds on the Sony are also improved over the Panasonic. The Sony is also a bit heavier.

So overall it is a better camera, although photography gear tends to work in terms of diminishing returns, so I would not say it is twice as good as the price might suggest. Both are good cameras and would work well on safari.

In terms of weatherproofing, Sony (and most manufacturers honestly), tend to be a bit coy about what that really means, and there’s no actual standard that it is measured against. So yes, it will withstand a bit more moisture and dust and it will have some seals in key areas to help protect against and moisture and dust ingression, but really you don’t want to get it particularly wet or dusty. So I wouldn’t see that as the key difference to be honest.

20th September 2022 at 8:26 pm

I am driving myself nuts trying to decide between a Canon R6 and Sony A7 iv. We are going to Uganda, Tanzania, and Victoria Falls, so I wanted a camera that will take great wildlife and landscape pictures. As a novice, I am also afraid these might be too much camera for me, but I want the chance to grow. Maybe the R7? I’m also worried about the battery life of the R6 and lens size in general since our baggage size/weight is limited. Your thoughts?

Thank you! Cara

20th September 2022 at 8:49 pm

I understand your confusion! So the reality is that both the R6 and A7 IV are going to produce amazing photos. Honestly, most cameras at that level are pretty amazing these days. They both have great autofocus systems that will track and lock onto animals eyes, and they also both have good dynamic range for landscapes. The Sony does have a higher megapixel count, 33MP, vs the 20MP of the Canon R6. So that will give you images that are 7008 x 4672, vs the 5472 x 3648 of the Canon. Honestly, again, that’s not a massive difference, just an extra 1500 pixels in width and 1000 in height.

The R7 is also a good camera, with pretty much the same tech as the R6, and the main difference being it is a crop sensor. That will lose you some low light performance, but means you get more zoom from the same lens due to the crop factor.

Weight wise, the R7 is not really that much smaller and lighter than the R6 or A7, especially once you add in the lens. The Sony definitely does have better battery life than either of the Canons.

If I was you I would try to visit a store which as the R6 and the A7 IV and compare them in your hand to see which one you prefer the feel of. On paper I would probably lean towards the A7 IV, improved battery life and a slightly higher resolution can be beneficial. However, in the field I don’t think you would notice any significant image quality difference, and so if one feels better than the other that is definitely important.

You also need to budget for a good lens, and if either the R6 or Sony make that less feasible, then the R7 might be a good option so you can get a good wildlife lens. So just check that whatever lens you want is available in your budget for the camera you choose.

I hope this helps! I’ll be heading back to Uganda soon and can’t wait 🙂 Let me know if you have any more questions, I’m happy to help 🙂

25th September 2022 at 5:23 pm

Thank you so much! I have visited our local camera store twice and am definitely leaning towards the A7. However, I do want to make sure I pick the right – good enough – lens. I was trying to decide between the Sony 70-300 or the Tamron 70-300 you linked to above. Are they both meant for full-frame cameras? Is the Sony worth the extra expense? The camera rep was trying to steer me towards a cropped lens. Am I mistaken thinking that seems like a waste on a camera like the A7?

Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Cara

25th September 2022 at 6:28 pm

My pleasure! So the A7 is a great camera. I’m not sure which model you are thinking of, but honestly they are all pretty awesome for safari photography.

To answer your question, yes, both the Sony and Tamron 70-300 are designed for full frame sensors, so you won’t get any crop when you use them. Sony does allow you to use cropped cameras on their full frame mount, but the end result is that you’ll only end up using a part of the sensor and you’ll end up with a much lower megapixel image. This gives the impression of zooming in, but it’s not really a zoom because you end up losing the megapixels. So no, I’d not really recommend doing that.

In terms of the difference, Sony lenses tend to be more expensive than third party lenses. The Sony has the advantage of a wider aperture when fully zoomed in (5.6 vs 6.3), so will perform marginally better in low light. The Sony also has image stabilization, although as the Sony camera has in body image stabilization, that’s not a big deal. The Sony is also significantly heavier. In terms of image quality, most reviews suggest that image quality is honestly pretty similar.

So yes, I think the Tamron would probably be a solid pick at that focal length!

Let me know if you have any more questions 🙂

Olivia Yao says

18th August 2022 at 7:19 pm

Hi Laurence, thank you so much for putting this informative article together. I am considering buying the Sony A6400 (APS-C) with a Sony SEL 70300G. I use my Iphone when I travel and I’m happy with it, but I felt the need to buy a new camera for our safari trip to be able to capture the experience better. Do you think this is a good choice? I was also looking at Nikon Coolpix 1000 or Sony XR 10 IV (no stock in the Philippines). I hope the Sony I’m considering will produce better photos and easy to use.

Appreciate your comment.

19th August 2022 at 10:17 am

My pleasure! So an iPhone can definitely take good photos, but it will struggle with wildlife unless the wildlife is very close, which is normally not the case. So a good camera with a long lens is a good option.

I would definitely say that the A6400 with the lens you mention would be a good choice. You get a bigger sensor than the Nikon and Sony, which will make it more effective in lower light and for faster action shots where you need a higher shutter speed. The 300mm reach at the long end is equivalent to 450mm, which should be fine for most photography. I primarily shoot and travel with a 100-400mm lens, so I think you will be fine. The Sony RX10 IV has a 600mm equivalent lens, and the difference is not so great. The Nikon has much longer reach but a much smaller sensor, and I think you will get better overall results from the A6400. You also have the option to use other lenses, such as the Sigma 150-600, which would give you even more reach if you wanted!

Have a great safari, and let me know if you have any more questions, I’m happy to help!

20th July 2022 at 9:04 am

Great, comprehensive article. Since you have point and shoot and bridge cameras, you might as well add Micro 4/3s to the mix. Olympus in particular has has excellent weather sealing. They also tend to be smaller and lighter than DSLRs. I recently picked up a Oly M5 mark ii as a second body for $300 used. Combine that with the very capable Panasonic 100-300F5.6 mk ii (another $400 or so) and you have a very good package. Not the same as the Oly 300F4, but by orders of magnitude sharper than a Canon 75-300. With the 2x crop factor, the 300mm lens on the M43 body has an equivalent Field of View as a 600mm lens on a full frame. The R7 is currently my favorite for wildlife though, but also more money with an appropriate lens. By the way your definition of aperture is a little wonky 😉 The f-stop is a factor between the focal length and the “size of the hole” (a.k.a. front element). So a 70-200F2.8 has the same aperture as a 100-400F5.6. Both approximately 71mm front element diameter. Same with the Canon RF100-500F7.1. Still the same aperture. Of course a 200mm F4 has a smaller hole (half the light) than a 200F2.8, but the f-stop is always in relation to the focal length. Cheers

21st July 2022 at 7:39 pm

Thanks for your input, and yes, that is an excellent point. I will definitely revise and update this camera to include some mirrorless options. I have a Pansonic GX8 myself, so I know the strengths of the platform. I’m on a trip right now so it will be a few weeks before I get round to it, but it’s on my to-do list!

Mary Gibson says

28th May 2022 at 5:53 pm

Laurence, thank you SO much for your excellent post! My gosh! I’ve spent a couple of days researching “the best safari cameras” for an upcoming trip…and then I found yours. Comprehensive and clear; can’t ask for more.

We are heading to Rwanda (mountain gorillas, golden monkeys) and Tanzania (basically, everything) mid-August. I’ve been using an FZ2500 for a few years now, and almost always use Manual mode, although I would classify myself as a novice photographer. I edit using Lightroom.

The FZ2500 seems to meet most of your ‘minimums’ (i.e., sensor size, optical zoom, aperture, megapixel, burst speed) but is not weather sealed. I have a LowePro camera bag, with a rain cover. I will look for a cameral cleaning kit, based on your blog.

My research was to help me decide whether the FZ2500 would be adequate for this ‘trip of a lifetime’. My sense is that it should be. Do you have any comments?

29th May 2022 at 9:46 am

Thanks so much for your kind comment! That sounds like a fantastic trip you have planned. I would definitely say that the FZ2500 should be fine for your trip. Weather sealing is nice, but not critical, especially if you have a good camera bag. I’d also add that the benefit of familiarity with a camera cannot be overstated, this means that you can focus more on getting the shot than wondering which button is where. It sounds like you have that, so I think you will be happy.

You might also want to check out a couple of my other posts which might give you some photography related tips, one on gorilla trekking (in Uganda, but the same principles apply), and then safari photography tips in general.

Have a great trip, and let me know if you have any more questions!

4th May 2022 at 2:06 am

Hi Laurence – thanks for posting this information, it’s super helpful. I currently have a Panasonic ZS60. I wondered if I needed to upgrade my camera for my upcoming safari trip. I had considered the FZ300 as my Safari/trip camera, but when I looked at it, it seemed quite similar to what I had (similar sensor, zoom etc.). I would like to be able to print some photos (landscape, animals and family) upon our return to 8×10 or larger. I’ve had DSLRs in the past (and on safari) and found them bulky to carry around. Also I never ended up using them much b/c of the size.

Is moving up in sensor size going to improve printability and crispness of shots much more? I’ve attempted to print with the ZS60 and it’s mixed results.

Aside from this trip, I use my camera whilst travelling, with family (kids play loads of sports and candids). I also like to take landscape pictures.

So is it worth moving up in sensor?

Thanks, Izzy.

5th May 2022 at 10:01 am

So I don’t think you’ll notice a huge difference moving to the FZ300 from the ZS60, if anything the smaller megapixel count will make your prints slightly less sharp.

A larger sensor will however definitely make a difference. There’s a really helpful tool here which lets you load up different cameras and compare performance on a single shot. I’ve preloaded that with the ZS60, FZ300, Sony RX10IV (1 inch sensor) and Lumix FZ1000 (1 inch sensor). If you move around the top example image, especially over text and people’s faces, you’ll see the difference in sharpness and clarity. You can also download the JPEG files for printing for your own comparison.

In summary, I think a larger sensor bridge camera would likely make a difference 🙂 Let me know if I can help any more!

Almeera says

3rd May 2022 at 4:30 am

Hi Laurence, I am considering the FZ300 as my Safari/trip camera, as opposed to the FZ80. Or the FS70. Do you think the sacrifice of megapixels will matter for this purpose? The FZ300 has a faster lens, is weather sealed, and has a stronger flash.

I am a traveler, who typically wants to be able to have my camera in my daypack or handbag, and I have an iPhone 13pro max, as well as a Sony a5100 w/ 16-55mm lens as back ups.

Any advice you provide would be welcome.

3rd May 2022 at 11:15 am

Hi Almeera,

So honestly no, I don’t think the sacrifice of megapixels will make a massive difference. 12 megapixels is still 4000 pixels by 3000 pixels, which is enough for most uses. My first DSLR had a 10MP sensor, and I’ve been more than happy even with fairly large prints from that! The main advantage of more megapixels is that you can obviously crop down more, but with a 600mm lens equivalent you should be able to get most of the shots you want without needing to crop anyway. So I think this would definitely work 🙂

Let me know if you have any more questions, and have a great safari/trip!

19th April 2022 at 3:01 pm

Hi there Laurence and thanks for this great post.

I’m thinking about the Sony Cyber‑Shot RX10 IV which you recommend for those looking for a bridge camera for safari. I have an older Nikon SLR with some heavy lenses but want something lighter for an upcoming trip that will include time in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Just wondering your thoughts on going from a digital SLR to a bridge camera? Any tips for using a bridge camera for safari and wildlife shooting?

19th April 2022 at 4:13 pm

It’s my pleasure, thank you for your kind words.

So there are a few things to just keep in mind coming from a digital SLR to a bridge camera.

First, the sensor size is obviously a lot smaller. Compared to an APS-C sensor it’s about a third the area, and compared to a full frame sensor it’s about a seventh the area. That means that all else being equal, low light performance is going to be a bit reduced. For most safari scenarios this shouldn’t be a big issue as there’s normally plenty of light, but at dusk and dawn you will want to pay close attention to shutter speed and ISO to ensure you get results you are happy with.

If you are used to using longer lenses then you will likely already be used to using higher shutter speeds, but I did want to just point out that at the 600mm equivalent zoom you will want to be using faster shutter speeds to compensate for the long zoom if hand holding. The RX10 does have an Auto ISO feature which offer auto shutter speed adjustment which is linked to focal length when shooting in aperture priority, which can help ensure you get sharp images without having to think about it too much.

I’d recommend shooting in RAW if you don’t already, so you get more latitude over your processing. If you use higher ISO numbers, you might also consider a dedicated noise reduction tool for cleaning those up.

Overall the switch should not be too hard to deal with. The RX10 is a lovely camera and the autofocus in particular is excellent. I would recommend practicing with it on local wildlife so you see how it works, and also to learn how to override it if necessary for those edge cases where it picks the wrong subject.

Let me know if you have any more questions, I’m happy to help. Also, have an amazing trip!

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15 African Safari Photography Tips

15 African Safari Photography Tips

Ariadne is an Africa expert. She and her husband form a team who author many guidebooks to African countries.

For most people, photography is an integral part of an African safari. The wealth of great photographic opportunities is inspiring, but for beginners, it is important to have realistic expectations. The media is saturated with beautiful wildlife images taken by specialists who spent months trying to get the ultimate shot, and nobody is likely to match those standards on a one-off holiday.

There are a lot of different aspects to consider when learning how to take pictures on safari. As a starting point, here are some African safari photography tips, including equipment to use, the best camera set up, best lenses and night safari photography for beginners.

12 Photographic Safaris

Tip 1: Safari Photography Equipment Tips

Large-spotted genet (Genetta tigrina), Ithala Game Reserve, South Africa

Invest in a good SLR camera and a couple of lenses. The best camera set up for wildlife photography includes at least a 300mm lens, because anything less will just be frustrating. Ideally you should have 2 cameras as changing lenses is time-consuming when you might be missing the action. On top of that, dust tends to get into the sensor when changing lenses, and this shows up as spots on your photos. Always bring a flash for night safari photography.

Tip 2: Camera Support

Southern giraffe browsing from a yellow fever tree (Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa), Zulu Nyala Game Reserve, South Africa

Almost as important as the actual photographic gear is steady support. Always bring a tripod for situations where you are on foot. Inside the vehicle, however, a tripod tends to be clumsy. It could be replaced by a suitable clamp with tripod head, which is great for panning and following action, but slow to move around for different positions. A better option in most situations is a beanbag, which you can bring to the country empty to save weight, and fill it up with rice or beans after you arrive. Some pillow covers or laundry bags are invaluable to protect cameras lying around in the car from dust.

Tip 3: Storage

Cheetah with cubs (Acinonyx jubatus), Zulu Nyala Game Reserve, South Africa

One of the main African safari photography tips for wildlife is to always bring enough memory cards. As wildlife photography offers lots of opportunity for action photography, you’ll end up shooting a lot of frames and filling up a lot memory space. I prefer to have big memory cards that can hold a full day’s photography. Nothing is more frustrating than having to change cards in the middle of the action. At the end of the day, I download the cards on my laptop and make a back-up on an external drive. I then format the cards to use again the next day. If you don’t travel with a laptop, you should still back-up your memory cards on a suitable device.

Tip 4: Settings

Burchell's zebras fighting (Equus burchellii), Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya

There are no correct or best settings for wildlife photography. It is therefore important to get to grips with the basics of photography and understand the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. This will enable you to freeze action and avoid camera shake, as well as to manipulate the depth of field.

Tip 5: Composition

African elephants (Loxodonta africana africana) in the Shire river, Liwonde National Park, Malawi

All the technical stuff can get a bit overwhelming, but an eye for composition is just as important. Although some people might have more flair in composing the perfect image, practice goes a long way in acquiring that photographic eye. A good starting point is to really look at the framing and all the edges before clicking the shutter. What doesn’t add to the photo usually distracts. Also make sure not to inadvertently cut off limbs or treetops, or anything else that would look better in full.

Tip 6: Angles and Perspective

Lion (Panthero leo) in front of the Oloololo escarpment, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

When photographing wildlife, it is tempting to zoom in as close as possible and take a close-up shot. This might result in a bunch of very usable field guide pictures, but it can pay off to think outside the box and vary your angles and perspectives. An animal in a bigger setting sometimes tells more of a story.

Tip 7: Working With the Light

Leopard in a tree (Panthera pardus), Timbavati Game Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa

Photography is hugely light dependent. When to take pictures is almost as important as how to take pictures on safari. The early morning and late afternoon offer the most beautiful lighting with the sun low in the sky. Overcast weather works like a huge softbox, offering workable light conditions to photograph throughout the day. The harsh midday sun is not very flattering, but you might still get some good photos at a waterhole with animals coming to drink during the heat of the day.

Tip 8: Focus on the Eyes

Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes, Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania

When photographing wildlife, we tend to shoot with a low depth of field (small f-stop) as this makes the animal stand out from distracting backgrounds and vegetation. This also enables us to use a higher shutter speed, which minimizes camera shake and freezes movement. We usually accept less sharpness in other parts of the body so long as the eyes are dead sharp. It is therefore crucial to always focus on the eyes.

Tip 9: Positioning the Vehicle

Tourists watching Cheetah on safari (Acinonyx jubatus), Mashatu Game Reserve, tuli block, Botswana

Your driver-guide is there to help you make the most of your African safari. Most guides are good at spotting animals and they can also offer interesting information relevant to the sightings. But many don’t really know how to take pictures on safari and might need some guidance when it comes to lining up the vehicle to get the perfect angles. Don’t be shy to communicate with the driver to get in the best position. Also make sure the engine is turned off at sightings.

Tip 10: Be Patient

Leopard drinking (Panthera pardus), Sabi Sands, Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa

Patience is the main key to great wildlife photos. Instead of driving from animal to animal, it pays to stay with a potentially good sighting. Spending time will offer an opportunity to see some interesting animal behavior. The most rewarding photos of wildlife are usually those showing interaction or action, and this often requires anticipation and patience.

Tip 11: Don’t Ignore the Small Stuff

Peringuey's adder (Bitis peringueyi) is endemic to the Namib desert. It often buries itself into the sand with only the eyes exposed to ambush small lizards , Namib desert, Namibia

It is easy to get too focused on the Big Five and other large mammals on safari. This is partly because the Big Five is heavily marketed and searching for them seems to be the main aim in any safari. However, photographing small animals and birds can be highly rewarding as well. A photograph of a dung beetle or a colorful bird in flight is more evocative than yet another photo of a sleeping lion. A good way to focus on the small stuff is to book a walking safari.

60 Walking Safaris

Tip 12: Always Be Safe

Mountain gorilla, Gorilla gorilla berengi, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Arguably the most important of all African safari photography tips is to always stay safe. In pursuit of the perfect photo, one can sometimes get carried away, but no photo is worth risking your safety. One should never forget that all animals on safari are wild and unpredictable.

Tip 13: Making Memories As Well As Photos

Wild dog carrying a pup to the den (Lycaon pictus), Central Kalahari, Botswana

Taking photographs on safari should be fun. Unless you’re a professional photographer, there is no reason to let photography dominate every sighting. Sometimes it is worthwhile to put down the camera and stop looking through the lens – to slow down, and take in the views, the smells and the sounds of the African bush.

Tip 14: Photographing People

Musician, Intore dancing, Rwanda

A safari offers great wildlife photography opportunities, but hopefully you’ll have some rewarding human interactions as well. You’ll probably make a close bond with your guide and at the end of the day, the people working in your lodge are usually happy to hear about your adventures. So, don’t put away your camera when leaving the safari vehicle, but take some photos of the people that cross your path. Just make sure to always ask permission first, and to be respectful.

Tip15: Respect the Wildlife

Lion (Panthero leo), MalaMala Game Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa

Never harass animals in pursuit of a better picture. Tourists and photographers should only be present as observers. We should never try to impact on the scene in front of us. Don’t whistle to wake up an animal to get a better photo and never interfere with a hunt. It is unethical, and also very annoying for other visitors.

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Best Camera Settings For Wildlife Photography Explained

Are you struggling to understand the best camera settings for wildlife photography ? Do you want to get amazing wildlife shots, but you’re just not sure how to deal with your camera equipment?

You’ve come to the right place.

Camera Settings For Wildlife Photography Explained

Because this article will tell you everything, you need to know about wildlife photography camera settings. You’ll discover the best camera modes, as well as several highly practical tips for wildlife photography settings.

Let’s get started.

Camera Settings For Wildlife Photography

  • Use Shutter Priority when shooting fast-moving objects (birds)
  • Use Aperture Priority when dealing with quickly changing light
  • Use Manual mode when you want complete control
  • Choose a shutter speed that will freeze your subject’s movement
  • Choose an aperture that will keep your entire subject sharp, if possible
  • Compromise on aperture or ISO when in low-light situations
  • Use your continuous shooting mode to catch the perfect moment
  • Use Continuous AF when shooting moving wildlife
  • Use Dynamic AF when tracking active animals

Camera Modes Used in Wildlife Photography

If you’re looking to master wildlife photography settings, then you’ll want to start by choosing the appropriate camera mode.

In many genres of photography, Aperture Priority is by far the most popular shooting mode. For instance, travel photographers and landscape photographers love Aperture Priority, because it gives them control over the aperture while leaving the camera to choose a shutter speed.

But in wildlife photography , shutter speed is crucial – so Aperture Priority isn’t right for every situation. Wildlife photographers do use Aperture Priority mode at times, but they also use Manual mode. And some wildlife photographers use Shutter Priority mode, which has its uses, even if the mode is less popular.

So when should you use each of these camera modes?

Aperture Priority Mode

First, you should use Aperture Priority when you’re dealing with quickly changing light and you don’t want to spend time fiddling with camera settings . Aperture Priority will let you dial in an aperture, and your camera will choose a shutter speed that promises a good exposure result.

For instance, if you’re shooting birds that are moving in and out of a shaded environment, Aperture Priority is the way to go. Aperture Priority is also good when you’re photographing birds late in the day and the sun is dropping rapidly because it prevents you from having to focus on adjusting your shutter speed to account for the changing light.

See also : Choosing Right Aperture for Landscape Photography

Instead, you can focus on capturing beautiful bird photos.

use Aperture Priority when you’re dealing with quickly changing light

Aperture Priority is especially nice in situations where the light is strong and the shutter speed is extremely fast. When the light is lower (e.g., on a cloudy day), you can raise the ISO to force a faster shutter speed , though it may be better to put the camera in Manual mode instead.

Speaking of which:

Manual Mode

Manual mode is best when you want complete control over your camera settings. For instance, if you’re aiming to capture more creative shots – such as artistic blurs of birds flying past – Manual mode is a good option. Manual mode is also great for low-light situations when you have to make difficult decisions between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. If you’re shooting deer at dusk, you can use Manual mode to carefully choose the widest aperture and longest shutter speed you can afford, ensuring sharp deer shots.

Manual mode is best when you want complete control over your camera settings

In other words:

Manual mode will allow you the most flexibility so that you can make the best possible choice.

Shutter Priority Mode

Shutter Priority, on the other hand, gives you control over your shutter speed – though your camera will choose the corresponding aperture. Personally, I use this mode least, but there are times when it can be helpful.

See also : Must-have Wildlife Photography Equipment

For instance, if you’re shooting an active bird and you know that you need a particular shutter speed to keep it sharp (1/2000s for a heron in flight, for instance), you can dial in the exact shutter speed and let your camera do the rest.

Wildlife Photography - bird in flight

Make sense?

So while there’s no one best camera mode for wildlife photography, there are certainly situations where one mode makes sense over the others.

Camera Settings and Techniques to Get the Right Exposure

Now that you know how to choose the proper camera mode, it’s time to get into the details of wildlife camera settings.

See also : Nature & Wildlife Photography Tutorials

First and foremost, capturing beautiful wildlife photography is about getting clear, crisp shots . And this can’t happen if you don’t keep things looking sharp.

Shutter Speed Settings

To attain perfect sharpness, you’ll generally need to shoot at 1/1000s or higher for moving animals (higher is better!). Birds in flight can require 1/2000s shutter speeds or even 1/4000s.

In other words, wildlife photography requires fast shutter speeds. And these shutter speeds will determine your choice of exposure settings.

See also : Bird Photography on a Budget

Sure, if you’re photographing a sleeping animal you won’t need to boost your shutter speed. But you’ll find that wildlife is rarely cooperative and that you have to be prepared for things to change, fast.

wildlife photography requires fast shutter speeds

You should also be prepared to shoot in bursts, with your camera set to its continuous shooting mode. Wildlife photographers often shoot in long bursts, and don’t stop until the action is over; this is how they manage to get once-in-a-lifetime photos!

Aperture Settings

Now, while aperture is less important in wildlife photography than other photography genres, it still matters. Generally, you want to keep the entire animal sharp, from front to back. You don’t want to end up with a sharp head but a blurry back, for instance. Or the front two legs sharp and the back two legs blurry.

This often requires an aperture of at least f/6.3, but f/7.1 or f/8 is safer.

Now, wildlife photography often involves natural light , and natural light is hardly cooperative. This means that to get the perfect exposure, you’ll often have to compromise between fast shutter speed, adequate depth of field , and a low ISO.

Best Camera Settings For Wildlife Photography Explained 1

I recommend you think about the shutter speed first. If your shot is blurry, then it should be rejected – so the shutter speed is of utmost importance. Then you can decide whether you want to deepen the depth of field or keep noise levels down.

See also : Wildlife Photography Equipment for Beginners

(And a lot will depend on your camera for wildlife photography . New cameras with the best sensors perform well in low light , so you may not have to compromise at all!)

Camera Settings and Focusing Techniques

While a big part of good wildlife photography is about choosing the right aperture, shutter speed, and ISO…

…you’ve also got to master focusing.

Wildlife rarely stays still, which means that you must track critters with a long lens – which is hardly an easy task!

Now, there are a few camera settings that you should absolutely be using for focusing in wildlife photography:

Continuous Autofocus

First, you should have your autofocus mode set to Continuous AF (also known as AI-Servo on Canon). This AF mode will keep your wildlife lens focused on your subject, even if the subject moves after you press the shutter button.

The exception is in situations where your subject is stationary; AF-S (One-shot AF) is a good choice.

Best Camera Settings For Wildlife Photography Explained 2

Dynamic Autofocus Mode

Second, when shooting active wildlife, you should have your camera area mode set to Dynamic AF , which will ensure your camera tracks the subject as you follow it. Without Dynamic AF, you’ll struggle to maintain focus in a number of situations: birds flying, cheetahs running, and more.

See also : Famous Animal Photographers

If your subject is stationary, then Single-Point AF is fine.

Rounding Things Up: Camera Settings For Wildlife Photography

Now let’s take a brief look at everything we’ve covered:

Camera Settings For Wildlife Photography | Conclusion

You should now feel confident when going out to shoot wildlife–because you know the precise settings you need for stunning wildlife photos.

So go find some wildlife to shoot while keeping these camera settings for wildlife photography in mind.

And your shots will be gorgeous!

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What does the 's' in Shutter Speed stand for?

Shutter speed and the exposure triangle, how shutter speed affects aperture, receive photography and travel tips.

Understanding Shutter Speed in Photography

Understanding Shutter Speed in Photography

What is Shutter Speed in Photography? Shutter Speed   is the length of time the digital sensor inside the camera is exposed to light, in other words; the time the shutter is open when taking a photo. Actually, it is the time your camera spends taking the photo. Shutter speed is also known as the exposure time.

Shutter Speed is measured in seconds, or a fraction of a second (for example 1s, 1/4 s, 1/250s), the 's' stands for seconds . Fast shutter speed means that the shutter is open for a (very) short period of time and a slow shutter speed means that the shutter is open for a longer period of time.

  • Fast shutter speed will result in more frozen motion
  • Slow shutter speed will result in a more blurry motion.

The result always depends on how fast your subject is moving.

Shutter Speed is one of the three pillars of the so-called exposure triangle ; the three settings that give you control over the exposure , the amount of light that hits the camera sensor to record an image. The other two pillars are the Aperture and ISO . When you increase the exposure for one of these three elements, you need to reduce it for one or both of the other pillars to maintain the same exposure. If you understand the relationship between these elements, you will gain more control of the images you want to capture.

Shutter speed is significantly related to the aperture. Using a fast shutter speed in combination with a wide aperture (low f/stop) can provide the same exposure (amount of light that reaches the camera sensor) than using a slow shutter speed with a narrow aperture (high f/stop). Although the exposure will be similar, the look and feel of your image can be completely different.

In essence, the shutter speed helps the aperture regulate the exposure , but when you’re photographing moving objects you need to make sure that you’re using higher shutter speed to prevent a blurry image.

  • a wide aperture means more light is entering the lens. Because of that, the shutter doesn't have to stay open as long to make a correctly exposed image, which translates into a faster shutter speed .
  • a low aperture means less light is entering the lens. Because of that, the shutter has to stay open a little longer. This translates into a slower shutter speed .

shutter speed for safari

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A person kneeling in a forest while looking at the exposure settings on their camera


Get the correct exposure for your photos.

Cameras turn light into data via a combination of three main variables known as the exposure triangle. Explore how these settings can help you capture correct exposures. 

Not sure which apps are best for you?

Take a minute. We'll help you figure it out.

What is exposure?

Exposure is one of the most fundamental  photography terms . When you take a picture, you press the shutter button to open a camera’s aperture, and light streams in, triggering a response from a sensor. Exposure is the amount of light that reaches your camera’s sensor, creating visual data over a period of time. That time period could be fractions of a second or entire hours.

The right exposure is a balancing act. Overexposure leads to overexposed highlights and faded-looking images. Underexposed images are dark and hard to see. Learn these basics to  better understand camera exposure  and discover how to get the right exposure for your work.

The exposure triangle.

There is no single camera setting for exposure. Instead, exposure is made up of three different data settings known as the exposure triangle. Those settings are shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed  is the amount of time that the camera’s shutter is open, and measures the length of exposure. Modern camera shutter speeds are measured in fractions of a second. Common shutter speeds for daylight pictures range from 1/1000 to 1/200 of a second. Appropriate shutter speeds vary depending on lighting conditions.

The Milky Way shining in the night sky above a snow-covered mountain captured through long-exposure

If there’s less light, you’ll likely want a slow shutter speed. You can still get well-exposed and well-lit pictures in low-light conditions if you set up your camera just right. Some nighttime photographers leave their shutter open for seconds.  In long exposure photography , the photographer can sometimes keep a shutter open for minutes or even hours. Keep in mind that the longer you leave a shutter open, the more motion blur you’re likely to have. Tripods are great tools to help motion blur.

Faster shutter speeds are good to capture fast action. If you’re photographing an event and want to get candid expressions of people talking, you’ll want a shutter speed of 1/400 or faster. If you’re  photographing something even faster-paced, like sports , you’ll want to use a very fast shutter speed. For instance, photographers who capture fleeting instances of athletes in motion might only have their cameras open for 1/1000 of a second to freeze the exact moment when a basketball player makes a slam dunk.

Aperture  is the adjustable lens opening that controls the amount of light allowed into the camera. It functions much like the pupil in a human eye, which dilates to let in light and narrows in bright settings. Your aperture setting is measured in what’s known as an f number, also called an f-stop. The lower the f number, the wider the aperture, and vice versa. An aperture of f/8 would indicate a smaller aperture, whereas one of f/2 would open much wider and let in more light.

A food photographer might use a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field where the subject is in focus but the background is blurred out. Imagine a piece of cake that looks crisp and clear, but the edge of the plate right behind it is blurred. A greater depth of field would be used for something like landscape photography, where everything from nearby trees to distant mountains appear crisp, in focus, and well defined.

A close-up photo of a slice of cake on a plate

ISO  represents the sensitivity of the light sensor within the camera. Low ISO means the camera’s sensor is less sensitive to light, and high ISO more so. More sensitivity is not always good. Higher  ISO in relation to shutter speed  or aperture can result in pictures filled with digital noise, which looks grainy. If ISO is too low, a photo will be underexposed.

ISO used to refer to film, not cameras. Different films were more or less sensitive to light, and ISO was a way to quantify that sensitivity. Film still comes with your choice of ISO, but now ISO is associated more with adjustments you can make in digital cameras.

“ISO comes into play when you want to capture action,” says photographer Heather Barnes. “Let’s say you have a small aperture, maybe like an f/16, but you’re still not getting enough light in your scene. That’s when you want to bump up ISO.”

Focal length

While not part of the exposure triangle, focal length and depth of field — the distance at which objects are still sharp and in focus in a picture — may affect how you adjust other settings. A  shallow depth of field  means that objects become blurrier at closer distances. Focal length is the distance between the center of the lens and the camera’s sensor. Lenses are named for their focal length, and shorter focal lengths can capture wider scenes. 

A photographer holding a DSLR camera showing the exposure settings on the camera's display screen

Check exposure on the histogram.

After you snap a photo, mirrorless and DSLR cameras have a small LCD screen that gives you a preview of the photo you just took. In that small preview, you might not be able to tell if an image is properly exposed. Because of that, DSLR and mirrorless cameras can show you a graphical representation of exposure data known as a  histogram .

“The left side represents the shadows, and the right side represents the light,” says Barnes.

There is no single ideal shape for a histogram. They are contextual and depend on subject matter. A photograph of a black cat in a dark setting will have a different histogram shape than a photo of a white rabbit on a field of snow, even if both photos have the same exposure settings.

How to get the right exposure.

Getting the perfect exposure is a mix of your gear, your editing style, and your commitment to practice.

Aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual mode

Many modern cameras have aperture or shutter priority settings. With these, you can set aperture or shutter speed, and the other settings will automatically adjust to fit them for proper exposure.  Aperture priority , shutter priority,  auto-mode , and other pre-existing settings are tools that even professionals use.

However, shooting in manual mode, where you set all of the variables of the exposure triangle yourself, can allow for more creativity, control, and a better understanding of the exposure triangle. Shooting in manual lets you play more with light and shadow, as well as other factors like depth of field.

A person holding a light meter

Gear for getting the right exposure

Any work that requires a long exposure time also requires something to steady the camera. “Use a tripod so you’ll have less camera shake when you use a slower shutter speed,” says Barnes. If you’re taking pictures of the  night sky  with an exposure time that stretches into the multiple seconds, you’ll need a tripod or similar piece of equipment to achieve the look you want.

A light meter is a tool that measures light. A lot of DSLR cameras come with one built in, but depending on the precision required, you might need an extra one. Metering light, rather than just eyeballing it, can help you set up your exposure settings with more precision.

Exposure and post-production

You can also adjust exposure in post-processing. Try using the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom exposure slider to make adjustments. You can brighten and  adjust underexposed images  with a variety of sliders. Overexposed images contain less data, which means there’s less room to make change.

Practice, practice, practice

Ultimately, the best way to get the right exposure for your photos is to practice. Take photos in different lighting conditions. Photograph things moving at different speeds. Experiment with different parts of the exposure triangle, and learn which settings and environments get you the results you’re looking for.

“You can read as many books as possible,” says Barnes, “but the best thing you can do is practice.”


Heather Barnes

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shutter speed for safari

Six Ways to Speed Up Your iPhone

I t’s hard to be patient with a slow iPhone , especially when using it for everything, from the calculator to getting directions on Maps. No one likes dealing with lag, buffering, or app freezing. Fortunately, there are a few ways you could speed up your iPhone.

Restart your iPhone

Let’s start with the classic “Did you try turning it off and on again?” It’s a classic for a reason, not just another tech myth. On a technical level, it helps refresh your iPhone’s RAM or working memory, which optimizes its overall performance. Since it’s probably the most straightforward hack, I’d recommend starting with this one.

There are slightly different ways to restart an iPhone based on its model. If you can’t get yours to restart, you might want to do a quick “how to restart [your iPhone model]” search. In case you’re unsure about your iPhone’s model, we have a guide for that , too.

Clear Safari Data

I’m sure we have encountered an ‘Accept Cookies’ popup. Even if you have no idea what that does, you’ve probably accepted tons of cookies by now. Refer to this helpful guide for a detailed and easy lesson on internet cookies. For the scope of this piece, all you need to know is that every time you click on ‘Accept Cookies’ on your browser, you’re putting a bunch of files on your device. These files pile up over time and end up slowing your phone.

If you frequently use Safari on your iPhone, you probably have a lot of passwords, cookies, tabs, and other login info in your Safari cache. It’s a good habit to clear that from time to time. Note that this will require re-entering login credentials or other personal info on some sites since clearing your cache will make your Safari brand new again.

To clear all Safari data, go to Settings on your iPhone and look up ‘Safari.’ Once in the Safari menu, scroll down until you see ‘Clear History and Website Data.’ It will ask you to pick a timeframe. Select ‘All history’ and then hit the red button at the bottom that says ‘Clear History.’

Free Up Space

Full storage is one of the leading causes of a sluggish iPhone. Go to Settings , scroll to General , and click on iPhone Storage from the menu. Doing so will present you with a stacked bar chart and an ordered list of your iPhone’s storage situation, clearly labeling how much space is occupied by which app.

It will also provide you with recommendations on how to free up space. Under Recommendations , click on Review Large Attachments to see the photos, videos, and attachments that are taking up the most space. When you see something you want to delete, swipe left and hit Delete .

There are other ways to free up space on your iPhone, but it ultimately depends on your priorities and your phone use. If you don’t always need all your photos and videos on your phone, you can back them up on iCloud and delete them from your iPhone. However, this would mean you would no longer be able to access them without the internet.

Similarly, if you don’t need all your iMessages, you can mass-delete them. I’ll review all the ways to clear storage on your iPhone in a separate, dedicated guide.

iOS updates often bring bug fixes that help improve your iPhone’s efficiency, so it’s a good idea to always be on the latest software update. You can do that by turning automatic updates on. Go to Settings > General > Software Update > Automatic Updates and turn on the toggle switch for all three options on the page. This will automatically download and install iOS software updates when your phone is connected to Wi-Fi, charging, and locked.

You can also manually update your iOS. A ‘Software Update Available’ notice on your Settings app under your Apple ID will tell you there’s a newer version you haven’t yet updated to. If you see that, scroll down to General > Software Update and click Download and Install to begin the update. If you don’t see that notice, you’re on the latest version.

Replace Battery

Another possible reason for a slow phone is a battery overused to the point of dysfunction. If your iPhone is old, its battery’s health may not be ideal. To see if that’s the case, go to Settings, look up Battery Health, and click on Battery Health & Charging from the open menu. Anything 80% and above is good, but Apple recommends replacing your battery when its health falls below that mark.

Turn Off Automatic Downloads and Background App Refresh

Apps on your iPhone tend to auto-update. While this is helpful, it could become overwhelming for your phone, especially if you have many apps on it. Multiple background app refreshes also take place without you knowing. Again, this is a helpful feature, but it could lead to a considerable drop in your phone’s efficiency if you have many apps that constantly refresh and update.

Go to Settings > App Store and turn off all three toggle switches under ‘Automatic Downloads.’ These are App Downloads, App Updates, and In-App Content. Then, go to General > Background App Refresh > Background App Refresh (again) and choose Off . Doing both will ensure no power-hungry apps are running in the background. If you’d like an app updated, you can constantly manually update it in the App Store.

No, closing your background apps won’t help.

I know; I felt as deceived as you did when Gizmodo Maxwell Zeff told us that closing background apps doesn’t do anything and that I have been making my poor little thumb do all that labor for years for nothing. It’s just a tech myth that originated years ago on Apple’s community forum and Stack Overflow and has been perpetuated ever since (because it sounds like it should work!). But yeah, doing that won’t affect either performance or battery.

Are some of your apps still running slow?

Are you sure it’s your phone and not your network? People often mistake a slow connection for a slow phone. Especially if you’re experiencing lag on apps that require an internet connection, it might just be your internet that needs fixing.

To quickly check this, look up ‘speed test’ on your browser. You’ll see an ‘Internet speed test’ pop-up. Hit the blue button that says ‘run speed test.’ In around 30 seconds, you’ll get precise stats on your download and upload speeds and a comment on your internet performance.

I just ran mine, and it said, “Your Internet connection is very fast. It should be able to handle multiple devices streaming HD videos, video conferencing, and gaming at the same time.” So, if my iPhone starts acting up, I’d know it’s not my internet.

For the latest news, Facebook , Twitter and Instagram .

photo of the iphone 14 pro


  1. 5 Shutter Speeds You Need For Wildlife Photography

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  1. The Ultimate Safari Photography Handbook for Beginners and Pros

    Shutter Spee d. Capturing the essence of movement is crucial in safari photography, making shutter speed a vital setting. Opting for a faster shutter speed proves effective in freezing the motion of swift-moving animals. Typically, a recommended shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second or faster is advised for wildlife photography.

  2. Best Camera Settings for Safari Photography

    Shutter Speed for Safari. Shutter speed refers to the amount of time the camera allows light to enter to shoot the image. Shutter speed is measured in seconds, so 1/25 would translate to 1/25 of a second. If you are shooting long exposure (for example, Northern Lights), you would shoot closer to 6, meaning that the duration of the shutter would ...

  3. 21 Safari Photography Tips for Capturing Stunning Safari Photos

    This technique ensures sharp and clear images, especially when photographing animals in motion on your safari. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze fast-moving wildlife action, and try to practice with various settings between 1/250th of a second up to 1/2500s. Additionally, fast shutter speeds can help prevent camera shake, particularly when ...

  4. The Best Camera Settings for African Safaris

    Shutter Speed: 1/200. ISO: 2000. These settings are quite general and lend themselves to either landscape photos, like a beautiful sunrise, or quiet wildlife sightings right away. While a 1/200 shutter speed isn't fast enough for rapidly moving animals, you must also be cognizant of the relatively low light in the morning.

  5. The best 5 shutter speeds for Wildlife Photography

    When it comes to camera settings, Guts shares his five key shutter speeds you need to know, to improve your wildlife photography. 'These are my 5 go-to shutter speeds, that I always used for wildlife photography.'. 1. Let's start at the slowest one. The slowest one is a tenth of a second (1/10 sec). I use this setting to pan slow-moving ...

  6. The African Safari, Part 3: Photo Gear and Shooting Tips

    If it's a portrait, you're looking at a shutter speed of around 1/400. And if it's an action shot, maybe a shutter speed of 1/1,600. Close-up of a leopard drinking in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park, which requires a fast shutter speed to freeze its tongue, and a sharp focus on the eye.

  7. Best Wildlife Photography Settings for Beginners

    2. Shutter Speed Priority. Even though shutter speed is so important to wildlife photography, I don't usually recommend shooting shutter priority. In bright lighting conditions, shutter priority will change your aperture value too much (which can give you the completely wrong depth of field).

  8. How to Shoot Africa's Big Five Safari Animals (with a Camera)

    For big cats on the move, use a fast shutter speed like 1/1000 second or faster—it will still catch them in motion (with reduced motion blur) and freeze the background details. Use a high ISO ...

  9. Auto-focus recommendations for safari photography with Edward Selfe

    Getting sharp images by maintaining an appropriate shutter speed is discussed at length in my blog about camera settings for safari photography. Notice the blur - lack of sharpness - of the head of the left-hand hyaena. This occurred because the shutter speed of 1/125sec was not fast enough to freeze the animal's movement.

  10. The Best Camera Settings for a Tanzania Wildlife Safari

    There are two key advantages for photographing at what we call a "wide aperture", or "low aperture number" (f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4, and f/5.6. The first being that it gives you a very fast shutter speed. This allows you to freeze motion in the photo, which in Tanzania, can be very helpful as wildlife can often be moving fairly fast.

  11. Best Shutter Speed for Wildlife: My Expert Guide to Crystal Clear Shots

    Faster shutter speeds, typically above 1/500th of a second, provide the sharp, precise shots necessary to capture smaller wildlife in action. Now, let's get into the specifics. For birds physically airborne, like hummingbirds, I recommend a shutter speed of 1/1600th of a second or faster.

  12. Safari Photography Tips

    Wildebeest crossing road. 1/5th of a second shutter speed. In the first shot, even though the fighting zebra are moving quickly, the fast shutter speed freezes the action. In the second shot of the wildebeest crossing, they are just walking over the road. But in 1/5th of a second, they cover a small amount of ground, and so they become blurry.

  13. 20 Easy Tips for Better Safari Photos

    Spare batteries - Choose whatever fits the camera you have, fully charged! I usually bring two spares. Spare memory cards - You want something with a fast write speed, like this 64GB UHS-II 300MB/s SD card. Camera bag - Bring anything with easy access. You'll be sitting on safari so size and weight is not a big deal.

  14. The Best Camera Settings for Wildlife Photography (Complete Guide)

    1)Manual mode (Auto ISO) 2)Full manual mode. 3)Aperture priority (Manual ISO) So those are my best camera techniques for wildlife photography. This is not a one size fits all though, try all of the settings in different situations and see what works for you. I hope you found the post useful, please like and share if you did.

  15. Preparing for a Safari Trip to Africa

    Our first day of Safari, I was shooting in aperture priority mode but found that the corresponding shutter speeds weren't quite what I wanted - okay needed - in order to keep the blurry demons at bay. I eventually switched over to manual - set the shutter speed at 1000th of a second and the lens at f/4 or f/8.

  16. The Best Safari Camera, Lenses and Photography Accessories

    A larger aperture hole lets more light through, meaning you can use a higher shutter speed or a lower ISO, both of which can be of benefit. ... Zebra fighting. 1/4000th of a second shutter. 70-300mm lenses for safari. Sony, Nikon, and Canon all have at least one 70-300 lens available, which tends to be a fairly reasonably priced offering. ...

  17. 15 African Safari Photography Tips

    Tip 1: Safari Photography Equipment Tips. Invest in a good SLR camera and a couple of lenses. The best camera set up for wildlife photography includes at least a 300mm lens, because anything less will just be frustrating. Ideally you should have 2 cameras as changing lenses is time-consuming when you might be missing the action.

  18. Shutter Speeds For Wildlife Photography

    A shutter speed of 1/500-1/1000 second will produce sharp images for this type of motion. Running, hunting, or fighting animals. Some of the most exciting wildlife photographs involve running, hunting, or fighting, like horses running through water, bison chasing each other, bears fishing, or monkeys wrestling. The motion in these scenes is ...

  19. Tips for Wildlife Photographers: #5 "Settings for Safari Photography"

    The Shutter Speed (S) might more correctly be called the Shutter duration, since it refers to the length of time that the camera allows light to enter and create the image. This variable is measured in seconds, or fractions of seconds, such as 1/60 sec or 1/2000 sec.

  20. Best Camera Settings For Wildlife Photography Explained

    Shutter Speed Settings. To attain perfect sharpness, you'll generally need to shoot at 1/1000s or higher for moving animals (higher is better!). Birds in flight can require 1/2000s shutter speeds or even 1/4000s. In other words, wildlife photography requires fast shutter speeds. And these shutter speeds will determine your choice of exposure ...

  21. Tips to Photograph Wildlife on a Night Safari in Africa

    1. Shutter speed. Aim for 1/80th - 1/150th sec. This somewhat slow shutter speed will let in a decent amount of light, whilst still being fast enough to fight against camera shake. However, it's best to use any form of stabilisation, such a tripod, monopod or even leaning against the side of your vehicle, especially when using a telephoto lens.

  22. Understanding Shutter Speed in Photography

    Shutter Speed is measured in seconds, or a fraction of a second (for example 1s, 1/4 s, 1/250s), the 's' stands for seconds. Fast shutter speed means that the shutter is open for a (very) short period of time and a slow shutter speed means that the shutter is open for a longer period of time. Fast shutter speed will result in more frozen motion ...

  23. Understanding Shutter Speed for Beginners

    A fast shutter speed is typically whatever it takes to freeze action. If you are photographing birds, that may be 1/2000th second or faster. However, for general photography of slower-moving subjects, you might be able to take pictures at 1/200th second, 1/100th second, or even longer without introducing motion blur.

  24. Become a slow shutter speed expert!

    The shutter speed can vary greatly but, in general, you can say that at least five seconds is required in most situations. When it comes to capturing slow-moving clouds or car trails, that could ...

  25. What is an exposure in photography?

    Shutter speed is the amount of time that the camera's shutter is open, and measures the length of exposure. Modern camera shutter speeds are measured in fractions of a second. Common shutter speeds for daylight pictures range from 1/1000 to 1/200 of a second. Appropriate shutter speeds vary depending on lighting conditions.

  26. How to build your own laser-powered DIY shutter speed tester

    Running a Test. Make sure the laser beam is hitting the receiver. The place your camera with the back open in your testing apparatus. Make sure the laser is hitting the shutter, roughly in the center. Then fire off a test shot! Testing the shutter in a Mamiya Sekor 250mm lens from my RB67.

  27. Six Ways to Speed Up Your iPhone

    Full storage is one of the leading causes of a sluggish iPhone. Go to. Settings. , scroll to. General. , and click on. iPhone Storage. from the menu. Doing so will present you with a stacked bar ...