How to Select the Best Camera for Wildlife Photography

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Are you looking for the best camera for wildlife photography?

You’ve come to the right place.

Best Camera for Wildlife Photography: 7 Top Picks

Wildlife photography is demanding in its camera requirements. You need a camera that will help you get those once-in-a-lifetime shots–a camera that’ll allow you to push your photography to the limit.

We’re going to show you those cameras today. No matter your budget, we have an option for you.

So let’s get started.

Quick Summary – Best Camera for Wildlife Photography

What to Look for When Selecting the Wildlife Photography Camera

When choosing the best camera for wildlife photography, there are a number of features to take into account.

And your goal is to pick the camera that does well in as many areas as possible–while staying within a price you can afford.

Sensor Size: Full Frame vs Crop

Picking a wildlife photography camera starts with sensor size.

You have to decide:

Do you want a full frame camera, which comes with higher dynamic range and greater low light performance? Or do you want a crop-sensor camera, which will give you greater reach when out shooting?

Many hobbyist wildlife photographers end up choosing crop bodies. While the low light performance doesn’t quite match that of full-frame competitors, the added reach is too good to pass up.

You may also want to ask yourself whether you’ll be using a lengthy supertelephoto lens, or a slightly shorter option. Shooting small birds with a 400mm lens on a full-frame body is going to be tough; shooting small birds with a 400mm lens on a crop body is much more doable.

In other words:

If you’re going to work with a longer wildlife lens, you have the option to shoot full frame.

If not, the crop-sensor body is the way to go.

Mirrorless vs DSLR

These days, mirrorless cameras are all the rage.

But can they hold up to the rigors of wildlife photography?

Generally speaking, the answer is “Yes.” While some DSLRs perform better than some mirrorless cameras for wildlife photography, the reverse is also true–making the question of mirrorless vs DSLR for wildlife photography something of a toss up.

Or it would be a toss-up, except for one thing:

Lens selection.

The biggest drawback to mirrorless systems is the limited number of lenses in each manufacturer’s lineup. While there are plenty of good-yet-inexpensive DSLR lenses for wildlife photography, mirrorless lenses are much more limited. Mirrorless lens roadmaps are coming out left and right, but there’s still a significant gap between mirrorless and DSLR options, especially for beginners.

Are there mirrorless lenses that work well for wildlife photography?

Absolutely.

But if you don’t want to drop $2000+ dollars on a wildlife lens, then you’re going to struggle. A lot.

So I’d generally recommend you start with a DSLR, unless you’re willing to fork over a huge sum of money for a good wildlife lens.

Low Light Performance

How a camera performs in low light will affect your ability to shoot at dawn and dusk, which is when a lot of wildlife is active.

Now, the key aspect of a camera’s low light performance is its ability to shoot at high ISOs.

If a camera produces lots of noise at high ISOs, then it’s less than ideal for wildlife.

But if a camera can produce relatively clean images up to, say, ISO 3200, then it’s a good option.

Focusing Speed and Accuracy

No wildlife camera is complete without stellar autofocusing abilities.

It should offer excellent tracking, and should be able to focus quickly. That way, you can be confident you’ll nail the most critical shots.

You could purchase a camera that’s great for wildlife photography in every way–but if it can’t focus quickly, it’s not going to work.

So make sure you get a wildlife camera that offers fast focusing!

Maximum Shooting Speed

If you’re trying to capture action shots of wildlife, then a high continuous shooting speed is an absolute necessity.

I’m talking about a burst mode of at least 7 or 8 frames per second. A continuous shooting speed of 10+ fps is even better.

When you put your camera in continuous shooting mode, you want to be able to hold down the shutter button–and take dozens of photos in a few seconds. That way, you’ll have a good chance of nailing the critical moment, every single time you need to.

That said, a high continuous shooting speed is pretty useless if you don’t have a large enough buffer:

Buffer Size

In practical terms, a camera’s buffer size is defined by the number of images it can capture without stopping.

So if you hold down the shutter button, how many photos will the camera take before it has to stop?

For wildlife photography, the buffer size is critical. It’s great if your camera can shoot at 15 frames per second, but that doesn’t matter if the buffer lasts for just 10 shots. You’ll have to wait for the camera to finish writing the images to the memory card, and by the time that’s done, you’ll have missed a great shot.

So you’re going to want to pick a camera with the biggest buffer possible.

Sensor Dynamic Range

A high dynamic range allows you to capture a greater spectrum of tones in a scene.

While this isn’t as important as some of the other criteria, a larger dynamic range is nearly always a good thing. It’ll help prevent overexposure and underexposure, especially in tricky lighting scenarios.

Weather Sealing

Wildlife photography often takes place in some of the worst conditions:

Rain.

Snow.

Hail.

(And more!)

So if your camera can’t handle some exposure to the elements, it won’t last long.

That’s why weather sealing is a must-have for wildlife photographers.

So, without further ado, the best cameras for wildlife photography:

Selecting the Best Camera for Wildlife Photography

Best Canon Full Frame Camera for Wildlife Photography

1. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
  • Megapixels: 32MP
  • Lens Mount: Canon EF
  • Sensor Size: Full Frame
  • Weight: 800g (1.76lb)
  • Size: 151 x 116 x 76mm (6 x 4.6 x 3″)
  • Price: Check the latest price here

The Canon 5D Mark IV has almost everything a wildlife photographer could want out of a DSLR:

An incredible sensor that is stellar in low light, perfect for capturing wildlife shots at dawn and dusk.

Good build quality with weather sealing, which allows you to venture out in poor weather.

A great AF system with 61 points (41 of them cross-type) for fast wildlife tracking and focusing.

The 5D Mark IV also comes with an excellent set of lenses to choose from; Canon’s DSLR wildlife photography lens lineup is one of the best in the world.

The main drawback to the 5D Mark IV is the continuous shooting speed. At 7 fps, it’s not low–but it’s not exactly high, either.

What We Like:

  • Low light performance
  • Build quality
  • Strong AF system
  • Good 30+ MP resolution

What We Don’t Like:

  • Slightly lower continuous shooting speeds
  • Expensive

See the Canon 5D Mark IV


Best Canon Crop Camera for Wildlife Photography

2. Canon EOS 90D

Canon EOS 90D Digital SLR Camera with Built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, DIGIC 8 Image Processor, 4K Video, Dual Pixel CMOS AF, and 3.0 Inch Vari-Angle Touch LCD Screen, [Body Only], Black
  • Megapixels: 34MP
  • Lens Mount: Canon EF-S
  • Sensor Size: APS-C (1.6 x Crop)
  • Weight: 700g (1.54lb)
  • Size: 141 x 105 x 77mm (5.5 x 4.1 x 3″)
  • Price: Check the latest price here

The Canon 90D is Canon’s premier crop-sensor camera–and it promises wildlife photographers a lot of power for a very affordable price tag.

First, take a look at the AF system: 45 cross-type autofocus points for fast focusing. Maybe it’s not quite as impressive as the Canon 5D Mark IV, but it’ll perform well, helping you capture birds in flight, deer on the run, and more.

And the body is weather sealed, so you don’t have to worry too much about taking the 90D into the field in tough weather.

One of my favorite features on the 90D is its continuous shooting speed: at 11 frames per second, you’ll never have to worry about missing the action.

What We Like:

  • Reasonable price
  • Weather sealing
  • 45 cross-type AF points
  • 11 fps shooting speeds

What We Don’t Like:

  • Sensor not as good as full-frame competitors
  • AF is good, but could be better

See the Canon 90D


Best Nikon Full Frame Camera for Wildlife Photography

3. Nikon D850

Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body
  • Megapixels: 47MP
  • Lens Mount: Nikon F (FX)
  • Sensor Size: Full Frame
  • Weight: 915g (2lb)
  • Size: 146 x 124 x 79mm (5.7 x 5 x 3″)
  • Price: Check the latest price here

The D850 features an incredible full-frame, 45.7 MP sensor–which manages to pack in great high ISO performance with stellar resolution.

Plus, the weather sealing, the impressive AF system, and the great dynamic range make for a stunning wildlife camera.

Unfortunately, the D850 falls down in several key areas. First, its Live View autofocusing leaves something to be desired. And second, the continuous shooting speed only  reaches 7 frames per second.

But if low light is your priority and you want stellar image quality, the D850 is an excellent choice. Plus, it comes with access to the Nikon lens lineup, including a number of incredible super-telephoto lenses that are perfect for wildlife photography.

What We Like:

  • Amazing image quality
  • Great low-light potential
  • Excellent autofocus
  • Good dynamic range

What We Don’t Like:

  • Poor Live View AF
  • Mediocre continuous shooting

See the Nikon D850


Best Nikon Crop Camera for Wildlife Photography

4. Nikon D500

Nikon D500 DX-Format Digital SLR (Body Only), Base
  • Megapixels: 21.5MP
  • Lens Mount: Nikon F (DX)
  • Sensor Size: APS-C (1.5 x Crop)
  • Weight: 860g (1.9lb)
  • Size: 147 x 115 x 81mm (5.8 x 4.5 x 3.2″)
  • Price: Check the latest price here

The Nikon D500 isn’t the newest APS-C DSLR, but it’s a good one, tailored specifically to action shooters.

Which makes it excellent for pretty much any wildlife photography.

The autofocus system is incredible, featuring 153 points (99 cross-type). This makes for speedy tracking, even in low light.

Combine this with a 10 frames-per-second continuous shooting speed and a great buffer, and you’ve got yourself an incredible wildlife camera.

Not to mention the high ISO performance, which rivals that of the Nikon D850.

What We Like:

  • Amazing autofocus system
  • 10 fps continuous shooting
  • Impressive buffer
  • Great low light performance

What We Don’t Like:

  • Price isn’t as low as competitors
  • Relatively low megapixel count

See the Nikon D500


Best Sony Full Frame Camera for Wildlife Photography

5. Sony Alpha A9

Sony a9 II Mirrorless Camera: 24.2MP Full Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with Continuous AF/AE, 4K Video and Built-in Connectivity - Sony Alpha ILCE9M2/B Body - Black
  • Megapixels: 28MP
  • Lens Mount: Sony E
  • Sensor Size: Full Frame
  • Weight: 680g (1.5lb)
  • Size: 147 x 115 x 81mm (5 x 3.8 x 3″)
  • Price: Check the latest price here

The A9 is Sony’s flagship mirrorless offering–a camera designed to rival the best of the best action bodies.

In this, it succeeds.

The Sony A9 features a lightning-fast autofocus system; it uses its 693 autofocus points for speedy focusing, good light or no.

(If that isn’t a wildlife photographer’s dream, I don’t know what is.)

Plus, the A9 can shoot at speeds up to 20 fps, which is perfect for photographers who like to place themselves in the thick of the action. All this, on top of a weather-sealed body and an excellent high ISO performance.

The main downside to the A9 for wildlife photography is the lens lineup; Sony just doesn’t have the same super telephoto options as Canon and Nikon. This alone will be enough to steer some photographers away.

But for those who are still interested:

Get ready for the power of the Sony A9. It truly is incredible.

What We Like:

  • Incredible autofocus system
  • 20 fps continuous shooting
  • Stunning high-ISO performance
  • Weather-sealing

What We Don’t Like:

  • Very high price
  • Limited lens compatibility

See the Sony A9


Best Sony Crop Camera for Wildlife Photography

6. Sony a6600

Sony Alpha A6600 Mirrorless Camera
  • Megapixels: 24MP
  • Lens Mount: Sony E
  • Sensor Size: APS-C (1.5 x Crop)
  • Weight: 500g (1.1lb)
  • Size: 120 x 66.9 x 69.3mm (4.7 x 2.6 x 2.7″)
  • Price: Check the latest price here

The Sony a6600 is a fantastic camera for wildlife photography, for a few key reasons:

First, any wildlife photography would love to use those incredible autofocus abilities, which stem from 425 AF points and incredible Sony tracking software. You’ll be able to follow birds in flight, fighting foxes, leaping dogs–you name it, the Sony a6600 can deal with it.

Plus, the a6600 can shoot 11 fps with a deep buffer (around 100 shots), which is enough for most wildlife applications.

You’d think that a sub-2000 dollar APS-C camera couldn’t offer much in the way of high ISO performance, but you’d be wrong; the a6600 manages to do quite well, even up past ISO 3200.

In other words:

The Sony a6600 is a steal.

Like the Sony a9, the biggest issue with the a6600 is the lens lineup. It’ll be a while before Sony can rival Canon and Nikon’s super telephoto selection.

What We Like:

  • Impressive high-ISO capabilities
  • Good price, considering the features
  • 11 fps continuous shooting
  • Amazing AF performance

What We Don’t Like:

  • Limited lens lineup
  • Price is good, but still out of some budgets

See the Sony a6600


Best Fujifilm Crop Camera for Wildlife Photography

7. Fujifilm X-T3

Fujifilm X-T3 Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only) - Silver
  • Megapixels: 26MP
  • Lens Mount: Fujifilm X
  • Sensor Size: APS-C (1.5 x Crop)
  • Weight: 383g (13.5oz)
  • Size: 118 x 83 x 47mm (4.7 x 3.3 x 1.8″)
  • Price: Check the latest price here

When you look at the Fujifilm X-T3 for wildlife photography, there’s one thing that’ll get you every time:

A 30 fps continuous shooting speed.

Yes, you read that right. With the Fujifilm X-T3, you can capture 30 frames per second (though only in the 1.25x crop mode with the electronic shutter). Without the crop mode activated, this drops to a still-impressive 20 fps.

Unfortunately, the buffer isn’t all that impressive, so you’ll only be able to shoot for a moment before having to wait for the camera to catch up. But it may be worth the wait, because 30 fps is incredible for a wildlife photographer.

The autofocus system is also impressive, with 425 points coupled with excellent tracking, perfect for photographing moving wildlife.

You’ll also appreciate the strong weather sealing, the good low light performance, and the very reasonable price.

What We Like:

  • Good price
  • Impressive weather sealing
  • Excellent AF system
  • 30 fps continuous shooting

What We Don’t Like:

  • Relatively low megapixel count
  • Small buffer

See the Fujifilm XT3


Conclusion

You should now have a sense of the absolute best wildlife photography cameras out there.

And you hopefully know which one is right for you.

So grab a camera, get out, and start shooting!

Amazing photos await.

Articles Related to “Best Camera for Wildlife Photography”

  • Ignacio Pessoa says:

    Good suggestions but should have mentioned that Sony now offers the 200-600 mm e-mount zoom (which is affordable for a serious hobbyist), and the fast 600 mm prime (which isn’t). Both are excellent and go a long way to filling the gap in long lens selection for Sony shooters. Now if only Sigma or Tamron will actually produce their rumored (and hopefully less costly) equivalents.

      • Ignacio Pessoa says:

        I don’t fault that point at all, but was merely pointing out that there is now at long last (too long in my estimation) a viable, native mount, long lens option for Sony mirrorless shooters. Which is important since that option was necessary to make full use of the awesome Sony auto focus technologies you mention. I can’t speak for others, but my adapted long lens experience was that the auto focus capability was perceptibly degraded.

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