Whether you're a beginner bird watcher or want to document and learn about other wildlife through images, taking the picture on the right camera is essential to making your wildlife journey a good one.
To do this you need to have the right camera for the job. Many beginners are a bit scared of trying out professional cameras, as their different settings and functions can be very intimidating to learn.
That’s why we’ve made this list of the 7 best beginner cameras for wildlife photography. We will go through each and explain what all the specs are, and the pros and cons of each. At the end, we have also added a buyers guide to show you all the important features you should look out for when buying your first camera for wildlife photography.
OUR TOP PICK
Canon is a very popular camera brand no matter the photographer’s skill level, as they always make high-quality products that produce breathtaking images. The 90D DSLR camera is no different.
Starting shooting speed, the 90D can continuously shoot at 10fps (frames per second). This means that it can capture images and movement incredibly quickly and with a lot of detail, perfect if you are taking an photo of a moving animal.
But shooting speed means nothing if the camera has bad autofocusing features. Luckily the 90D has a pretty good AF system. This camera uses a 45-point AF system, meaning that it has 45 different spots that it can focus on. While this is not as high as some more professional cameras, it is still fast and effective when taking pictures.
The AF system also works very well in video. This camera can capture 4K video and has added features like an external mic and headphone socket if you want to focus more on capturing video.
The 90D can also capture HD videos at up to 120fps, or 4x slow-motion speed, but it cannot do this while also continuously autofocusing.
So while this feature would work well to capture all of the details of an animal on the move, you would have to manually focus the camera for the whole time. Still, with time this is a skill that can be learned if you wanted to.
The 90D comes with a vari-angle touchscreen, which allows you to move the screen to an angle or place (like out to the side) that is more comfortable for your shooting style.
From the screen, you can tap where you want the camera to focus on, take pictures from it because of the touch shutter mode, and change a few settings if you need to.
- Good image quality in a variety of lighting conditions - because of the large ISO range (that determines how well the camera works in high or low lighting) the 90D can capture good quality images in a variety of lighting situations
- Excellent AF systems - with face detection AF, viewfinder AF, and the 45-point system, you won’t miss a moment with this camera
- Short video recording limit - if you want to continuously record video, then the 90D has a 29min, 59sec recording limit
The D500 is a very popular choice in camera for many photographers, but especially those who want to capture crisp images of moving subjects, which is why it is used a lot in wildlife photography.
While this camera doesn’t have as high an ISO range as others on the market, it’s still able to perform well in bright lighting conditions, and reasonably well in darker ones.
The darker the environment the harder it is for the D500 to capture all of the detail. So if you are more interested in nighttime wildlife then this will not be the camera for you.
But because it works well in bright lighting your images won’t be over-exposed, making this one of the best cameras to use when taking pictures of flying birds on a bright, sunny day.
To make up for the lack of low lighting photography, the D500 has an incredible 153-point AF system and can continuously shoot at 10fps. When the camera is held to your eye you can select the AF point quickly using the mini-joystick controller.
If you don’t like this method then you can instead use the touchscreen, which allows you to set the AF point. You are very unlikely to miss anything when shooting with wildlife.
- Professional build quality - though made from plastic this camera will feel very sturdy in your hands
- 4K video - perfect if you want to capture wildlife in motion
- Poor image quality in dark lighting - The darker the environment the worse the images will look
The D850 is one of the best DSLR cameras you can buy according to many photographers. This camera combines high shooting speed with high resolution, something that other cameras have struggled with in the past.
The D850 has a sensor that has been designed to capture all of the fine details in your images, as it has a resolution of 45.7MP (megapixels). This is one of the highest MP levels you can find on a DSLR camera.
At full resolution, the D850 can shoot at 9fps, but to get it to work at this optimum level you will have to buy the MB-D18 Multi-Power Battery Pack and EN-EL18B battery. If you don’t want to buy these optional added extras though, this camera is still able to shoot at a reasonably impressive 7fps.
Also, to get this camera working as fast as possible you will need two very fast cards to go into the card slots.
Again, if you are not bothered by reaching the maxim shooting speed, you will not need to buy fast cards. These two card slots also mean that you will be able to store a lot of memory on this camera, and will have plenty of space to take pictures and videos of the wildlife.
The D850 can shoot in a variety of lighting conditions thanks to its ISO range, though like a lot of cameras its performance does slightly dip in low-level lighting.
A feature that makes this camera perfect for wildlife photography is the silent photography mode. When activated, the D850 switches to its electronic shutter so it can shoot without making any noise at all. This will prevent you from spooking the animals when you’re trying to get that perfect shot.
- Silent photography - makes it perfect if you are getting up close to wildlife and don’t want to be noticed
- Tilting 3.2-inch high-res LCD touchscreen - you can see all of the stunning detail on the screen when you take the photo. It can also help you to compose your shots.
- Needs fast memory cards - while this is not necessary, if you want the camera to work at its optimum level then you will need to buy faster memory cards
Though some people worry that Micro Four Thirds cameras can’t compete with cameras that have much bigger sensors than them, the E-M1X proves that this isn’t true.
This camera can capture 80MP images when on a tripod, and 50MP images when handheld. Both options produce stunningly crisp images even if your subject is moving.
The AF system in this camera is controlled by AI, and it can automatically track any moving subject. The smart AF also lets you customize the shape, size, and arrangement of the 122 cross-type points, using a programmable grid system where you can build your own focus patterns.
Another useful feature is the in-body image stabilization, which minimizes camera shake to help avoid image blur. This stabilization works whether you’re taking photos or videos, so everything you do will be crisp and sharp.
When you’re out in nature, you will appreciate the field sensor systems in this camera. This includes a GPS, barometer, compass, temperature sensor, and manometer, which can capture almost every detail of the location and conditions where your images were captured.
- Weather sealed construction - you won’t have to worry about damaging this when using it in nature
- 2 batteries - this extends your shooting time
- Not great in low light - this is an issue with many cameras though it may not matter to you if you are shooting in the day
Though a bit older than other cameras on this list, it is still highly favored by wildlife photographers.
One of the biggest draws of this camera is that it can work incredibly well in low light thanks to its huge ISO range and high resolution.
The AF system also helps in this. The camera features a 61-point AF system with 41 cross-type sensors, five of which are dual cross-type for even greater accuracy. This is one of the reasons why wildlife photographers love this camera so much.
The large 3.2-inch touchscreen display on the back of the camera boasts an impressive 1,620,000 dots, making the images appear very sharp on the screen. From the touchscreen, you can also easily change menu settings and the AF point as well.
The camera features a customizable button on the rear of the body, which is very useful as it allows you to make this camera more suited to your shooting style.
Though this camera is older it proves that sometimes the newer models aren’t always the best.
- 7fps burst speed - captures everything
- Can save still frames from video - if you get one really good shot you can turn it nto an image
- Low continues video recording limit - this is capped at 29:59
This is a premium APS-C mirrorless camera that even novices will be able to use. Through its features you will have impressive image qualiy first time very time.
The continuous AF system works very well in both photo and video, due it it constantly tracking moving objects.
It also has 245 AF points, manuel focus assistance, and eye detection. This allows you to clearly capture fast moving objects or subjects and get very crisp images of the animals due to the camera focusing directly on the eye of animal.
With shooting speed, you can choose between low speed continpus and high soeed continous rather than just taking one image at a time. The low speed one shoots at 7fps, while the high speed one shoots at 12fps. This is a useful feature as you can switch to the lower speed if you want to save battery on your camera.
There is also a silent shooting continous mode, which is a very useful feature for any wildlife photographer. In this mode you are able to shoot at 20fps, though this mode cannot be used all the time.
The overall build feels very solid, so you won’t have to worry about knocking it or dropping it as this is very unlikely to cause any damage. It is also weatherproof.
- 4K video - can capture beautiful video of animals in movement
- Long battery life - can capture 500-600 photos on one charge
- Awquard button placement - could take some time to get used to where everything is
This is a very good camera for wildlife photography as it delivers a solid all-around performance when out shooting.
The biggest draw to this camera might be long zoom lens. This allows you to capture far off subjects, something that you’ll be doing a lot in wildlife photography. Like many wildlife cameras it also has a silent shooting mode, so even if you do get up close to wildlife you won’t have to worry about scaring them away.
Though it only has 49-point AF range, this camera has the unique ability to let you change the focus point of an image after you have already taken it.
This means that if the animal moved at the last second and the camera unfocuses, you can go to the image, select the right AF point on it to refocus it, and then you will have a high quality and sharp image.
The large ISO range on the FZ1000 means that this is also a great camera to use in low light conditions, so if you’re shooting in a forest or some other darker location, you will still be abale to see all the subjects clearly in the image.
- Long focal length - can capture cupjects from far away
- Fast shooting speed - able to continously shoot at 12fps
- Not the best face tracking - this can be balanced out by changing the focual point after the image has been taken
Best Cameras For Wildlife Photography Beginners Buying Guide
When looking to get a wildlife camera, these are the most important features you should focus on:
You will want to make sure that there is decent coverage across the frame and there’s also a good AF tracking system. Autofocus is what allows you to capture unblurred images, especially if the subject is moving at the time.
Having a good and automatic AF system also makes it easier for beginners to compose their shots without having to change several settings. It is also much faster to have the camera to do the AF for you, which is useful if you want to quickly capture some moving wildlife.
Most wildlife cameras have a built-in zoom lens, but you can also buy additional lenses for most cameras to change the look of your images.
This is the number of continuous shots you can take before it needs to pause. The better the buffer the more shots you can capture in one burst.
Best Cameras For Wildlife Photography Beginners - FAQ's
How Many Megapixels Do I Need For Wildlife Photography?
A 12-18 MP camera should be enough to give you decent wildlife stills, but if you want to convert the shots to large prints you should have at least 20-30MP.
What Makes A Good Wildlife Photo?
The best way to take a photo is to set the ISO in the mid-range, somewhere around 400 – 800. This allows you to shoot with a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion of moving animals.