Photography in general is an expensive hobby, and wildlife photography is definitely at the more expensive end of this spectrum with many of the larger lenses costing in excess of 10,000 €. I am frequently asked, as I am sure a lot of us are, “what camera should I buy?”… Sometimes, for fun, i reel off the best-of-the-best kit, quote a price (around 30,000€) and watch there eyes pop out of their heads. The problem is that it is such an open ended question, it is not easy to answer, and that is exactly why we are asked! It depends on many things but basically comes down to this; what do you want to shoot, and how much do you want to spend? Even when broken down, the answers to these questions are so diverse, it is little easier.
Generally, the people who ask the question fall in two categories; those who are starting out, and don’t want to invest that amount of money (right away), and those who want to get the best gear they can but have not got the crazy budget required for the top of the line lenses and camera. Well, I’ve been in both of these places, and i spent a lot of time agonizing over each of my camera and lens purchases to get to where I am now (and yes, there are still lenses I would love to get).
I am going to try and answer this question the best I can based on my own hindsight and experiences, offering some suggestions at the end in different price brackets, but for more specific advice, give me a shout and I’ll try my best to help out. 🙂
I shoot Canon, so feel I can only really talk about Canon gear as I have had little to no expierence with other manufacturers… But the general premise is true.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE IN A KIT?
I frequently use focal lengths ranging from 16mm to 700mm to shoot nature and wildlife, but that is because different situations need different lenses. I can’t come up with combinations of lenses and cameras to cover every possible situation, so I am going to make some recommendations for a ‘Safari kit’. For me a minimal safari kit needs to have the following capabilities:
- A long telephoto lens – it is rare to get the subject as close as you want, so we need a telephoto of some description. That is to say a lens which is 400mm or more ON A FULL-FRAME CAMERA (this is an important distinction).
- A DLSR – Mirrorless cameras are getting better all the time, but DSLR’s still have the best auto-focus, which makes shooting any kind of action easier.
- A fast lens – Wildlife is usually most active in the mornings and evening when light is not good… having a fast lens (low f-number) means it will let in more light and means you can take better images in those low light situations. It will also make images with blurred out background easier as it will have a narrower depth-of-field.