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Best Cameras For Wildlife Photography 2019

Here, we round up the best DSLR, mirrorless and bridge cameras for wildlife photography from each of the major brands.

|  Canon EOS 7D Mark II in Digital SLRs
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Enchanting Leverett'Enchanting Leverett', a fantastic example of wildlife photography by ePz member TimMunsey.

 

Wildlife photography can take a lot of patience, can be a very rewarding pursuit. From birds flitting in the trees, to shy small mammals like rabbits, badgers, foxes and hares, and of course larger mammals like deer, the UK is a haven for wildlife photography and no matter where you are in the country, a good spot for wildlife photography is more than likely only a short journey away. 

So whether you want to go all out and set up a camo tent in the woods, or simply nip down to your local park, this guide should help you to choose your ideal camera for photographing wildlife in all its forms. 


What to look for in a camera for wildlife photography

When looking for a camera for wildlife photography, there are some key features you need to consider:

  • Focus points - How many focus points a camera has could determine whether you are able to capture your subject in focus or not. Put simply, the more focus points the camera has, the better chance you have of it being able to quickly lock on to, and more importantly keep your subject as it moves, in focus. Most cameras will offer a variety of focal point settings which can be adjusted according to your specific shooting scenario. Look for a body that offers a good level of coverage across the frame, and check to see if the camera offers advanced AF (Auto Focus) tracking options, as these could come in very handy. 
  • Low light capability - Often when photographing wildlife you might find yourself under tree cover and in dimly lit woodlands. When you also factor in that a lot of wildlife becomes more active at dusk and dawn, it's imperative that the camera you choose for wildlife photography has good low light performance. Look for a large sensor with high ISO capability. Check the clarity of images at higher ISOs to gauge performance. 
  • FPS/continuous shooting - Wildilfe can be skittish, and usually doesn't stay still for very long. Because of this you want a camera body with good reaction speeds and the ability to capture a high number of frames per second in continuous shooting mode, so that you have a variety of shots to choose from after the fact. 
  • Sports mode/object tracking - Look for a camera with sports or object tracking mode - this will prime the camera to look for and track fast-moving objects in the frame, increasing your chances of achieving sharp images. 
  • Weight/size - The size of the kit you choose could be a factor, if you suffer from back issues or you plan on hiking a long way with your kit. You should try and get hands-on with your kit before buying to gauge if the weight is suitable. Consider also the lens that you'll be using, make sure it's practical for you to use in the field. 
  • Lens availability - Before investing in a body, you should always look at the lens range available in that mount. Certain camera mounts have much more variety in the lenses available - you don't want to find out that there aren't many long reach or zoom lenses on offer once you've purchased a body. See which mounts offer the kinds of lenses you're after - don't forget about third-party brands if price is a factor. 
  • Large viewfinder with good magnification - Being able to spot wildlife and frame your shot accordingly will be made a lot easier if the camera you choose has a decent viewfinder. Optical viewfinders are great, but if you opt for a camera with a digital one, make sure it has good brightness and a decent amount of pixels to offer you the clearest view. 
  • Weather sealing - As you may be out and about it all weathers when photographing wildlife, it's advisable to choose a camera with some degree of weather sealing. You can always purchase all-weather covers* too for further reassurance. Don't forget to check that any lenses you purchase are weather-sealed too.
  • Sensor size/crop factor - We're getting a little technical here, but sensor size and crop factor can have an impact on the clarity of your images - so too can the lenses you use on your interchangeable lens camera. As we've mentioned before, the larger the sensor, generally the better but this can come at a larger cost so consider the best you can get for your budget. If you want to learn more about how sensor size and crop factor can affect your photos, take a look at our sensor size and crop factor explained article.

 

What about lenses?

Sigma 70 200mm F2,8 Sport Front Oblique View

Once you've chosen the best interchangeable lens body for your wildlife photography, you also need to consider a suitable lens as well. For shooting shy and illusive animals you're going to need quite a lot of zoom. If you're more into butterflies and insects, then a good macro lens should set you off on the right foot. There are three main types of lenses to consider for wildlife photography:

  • Telephoto zoom - Telephoto zooms with give you the most versatility when it comes to framing your shots and giving you the reach you need. Available in a wide variety of focal lengths, you should definitely consider one if you wish to shoot a variety of locations and subjects, with the option to zoom out and include more of the surrounding environment in the shot. 

Find a telephoto zoom lens

 

  • Telephoto prime - A more expensive option, but offering more clarity and a wider aperture than telephoto zooms allowing more light into the shot and giving you lovely shallow depth of field to isolate your subject. If you can afford one and want to capture photos with a real wow-factor, a telephoto prime might be the answer. They're great if you have a specific subject in mind and you can make use of a singular, set focal length or invest in a few different lenses.

Find a telephoto prime lens

 

  • Macro - Not all wildlife will be far away and shy - in fact, a lot of photographers find plenty of wildlife to shoot by getting up-close and personal and photographing insects such as butterflies, beetles and other invertebrates. A good macro lens can be the difference between a mediocre shot and a fantastic one so it's well worth investing in one if you want to focus on smaller wildlife and experiments with techniques such as focus stacking

Find a macro lens

 

What other accessories should I consider?

Depending on how serious you are about your new hobby, the following items may be useful to you:

  • Lens hood - This can help eliminate flare from your shots if the sun is interfering with your framing.  
  • Tripod - If you will be stationary and waiting for animals such as deer to emerge, a tripod can allow you to frame a shot and get the camera set -up and ready. Invest in one with smooth panning ability, allowing you to follow any animal appearances with the camera whilst keeping everything straight and in focus. 
  • Remote trigger - Sometimes it will be necessary to hide yourself away from the camera to increase your chances of getting a great shot. Invest in a remote trigger to avoid unnecessary movement startling animals and eliminate the risk of vibrations spoiling shots when pressing the shutter.
  • Camo tent - Camoflague yourself in the woodland environment and you'll probably find that wildlife will venture a lot closer to you. 
  • Waterproof cover - If you're determined to capture a great shot whatever the weather, make sure that your kit is protected from the elements. 
  • Camo coat/clothing - Keep warm when you're out on the shoot and blend in.
  • More ideas can be found in our outdoor photography essentials article. 

 

Tesni Ward

Wildlife photographer Tesni Ward photographing wildlife from a hide.

 

Does the type of camera matter?

The short answer is - yes, although it's more about what's inside than how large or small the camera itself is. As long as the camera features a large sensor, the lens has a bright aperture and there is good sensitivity / AF tracking, you should be on to a winner. 

You need to consider your usage into the type of kit you purchase - occasional use, or photographing at your local park or zoo, for example, doesn't necessarily require a top-spec DSLR camera. You also need to think about where you wish to use the kit - carrying a massive DSLR and prime telephoto up a mountain will be a big commitment.  

We've split this article into DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras, and cameras that will still perform well if you're not ready to invest in an interchangeable lens kit, or would find it difficult to transport and use one. We've also considered cameras for use underwater as well as housings for your existing kit. 

 


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Photographs taken using the Canon EOS 7D Mark II

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