Wildlife photography is a thrilling activity but can sometimes be challenging. Animals and birds are often skittish and will get agitated by flying or running away when they hear or spots a human lurking nearby, making you lose your perfect.
What’s more, animals don’t pose for selfies; you can spend hours or days tracking wildlife without seeing anything. But the most annoying thing about wildlife photography is taking a shot you thought was perfect only to find that the images appear blurry due to lack of skill or a poor camera.
With the numerous Digital SLRs cameras in the market today, it can be daunting to find a great wildlife camera to fulfill your outdoor needs.
Nonetheless, there are several things you can consider when choosing a camera.
How to Choose the Best Wildlife Camera
You’ll need a decent amount of knowledge to choose the right wildlife camera as they are complicated machines. Ideal cameras for portraits and landscapes may not work best in capturing wildlife. If you’re looking for the best cameras to capture wildlife, you should consider the factors below.
1.Shooting Speed (FPS)
Capturing clear and immersive photos of wildlife requires speed. If you have a slow camera of around three frames per second, you’re more likely to miss the perfect shot. Having an intuitively fast camera would help you capture those extraordinary moments of wildlife action as they happen. A frame rate of about five fps is ideal for a start.
However, if you’re looking to capture photos of rapidly moving wildlife, consider cameras with a frame rate of 10 fps or more. For continuous shooting, a frame rate of 8 fps or faster is recommended instead of a single AF where the focus is locked on the first frame. In addition to high frame rates, shooting in burst mode (max burst) is highly recommended for wildlife photography.
2.Crop Sensor or Full-Frame Sensors
Cameras come in two forms, i.e., cropped or full-frame sensors. While full-frame sensors are quite expensive, they offer significant advantages such as better image quality and ISO capabilities-i.e. they can capture great photos even in low light conditions. Cropped sensors are cheaper compared to full-frame sensors but offer increased reach for the lens. The effect is that the image will appear more “zoomed in” at a particular focal point-ideal for wildlife photography. Therefore, crop sensor cameras such as the Nikon D500 are ideal for wildlife photography.
Wildlife photography requires excellent autofocus and image tracking since there are low chances of achieving a sharp photo using manual focusing. Therefore, you should go for cameras with excellent autofocus system-at least 50 AF points. Autofocus in wildlife cameras needs to be accurate and fast to focus on the intended subject accurately and capture moving wildlife more successfully. The higher the number of AF points, the better it’s suited for wildlife photography.
For outstanding image quality and better low-light performance, cameras with a full-frame sensor are an excellent sensor. However, cameras with smaller crop sensor can still capture incredible wildlife photos. In fact, APS-C sensors have the upper hand in taking great pictures of subjects from a distance. An outstanding camera for wildlife photography should have just the right sensor size.
5.Low Light Shooting Capabilities
Unlike humans, wildlife tends to come out to feed at dawn or dusk. Most animals are usually in hiding during the day and would spend more time moving around. For a wildlife photographer, this means that you need to also come out during dawn or dusk to capture wildlife as they start to emerge from their hidings.
However, your camera is likely to perform dismally at dusk or dawn, and you’ll find yourself increasing the ISO speed to make the sensor more sensitive to light and brighten your exposure. An ideal camera for wildlife photography should have good low light capabilities to capture the best shots even in low lighting conditions.
As mentioned earlier, wildlife photography involves shooting in low-light conditions near dawn and dusk when higher ISOs are needed. Cameras with a wider ISO range offer a competitive advantage in wildlife photography. While higher ISOs increase the capturing noise, it’s better to put up with high noise and get a sharp image than get no shot at all. Wildlife cameras should have higher ISO equivalents and offer better image quality.
The Best Wildlife Camera Types
Wildlife cameras should perform well in a wide range of outdoor conditions, including lighting and weather elements. The most popular cameras for wildlife photography include point-and-shoot, DSLR, and mirrorless cameras.
A point-and-shoot camera with a proper zoom is excellent for taking wildlife photos. They are very easy to use and provide sufficient resolution for sharp images. These cameras are great for amateur photographers to fulfill their wildlife photography needs. However, wildlife photographers looking to control their camera settings can try either a DSLR or a mirrorless camera.
2.DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex)
A DSLR camera enables users to customize their cameras to attain the desired shot quality. These cameras have interchangeable lenses plus a viewfinder to create a single-lens reflex. This allows photographers to track images in real-time-an important aspect of wildlife photography since the movement of wildlife is usually rapid. Despite being bulky, DSLR cameras offer outstanding performance in wildlife photography.
Unlike DSLR, mirrorless cameras do not reflect the image from the lens into the viewfinder. Instead, the images are sent directly from the lens to the image sensor. The camera leverages an electronic viewfinder (EVF) to project the image into the photographer’s eye. Mirrorless cameras allow users to customize lenses and reduce the weight of the camera’s body. They are much lighter compared to DSLR cameras and tend to have similar performance. They are a great option for wildlife photographers who travel and are looking to reduce the overall weight of their camera setup.
The Best Wildlife Cameras in 2020
1. Nikon D500 DX-Format DSLR
- 20.9MP DX format CMOS sensor. Viewfinder: Eye level pentaprism single lens reflex viewfinder
- Expeed 5 image processor; Monitor size: 3.2 inches diagonal
|Sensor||20.9 MP APS-C CMOS Sensor|
|Frames per second:||10 fps|
|AF points||153-point AF System|
|Weight:||1.7 lbs. (Body Only)|
|Video||4K Ultra HD 2160p|
|Weather-Sealed:||Yes, and dust & water-drop resistant|
The Nikon D500 is a popular choice among wildlife photography enthusiasts thanks to its outstanding 153-point AF system coupled with the EXPEED 5 processor. It’s currently the best camera for wildlife photography with the capability of capturing fast-moving wildlife and comes at a significantly lower price point. It features a 21-megapixel sensor with great ISO capabilities and offers you the advantages of a crop sensor camera. The camera performs exceptionally in low or ambient light thanks to the wide ISO range, expandable to 1 640 000.
The camera also features weather sealing making it possible to take great photos even when it’s raining. For the ergonomics, the Nikon D500 is well balanced with a solid grip and superb construction. Well-arranged buttons, a joystick, and a touchscreen allow for quick and easy operation. The autofocus system is quite useful, providing excellent tracking and snappy focusing throughout most of the frame.
The camera is also quite fast, boasting of burst shooting up to 10 fps. The enormous buffers allow for continuous shooting up to 20 seconds. The Nikon D500 is a dream come true for a wildlife photographer. When paired with a quality lens, the camera can capture immersive wildlife photos from a distance. It’s arguably the best cropped-sensor camera on the market today.
- Top-of-class 154-point AF system
- Rapid 10 fps shooting
- Very fast buffers
- Excellent weather sealing
- High-resolution tilt touchscreen
- High ISO performance
- Video AF
- Nikon Snap bridge Wireless Connectivity App is disappointing.
2. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
- Fastest shooting EOS-1D, capable of up to 14 fps full-resolution RAW or JPEG, and up to 16 fps in Live View mode with new Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processors
- Achieves a maximum burst rate of up to 170 raws in continuous shooting at up to 16 fps, and 4K movies using CFast cards in the new CFast 2.0 slot
|Sensor||20.2 MP Full-Frame Sensor|
|Frames per second:||14 fps|
|AF points||61-point AF system|
|Weight:||3 lbs. (Body Only)|
|Video||Full HD 1080p|
Released in 2016, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II DSLR is another outstanding DSLR for wildlife and bird photography, considering its fast capturing speed and lens option in the Canon system notable super-tele primes and teleconverters. The camera is currently the fastest DSLR in the market with a frame rate of 14 fps using the optical viewfinder or 16 fps shooting in Live View.
The EOS-1 D X Mark II also boasts of an impressive AF system constituting 61 AF points, 41 of which are cross-type and compatible with apertures as small as f/8 focal length. The EOS-1 D X Mark II delivers incredibly detailed wildlife photos in almost any lighting condition. With the DSLR, you can shoot 4K at 60 fps but with some limitations such as the large and bulky camera body and the limited touchscreen functionality. It combines well with Canon EF 100-400 mm Lens to produce stunning images.
Excellent shooting speeds, smart & fast autofocus, and ability to capture incredibly precise photos in any lighting condition makes the EOS-1 D X Mark II a favorite among many pro wildlife photographers. If you’re a professional wildlife photographer, you should consider this DSLR.
- Incredible AF capabilities
- Full-frame sensor
- Tough and versatile camera body
- Great low-light performance
- 4K video with excellent tracking
- Wide ISO range 100-51, 200
- Built-in GPS
- Super-fast frame rate at 14 fps and 16fps.
- Quite expensive
- Heavy and bulky
- Limited touchscreen functionality.
3. Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera
- Nikon designed back side illuminated (BSI) full frame image sensor with no optical low pass filter
- 45.7 megapixels of extraordinary resolution, outstanding dynamic range and virtually no risk of moiré
|Frames per second:||Up to 120fps|
The Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera has been described by camera analyst as the best all-rounder camera thanks to its capability of capturing nature, stunning landscape, and wildlife. The camera offers an incredible 45.7 MP sensor with the capability of capturing seven fps at full resolution or nine fps with the optimal MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack. It features Nikon’s 153-point, Multi-Cam 20K AF system, which features 99 cross-type sensors (15 are sensitive to f/8).
Of particular use in wildlife photography is its silent shooting mode when using the electronic shutter in DX mode with frame rates of up to 30 fps at 8.6-megapixel resolution. While it does produce a lower-resolution image, silent shooting mode enables you to capture wildlife at close distance without scaring them to run away.
The Nikon 850 uses a BSI full-frame sensor. The FX-format mount allows users to explore different zoom lenses, wide-angle lenses as well as other photos. Apart from capturing incredible photography, the camera can record videos up to 8K6 resolution.
With fast shooting speed( up to 9 frames per second), a huge 45.7 BSI full-frame sensor, silent shooting mode, and video recording capabilities, the Nikon 850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera fulfills the needs of any ambitious wildlife photographer.
- Best dynamic range
- 45.7 MP full-frame sensor
- No anti-aliasing filter
- Slow-motion recording
- BSI full-frame sensor
- Video recording capabilities with up to 8k6 resolution video.
- Limited fps on some recording settings.
4. Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR Camera
- 20.2 MP CMOS sensor and ISO 100-16000
- High speed continuous shooting up to 10.0 fps
|Sensor||20.2 MP APS-C CMOS Sensor|
|Frames per second:||10 fps|
|AF points||65-point All Cross-Type AF System|
|Weight:||1.8 lbs. (Body Only)|
|Video||Full HD 1080p|
Despite being an old Canon release, the EOS 7D Mark II is still one of the best APS-C DSLRs in the market today. The camera has many similarities, features, and functions as the much more expensive Canon 1 D X Mark II discussed earlier. The major difference, however, is that the 7D has an APS-C sensor instead of a full-size sensor. The lack of a full-size sensor explains why the 7D Mark II appears smaller in dimensions and weight, and it’s less expensive. Reduced weight and smaller dimensions make the 7D more ergonomically suited to capture wildlife photos.
The 7D Mark II offers ten frames per second shooting speed with a 20-megapixel sensor. The Dual-Pixel autofocus system comprising 65 cross-type points widely scattered out is incredible, making it possible to capture outstanding wildlife photos in motion. You’ll definitely appreciate how the camera is blazing fast and accurate.
The camera supports the use of two cards, i.e., a CF and an SD simultaneously. The rugged, ergonomic body, sophisticated metering system plus a host of other useful features such as the camera’s ISO and AF system makes the Canon 7D Mark II a competitive DSLR for capturing wildlife even in low-light settings. However, the camera lacks Wi-Fi connectivity, plus the LCD isn’t a touch-sensitive-a major hindrance to its usability.
- Rapid frame rate of 10 fps.
- Features a cross-point AF system for image tracking
- Intuitive and easy to use interface
- Great shots in low-light conditions
- Outstanding ISO to prevent blurry images
- Quiet shutter
- Weather sealed for outdoor use.
- Low battery life
- Lacks Wi-Fi or NFC connectivity.
5.Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera
- Advanced Image Sensor Technology: The 26.1MP BSI APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 image sensor and X-Processor 4 quad-core CPU combination provide accurate AF and Face Detection for moving subjects when capturing...
- Accurate Auto-Focus Tracking and Face Detection: he new X-Processor 4 Quad Core-CPU offers fast and accurate face-detection for moving people. Additionally, eye-detection AF now works in AF-C mode,...
|Sensor||26.1MP BSI APS-C X-Trans CMOS|
|Frames per second:||30 fps|
The Fujifilm X-T30 camera offers a sublime mirrorless shooting experience with a fast burst combined with a good buffer. The beautifully designed camera is undoubtedly one of the best full-frame mirrorless camera best suited for wildlife photography even at night. The camera features the outstanding APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor that functions to reduce flare in lighted environments while also functioning to offer better performance when shooting wildlife at night.
Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera also boasts full 4k video recording capabilities at 30 fps or 1080p at 120fps. The quad-core CPU and built-in image processing offer high image quality with great low light performance.
The camera is compatible with a wide range of lenses, including the Fujinon XF23mmF2 R WR Lens. This offers you more significant possibilities to explore different photography techniques. Fujifilm X-T30 is highly recommended for upcoming wildlife photography enthusiasts.
- Fantastic image quality
- Face and eye detection
- Quad-core CPU
- APS-C X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor
- Great value for money
- 26.1 MP
- Crop sensor
- 4K video recording limited to 30 fps.
6.Canon EOS RP
- Compact, Lightweight and High-Quality RF Lens with a Versatile Zoom Range of 24-105mm
- Optical Image Stabilization at up to 5 Stops of Shake Correction
|Frames per second:||30 fps|
|Video||4K UHD 2160p|
The Canon EOS RP is one of the most affordable full frame cameras and comes with snappy focusing. A full frame mirrorless camera confers lots of advantages when it comes to animal photography. The larger sensor area offers a better dynamic range, which improves the camera’s performance in low light or challenging high-contrast situations. Increased sensor area also enhances the camera’s ability to create images with shallow depth of field, allowing the photographer to capture high-quality photos.
The camera features an excellent autofocus system with 5 655 different points plus a dual pixel CMOS sensor. The camera also has a 4K recording capability giving you the option to record wildlife videos at a higher resolution. The Canon EOS RP packs a 30.3 MP sensor, plus you can also choose to buy the camera with an included lens, i.e., the Canon 24-240mm lens.
The Canon EOS RP is an excellent choice for wildlife photography and performs excellently when paired with an outstanding autofocus system. However, the RF lens that traditionally pairs with this camera is still relatively new and lacks the kind of super telephoto lenses that are essential in wildlife photography. Nonetheless, this issue can be solved with an EF-to-RF adapter that gives users access to Canon’s enormous DSLR lens collection. It’s highly likely that longer RF-mount telephotos will be produced in the coming years, making the camera a long-term investment for wildlife photographers.
- Dual Pixel CMOS
- 5, 655 AF points
- Full frame sensor
- Touch display
- 0.76 magnification
- 30.3 MP
- Great for video recording
- Lacks an ideal super-telephoto lens for wildlife photography.
7. Nikon D5
- 20.8MP FX-Format CMOS Sensor
- EXPEED 5 Image Processor
|Monitor||3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2359K dots|
|Max frame rate:||12fps|
|Video||4K at 30p|
|Weight:||1405g (3 lb.)|
The Nikon D5 is an exceptional high-end professional-level DSLR for both wildlife and birds photography. With 20 megapixels full-frame sensor and shooting speed of 12 frames per second using the viewfinder or 14 fps with the mirror locked up, the D5 is an absolute beast. The 153 AF points, 99 of which are cross-type, and 15 that can function at apertures as small as f/8, enables the camera to capture fast and precise images. The AF also features a dedicated processor and comes with a dedicated processor that works in extremely low-light conditions up to 4 EV.
The camera also offers an impressive ISO range, expandable up to 3 280 000, meaning that you can capture high-quality images in very low light. Better yet, you can record 4K video at 30fps. The camera’s system features a robust range of premium telephoto lenses and teleconverters, making the camera a top choice for professional wildlife photographers.
- Exceptional image quality at high ISO
- Outstanding build quality
- Professional quality video, i.e., 4K UHD
- Efficient point autofocus system
- Very expensive
- Quite bulky
- No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection
Finding the perfect camera to capture wildlife or birds is a bit challenging and requires a bit of research and planning. While there are numerous options to consider, the best camera for wildlife photography should suit your specific needs. Nonetheless, factors such as shooting speeds, weatherproofing, weight and size, low light performance, lens compatibility, and type of sensors should be considered when choosing the best wildlife photography camera. Of course, budget is another crucial aspect to consider.
If you’re looking to buy the best camera for wildlife photography, there are plenty of gems in this roundup for the best wildlife photography cameras. Whichever camera you’re going to settle on, it’s going to help you capture incredible wildlife moments.
- 1 How to Choose the Best Wildlife Camera
- 2 The Best Wildlife Camera Types
- 3 The Best Wildlife Cameras in 2020
- 3.1 1. Nikon D500 DX-Format DSLR
- 3.2 2. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
- 3.3 3. Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera
- 3.4 4. Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR Camera
- 3.5 5.Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera
- 3.6 6.Canon EOS RP
- 3.7 7. Nikon D5
- 4 Author’s Note