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What To Look For In A Camera for Wildlife Photography?

Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a birdwatcher, a lover of nature, or you are just passionate about wildlife, a good camera is a must-have for you! While it is enthralling to get up close with nature, of course, it is even extra enthralling if you have awesome pictures to show for it. So, have you been wondering what the best camera for wildlife photography is? Your question will be answered soon enough.

Wildlife photography is a demanding type of photography. Your average, regular camera may not cut it, and that is understandable since it is a huge challenge already to photograph animals. Animals can often be watched in difficult conditions, moving among the foliage, in low light… You need a camera that can handle these challenges and more, without struggling. It’s a challenge I had to face on a number of my adventures around the world.

A camera compatible with great wildlife photography should offer top-notch features such as a high-quality sensor, and good high ISO management, among other great features. They should come with everything to make your task easy as pie and let you get that fantastic animal shot you’re after.

However, with different companies churning out different photography cameras nowadays, it isn’t easy to choose the right one. But research can always save you from making a wrong purchase. Thus, we have put this guide together in order to help you make the right decision when choosing the best camera for wildlife photography.

What are Important Factors to Consider For A Wildlife Camera?

So what makes a good camera for wildlife photography? Wildlife cameras vary in performance, features, and functionalities, so if you are meaning to purchase one for your outdoor adventures, you should consider the following characteristics.

Lens Options

Zoom lenses are one of the most vital factors you must consider when shopping for the right wildlife camera. It is important to check that top-quality lenses are available for the camera you choose, so you are able to zoom very far and capture stunning shots.

Moreover, these lenses ought to have large apertures, which enable quick and steady focus regardless of the distance and lighting conditions.

Durability

The great challenges faced by wildlife photographers are unhidden to everyone. Usually, they spend a lot of time in coarse territories, which explains why their equipment, including cameras needs to be incredibly strong so as to endure tough conditions like penetrating heat, heavy rain, and dust.

Weight

Weight is another vital factor you must take into consideration when doing your camera shopping. Since you will be carrying all your tools in the roughest of environments, while moving very fast, you need to ensure that you can carry your camera conveniently in your backpack.

Autofocus

Having top-performing autofocus is very important in wildlife photography. Animals are not always clearly visible, among the vegetation and are sometimes camouflaged in the background. You want autofocus that is able to precisely focus on the animal and fast.

High ISO Performance

Shooting wildlife often means shooting early morning or late afternoon, with less light available. At long focal lengths, the phenomenon is even worse. The rule is to always shoot at the lowest ISO possible for better image quality but when shooting wildlife you may simply have no other choice than to increase the ISO setting. Increased ISO means more noise in the image, so you need a camera that is both able to go high in the ISO, and keep the noise at a reasonable level.

Price

The price, of course, is always a very important consideration. The camera’s price will be determined by the features offered by the camera. Therefore, you need to have a clear idea of the amount you are intending to invest in a camera before even making any commitment.

Quality wildlife photography is challenging and requires high-performance cameras. A couple of cameras on this page are clearly aimed at professional photographers, costing $6000+ dollars for the body only. Of course, if you can afford it, these cameras will give you an outstanding result.

APS-C or Full-Frame, What’s The Difference and Which One Should I Choose?

APS-C sensors are smaller than full-frame sensors. They are also called “cropped sensors”. The result is a magnified image (compared with full-frame), and each APS-C camera has a definite “crop factor”. Most of the time, it is around x1.5. So what does it mean?

Let’s compare a full-frame camera and an APS-C camera with a crop factor of 1.5, shooting with a 300 mm lens. With the full-frame camera, you get the normal image shot at 300 mm. On the APS-C camera, with a 300 mm lens, you will actually get the equivalent of 450 mm (300×1.5).

If you are shooting landscapes, it’s a limitation (because in general, the wider the better). But if you shoot wildlife, it’s great because it basically enables you to zoom 1.5 times more than the theoretical limit of your lens!

However, there are very good reasons to choose a full-frame sensor. On a larger, full-frame sensor, the pixels are bigger. In low light, the image quality is usually better and the images are less noisy. For wildlife photography, it’s a very big advantage.

So between a “telephoto effect” with an APS-C sensor or better low light image quality with a full-frame sensor, it feels a bit like a dilemma to know which one is more important and useful.

If you want my opinion, if you can afford the extra budget, it is better to go with a full-frame sensor. You can always buy a lens that zooms more but you can’t change the sensor’s performance. Good low-light performance is very important in wildlife photography, and this is what you should consider first.

DSLR or Mirrorless for Wildlife?

Even if it’s true that mirrorless cameras are catching up more and more with DSLRs and making amazing cameras for travel or general photography, DSLRs still have the edge in wildlife photography with their very high performances. Since we are looking for the best camera for wildlife photography, in my opinion, the best is a DSLR.

Final Thoughts

Wildlife photography is really rewarding and beautiful. But when you have the wrong gear, it can very quickly get frustrating! Wildlife photography is demanding and challenging for both the photographer and the camera, but I believe that any of the 6 cameras listed on this page are able to greatly help you get the fabulous wildlife shots you’re after.

I hope that this guide was useful to you and helped you find the perfect camera!

Also, read our guide on tripods for wildlife photography.

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