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hwalin Jan 6, 2006 10:15 AM

Hi All!

My first post ever but I've been to this website a ton in the past. Now to my situation. I will be getting married this October and my fiance and I are planning a 2 week safari and beach honeymoon to Kenya. We had a recent friend go to Botswana on safari and he came back with the most breath taking pictures on his SLR.

Currenly I have a point and shoot which just won't do in this situation as I will need a lens to get the closer shots of the wild animals in both daylight and early evening lighting conditions. I have heard wonderful things about Canon and so far love the color reproduction from all the pics I have seen from any of their cameras. But after somes looking around, it looks like the Minolta 5d is another compelling choice.

Any advice on these two or others I may not be considering for the purposes of taking pics on safari?

I'm leaning towards the Rebel, as I am a complete amateur:G and know practically nothing:?. I am planning on taking some basic courses and using the next 6 months to really get familiar with the camera and various lighting conditions.

Which also brings me to another question about the lens to use, but maybe that's another post?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!!


mtclimber Jan 6, 2006 11:40 AM


It is just a thought, but perhaps the best road to real photo progress might be via a college or university course, or a well structured workshop. Look for a course or workshop that has a good number of actual shooting sessions where professional help is available on a one to one basis or near one to one basis.


JohnG Jan 6, 2006 4:30 PM

Buying any DSLR is buying a 'system' not just a camera and lens. And, when you add the criteria of safari pics to it, you are talking about a fairly significant investment - probably in the neighborhood of $2000 - $3000 for bare minimum equipment. The question is: do you have enough of an interest outside of the trip to really spend that kind of money? Not trying to talk you out of it - I've been bit hard by the DSLR bug and it's a great hobby. So, is $3000 a reasonable amount of money to spend for you? And again, that figure is fairly low and only based upon the concept of the camera and a single good quality telephoto with the reach recommended for a trip like that.

That question asside - selecting a DSLR is more about selecting a camera system than it is about just selecting a camera body. In the long run you will spend more BY FAR for the lenses you use than you will for the camera body. There are also other aspects that certain manufacturers do better than others. For instance, Canon tends to be the camera of choice for many pro sports shooters because of the focus systems on the pro level cameras and the quality of Canon's top-notch prime lenses. Nikon by many accounts has a much better flash system than Canon does.

So, assuming you're willing to spend $3000 to get started in DSLRs for your trip - what other types of photography do you like to do?

hwalin Jan 6, 2006 5:20 PM

Hi John!

Thanks for your response. To be honest, $3000 is a bit steep for me. But going on this trip issort of a "once in a lifetime" kind of trip for me and doing it now makes more sense than much later in life. All I know for sure is my 5MP Konica point n shoot won't cut it. So I could be wrong, but I don't see having another choice in the manner other than getting a DSLR.

Having said that, I have not gotten much into photography but I do know that when the need comes for it, I am often completely unsatisfied with the picture I've taken. For example, I love ambient light rather than the harshness a flash can do to an object. But I don't know enough to properly take a picture without. I can increase exposure but my pictures end up blurry, etc. etc.

So I have the willingness to learn and I think I'd like to go beyond the "average" consumer photographer but $3000 at once is definitely out of my budget for this trip. I was thinking no more than $1500 max.

As far as what pictures I like to take, I like to take pictures mostly when I travel, either of my fiance, both of us, our friends, and scenic images if applicable. I put together a collage of the Colorado mountains in some black and white images that my fiance eventually hung up in our living room. But as far as sports or fast action photography, it probably won't come up much. On a side note, I see myself taking a lot of pictures of our pets because my fiance are kind of pathetic like that:-).

Do you really think that unless I spend $3000, it's probably not worth pursuing? Is there another option? I really don't think there is a point and shoot that could accomplish the job in this case but then again, I don't know what I don't know.


mtclimber Jan 6, 2006 5:52 PM


I sincerely believe that there are lesser priced options that could give you a good start. Beyond that you can add additional lenses as you need them. Because you mentioned ambient light photos let's look at dSLR cameras that have higher ISO capbabilities.

Why not take a look at the Pentax 1st DS/D2/DL line of cameras for starters. The Pentax 1st DS with the kit lens (18-55mm) would give you a basic camera and a lens for close shots. Thus far the cost is around $700. To that we will add a Sigma 28-300mm lens costing around $230. At about $930.00 you have some good close range as well so good telephoto capability. Yes, there are better cameras and lenses, but the increase in the quality of your photos would increase at most by about 20% to 30%, and no more.

That leaves you some money for data cards, accessories, and a camera bag and you are still below your $1,500 budget. Its just an idea to consider. But it give you another option to take those photos that you want.


hwalin Jan 6, 2006 7:03 PM


Thanks for the reply, I've bee reading quite a bit of your posts around this forum and realize I have much to learn. Thank you for being so helpful. It sounds like I have a great deal to learn and maybe should start looking at other DSLR options as well.

But to address my concern after JohnG's reply, do you think DSLR is the way to go here and only way to go? If so, I can work from there on options. As far as "budget," I like to get the best I can afford and your comment on 20-30% troubles me a bit.. I definitely plan on investing more into the camera in the future but for now, I was focusing only on camera and lens for 1500. Case accessories, etc. I can deal with separately. Do you foresee something as far as expensive equipment I may need in the short term for this trip?

Plus,do you offer courses in the east coast anywhere?



mtclimber Jan 6, 2006 7:56 PM


Here is another possibility take a look at the the very capable Fuji S-5200 sell at about $350 or the Fuji S-9000 selling at $500. Both are good cameras with excellent lenses. That is another option that leaves you with money to complete your kit.

No, they are SLR-like camera that give you a lot of zoom power, not dSLR cameras. I am just trying to give you options.


mtclimber Jan 6, 2006 8:39 PM

1 Attachment(s)

Here is a sample photo from the Fuji S-5200. You can see it is quite sharp. This was a flash photo and the DOF is also demonstrated as well.


hwalin Jan 7, 2006 11:16 AM

Mtclimber, how close can these SLR-like cameras get me to the object? I will be about anywhere between 40 and 100 feet from the object. Will these work and get the close ups I need?


mtclimber Jan 7, 2006 11:19 AM


Figure it this way: with 10X optical zoom, at 40 feet you should be able to get approximately a head shot. Will that solve the problem?


JohnG Jan 7, 2006 2:37 PM

My estimate was around $3000 because the stated purpose was for a safari in Kenya. Which means long range capability and preferably a wide aperture. I think there are quite a few options for $1500 or less but I'm not sure how well the 5200 or 9000 is going to do in that situation. What I would hate for you to do is spend $1000 on new camera equipment and be dissatisfied with the results. You can take a look on a site like pbase to see what types of safari shots people have taken and what equipment they have used.

And for that matter, what equipment did your friend use? You mention an SLR but which one and what type of lens.

I think MTs suggestions are very good for the rest of your photography needs but buying a $1000 DSLR camera and using a $200-300 zoom lens on it does not have a high probability of producing breathtaking photos from a safari I wouldn't think - unless they get you very close to the animals in good light conditions.

bernabeu Jan 7, 2006 3:09 PM

KM 5D................................................ .......................$725

KM 28-100 'kit' lens.............................................. ....$60

Used Minolta HS AF 80-200mm f2.8 APO..................$750

total............................................. .............................$1530

equivalent 35 coverage = 42-300mm

mtclimber Jan 7, 2006 8:08 PM


Well, the questions have been validly raised. Thus far, we have looked at both the lowest and lower cost alternatives for your African Safari. Is it time to examine some mid range alternatives?


hwalin Jan 8, 2006 11:31 PM

Everyone, thanks for all your help so far.

JohnG, I will take a look at that website you offered up and see what I can find out. I'll also ask my friend what type of lens he has to figure out his setup and cost.

Mtclimber, I'm willing to look at "midrange" options as well. What do you have in mind?


peripatetic Jan 9, 2006 2:24 AM

If you're looking for a decent midrange set I would recommend:

Canon 20D + 17-85 IS as a kit. ($1660)
Canon EF 70-300 IS. ($1110)

If that's too much then consider the XT:

Canon Rebel XT + 17-85 IS. ($1174)
Canon EF 70-300 IS. ($1110)

Prices from B&H taking rebates into account.

Both those setups will serve you well on your safari and for general photography before and after. To significantly improve on the picture quality possible with those setups will mean you will have to start spending some serious cash.

The image quality is essentially identical between the 20D and the XT, but the 20D as a camera is just a bit nicer in every department.

Another possibility worth considering is

KM 5D + 18-70 kit. ($ 600)
Sigma 100-300 EX f4. ($ 800)
Sigma 1.4X teleconverter ($ 170)

Which is a bit cheaper - possibly more around the price you're looking for and will also serve very well on your safari and thereafter.

The KM 5D has the big (price) advantage that it has Anti-Shake built into the body whereas Canon has it in the lenses. Canon has an advantage in megapixels and AF speed but if you want to spend $1500, the KM option is very attractive indeed and that setup will certainly mean that for a long time the limiting factor is likely to be the photographer, not the equipment.

The Sigma 100-300 EX f4 lens will allow you to add a 1.4x teleconverter and still maintain AF extending your range to 420mm. That is a very very sharp lens, probably the best made by any manufacturer that covers that range.

You will need at least a 2Gb CF card to hold a day's images, preferably 2 of them in case one malfunctions.

You are also going to need a way of getting your photographs off your camera onto another sort of storage - I happened to be on a 3 hour game drive yesterday and took around 300 photos, so you should probably count on up to 500 a day.

The best thing would be to take along a laptop with DVD burner so you can transfer them to a hard drive and take a DVD backup of the images you shoot that day every night.

hwalin Jan 9, 2006 9:06 AM

Hi Peri,

There seems to be two Canon lenses for the 75-300mm size and at different price points. One is more compact and expensive (the one you mentioned) and one is half the price. Any idea what the difference is?


peripatetic Jan 9, 2006 9:17 AM

Yes the cheap one is dreadful. Avoid it like the plague. You'd be better off with the Sigma 70-300 APO DG Macro.

But it doesn't have IS and on safari you will be shooting hand-held from the back of a Land Rover so you will want the image stabilisation.

You could get away with the Sigma 70-300 if you were to go the KM 5D route on the body.

That would bring the KM 5D package costs right down too.

KM 5D + 18-70 kit. ($ 600)
Sigma 70-300 ($ 200)

Still a very respectable package i.t.o. image quality, and very good value for money. IMO probably as good as any 2 lens + camera combo you can get for < $1500.

It gives you image stablisation and a focal length equivalent of 29mm-450mm in 35mm terms.

BillDrew Jan 9, 2006 9:49 AM

No comment on the camera and lens, but you do have one issue well thought out:

hwalin wrote:

... I am planning on taking some basic courses and using the next 6 months to really get familiar with the camera and various lighting conditions. ...

Don't dawdle and let the time to learn how to use whatever you get become much shorter than that. The last thing you want to be doing on your honeymoon is reading a manual to figure out how to use the camera.

For the same reason, get a whole bunch of memory. You don't want to spend your time squinting at a little LCD trying to decide which pictures to delete so you have space for the next days shooting. Get the memory well in advance as well: most electronic stuff will either fail in a couple of months or will work well for a long time. Unlikely to have problems, but if you do, you don't want it to happen on your honeymoon.

hwalin Jan 10, 2006 1:24 PM

Hi all,

Thanks for all the help. I think I've narrowed it down to the KM 5D and the Canon Rebel XT, which has been discussed in these forums to death. What it boils down to for me is the IS capability of the KM and the color reproduction of the Canon. I just love the color the Canon provides and am very satisifed with Canon pics I've seen to date. The KM I have less experience with in seeing real photos but the reviews have been very good, so I'm not that worried but I do suspect I may not like the color as well. On the other hand, the IS built into the body of the KM sounds like a very convenient feature and may save me money on lenses down the road.

I guess it boils down to personal preference at this point. I think that regardless of the camera I choose, I will probably get a 75-300mm lens from the appropriate manufacturer or a Sigma lens as some of you have suggested. I'll post my final decision whenever that comes. Thanks for all your help guys!


MaryRose Jan 12, 2006 11:48 AM

Hi- I realize you posted your last reply a week ago. Perhaps you have already purchased your camera. If is something I discovered in the last few days.

Based on everything we had read about the Rebel XT my husband decided it was the one he wanted. We went to a camera store to see the camera in person. I was shocked that we both hated the XT. I had read warnings that the grip was small. My hands are not large so I didn't think it would be a problem for me. It was. I felt like I was going to drop it atany second. It was very uncomfortable for my husband as well.

We then looked at the Nikon D50 and the KM 5D. We decided on the KMK5D based on the anti-shake feature, user friendly controls and large menu display on the LCD.

We have since spoken with sales people in several local camera stores. They highly recommend both the Nikon D50and KM 5D but lean towards the KM for the IS (anti-shake) feature.

If you can - check out the camera in person before you buy.

Good luck and have fun on your trip!!


MaryRose Jan 12, 2006 2:30 PM

kwalin - another thought regarding lenses. We are planning on getting the Tamron 18-200mm Di-II Konica Minolta lense for our KM 5D. (It is designed to be used withdigital SLR's. Tamron makesthis lense for KM, Nikon, Canon, etc. so you can purchase the one that corresponds with the camera you purchase.)

My husband and I have spent many years using SLR cameras and changing lenses. When we bought our last SLR we decided to try the Tamron 28-200mm lense so wewouldn'thave to change lenses. We have been very happy with the lense and we plan on buying the Tamron 18-200mmDi-II to usewith our new KM 5D.

It's so convenient to switch from very close range to a wide angledistance shot in a matter of seconds without changing lenses!

If you search around the internet you will find criticism for this lense as well as people that say they are very happy with it as a "walk around lense". Based on our positive experiece with the Tamron 28-200mwith our SLR we aregoing to buy the Di-II.

I recenlty spoke with a salesman at a very reputable local camera shop. He has the DI-II and has been very happy with it as well.

Good luck!

Mary Rose

peripatetic Jan 13, 2006 3:18 AM


We have been very happy with the lense and we plan on buying the Tamron 18-200mm Di-II to use with our new KM 5D
200mm is going to be quite limiting on safari I think.

You really want 300mm minimum, a 300+1.4x teleconverter would be even better.

Also there is usually a fairly significant quality improvement to be gained from splitting the focal length range into 2 lenses. The 18-200 is certainly a convenient range for a walkaround lens though and would be sensible choice if you only want one lens.

MaryRose Jan 13, 2006 9:43 AM

Excellent suggestion, Peripatetic!! (I forgot they will begoing on asafari!!)


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