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Which superzoom for an African safari?

john m flores

All-Pro
Aug 13, 2012
124
My friend is planning his first trip to Africa and is asking for advice about super zoom cameras (he has an older Pentax DSLR that he does not use all that much). He's smitten with the Canon SX60 because of its 65x zoom. It's only got a 1/2.3" sensor though, and I'm telling him to consider a less zoomier superzoom with a 1" sensor.

Does anyone here have experience with superzooms and safaris? Any hard-worn advice to share? Thanks in advance.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Jul 13, 2011
124
Lexington, Virginia
I’ve been on safari. 300 mm eqivalent is not really enough. What’s the longest 1” zoom? Maybe the ZS200? It’s one of the few times long zooms really matter. Most shooting is daylight so noise is usually not a problem.
 

john m flores

All-Pro
Aug 13, 2012
124
I’ve been on safari. 300 mm eqivalent is not really enough. What’s the longest 1” zoom? Maybe the ZS200? It’s one of the few times long zooms really matter. Most shooting is daylight so noise is usually not a problem.
Sony RX10 III has 600mm eq
 
Nov 11, 2011
214
Milwaukee, WI USA
I would probably go for the RX10iii......the one inch sensor will definitely allow more cropping for zoom equivalency. I know the Nikon bazookas have been mostly well reviewed....I'd consider the P900 over the P1000 for price alone. But maybe there is a compelling reason to spend twice as much for a slightly newer version of the longest megazoom around.

I'd also ask your friend if he thinks his time on this once in a lifetime trip is better spent trying to capture the VERY elusive Nat Geo shot with a cheap camera is truly a better idea than getting a nice pair of binoculars and spending a lot of time viewing these beautiful animals.

I personally think that viewing them is more fun when I don;t need to think about getting the perfect shot. And frankly, there are millions of better wildlife shots than I will ever capture.
 

davidzvi

Top Veteran
Apr 18, 2014
69
Boston Burbs
1" options: The Sony RX10 to 600mm and Panasonic FZ2500 to 480mm.
The interesting (best?) lens option for small sensors? Maybe the Panasonic FZ300 to 600mm, weather sealed and f/2.8 through range.

Beyond those? Preferred menus and controls, size, price, and range all come into play. There are compact options to about 700-800mm. Then there are to two monster Nikon options with 2000mm and 3000mm eq.

The P1000 is kind of crazy:
 

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
124
Troy, NY
The proprietor of this site (Stephen Ingraham) -- Point & Shoot Nature Photographer -- leads trips around the world in which people shoot wildlife (birds, mostly) with superzoom cameras. He is also the author of this book -- https://www.amazon.com/Point-Nature-Photography-Stephen-Ingraham/dp/1549762281 -- which I highly recommend.

His weapon of choice is the Sony RX10 IV. It has a reach of 600mm and some digital zoom beyond that; it claims some dust and moisture sealing; and he claims that it makes birds-in-flight photography "almost embarrassingly easy." It costs around $1600.

I haven't used the Canon SX60, and I haven't been on safari, but I have taken a lot of wildlife shots with superzooms, and I'm very keen on the Sony HX400V. It has 1200mm (e) reach, plus digital zoom, delivers very contrasty, punchy images, and -- I think this is critically important -- has a really good manual focus function (an actual ring on the lens barrel) which makes it easy to make sure your have focused on the wildlife rather than the foliage in front of it.

I would suggest your friend visit the Superzoom Salon on this site: Superzoom Salon to see a lot of superzoom shots taken with different cameras.

Some additional observations: the Panasonic FZ300 is supposed to have some water and dust resistance and offers 600mm (e), but I preferred the images from the HX400V. The Nikon P900 has immense reach but delivers jpegs with a slightly yellowish cast.

Ingraham tells me he has had no issues with either the Sony RX10 III or IV, despite taking 10s of thousands of images with them.

Finally, whatever your friend chooses, I recommend practicing A LOT with it before going on safari, so that using it is second nature.

Cheers, Jock
 

KillRamsey

Super Moderator
Jun 20, 2012
124
Hood River, OR
We went about 4 years ago, I think? Mostly Tanzania. Longest lens I had was 345mm equivalent (the fuji xc 50-230). Maybe we got lucky, but I don't recall wishing for something much longer. That is to say, I'd go with "a larger sensor + ~400mm reach" over "a smaller sensor and 600-1,000mm reach" over and over, easily.

Most days you're cruising along in the truck, and you get within a few hundred feet of elephants, giraffes, lions... and hey, sometimes you need something more like a 50 or even a 28 equiv:

TOMK2511 by gordopuggy, on Flickr
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Jul 13, 2011
124
Lexington, Virginia
A 1” sensor is fine. I wouldn't go to 1/2.3 as most won’t like the IQ as much. If your friend can afford the longer RX10 3 or 4 that would be ideal. It’s certainly light enough for driving around in a truck.

My own experience was with a 400 Kodak and a Pentax MV with a 40 pancake and a 100-300 Zoom. The film advance broke about halfway through the trip and a nice woman in our group let me use her Nikon F4 whose AF had died. Just to note, that trip was amazing and was the basis of my daughter going to South Africa for a semester abroad and doing her Peace Corps work in Benin.
 
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bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
124
Yup, I'm planning to buy an RX10 iii for African and South American wildlife (would go for the iv if I had the money), so that would be my recommendation.

And, as Luke said, a pair of binoculars.
 

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
124
Troy, NY
Yup, I'm planning to buy an RX10 iii for African and South American wildlife (would go for the iv if I had the money), so that would be my recommendation.

And, as Luke said, a pair of binoculars.
FWIW, I find that virtually any superzoom has far more reach (plus stabilization, usually) than any pair of binoculars. I have both. Just sayin' . . .

Cheers, Jock
 

bartjeej

Hall of Famer
Nov 12, 2010
124
FWIW, I find that virtually any superzoom has far more reach (plus stabilization, usually) than any pair of binoculars. I have both. Just sayin' . . .

Cheers, Jock
Yup, absolutely true. Binoculars just give you a different experience, which people nowadays tend to forget is even an option amidst all the electronic ways of viewing the subject.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Jul 13, 2011
124
Lexington, Virginia
Yup, absolutely true. Binoculars just give you a different experience, which people nowadays tend to forget is even an option amidst all the electronic ways of viewing the subject.
On that same Trip to Tanzania, that nice lady that lent me the Nikon F4 also had a pair of Leica binoculars. Looking through those was completely different than looking through all the other brands there. The image with just bigger and brighter and sharper.
 

john m flores

All-Pro
Aug 13, 2012
124
I also feel like, no matter how great your EVF, looking through binocs (or a DSLR prism), it's more like "I'm there" and less like I'm looking at a TV through a peephole.
I used to feel the same way but the Lumix G9 EVF is so large and immersive that it’s shifting my perspective a bit...
 
My 2 cents, and bucking the current thoughts, if considering the Nikons, I'd go P1000 because you get RAW. If memory serves, the P900 did only JPG.

However, with that being said, since the sensor is on the smaller side, and a lot of great action on safari happens close to sunset, the Sony 1" sensor camera seems to be the best compromise between size and performance.
 

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