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4 Good Cameras for Wildlife Photography: Reviews

Updated on September 15, 2016

What's the Best Camera for Photographing Wildlife?

If you're interested in taking photos of the great outdoors, you'll want to make sure to choose a camera that's up for the task. Not just any old 'point and shoot' will do!

The demands of capturing wildlife, or even outdoor stills require a particular type with specific features. The best cameras for wildlife photography are easy to use, take excellent quality photographs, and can handle a wide variety of light situations and environments.

Choosing the right digital camera for wildlife photography isn't necessarily about picking a highly specialized device. There are models out there that will take excellent outdoor shots and stills while also serving as excellent all-purpose cameras, and that's what I will be reviewing. (If you're a professional or someone looking for a very particular usage, this may not be the right article for you.)

In this lens we will be taking a look at several of my favorite cameras for photographing animals, birds and nature, We'll review each one, touch on what exactly makes up a great for capturing wildlife shots, and what features you should be primarily concerned with (and which features are less useful.)

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below the article, and I'll respond. Let's get started!

Essential Features in a Camera for Photographing Nature

There are definitely cameras with features that work well in all situations. However, when it comes to finding the best camera for wildlife photography, it's really important that it possesses at least a few of the following capabilities in order to shoot well.

If your camera doesn't have the following features, you'll probably be frustrated and your shots may suffer. Better equipment means sharper and better photos, and a nicer experience for you.

  1. Auto Focus and Auto Exposure Controls:

    You don't strictly NEED these features in your outdoor wildlife photography camera, but they are really nice to have, and you'll miss them when they're gone. The fact is, critters don't often stay in one place for very long. If you see something very cool (like a bald eagle in flight, for example) it's nice to be able to snap the shot quickly, and AF and AE help you do so without fiddling. Technology has come a long way, and the auto focus and exposure capabilities these days are really impressive.

  2. Fully Manual Controls:

    Many digital cameras, including wildlife photography types, will have automatic functions like auto focus. However, it's really important to have full manual control when you need it. The place where your camera thinks you want to focus isn't necessarily accurate depending on the situation, and (particularly when you want to take 'artistic' type photos) it's vital to be able to control all the functions as you desire.

  3. High Quality Zoom Lens:

    If you're trying to capture wildlife on film, you're going to need a lot of zoom; probably more than you think. The best cameras for wildlife photography typically have a fairly long range. You're going to require a lot of distance between you and the critter in order to prevent from spooking it or damaging its habitat and way of life. I would estimate that a 200mm zoom is the bare minimum requirement for taking the shots you'll want. It's probably a good idea to get multiple lenses: an all-purpose one with average zoom, and a longer range one for animal photography.

Canon Rebel: A Wildlife / Nature Photographer's Starter Kit

You've probably heard of the Canon Rebel before. That's because it's been a game-changer ever since it came out.

It basically puts the features of a higher end digital SLR camera in a much lower price range, meaning that even people with lower budgets have access to full manual focus and exposure controls, awesome rapid shot features, Canon's great digital imaging software and chips, and 'point-and-shoot' functionality that looks great.

The Rebel T5i is compatible with all of Canon's EF and EF-S range of lenses, and that's a good thing. This particular model comes with a very standard 18 - 55mm lens, AND a 75 - 300mm zoom lens perfect for your outdoor nature photographs.

The Rebel is great because it's incredibly diverse, and yet it's very affordable compared with other cameras with similar capabilities. It's a good option for nature shoots with its zoom lens, but it also works great for family photos, vacations and everyday use.

This package includes just about everything you'll need, including two lenses, a tripod, case and accessory kit. It's a fantastic entry-level camera for wildlife photography.

Nikon D7200: Among the Best Cameras for Photographing Wildlife

The Nikon D7200 Digital SLR is a fantastic camera for just about any situation, even beyond pure nature shots. It has a 24.2 megapixel sensor, so the quality, resolution and detail in each shot is fantastic, and its metering is very good, so low light conditions aren't a big issue.

It offers some really useful features for wildlife photography. The rapid shot capability to take up to 5 shots per second, for example, is really versatile, allowing you to capture scenes in motion such as bird flight. Full manual controls and features like a quick auto focus and exposure let you snap shots on the fly and get creative.

I'd definitely recommend going with the Nikon 55-300mm ED VR lens. The 'VR' stands for vibration reduction, meaning that it counteracts hand shakiness and results in a much steadier shot.

The 300mm zoom lens is a good entry point for wildlife photographs, letting you be some distance from your subject.

A well-rounded DSLR with a good zoom lens, and it's reasonably affordable. Nikon has a winner here and I'd encourage you to check it out.

Canon EOS 80D: A Powerful DSLR for Nature Enthusiasts

The Canon EOS 80D is an impressive and powerful digital SLR camera with everything you'll need to take fantastic wildlife photography shots. It's a much more powerful shooter than the Rebel.

It's a 24.2 megapixel camera, giving you amazing detail in each shot, and the camera utilizes one of the best digital imaging processors on the market, meaning you get a true-to-life shot each and every time - no more wonky colors or noise. The full manual controls of this camera are really nice too, letting you customize the focus and exposure of each shot and express your creativity.

Continuous Shooting: Another nice feature of the EOS 80D by Canon is the continuous shooting capability, which is very useful when taking wildlife photographs, particularly birds in flight or quick creatures. Negligible shutter lag and over 7 frames per second means you'll capture minute detail very quickly.

This camera comes with options for different lenses, and if you're looking for a good camera for wildlife photography I suggest going with the telephoto option, getting at least the 18 - 135mm lens.

The nice thing about the EOS 80D is that it's compatible with the full range of Canon EF and EF-S lenses, so if it turns out you need something a little more robust, you can always upgrade.

Nikon D750: Full Frame Camera for Pro-Quality Shots

The Nikon D750 camera is a big step up in both quality and price from the cameras we've looked at so far, but I wanted to give an example of the next level you can go to. With a full frame sensor, 24.3 megapixels and the ability to shoot professional quality HD video, this is a camera with some serious firepower. With the D600, the name of the game is versatility, and that's why many people have opted for it.

The full HD video capability is actually really nice for nature buffs who want to take a bit of wildlife video as well. The film quality is stunning, so you'll be proud to share with friends and family.

In terms of straight up photography, there is a rapid shot capability of up to 6.5 frames per second at the full resolution, so you can take shots of birds on the wing with no trouble. The camera has nearly flawless autofocus and metering, all at the press of a button. As you should expect there's also full manual control so you're not stuck with anything.

I've just displayed the camera body alone, but I would recommend you seek a 300mm Nikon zoom lens so you can snap shots of critters from a good distance away.

Small, light, powerful and multi-functional, this is an excellent one to consider if you can afford it.

Snapping Good Wildlife Photos: Beyond the Camera

It's not so simple as choosing a snazzy DSLR and tromping out into the woods. There are other things to consider even after you've selected your equipment.

Here are some other considerations that will likely make your photography experience safer and more satisfying.

  1. You'll Need Other Gear:

    You're probably going to need other stuff that won't necessarily come with the camera. A tripod, for example, is a boon in most circumstances, since a steady hand can't always be relied upon in the heat of the moment. You'll want a tripod that's small and light enough to pack around with you, but sturdy enough for the outdoors. Carbon fiber tripods are sometimes a nice choice due to light weight and durability.

  2. Patience is Required:

    Even the best wildlife photography camera won't always ensure great shots. You'll need an extra dose of patience to capture the exact right moment. First, to get your shots just right: a new camera will take some getting used to. Take notes, improve your technique, figure out what's working and what's not. Secondly, you'll need patience with the little critters! Be prepared to sit back and enjoy nature around you while you wait for the perfect shot.

  3. Respect the Habitat:

    It's shocking how much damage a thoughtless person can do to the natural habitat of the photo subject. Even if you're a good distance away, you can still crush plants, spook prey, or otherwise distract an animal. Your smell, for example, can frighten an animal and stress it out, or alert predators. Be careful, get a good zoom lens, and always leave nature exactly as you found it.

Questions or Comments on this article?

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      5 years ago

      The L version of Canon's 70-300 telephoto is fantastic! Plus it's weather sealed, for when you are out shooting wildlife in the rain.


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