Wildlife photography can put the best cameras to the test. Your camera equipment will be used under challenging and demanding conditions. Apart from their durability, cameras for wildlife need to have high-performance features. In addition, they should be able to adapt to different light conditions and the fast movement of photography subjects.
Let’s look into the features you should look for in a wildlife photography camera. You’ll also get a list of the best cameras for wildlife and the outdoors.
Features of the Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography
Not all cameras are built for wildlife photography. However, several factors set the best cameras apart, making them suited for fast-paced and action-packed photoshoots. Further, it’s important to choose the photography gear capable of shooting at fast speeds but versatile enough to capture breathtaking stills in low light conditions.
Other features like silent shooting will come in handy since you don’t want to scare away your subjects while composing your shot. In addition, you’ll need a camera with more accurate autofocus and tracking to take pictures of fast-moving animals.
At a minimum, you need a camera with a shooting rate of 8 frames per second (FPS), so you’ll get the best image quality of birds in flight and animals on the go. Of course, you can still use a camera that shoots at 4 to 5 FPS, but it will limit the number of subjects you can capture in action. Finally, if you’re looking for the optimal frame rate to get the best image quality of moving subjects, you need around 15 FPS on average.
The only downside to this setting is that you’ll have many pictures to delete during post-processing. It’s a good idea to always bring an extra memory card or two to be prepared for this situation.
Low Light Capability
Try to shoot photos with the widest aperture available to you. A telephoto lens will be ideal, so you can get as much light as possible. However, not every telephoto lens will be suitable. Lower-quality ones that stop down to f/5.6 and higher won’t work for the outdoors in low light. Instead, choose the telephoto lenses that can go down to f/2.8, allowing you to let in more light.
Next, a wildlife photographer shouldn’t be afraid to shoot at a high ISO speed. It may produce some digital noise, but you’ll get more usable pictures under low-light conditions. Finally, choose the cameras that perform well even at a higher ISO. Cameras with better full-frame sensors will work well for any wildlife photographer. You can always reduce the noise during post-production.
Finally, a camera’s shutter speed is another crucial factor when shooting in less light. Using faster shutter speeds allows you to freeze the motion of your moving subjects. If your camera can do it, shoot at 1/250 to 1/500 or faster. For even faster animals like birds, you may want to use a shutter speed of 1/1000 or above.
The cameras best suited for wildlife photography should have a fast and reliable autofocus system (AF). Choose the ones with good coverage of autofocus points going across the frame. AF systems covering 45 to 153 points will work well for the outdoors, which seems to be a wide range for this type of photography. However, those extra AF capabilities come in handy when shooting action-packed sequences in the wild.
The build quality of your camera will affect the quality of your wildlife photos. If you have the money, you can buy a camera with full-frame sensors. The only downside to full-frame cameras is that they’re quite costly. However, you get the best ISO capabilities, and they make excellent images under low light conditions.
If you can’t opt for full-frame cameras just yet, you can purchase cameras that feature a crop sensor. These cameras have a good focal length, which gives you an increased reach. In effect, your wildlife photos will appear more zoomed in, which some full-frame cameras can’t achieve.
Finally, you should select a weather-sealed camera with extended battery life. You’ll be shooting outdoors, which means your camera will be exposed to the elements. Weather-sealed equipment is better suited for the harsh conditions in wildlife photography.
A camera with a longer battery life lets you stay outdoors for hours. This feature allows you to capture those fleeting, precious moments in nature. In many instances, wildlife photography is more of a waiting game. You’ll have to sit still until your subject moves into position before you can get a perfect shot.
Finally, don’t forget to bring a reliable memory card that can withstand various outdoor conditions. Provide enough protection for the ones you’ve already used, such as a protective case or a sealed pocket in your bag.
Recommended Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography
Sony A9 II
The Alpha 9 II, by Sony, was designed as a high-end sports camera. However, since it can silently shoot images, many wildlife photographers found it quite useful. Thanks to a new mechanical shutter system, it features an impressive shooting speed of 20 frames per second. Moreover, it allows the camera to shoot in burst mode. In addition, it’s packed with features perfect for taking photos of birds in flight and animals moving at top speed.
Specs and Features of the Sony A9 II
- 20 FPS with burst mode
- Powerful battery rated to 690 shots
- 5GHz Wi-Fi connectivity
- UHD 4k video capable
- Provides support for voice memos
- 3.69M-dot OLED viewfinder
- Dual SD card slots
- 5.5-stop and 5-axis image stabilization
- Mechanical shutter rated to 500k shots
- 93 percent autofocus coverage
- Full frame sensors
Panasonic Lumix G90/G95
The Lumix G90 (sold as G95 in the US) is a widely underrated camera but shoots stunning 4k photos. Vloggers and professional photographers find its layout and handling suitable, making it an excellent option for stills and video. It has plenty of features that will make shooting wildlife photos a breeze. The only downside of this impressive mirrorless camera is the hefty price tag.
Specs and Features of the Panasonic Lumix G90/G95
- Great build quality
- Fully articulated 3-inch touchscreen
- Excellent handling
- 4k video and stills
- Micro four-thirds lens
- OLED EVF viewfinder
- 20.3 MP resolution
- F3.5–F5.6 aperture modes
- Max sensitivity rated at ISO 25,600
- Splash and dust resistant
The Nikon D500 is a crop sensor camera with outstanding performance outdoors. Out of the box, one of the first things you’ll notice about the D500 is its remodeled grip. It feels solid and secure in your hand, which is excellent for a camera for wildlife.
The circular eyepiece will be helpful for folks who wear glasses. If you’re after long exposures, the new built-in viewfinder will significantly help. Further, this camera comes with a tilting touch screen, which allows you to shoot at lower or higher angles.
Specs and Features of the Nikon D500
- 153-point autofocus
- 99 cross-type sensors
- 10 FPS
- 200 shot buffer
- Five AF modes (auto-area, single point, dynamic, group, 3D tracking)
- 20.9-megapixel lens
- 100 to 51,200 native ISO range (expands to 1,640,000)
Canon EOS 7D and 7D Mark ii
The EOS 7D can be a go-to camera for anyone who loves taking wildlife photos. It has been around for a while, and you can still find some on sale. It’s a reliable camera that you can swap out lenses as needed. It may not provide you with 4k video, but it shoots at 1080p, which is still considered HD quality video.
However, if you’re looking to upgrade your hardware but still use one of the EOS lines from Canon, you can try moving up to the 7D Mark ii. It offers a versatile autofocus system, which is useful in bird and wildlife photography. It also features a magnesium alloy frame, which provides excellent waterproofing.
Canon EOS 7D Specifications
- Environmental sealing
- Wireless flash
- 100% coverage viewfinder
- 19 point AF
- 1080p video
- 8 FPS continuous shooting
- 18 MP sensor
Canon EOS 7D Mark ii Specifications
- Robust build with excellent weather sealing
- Flip out touchscreen
- 31 photo raw butter
- 10 FPS continuous shooting
- USB 3.0
- 65 autofocus sensor
- 20MP Dual-Pixel AF CMOS Sensor
Olympus Tough TG-6
The TG-6 is an excellent choice as a camera for wildlife. It works underwater up to 50 feet in depth and is probably the best underwater camera on the market. This one fits the bill quite nicely if you need an ultra-rugged camera. It features a durable build quality – even if you drop it at seven feet, it can still shoot breathtaking photos after. This camera takes very impressive 4K video and it comes with extensive video capture options.
The TG-6 also comes with many accessories like fisheye, wide-angle lenses, and underwater housing. It’s available in two colors – red and black.
Specs and Features of the Olympus Tough TG-6
- 12-megapixel sensor
- 20 FPS continuous shooting
- Built-in accelerometer, thermometer, compass, altimeter, and GPS
- 4K video
- Three-inch display
- 25-100mm equivalent stabilized lenses
- Durable design (withstands impact and falls up to seven feet)
- Crushproof up to 100 kg
- Freezeproof up to -10° C (14° F)
Olympus OM-D E-M1 X
Apart from being an excellent wildlife camera, the OM-D is one of those mirrorless cameras that you can carry with you all day. It’s very discreet and easy to hide, plus you can just cover it up with a jacket since it isn’t bulky.
It’s one of the compact mirrorless cameras offering superior image quality. It features exceptional weather sealing, which is something you can count on when the weather turns. Finally, it also features compact telephoto lenses with great focal length.
Specs and Features of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 X
- Robust build quality
- Micro four-thirds lens mount
- 20.4 megapixels
- 286 shot buffer
- 121 AF points
- Lightweight, concealable and easy to carry
- Burst shooting
- Excellent stabilization
- Fast focus
You don’t have to break the bank if you want to give wildlife photography a try. At first, it’s best to choose a reliable camera that can shoot at excellent speeds and features exceptional build quality. As you gain more experience, you can move up to superior gear with additional features.