Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography 2018


Welcome

to my website were you will find the low-down on what's the best current and older camera's for photographing birds and animals from a dedicated wildlife photographer.


No jargon allowed. I explain in plain terms the pro's and the con's of commonly available camera's.



Note: Unlike most other websites I do not receive commission for recommending any of these cameras, so the advice I give is 100% unbiased.

No photography jargon on this page
Get the inside info!

There are a bewildering number of camera's on the market, many are suitable for taking excellent images of birds and wildlife but if you talk to experienced wildlife photographers you will find that most of them use virtually the same cameras. On this page I will tell you about the best camera choices to make and the camera's that will serve you well. I was recently in a bird hide with seven other photographers after a rare bird was sighted, all of the photographers had the same camera!
Canon or Nikon?

Canon DSLR cameras are the most popular choice for photographing wildlife but there is in reality little difference between them and Nikon. Both companies are constantly locked in a battle to release a better version than the other. Canon lenses are however generally considered to be better and as they are not interchangeable with Nikon cameras, therefore most wildlife photographers use Canon.

So first we will look at two highly recommended Canon cameras the 7D MkII and the EOS-1D X MkII. Then we will look at two Nikon cameras the D7200 and the D500, both popular with experienced animal and bird photographers.
The Canon 7D MkII
 
 
 
 
 
Without a doubt the most popular mid-range camera and many would argue to be the best camera for bird and wildlife photography currently available. If you have the 7D MkII in your kit you would probably never need or want anything else, it is one of the most capable wildlife cameras available.

Why?

Canon designed this camera specifically for sports and wildlife.

Its affordable, being competitively priced when considering the high specification.

Shoots up to 10 images per second which is great for catching animals that are moving.

Very fast processor (DIGIC 6) means it does everything without ‘lagging’.

65-point autofocusing allows the camera to lock onto moving animals and remain focused. The autofocus on this camera is very fast, ideal for birds in flight or fast moving animals.

20.2-megapixel images, more than enough detail in each image and plenty of scope for cropping images during editing.

150,000 pixel metering system. Measures light coming into the camera and can adjust settings automatically within a 1000th of a second.

Built in GPS tags images with location.

Its weather sealed against moisture.
Best Canon camera for nature photography
Canon 7dMkII best camera for wildlife photography
Body, Build and Quality

The 7D MkII is a full size well built camera making it feel balanced on heavy telephoto lenses. It has a large grip and most of the buttons can be controlled using your thumb or index finger. The body is sealed against moisture and dust. The LCD has a 3:2 aspect ration with a resolution of 720x480 pixel. The screen is not a touch screen and does not swivel, unlike a lot of similar ranged recent cameras.
Canon 7dMkII best camera for bird and nature photography
 
Canon 7D MkII Specifications

20MP Dual-Pixel AF CMOS Sensor
10 fps continuous shooting with autofocus
65 all cross-type autofocus sensor
150,000 RGB + IR pixel metering sensor
Dual Digic 6 processors
Enhanced environmental sealing
Compact Flash (UDMA) and SD (UHS-I) slots
USB 3.0
Built-in GPS
Larger-capacity LP-E6N battery
Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th seconds
The Canon EOS-1D X MkII
 
 
 
 
 
This is one of Canon's top of the range models which carries a hefty price tag. It is a very advanced camera with a lot of features that would probably never be used by the average wildlife photographer. But if you have the money to spare.... go for it!

Why?

This is a cutting edge camera with the best features money can buy.

Shoots up to 14 images per second which is 4 faster than the 7D MkII. Great if you want to capture action shots such as birds bathing or animals jumping.

Very fast processor (DIGIC 6+) means it processes images fast and keeps up with the stunning 14 images per second with pausing.

61-point autofocusing, less than the 7D MkII but working slightly different and faster. The camera has more sensitivity when tracking moving birds or animals but this camera is also designed for other types of photography so the functions are more diverse.

20.2-megapixel images which is the same as the 7D MkII, however this is a full frame camera meaning in simple terms the individual cells of the sensor are slightly further apart. The result of this is better quality images and a camera that handles low light conditions much better. This is perhaps is the biggest pro of this camera over the 7D MkII.

360,000 dedicated pixel metering system. Much more than the 7D MkII and over twice as efficient at metering the light coming into the camera. In reality you would probably not notice the difference in general day to day wildlife photography.

Built in GPS tags images with location.

Its weather sealed against moisture.
Best Canon camera for nature photography
canon EOS-1D X MkII for wildlife photography
Body, Build and Quality

The 1D X MkII is a solid camera, it feels like it's built from rubber and metal and it is. It weighs in at a hefty 1.2 kg leaving you in no doubt this is as professional camera as you can get. Its weight balances well with big telephoto lenses used by wildlife photographers. Most of the controls require button and command dial movement and cannot be done single handed which is not so good for photographing animals and birds as they don't always hang around and wait for you.
canon EOS-1D X MkII for bird photography
 
Canon EOS 1D X MkII Specifications

20MP Full Frame Sensor
14 fps continuous shooting with autofocus
61 point AF with 41 cross-type
360,000 RGB + IR pixel metering sensor
Dual Digic 6+ processors
Enhanced environmental sealing
Compact flash and CFast 2.0 card support
USB 3.0
Built-in GPS
Larger-capacity LP-E19 battery
Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th seconds

Being a top of the range camera the EOS 1-D X MkII has a lot more features than the 7D MkII. Many of these features are not likely to be used by most wildlife photographers, however if your photography interests are more diverse, then this camera will tick a lot more boxes.
The Nikon D7200
 
 
 
 
 
This is one of Nikon's less expensive cameras but it is very popular with bird and wildlife photographers. It's one of the best value high performance cameras in my line up.

Why?

Shoots up to 6 images per second, which is one of the slowest cameras in my reviews. I find in practice that I hardly ever fire bursts of more than 4 off at a time so depending upon what your planning on using the camera for the low figure may not be to much of an issue.

Fast processor (EXPEED 4) means it processes images fast enough to keep up with anything your trying to do without any lag.

51-point autofocusing, which is good for a camera in this range. This would be good for photographing birds in flight or running animals. The Nikon focus system is considered by some to be slightly slower than Cannon but this is open for debate.

24.2-megapixel images which is a lot of pixels meaning you can crop images smaller and still retain detail. This is especially important when photographing small animals at a distance such as birds.

2016 pixel metering system, this is reported to be one of the primary weaknesses of this camera. The metering is used for measuring light coming into the camera. Animals often move from dark to light areas quickly so wildlife photographers are usually reliant on the cameras automatic system to adjust settings quickly. The choice of metering settings are also limited on this camera but I have to stress that's it's perfectly possible to use this camera to get excellent images.

Nikon cameras are well known to handle low light conditions better than Canon and that is true of this camera with excellent image quality in dull conditions.
Best Nikon camera for nature and bird photography
Nikon D7200 best budget camera for wildlife photography
Body, Build and Quality

The D7200 has a magnesium alloy, weather sealed body and is a mid sized camera. Nikon are known for their robust build and this camera is not an exception. The camera is generally considered ergonomic, all of the controls are easy to access. I have heard a photographer comment recently that the grip is too small and could do with being bigger, also that the camera does not balance as well as some on large lenses.
Nikon D7200 best budget camera for nature photography
 
Nikon D7200 Specifications

24.2MP APS-C (Crop Sensor)
6 fps continuous shooting with autofocus
51 point AF central 15 cross type
2016 pixel RGB
Expeed 4 processor
Dual Compact flash
Weather sealed body
USB 2.0
Built-in GPS (Optional)
EN-EL15 battery
Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th seconds

This is a budget camera, it's probably one of the lowest priced cameras capable of excellent results. If you are on a budget this may be the camera for you, although I would recommend you consider a second hand Canon 7D MkII as this is a much more capable camera and will come at a similar price.
The Nikon D500
 
 
 
 
 
This is Nikon's answer to Canons 7D MkII but it is around £500 more so it looses half a point for that. Performance wise it's spec is very similar except for it's massive 153 point autofocusing. Read on for more info.

Why?

Shoots up to 10 images per second, which is more than enough for most wildlife photography and is especially good for bird photography.

Fast processor (EXPEED 5) means it processes images faster than the Nikon D7200 but it's needs this extra power due to the added technology.

153-point autofocusing, which is a stunning amount of focus points. I am not sure however that you will ever use them all when photographing animals. Even when photographing small birds in flight most photographers will only use the central cluster or as few as 9. I don't think I can ever recall using all of the focus points on any camera to capture wildlife.

20.9-megapixel images which is pretty standard and certainly good enough for wildlife photography and the cropping you will no doubt have to do.

180,000 pixel metering system, which is reported to be very good and very responsive. It's slightly more than the Canon 7D MkII but the difference is not noticeable.

Jargon
alert (See my tech page for an explanation of ISO): This camera like other Nikons is known to handle dull conditions well and it has a whopping ISO capability of 51200 similar to Canon's top of the range EOS-1D X Mark II. It's unlikely that a wildlife photographer would ever need this level of ISO and most photographers rarely work above 800 as the quality rapidly deteriorates above that.

Its
weather sealed against moisture.

This is a nice camera, with high specifications. I cannot help thinking Nikon went 'over board' on the focus points and the ISO in order to try and out do Canons 7D MkII. The fact is however, wildlife photographers will not use either to it's full ability and you are paying more for the camera. If you do other types of photography it may be useful, however you would be better served with a full-frame camera (larger sensor) in that case.
Best Nikon camera for nature and bird photography
Nikon D500 hi spec camera for wildlife photography
Body, Build and Quality

The D500 ergonomics are good and the camera feels like the right size, like other Nikons it is a well built camera. There controls are easy to access and like the Canon 7D MKII you can customize them and this allows you to adjust settings without taking the camera away from your eye which as stated before is crucial in a wildlife camera if your not going to miss shots.
Nikon D500 hi spec camera for bird and nature photography
 
Nikon D7200 Specifications

20.7MP APS-C (DX- Format APS-C Crop Sensor)
10 fps continuous shooting with autofocus
153 point AF 99 cross type
180,000 pixel RGB sensor
Expeed 5 processor
SD/SDHC/SDXC cards
Weather sealed body
USB 3.0
Built-in GPS (Optional)
EN-EL15 battery
Shutter speeds up to 1/8000th seconds

This is a nice camera, with high specifications. I cannot help thinking Nikon went 'over board' on the focus points and the ISO in order to try and out do Canons 7D MkII. The fact is however, wildlife photographers will not use either to it's full ability and you are paying more for the camera. If you do other types of photography it may be useful, however you would be better served with a full-frame camera (larger sensor) in that case.
Take a look at my other articles below....

Bird image with blurred background or bokeh
My guide to exposure in wildlife photography. Learn about the three crucial settings.
Al servo is used for wildlife photography
Understand the technical features that make a good wildlife camera.
No photography jargon on this page
Choose the best camera for wildlife photography by reading my no jargon guide.
Fast camera autofocus is essential to focus on moving birds
The top six essential things that every camera must have in order to take quality images of birds.