Having a great camera is essential for wildlife photography, particularly if you are looking to up your game and take your art to the next level. Technology has come a long way in recent years, and there are some highly advanced cameras on the market that can help you to improve as a photographer and give you the technical capabilities needed to compete with the best.
Choosing the best camera for wildlife photography is a tricky business, however, and there are many different factors that you need to consider before making a purchase.
Wildlife photography will take you into the outdoors, and you’ll need a camera that’s durable, resilient and able to capture fast-paced action without compromising on quality.
You will need to consider your budget, the size and weight of the camera, battery life, shooting speeds and sensor sizes to name just a few. To help to lead you through this photographic minefield here’s our guide to choosing the best camera for wildlife photography.
Top 5 Camera’s for Wildlife Photography
|Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera |
-AF points: 65
-Frames per second: 10
-Natural ISO expandable to 51200
-Dual Pixel CMOS AF system
-Stunning Full HD video
|Canon EOS-1DX Mark II DSLR Camera |
-Frames per second: 14
-EOS Intelligent Tracking
-Water resistant body
|Nikon D7200 DX-Format DSLR Body |
-Frames per second: 6
-Extensive battery life
-Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 60 fps
-In camera time lapse
|Nikon 1 V3 18.4 MP Mirrorless Digital Camera Body Only |
-Frames per second: 20
-EXPEED 4A Image Processor
-Built-In WiFi Connectivity
-Full HD 1080p Video Recording
|Sony A77II Digital SLR Camera |
-Frames per second: 14
-79 point phase detection
Quick Answer: Best Camera for Wildlife Photography
- Best Overall Camera: Nikon D500 DX-Format Digital SLR
- Best Weather Sealed Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera
- Best High End Camera: Canon EOS-1DX Mark II DSLR Camera
- Best Sony Camera: Sony A77II Digital SLR Camera
- Best Nikon Camera: Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body
- Best Canon Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera
- Best Mirrorless Camera: Sony Alpha a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera
- Best for Beginner Photographers: Nikon D5300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera
- Best Point and Shoot Camera: Sony RX10 IV Cyber-Shot High Zoom 20.1MP Camera
- Best Budget Camera: Nikon D5300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera
While there are many great quality ‘Point and Shoot’ cameras in production these days, the first thing to note when picking the best camera for wildlife photography is that these compact designs aren’t exactly suitable.
The first choice you need to make is the choice to invest in a camera that allows you to change lenses. A camera with interchangeable lenses give you a broader range of photography options.
When it comes to wildlife photography specifically, you are going to need quality telephoto lenses that allow you to zoom in the action from afar. The right lens can be just as important as having the right camera body.
DSLR vs Mirrorless
Traditionally, DSLR – Digital Single Lens Reflex – cameras were the only option for wildlife photographers, but with new and better technology being developed, Mirrorless cameras have become a great alternative.
DSLRs make use of a mirror system, whereby light is reflected onto the sensor when taking a picture. Mirrorless cameras don’t, of course, have this mirror. The main advantage of the mirrorless cameras is their smaller size and weight.
Without the bulky mirror system inside the camera body, these cameras are much lighter and easier to handle. For wildlife photographers, this is a huge bonus, as the chances are you will be hiking or traveling in order to find the animals you are looking to photograph.
An advantage of the traditional DSLR though is the fact that the image you see through your viewfinder and on your camera screen after you take a shot, is much closer to the final image you’ll find when you upload to a computer because you are seeing the natural light reflected through the mirror.
Mirrorless cameras make use of Electronic Viewfinders (EVF), which can distort the image slightly when you view it on the camera itself, particularly in low light.
Having been around much, much longer, DSLRs also have a wider range of lenses to choose from, which are generally better priced than their mirrorless counterparts.
This is slowly changing and in a few years will not be so much of a problem, but for now, there is a fairly big difference in this department.
Recent Mirrorless cameras such as those produced by the Sony range, are now able to compete with the best DSLRs for quality and price though, ensuring that many professionals are now making the switch to Mirrorless.
APS-C vs Full Frame
Once you have decided whether to go Mirrorless or to stick with the traditional DSLR, the next factor to consider when choosing the best camera for wildlife photography, is the difference between APS-C and Full Frame Sensors.
Generally speaking, professionals tend to use the Full Frame cameras, but these are both bulkier and more expensive than an APS-C camera.
The difference is found in the sensors. A Full Frame camera will have a larger sensor, that’s similar to the old fashioned 35mm film cameras. An APS-C camera has a smaller sensor.
What this means for you in practical terms, is that with a Full Frame camera, you capture more light, and will actually have a picture that captures a wider field of view.
APS-C cameras are also known as crop cameras because the smaller sensor actually crops the image in comparison to the Full Frame. While you would imagine it not particularly useful to crop the image, actually, it can have some benefits.
For one, the cameras are cheaper to produce, but they also give you a larger magnification factor, meaning that, for example, if you place a 200mm lens on an APS-C camera, the resulting magnification is actually far more than 200mm, and with a crop factor of 1.5, you get 300mm worth of zoom.
For wildlife photographers, this can actually be quite handy.
APS-C cameras tend to be aimed at amateurs rather than professionals, however, and you will find many crop cameras can’t compete for functionality and durability when compared to Full Frame options.
Full Frame cameras, for example, tend to be weather sealed and able to cope with much more extreme weather conditions, which is a great advantage when deciding which is the best camera for wildlife photography.
When it comes to wildlife photography, you may only have a few seconds, perhaps even less to get that perfect picture, so having a camera with smooth, fast auto-focus is a must.
The AF System of a camera is important to consider, and the more auto-focus points your model boasts, the more accurate and sharper your image will be.
Generally speaking, newer cameras have better auto-focus, as technology is constantly developing. More expensive, professional models will also have much more auto-focus ability than cheaper, entry-level cameras.
Frames Per Second
As well as having the ability to auto-focus quickly and efficiently, you also need to consider the number of frames per second you can shoot when choosing the best camera for wildlife photography.
Most cameras have continuous shooting functions or bust modes, that allow you to really capture the action. The best cameras though will allow you to take more frames per second, meaning you’re more likely to capture those wonderful, fleeting or fast-paced moments in the outdoors.
A camera’s ISO sensitivity will determine how good it is at capturing pictures in low light. Larger, full frame sensors can take in more light, and work at higher ISO levels in the dark without the image quality being compromised.
Higher ISO levels tend to make an image grainier, and you’ll find that cheaper models and APS-C sensors won’t produce as high quality an image in low light.
This may seem like a basic consideration when deciding on the best camera for wildlife photography but it can also be an important one. Many Mirrorless cameras have lower battery life than their DLSR equivalents, and you’ll need to carry more spares around.
You also don’t want your battery exhausting right in the middle of the action. Many professional cameras are able to have battery pack attachments, allowing you much-increased usage times.
Weather Sealing and Durability
Most wildlife photography takes place outdoors of course and potentially in adverse weather. The best camera for wildlife photography will be able to deal with cold, heat, sunlight, dust and rain, to allow you to focus on the actual composition without worrying about your equipment.
The more professional cameras are going to be weather sealed, meaning that they can deal with rain and more extreme conditions. Overall, they are going to last much longer than an entry-level camera aimed at an amateur.
Of course, it’s not easy choosing the right camera, especially when you bring your budget into play. In many cases though, it’s worth paying more if you are serious about wildlife photography, and to look at a purchase as an investment.
A good camera that costs a little more, will likely last you much longer, and in the long run be much better value, than a cheaper model.
You may need to compromise, however, and there are cameras for all budgets. The biggest difference in price comes from deciding between an APS-C or a Full Frame camera, and the prices can be staggeringly different.
Best Camera for Wildlife Photography Recommendations
Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera
Optimized to make even the most challenging photographic situations effortless, Canon’s EOS 7D Mark II camera features a sophisticated 20.2 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors and more in a rugged, ergonomic design to ensure fast operation and robust still and moving images.
Customizable and easy to use, the EOS 7D Mark II’s Intelligent Viewfinder II lets you both shoot, change and confirm camera settings and shooting modes all without looking away from the viewfinder.
The EOS 7D Mark II camera has a rugged shutter that’s constructed to withstand up to 200,000 cycles and operate quickly with just a 55 msec shutter release time lag. Capable of shooting up to 10.0 frames per second, it delivers reliable, speedy performance for high-caliber image capture.
- 20.2 MP
- AF points: 65
- Frames per second: 10
- Natural ISO expandable to 51200
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF system
- Stunning Full HD video
Check Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera price at Amazon
Canon EOS 1DX Mark II DSLR Camera
The EOS-1D X Mark II camera is legendary every step of the way. It’s amazingly fast with continuous shooting up to 14 fps (up to 16 fps in Live View Mode) and 61-point AF system. With 4K video capability and a powerful sensor, the EOS-1D X Mark II performs swiftly and stunningly anytime, anywhere.
This camera delivers speedy operation with a mirror mechanism designed for highly precise performance, a CMOS sensor that enables fast image capture and many more advanced features.The camera features a rigid, magnesium-alloy body with dust-, weather- sealed ports & mounts for rugged performance.
- 20.2 MP
- AF: 61
- Frames per second: 14
- 4K video
- EOS Intelligent Tracking
- Water resistant body
Check Canon EOS-1DX Mark II DSLR Camera price at Amazon
Nikon D7200 DX-Format DSLR Body
Poised to deliver in the most challenging of situations. This camera is a versatile DX-format DSLR that caters to both still photography and video users. Featuring a 24.2MP CMOS sensor. The D7200 is able to record up to 6 fps at full-resolution, or 7 fps at a 1.3x crop, with a 100-frame buffer for extended high-speed shooting.
Full HD 1080p video recording is supported up to 60 fps, and in-camera time lapse shooting with automatic exposure smoothing is possible for up to 9,999 consecutive frames.
In addition to the sheer imaging benefits, the D7200 also incorporates a large 3.2″ LCD monitor, dual SD card slots, and features built-in snapbridge Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC for simple linking of your mobile device.
- 24.2 MP
- AF: 51
- Frames per second: 6
- Extensive battery life
- Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 60 fps
- In camera time lapse
Check Nikon D7200 DX-Format DSLR Body price at Amazon
Nikon 1 V3 Mirrorless Digital Camera Body
The Nikon 1 V3 Mirrorless Digital Camera is a compact, advanced camera featuring a CX-format 18.4MP CMOS sensor and EXPEED 4A image processor to produce high-resolution stills and full HD movies with notable sensitivity to ISO 12800.
The combination of these two technologies also affords fast performance throughout the camera, including a full-resolution continuous shooting rate of 20 fps with full-time autofocus and a 120 fps movie frame rate for recording slow motion sequences.
- 18.4 MP
- AF: 175
- Frames per second: 20
- EXPEED 4A Image Processor
- Built-In WiFi Connectivity
- Full HD 1080p Video Recording
Check Nikon 1 V3 Mirrorless Digital Camera Body price at Amazon
Sony A77II Digital SLR Camera
The Sony Alpha a77II Digital SLR Camera Body houses a large APS-C sensor with approx. 24.3 effective megapixels for incredible detail and gorgeous enlargements.
Its high resolving power adopts the same gapless on-chip lens structure as the a7R and features the latest-generation RGB color filter and other cutting-edge device technologies developed by Sony, the number 1 manufacturer of image sensors.
This engine achieves approximately three times the processing speed of previous BIONZ and features all the latest image processing technologies, which are optimized for this model. The result is astonishingly high-speed processing capabilities as well as faithfully reproduced textures and amazing definition.
- 24.3 MP
- AF: 15
- Frames per second: 14
- 79 point phase detection
- Contrast detection
- OLED TruFinder
- Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity
Check Sony A77II Digital SLR Camera price at Amazon
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