8 Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography in 2021

By Tati Taylor 22 days ago, Cameras & Lenses

Inexpensive cameras for people who enjoy taking photos of birds and animals.

best cameras for bird and wildlife photography

Wildlife photographers have to deal with certain difficulties while photographing. They need a camera capable of capturing scenes in sunlight and darker surroundings with the intersection of shadows and light.

Besides, the best camera for wildlife photography is supposed to stay focused even if an animal suddenly makes a move.

With the resulting shot, the viewers should be brought nearer to the high points of the scene and the smallest creatures alike. The ability to withstand harsh weather and poor lighting conditions is another significant aspect of the best wildlife camera.

Top 8 Cameras for Nature Photography

  1. Sony α7R IV - Our Choice
  2. Canon EOS M50 - Mirrorless camera
  3. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II - A great choice for national parks
  4. Nikon D5 - The best wildlife photography camera
  5. Canon EOS M6 Mark II - The best Canon camera for outdoors
  6. Panasonic LUMIX S1 - Inexpensive
  7. Nikon COOLPIX P1000 - Extreme zoom
  8. Sony Alpha a6500 - Lightweight for travels

The camera market these days seems to be packed with all sorts of both DSLR and mirrorless devices. If you aren’t familiar with the photography sphere but wish to buy a camera, you may feel lost in all that variety.

Finding the best camera for bird photography and photographing wildlife is a no-easy task. Not every device will be able to properly handle rough influence from the outside and nasty weather. Apart from that, a decent camera should be ready to cope with dynamic motion and terrible lighting situations.

Below we will cover all parameters in detail as well as tell about 8 camera models that are certainly worth your attention and the money spent.

1. Sony α7R IV

Our Choice
wildlife camera sony α7r iv

Type: Full Frame Exmor R CMOS | Sensor size: 35.7x23.8 mm | Resolution: 61 MP | Lens: not included | Viewfinder: Electronic | Screen size: 3 inches | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10 fps

⊕ Remarkable resolution
⊕ Quite swift
⊕ Speedy hybrid autofocus
⊕ Correctly recognizes subjects
⊕ Precise color rendering
⊖ Lens isn’t featured
⊖ High price

The α7R IV is the 4th generation high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera from Sony. Real-time Eye AF illustrates the progress of capturing portraits. Thanks to the AI-powered technology, instant and precise detecting of eyes along with determining the clear focus on the person’s face is guaranteed.

Being one of the best cameras for wildlife, it is capable of tracking animal eyes and identifying them automatically, accurately and swiftly. Therefore, animal shots will appear more captivating.

Speaking of the shooting speed, it is up to 10fps with a mechanical shutter (up to 8fps in live-view continuous shooting mode). It enables photographers to snap pictures of significant moments with fine detail.

The combination of the BIONZ X imaging engine and the 61.0 MP full-frame Exmor R CMOS sensor results in remarkable resolution, low noise and magnificent gradation to take the volume of details to a whole new level.

2. Canon EOS M50

Best mirrorless camera for bird watching
wildlife camera canon eos m50

Type: APS-C CMOS | Sensor size: 22.3x14.9 mm | Resolution: 24.1 MP | Lens: EF-M 15-45mm | Viewfinder: Electronic | Screen size: 3 inches | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10 fps

⊕ Great ergonomics, build quality
⊕ Swift Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus
⊕ Integrated EVF
⊕ Wonderful vari-angle touchscreen
⊕ Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth
⊖ Lens retracts manually
⊖ Too simple exterior controls

The EOS M50 is notable for the compact dimensions, user-friendly functionality and the ability to snap vivid pictures and record impressive 4K UHD footage. Plenty of photographers appreciate the model’s swift and precise Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus along with the integrated EVF.

Focusing on practically any area of the frame won’t be difficult due to the wide autofocus coverage. Simply tap on the subject, and the device will be automatically tracking its movements, which is exactly what we expect from a camera for animal photography.

Amazing interchangeable lens capabilities, the DIGIC 8 Image Processor and a 24.1 MP APS-C CMOS sensor contribute to shots full of color, crisp detail and striking dynamic range. Vari-angle touchscreen LCD with its flexibility is perfectly suitable for photographing from low and high angles and then viewing the resulting shots.

As the integrated high-resolution EVF provides nearly 2,360,000 dots, photographers can spot higher volumes of detail while shooting.

3. Olympus OM-D E-M5

Best camera for national parks
wildlife camera olympus om-d e-m5 mark ii

Type: Live MOS | Sensor size: 17.3x13 mm | Resolution: 16 MP | Lens: M.Zuiko 14-150mm | Viewfinder: Electronic | Screen size: 3 inches | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10 fps

⊕ Compact weather-proof body
⊕ 5-axis image stabilization system
⊕ Remarkable picture quality
⊕ Dual-axis electronic level
⊕ Integrated Wi-Fi
⊖ Auto panoramic stitching isn’t featured
⊖ Removal of accessory port

The E-M5 Mark II is praised for the 5-axis extremely smooth VCM (voice coil motor) system and five EV steps of compensation (according to CIPA standards). Due to all that, it is possible to snap pictures with enough sharpness in poor light conditions and record footage seamlessly, no tripod required. No matter the lens you attach, the captured material without blur is guaranteed thanks to the model’s IS system.

This wildlife photography camera produces shots with an outstanding level of detail. Its 16 MP Live MOS sensor snaps 40 MP high-resolution pictures.

Among other prominent characteristics of the E-M5 Mark II that any experienced shooter will love are focus peaking, varying frame rate, high bit-rate recording and a touch interface enabling users to adjust settings in the middle of the shooting process. Light weight, compact dimensions and totally weather-proof body (with the protection from water, dust and low temperatures) make the E-M5 Mark II the best camera for birding and photographing wild animals.

4. Nikon D5

Best wildlife photography camera
wildlife camera nikon d5

Type: Full frame CMOS | Sensor size: 35.9x23.9 mm | Resolution: 20.8 MP | Lens: not included | Viewfinder: Optical | Screen size: 3.2 inches | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12 fps

⊕ Operates amazingly in low light
⊕ Extreme ISO range
⊕ Top-grade image processor EXPEED 5
⊕ Incredibly swift and precise autofocus system
⊕ 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video
⊖ Not too fast Live View AF
⊖ Lens isn’t featured

Nikon D5 is undoubtedly one of the best wildlife photography cameras if you are going to photograph in poor lighting conditions quite often. It pleases users with the widest native ISO range, high expanded range, excellent color rendering, noise elimination capabilities and top-grade AF system that operates decently even in dark surroundings. With this camera, you shouldn’t hesitate to snap pictures at nighttime and poorly-lit venues/locations – the pictures will have enough clarity and sharpness.

The D5 is the highest resolution full-frame flagship from Nikon. It boasts 20.8 MP FX-format CMOS sensor, image processor upgraded to EXPEED 5 in order to take advantage of the capabilities of the praiseworthy new sensor.

This model is the first DSLR from Nikon with the second processor concentrated only on the operation of autofocus and computing. A newly introduced new shutter and mirror sequencing mechanism practically neutralize blackout time and mirror slap to achieve vivid and uniform frames when you are photographing at high speeds.

5. Canon EOS M6 Mark II

Best Canon camera for outdoor photography
wildlife camera canon eos m6 mark ii

Type: APS-C | Sensor size: 22.3x14.9 mm | Resolution: 32.5 MP | Lens: not included | Viewfinder: Electronic (included with lens kits) | Screen size: 3 inches | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 14 fps

⊕ Compact mirrorless design
⊕ Qualitative optics
⊕ DIGIC 8 Image Processor
⊕ Extremely swift shooting
⊕ Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus
⊕ Integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
⊖ Absence of in-body image stabilization
⊖ Doesn’t incorporate electronic viewfinder (EVF)

The EOS M6 Mark II is a perfect combination of a compact mirrorless design and qualitative optics. The 32.5 MP CMOS (APS-C) sensor produces high-resolution shots that may be enlarged properly. To operate well in low light and satisfy users with top-notch pictures, this camera for wildlife and birding integrates the DIGIC 8 Image Processor.

The model is capable of continuous shooting at up to 14 fps (with AF/AE Tracking) so that the photographer doesn’t waste precious time. The robust electronic shutter system operates at minimum speeds of 1/16000 of a second, efficiently freezes incredibly swift movements and snaps pictures even of the fleeting moments with wonderful detail.

The Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus of the EOS M6 Mark II is speedy, precise and consistent, providing Face Tracking and Eye Detection capabilities. Thanks to AF tracking, photographing up to 30 fps becomes possible.

6. Panasonic LUMIX S1

Best nature camera
wildlife camera panasonic lumix s1

Type: Full frame CMOS | Sensor size: 35.6x23.8 mm | Resolution: 24.2 MP | Lens: 24-105mm F4 L-Mount S Series | Viewfinder: Electronic | Screen size: 3.2 inches | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 9 fps

⊕ Durable mirrorless camera build
⊕ Outstanding picture quality and sharpness
⊕ 3-axis tilt rear monitor
⊕ Status LCD
⊕ Dual SD Memory Card Slots
⊕ 3.5 mm MIC and headphone jacks
⊖ Weighs much
⊖ High price

The LUMIX S1 is the best camera for wildlife photography due to the 24.2 MP CMOS sensor and Venus Engine that guarantee wide dynamic range, magnificent sharpness with the highest sensitivity at ISO 51200.

To ensure that all seams, dials and buttons are reliably protected, the camera integrates the sturdy magnesium alloy die-cast frame. Besides, the LUMIX S1 is splash- and dust-proof, with the ability to operate well even in low temperatures.

This camera for nature photography is supplied with a 3.2-inch, 2,100k-dot triaxial tilt rear monitor and an RGBW LCD that enables snapping pictures from a vertical perspective at high and low angles.

Besides, the model grants the ability to adjust 19 settings, shutter speed and F-value included. If the power is disabled, Status LCD demonstrates the battery level and the number of frames left. A special button is illuminating the LCD for 5 secs.

The body is designed with the ease of use in mind – shooting controls are located next to each other and are easily reachable. To feel around for the buttons without any difficulties, they have different shapes and sizes. Dials also vary in textures, and the grip is convenient.

7. Nikon COOLPIX P1000

Best extreme zoom birding camera
wildlife camera nikon coolpix p1000

Type: BSI CMOS | Sensor size: 6.2x4.6 mm | Resolution: 16.7 MP | Lens: 125.00x zoom (24-3000 mm) | Viewfinder: Electronic | Screen size: 3.2 inches | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7 fps

⊕ Robust optical zoom
⊕ Wonderful image stabilization
⊕ Decent EVF
⊕ Seamless control ring
⊕ 4K Ultra HD footage with stereo sound
⊕ Integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
⊖ Unsatisfactory operation in low light
⊖ Disappointing battery life

Due to its exceptional zoom, the COOLPIX P1000 is rightfully called the best camera for bird photography, capturing sports, wildlife and travel endeavors. With this device, it is even possible to reach the stars without having to leave the comfort of your home.

While photographing with the intense zoom, slight camera movements are increased. The camera incorporates a Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction system for the equally effective stabilization of vertical and horizontal movements.

Take advantage of the outstanding lens and top-grade image sensor of this digital camera for wildlife to produce awesome footage in 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 at 30p) with actual stereo sound. The device’s manual mode lets you tweak exposure, focus and other parameters while filming videos for better results.

8. Sony Alpha a6500

Best digital camera for wildlife
wildlife camera sony alpha a6500

Type: APS-C Exmor | Sensor size: 23.5x15.6 mm | Resolution: 24.2 MP | Lens: not included | Viewfinder: Electronic | Screen size: 3 inches | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 11 fps

⊕ Pro rugged housing
⊕ Fast AF system
⊕ Decent buffer efficiency
⊕ Tilting touch-screen LCD
⊕ Integrated picture stabilization
⊕ 4K video capture and pro-level features
⊖ Poor buffer clearing
⊖ Not the best battery life

This camera has a 24.2 megapixel Exmor APS-C CMOS sensor with the same resolution as its predecessors. Due to the improved fronted picture LSI and BIONZ X processor, the camera delivers high speed and performance. The α6500 built-in D FOCUS system offers the fastest autofocus (AF) acquisition time, which sets focus in just 0.05 seconds. Besides, the wildlife photography camera allows taking photos in full 24.2MP resolution at up to 11fps with continuous AF and exposure tracking.

The enhanced touchscreen offers greater focusing capabilities for fast, clear response. By choosing a focus point anywhere on the LCD, you get a quick and precise response. If you use an electronic viewfinder, you can simply shift the points by putting your finger over the desired object.

Image Name Features  
wildlife camera sony α7r iv
Sony α7R IV
Our choice
  • Type: Full Frame Exmor R CMOS
  • Sensor size: 35.7x23.8 mm
  • Resolution: 61 MP
  • Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10 fps
CHECK PRICE
wildlife camera canon eos m50
Canon EOS M50
For bird watching
  • Type: APS-C CMOS
  • Sensor size: 22.3x14.9 mm
  • Resolution: 24.1 MP
  • Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10 fps
CHECK PRICE
wildlife camera olympus om-d e-m5 mark ii
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
For national parks
  • Type: Live MOS
  • Sensor size: 17.3x13 mm
  • Resolution: 16 MP
  • Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10 fps
CHECK PRICE

How to Choose the Animal Camera?

best cameras for wildlife photography

To choose the best camera for wildlife photography earlier, you had to determine the most suitable model of professional-level DSLRs from a small number of offers. The main option remained the speed and telephoto lens features for capturing close-ups of fast-moving objects. Nowadays the market has expanded to offer photographers a huge selection of wildlife photography cameras. Thus, it becomes more difficult to decide on the device that will work for your needs. We recommend paying attention to autofocus, lens availability, sensor type, performance in dim lighting, shooting speed, weight, and size when purchasing.

Autofocus

Autofocus is a key feature of the best camera for bird photography. There is some technical information that tells you about the camera and helps you determine if the camera has a worthy autofocus feature:

  1. Type of Autofocus System. Contrast and phase-detection are two main types of AF system. Overall, phase detection systems offer better performance when it comes to tracking.
  2. The number of AF Points. Number of AF points shows how accurate the image is and how differentiated the device focuses.
  3. Speed. You can find the info about camera speed online as it’s not a tech specification.

Lens Availability

The basic set of lens that usually goes with a camera won’t be satisfying for wildlife photography, especially for small-sized animals. The best camera for wildlife photography goes with a telephoto lens, that lets take images from a distance not to disturb animals. When choosing a device, pay attention to the lens you need for your shootings, as well as its price, as sometimes lenses can be rather expensive.

Sensor Type

The size of the image sensor, often referred to as a camera format, matters when it comes to buying nature cameras. There are two sizes of the format: Crop Sensor (APS-C) and Full-frame Sensor.

Full-frame is bigger than crop sensors. Still, the majority of wildlife photographers like modest sensor. First, cameras with a crop sensor are lighter than full-frame ones. Thus, they are compact and portable.

As the sensor is smaller, it offers you a 1.5x reach due to the crop factor.

Cameras for birding with a crop sensor are cheaper, still feature great functionality and high-end imaging.

Pro specialists prefer a full-frame sensor. Due to a great size, it ensures a bigger area for gathering light. Besides, it works ideally for a low-light environment.

Full-frame sensors are bigger and more expensive compared to crop-sensor cameras.

If you want to get a Nikon camera, the DX-format means a crop-sensor, while FX-format – a full-frame sensor. The sign APS-C sensor shows that the camera goes with a crop sensor.

Low-Light Performance

We all dream of taking any camera and getting perfect shots, right? Unfortunately, these are only dreams, in reality, everything isn’t so simple. The quality depends on the lighting. Once the light is worse, the quality of the picture becomes degrades as well. Besides, dim light impacts noise and graininess in pictures. 4

The smaller the sensor, the less light it gathers, and therefore works worse in poor lighting conditions.

If your lens is not wide enough to let in more light, the picture quality deteriorates due to limited lighting. The large sensor and lower f/stop will help bypass the lighting problem and get great shots. Apart from that, you can experiment with ISO.

ISO is the artificial brightening of the image inside the camera housing. Any camera has a specific ISO range where it does a great job and single ISO range where you get sharp footage. The best cameras for wildlife photography offer amazing ISO capabilities, so you get a crisp, noise-free picture. If you are shooting in low light conditions, we recommend considering cameras with a large sensor, high range, and high ISO rate.

Shooting Speeds

best cameras for wildlife photography

The number of frames per second indicates the shooting speed. The higher the speed, the more convenient the camera is for wildlife photography. Slow cameras that capture about 3fps will ruin the wildlife shooting experience as you miss out on all the shots you want to take. Besides, we recommend using burst mode, which is most suitable for photographing animals. The best camera for birding, as a rule, offers shooting speed of 12fps and above.

Weight and Size

The most convenient size and weight of the camera depends on your needs. If you’re a hardcore traveler, before buying a camera, think about how you plan to move. What bag you will put the camera in, your route, and its duration. If you are traveling by car, then a large camera with different lenses will not be a problem.

For hiking enthusiasts, we recommend choosing a more compact and lighter model, as you’ll face difficulties if you’ll walk for long with heavy-weight devices. The convenience of the camera plays a role for those, who take a lot of time to shoot. Before buying, try different cameras with varied dimensions to determine the most convenient one for your hands.

FAQ

  • • What is the best focal length for wildlife shooting?

Based on your subjects and distance from them, you can define the best focal length. Since, it’s a challenging mission to get close to wildlife animals, the majority of professionals appeal to long lenses: at a minimum of 300mm for an APS-C DSLR, or 400mm for a full-frame DSLR or 35mm SLR.

  • • What is the most appropriate aperture for wildlife shooting?

A common thing for wildlife photography is to take pictures with wide-open apertures. Thus you need to use the broadest aperture that your lens offers, often f/2.8, f/4 or f/5.6. By using a wider aperture with a long zoom lens, you can enjoy numerous advantages for your wildlife shots.

  • • What is the best birding camera?

We recommend considering lighter models, if you shoot with hands without additional support. Lighter cameras are usually cropped-sensor devices with a lightweight telephoto lens. Using wide angle lenses, you are free to capture the whole area or flock of birds. If you’re shooting from a big distance, we recommend paying attention to a full-frame birding camera paired with a great telephoto lens.

  • • What shutter speed for birds should I choose?

We recommend shooting at a high-speed of 1/1000 and more to capture a bird. If you want to snap a bird in flight or other fast movements, we recommend considering even higher shutters speeds.

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