The DSLR body is not nearly as important here as the lens(es), and a good tripod..
Your #1 problem is that whichever system you pick, the lenses that would be good for safari trips are likely to be very expensive. (A 70-300mm lens with IS/VR, on a crop sensor body, is good for zoos and can get you photos of some backyard birds. On safari, you might find that it is way too short. And once you start talking about really long telephoto lenses, with IS/VR and relatively fast speeds, price and weight start shooting up into the stratosphere.).
I've read that in some large cities, there are dealers who rent specialized lenses (and camera bodies?) for use on such trips. You might want to go that route before laying down a huge amount of money for something you've never tried in the field...
Firstly, I dont think there is a point & shoot that will fit your needs..
One of the reasons Canon anf Nikon get better reviews it's because they are better at doing the job..
If you really want to take wildlife you need fast continuos focus and really good glass (lens).
Both Canon and Niokn have both but I believe Canon currently has a better range of long sharp lenses at reasonable prices..
The cost will all be in your lenses, the Camera becomes somewhat secondary in the equation once you pass a reasonable level..
For small wildlife (birds) you need at least 400mm a Canon 100-400 L IS USM lens would be a great start point, for larger game that you can get close to perhaps a 70-200 L IS USM.
Whilst the IS (image stabilised (Canon)) or (VR vibration reduction (Nikon)) are not overly useful when panning they are very useful for static low light shots..
I think the Canon 40D or the Nikon D300 would be excellent choices..
First of all, thanks to both Tom_N and solo1. I found your posts very informative..
Solo1, it sounds like the set up you recommend is out of my price range, considering the infrequency of my trips back to Africa (I'm going in two weeks, but last time I went was '04 - and this should only decline going forward). Maybe I will consider a good set up when I'm retired/wealthier..
I'll look into some kind of rental agreement as Tom_N suggested. I really only enjoy shooting wildlife, so I have to be realistic and admit that I won't be using a new camera set up very often at all...
I've read that in some large cities, there are dealers who rentspecialized lenses (and camera bodies?) for use on such trips. Youmight want to go that route before laying down a huge amount of moneyfor something you've never tried in the field..
Tom, you bring up a very good point - rentals. Finding someone to rent a Canon or Nikon 500mm lens is going to be easy. Finding a Pentax or Sony.... good luck. A lens that long is out of my price range to buy... but I can justify renting one for the right occasion.....
Oops....I'm sorry, but I do not agree. Canon and Nikon doing a better job??.
I used Leica/Nikon in the filmdays (and I can assure you....with some VERY good glass). But now..I bought myself the Olympus E-3 and I like it VERY much. A very sturdy, weatherproof machine with build in Image Stabilisation delivering VERY nice pics, believe me!..
Do not get me wrong. nikon and Canon are perfectly capable of making very nice cameras and lenses. But some people seem to be influenced by commercials too much (even camera salesmen). Just take a closer look at a brand like Olympus with it's perfect range of VERY high IQ lenses; many of them better than most lenses Nikon and Canon can offer..
I travel quite a lot (Africa/Asia/South America/etc.....all backpacking), so I do not wish to lug around all heavy equipment, whereas I DO want top quality pics. Olympus can give that to me; with just 2 lenses I get top quality from 24mm to 400 mm (film)..
By the way...to a beginner it's difficult to advise for a E-3 or D300 (do not know the 40D/cannot comment on that); they have a VERY steep learning curve!Maybe take a look at Olympus 510 and get the best glass money can buy!..