A dear friend of mine asked my opinion on which camera to take to Africa where she was going to work for an International charitable agency.
Even worse, I suggest a waterproof, shockproof, freeze proof (It gets cold in the desert at night.) Panasonic DMC-TS4.
I mean what was I thinking?
Well turns out my recommendation was a good one. I know because right now I am editing her 500 three-star picks out of some 3,000 images she shot in total.
But it’s Africa!
Wouldn’t my friend get better images with a full-frame DSLR and a bag full of lenses? Well it is Africa and knowing my friend, who I love dearly, my guess is she’d be relieved of her expensive equipment sometime in the first week of arrival. Africa or for that matter most of the world isn’t all that dangerous but the third world is filled with folks who can be opportunistic at best and downright criminal at worst. A camera bag left unattended or unwatched even for a moment will disappear in most of the major airports in the world including those here in North America.
When my wife and I travel she carries her Olympus camera with the standard zoom in a very small camera bag strapped around her neck. My camera bag goes over my shoulder and goes with me everywhere (Yes there too!) and never leaves my sight or my grasp. In high-risk countries I bring a steel net that can lock to a bed frame!
A $2,000 camera and $4,000 worth of lenses, aside from being way more than my friend can afford let alone carry just isn’t necessary for her and frankly that includes most of us as well.
Her rugged point-and-shoot fits in a purse or pocket and even if she dropped it, the camera would likely keep working and will do so even in a desert dust storm. Your DSLR won’t do that!
But, but what about those shots of lions and other animals. Yes there are a few shots her friend got with a Canon all-in-one but for the most part lions (and it’s especially lions) will come and sit in the shade provided by your parked LandRover.
If you’re a serious amateur or pro sure you want to take your best stuff but if it was me and I wasn’t going on a specific safari just to shoot animals I’d leave the DSLR at home and take my Olympus cameras and lenses.
Most of my friend’s best shots were taken at the ruins in Egypt and just about any decent ($300 to $800) point-and-shoot or all-in-one will do the trick even when shot on “automatic”! The shot of the lioness was shot with a Canon SX-40 which is a relatively ($400) cheap all-in-one DSLR-like camera but the metadata shows this shot could have been taken with just about any camera that had even a modest zoom.
And how do I know all this to be true?
Well I said I’d help her edit her images once she got the 3,000 shots down to under 500. What was I thinking!!
At $79 Aperture from Apple is terrific and best of all my NIK software editors all work flawless inside it. I’m using Colour Efex Pro a lot with her landscapes as it really makes the image pop. (The shot of my friend on the camel is actually very very yellow from light being defused through a dust storm and I’ll offer her both choices as the gold one looks pretty good. My friend wants to make a slide show and a book from her picks in IPhoto and my work in Aperture should be transparent to IPhoto. They’re going to look amazing.
So in conclusion always carry a point-and-shoot when on vacation no matter what else you’ve brought along as you never know when that perfect shot is going to present itself even if it’s during a desert dust storm.