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The 7 Best Cameras For Wildlife Photography - Spring 2022 Reviews

Best Cameras For Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photography is an increasingly popular pastime; its growth is mainly driven by the proliferation of photographic features previously only reserved for high-end professional cameras. There are a few factors that you should consider when choosing a camera for wildlife photography. Fast continuous shooting speeds allow you to capture clear stills of fast-moving wildlife, while large image buffers allow you to shoot for longer without interruption. Silent shooting might also be important if you tend to shoot more skittish animals that are easily frightened, while quicker animals like small birds require more responsive, accurate autofocus systems with excellent tracking capabilities.

Keep in mind that your chosen lens will significantly affect your camera's suitability for wildlife photography. Using a telephoto lens with a long maximum focal length is important if you want to capture clear shots of far-away animals, but that isn't the only point you should consider when choosing a lens for this use. Maximum aperture, autofocus performance, stabilization performance, and image quality depend on the lens you use, meaning that camera performance can differ significantly depending on your chosen lens and settings. For consistency and simplicity's sake, we currently test our cameras with their standard kit lenses.

We've tested over 70 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best cameras for wildlife photography based on their design, available features, and prices. You can also see our picks for the best cameras for photography, the best digital cameras, and the best cameras for beginners.

  1. Best Mirrorless Camera For Wildlife Photography: Nikon Z 6II

    If you're looking for something mirrorless, the best camera for wildlife photography for most people is the Nikon Z 6II. This flagship mirrorless camera uses a full-frame sensor and is a good option for most wildlife shooters. Its weather-sealed body feels well-constructed and incredibly comfortable to shoot with, thanks to its large handgrip, high-res electronic viewfinder, and customization options.

    The camera delivers excellent overall image quality when shooting in JPEG. Its high ISO performance is fantastic, with very little noise when shooting at higher ISO settings in low light. It has in-body image stabilization to help reduce handheld camera shake, and its autofocus system does a good job, though its AF tracking can be inconsistent when tracking faces or fast-moving subjects. For long shooting sessions, the camera has two memory card slots, including a high-speed CFexpress card slot, which gives it a virtually limitless photo buffer.

    While the camera can shoot at about 13 fps in its extended high-speed continuous shooting mode, it'll display your previous shot in the viewfinder rather than reverting to a live feed when using the extended mode, which can cause you to lose track of your subject. To avoid this, you have to use the regular high-speed drive mode, which is limited to 5.5 fps. Still, if you're looking for a well-rounded mirrorless camera for wildlife photography, this is one of the best cameras for nature photography that we've tested.

    See our review

  2. Crop-Sensor Alternative: Fujifilm X-T4

    If you prefer shooting with a crop sensor camera, look at the Fujifilm X-T4. It doesn't perform as well in low light as the Nikon Z 6II because of its APS-C sensor, but it's significantly smaller and more portable, and APS-C lenses are generally cheaper. This flagship model offers good all-around performance and is more than suitable for everyday nature photography. It has a great battery life for long shooting days, and it's weather-sealed to protect against moisture and dust. It can shoot at a fast 12 fps burst rate to capture quick movement and an even faster 20 fps in its silent shooting mode, which is great for capturing animals that startle easily. Image quality is very good overall, and even though its noise handling isn't quite as good, it's still excellent. Its autofocus system also does a good job tracking and keeping moving subjects in focus, though it can sometimes be a bit inconsistent. It has a smaller photo buffer and doesn't support CFexpress cards, though it does have two UHS-II SD card slots.

    Get the Nikon if you want a full-frame camera with better low-light performance. If you prefer the portability and focal reach of an APS-C camera, consider the Fujifilm model.

    See our review

  3. Best DSLR Camera For Wildlife Photography: Nikon D780

    The Nikon D780 is the best camera for birding or wildlife photography that we've tested in the DSLR category. This robust full-frame camera has a wide array of customizable buttons and settings, including custom shooting modes, that you can set to your preferences. This means you can focus more on your subjects and less on scrolling through menus. Its optical viewfinder is large and comfortable, and the camera has a weather-sealed body for more adverse weather conditions.

    This camera has an incredibly long battery life that's advertised to last for approximately 2,260 photos, which is more than suitable for long shooting days, though battery performance also depends on your usage habits. Its full-frame sensor gives it excellent high ISO performance, with outstanding RAW noise handling. It also has a highly effective autofocus system, which does an amazing job of tracking moving subjects. It can fire off bursts at 8 fps in its high-speed continuous shooting mode, though it's limited to 4 fps in silent mode.

    Unfortunately, this camera doesn't have in-body image stabilization, so you have to use an optically stabilized lens when shooting handheld. Still, Nikon offers a wide range of DSLR lenses, many of which have effective optical stabilization. For instance, the Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR kit lens we tested the camera with does a fantastic job of reducing camera shake. Overall, it's a well-constructed, full-featured DSLR that makes for a great wildlife photography camera for most people.

    See our review

  4. Cheaper Alternative: Canon EOS 90D

    If you want to save some money, check out the Canon EOS 90D. Unlike the Nikon D780, it uses a crop sensor, so it doesn't perform as well in low light, and it doesn't feel as premium or well-built, but it's considerably cheaper, and like the Nikon, it's advertised to be weather-sealed. The camera feels very comfortable, and its menu system is incredibly easy to navigate. It delivers good overall image quality, though its RAW noise handling capability is just okay at higher ISO levels. On the upside, it has a faster 11 fps high-speed continuous shooting speed. However, its photo buffer is much smaller, and it has a 10s buffer empty time, which will cause interruptions if you manage to fill it up. The camera also lacks in-body image stabilization, but it still does an excellent job of reducing handheld camera shake with its kit lens attached. It has a very good autofocus system that tracks moving subjects decently well.

    Get the Nikon if image quality and low-light performance are priorities. However, if you're looking to save some money on a solid camera and leave more room in your budget for lenses, the Canon is a good alternative.

    See our review

  5. Best Bridge Camera For Wildlife Photography: Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II

    If you want a solid all-in-one camera with a lot of zoom range and less bulk than a dedicated telephoto lens, consider getting a bridge camera. These are some of the best cameras for outdoor photography if you don't want to spend a fortune, though their smaller sensors are also limiting if you're after the highest image quality. While the premium Sony RX10 IV has a bit more to offer, we like the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II for most people since it offers versatile performance without breaking the bank.

    The camera has a built-in Leica lens with a long 24-400mm focal length (full-frame equivalent). That gives you a fair amount of range to zoom in on subjects that are farther away or take close-ups. It uses optical and electronic stabilization, which does a great job of reducing camera shake when shooting handheld at moderate focal lengths. The camera also shoots at a relatively quick 10 fps burst rate when the focus is locked, although it drops to 7 fps with autofocus, so it's just okay for moving subjects. It also has a '4k PHOTO' mode that lets you pull stills from 30 fps video clips, which is a nice option to have.

    Unfortunately, its autofocus system isn't the most effective. It uses a contrast-detection AF system, so it's quite accurate, but it can be sluggish when tracking fast-moving subjects. It has a few different area modes when using continuous tracking, and you can also use the touchscreen to select a focus point or subject. It also has a handy 'Post Focus' feature that lets you adjust the focus point after taking a shot. Overall, this feature-rich bridge camera is a good option for casual wildlife photographers who prefer the simplicity of a point-and-shoot.

    See our review

  6. Longer Maximum Zoom: Nikon COOLPIX P1000

    If zoom range is your biggest priority, check out the Nikon COOLPIX P1000. It's notably bigger and heavier than the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II, making it a bit cumbersome to carry around. However, with a whopping 125x zoom, it has the longest zoom range of any fixed-lens camera on the market. The built-in lens can reach a max 3000mm focal length (full-frame equivalent), allowing you to zoom in incredibly close or snap photos of very far-away subjects. The camera features good optical stabilization to reduce camera shake, though you'll still need to use a tripod and a remote shutter when shooting at the ends of its focal length range. Unfortunately, its autofocus system is sluggish and unreliable. While you can take burst photos at a speed of 7 fps to capture fast movement, it only shoots bursts of seven images at a time, which can slow you down when timing is critical. Still, it delivers good overall image quality, particularly when shooting outdoors in brighter conditions.

    Get the Panasonic if you want a more practical and versatile bridge camera. If you need an incredibly long zoom range, go with the Nikon.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Nikon Z 6: The Nikon Z 6 is the predecessor to the Nikon Z 6II. It performs similarly overall, but it doesn't feature twin processors or have a second slot for SD cards. See our review
  • Nikon COOLPIX P950: The Nikon COOLPIX P950 is a bridge camera that's a little more portable than the Nikon COOLPIX P1000, but it has a shorter maximum focal reach and doesn't feel quite as solidly built. See our review
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark IV: The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a full-frame DSLR with a reasonably fast maximum shooting speed. Its autofocus system delivers inferior tracking performance to the Nikon D780, and its fixed screen slightly limits your ability to shoot from unconventional angles. See our review
  • Canon EOS R6: The Canon EOS R6 is a highly versatile full-frame mirrorless camera that's even more comfortable than the Nikon Z 6II and has a faster maximum shooting speed of 18 fps. It also has a remarkable 6072 advertised autofocus detection points. However, it's more expensive and lacks a CFexpress card slot, and consequently takes longer to clear its image buffer. See our review
  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III: The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is a compact mirrorless camera with a Micro 4/3 sensor. It offers superior image quality to the Fujifilm X-T4 and has a virtually instantaneous buffer clearing time, but its autofocus system delivers inferior tracking performance. See our review
  • Panasonic LUMIX GH5 II: The Panasonic LUMIX GH5 II is a great mirrorless option. Its Micro Four Thirds sensor gives you more focal reach, and it has a neat 4k and 6k PHOTO feature that pulls high-resolution stills out of short 4k or 6k video clips at either 60 fps or 30 fps. That said, its autofocus system isn't the most consistent. See our review
  • Sony α7 III: The Sony a7 III is an excellent and well-rounded full-frame mirrorless camera with a fantastic autofocus system. However, it's a bit dated now and lacks certain features that the Nikon Z 6II has, like weather-sealing or a CFexpress card slot. Its continuous shooting speed is also notably slower. See our review
  • Sony RX10 IV: The Sony RX10 IV features a more robust autofocus system than the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II, along with a larger buffer size and faster max continuous shooting speed. However, it's significantly more expensive, so the Panasonic likely represents a better value for most people. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Apr 05, 2022: Removed the Sony RX100 VII.

  2. Jan 05, 2022: Verified that picks still represent the best choices for their given categories.

  3. Nov 10, 2021: Checked picks for accuracy and availability; no change to recommendations.

  4. Oct 20, 2021: Checked accuracy and availability of picks; no change to recommendations.

  5. Sep 29, 2021: Added the Panasonic LUMIX GH5 II, the Sony a7 III, and the Sony RX10 IV to Notable Mentions.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cameras for nature photography 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.