Top 3 Fun Gadgets for African Safaris:
These three electronic devices make delightful travel companions that will take your safari experience to a new levels:
- Smartphone - phone with a high-end camera
- Tablet / iPad - the mobile mini computer
- GoPro - a small and versatile camcorder
These three techie toys will enable you to get the best video and photographic footage on your safari adventures, as well as taking care of your communication and entertainment needs!
1. Smartphone - Mobile phone with a high-end camera
Upgrade your cell (mobile) phone to one of the latest Android or iPhone smart phones featuring a top-end camera. Android phones are the most popular option in the United States and Europe, whereas Apple phones are the favourite in Japan.
iPhones with iSight Cameras
New generation iPhones feature iSight cameras that boast superior performance - this means you can get amazing images and videos of the animals, landscapes and people you encounter.
The iSight camera on the iPhone 5s for example has 8 megapixels with 1.5µ (micron) pixels, a ƒ/2.2 aperture to let in more light and can capture 1080p HD (high definition) video recordings. Camera features include auto flash adjustment to get the best lighting possible, burst mode for taking multiple snapshots (ideal for wildlife action), an automatic image and video stabiliser and more handy stuff.
Two Reasons to get the iPhone 5s:
- Touch ID — the new fingerprint recognition sensor that scans your fingerprint to allow access to your phone, doing away with passwords. You can add more than one fingerprint identity to give those you trust access too.
- A7 chip — 64-bit smartphone providing super fast CPU performance, detailed graphics and top-quality visual effects. Perks include faster autofocus, image capture and more video frames (30 frames per second) than older models.
The iPhone 6 is set to be released this year (maybe September), but if you can't wait iPhone 5s and 5c cameras have been getting rave reviews. Rumour has it that the new iPhone 6 camera will use a software algorithm to reduce motion with electronic stabilisation. Image quality is also expected to improve through the use of larger pixel size. The iPhone 6 will probably be bigger than the current models, resembling Samsung Android design.
Best new smartphone models include the Google Nexus 5, Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and Nokia Lumia Icon.
2. Tablet Computer / iPad - mobile tablet computer
Lugging a laptop around just isn't that practical - it's too big and heavy and you don't generally need all its capabilities on safari. My MacBook Pro was way too bulky and I really didn't need the full complement of applications and impressive hardware on the road.
The main reason an iPad would have been perfect is because it is small and light. The iPad Mini is only 134.7 mm (5.3 inches) wide and 200 mm (7.87 inches) high, weighing in at about 341 g (0.75 pounds). The iPad and iPad Air are almost as impressive in terms of size and weight.
With tablet computers, like the iPads, you can take, preview and edit photos, as well as shooting videos and watching movies. You can also write documents and create presentations if needs be. It's great for on the road, because it features an e-reader so you can read e-books while in transit or relaxing in your lodge room. These mobile computers also have fantastic games that you can occupy yourself with for hours and you can keep in touch with loved ones via FaceTime video calling and email using its 3G internet.
Then there's over 500,000 amazing mobile apps that you can download, including awesome wildlife, birding and travel applications. Lastly you can browse the internet using 3G or Wi-fi with a tablet computer.
A serious drawback of taking an iPad, or other tablet computer, on safaris with you is that these electronic devices are not very tough. It's best not take your tablet on game drives, to avoid dropping it and to pack it carefully (preferably in your hand luggage). A protective casing is also recommended.
3. GoPro - a versatile camcorder that takes diverse footage
Okay, this one is not a necessity as such, but it is one of the coolest toys you can take on safari with you. This is the techie gadget you want to take with you for some uber-fun.
This lightweight, durable and extremely versatile camcorder will enable you to take HD (High Definition) videos and stills of just about anything under almost any lighting conditions. This small personal video camera can be used to capture wildlife in the bush and any adventure activities you decide to do on your trip.
You can strap the GoPro (or similar device) to your body or mount it on all manner of things for high-quality footage (videos and photographs) of the animals you encounter, the places and people you see and the things you get up to.
Just to give you an idea, the camcorder could film elephant-back rides, natural wonders like Victoria Falls, wildlife on game drives, mokoro rides in the Okavango Delta, bungee jumps, white water rafting on the Zambezi, lion encounters, sky dives, sand boarding in Namibia, surfing, scuba diving and much, much more. As you may have gathered, this digital video recorder can be coupled with a waterproof casing and is very hardy.
Another recommended camcorder is the Panasonic HDC-TM700.
Camera Upgrade - take the best photographic equipment possible
Getting your camera equipment up to scratch before you head off into the wilds of mother Africa is worth it. If you have the budget you can better equip yourself for taking the best photos on safari by buying a new top of the range DSLR camera and some serious zoom lenses, as well as upgrading your Smartphone. If you're taking a new camera or are a real beginner then investing in a photography course will go a long way too. There are heaps of photographic courses, including wildlife photography courses, and even specialist photographic safaris (if that falls within your budget).
Unless you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel (zero budget for camera equipment) you can look at doing one of the following:
Get to the Point & Shoot - compact digital cameras
The most popular digital cameras, point-and-shoot cameras are smaller and mostly cheaper than the Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) models.
Pocket cameras are great cameras for taking snapshots on safari, because they are small and lightweight. A new point-and-shoot camera should be able to fit in your pocket and store a massive number of photos. In terms of game viewing the compact camera models are well-suited to catching wildlife action given how quick and easy they are to use. The point-and-shoot cameras automatically adjust focus, aperture, shutter speed and light sensitivity, according to automatic lighting readings. These automatic functions help you to swiftly catch clearer images in less time, which is what you want when photographing wildlife.
The compact digital camera cannot however compete with a top of the range DSLR camera when it comes to quality, zoom and manual control. The DSLR is better for capturing images in poor lighting conditions, zooming in on wildlife from a distance and playing with images (mood, depth of field, focal effects etc). There are some point-and-shoot models with long zoom lenses, such as the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, but these are slightly larger than the standard compact cameras.
Some of the best functions on compact cameras are HD video recorders and image stabilisers, as well as built-in flashes and high-ISO capabilities. Best point-and-shoot camera models include the Fujifilm X100S, Olympus Tough TG-2 iHS, Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS, Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40 and DMC-FZ200, Nikon Coolpix S9700 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II and RX100 mk II.
Upgrade your DSLR Lenses
Invest in a new lens for that basic DSLR you lug around to make the camera worth its weight.
For my last safari I bought a nice 15-85mm lens for my Canon EOS 600D, which was a good option for my budget as it combines some wide-angle and zoom capabilities making it more versatile. Don't buy generic lenses for your camera and if you can, get a good flash while you are at it.
Zoom lenses are ideal for getting in closer to wildlife and catching birds in the bush. Wild animals and birds are often just too far away for that best-ever image - you know, the photos where you have to search to find the speck of a subject. Powerful zoom lenses are however very pricey and come with their own limitations, namely the lenses are big, heavy and difficult to stabilise. You pay the price of having to carry the heavy and bulky accessory with you, all the while being careful with these valuable possessions.
Given the size of top range zoom lenses you also need to keep in mind that they don't operate well under limited lighting conditions and as soon as you slow the shutter speed down you need to deal with camera shake. Taking a bean bag, grip, mount or stable tripod with you is a good idea for coping with movement.
When you are game viewing the trade off for carrying smaller lenses is that you can respond more quickly when the unexpected happens. It's a lot trickier to move quickly with a huge zoom and catch a lion chasing a springbok (or some other incredible wildlife action) than it is to whip out a smartphone, a point and shoot camera or even a DSLR with more manageable lenses.
3 Best Gadgets to take on Safari in Africa:
The Smartphone, tablet computer and new generation camcorder are three versatile gizmos that add new and exciting dimensions to the African safari experience. Of course, you can still enjoy the safari experience of a lifetime the old-school way - without these new gadgets, especially if you are not a techie or photography enthusiast. Your trusty old camera should do the job, but the results cannot be compared with the spectacular images and video footage you can capture now.
Do you really want to miss out on the added convenience, superior documenting and extra fun these electronic devices bring to an African safari adventure?