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A camera for safari. 1/2.3" or 1" ?

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by David W, Feb 27, 2020.

  1. David W

    David W Member

    My son is going on a safari later this year and has asked me to suggest a suitable camera.

    He’s not a photographer himself and certainly won’t want to be carrying a lot of kit around with him. My initial thoughts are a bridge camera and there certainly seem to be a number of options within his budget of £500. In fact, the lens zoom range (35mm equivalent) is outstanding: 1,200mm, 2,000mm and even more! However, the catch is of course the sensor size, which for those designated as 1/2.3” is quite a small sensor and lower light level performance is a common weak point.

    So, my primary question is … would he be better off with a 1/2.3” sensor and a 1,200mm lens or a 1” sensor and a 600mm lens.

    Unfortunately, 1” sensor cameras seem to be 3 times the price of the 1/2.3” sensor cameras, unless you go for something like a used Canon G3 X . In the smaller sensor range, the Panasonic Lumix FZ82 has great reviews and is outstanding value at ~£250, but can it really be that good? Would a used Canon G3 X be a better option, but then it doesn’t have a viewfinder and viewing the rear screen in sunlight might be a problem?

    Any suggestions of what camera to go for would be much appreciated.
  2. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    It's personal preference, I'd go for a 1 inch sensor and 600mm. I'd make sure I got a camera with a viewfinder (which is more important to me than sensor size of focal length).

    If you've got time, go in to some camera shops and find one that feels good in the hands, almost as important as anything else.
  3. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    I haven’t used one but I would think it hard to hold steady a bridge camera with a equivalent focal length substantially more than 600 mm. My wife uses a Sony Rx10 mkiii which has a 1” sensor and an equivalent zoom of 24-600. i’ve been suprised at how well that works. It is a substantial sized camera which means you can get a decent hold of it. My personal preference would be to choose a 1” sensor over the smaller one. The acid test is for your son to try both and see which he prefers. Camera shops usually let you step outside which you would need to do to evaluate how the camera handles at the longer focal length. You would need a viewfinder. You can’t hold a long focal length steady without bracing the camera against your face.

    We replaced a Canon - think it was an HS 40 SX - with the Sony and I was staggered at how good the results were. The only problem was finding one to test. I saw one at the photography show but my wife needed to try it (it is a big camera). It was new on the market and we couldn’t find stock anywhere. Eventually, on holiday, we found a demo model in a Sony shop in Plymouth.

    They are expensive - but check out what an actual 600 mm lens for a SLR camera costs!
    Learning likes this.
  4. David W

    David W Member

    Many thanks EightBitTony and PeteRob, really helpful replies and much appreciated. I'd intended to go to the Photo Show at the NEC next month but with coronavirus, I'm not so keen. Does anyone have experience of the smaller sensor bridge cameras?
  5. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    The answer is not as simple as it was when the sensor was a strip of film. I use cameras with sensors from 1/2.3" to 36mm x 24mm. For most personal purposes the differences in the picture are subtle.

    Given that you already know the budget my opinion is that the two main questions are...
    1. how fast is the camera to use?
    2. how well does the viewfinder suit my eyes?
    These are things that you can only establish by trying the candidates out,
  6. David W

    David W Member

    Cheers Andrew. All three responses have spoken of the need for a viewfinder. All my cameras have had one so I'd not appreciated the issues of not having one.
  7. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Only the Canon, for which I got the name wrong, it was a Sx40 hs. That was a 2011 camera with a zoom range out to 850 mm equivalent. The image quality on the Sony, a 2016 camera, zoom to 600 mm is far better. With all of these super-zooms there are elements of compromise and that tends to be at the longest end of the zoom. Unfortunately, the type of shot max zoom is used for tends to be one people seek detail in - it is the closeness that is the interest - so lack of sharpness due to the optics or camera shake or subject movement is more apparent. There is no replacement for trying the cameras out. People differ in how steady they can hold a camera and that might be the determining factor in final choice. My “wild-life” outfit is a Canon 1D iv + 500 F4 which is ~ 650 mm effective focal length. My wife can’t lift it so, for her, she will always get much, much better pictures with her Sony, or old Canon for that matter.
  8. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I use a Sony HX90 and a Panasonic TZ70 as pocket cameras. Both lenses cover the equivalent of 24mm - 720mm. The Sony is slightly smaller and it has a tilting screen plus a pop-up viewfinder. The Panasonic viewfinder and screen are both fixed in place. If I were buying again I'd go for the Panasonic because I find it quicker to use...

    Cameras Sony HX90 and Panasonic TZ70 DSC01601.JPG

    Here's a shot from the Sony (about 1/10th of the frame at 720mm equivalent)...

    Sony HX90 8GB 09 DSC00413.JPG

    and a shot from the TZ70 (about 1/5th of the frame also at 720mm equivalent)...

    Bird in tree TZ70 P1030506.JPG
  9. Learning

    Learning Ethelred the Ill-Named

    Not personally but a volunteer colleague of mine has a Nikon P900. Its ok for Facebook and I have used a few of his images in our Newsletter. If you want some big prints then I would suggest a camera with a larger sensor. I realise that a Sony Rx10 m4 or even the Rx10m3 are way out of budget but I suppose that the safari is not a cheap holiday is it. Do you think that when your son asked you for advice he might have been hinting at a parental subsidy to add to his £500?
  10. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    +1 for the TZ 70
    The TZ 80 has more mp, 4k video and touchscreen
    TZ 100 and 200 have 1" inch sensors but smaller zooms
  11. David W

    David W Member

    Undoubtedly !! It's his birthday a couple of months before the safari :)
  12. David W

    David W Member

    Cheers spinno … everyone's comments are really appreciated and fine tuning the thoughts I had coming into this discussion.
  13. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Not modern ones. I used a Panasonic DMC-FZ8 for a few years.


    Once you understand the limitations / capabilities of a camera, you can get good shots, but sometimes you have to work within a set of constraints that block options - i.e. you might need to be closer than you can get or like, or you may need more light than you have at the time.

    These are 432mm focal length (at 35mm equivalence, or 72mm actual focal length on the small sensor on that camera).

    P1010549_x800_hq.jpg P1010553_x800_hq.jpg P1010562_x800_hq.jpg P1010650_x800_hq.jpg P1010667_x800_hq.jpg P1010668_x800_hq.jpg

    They should have their EXIF data intact so you can see ISO, shutter speed, etc. I've included ones where the camera got it wrong (mainly over exposure). It was an over cast day.
  14. David W

    David W Member

    Wow, thank you so much guys for your time and trouble to help me. The pictures you’ve sent and the exif data have been really helpful. I thought I’d give some feedback and let you know where I’m headed – subject of course to going out with my son and getting hands on.

    Clearly, everything is a compromise but given the cameras available, I feel he will be reluctant to go less than 1,000mm (35mm equivalent), unless on a 1” sensor. Amongst the 1/2.3” sensor cameras there’s the Canon SX70S and Panasonic FZ82 – but both of these apparently require manually turning the viewfinder on. I need to find out if that is for each shot but if it is, then it hardly lends itself to speedy operation. There’s the Sony HX400V and Nikon P900/950/1000 but I’m not keen on the Nikon as they appear overly expensive and don’t get great reviews.

    I did ask Wex for their suggestion and the answer came back: Nikon P1000. I’m not convinced that is based on anything other than lens focal length – I’d expected a response with a bit more insight really.

    Which brings me to the Sony RX10 III. A 1” sensor camera, 600mm (equiv) lens and used, sells for £500-£600. It’s bigger and heavier than the smaller sensor cameras but then he’s a big lad! We need to check out the finer details and go and see them in the flesh, but I’m thinking I would favour the RX10 III.

    Cheers, David
  15. MickLL

    MickLL In the Stop Bath

    You have had lots of advice about cameras and I'm not going to repeat it. However I do know something about safaris - I lived and worked in India and Africa and so have been on lots!

    My own equipment is a full frame SLR with some quite expensive lenses so not comparable to the gear that you are contemplating.

    First thing to say is that , for the larger animals, you don't need a very long lens. I found 300mm was ample and my 70-200mm zoom was used most frequently. There were rare, very rare, occasions when I fitted a 2x extender and went to 600mm - but very rare. I should add that birds are different and do need quite a long lens.

    Second do not underestimate the difficulty of getting good results from any long lens - even one that costs as much as a small car. Camera shake (I'll come back to that) , heat haze, atmospheric dust all make it very tough indeed to get good results. At the risk of getting 'flamed' I'd say that all of the examples given to you here show how tough it is. None of them are acceptable to me!! Have a look at some of Mr Sadler's stuff in appraisal. I think that he uses long lenses quite a bit and he seems to have it cracked!!!

    So how to mitigate camera shake. I'm not going to repeat all the usual stuff - you can search that on the internet. Just a couple of bits of safari related advice. Get the driver to switch off the engine during photography - a good driver will do that anyway. If you absolutely must take pics with the engine going make sure that you are not leaning on the vehicle body - a sure way to transmit the vibrations. Next take a bean bag. Get wife/mum (if you can't sew yourself) to make a rectangular bag with a zip on one side. It should have a string with a loop around your wrist (it can be dangerous trying to retrieve a dropped beanbag!!) . Fill it with rice, stuff it full. The reason for the zip is so that you can buy rice (or lentils) on arrival and don't have to carry the weight/bulk. Place that on the vehicle (engine stopped of course) and lean the camera on it.

    Finally I will give a bit of camera advice. Most safaris start early or finish late and the light can be poor at both ends of the day. That will drive you into using a higher ISO than you might ideally like. So high ISO performance is a something that I would certainly factor into the choice. In fact high ISO performance made me change systems. The marque I had performed very badly at high ISO and it was driving me nuts. I dumped the whole system and changed to a better performer. I'm not giving names because my experience is well out of date so anything I say about a particular marque will be inaccurate.

    Now, really finally, it's occurred to me that quite a number of my friends have dumped their 'big' cameras for something along the lines that you are considering. Those who have gone for something in the Lumix range have nothing but good to say.

    Well that's it. Hope that the safari is a a great experience. Maybe we will get to see some pictures.

  16. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    I won't disagree with any of that, despite my experience being from 40 years ago. Mick has covered almost everything but let me add.
    It is possible to have a lens that is too long, but probably not with a bridge camera.
    The screen on the back of the camera is NEVER an adequate means of assessing the image that has just been taken*, my camera has a screen of 921K dots with a 16MP sensor, I wouldn't waste time even looking during the drives just take more pictures.
    Memory cards are cheaper than the safari take plenty and shoot lots of images, there will always be some duds.
    Don't delete any images from the cards, get them on a computer first, there may be something worth saving.
    Carry a fully charged spare battery, as with cards, its cheaper than the safari.

    *I know many will disagree with me on this point but, if you are out on a game drive your attention needs to be on the animals not the results. Plenty of time for that later. However, even if you have lots of time to critically assess each image, a 2" or 3" screen really isn't ideal. In any case, reviewing images hits the battery.
    Learning likes this.
  17. MickLL

    MickLL In the Stop Bath

    Very good advice from Geoff.
  18. David W

    David W Member

    Mick, Geoff, thank you. Invaluable advice there and well noted. I wish I was going with him now !!
    Cheers guys, really appreciated.
  19. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    Ask him what he intends to do with his pictures. If they will only be seen on social media or websites, a bridge camera with a small sensor will probably be more than good enough. But if he wants to get decent sized prints for his wall, a camera with a larger sensor will probably be needed if the shots are to survive enlargement.

    Since you say 'He’s not a photographer himself and certainly won’t want to be carrying a lot of kit around with him', I expect he will end up with a bridge camera of some type. Given the £500 budget, he could buy one of the better ones secondhand instead of a new model of lower specification. This is the first page of bridge cameras on the LCE website:


    For example, this one has a 1 inch sensor, a 25-400mm equivalent F2.8-4 'Leica' lens and more functions than he will ever need, and is £350. The maximum zoom is not so long that he will spend all day trying to find his subject, and the maximum aperture at the long end is decent. But will it be larger and heavier than he wants to carry?


    Since your son is new to photography, the most important advice may be to get the camera at least a few weeks before he goes on his trip, so that he can learn how to use it to get consistent results when you are available to advise him if required. Buying a camera only a few days before the trip would be really stupid mistake, but not an unusual one. A friend of mine went on a trip like this a while ago, equipped with his APS-C DSLR and a nice secondhand 400 mm F5.6 lens, and was pestered by other people on the trip asking him for advice about using hardware they had purchased especially for the trip. Finally he just told them to read the user manual (something the had not considered important), and then ignored them.
  20. pixelpuffin

    pixelpuffin Well-Known Member

    +1 for the TZ70
    I had and sold both the Sony HX90 and newer TZ90. I guess I didn't appreciate how good the TZ70 was.
    I use mine for days out and holidays these days. It is remarkable, I downloaded the lumix app to my iPhone. I can now completely control the TZ70 remotely plus save the images to my phone.

    For what its worth, I own far too much dslr camera gear, yet virtually every picture I decide to print was recorded by either the TZ70 or the iPhone. I think that says it all really.

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