Here’s some advice from a pro to consider before spending a fortune on gear you won’t use.
So maybe you’ll go on a sunset game drive in the Pilanesberg National Park and witness a duel between a leopard and a crocodile. As you try to shoot that Instagram-worthy photograph (or, heavens forbid, a selfie with the croc) you realise your R12k smartphone is useless for the task at hand.
While you’re reviewing the feint, grainy images on your phone, you glance at the enthusiast next to you, who is now reviewing clear, well-lit images on her Canon SLR. And she didn’t even use a flash. There and then you decide you will have a proper camera next time, even if it means selling your rugby jersey collection.
But where to start? We asked wildlife photographer Villiers Steyn, who gave us some good news: you don’t have to buy an expensive, new, full-frame camera to shoot really good wildlife photographs. “You can start with a so-called compact bridge camera from the Canon PowerShot or Nikon Coolpix range. Cameras like the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS or the Nikon Coolpix B700 have zoom lenses that easily magnify the subject 50 times, to get really close. Their disadvantage is that they don’t function well in low light, yielding grainy images. And it’s at dusk or dawn that the animals are active, with potential for good photographs,” Villiers explains.
Once you’ve outgrown your compact bridge camera or want to skip that step altogether, the next level is the SLR (single-lens reflex) camera. The obvious difference between these and the bridge cameras is that the SLRs have interchangeable lenses. This means you can choose the best lens for the job — wildlife photography, in this case.
According to Villiers “you can buy a camera-and-lens bundle from a store like Game or a camera specialist for about R17 000”. “But avoid those that include the 55-250mm Canon lens. It’s not good enough for wildlife photography. The 70-300mm is a better quality lens.”
Villiers is a proponent of buying used cameras and lenses. “Instead of buying fairly basic kit new, you can buy more advanced gear second hand. A good combo for wildlife photography is the Canon 7D and the Canon 100-400mm lens. The 7D can adjust its focus quickly and has a high burst rate. The 100-400mm lens is suitable for wildlife and its focal length is just right. The focal length of a lens like the 150-600mm is actually too long and therefore crops the image too tightly,” he says.
Rather than looking for used gear on a classifieds website, Villiers recommends buying from a store like Outdoorphoto. “They test and service equipment before selling it and the items carry a six-month warranty.” Naturally, if your budget is unlimited, buy new equipment. After all, it’s “an investment in your happiness,” Villiers says.
In case you were wondering, Villiers is not a Canon ambassador. He shoots with Nikon, but he believes Canon offers better bang for buck. You can follow him on Instagram @villierssteyn.
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