When I go on safari, what’s in my camera bag?

Canon Rumors Guy

EOS-1D X Mark II
Jul 20, 2010
6,821
31
Canada
www.canonrumors.com
#1
This is a question that is asked constantly on forums around the web, what gear do I bring with me on an African safari?
I’m heading back to Kenya tomorrow for the great migration across the Masai Mara, which is the type of safari most people seem to do their first time to Africa. Shooting conditions are very similar between Kenya, Tanzania, and Botswana.
If you’re going to Rwanda or Uganda for gorillas and chimpanzees, you’ll definitely be taking different gear than you would be on the Serengeti.
So what gear do I bring?
I’m finding that I’m taking less and less gear with me each time I return to Africa. Part of this is likely due to the fact that I’m now going for specific images and I’m not trying to capture everything.
A good thing that has come out of multiple safaris, is I’ve used pretty much every big white lens from Canon and I know the strengths, weaknesses, and trade-offs for each.

Gear I’m bringing to Kenya this time and why:...
Continue reading...
 
Last edited:
Jun 3, 2016
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#2
I have been on three safaris to Southern Africa, the last one private, and all with the same guide, who is phenomenal. I have had six of my images published by Nat Geo. My recommendation IS the 200-400 with built in 1.4X for ONE simple reason: DUST. Prior to leaving, I mount one lens on one body, and they are not taken apart until I return home. Our next trip will be in October of 2019, and I will repeat most of what I took in 2016.
Canon 1Dx MK II with 200-400 mounted
Canon 1Dx with 70-200 2.8 mounted
Leica SL with 16-35 mounted
Gitzo Carbon monopod with Really Right Stuff head
Batteries, chargers, lens cleaning, table top tripod, yadda yadda: all fits into a Think Tank Airport 2 bag.
If you have not been, DUST is everywhere, worst above all in Namibia.
 
Likes: Daner

Canon Rumors Guy

EOS-1D X Mark II
Jul 20, 2010
6,821
31
Canada
www.canonrumors.com
#3
There's definitely a ton of dust, but you're usually in a dust cloud as vehicles are moving, which is not a good time to swap. If you have good technique when changing lenses, the dust has never really caused me any issues. YMMV
 
Apr 1, 2016
92
1
#4
Cool! Can see why you like the 400.
I frequently visit the Mara and my bag is a TT Airport commuter and it has 2x 5D IV, one 100-400II, a 500mm II, 1.4 converter and one small wider angle lens.
Praying for the photo gods I can add a mirrorless ff from Canon sometime ;)
Have a wonderful trip; I'm up in November and again in February!
 
Feb 10, 2016
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#5
Wife and I have done a number of safaris. Don't have the funds for the 400m f/2.8 L II sadly, but might rent one next time.
Our go-to kit (for 2 shooters):
5D4 - primary camera with 100-400 II L (wife likes the close-up work)
5D3 - primary camera 70-200 f/2.8 II L (mine for more animal-in-context)
77D - lightweight, strong IQ at low ISO, generally mounted with a 16-35mm f/2.8 L for landscapes.

The body & lens combos let us cover most requirement, little-to-no on-road lens swapping. Add in some Lee grad filters, and the all important circular polariser and that's about it.

Long-haul transport in a Peli1510 (with Trekpak inserts) and a large Lowepro messenger bag (which will hold the three bodies with mounted lens when in the jeep.

Best single recommendation I can give is - Zeiss lens-wipes. Easy to carry lots etc etc.
 
Jun 3, 2016
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#6
I just did a trip to Kruger and took two 5DMK4 bodies, 200-400, 70-200, 24-70 and a 16-35. I almost solely used the 200-400. For the most part it had enough reach, there were a few times I wish I had more lens. I’m not sure if I would rather have a longer lens or a 7DMK2 which would put you at 896mm. It was my first time using the 200-400 and I loved it. Having the versatility of a zoom definitely increased my hit rate. I think if I was shooting a prime TC combination I would have missed more shots. I don’t think there is a right or wrong combination and obviously the 400 2.8 is a great lens, it just is more time consuming to get to the right focal length.
 

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#7
I have been on three safaris to Southern Africa, the last one private, and all with the same guide, who is phenomenal. I have had six of my images published by Nat Geo. My recommendation IS the 200-400 with built in 1.4X for ONE simple reason: DUST. Prior to leaving, I mount one lens on one body, and they are not taken apart until I return home. Our next trip will be in October of 2019, and I will repeat most of what I took in 2016.
Canon 1Dx MK II with 200-400 mounted
Canon 1Dx with 70-200 2.8 mounted
Leica SL with 16-35 mounted
Gitzo Carbon monopod with Really Right Stuff head
Batteries, chargers, lens cleaning, table top tripod, yadda yadda: all fits into a Think Tank Airport 2 bag.
If you have not been, DUST is everywhere, worst above all in Namibia.

Tom,
Wondering, why add in a Leica SL and not have another Canon in the mix?
Thank you in advance
 
Jun 3, 2016
5
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#8
As much as I am a Canon fan, I have 3 Leicas, as the quality of the glass is incredible. My SL 16-35 was the 1st one sold in the US, and I use it extensively for landscape work, hand held only. My HDR tripod mounted cameras are a 5D MKIV and the Canon 5Ds. Actually the SL has not been to Africa yet. Last trip took an M240 with 35mm 1.4 attached, and a M240 with a 12mm Voigtlander attached (which got used very little).

Further note: due to flying many small bush planes, our weight limit (all luggage, clothes, cameras, etc) was 44 lb per person. Since the loaded Think Tank weighed in at 39 lb, I paid for an extra seat on these planes for the gear.
 
#13
My first trip to Africa, I took two bags (Gura Gear 32L & 26L ) full of equipment. I was on a photo tour and the organizer said to "bring it all" since we were staying in 3 camps in Botswana and using private charters with ample baggage allowance. Below is the bag I took on my 18 day 2017 trip to Botswana, Rwanda & Tanzania.
  • Canon EOS 1dx II and 5dIV all this in a Gura Gear 32L
  • 100-400 f4.5 -5.6 L IS II (for gorillas)
  • 200-400 f4 L IS w/1.4x TC
  • 24-70 f2.8 L II
  • 1.4x & 2x TC III's
  • Swarovski 10x30 compact Binoculars
  • Batteries, chargers, etc
I am working on 2 more Africa trips and will probably swap the 100-400 II for a 70-200 f4 L IS II for future trips. I might also swap the 5d IV for a 7d III should such an animal be released before my next trip. The 200-400 stayed on the 1dx II (majority of shots) and the 100-400 was on the 5dIV. I was close enough to the gorillas with a 24-70 f2.8 L II (got a love shove from a female) but a 70-200 would have been preferred. Did;n't use the wide angle a lot, so lens changes were not an issue or I changed before we left camp. I absolutely understand about the IQ benefits of the 400 f2.8, but prefer the versatility of the 200-400 f4 L IS w/ TC. I had the original 600mm which was about the same weight as the 400 f2.8 II and was a beast when I was 17 years younger. I am contemplating a 400 DO II with TC for the lighter combination w/ 14.x & 2x TC III's, but will probably stick with the 200-400. The 200-400 can also be used with a 2x tC without the internal 1.4x engaged. Tradeoffs.
2017-10-06 01.27.40.jpg
 
#17
You had me until you said you weren't a fan of the 100-400! haha I would like to know your reason behind your not liking the lens. I have been nothing but satisfied and impressed with this lens - and that includes using a 300 f/2.8 and 400 f/2.8. Everyone has their personal needs and tastes, but I don't know why someone wouldn't be a fan of that lens after using it.
 

justaCanonuser

Grab your camera, go out and shoot!
Feb 12, 2014
170
9
Frankfurt, Germany
#18
Tom, many thanks for the great tips! I am focused more on the North and birds (and hope for a trip to the Antarctic region during the next years). But whenever I'll go for the Big Ones to Africa I'll keep it in mind - friends have been recently in Kenia.

I personally like your fast prime approach to photography much! Zooms make you lazy, primes force you to a much more creative framing. If you get too close for a total coverage, you make a portrait of an animal or even a detail of a portrait and you get a much more interesting image. Recently I made a trip with both a 500 mm prime and a 150-600 mm zoom, a Tamron G2. This lens is quite nice, but using it I realized that I started to tend to those boring "always complete animal" shots I thought I left behind me many years ago. So I fixed a focal length and worked with that to release more creativity.