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The Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography 2022

May 13, 2022

Best cameras for wildlife photography – Wildlife is one of the most popular subjects for photography but it’s also very demanding. For a start, you want the camera to capture lots of detail so you can see every aspect of an animal’s fur or feathers. It also needs to have an autofocus system that’s capable of getting subjects sharp and, ideally, sticking with them as they move. A high continuous shooting rate can also be useful because it means you can capture split-second moments like the point at which a bird takes flight or dives below the water.

A long telephoto lens, or the ability to mount one is also normally crucial to wildlife photography unless you’re dealing with unusually tame subjects. So, whether you’re shooting birds, leaping fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, or wild animals, we’ve got a camera that’s right for you.

Here’s our choice of the best cameras for wildlife photography:

Best wildlife camera for beginners: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000

At a glance

  • Bridge camera
  • 20.1 MP 1-inch type CMOS
  • 24-480mm (equivalent) f2.8-4.5 Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens
  • 4K Photo Mode
  • 12fps continuous shooting
  • £899

The main draw for the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 is its 20x zoom lens which delivers a focal length equivalent to a 24-480mm lens on a full-frame camera. That’s long enough for all but the most timid wildlife and, if it comes very close, you can zoom out to accommodate.

This is paired with the ability to shoot at up to 12 frames per second for just over 30 raw files or 100 JPEGs, which means you can catch split-second moments. For unpredictable action, however, there’s also 4K Photo Mode that enables up to around 60 frames to be shot at 30fps in 4K resolution.

You also get an OLED viewfinder with 2,360,000 dots and a 3-inch 1,040,000-dot vari-angle screen that’s useful for shooting from high or low angles. This makes the camera a great choice for beginners on a budget, as a telephoto zoom lens can easily cost almost as much as this.

Best for: beginners on a budget

Best all-in-one camera for wildlife photographers: Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV Ultra-zoom

At a glance

  • Bridge camera
  • 20.1MP 1-inch Exmor RS CMOS
  • Hybrid AF system (phase and contrast detection)
  • 24-600mm (equivalent) f/2.4-4 lens
  • 24fps continuous shooting
  • £2129

The Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV has an even longer lens than the Panasonic FZ2000, which means you can tightly frame animals when they are even further away, yet you still get the landscape-friendly 24mm equivalent option too.

Perhaps the next most attractive feature for wildlife photographers is the RX10 IV’s extremely capable autofocus system. This has 315 AF points covering 65% of the image sensor and it combines phase with contrast detection. It does a great job of of getting moving subjects sharp and can keep them focussed while you shoot at 24fps.

In addition, there’s a 0.39-inch type OLED viewfinder with 2,359,296 dots and a 3-inch 1,440,000-dot tilting screen.

Best for: Those who want it all-in-one camera

Best wildlife camera for Canon DSLR photographers: Canon EOS 90D

Canon EOS 90D DSLR

At a glance

  • DSLR
  • 32.5MP APS-C CMOS
  • 45-point (all cross-type) phase detection AF system
  • Canon EF-S lens mount
  • 10fps shooting for up to 58 JPEG and 25 raw files with the viewfinder
  • £1629 body only

The Canon EOS 90D is aimed at enthusiast photographers and combines a 32.5MP APS-C format Dual Pixel CMOS sensor with the Digic 8 processing engine for 10fps shooting when the viewfinder is in use and 11fps in Live View mode.

However you decide to compose images, in the viewfinder or on the 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, the 90D uses phase detection focusing which is both fast and accurate.

As it has the Canon EF-S lens mount, the 90D can be used with a huge range of Canon EF-S and EF lenses, with some great long telephoto optics, plus numerous lenses from third party manufacturers.

Best for: enthusiast Canon DSLR photographers

Best wildlife camera for Fujifilm users: Fujifilm X-T4

Fujifilm X-T4 in black

At a glance

  • Mirrorless camera
  • 26.1MP APS-C CMOS
  • Intelligent hybrid AF with up to 425 selectable points
  • Fujifilm X lens mount
  • 15fps shooting with the mechanical shutter, 20fps with the electronic shutter (30fps with crop)
  • £1549 body only

Robust and compact, the Fujifilm X-T4 has found a place in many photographers’ kit bags and with lenses such as the XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR plus 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, it’s an increasingly attractive option for wildlife photography.

The 425-point Intelligent Hybrid AF system’s response can be customised via the menu to maximise your hit rate in a variety of situations and is up to shooting fast-moving subjects. Plus there’s the ability to shoot at up to 20fps with the electronic shutter or 15fps with the mechanical shutter, plus if you’re happy to accept a 1.25x crop you can shoot at 30fps for up to 60 lossless compressed raw files.

The raw files from the X-T4 are great but it also produces some of the nicest JPEGs straight from the camera that you’re likely to encounter.

Best for: traditional control lovers

Best wildlife camera for Nikon enthusiasts: Nikon D7500

The Nikon D7500 can shoot 4K video and transfer files via SnapBridge

The Nikon D7500 can shoot 4K video and transfer files via SnapBridge

At a glance

  • DSLR
  • 20.9MP APS-C CMOS
  • 51-point phase detection AF system with 15 cross-type points
  • Nikon F (DX) lens mount
  • 8fps continuous shooting
  • £1289 with lens

Nikon uses the same 20.9MP APS-C format CMOS sensor in the Nikon D7500 as is in the pro-level D500. That means that you get great noise control within the native sensitivity range of ISO 100-51,200.

There’s also a 51-point AF system, with 15-cross-type points, which is very fast an accurate. The Dynamic-area AF can be set to use 9,21 or 51 AF points for tracking the subject and while the larger groups can come in handy, the 9-point option is the most reliable.

The D7500 has a carbon fibre monocoque construction that helps to keep its weight down while still being fairly robust and it’s weather-sealed to keep out moisture.

With the Nikon F lens mount, the D7500 is compatible with a huge range of lenses, both designed for full-frame and APS-C (DX) format.

Best for: enthusiast Nikon photographers

Best wildlife camera for Nikon DSLR pros: Nikon D500

The Nikon D500's ISO range goes up to an astonishing 1,640,000 top value

The Nikon D500’s ISO range goes up to an astonishing 1,640,000 top value

At a glance

  • DSLR
  • 20.9MP APS-C CMOS
  • 153-point phase detection AF system with 99 cross-type points
  • Nikon F (DX) lens mount
  • 10fps continuous shooting
  • £1599 body only

The Nikon D500 is a professional-level APS-C (DX) format DSLR and like the D7500 it has a resolution of 20.9MP. The sensor has the same design as the one in the Nikon D5, the predecessor to the D6 – Nikon’s flagship DSLR.

While some may wish for higher resolution, the noise control and the superb autofocus performance of the D500 have seen it become a popular choice for wildlife photographers. It’s also a robustly made camera with weather-seals to keep out dust and moisture, which means it can survive the harsh conditions that are often experienced in the pursuit of a wildlife image.

Best for: dedicated wildlife photographers

Best Cameras for Wildlife photography – professionals

For those making a living, or wanting to make a living from wildlife photography, or for those who simply want the best available, with advanced AF modes and subject detection, these are the flagship models from the top brands, Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus (now OM System).

Best wildlife camera for Canon professionals: Canon EOS R3

Best Cameras for Wildlife photography: Canon EOS R3

Canon EOS R3

At a glance

  • Mirrorless
  • 24.1MP full-frame BSI stacked CMOS
  • 1,053-point Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system plus subject detection
  • Canon RF lens mount
  • Mechanical shutter: 12fps for 1000+ JPEGs or 1000 raw
  • Electronic shutter: 30fps for 540 JPEGs or 150 raw images
  • £5879 body only

The EOS R3 is Canon’s flagship mirrorless camera and it sits just below the EOS-1D X Mark III in the company’s camera line-up.

It’s capable of shooting at a blistering 30fps when the electronic shutter is in use or 12fps with the mechanical shutter. Both rates are with full autofocus and metering capability. Even better news for wildlife photographers is that the subject detection system can spot animal eyes, faces and bodies, in hierarchical order so if the eyes are visible, they will be what it focuses on. It works brilliantly leaving you to able to concentrate on the composition and time of your shots.

Best for: well-heeled pro photographers

The Canon EOS R3 is a motorsports monster

Best wildlife camera for Nikon professionals: Nikon Z9

The Nikon Z 9 camera will also not be subject to a price increase

At a glance

  • Mirrorless
  • 45.7MP full-frame CMOS
  • 493-point hybrid AF AF system with subject detection
  • Nikon F (DX) lens mount
  • 20fps raw (high efficiency) files or 30fps normal-quality JPEG
  • £5299 body only

The specification of the Nikon Z9 reads like a dream for wildlife photographers. Its 45.7MP full-frame sensor can capture bags of detail with good tonal range while its 493-point AF system does a great job of getting subjects sharp while you shoot at 20 or 30fps depending upon the selected file quality.

Thanks to deep-learning artificial intelligence (AI), the Z9 can also simultaneously detect any of up to nine different types of subject including people (eyes, faces, head and upper body), animals (whole bodies and heads and eyes for cats, dogs, birds and ‘other animals’) and vehicles (cars, motorbikes, ‘planes and trains). That’s a massive bonus for wildlife photographers.

Best for: pro sports and wildlife photographers

Best lightweight wildlife camera for birds: OM System OM-1

Best Cameras for Wildlife photography OM System Olympus OM-1

At a glance

  • Mirrorless
  • 20.47MP Four Third Type CMOS
  • Hybrid with 1053 cross-type phase detection points
  • Micro Four Thirds lens mount
  • 50ps with AF tracking*, 120fps with fixed AF
  • £1999 body only

The OM System Olympus OM-1 is the successor to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III and while it has the same single-gripped design, it leapfrogs the OM-D E-M1X to become the company’s flagship camera. It’s aimed at outdoor, adventure and wildlife photographers and has an impressive AI Detection AF system that can spot and focus on formula cars, motorcycles, airplanes, helicopters, trains, birds and animals (dogs and cats). It sometimes needs a little targeting, so it looks in the right part of the frame, but generally the bird and animal detection works very well and will prioritise the eyes if they are detected.

Because the OM-1 has a Four Thirds type sensor, which is smaller than APS-C format, the lenses produce images with framing equivalent to twice the marked focal length on a full-frame camera. Hence a 300mm lens effectively becomes a 600mm lens, which benefits wildlife photographers because the kit is smaller, lighter and more affordable than the full-frame equivalent. It offers upto 50fps continuous shooting with C-AF tracking, with specific lenses, or 25fps with other lenses, or upto 120fps with fixed focus.

Best for: carrying & using for long periods of time

Why the OM System Olympus OM-1 is great for bird photography

Best wildlife camera for Sony professionals: Sony Alpha A9 II

Sony Alpha A9 II

At a glance

  • Mirrorless
  • 24MP full-frame stacked CMOS
  • Hybrid with 693 phase detection and 425 contrast detection points, Real Time Eye-AF & Real Time Tracking
  • Sony FE lens mount
  • 20fps continuous shooting
  • £4199 body only

Sony started the trend for eye-detection AF with continuous focusing and for a long time it lead the way with its Real Time Eye-AF and Real Time Tracking modes really impressing. In the A9 II, this includes the ability to detect and track animal eyes when shooting at 20fps completely silently. It does a superb job of spotting birds in flight, even when they are very small in the frame, and tracking them as they get closer to the camera.

Noise is controlled extremely well at the low to mid-range ISO settings, which means the 24MP full-frame sensor captures plenty of detail.

Sony’s lens range has also expanded over the years and there are now plenty of long lenses available for use on its A-series (FE mount) cameras.

Best for: High-level sports and wildlife photographers

Best wildlife camera for professionals and content creators: Sony A1

Best Cameras for Wildlife photography: Sony Alpha 1 (A1) with 70-200mm OSS II lens

At a glance

  • Mirrorless
  • 50.1MP full-frame stacked Exmor RS CMOS
  • Hybrid with 759 phase detection and 425 contrast detection points
  • Sony FE lens mount
  • 10fps with mechanical shutter, 30fps with electronic shutter
  • £6499 body only

The Sony A1 builds on the A9 II with more than double the resolution and Real-time Eye AF for birds as well as animals and humans. There’s also AI-based Real-time Tracking and a subject recognition algorithm that looks at colour, pattern, and subject distance data to keep up with fast-moving subjects.

Thanks to the faster read speed of the A1’s sensor, rolling shutter effect is reduced by up to 1.5x in comparison with the A9 II, which makes 30fps shooting even more useful.

A pixel count of just over 50-million means the A1 can capture a huge amount of detail, and noise is still controlled very well up to around ISO 12,800, which is good news if you’re shooting early in the morning or late into the evening.

Best for: pro photographers and content creators

Read our Sony FE 70-200mm f2.8 GM OSS II lens review

More wildlife articles

Once you’ve found the perfect camera for wildlife photography, and made your choice, then you’ll most likely want to think about the other wildlife kit you need for wildlife photography, such as the lenses needed so have a look at our guide to the best lenses for wildlife and nature photography, and for inspiration have a look at how to take award winning wildlife shots, plus how to edit your wildlife shots.