Going out on a safari is a once-in-a-lifetime (or once a decade at least) kind of experience for the vast majority of us. I speak from experience when I say going on a safari is one of the most magical things you’ll ever experience and something you’ll treasure forever.
An experience like that deserves to be remembered with high-quality photographs and video footage that you can look back on in years to come and share with friends.
For that reason, many of us look to either purchase our first or upgrade our pre-existing camera for the trip – again, I speak from experience. I bought a new camera and a whole host of new accessories before my first safari trip, and I have zero regrets about doing so.
Based on my personal experience, I’m excited to share with you in this post exactly what makes an excellent camera for safari and why – as well as some of my personal favourite choices available to buy right now.
I’ve broken this post down into multiple sections with a real focus on people who have limited camera knowledge. Throughout the post, I’ll explain more about the different types of cameras, from point and shoot to mirrorless and DSLR, as well as dedicated video recording cameras.
Below each section, I’ll share my favourite picks and explain why I’ve chosen these cameras. All of this should help you refind what camera type you need and ultimately find the right camera for your safari.
However, should you at any point have any questions about a camera or a specific camera type, simply leave us a comment at the bottom of this post. We aim to respond within 72 hours.
Table of Contents
- Factors To Consider When Choosing A Camera For Safari
- Best Camera For Safari For Beginners
- Best Point & Shoot Camera For Safari
- Best Mirrorless Camera For Safari
- Best DSLR Cameras For Safari
- Best Video Camera For Safari
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Camera For Safari
There are loads of great cameras on the market right now; however, not all of them are best suited to the conditions of a safari, nor are all of them suitable for beginners.
In this section of the article, I’ll be covering what makes an excellent camera for safari and why. Ultimately, the features you’ll want to be focusing on specifically are;
- Frames Per Second
These factors are based on understanding the scenarios you and your camera will be getting into during your safari trip. You’ll be a relatively long distance away from the animals for the most part.
You’ll likely be in a jeep or 4×4 truck on rugged terrain and dirt tracks during your safari, which makes the camera being both lightweight and have an auto-focus essential – the latter so especially for beginners.
Don’t worry if you don’t know what all of these terms mean just yet, nor what makes a good camera weight; for example, I’m going over all of this below.
The majority of modern-day camera weighs between 130g and 1kg. However, the exact weight can vary significantly depending on the accessories (such as battery packs) and the lens attachment.
When we upgraded from the Canon G7X Mark III to the Canon M50 we struggled to maintain our balance when shooting. The added weight had a significant negative impact on the footage and photos we could take.
Not only were the photos poor, in some cases, but we also missed out altogether as we were unable to hold the camera for any longer.
While the difference in weight of the camera body was just 50g, with the addition of a lens on the M50 the actual difference was nearer to 200g. The added weight was suddenly the equivalent of us holding two Canon G7X’s in one hand – something neither of us had trained for.
If you already have a camera at home, you’re at an advantage as you’ll be able to use this camera as a base weight to see the maximum weight you’d be willing to hold.
To do this, I recommend weighing your camera. You can do this by searching the camera’s weight online or simply using a pair of clean kitchen scales.
Then hold your camera in the point and shoot mode for 5 minutes.
Can you do it without your whole body aching?
Did you have to put the camera down?
Could you comfortably hold another one?
Use the answer to these questions to determine the maximum weight of the camera you purchase. Remember that and hold the camera when taking photographs; you’ll be required to transport the camera.
That means both domestically in a truck or car and internationally on a plane in most cases.
For the majority of cameras, this means a case to keep the camera safe, an additional SD card or two, an extra battery or two, as well as the camera charger at a minimum.
If you’re looking to purchase a DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses for your safari trip, then this means all of the above and some more.
All this can easily add an extra 2KG to your day bag and, ultimately, your luggage (most of which will likely be going in your hand luggage for maximum protection).
As the camera is likely the heaviest item you’ll purchase, be sure to understand what the extra 100g or upgrade to a camera with interchangeable lenses may mean for your total camera luggage weight overall.
Frames Per Second
Frames per second refer to the rate at which the camera can take photographs.
As you’ll likely be on rugged terrain with both yourself and often the animals moving at pace, having a camera with high frames per second is going to give you the best chance of getting a good shot.
Sidenote: If you’re only planning on purchasing a video camera then instead of low frames per second you want between 24 and 60 FPS with the most common being 30FPS at 1080HD.
Most cameras have an average of 6FPS during the continuous shooting setting (also known as burst mode). The optimum FPS for a camera on safari is between 4FPS and 10FPS.
Breaking this down further, let’s assume we’ve stopped for 10 seconds to capture a zebra in the wild.
With my 4FPS camera, I’ll be able to take 40 photos during that time on a continuous shooting mode (4 frames per second x 10 seconds); however, with my 10FPS camera, I’d be able to take over double (10 frames per second x 10 seconds).
A camera sensor determines the amount of light that can enter the camera. Light is used to create an image and helps to give the camera information. Simply put, the more information the camera has, the more detailed image it will produce.
Therefore, you’ll find that a camera with a larger sensor will produce a better image. This is regardless of the number of megapixels the camera has.
For example, if you have two cameras which are both 20px, however, one has a sensor that is 1/3″ in size and the other has a 1.5″ sensor, then the one with the larger sensor (the 1.5″ sensor) will produce a better image.
Having a suitable sensor is essential for producing great photos in low light and helps to give an image a better depth of field. Both of these things are what you’ll likely experience during a safari, as you’ll be likely going out at dawn or dusk and shooting from a distance.
You’ll find that smartphones and point and shoot / compact cameras generally have a smaller sensor when compared to a DSLR, for example.
However, a camera with a better sensor is also likely to mean more money, so while I suggest keeping this information in mind when choosing your camera, it’s not something that should make or break your decision as a better sensor could mean a $100+ difference in price.
Camera sensor information can get pretty intense pretty fast; however, if you’re interested in learning more, I suggest checking out this blog post.
The majority of cameras today have some form of autofocus which can be used as an alternative to a manual setting and is ideal for photography beginners.
A camera’s autofocus uses a sensor, a control system and a monitor to focus on an area (either automatically or in some cameras manually – by selecting the main topic of the photo using the LCD screen).
The autofocus will adjust the camera lens to achieve the best photograph possible.
Great image explainer from Digital Camera World.
However, some people prefer to take photos manually and adjust the lens and other camera settings themself for each image; while this does take longer, if you know what you’re doing, you can achieve a better photo this way.
Manual settings are ideal for those looking to take images with personality, for example, a hint of darkness, flashing lights or cars driving by.
However, you’ll often find that you have little time to prepare for the shot during a safari, especially if you’re a beginner photographer and aren’t familiar with all the settings on your camera just yet.
As a result, you may miss a golden photo opportunity, so instead, having a camera with superb autofocus allows you to take photos quickly while still achieving a great shot.
Unlike some of the other factors listed above, autofocus isn’t quantitative and therefore can’t be measured or compared. All the cameras listed below I’ve personally checked to ensure the autofocus is as good as it can be given the price point and other factors of the camera.
That said, it’s always worth double-checking the camera reviews before purchase to see what other camera owners have to say about this particular feature.
DSLR and mirrorless cameras have lenses that can be interchanged. A different lens can create an entirely different image and give you a lot of flexibility as a photographer.
However, camera lenses are notoriously expensive and range from $100 to $5,000, depending on what you’re looking for.
Great image explainer from Capture The Atlas
If you have the budget and are looking to improve your photography skills over the next couple of years, then investment into one of these cameras and a couple of lenses might be right for your safari trip.
Different lenses are beneficial on a safari trip as longer lenses will help you get a better, closer shot of something far off in the distance – such as an animal.
Much like camera sensors, there is a lot to learn about camera lenses, so I suggest reading more if this sounds like something you might be interested in.
Best Camera For Safari For Beginners
If you’re short on time, then this table should help. Use the different specifics discussed above to decide on a camera (or a smaller number of cameras) that are right for you.
Once you’ve decided on the camera that’s right for your trip, you can go ahead and click either the link under the purchase column in the table below or the button below each of the camera details further down this post.
Below this table, you’ll find more in-depth information about each camera. To learn more about the cameras listed, click on the links below to fast-track to the post area.
|Camera Name||Weight||Megapixel||Video||Adjustable Lenses||Purchase|
|Canon G7X Mark III||294g||20.1||4K||No||Buy Now|
|Olympus TG-5||250g||12||4K||No||Buy Now|
|Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV||620g||20||4K||Yes||Buy Now|
|GoPro HERO8||120g||10||4K||No||Buy Now|
|DJI Osmo Pocket||116g||12||4K||No||Buy Now|
|Canon EOS 4000D||436g||18||HD||Yes||Buy Now|
|Nikon D3500||420g||24.78||HD||Yes||Buy Now|
|Canon M50||387g||24.1||4K||Yes||Buy Now|
|Nikon D5600||415g||24.2||HD||Yes||Buy Now|
|Sony A7 III||650g||24.2||4K||Yes||Buy Now|
|Fujifilm X-T30||333g||26.1||4K||Yes||Buy Now|
Consider partnering your new camera equipment with some fantastic travel photography tips.
Having the right equipment is only 30% of the equation for taking a successful photo. 20% comes from the actual shot, while I’ve found the remaining 50% is based on knowledge and experience.
Best Point & Shoot Camera For Safari
Point and shoot cameras are small pocket-size cameras with no interchangeable lenses and a limited number of settings.
They provide a restriction on the photograph you can take in that respect. However, they quickly make up for it by being portable, lightweight and affordable.
Point and shoot cameras are perfect for those who have never owned a standalone camera before.
A good point and shoot camera usually retail for between $100 and $800, although you can often find good deals on the second-hand market or from major retailers when newer models are released.
Many people probably wouldn’t refer to the Canon G7X Mark III as a point and shoot camera, but it certainly fits the specifications.
The camera weighs under 300g and fits nicely in your pocket, which is why it’s become somewhat of a staple for Youtube vloggers.
This is the third release of the Canon G7X (hence the mark III at the end).
So, if you don’t have the budget for this camera but like its look, consider getting a Mark II instead.
While the specification difference between Mark II and Mark III is minimal, the price difference (based on second-hand pricing) is between 30% and 50% depending on where you buy the camera.
- 20.1 Megapixel
- Shoots in 4K
- 20FPS continuous shooting speed
- 13.2 x 8.8mm sensor
- Image stabilization
2. Olympus TG-5
The Olympus TG-5 is one of the worse performing cameras included on this list, with just a 12-megapixel lens. However, what it lacks in quality, it makes up for in durability, which makes it so perfect for taking on safari.
If you’re worried about taking an expensive camera on safari and damaging it, then the Olympus TG-5 should give you plenty of peace of mind as it’s labelled as ‘damage proof’.
This includes being waterproof up to 15m, drop-proof from a height of up to 2.1 metres, freezeproof up to -10c as well as being crushproof which allows the camera to withstand a load of up to 100kg
If you’d like to expand the durability of this camera even further during future trips then consider also picking up the dedicated waterproof case, which will then allow the camera to be waterproof up to 45m.
- Charged using USB
- 4K video recording
- 3″ LCD Screen
- 1/2.3″ sensor
- 4x optical zoom
Best Mirrorless Camera For Safari
Mirrorless cameras have grown in popularity in recent years for those looking to bridge the gap between a point and shoot compact camera and a DSLR.
A mirrorless camera has interchangeable lenses, much like a DSLR however, unlike a DSLR it doesn’t use. a mirror to reflect the image back into the viewfinder (hence the name mirrorless).
As a result, the camera has all the style of a DSLR camera but is actually often around a third smaller and weighs significantly less.
With less of an internal process during the image taking process the majority of mirrorless cameras have a faster shutter speed (FPS) when compared. to the DSLR equivalent.
The entry-level camera for the Olympus brand is this stylish Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV. This camera favours an old-style metal look which has proven incredibly popular for the camera manufacturer (as reflected in the sales of the Olympus Pen).
With the option of both filming in 4K or shooting in 20MP this camera is certainly flexible.
However, unlike its competitor on this list, it has no mic input so if you’re looking to film more high-quality video than you are taking photographs then the next camera may be better suited to your needs.
A stand out feature on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is the selfie screen which flips down below the camera allowing you to take perfect in-frame, ion focus shots every time.
- 17.4 mm x 13.0 mm sensor
- 4K video recording
- Interchangeable lenses
- 20 megapixels
- Wifi and Bluetooth built-in
4. Canon M50
You’ll find that the vast majority of amateur photographers stick to one brand of the camera as they continue to upgrade over the years. Helen and I are no different, since starting this blog we’ve always had Canon.
One of our latest purchases is the Canon M50, a compact, mirrorless camera that shoots in 4K and has the ability to add on an external microphone (perfect for our Youtube videos).
The camera boasts 24 megapixels and has the ability for you to change lenses.
- 10FPS continuous shooting
- WiFi / NFC and Bluetooth capabilities
- 4K video capabilities
- External microphone ready
- 24.1 megapixels
- 22.3 x 14.9 mm sensor
5. Sony A7 III
The Sony A7 III is one of the most high-end mirrorless cameras currently on the market, and it has a price tag to prove it.
Ideal for those looking to switch between 4K photographs and high-resolution images this camera is as versatile as they come.
However, with more versatility comes more settings to fiddle with which makes taking the time to get to know your camera particularly important here.
The Sony A7 III boasts 5-axis image stabilization, which is ideal for the rugged terrain you’re likely to face while out on safari. Meanwhile, the 35.6 x 23.8 mm sensor will ensure that every photo is captured in incredible detail.
- 24.2 megapixel
- 4K movie recording
- Animal eye autofocus
- 650g (body only)
Best DSLR Cameras For Safari
Finally, we have the DSLR cameras (which stands for; digital single-lens reflex). This camera works by using a mirror mechanism (unlike the mirrorless cameras above) to reflect light into either a viewfinder or an image sensor (depending on the camera you have / settings you’re on).
DSLR cameras are the most modern-day camera technology and as a result, often retail for in excess of $400. These prices are also often for the ‘body’ alone, with lenses being purchased in addition to the camera where required.
While basic lenses can be purchased for around $80 – $200 (or slightly less second hand) more high-end lenses cost thousands of dollars.
With the most powerful technology, and additional accessories required you’ll find that DSLR cameras once fully fitted weigh the most compared to any of the other cameras on this list.
However, if you’re committed to learning the ins and outs of photography then it’s these camera’s which are most likely to bring you the best end result.
The Canon EOS 4000D is one of the most affordable DSLR cameras on the market. An while that does hold the camera back in some places, it’s still a very valid option for those looking to make the switch to DSLR despite being on a tight budget.
The 18-megapixel camera comes with built-in Wi-Fi abilities allowing you to quickly transfer images from the camera to your smartphone and other devices on the go.
Meanwhile, the 22.3 x 14.9 mm sensor hooked up to the camera optical viewfinder makes taking high-quality images relatively straightforward.
The battery life of this camera is around 500 shots which makes purchasing, charging and packing additional batteries (alongside everything else before your safari trip) essential.
- 436g (body only)
- 22.3 x 14.9 mm sensor
- 18 megapixels
- Optical viewfinder with 9 point autofocus
- HD video recording
7. Nikon D3500
The Nikon D3500 is a substantial upgrade on its predecessor the D3400 which was retired by the company back in mid-2018. With a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS 4, 23.5 x 15.6mm sensor, HD recording capabilities and 5fps continuous shooting capabilities this entry-level DSLR is not one to be ignored.
In fact, as a beginner photographer and first time DSLR owner you’ll be pleased to know that the Nikon D3500 has been designed with you in mind.
That’s all thanks to the camera’s guide mode which tells you on the screen in real-time how to shoot in various situations and what settings to adjust or change to maximise your end result.
While this camera isn’t quite the size of a mirrorless camera, it is small and relatively lightweight coming in at just 415g (body only) which makes it ideal for those looking to take great photographs without compromising on size.
- 5fps continuous shooting
- 24.2 megapixels
- 23.5 x 15.6mm sensor
- Built-in Bluetooth
- Great battery life
8. Nikon D5600
An upgrade from the Nikon D3500 above is this Nikon D5600 which is packed full of features that will help take your safari photography to the next level.
This camera is the sixth in the D5000 range, and it’s clear to see how far Nikon has come to making this the very best camera that it can possibly be.
The impressive 23.5×15.6mm sensor is able to shoot continuously at 5FPS. Meanwhile, the 24-megapixel resolution and HD LCD screen make reviewing your shots on the go incredibly straightforward.
The camera has both Wi-Fi (NFC) and Bluetooth built-in and the battery is relatively long, averaging 970 shots before requiring charging.
One thing this camera does skip on, however, is 4K video recording; instead, you’ll only be achieving Full HD 1080P.
- 465g (body only)
- Wifi and Bluetooth
- Ability to add an external microphone or flash
- 24 megapixels
- 23.5×15.6mm sensor
Best Video Camera For Safari
While many of the cameras listed in this article can shoot video, having an additional camera constantly filming while taking singles on a high-end camera is, in my opinion, the way to get ‘the best of both worlds.
As a result, I’ve listed below my two favourite action cameras perfect for capturing footage in all of the conditions your safari is likely to throw at you.
Better still, adding one of these to your camera bag isn’t expensive and won’t take up a lot of additional space.
9. GoPro HERO8
GoPro has long been a favourite in the action sports world. Since the release of their first camera back in 2004, the company has consistently produced high end, lightweight and incredibly durable cameras.
The GoPro Hero8 shoots video in 4K however, it also has a 12MP lens for taking stills. The camera is waterproof up to 10m and weighs just 126 grams.
In my opinion, what sets the GoPro out from the rest of the action cameras that have come on the market since the concept was first developed back in 2004 (aside from the superior quality) is the extensive range of accessories.
From suction cup attachments to selfie sticks and surfboard straps, there’s an accessory that can be used to strap your GoPro safely to just about anything, which makes getting incredibly and highly unique footage incredibly easy.
- 4K camera
- Weighs 126g
- Charges from Micro USB
- Additional accessories readily available
- Voice activation / controls
10. DJI Osmo Pocket
DJI is a company that’s most famously known for producing drones. However, the company expanded into the action camera/video recording field with the release of the DJI Osmo Pocket at the end of 2018.
The ultra-lightweight camera is built directly onto a gimble for ultimate image stabilisation when recording.
This will allow you to film animals clearly and in focus despite being on rugged terrain during your safari.
An while the camera is incredibly affordable, it doesn’t stop it from packing a punch as it films in 4K at 60FPS, but that’s not all.
The DJI Osmo Pocket is renowned for being incredibly versatile, allowing you to shoot stills at 12mps, take panoramic photos, and slow-motion and motion lapse footage.
- 4K video recording
- Charges by USB
- Gimble based