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FORUMS Canon Cameras, Lenses & Accessories Canon EOS Digital Cameras 
Thread started 28 Aug 2011 (Sunday) 07:29
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Which Body for Safari?

118 posts
Joined Nov 2010
Aug 28, 2011 07:29 |  #1

Hi guys.

Please could you let me know your thoughts on either taking my 5d mark II away to Botswana for safari, along with 2 or 3 lenses, or to take an old 550D instead?

The latter is lighter and will have a more desirable crop factor when it comes to getting a little bit more on the sensor.


Ps, lenes I might be taking (renting) are

16-35 f/ 2.8 ii
24-105 f4 L (owned)
70-300 f/4 - 5.6 L


Canon 5D Mk II - 24-105 L - 85 1.8 - EX 580 II - LEE Filters

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Senior Member
887 posts
Joined Jun 2006
Aug 28, 2011 07:48 |  #2

Take them both. The extra body is not that big or heavy, and gives you the option of a very quick change to a different focal length. The 5D will do anything you ask of it, and is wonderful for landscape, and the 550D will give you the crop like you've said.

If a 7D would have been an option here, I would have said take it. I have been on assignment in Alaska this summer and I just took my 7D 24-105 and 100-400. They've done fine for everything this summer.

You may want to look into something longer than a 300mm lens, and at the very least a 1.4x converter. I have never been on Safari, but it's rare that I've ever had a lens that's long enough in many situations.

Rule books are paper they will not cushion a sudden meeting of stone and metal -ekg-

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Joined Jun 2003
Location: The Fun Coast of Florida
Aug 28, 2011 07:55 |  #3

I agree with taking both. Put your longest lens on the 550 and your widest on the 5D and avoid switching lenses at all. It's my understanding that there's a heavy dust factor there and every time you take the lens off the camera you run the risk of getting a problem.

Take a 400mm lens, minimum. I carried a 150-500 Sigma OS to India for a month, keeping it on a 7D. And a 60D had a 15-85 IS. You do many things with the combinations. For instance, I want a view camera-like detailed image of the Qutab Minar, so using the 60D and setting the 15-85mm IS at 50mm and spot metering to avoid exposure changes i got this:

IMAGE LINK:​photos/clgriffin/60889​57556/  (external link)
qutabminar2pan (external link) by C L Griffin/Advaitin (external link), on Flickr

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With the Bigmos, I caught a young wild elephant with his mouth open.

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Cream of the Crop
44,642 posts
Likes: 134
Joined Dec 2010
Aug 28, 2011 09:17 |  #4

Nice photos, like that tower shot

34 posts
Joined Jul 2008
Location: San Francisco bay area
Aug 28, 2011 11:24 |  #5

I just got back from Botswana a few weeks ago. It's the dustiest place I've ever been. Take both bodies, for two reasons: a) it'd be a shame to travel halfway around the world to take photos and have the only camera body you brought fail, two bodies is at least some insurance against that, and b) take both bodies with you every day so you can avoid changing lenses in the field. It's hard to overstate how dusty it is, and how fine the dust is - imagine abrasive talcum powder.

You'll probably use the 70 - 300 lens the most & the 24-105 the least. I used a 70-200 2.8 for about 70% of the shots & a 300mm 2.8 for another 20%, then a wide angle for the rest. Plan that you'll be shooting a lot of photos in marginal light - early in the morning and near or after dusk.

Take supplies with you to clean your sensors - you'll probably have to do it at least once, even if you are oh so careful not to change bodies outside.

Think about how you'll backup your photos while you're there. Take lots of compact flash/SD cards - I took 110 gb of photos in 3 weeks. Have backups of your back up plans - I had two brand new SanDisk compact flash cards fail while I was there - probably due to the dust.

You'll have a great time - I'm already planning my next trip to Africa.

138 posts
Joined Aug 2011
Aug 28, 2011 13:15 |  #6

I did a Safari in Tanzania Dec last year.. My recommendations are 2 bodies, one crop with atleast 400mm and one FF/crop with normal to wide.. The animals are amazing, and the 400mm really are needed, I often felt like that wasn't enough on crop. But not to be frogotten the landscape sure is stunning, you will want to get some shots of it without changeing lenses. I personally like to take more casual shots of my travelling companions etc, and here the normal/wide will come to great use.

And yes, the dust is sometimes unbearable, atleast. On my 550D I'm pretty sure it got in even if I only changed lenses in the tents, never in the field or in the car. However, I guess it would have been worse if I did change all the time. If it gets really windy I would recommend a UV/Skylight filter atleast to protect your lens, and if you really want to baby it get som covering for the lens body too.

Now don't forget that this will be an amazing experience in every way. Enjoy and I hope you get alot of good photos!

57 posts
Joined Jan 2011
Location: UK
Aug 28, 2011 13:46 |  #7

I agree with taking 2 bodies and at least 400mm.
I am going to Kenya later this week and I will be taking two 7D bodies, a 500mm lens, a 70-200mm mkII with 1.4 and 2x extenders and a 24-70. The last time I went 3 years ago nearly 50% on the images I took were with the 500mm.

118 posts
Joined Nov 2010
Aug 28, 2011 13:59 |  #8

Thank you very much!

I'll be renting some equipment so I shall definitely bear in mind the 400mm aspect. Would you recommend the 100-400 over the 400mm fixed?

I will also definitely not try and change any lenses in the field. I do want to travel lightly, however. 2 bodies is a good idea. Perhaps I can rent a 7D over the 550D (which is a friends that I would borrow anyway).

Fuzzybunny, as you have been to Botswana (where I am going) was your 70-200 f/2.8 long enough or were you using a converter? Mounted on a crop body I think that it could be great.

Filters - Great idea. I want to protect the lenses and not incur any fines for handing them back in a bad condition!
Back up cards and lots of cards - yes. I will not be taking a laptop with me and so I will not be able to format any of the cards when they are used up. I think we are going away for 8 days on camp. At the moment I have 2 x 8Gb cards, a 16gb and a 4gb totalling 36Gb. That's just over 4Gb per day on average. This SHOULD be enough but another couple of 16Gb cards would be a useful investment for this once in a lifetime trip!

So your advice is 2 bodies, one FF one crop.
1 wide lens for landscape
1 at least 300mm (possibly 70-300 L as it is very light, though does not work with tele converters)
one perhaps standard zoom - 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II with a converter as well?

Thank you!

Canon 5D Mk II - 24-105 L - 85 1.8 - EX 580 II - LEE Filters

138 posts
Joined Aug 2011
Aug 28, 2011 14:35 |  #9

I use the 100-400 and I like it alot. However, I guess you'll find yourself in the 400mm position most of the time.

Senior Member
522 posts
Joined Mar 2010
Location: S.E. Qld, Australia
Aug 28, 2011 16:12 |  #10

Take the 5D, it is better sealed against the dust and weather, better still take a 7D and get the best of both worlds. If you take a wide angle - 10-22mm, you'll get 16mm as a minimum on a crop. If you take a Bigma (150-500 ) and a 2x TC you'll shoot at a maximum 1600mm - that's a frigging Telescope if you use a crop sensor camera. My advice - take a 7D, you will also get the benefit of 8 fps.

Regards, Dutch

57 posts
Joined Jan 2011
Location: UK
Aug 28, 2011 16:14 |  #11

The 100-400 will be more flexible allowing you to photograph the animals as they move.
I went to Botswana some years ago and in my experience you would need to use a converter with a 70-200. When I went they were not allowed to go off the tracks so the animals can be a little way from the vehicle, at other time they can be right next to you, hence the zoom of a 100-400 or 70-200 with converter is more flexible than a fixed focal lenght.
I suggest taking as much memory as possible you will take more images than you think, if you are taking raw files I would suggest quite a bit more than you have.

3,875 posts
Likes: 81
Joined Jun 2010
Location: Atlanta
Aug 28, 2011 17:19 as a reply to  @ simonjs's post |  #12

Absolutely take two bodies...for two reasons. One body could die. The second reason is to have two bodies with different lenses ready for anything at any time. Last year in Kruger SA we have our 40D loaded with rented 500m (sometimes with 1.4 TC). On the 7Ds we had our 100-400s with which we did most of the shooting.

I agree on the one crop and one FF body if possible. I am changing out our 40Ds to 5DIIs this year.

1,053 posts
Likes: 5
Joined May 2010
Location: Toronto ON
Aug 28, 2011 19:49 |  #13

I've been to Botswana (aka "the hot country") many times. Your lens choice will be really dependent on where you're going.

Out on the Makgadigadi Pans, you might want a UWA or the 24-105. In the swamps, you may come accross animals that are touching distance (but don't) or a couple of hundred metres away. The suggestion of a 70-300 on the 550 is a good one. Alternatively, a 70-200 with a tc on the 550 and a 24-105 on the 5D2 will cover you fine.

It's also a good idea to carry a LOT of baggies to store your individual lenses. If the wind gets up, you'll battle to keep the dust out. Pay particualr attention to keeping dust out of your camera - never change lenses when you're on the truck.

If you're in a safari truck, a monopod or a large beanbag can be very helpful.

The sunsets can be spectacular so an inverted ND grad filter is worth having. If you're going to shoot landscapes, you should also consider a light tripod. The light is extremely harsh, so a polariser is a good idea too.

Several cameras and more glass than I will admit to.
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Cream of the Crop
10,649 posts
Gallery: 1 photo
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Joined Jul 2007
Location: Sussex, UK
Aug 29, 2011 12:34 |  #14

I've been to Botswana twice. The first time (external link) I used a 70-300 DO and the second time (external link) was with a 300 f2.8 plus a70-200.

Definitely take two bodies. I would strongly recommend the 100-400 on a 7D and the 240-105 on the 5D MkII.

Don't get too worried about dust. As long as you're not totally idiotic then there should be no problem changing lenses in the field. Indeed, apart from in moving vehicles, I reckon you'll find more dust in a normal urban environment than you will in most of Africa. When travelling I have my gear on the seat next to me, with a fleece or similar over it.

Frank Hollis - Retired mass spectroscopist
Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll complain about the withdrawal of his free fish entitlement.
Gear Website (external link)

38 posts
Likes: 1
Joined Jul 2010
Aug 30, 2011 09:38 |  #15

[I]I do want to travel lightly, however.
I guess weight is not an issue, as you probably will be spending most of the time in a jeep or truck. My photobag weighs some 20k (approx. 40 pounds) and that has never been an issue; when I have to carry it over longer distances, I get a porter :-)
In Africa, a lens can never be long enough. I once shot a leopard with a 500mmf4, with a 2x and 1.4 converter and that was barely enough. And in Botswana you'll see lots of birds...

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Which Body for Safari?
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