Wildlife Photography on a Budget: Your Best Options Today

Do you want to know how to do wildlife photography on a budget? Are you struggling to choose the gear for high-quality wildlife photos, but you don’t want to break the bank?

Look no further.

Because this article will tell you everything you need to know about starting wildlife photography with a reasonable investment. In fact, it’s entirely possible to capture amazing wildlife images for under $2000 (and a lot less, in some cases).

Wildlife Photography on a Budget: Your Best Options Today

Sure, you’ll upgrade your gear over time. You’ll eventually add to your kit.

But the first pictures you’ll have taken will still be professional quality.

And you’ll be proud of them. Guaranteed.

Now, equipment is one of the most important aspects of wildlife photography. Without great equipment, you won’t be able to get sufficiently close to capture animals flying, feeding, nesting, playing, and more.

In other words:

Without great equipment, you won’t be able to get tack-sharp images of animals living in their own little world.

I previously explained how to find the best camera for wildlife photography.

And I also explained how to find the best lens.

But in this article, I’m going to take it a step further. I’m going to show you the best affordable camera for wildlife photography–one that will get the job done, but won’t cost an arm and a leg to do it.

And I’m also going to show you the best budget lens for wildlife photography. This is where the real expense is, but with some careful evaluation, I’m confident you’ll be able to come away with a lens that is perfect for your needs and your budget.

Quick Links: Wildlife Photography on a Budget

Let’s get started.

Wildlife Photography with Bridge Camera: The Sony RX10 IV

As I said in the section above:

You do not have to invest in thousands of dollars worth of equipment in order to capture stunning wildlife images.

You do need capable gear, yes. But there are some great options for far less than the $10000+ paid by today’s professionals.

Plus, here’s the thing:

If you’ve never done wildlife photography before, you may want to start small. You want to make sure you actually like what you’re doing before you drop $6000 for a lens. Because what if you realize that wildlife photography just isn’t the thing for you? Perhaps you’ll decide to go into street photography instead, or portrait photography, or landscape photography.

You don’t want to be stuck with a $6000 prime lens when you do.

That’s why I recommend you check out the Sony RX10 IV. It’s a compact camera, which means that you cannot switch out the lens–but for wildlife photography, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option for beginners.

What’s so special about the Sony RX10 IV?

First, its lens, while not interchangeable, packs some serious punch. It goes from an impressively wide 24mm, all the way out to a ridiculous 600mm (with an f/2.4-f/4 maximum aperture).

1. Sony RX10 IV

Sony Cyber‑Shot RX10 IV with 0.03 Second Auto-Focus & 25x Optical Zoom (DSC-RX10M4)

Megapixels: 21MP
Sensor Size: 1″
Continuous Shooting: 24 fps
Weight: 1100g (2.40lb)
Size: 132 x 94 x 145mm (5.2 x 3.7 x 5.7″)
Price: Check the latest price here

With optics like that, you could easily get close enough to capture birds in flight, as well as smaller wildlife in their environment.

Of course, no wildlife photography camera can get the job done without an incredible autofocus system, and I’m happy to say that the Sony RX10 IV delivers in that area, as well. The RX10 IV features a 315-point phase detection AF system, for speedy focusing even in tough situations. Combine this with a 24 frames-per-second continuous shooting speed with autofocus, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Note that it’s impossible to buy a full-frame or APS-C mirrorless or DSLR option with specs even close to these for such a low price (around $1600). The equivalent cameras and lenses would cost you a significant sum more, and they wouldn’t be as compact nor as lightweight.

Sony Cyber‑Shot RX10 IV with 0.03 Second Auto-Focus & 25x Optical Zoom (DSC-RX10M4)

(I haven’t even mentioned the optical stabilization on the RX10 IV, which allows you to capture images of wildlife while shooting handheld in low light.)

If you think that the RX10 IV seems too good to be true, you might be right: It’s not a perfect camera. It’s just a really good one. You see, the RX10 IV’s sensor is only one inch in size, which seriously inhibits low-light shooting abilities. Compared to a full-frame or even APS-C camera, the noise performance on the RX10 IV is bound to be poor.

However, it’s worth noting that Sony does manufacture the best one-inch sensors in the world. And given all the other great features of the Sony RX10 IV, it’s certainly worth a look.

Canon Budget Options for Wildlife Photography

If you’re a Canon shooter and are looking for a budget camera, then look to the Canon EOS 90D.

It’s Canon’s latest crop sensor (APS-C) high-megapixel camera.

2. Canon EOS 90D

Canon 90D Digital SLR Camera [Body Only], Black (3616C002)

Megapixels: 34MP
Sensor Size: APS-C (1.6 x Crop Factor
Continuous Shooting: 10 fps
Weight: 700g (1.55lb)
Size: 141 x 105 x 77mm (5.5 x 4.1 x 3″)
Price: Check the latest price here

With a 34 megapixel APS-C sensor, it is the higher resolution camera in the industry among APS-C models. But at the same time, it allows for 10 frames-per-second continuous shooting, plus some good low-light capabilities (always useful for shooting wildlife in the mornings and evenings).

While the 80D’s autofocus system isn’t as powerful as some of its competitors, you’ll get decent bang for your buck, including 45 AF points (all cross-type).

3. Canon 7D Mark II

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera Body Wi-Fi Adapter Kit

Megapixels: 21MP
Sensor Size: APS-C (1.6 x Crop Factor
Continuous Shooting: 10 fps
Weight: 700g (1.55lb)
Size: 149 x 112 x 78mm (5.9 x 4.4 x 3″)
Price: Check the latest price here

Another budget camera option worth checking out is the Canon 7D Mark II. It’s somewhat dated (it debuted in September of 2014), but its autofocus system and 10 frames-per-second shooting rate are unmatched by Canon’s other consumer DSLRs.

3. Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 is II USM Lens

Lens Mount: Canon EF
Image Stabilization: Yes
Filter Size: 67mm
Weight: 710g (1.56lb)
Size: 80 x 146 mm (3.2 x 5.7″)
Price: Check the latest price here

As for Canon budget wildlife lenses, the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II is a great option. It’s well-priced, decently sharp (especially when stopped down), and very fast. Not to mention the image stabilization, which is an excellent bonus.

Altogether, you can grab the Canon 90D (or the Canon 7D Mark II) and the Canon EF 70-300mm for $1500-$1600.

4. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3

Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Canon

Lens Mount: Canon EF
Image Stabilization: Yes
Filter Size: 95mm
Weight: 1820g (4lb)
Size: 80 x 146 mm (4.1 x 10.2″)
Price: Check the latest price here

Another budget lens to consider is the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3. This lens has an incredible focal length range, covering from standard telephoto to supertelephoto with a twist of the zoom ring. And autofocus is impressive, too; it’s certainly snappy enough for wildlife shooting.

One of my favorite things about the Sigma 150-600mm is the optics. Is it sharp from 150mm all the way out to 600mm, even at the corners?

No.

But it remains sharp until you get near the 600mm end, allowing for some great wildlife images.

The Canon 90D plus the 150-600mm Sigma will set you back approximately $1700 (a bargain).

Wildlife Photography on a Budget With Nikon

If you’re a wildlife shooter in the market for a Nikon camera/lens combination, then you’re in luck. Nikon makes some of the best low-light APS-C DSLRs on the market, most of which are equipped with high-end autofocusing systems for fast, precise AF work.

5. Nikon D7500

Nikon D7500 DX-Format Digital SLR Body

Megapixels: 21MP
Sensor Size: APS-C (1.5 x Crop Factor)
Continuous Shooting: 8 fps
Weight: 640g (1.4lb)
Size: 136 x 104 x 73mm (5.3 x 4.1 x 3″)
Price: Check the latest price here

The Nikon D7500, in particular, strikes a balance between price, image quality, and autofocus, managing to pack a great sensor and AF system into a relatively inexpensive body.

The D7500 packs a 20 MP sensor with excellent high ISO performance (you can even expand the ISO to 1,640,000 if you ever get the urge).

Wildlife photographers will love the weather sealing and overall usability, not to mention the 51-point autofocus system that’s quick and efficient.

Unfortunately, the Nikon D7500 will be the last of its kind–rumor has it that Nikon will not be updating the D7500–but it’s still an amazing option for the budding wildlife shooter.

Note that anyone looking for a slightly more powerful option, one with even faster autofocus and continuous shooting speeds, should check out the D500, if you’re willing to foot an increased bill.

6. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3

Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Nikon

Lens Mount: Nikon F
Image Stabilization: Yes
Filter Size: 95mm
Weight: 1820g (4lb)
Size: 80 x 146 mm (4.1 x 10.2″)
Price: Check the latest price here

As for a budget wildlife lens, I’d recommend the Sigma 150-600mm f/5.-6.3, just as I did in the previous section; the lens is fast, impressively sharp, and an all-around powerhouse.

It’s not perfect, but it’ll do a great job for the price (around $1500 when including the Nikon D7500).

7. Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens for Nikon F

Lens Mount: Nikon F
Image Stabilization: Yes
Filter Size: 67mm
Weight: 1160g (2.55lb)
Size: 86 x 182 mm (3.4 x 7.2″)
Price: Check the latest price here

Another option is the Sigma 100-400mm, which offers less reach than the 150-600mm, but better optics and a potentially more manageable focal length range.

(Carrying around a 600mm lens can become a bit frustrating at times.)

Unfortunately, the Sigma 100-400mm does struggle when it comes to autofocus, working more slowly than I’d like, so it’s certainly worth considering both options.

The Sigma 100-400mm plus the D7500 come out to be around $1700.

Wildlife Photography on a Budget With Sony

If you’re looking to start your wildlife photography kit with Sony, then there’s no better budget camera than the Sony a6400–which is a member of Sony’s venerable a6000 mirrorless lineup, and will satisfy the needs of both hobbyists and professionals alike.

8. Sony a6400

Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Camera: Compact APS-C Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with Real-Time Eye Auto Focus, 4K Video & Flip Up Touchscreen - E Mount Compatible Cameras - ILCE-6400/B Body

Megapixels: 25MP
Sensor Size: APS-C (1.5 x Crop Factor)
Continuous Shooting: 11 fps
Weight: 403g (14.2oz)
Size: 120 x 67 x 60mm (4.7 x 2.6 x 2.4″)
Price: Check the latest price here

While the 24 MP, APS-C sensor may not seem that impressive, it’s the camera’s speed that makes the magic happen. The a6400 features 11 frames-per-second continuous shooting, which leaves its Canon and Nikon competitors in the dust, and will allow you to keep up with even the fastest wildlife.

Plus, the autofocus system on the a6400 is amazingly fast, quickly locking onto moving subjects with ease.

Note that the a6400 is a mirrorless camera, which comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. One of the biggest reasons to buy mirrorless is the electronic viewfinder, which will give you a preview of your wildlife photography shots before they’re taken. And, funnily enough, one of the biggest reasons to stick with DSLRs is the optical viewfinder, which is more crisp and clear than even the best mirrorless electronic viewfinder (and the Sony a6400 isn’t particularly impressive in this area).

9. Sony 70-350mm F4.5-6.3

Sony Alpha 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS Super-Telephoto APS-C Lens

Lens Mount: Sony E
Image Stabilization: Yes
Filter Size: 67mm
Weight: 625g (1.4lb)
Size: 77 x 142 mm (3 x 5.6″)
Price: Check the latest price here

But the Sony a6400 is a great camera for wildlife shooting; that much everyone agrees on. And you could round out your gear bag with the excellent Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3, which features top-notch sharpness, as well as lightning-fast autofocus. The 70-350mm is also impressively compact, which makes it a perfect option for photographers who like to go on long treks looking for wildlife and don’t want to haul around a 600mm lens.

The Sony a6400 and Sony 70-350mm combo will cost you around $1800-1900

And speaking of 600mm:

Your other best lens for wildlife photography on a budget is, once again, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3. This lens would require an adapter to use on the Sony a6400 body, but for the budget-conscious wildlife photographer looking for some serious reach, there’s no better choice.

Wildlife Photography on a Budget With Fujifilm

Over the past few years, Fujifilm has been consistently releasing incredible APS-C mirrorless cameras–several of which are perfect for wildlife photography, including our budget wildlife photography camera:

The X-T30.

10. Fujifilm X-T30

Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera

Megapixels: 26MP
Sensor Size: APS-C (1.5 x Crop Factor)
Continuous Shooting: up to 30 fps
Weight: 383g (13.5oz)
Size: 118 x 83 x 47mm (4.7 x 3.3 x 1.8″)
Price: Check the latest price here

At the heart of the X-T30 sits the 26.1 MP APS-C sensor, which combines top-of-its-class low-light capabilities with a nice dynamic range. This is featured alongside an excellent autofocus system (in order to track animals on the move), and the X-T30s best wildlife photography feature:

A 30 frames-per-second continuous shooting speed with a 1.25x crop, which drops to a still-impressive 20 fps shooting speed when shooting normally (but with the electronic shutter).

For any burgeoning wildlife photographer, the 20fps/30fps burst mode speed can make a difference between a portfolio of top-notch shots and a portfolio of mediocre shots–and for the price, who can resist?

Of course, any great camera requires a lens, and I’m happy to say that Fujifilm has two great budget options:

11. Fujinon 55-200mm F3.5-4.8

Fujinon XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

Lens Mount: Fujifilm X
Image Stabilization: Yes
Filter Size: 62mm
Weight: 580g (1.4lb)
Size: 75 x 118 mm (20oz)
Price: Check the latest price here

First, the Fujifilm XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8.

When combined with the Fujifilm X-T30 the total sits at around $1300, and you get an amazing camera and an amazing lens (with fast AF and stellar image quality).

12. Fujifilm 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6

Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Lens Mount: Fujifilm X
Image Stabilization: Yes
Filter Size: 77mm
Weight: 1375g (3lb)
Size: 95 x 210 mm (3.7 x 8.3″)
Price: Check the latest price here

Second, the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6. This lens is extremely fast, features good autofocus, and a great focal length range.

Altogether, the Fujifilm X-T30 plus the XF 100-400mm takes you to a (somewhat expensive) $2700. But if you’re after stellar quality, then it might be the way to go.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve finished this article, you should know all about the best affordable camera and best budget lens for wildlife photography.

You know which camera and lens combo will do you good if you’re a Canon, Nikon, Sony, or Fujifilm shooter.

So pick a camera, pick a lens, and start shooting.

You’ll be capturing some stunning photos in no time at all!

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