Best Digital Cameras for Safari and Travel 2016

Fujifilm FinePix H30EXR 16 MP Digital Superzoom CameraI am a keen photographer and when I am not taking guests out on safari I love nothing better than to go out into the bush on my own and photograph some of the incredible scenery and wildlife that Africa has to offer.

Over the years I have owned and used a large variety of film and digital cameras that I have chosen for myself specifically for travel and for wildlife photography. Some have been average and some excellent, so in this “best digital camera reviews” section, I hope to pass on some advice and tips that I have acquired over the years to help you get the best compact digital camera for travel, safaris and general wildlife photography.

So What Makes the best Digital Camera for Safaris?

That is almost like asking how long is a piece of string, but if we put a few constraints on the question, we can start to narrow down the choices to find the best safari camera for most casual users.

First  lets look at what we will need the camera to be whilst on safari:

  • A good Travel Camera (both air travel and whilst on safari)
  • A great Wildlife Photography Camera

And then add these features together to get the best digital camera for travel and wildlife photography:

Best Digital Cameras for Travel

So what makes a great travel digital still camera? For me the most important features are:

Size: The camera should be relatively compact

Size really matters when it comes to a great travel camera, the camera should be easy to place in your hand luggage on the airplane and then once you are actually on safari, it has to be easy to carry with you.

It is for this reason that unless you are a professional photographer, where just about all your luggage will be photography equipment I would highly recommend something like a compact digital camera or a bridge camera for traveling.

I have used a digital SLR camera with the extra telephoto and wide angle lenses in the past and whilst it there is no doubt the are optically superior to compact and bridge cameras, you must remember that unless photography is your job, lugging around all that heavy and bulky equipment on holiday is no fun at all!

What I also must stress is that the quality of images produced by compact and bridge cameras is improving all the time and most are easily good enough for most people other than professional photographers going on safari. So unless you plan on having your photos printed in a glossy magazine, the quality you get from a bridge camera will be easily good enough to have printed or displayed on an online gallery.

Don’t become a Target

Another good thing to remember is that if you plan to travel around populated areas like towns or cities in any country in the world as a tourist you are immediately a target for thieves, don’t make yourself the prime target with a huge camera case and camera round your neck. It is nice to be able to easily slip your camera into a bag and out of sight sometimes.

Safari Camera

Whist on safari, you most probably will be going out every day on a 4×4 and so here the size of your camera is not that important as long as it is easily available. But if you plan on going out on walking safaris, once again a small easy to carry camera is an advantage.

Therefore for me one of the most important features of a digital camera for travel is that it must be reasonably compact.

Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography

When photographing wildlife, to get great pictures, one of the most important considerations to look out for is just how close you can get to your subjects.

Big Zoom required!
I think the principals for African wildlife photography are the same as that for photographing polar bears in the arctic, you need to get as close to the animal that you wish to photograph as possible.

Now part of that is my job as a safari guide, to get you as close to the action that is both safe and comfortable for you and more importantly for the animal, so that we as humans do not disturb it’s natural behavior.

The rest comes down to your camera and it’s zoom and for me, within reason, the bigger the zoom, the better! In the past this meant huge telescopic lenses, but now there is a large variety of compact superzoom digital cameras also sometimes caleed superzoom bridge cameras to choose from with maximum zooms from 24x (600mm) to a massive 42x (1000mm).

So for me the most important feature on the best wildlife camera is to have a big zoom.

Price: 

For most people I would suggest that you get a camera that you consider to be Not too expensive.  Obviously this amount will depend on your own personal circumstances, but I say it because you need a camera that you could replace if it were to get lost, stolen or broken whilst on holiday.

Battery types and Battery life

Battery life and what type of batteries the camera takes is also an important consideration to take into account.  Remember if you are traveling to remote locations there may not be any electricity to charge your batteries, therefore in many cases buying a spare battery or two is a must.

You could also consider getting a camera that uses standard AA batteries, but also remember that some remote locations in Africa wont have a shop that sells batteries and it is for that reason I have always either used rechargeable type batteries and also made sure I have plenty of fully charged spares.