Best Camera for Wildlife Photography - Reviews and Guide

Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a birdwatcher, a lover of nature, or you are just passionate about wildlife, a good camera is a must-have for you! While it is enthralling to get up close with nature, of course, it is even extra enthralling if you have awesome pictures to show for it. So, have you been wondering what the best camera for wildlife photography is? Your question will be answered soon enough.

Wildlife photography is a demanding type of photography. Your average, regular camera may not cut it, and that is understandable since it is a huge challenge already to photograph animals. Animals can often be watched in difficult conditions, moving among the foliage, in low light… You need a camera that can handle these challenges and more, without struggling. It’s a challenge I had to face on a number of my adventures around the world.

A camera compatible with great wildlife photography should offer top-notch features such as a high quality sensor, good high ISO management, among other great features. They should come with everything to make your task easy as pie and let you get that fantastic animal shot you’re after.

However, with different companies churning out different photography cameras nowadays, it isn’t easy to choose the right one. But research can always save you from making a wrong purchase. Thus, we have put this guide together in order to help you make the right decision when choosing the best camera for wildlife photography.

The 6 Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography of 2018

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Digital SLR Camera

The most recent camera of Canon’s legendary 5D series is a fantastic piece of technology, and the improvement from the 5D Mark II to the 5D Mark IV is quite remarkable.

It has all you need to shoot outstanding wildlife images. The association of a great 30 megapixel resolution and the recent DIGIC 6+ image processor result in a beautiful image quality and fast operation. The advanced 61-point autofocus system makes wonders at focusing moving animals in the difficult low light conditions we often find in the field.

The continuous shooting mode is also highly capable at 7 images per second, to make sure you don’t miss that shot! This camera is also able to capture 4K video (but cropped), and the in-built GPS is a very nice plus to geotag your images.

Overall, the Canon 5D Mark IV is pretty versatile and has all the attributes needed to shoot superb wildlife photography if used with an adapted telephoto lens.

 

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: DSLR (Full Frame)
  • Weight: 798 g / 1.76 lbs
  • Size: 15 x 7.6 x 11.7 cm / 5.9 x 3 x 4.6 in
  • Sensor: 30.4 MP
  • ISO: 100 – 102,400
  • Continuous shooting: Up to 7 fps
  • Video: 4K

Pros

  • Great image quality
  • Solid autofocus system
  • Great resolution
  • Wireless connectivity & GPS
  • Broad ISO range
  • Touch screen

Cons

  • The screen is not articulated
  • The 4K video is cropped (1.74x crop factor)

Nikon D850 Digital SLR CameraOur Top Pick

The Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera has advanced features that make it perfect for wildlife photography. Featuring Nikon’s new EXPEED 5 image processor alongside an incredible 45.7 megapixels, this camera delivers flawless images requiring small or no modifications at all.

Furthermore, this camera comes with ISO that ranges from 32 – 102,400 in extended mode, thus it can effortlessly capture colourful and highly-detailed pictures regardless of the light conditions in the wild.

Its autofocus system is also excellent with its amazing 153 AF points that can track moving animals in difficult lighting conditions, without losing focus.

As far as video is concerned, it features Ultra HD 4K capture, as well as 4K and even 8K time lapses.

The D850 is a camera with truly outstanding performance that makes wildlife photography, ordinarily so challenging, within reach. It is not the cheapest but still almost half the price of the high-end cameras listed on this page, which is a very solid value for money – and it’s my top pick!

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: DSLR (Full Frame)
  • Weight: 915 g / 2.02 lbs
  • Size: “14.6 x 12.4 x 7.9 cm / 3.4 x 5.8 x 4.9 in
  • Resolution: 45.7 MP
  • ISO: 64 – 102,400 in extended mode
  • Continuous shooting: Up to 9 fps
  • Video: 4K UHD & 1080p HD at 120 fps

Pros

  • Ultra high resolution
  • Amazing sharpness
  • High durability
  • Intuitive controls
  • 4K video
  • 4k & 8K time lapse
  • Tilting touch screen
  • Very good AF system

Cons

  • Images get noisy over ISO 25,600
  • No built-in GPS

Sony A77II Digital SLR Camera

The Sony Alpha a77 II DSLR Camera is a very versatile device that is capable of delivering images of high resolution regardless of the light conditions. With its BIONZ X image processor, this camera is capable of taking as much as twelve frames per second or twenty-six frames in RAW mode.

Furthermore, the camera comes with ISO 25600 capability, which is ideal for photographing wild creatures in low light conditions. Besides, the camera features a Translucent Mirror Technology, which enhances the sensor and processing ability of the unit by directing light to the picture and focusing sensors concurrently.

With a context-sensitive noise reduction, more polished sharpening, and a diffraction reduction technology, it is easy to see why this model is regarded as a superior to previous models.

All in all, it is a very good, affordable option for wildlife photography.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: DSLR (APS-C)
  • Weight: 0.72 kg / 1.60 lbs
  • Size: 14.2 x 10.4 x 8.1 cm / 5.6 x 4.1 x 3.2 in
  • Sensor: 24 MP
  • ISO: 100 – 25600
  • Continuous shooting: Up to 12 fps
  • Video: HD 1080p

Pros

  • Excellent AF with incredible tracking
  • Brilliant articulated screen
  • Solid construction quality
  • Outstanding general image quality
  • Wireless connectivity
  • 12 fps continuous shooting

Cons

  • It can take some time to get used to the menus
  • No GPS tagging

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera

With varieties of advanced features at a very affordable price, it is easy to see why the Canon 7D Mark II is one of the most popular cameras among wildlife photographers and sports photographers. This DSLR camera is packed with powerful ability to autofocus, hence, it enables users to photograph fast-moving animals.

Powered by twin Digic 6+ processors, the whooping 65-point autofocus power of this Canon camera means it can capture a stunning 10 frames at every second and allow you to take more than hundred JPEG shots before having to buffer. In the RAW mode, this camera will enable you to capture as much as thirty-one frames every second.

With an ISO ranging from  100 to 16000 (can be extended to 51200), it can perform well under various lighting conditions, which is an important benefit when shooting wildlife.

Of course, the 7D Mark II doesn’t match the exceptional performance of the high-end professional DSLR cameras, but if your budget is more limited and still want a great camera well adapted to wildlife photography, this is one very good option.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: DSLR (APS-C)
  • Weight: 0.9 kg / 2 lbs
  • Size: ” / 14.9 x 11.2 x 7.8 cm / 5.9 x 4.4 x 3.1 in
  • Sensor: 20.2 Mpx APS-C (x1.6 crop factor)
  • ISO: 100 – 51200 in extended mode
  • Continuous shooting: Up to 10 fps
  • Video: Full HD 1080p up to 60 fps

Pros

  • Great image quality
  • Excellent burst performance
  • Fast, consistant autofocus
  • Affordable

Cons

  • No 4K video recording
  • No in-built Wi-Fi

Canon EOS-1DX Mark II DSLR Camera

If you are in search of the perfect DSLR camera to take pictures of animals at night or in low light settings, then your search has ended here as the Canon EOD-1D X Mark II Camera is the perfect camera for your needs.

The device has ultra-fast autofocus that is capable of capturing as much as fourteen frames per second. This camera delivers precise 5184 x 3456 pictures of outstanding quality.

Ranging 100 to 51200, the ISO range of this camera is quite average. However, this camera from Canon offers extended 50 – 102400 or 204800 sensitivity selections to take pictures in varieties of light settings. In addition, this camera is super-fast, thanks to its Dual DIGIC 6+ image processors.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: DSLR (Full Frame)
  • Weight: 1.5 kg / 3.37 lbs
  • Size: 15.8 x 16.7 x 8.3 cm / 6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3 in
  • Sensor: 20.2 Mpx full frame
  • ISO: 50 – 409600
  • Continuous shooting: Up to 170 RAWs at 16 fps in live view
  • Video: 4K at 60 fps

Pros

  • Terrific Autofocus
  • Excellent exposure system
  • Great noise control
  • High quality 4K video capture

Cons

  • A little heavy
  • Expensive if you are not a professional photographer

Nikon D5 DSLR Camera

In any discussion where optics are mentioned, it is difficult not to mention Nikon as well. Nikon and optics are almost synonymous, thus, the first product on this list is the ever reliable Nikon D5 20.8 Digital SLR Camera. This model is a stunning camera suitable for wildlife photography, and with its plethora of features, it is sure to give other models a run for their money.

This excellent camera has a very impressive autofocus, which enables you to swiftly capture quick wild animals on the run. Also, the sensor of the camera is top quality, as it obtains image data with impeccable balance of rich tonal gradation, high resolution, and superior signal-to-noise ratio for high quality pictures. The final outputs are always flawless that you wouldn’t need to make much adjustments.

If you are looking for camera perfect for wildlife photography, from a reliable company as well, then there is no looking past the Nikon D5 20.8 Digital SLR Camera.

 Quick Specifications

  • Type: DSLR (Full Frame)
  • Weight: 1.4 kg / 3.12 lbs
  • Size:  16 x 15.9 x 9.2 cm / 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 in
  • Sensor: 20.8 Mpx full frame
  • Max. ISO: 3,280,000
  • Continuous shooting: 12 fps
  • Video: 4K UHD at 30 fps

Pros

  • Remarkable autofocus
  • High ISO range
  • Shoots stills while taking a video
  • Durable build
  • Brilliant face detection and autofocus
  • 4K video capture

Cons

  • Doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi
  • Expensive if you are not a professional photographer

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Important Factors to Consider Before Buying?

So what makes a good camera for wildlife photography? Wildlife cameras vary in performance, features and functionalities, so if you are meaning to purchase one for your outdoors adventures, you should consider the following characteristics.

Lens Options: Lenses is one of the most vital factors you must consider when shopping for the right wildlife camera. It is important to check that top quality lenses are available for the camera you choose, so you are able to zoom very far and capture stunning shots.

Moreover, these lenses ought to have large apertures, which enable quick and steady focus regardless of the distance and lighting conditions.

Durability: The great challenges faced by wildlife photographers is unhidden to everyone. Usually, they spend a lot of time in coarse territories, which explains why their equipment, including cameras need to be incredibly strong so as to endure tough conditions like penetrating heat, heavy rain, and dust.

Weight: Weight is another vital factor you must take into consideration when doing your camera shopping. Since you will be carrying all your tools in the roughest of environments, while moving very fast, it is needed of you to ensure that you can carry your camera conveniently in your backpack.

Autofocus: Having a top-performing autofocus is very important in wildlife photography. Animals are not always clearly visible, among the vegetations and sometimes camouflaged in the background. You want an autofocus that is able to precisely focus on the animal and fast.

High ISO Performance: Shooting wildlife often means shooting early morning or late afternoon, with less light available. At long focal lengths, the phenomenon is even worse. The rule is to always shoot as the lowest ISO possible for better image quality but when shooting wildlife you may simply have no other choice than increasing the ISO setting. Increased ISO means more noise in the image, so you need a camera that is both able to go high in the ISO, and keep the noise at a reasonable level.

Price: The price, of course, is always a very important consideration. The camera’s price will be determined by the features offered by the camera. Therefore, you need to have a clear idea of the amount you are intending to invest on a camera before even making any commitment.

Quality wildlife photography is challenging and requires high-performance cameras. A couple cameras on this page are clearly aimed at professional photographers, costing $6000+ dollars for the body only. Of course, if you can afford it, these camera will give you an outstanding result.

Are Lenses Included in The Options Listed Here?

No. I usually try to list camera bodies with lenses as a kit so you can start shooting right away. But since we are dealing with wildlife photography, you need specific lenses and there is no point in showing you random kit lenses. That’s why I chose to show you camera bodies only in this guide.

APS-C or Full Frame, What’s The Difference and Which One Should I Choose?

APS-C sensors are smaller than full frame sensors. They are also called “cropped sensors”. The result is a magnified image (compared with full frame), and each APS-C camera has a definite “crop factor”. Most of the time, it is around x1.5. So what does it mean?

Let’s compare a full frame camera and an APS-C camera with a crop factor of 1.5, shooting with a 300 mm lens. With the full frame camera, you get the normal image shot at 300 mm. On the APS-C camera, with a 300 mm lens, you will actually get the equivalent of 450 mm (300×1.5).

If you are shooting landscapes, it’s a limitation (because in general, the wider the better). But if you shoot wildlife, it’s great because it basically enables you to zoom 1.5 times more than the theorical limit of your lens!

However, there are very good reasons to choose a full frame sensor. On a larger, full frame sensor, the pixels are bigger. In low light, the image quality is usually better and the images are less noisy. For wildlife photography, it’s a very big advantage.

So between a “telephoto effect” with an APS-C sensor or better low light image quality with a full frame sensor, it feels a bit like a dilemma to know which one is more important and useful.

If you want my opinion, if you can afford the extra budget, it is better to go with a full frame sensor. You can always buy a lens that zooms more but you can’t change the sensor’s performance. Good low light performance is very important in wildlife photography, and this is what you should consider first.

Why Are There Only DSLRs in Your Selection?

Even if it’s true that mirrorless cameras are catching up more and more with DSLRs and make amazing cameras for travel or general photography, DSLRs still have the edge in wildlife photography with their very high performances. Since we are looking for the best camera for wildlife photography, in my opinion the best is a DSLR.

Why Don’t You Show Camera Prices on This Page?

Prices change all the time. Merchants can run promotions, options you choose can make the price vary. As a result, any price displayed on this page could very quickly be outdated. That’s why prefer to give you a quick link so you can check the latest price of the camera you like directly.

How Did You Choose Your Top Pick?

My top pick is the camera that I consider offering the right set of featured and the best performance for the right price.

For wildlife photography, equipment performance is particularly important. But depending on your level, buying a $5000 camera because it has all the new systems you can imagine might just be kind of overkill…

After carefully comparing these 6 cameras, my top pick is the one I am suggesting you to choose because it has all the best features for stunning for wildlife photography, and comes at a price that is justified, given the performance of the camera.

That said, it is just my personal opinion and that’s why I provide the list of 6 cameras and not only the top pick, so you can compare and choose the one that best suits your needs and your budget.

Final Thoughts

Wildlife photography is really rewarding and beautiful. But when you have the wrong gear, it can very quickly get frustrating! Wildlife photography is demanding and challenging for both the photographer and the camera, but I believe that any of the 6 cameras listed on this page is able to greatly help you get the fabulous wildlife shots you’re after.

I hope that this guide was useful to you and helped you find the perfect camera!

Disclosure: Exploration Junkie is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

If you purchase an item on Amazon through the affiliate links in this page, this website will earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps us keeping this site ad-free, and it helps you say thank you if our content is useful to you 🙂


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