5 Things Photographers Need in Their Camera Bag on Safari

Gear recommendations from Hunt's Photo, Don Toothaker
Written by Thomson Safaris

photo gear for photographers on safari

Getting the perfect shot during a safari in Tanzania requires a good eye, a quick trigger finger and a little luck. The right equipment goes a long way, too.

We’re joined by Don Toothaker, a photography instructor at Hunt’s Photo, as he breaks down his gear preferences for photography in Tanzania.

“Cameras and lenses are nothing more than tools used to capture moments from your experiences,” Don said. “It is critical to purchase equipment that matches the ergonomics of your lifestyle and your photographic interests.”

Here are five items Don always keeps in his camera bag on safari.

1. Camera Body

Don uses the Nikon Z6 and Z7. Both are full frame cameras, meaning he can make large prints from his work and present clear, crisp images during lectures and talks. These cameras have powerful technology for a relatively small body, such as high resolution imagery, incredible weather sealing and high performance.

Other kinds of cameras, such as DSLRs and mirrorless lens cameras, may not offer full frame capture, but they can still offer high resolution imagery and long-lasting performance. They also utilize an array of interchangeable lenses that vary in size, weight and price. You can find them from manufacturers such as Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic. Plenty of good options are also available with permanently attached lenses, lower resolutions and less performance power.

For the Pro Photographer:
Nikon Z6 Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera or
Nikon Z7 Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera
For the Casual Photographer:  Nikon Coolpix P1000 Digital

2. Long Lens

A long lens is a lifesaver on safari. While some wildlife will be close enough to capture with a regular lens, anything in the distance will be impossible to access without something more powerful. Long lenses also come in handy when you want a detail shot at any distance. Don recommends a Nikon 500mm f/5.6E PF lens for its light weight and relatively small size. These features make it easy to maneuver and handle on safari.

For the Pro Photographer:
 Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR
For the Casual Photographer: Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD


3. Additional lenses

In the chase for fantastic wildlife imagery, photographers should never overlook opportunities for beautiful landscape shots and high-quality portraiture. This means carrying a variety of lenses for every moment. Don uses a 24-70mm f/2.8 S lens for landscapes, and an 85mm F/1.8 S lens for portrait shots in the Maasai villages.

For the Pro Photographer:
NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens (landscapes) and
Nikon NIKKOR Z 85mm F/1.8 S Lens (portraits)
For the Casual Photographer: Olympus Travel Lens Kit

4. Binoculars

No safari is complete without a pair of binoculars. They are a must-have item! They do wonders for spotting wildlife in the distance and planning shots (with your long lens, of course!). Photographer or not, binoculars are a great tool for simply getting more enjoyment out of a safari. Don’s favorite binoculars for safari, the Nikon Monarch, are both lightweight and compact enough to fit in his camera bag.

For the Pro Photographer:
 Nikon MONARCH 7 10×30 Binocular
For the Casual Photographer: Pentax 8×42 S-Series SD

5. Safari Journal

Each day of a Tanzanian safari is filled with exciting and memorable experiences. While photos are a great way to relive those moments in vivid detail, personal journaling can help capture what can’t be captured through a camera lens.

Thomson provides each guest with a personal safari journal, filled with vital information and ample room to take personal notes of the day’s events: what you did, what you saw, where you went and what occurred. Don said his safari journals are his most precious keepsakes from some of the most significant events of his life.

“Time fades a lot of memories,” Don said. “This is great to have with you whenever you can.”


Travel on a photography-focused safari with Don Toothaker as your photography leader, who will provide photography instruction during your trip. All levels welcome!