Choosing a camera for wildlife photography used to mean selecting from a small group of professional-level DSLRs that had the velocity and telephoto lens alternatives needed to capture close-up views of fast-moving topics. Today, there’s a much wider range of cameras that can meet the needs of wildlife photographers, including mirrorless structures that have some advantages over traditional DSLRs.
Mirrorless cameras like Sony’s a9 offer faster-than-DSLR continuous shooting speeds, plus entirely silent functioning, a decided advantage when you’re trying not to disturb your subject. And as mirrorless camera makers and third-party lens producers continue to expand the lens options available, there are now many selects in the super-tele range, including affordable zooms and payment primes, plus teleconverters that can get you to focal lengths equivalent to 1200 mm and beyond.
Battery life remains a key advantage for DSLRs, but overall, the performance gaps between DSLR and mirrorless cameras have closed. What’s important is that the camera you choose has the velocity and autofocus precision to keep up with the action. Depending on your photographic style, the end use of your images and national budgets for equipment, there are many terrific cameras–both DSLR and mirrorless–that are up to the challenge of wildlife photography.
Cameras For Wildlife Photography: Full Frame, APS or Micro Four Thirds?
Telephoto lenses are one of the most important requirements for wildlife photography, bringing you close-up views of your subjects while allowing you to remain at a safe and respectful distance. Though large full-frame sensors are in some respects superior to smaller APS-C sensors, the magnification ingredient of a smaller sensor improves the telephoto reach of your lenses. For instance, comparing a 20 -megapixel full-frame camera with a 20 -megapixel APS-C camera, the APS-C model will give you approximately 1.5 x magnification of your lens’ focal section, making a 400 mm lens equivalent to a 600 mm lens. Keep in head that this is true-blue if you’re comparing two cameras with the same resolution, as a full-frame image from a higher-resolution camera can be cropped for a similar result.
Micro Four Thirds sensors give even greater magnification of 2x. This allows Olympus and Panasonic to design lighter, more compact telephoto lenses for their Micro Four Thirds cameras compared to zooms and primes with equivalent focal sections for larger-sensor cameras. For instance, the Olympus M.ZUIKO ED 300 MM F4. 0 IS PRO is equivalent to a 600 mm prime on a full-frame camera–but at 3.7 inches in diameter, 8.9 inches in length and 2.8 pounds, this lens is just a little over half the sizing and more than 60 percentage lighter than the AF-S NIKKOR 600 mm f/ 4E FL ED VR( 6.5 -inch diameter, 17 inches in duration and 8.4 pounds ). The Olympus lens is also approximately one-fifth of the rate at $2,499 versus the Nikon at $12,299. The point is that smaller-sensor cameras do offering an advantage of lighter, more compact lenses, and for many photographers, any trade off in overall image quality is negligible compared to the affordability and portability benefits of these systems.
For wildlife action, AF accelerated and accuracy are prime considerations. Definitive numerical ratings aren’t available for AF performance, but higher-end cameras typically deliver better AF performance than entry-level figures, and newer simulations with the most up-to-date AF technology improve upon earlier models.
More AF points are potentially an advantage, but evaluate the entire AF system. Cross-type degrees support additional information to the AF processor and, therefore, improved accuracy. Algorithms and processor abilities also play a major role–newer AF systems with fewer AF points and more powerful processors will potentially outperform older systems with more AF points. Multi-point AF is most useful when your theme is in front of a relatively uncluttered background. Otherwise, it may be more effective to simply use the center AF point, lock focus and then compose, or for stationary wildlife, to activate the AF point over the animal’s eye that’s nearest to the camera.
Technologies like AI-based subject recognition and machine learning are making their way into autofocus systems, and we expect to see these features become more common and capable. Sony has been one of the key commanders in this, with the introduction of Real-time Eye AF in the a6400, which subsequently improved via a firmware update to work with animal themes in addition to being able to humen. Real-time Eye AF for Animal was also added to the a7R III and a7 III through firmware updates, and though at the time of this writing the technology is officially limited to domestic swine, we expect to see the system become more sophisticated and capable of recognizing a wide variety of wildlife in the not too distant future.
While cameras with focus-tracking capabilities can greatly enhance your chances of success, they’re not infallible, so it’s good to be able to fall back to basic technique and an understanding of your camera’s available decideds. Review your manual’s recommendations for AF mode selection and experiment with your camera’s AF alternatives to see which to be good for your style of shooting.
Your lens also has a significant impact on autofocus performance. The availability and number of cross-type AF points may be limited by your lens selection. Professional super-telephoto lenses have faster motors and smarter AF algorithms, as well as finer optics than lower-end lenses. They’re more durable, with better sealing against climate and dust. They likewise cost a lot more, and are much larger and heavier–but that’s the price of superior performance.
Did you know your camera’s AF system operates with the lens wide open at its maximum aperture? When you activate the shutter, the lens then closes down to your selected aperture immediately before the shutter opens. Most AF systems require a minimum aperture of f/ 5.6, which usually isn’t a problem. However, if “youre using” a teleconverter to widen your focal length, you’re also reducing the effective maximum aperture of your lens–the stronger the teleconverter’s strength, the greater this reduction–making an AF system that’s compatible with apertures as small-minded as f /8 preferable for telephoto work.
Frame Per Second& Max Burst
While ulta-fast continuous capture rates aren’t absolutely critical for most wildlife photography, they’re certainly beneficial. More frames per second increase your chances of recording the perfect speech, gesture or wing position for moving wildlife. Pro wildlife photographer Melissa Groo recommends 8 fps as a minimum continuous shooting rate, a spec which all of the cameras in this article meet or exceed. Keep in psyche that the continuous shooting for a camera can will vary depending on your AF mode. Ideally, you’ll want a camera that can perform continuous AF at 8 fps or faster, rather than single AF where the focus is locked on the first frame, when following moving subjects.
In addition to frames per second, the number of members of frames that can be stored in a single flare is also important. To took advantage of your camera’s speed, use the fastest-rated memory cards that your camera supports.
For best image character, it’s ever preferable to set lower ISOs, but wildlife photography often entails shooting in low-light situations near dawning and dusk when higher ISOs are needed. Considering the minimum aperture requirements of AF systems, plus the creative flexible of selecting the right aperture for your desired depth of realm, cameras that present wider ISO ranges offer a significant advantage for wildlife photography. Though noise increases at higher ISOs, it’s better to compromise with interference than with sharpness or not getting the shot at all.
More light translates to less interference, and larger sensors collect more light due to their increased surface area. That’s one reason why full-frame cameras are able to offer comparably higher ISO equivalents and provide better image tone at higher ISO puts than smaller sensors.
Indicate Cameras For Wildlife Photography
Following is a selection of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras which we recommend for wildlife photography. While not a definitive roll, these simulates are excellent options from their respective makers. When selecting a camera, also consider the telephoto lenses and teleconverters available for purposes of the frameworks you’re evaluating.
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Canon’s top professional DSLR, introduced in 2016, is arguably the best DSLR for wildlife photography, takes into consideration its speeding and the lens options in the Canon system, including super-tele primes and teleconverters. It’s the fastest DSLR currently available, with 14 fps capture use the optical viewfinder or up to 16 fps when hitting in Live View. The AF system is also impressive, with 61 AF points, 41 of which are cross-type and compatible with apertures as small-scale as f /8. It’s no wonder why so many pro wildlife photographers shoot with this camera, but the rate is steep for the more casual shooter. For more on this camera, read “Tech Tips” columnist George Lepp’s field test with the EOS-1D X Mark II.
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Sensor 20.2 MP Full-Frame
AF Points 61 Max Frame Rate 16 fps
Max Burst 170 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-51,200( 409,600)
Price $5,499 Canon EOS 7D Mark II Canon EOS 7D Mark II
The top APS-C option from Canon, this DSLR features a 65 -point, all cross-type AF system( with compatible lenses) for tracking fast-moving themes. The center point of the AF system works with apertures of f /8 or large, permitting AF compatibility when using tele-extenders. Like the EOS-1D X Mark II, the AF system can function in low-light situations down to -3 EV, which is approximately the luminance of moonlight, helpful when killing in early morning and evening illumination when wildlife tend to be most active.
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Sensor 20.2 MP APS-C
AF Points 65 Max Frame Rate 10 fps
Max Burst 31 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-16,000( 51,200)
Price $1,399 Canon EOS R Canon EOS R
Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera, the EOS R, applies Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF, a sensor-based phase detection AF system with 5,655 manually-selectable AF points that cover approximately 88 percentage of the image frame. Also noteworthy is the system’s ability to function in low-light conditions down to -6 EV( depending on the lens utilized) and at apertures as tiny as f/ 11 equivalent, means that that the AF system can support, for example, an EF 100-400 mm f/ 4-5.6 IS II lens with a 2x teleconverter affixed. The EOS R can shoot at up to 8 fps with the focus locked on the first frame, or 5 fps with continuous AF. Read our field test of the Canon EOS R .
Canon EOS R
Sensor 30.3 MP Full-Frame
AF Points 5,655 Max Frame Rate 8 fps
Max Burst 47 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-40,000( 102,400)
Price $2,299 Fujifilm X-T3 0 Fujifilm X-T30
New to the roll this year is the Fujifilm X-T3 0. Compared to the X-H1, it’s nearly half the load and noticeably more compact. It’s an upgrade in other respects, too, with faster continuous shooting and higher solving. At full resolve, the camera can capture up to 8 fps with its mechanical shutter or 20 fps with its electronic shutter. At a reduced resolution of 16.6 MP, it can capture up to 30 fps with its electronic shutter. One potential advantage of the X-H1 is its in-body image stabilization–the X-T3 0 relies on stabilization built-in to its lenses–though for wildlife photography, you’ll probably be using the FUJINON XF1 00 -4 00 mmF4. 5-5. 6 R LM OIS WR which incorporates OIS. The 425 -point, sensor-based contrast detection AF system employs 2.16 million pixels that cover 100 percentage of the frame and can function in dim preconditions down to -3. 0 EV.
Fujifilm X-T3 0
Sensor 26.1 MP APS-C
AF Points 425 Max Frame Rate 30 fps
Max Burst 17 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 160-12,800( 51,200)
Price $899 Fujifilm X-H1 Fujifilm X-H1
The Fujifilm HX-1, introduced in 2018, was the first Fujifilm X Series simulate fast enough to build our index of cameras for wildlife photography. It can shoot at quickens up to 14 fps with its electronic shutter, or 8 fps with its mechanical shutter. The latter can be increased to 11 fps when using the optional Vertical Power Booster Grip VPB-XH1, which also widens hitting time to about 900 still frames. The 24.3 -megapixel APS-C mirrorless model is the first in the X Series to include in-body image stabilization, supporting up to 5.5 stops of 5-axis correction with all Fujinon XF and XC lenses. The camera’s AF system is designed for low-light performance and are supported in apertures as small-minded as f/ 11. This is great for wildlife photographers, as it means you can use the Fujinon XF1 00 -4 00 mmF4. 5-5. 6 R LM OIS WR with the Fujinon 2x Teleconverter XF2X TC WR for a 35 mm-equivalent range of 304 -1 218 mm without sacrificing autofocus.
Sensor 24.3 MP APS-C
AF Points 325 Max Frame Rate 14 fps
Max Burst 27 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-12,800( 51,200)
Price $1,299 Nikon D5 Nikon D5
Nikon’s flagship DSLR is ideal for wildlife, promising highly fast and precise AF, with 153 AF points, 99 of which are cross-type, and 15 that can function at apertures as small-time as f /8. The AF system also features a dedicated processor, and works in extremely low-light circumstances, down to -4 EV. It can capture 12 fps use the viewfinder or 14 fps with the reflect locked away. It also offers an amazing ISO range, expandable up to 3,280, 000. While images taken at that extreme will be very noisy, it’s an indication of the sensor’s excellent ability to collect light in dimmer situations at the ends of the working day. Nikon’s system includes a robust scope of payment telephoto lenses and teleconverters, making this camera another top choice of wildlife photography pros.
Sensor 20.8 MP Full-Frame
AF Points 153 Max Frame Rate 14 fps
Max Burst 200 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-102,400( 3,280, 000)
Price $6,499 Nikon D8 50 Nikon D8 50
Introduced in 2017, the D8 50 is one of the best DSLRs ever established and an excellent alternative for wildlife project. It offers massive 45.7 MP stills and can capture 7 fps at that full resolve, or up to 9 fps with the optional MB-D1 8 Multi Power Battery Pack. Like the D5, the D8 50 includes Nikon’s 153 -point, Multi-Cam 20 K AF system, which aspects 99 cross form sensors, 15 of which are sensitive to f /8. Of special interest to wildlife photographers, the D8 50 offerings a silent shooting mode in order to use its electronic shutter, with frame rates up to 6 fps at the camera’s full resolving with exposure and focus locked, or up to 30 fps at 8.6 -megapixel resolution in DX mode. That latter alternative will be particularly advantageous for telephoto wildlife job because, while it does render a lower-resolution image, it’s fantastically fast, silent and the DX mode harvest means your focal segment equivalent is magnified by 1.5 x.
Nikon D8 50
Sensor 45.7 MP Full-Frame
AF Points 153 Max Frame Rate 9 fps( full res ); 30 fps (8. 6 MP, DX crop)
Max Burst 74 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 64-25,600( 102,400)
Price $2,999 Nikon D500 Nikon D500
The D500 includes the same AF system as the top-end pro D5, as well as its EXPEED 5 processor. Though it’s not quite as fast as the D5, it’s still extremely speedy at its max rate of ten fps. It likewise features the same level of weather sealing as the pro simulate D8 10, and though less than the D5’s astronomical ISO max, offers a remarkable ISO range, expandable to 1,640, 000.
Sensor 20.9 MP APS-C
AF Points 153 Max Frame Rate 10 fps
Max Burst 79 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-51,200( 1,640, 000)
Price $1,999 Nikon Z 6 Nikon Z 6
Both the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7, the company’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras, are a good select for wildlife photography, but we lean toward the Z 6 for this application. Though it’s much lower in resolution than the Z7( 24.5 MP versus 45.7) it offers a faster continuous capture rate of 12 fps (8 fps for the Z 7 ). Firmware Version 2, released May 2019, presented both cameras improved low-light AF performance, but the Z 6 was the bigger beneficiary, able to operate in -6 EV preconditions( -2 EV for the Z 7 ). It also has a higher max native ISO of 51,200 in comparison with the Z 7’s 25,600. It’s not a huge distinction, but when shooting in early morning and late evening when wildlife is active, any the process of improving low-light performance is noteworthy. Read our field test of the Nikon Z structure.
Nikon Z 6
Sensor 24.5 MP Full-Frame
AF Points 273 Max Frame Rate 12 fps
Max Burst 25 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-51,200( 204,800)
Price $1,999 Olympus OM-D E-M1X Olympus OM-D E-M1X
Designed with professional photographers in mind, the newest OM-D system camera from Olympus is an excellent choice for wildlife photography. The OM-D E-M1X aspects an in-body image stabilization system capable of 7 stops of correction. It can shoot at accelerations up to 18 fps with AF/ AE tracking and in silent mode, or up to 60 fps with focus and exposure locked. Another aspect beneficial for wildlife photography is the Olympus Pro Capture Mode, which when triggered, buffers up to 35 frames continually and, when the shutter is fully depressed, records the predating 35 frame
Like the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, as a Micro Four Thirds sensor camera, the focal duration of lenses attached to the OM-D E-M1X are effectively magnified 2x, means that the Olympus M.ZUIKO ED 300 MM F4. 0 IS PRO is equivalent to a 600 mm lens, but considerably smaller and lighter than the 600 mm primes for full-frame cameras.
Olympus OM-D E-M1X
Sensor 20.4 MP Micro Four Thirds
AF Points 121 Max Frame Rate 18 fps
Max Burst 74 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 200 to 25,600
Price $2,999 Olympus O-MD E-M1 II Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
The OM-D E-M1 Mark II enables us to capturing up to 18 fps with continuous AF tracking using its electronic shutter, or up to 60 fps with focus locked. The AF system utilizes 121 all cross-type phase detection sensors, and an AF Limiter function can speed up focus acquisition with three customizable focus interval assortments when working from a consistent distance from your topic. The camera’s unique Pro Capture mode helps you record the decisive moment with wildlife action by buffering up to 35 frames when you depress the shutter release halfway, and recording an image plus those 35 previous frames when you amply depress the shutter. The E-M1 Mark II also includes 5-Axis image stabilization for shooting handheld.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
Sensor 20.4 MP Micro Four Thirds
AF Points 121 Max Frame Rate 60 fps
Max Burst 84 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 64-6,400( 25,600)
Price $1,499 Panasonic LUMIX GH5 Panasonic LUMIX GH5
Another Micro Four Thirds option for wildlife work is the Panasonic LUMIX GH5. The 20.3 -megapixel camera can capture full-resolution images at up to 9 fps with continuous AF using its mechanical shutter( 12 fps with focus locked ), but switch to the 6K PHOTO mode to record 18 -megapixel images at up to 30 fps, or 8-megapixel stills at up to 60 fps in 4K PHOTO mode. Up to 5 stops of image stabilization are possible with the camera’s 5-axis Dual I.S. system. The form is built to protect against moisture and dust and can operate in temperatures as low as -1 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Panasonic LUMIX GH5
Sensor 20.3 MP Micro Four Thirds
AF Points 225 Max Frame Rate 12 fps
Max Burst 60 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-25,600 Price $2,199 Panasonic LUMIX S1R Panasonic LUMIX S1R
Panasonic introduced the first examples in its brand-new full-frame mirrorless LUMIX S camera structure in 2019, working in partnership with Leica and Sigma to develop the system and lenses. The system is relatively young and there aren’t a lot of lenses available yet that will satisfy the needs of wildlife photographers–the longest is the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 70 -2 00 mm f/ 4 O.I.S. But considering the partners involved, we expect the lens options to improve, so we’re including the Panasonic LUMIX S1R here because of its high-pitched resolution and ability to capture up to 6 fps with continuous AF, or 9 fps with focus locked on the first shooting. Of the three Panasonic S series cameras introduced still further, it’s the best for wildlife.
Panasonic LUMIX S1R
Sensor 47.3 MP Full-Frame
AF Points 225 Max Frame Rate 9 fps
Max Burst 40 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100 to 25,600( 51,200)
Price $3,699 Pentax K-3 Mark II Pentax K-3 II
Like the full-frame Pentax K-1, the APS-C K-3 II is well protected against the elements, with 92 seals. It’s the camera’s speed regions it in this list–it’s roughly twice as fast as the K-1 at 8.3 fps versus the K-1’s 4.4 fps. The 27 -point AF system includes 25 cross-type degrees and can function in low-light situations down to -3 EV. Also like the K-1, the K-3 II has image stabilization built in, offering up to 4.5 stops of shake reduction regardless of the lens used.
Pentax K-3 II
Sensor 24.35 MP APS-C
AF Points 27 Max Frame Rate 8.3 fps
Max Burst 23 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-51,200 Price $999 Sony a9 Sony a9
Sony’s full-frame mirrorless flagship features a 24.2 -megapixel stacked CMOS sensor combined with a 693 -point focal aircraft stage detecting AF system, which covers approximately 93 percentage of the frame. The camera is capable of shaping 60 AF/ AE tracking figurings per second and able to shoot at 20 fps continuously for up to 241 RAW or 362 JPG images at the camera’s full resolve in a single outburst. Also advantageous for wildlife photography is the camera’s silent shooting mode and a high-resolution Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder that’s one of the best EVFs we’ve used–and there’s no blackout during capture. The a9 has built-in 5-Axis image stabilization that furnishes up to 5 stops of compensation for camera movement when hitting handheld. The NP-FZ1 00 battery introduced with this camera renders approximately doubled the life of previous Sony full-frame mirrorless camera batteries, and an optional VG-C3EM Vertical Grip extends shooting day still further. For more info, speak our review of the Sony a9, and “Wild By Nature” columnist Melissa Groo’s impress.
24.2 MP Full-Frame
AF Points 693 Max Frame Rate 20 fps
Max Burst 241 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-51,200( 204,800)
Price $4,499 Sony a7 III Sony a7 III
Though not as fast as the a9, the 24.2 -megapixel full-frame a7 III is still quite capable for wildlife work, with a max continuous shooting rate of ten fps in both mechanical and electronic shutter modes.The a7 III’s autofocus system has 425 contrast AF points and 693 focal-plane phase detection degrees that encompas 93 percent of the image frame, the same system used in the Sony a9. In comparison with the previous a7 II model, the a7 III is nearly twice as fast concentrate in low-light and when tracking subjects. Also like the a9, the camera’s 5-Axis image stabilization system offer up to 5 stops of compensation for shooting handheld. One of the most noteworthy the various aspects of this camera is its cost for the implementation of its it offers, at under $2,000. Read our review of the Sony a7 III .
Sony a7 III
Sensor 24.2 MP Full-Frame
AF Points 693 Max Frame Rate 10 fps
Max Burst 89 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-51,200( 204,800)
Price $2,199 Sony a6400 Sony a6400
While the full-frame Sony a9 is in many ways the ultimate wildlife camera, don’t count out the APS-C sensor a6 400 introduced this year. It was the first Sony camera to introduce Real-time Eye AF, and recently added Real-time Eye AF for animals via Firmware Update 2( likewise available now on the a7 III with Firmware Update 3 for that camera ). Pair it with the brand-new Sony FE 200 -6 00 mm F5. 6-6. 3 G OSS for an equivalent focal length scope of 300-900mm, and add a 2x teleconverter for a remarkable 600 -1 800 mm telephoto. It can capture at 11 fps with full AF/ AE tracking when hitting with the mechanical shutter, or up to 8 fps when hitting in silent mode with the electronic shutter.
Sensor 24.2 MP APS-C
AF Points 425 Max Frame Rate 11 fps
Max Burst 46 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100 to 32,000( 102,400)
Price $899 Sony a99 Mark II Sony a99 Mark II
With the popularity of Sony’s E-mount mirrorless cameras, we were pleasantly astounded when it updated the -Amount a9 9 to Mark II in late 2016. That was great news for those who had invested in -Amount lenses. Technically not a DSLR but not mirrorless either, the a99 II is built around Sony’s Translucent Mirror Technology, which extends most of the daylight to the image sensor, but indicates a small amount to the 79 -point phase-detection AF system. In addition to being able to that dedicated phase-detection sensor, the a99 II also has a 399 -point focal plane stage detecting AF sensor similar to those found in Sony’s mirrorless cameras which enables capabilities like Eye AF. At full resolution, the a99 II can capture at 12 fps with AF tracking, doubling the capture rate of the original a99. That’s impressive, because the Mark II also practically doubles the resolution of its predecessor( 42.4 -megapixel versus 24.3 -megapixel ). Though the future of Sony’s -Amount cameras is uncertain considering the popularity and ability of its E-mount line, the a99 Mark II is a significant upgrade from previous models in this series.
Sony a99 Mark II
Sensor 42.4 MP Full-Frame
Max Frame Rate 12 fps
Max Burst 54 RAW
ISO Range( Expanded) 100-25,600( 102,400)
Updated June 26, 2019 First wrote July 23, 2013
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