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Starting over...and heading to Africa - Camera and Lens Recommendations


About two years ago, I sold all of my cameras, in anticipation of starting afresh this summer as my wife and I head to Africa for three weeks. So while I have been a Canon user for about 150 years, I also feel like a virgin and am here for first-time-like help. Two questions in particular:

  1. Mirrorless cameras weren't really a thing when I was last in the game. What are the factors that folks use to choose mirrorless or DSLR?
  2. I am too old and telephoto lenses are too big for me to consider them. I'll be looking at a zoom lens, fully aware of the compromises in lens quality that introduces. Which ones should I look at that would be safari-friendly?

Many thanks in advance for all advice.


Rising Star

For the first part:

  1. Mirrorless cameras weren't really a thing when I was last in the game. What are the factors that folks use to choose mirrorless or DSLR?

Mirrorless has significant advantages -- cameras are smaller and lighter, and potentially lenses are too, and mirror lag and shake go away.  Now that EVFs are (pretty much) up to the game, there are no real disavantages -- an EVF gives you a great clear image in any lighting situation.  I think it's safe to say that all new cameras these days are mirrorless.  So, you can still get DSLRs, and if you have one of course you should keep using it and expect great results; but for someone coming in from scratch, like you, I would say a DSLR would be a backwards step.  Go mirrorless.

As for safari zooms, wildlife isn't my thing, so I think others will chip in here.  But I think you'll find that the quality compromise of using a zoom is a lot less than it was some years ago; I've certainly seen this in the 30 or so years I've been using SLRs.  The absolute best zooms tend to have a zoom range about 2.5:1 or 3:1 (like a 24-70 or 70-200), but I think if you go beyond this you will still see very good quality.  There are tons of reviews online which will give you a better idea; is great in particular.  I would guess that you would want a big zoom range, in case the lions walk right up to your Land Rover... 😉

Just bear in mind that the choice of camera matters.  An APS-C camera has about a 1.5x crop factor; so a 50mm lens from a full-frame camera is more like 75mm on APS-C.  If you get an APS-C camera, like one of the RF-S cameras (say the R10), then the Canon RF-S 18-150mm f3.5-6.3 would be a small, light and versatile lens, with some decent wide-angle coverage.  OTOH the Canon RF 100-400mm f5.6-8 covers full-frame (like the R6) and has a great zoom range, though not so much on the wide end.  The Canon RF 24-240mm f4-6.3 looks like a good all-rounder.

Bear in mind that if you're shooting in bright daylight, then you can economise by not going for super-fast lenses; the ones I've mentioned are in that bracket.  If you're thinking of shooting at dusk, it might be worth spending more on faster lenses, lile the Canon RF 70-200mm f2.8L. But that's a big, heavy, expensive lens.

In any case, whether you get good pics or not, enjoy yourself!

One other point -- with a DSLR, you're pretty much stuck on buying lenses made for that camera.  So if you get a Canon EF-mount DSLR, for example, you need EF-mount lenses.  If you get a mirrorless camera, like Canon RF-mount, then you can use native RF lenses or use adapters to use EF-mount lenses.

OTOH, there are third-part manufacturers making EF-mount autoocus lenses -- not so for RF.

One last point -- I would avoid Canon's M-series cameras.  Like DSLRs, if you already have one, no problem; but starting from scratch, I think the M system is a bit of a dead end.

Excellent start to the conversation, Atticus -- many thanks. I will focus on mirrorless out of the gate. And yes to getting to 400mm, even if I have low-light issues for the early-morning safaris. And we will have our phones for the wide stuff.


Good luck and would like to see a few photos here later. I'm 75 and use a Sigma 150-600mm lens for my Canon T7. Heavy, yes but can be useful. I do all kinds of photography. I use a tripod when possible to prevent camera shake but a monopod comes in handy when portability is needed.

Canon EOS T7; EF-S 18-55mm IS; EF-S 28-135mm IS; EF 75-300mm; Sigma 150-600mm DG


R7 or R10. You have to go mirrorless. There is no reason to buy DSLR anymore. Either model along with the Canon RF 100-400mm f/5.6-8 IS USM Lens. You will also want a more normal FL for general shots. Perhaps the RF24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Thank you, ebiggs -- Are there buyer's guides available here for the gear you recommend? Or even just links to spec sheets and the like?


Try this 


EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!


If I were going on safari in Africa and had the budget for a new set of gear, I'd buy...

  • EOS R7 (32.5MP, APS-C) w/18-150mm kit lens (plus lens hood).... $1899
  • EOS R7 (32.5MP, APS-C) body only.... $1499
  • RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM lens... $2899
  • RF 1.4X Extender... $499
  • EF to RF adapter (to use my EF 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM)... $100
  • RF 24mm f/1.8 STM IS Macro lens.... $599 (plus lens hood)
  • RF 85mm f/2 STM IS Macro.... $599 (plus lens hood)
  • Macro extension tubes, RF mount (probably Viltrox, Canon doesn't make any yet)
  • Extra LP-E6NH batteries
  • Battery chargers X2 compatible w/local power or power converters
  • Ample SD memory cards and portable backup device(s)
  • Mid-size flash with spare batteries.
  • Travel tripod (monopod is an alternative...however a tripod can always be used as a monopod, while a monopod can never act as a tripod).

A smaller, lighter and less expensive telephoto alternative is the RF 100-400mm. I don't know if it can be used with a 1.4X, though. A third alternative is a Canon EF 100-400mm "II" adapted to the RF mount. I have used that lens a lot on DSLRs and am quite happy with it. I've confirmed with several users that it also works very well adapted onto the R-series cameras... however in conjunction with the necessary adapter it's somewhat heavier than the RF 100-500mm and a lot heavier than the RF 100-400mm.

I like to use smaller, relatively unobtrusive primes like the 24mm (slightly wide) and 85mm (short tele) for some things, such as candid portraiture or "street photography". I don't know how much opportunity there would be for that in Africa, but I have a hard time leaving lenses like those at home!  It's great that the 85mm, in particular, can also serve as a macro lens. I like to have that as a possibility, never know when there might be an opportunity for  a close-up shot. At a minimum, I always carry some macro extension tubes and allowed for that in this case, too. 

An alternative to adapting the EF 10-22mm lens (perhaps if one doesn't already have that lens), is the RF 14-35mm f/4L IS USM lens. While that lens is quite wide, obviously it's not as wide as the 10-22mm. The RF lens is a bit smaller and weighs about the same as the 10-22mm plus an EF to RF adapter. Canon has not yet produced an ultrawide RF-S lens. Currently the only way to get ultrawide on an APS-C Canon R-series camera is with a manual focus, manual aperture lens. Among those there are 10, 11 and 12mm available for RF mount. These aren't difficult to use in situations that don't require fast responses. The mirrorless camera's electronic viewfinder assists manual focus, while an ultrawide lens' great depth of field is pretty forgiving of minor focus errors.

I have traveled by air a number of times with a LowePro backpack that fits into an overhead compartment, so I am able to carry it on. It is an older model, similar in size to their current 300 series backpacks. I'm confident it could hold all the above (with one or the other of the wide zooms and packing the tripod separately in checked baggage). Including the backpack (but not the tripod), I estimate that's about 17 or 18 lb. worth of gear... which is at least six or seven pounds less than the DSLR kits I've typically hauled around in my backpack. Heck, that pack with just my full frame w/grip and four lenses (20mm, 24-70, 135mm, 300mm), 1.4X, batteries, charger and flash totals 24 lb. Above kit could be made lighter by substituting the RF 100-400mm for the RF 100-500mm and some other omissions or substitutions.


Alan Myers
San Jose, Calif., USA
"Walk softly and carry a big lens."
GEAR: 5DII, 7DII (x2), 7D(x2), EOS M5, some other cameras, various lenses & accessories


The big deciding factor for me to go mirrorless was the fact that with a mirrorless, you're using the same auto-focus system whether you're using the viewfinder or the live view screen. DSLRs use separate AF systems for those, because when you're looking through the viewfinder the sensor can't see the image, so its more advanced AF functionality can't function.

Kevin Rahe
EOS M50 Mark II