Smartphones have made it easy to snap wildlife photos while you're out and about. However, for those serious about wildlife photography, a dedicated camera with a zoom lens will take your wildlife photography to the next level. There are a few factors to consider when choosing a camera for nature photography. Fast continuous shooting speeds allow you to capture clear stills of moving animals, while large image buffers let you shoot for longer without interruption. Silent shooting might also be important if you tend to shoot more skittish, easily frightened animals, while quicker animals like small birds require more responsive, accurate autofocus systems.
Thankfully, we've done some of the work of narrowing down your options. We've bought and tested over 80 cameras in our lab, and below, you'll find our recommendations for the best cameras for nature photography and wildlife. If you're interested in a range of photography styles, you can look at our best cameras for general photography. If you're just starting, you might also want to check out our recommendations for the best beginner cameras. Otherwise, you can also see our overall picks for best cameras.
The OM SYSTEM OM-1 is the best camera for wildlife photography we've tested. Going with a Micro Four Thirds camera like this has a few benefits for wildlife photography, notably a more portable size and fantastic image stabilization. Compared to full-frame models like the Canon EOS R6 Mark II below, you can use physically smaller lenses to get longer equivalent focal lengths, meaning you can use a more compact kit even when photographing far-off wildlife like birds. On top of that, the OM-1's five-axis in-body image stabilization (IBIS) works incredibly well with stabilized lenses to ensure you get steady shots at longer focal lengths.
The camera also has a quick burst rate, including a Pro Capture mode that ensures you won't miss a critical moment. Plus, it's rugged and compact, with a weather-sealed body and excellent ergonomics. It has a solid battery life for a mirrorless camera, too. The biggest downside is that its AF tracking isn't the most reliable, so it may not be the best choice for fast-moving subjects.
While the OM SYSTEM OM-1 is hard to beat if you need something rugged and compact, an APS-C option like the Canon EOS R7 has its own advantages and comes at a lower price point. With a remarkably quick 15 fps mechanical burst rate and a highly sophisticated autofocus system, the R7 is tailor-made for wildlife shooters. It has a very solid battery life, as well, and feels great in the hand. It also has a fantastic IBIS system for steadier handheld shots.
Equivalent lenses for the R7 generally won't be as portable as Micro Four Thirds options. However, they're still typically smaller than full-frame alternatives, allowing you to shoot far-off subjects without too much bulk. The R7 also has a high-resolution sensor that gives you more leeway to crop your photos. Ultimately, if you don't need the portability of a Micro Four Thirds kit, this is one of the best cameras for birding and wildlife.
As far as mid-range options go, the Canon EOS 90D is well worth considering. Like the Canon EOS R7, it has a higher resolution sensor than most APS-C cameras, giving you more leeway to crop your photos. It can shoot at a quick 11 fps max burst rate, though that drops to seven fps when using continuous tracking AF. While its autofocus system isn't as fast as newer, mirrorless alternatives, it still tracks moving subjects well.
Unfortunately, the trade-off is that you don't get IBIS for steadier handheld shots. It doesn't have the deepest image buffer, which can slow you down when shooting continuously. That said, some excellent DSLR lenses are out there for Canon's EF/EF-S mount, and they won't run you as much as full-frame mirrorless options. The camera's also well-built, weather-sealed, and feels great in hand, making for a great all-around shooting experience.
Shooting wildlife on a budget can be tricky, considering how quickly the cost of zoom and telephoto lenses can add up. That's why a Micro Four Thirds option like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a fantastic entry-level choice for wildlife photography. Lenses are typically smaller and give you longer equivalent focal lengths, which is good for farther subjects. A wide selection of lenses is also available for the Micro Four Thirds system.
Beyond that, the camera is lightweight and portable, and it's one of the few cameras in this price range to feature five-axis image stabilization, which will help stabilize shots at longer focal lengths. It can also shoot at up to 15 fps in silent mode, so you can fire off extended bursts without scaring away more skittish animals. Add in solid battery life and a decent AF system, and this little camera is hard to beat for beginner wildlife photographers on a budget.
The Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 is a good choice for those on a tight budget who don't want to dip into the used market. A bridge camera like this one can be a good all-in-one solution thanks to its fixed superzoom lens, and it also means you can save yourself the cost of buying multiple lenses. While that means less flexibility, the FZ80's long zoom range, from 20 to 1200mm in full-frame equivalence, is incredibly useful for capturing faraway subjects like birds and other wildlife.
That said, it doesn't have the most robust build quality, and the screen and viewfinder resolution are lacking, though the camera is still comfortable to handle and easy to use for beginners. Just be aware that its small sensor is most suitable for shooting in bright daylight and doesn't handle noise well in dimmer conditions. Still, if you're looking for something simple and cheap for casual wildlife and nature photography, the FZ80 offers a lot of value for its price.
If you like the convenience of an all-in-one camera but want something more capable than the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80, the Sony RX10 IV is one of the best bridge cameras on the market. Naturally, you won't get the same image quality or sharpness as with an interchangeable-lens option. However, it does have a stacked one-inch sensor that puts it above your average bridge camera. The sensor is bigger than most bridge cam sensors—resulting in better image quality than the FZ80, for example—and its stacked design also means a faster readout speed, allowing for quicker burst shooting at up to 24 fps and keeping rolling shutter distortion to a minimum.
Its built-in lens is also quite versatile, with a max full-frame equivalent focal length of 600mm, giving you plenty of range for far-off critters. On top of that, it has a good autofocus system to track moving wildlife, and its well-constructed, weather-sealed body gives you some peace of mind in adverse weather. While interchangeable-lens cameras are the way to go if image quality is your top priority, the convenience of having such a long zoom lens in an all-in-one package makes this a great option for birding and hiking enthusiasts.
For those who do a lot of wildlife photography at dusk or dawn, a full-frame camera is the way to go, especially if you're okay with a bulkier kit. The Canon EOS R6 Mark II is the best full-frame camera we've tested for wildlife photography. It does a fantastic job managing noise in low light and features a best-in-class autofocus system that can reliably track moving subjects even in trickier lighting conditions.
Beyond that, it checks all the boxes for wildlife photography, including quick burst shooting, with bursts of up to almost 40 fps when using the e-shutter, along with excellent in-body image stabilization and great battery life. Though full-frame telephoto lenses will be much larger, this is one of the best nature photography cameras if you need that low-light boost. The Nikon Z 6II is another excellent full-frame option if you're looking for a slightly cheaper camera body. It has a quick mechanical burst rate and amazing ergonomics, though its AF isn't quite as reliable as the R6 Mark II one.
May 31, 2023: Added the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 as the 'Best Cheap Camera For Wildlife Photography'.
Apr 05, 2023: Added the Canon EOS R6 Mark II as the 'Best Camera For Low Light Wildlife Photography'. Replaced the Nikon Z 6II with the OM SYSTEM OM-1 as the 'Best Camera For Wildlife Photography' and replaced the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III with the Canon EOS R7 as the 'Best Upper Mid-Range Camera For Wildlife Photography, moving the E-M1 Mark III to Notable Mentions. Removed the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III and the Nikon D780 from Notable Mentions.
Dec 02, 2022: Reviewed article for clarity and accuracy; no change to recommendations.
Oct 05, 2022: Overhauled article to align more closely with user needs and expectations; cleaned up intro and Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best wildlife cameras for most people to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the U.S.).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our camera reviews, ranked by their suitability for sports and wildlife photography. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your final selection.