My friend is going on a safari in Africa this year. She wants to buy a new camera because she has an old point and shoot and doesn't feel like she'll get "quality" pictures.

She doesn't have a serious interest in making photography a hobby. Her use case is probably:

  • Shoot jpeg, no RAW
  • prefers less bulky camera (so avoiding dslr would be a win)
  • Needs a long focal length to get great shots of those animals
  • Probably also wants to be able to get some scenery and pictures of people close by
  • Might be willing to play with Aperture priority and Shutter priority, but that would be the extent of developing a photography hobby

Price-wise, this is someone that is willing to buy a camera like a Nikon D7000 if it meets all the criteria, but I think she can meet her needs for cheaper :-).

Some thoughts I had:

  • mirrorless might be nice: something like sony nex 5n. She's happy with the size of that. I'm not entirely sure what a good focal length is for a safari and whether any standard lenses for that camera meet her needs. I'm not sure if there are good adapters or teleconverters that can do better or how smaller aperture at the high focal length will be...
  • Something like the Nikon P7100 is small and very stripped down but still has a good zoom range. Although I think the equivalent focal length is ~200mm, so not sure if that's enough? (My understanding of this camera is that is that many people are picking mirrorless cameras over it and that even cameras in its class are better, but those cameras don't offer as much zoom as this one, which is important).

Any thoughts on a camera and what lens options would meet these needs? (I haven't really looked into adapters for mirrorless cameras and attaching a dslr lens on it, but if you have thoughts on that... I'm all ears).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It is obvious that you did research and you asked a good question here. This would be more useful if you had a specific question about model 1 vs model 2, as you really are asking a VERY broad question that can be answered correctly from multiple different angles. This site is pretty lenient in letting questions like this be asked, but I just wanted to suggest maybe focusing in on a more narrow topic next time. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would add one point of caution on buying a P&S camera 'for a safari' in that the other 99.9999% of the use of the camera will not be on safari. The reason I mention this is P&S cameras that have HUGE zoom tend to be bulky cameras that don't fit in your pocket. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shizam
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 21:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I dunno; specific "this model vs. that model" questions tend to be very specific to one person and to the point in time when those two models are relevant. Specific models as examples (as the P7100 and Nex 5N in this question) seem better. On the other hand, once you've done the basic research (as Tom clearly has), there's really not much of an answerable question left; just kind of a discussion. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 22:05

2 Answers 2


I would recommend the Canon Powershot SX40 HS as I already outlined in this post. If they really aren't that into photography and don't want to be, they probably aren't going to buy a kit full of interchangeable lenses such as with MF3 or DSLRs. That is why I recommend something like the Canon G12 or the Canon SX40 HS. Both are great quality. If you are really interested in the best quality in a smaller size, the newly announced Canon Powershow G1 X really fits that bill. You do pay in the larger size(as compared to most p&s), and the actual price. From all previews of it points to outstanding quality though.

If you want truly great shots of animals, you can't discount what a DSLR with a 300mm or 400mm lens can do. That would be neither small, user friendly, or inexpensive though. For that reason I think the best solution is the SX40 HS, it is a great compromise and very very capable.

  • \$\begingroup\$ She's going to need some technique and practice to get those great shots. But I think the recommendation for the SX40 is a good idea. Personally I'd worry a bit about the ISO range, since the only interesting times for safari photography are early morning and dusk. In the middle of the day, everything hides from the sun and you will, quite literally, see almost nothing. Dawn and dusk are the great times. For this reason also it's much better to stay on the safari park for those early starts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 23:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here are some examples of the high ISO performance (cameralabs.com/reviews/Canon_PowerShot_SX40_HS/…) If you think that better is needed, the G1 X is probably the way to go, as the larger sensor is really the only way to get better performance in such a small body. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Feb 23, 2012 at 23:57

If a DSLR is too big but she's willing to carry a mirrorless I think that's a great win for the picture quality. However, to get in close to animals, she'll need a big lens with some reach. Which, gee, really isn't going to mean she's got a small kit after all. It'd be worth trying to see the size of the pieces in person to recognize that it's not a small kit.

Nikon's 7100 reach is good for most activities, but I suspect it'll still feel short for any wildlife. Where size and weight are primary considerations and given your other requirements, a superzoom like the already-mentioned Canon SX40 HS might be the best choice.


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