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What Canon lens should I use on Safari?

garymak
Enthusiast

I wanted to get an updated discussion going on this topic, which apparently is still open, since it looks like it's been 8 years since this went around - and a lot has changed...

I'd like to ask for those you have been to Kenya on a safari recently, what lens ranges worked best.  Don't care about what camera you brought, just what lens combination worked best for the environment in a dusty-road, open-Range Rover, carry-you-own-stuff, cramped-quarters.  There have been many new lenses in the past years, including updates to the zooms, and the new 600 & 800mm ƒ11 lenses.  (I have the 600mm among others.) If you have been to Kenya recently on a safari, I would love to hear your actual (not imagined or planning to go) experiences and what lens worked best for you.  Any thoughts on accessories would be welcomed. Thanks so much!

27 REPLIES 27

For clarification, I agree completely with your statement.  My "don't care what camera" comment was that I was looking for insights on most useful/practical lenses, not cameras, since I have what I have (R5 & 5D MkIII) and therefore if somebody had a 1DX or a Ti6 Rebel, it is what lens they brought and how useful that configuration was...

paddles10
Contributor

Good point EB.  Though I have never managed to sell any camera equipment, ( I still have my F1) it is an excellent idea.  We also have an EF 500 F4.5 that we use here in the US. Due to its size, it never makes the cut when flying is involved.  If I practiced with it more often it might travel more often.  In the end the zoom makes up for my lack of ability and keeps my kit in a pack that fits in the overhead.

Could also look at renting.

--
Ricky

Camera: EOS 5D IV, EF 50mm f/1.2L, EF 135mm f/2L
Lighting: Profoto Lights & Modifiers

SimonPS
Apprentice

First, I want to thank the community for discussions on the topic of safari. I just finished two weeks in Kenya and the advice I found here was so helpful. I wanted to share my experience in case it helps others.

One of the biggest issues we were concerned with is the 30 lbs weight limit of luggage. On our trip, we took several small planes to the various camps we stayed at. While they did weigh our luggage for the first flight, they didn't weigh it for the next three and they never weighed our carry-ons, which in my case included a very heavy camera backpack. However, we purchased an extra seat on each of our flights so that our family of four had an extra 160 lbs of luggage weight. I highly recommend this approach as it is not fun stressing about what you can and can't bring with you. 

For the trip, I brought four lenses:

  • Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
  • Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM Lens
  • Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens 

The big winner for me was the 100-400mm. I probably used this lens 80% of the time. I ran into countless people who had the 70-200 and all of them wished they had just a little more zoom. 400mm was more than enough for me. I konw there are some huge zooms now, but I just never found a situation where I was that far from an animal that I needed that much zoom. 

The 70-200 really is an optional lens. The benefit of it is the fact that a lot of the game drives are early in the morning and in the evening. The f-stop allows you to have some zoom in low light which helped me a few times, but given the weight and the fact that you can correct underexposed pictures so easily, it definitely is a nice to have. Fun fact: Kenya is on the equator so sunrise and sunset are SUPER fast. You can google the science behind this, but the low light shooting time is super short because it goes from dusk to dark in 20 or 30 mins. 

The 24-105mm, which is my everyday lens, was also clutch. HOWEVER, my big regret was not bringing a second body and leaving this lens on that camera full time. The main issue is that the jeeps get you super close to animals. A nice big zoom gets you in close so you can get great shots, but the inability to zoom out makes it so you can't get good shots of the environment. I ended up with tons of great animal shots, but some of the better scenery shots came from iPhones (which is sad). I spent a lot of time changing lenses on this trip which is not a big deal since you are not driving the truck and have plenty of space, but it would have been much better to have a second camera for the more scenic shots. 

The wide angle lens is great to throw in your bag if you have room but easy to leave behind. We visited a few other spots and I love a wide angle for cities and architecture shots. 

A couple of final recommendations: One is to make sure you have a good bag. I used my old Tamrac 5550 Adventure 10 and fell in love with this bag all over again. The clips on the camera section were super helpful to quickly lock in my lenses. Several times I walked all the way to my tent in the dark and realized when I got there I never zipped it up, but everything stayed secured thanks to the clip system. I put the two large lenses in the bottom section and used the top for a set up camera and a few other necessities.  The second recommendation is to get a monopod. A cheap one is fine. I took a lot of pictures and it was nice to be able to reduce the weight of the lens as well as get some additional stability so I could shoot at a slower shutter speed. 

Here are some example shots

2023-08 3 Loisaba-002.jpeg2023-08 3 Loisaba-004-2.jpeg2023-08 3 Loisaba-013-2.jpeg2023-08 3 Loisaba-016-3.jpeg2023-08 3 Loisaba-032.jpeg2023-08 4 Lewa-006-2.jpeg2023-08 4 Lewa-006.jpeg2023-08 4 Lewa-034.jpeg2023-08 5 Mara-009-5.jpeg2023-08 5 Mara-011-2.jpeg2023-08 5 Mara-021-3.jpeg

 

 

Great captures.

 

John Hoffman
Conway, NH

1D X Mark III, M200, Many lenses, Pixma PRO-100, Pixma TR8620a, Lr Classic

It looks like we were almost on the same safari, same time, as we have some very similar photos.  Nice shots!  I am still on the road but was preparing to present my "findings" (so to speak) here in relation to my original question.  I will post here in a few days.  But you seem to have had similar experiences to mine and I agree with your suggestions, although I had a different solution which worked for me....2307220796 Kenya Masai Mara Return WILDEBEEST HERDS2307220796 Kenya Masai Mara Return WILDEBEEST HERDS

shadowsports
Legend
Legend

@SimonPS,

Very nice safari photos.  

I just returned from Alaska.  Like you I took a backpack full of lenses.  I brought a tripod too.

  • 15-35
  • 24-70
  • 70-200
  • 100-500

After the first day and excursion, I realized I probably wouldn't use the 15-35 much.  Its great for panoramas and video though.  By the 3rd day I was carrying a 24-70 and 100-500 almost 100% of the time.  The 70-200 is a magnificent lens but the extra 200-300mm of zoom makes all the difference, especially when you aren't sure how close or far, you'll be from an animal.  I also found this to be true when shooting from the ship to a distant shoreline, glacier, etc.   I was on foot much of the time and walking on uneven surfaces, up hills, over rocks and more. Making lens changes while on foot was demanding.  I didn't want to slow down the group.  I hung back when I could in order to ensure my nature shots didn't have random people standing at the base of a waterfall, etc.  The 100-500 also lets you hang back and zoom past people who might be standing in your field of view at a shorter FL.   

~Rick
Bay Area - CA


~R5 C (1.0.7.1) ~RF Trinity, ~RF 100 Macro, ~RF 100~400, ~RF 100~500, +RF 1.4x TC, +Canon Control Ring, BG-R10, 430EX III-RT ~DxO PhotoLab Elite ~DaVinci Resolve ~Windows11 Pro ~ImageClass MF644Cdw/MF656Cdw ~Pixel 8
~CarePaks Are Worth It

ebiggs1
Legend
Legend

Those are great shots you should be proud of them. Like I said I have a good friend that is a professional photographer that did the Kenya trip and got some beautiful photos but now I believe if I get to do the Kenya trip I would alter my lens choice.

My 1DX with the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens as a matter of fact because it is my most used lens. The second would be my Tokina AT-X 16-28mm f/2.8 Pro FX again same as I would have before. However the third and last lens will now be my Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens.

It is an extremely high IQ lens and will stand up to significant enlargement cropping. This camera/lens combo would come in under 14 or 14 1/2 lbs. Plus being a ruggedly built combo as tough as they come.

Thnax for sharing.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and less lenses then before!

paddles10
Contributor

Good comments since I last looked in and some really nice shots.  I haven't been to Kenya since the '70's but still the pictures are familiar. On our last trip to Zimbabwe we took RF100-500's, a RF70-200 2.8, an 800 f-11, and a 14-35.

Our addition for next years trip to Mozambique will be the new RF 100-300 2.8.  The other thing that I, like everyone these days, carried was a cell phone.  It is a simple truth that the best shots are taken with the camera that you have.

This shot was a 100-500:buff_O0A9077.jpg

garymak
Enthusiast

I have tried to reply with my findings but, unfortunately, this website is messed up.  Keep getting an error message saying my reply is over the 20,000 character limit (when it is way below, according to Word), then tried to contact the web moderator "Danny" on his board and got another error message saying I had an HTML link in my message which I didn't.  So, something is wrong with this forum and I've spent an hour trying to reply on top of the other hour I spent lining up photos to illustrate my findings.... Sorry, I'll have to reply some other time when Danny is able to fix things.

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