Going on Safari in South Africa? Rent a Lens!

Kruger National Park, lion

People often complain about their photography equipment while on safari.  Lens envy is a huge issue.  And well equipment certainly isn’t the key to taking great safari photos, having good gear doesn’t hurt.  I think what few people realize, though, is that they don’t need to own thousands of dollars of equipment, if you’re going on safari for a couple days just rent a lens. When I headed to Kruger National Park in South Africa, I knew that I wanted a little bit more lens than the 70-200mm Canon f/2.8 I’d been shooting on my other safaris. 

So I searched out a rental company in Johannesburg and was stoked to meet Peter from http://www.alensforhire.co.za

With some of the best gear in South Africa, Peter rents out lenses and other camera equipment.  The prices are reasonable and the service is great.  Best of all, renting a powerful lens for a couple days on safari will save you thousands of dollars buying equipment you might only use a couple times a year.  If it seems like a simple solution to the cost of expensive camera gear, it’s because it is.

What Lens did I Use on Safari?

I ended up renting a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8, and well the lens itself was fantastic, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some issues.  I guess the main issue was likely a problem using the lens with my 60D body.  The autofocus on the lens was incorrect about 70% of the time, and actually it took me until the end of the first day to notice the problem.  I actually thought it was a serious lens issue, but after manual focusing and getting sharp images, I realized it was a problem with how the lens messed with the cropped sensor of my 60D.

Kruger National Park, elephant
Out of focus… but still cute.
Kruger National Park, zebra

Regardless of the problem, the lens was perfect for what I needed, and I have no problem manual focusing.  It’s a really nice focal length for safari.  At 120mm, you’re usually wide enough to capture bigger animals and closer objected, and at 300mm there are only a few situations that you wish you had more lens.

In terms of image quality, I was impressed with the colour and sharpness.  I also thought it behaved incredibly well in low light.  I had very few instances of chromatic aberration, even when shooting in poor light.  All in all, I was impressed and actually felt a little silly going back to my 70-200mm afterwards.

Going on Safari?

If you’re heading on safari and want to rent a lens, be sure to give Peter an email at peter(at)alensforhire(dot)co(dot)za.  He’ll even have a lens delivered to you at the airport so there’s no need to go out and find him!

Which Lens Should you Rent for Safari?

My ideal safari lens is the canon 200-400mm with the built in 1.4x extender. It covers a lot of range. In the past, I’ve also used 500mm and 600mm prime lenses. Personally, I think something like a 100-400mm or a 100-500mm will also do the trick. Most non-pro photographers will definitely prefer a zoom lens. It gives you a bit more flexibility.