Looking for a great model for the hide or to take on safari? Andy Westlake and the AP team round up the best cameras for wildlife photography

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll be talking all about the best cameras for wildlife photography. From budget-friendly models for beginners to the absolute best professional cameras on the market, these are all the best wildlife photography tools – as agreed by our review team.

It wasn’t easily whittling this list down to just a few models, but these are the cameras that stood out in our testing as the best for wildlife photography. If you’re wondering how we went about making our choices, below we’ve detailed our criteria for what makes a camera great for capturing images of wildlife.

How to choose the best camera for wildlife photography

When choosing your wildlife camera, you’re looking at a few key specs. Speed is a priority, as wild animals move quickly, unexpectedly and erratically. This means you need a fast burst mode and a capable autofocus system to keep up.

A good wildlife camera should also have some weather sealing, as you’re going to be outdoors for long periods. Good battery life is a plus as you won’t be able to stop and charge. Also, it isn’t often talked about with regard to wildlife, but a good amount of resolution (i.e. megapixels) can be really useful to capture the details of feathers and fur. Of course, if you do get a high-resolution camera, you’ll need fast-enough memory cards to keep up.

Sensor size is worth thinking about too. Larger full-frame sensors will capture richer images with better detail and dynamic range, but smaller APS-C sensors will extend the effective focal length of your lens. See our guide to APS-C versus full-frame for a thorough look at how this works.

On that subject, you’ll need a long telephoto lens, as wild subjects generally won’t allow you to get close. This might mean using a bridge camera with a long zoom lens, or a DSLR or mirrorless model with a suitable lens attached. Which you choose will depend on your budget and how much weight you’re willing to carry. A bridge camera is lighter on both your back and wallet, but will use a smaller sensor. DSLRs and mirrorless cameras both have their own advantages and disadvantages – see our breakdown of DSLR vs mirrorless for more.

Once you’ve got your camera, don’t miss our guide to the best lenses for wildlife. Plus, we have a dedicated guide to the best cameras for bird photography. But for now, stick with us as we count off the best cameras for wildlife photography you can buy…


Best Panasonic camera for wildlife photography – Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000

Best cameras for wildlife - Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ2000

Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ2000 compact / bridge camera. Photo credit: Andy Westlake

At a glance:

  • Compact / bridge
  • 20.1 MP 1.0-type CMOS sensor
  • 24-480mm equiv. f/2.8-4.5 lens
  • 49-point autofocus
  • 12fps continuous shooting
  • Price: £769 / $997

The main draw for the FZ2000 is its built-in 20x zoom lens, which is equivalent to a 24-480mm lens on full-frame. That’s long enough for all but the most timid of subjects. Yet the same lens can also zoom out far enough to show large animals in their habitat. It’s paired with a 1-in type sensor that’s larger, and therefore gives better image quality, than those in cheaper bridge cameras.

This impressive zoom range 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, Panasonic’s unique 4K Photo Mode enables up to 60 frames to be shot at 30fps in 4K resolution, or approximately 8MP. You also get an OLED viewfinder with 2.36m dots and a good-sized 0.74x magnification, along with a 3-in 1.04m-dot vari-angle screen that’s useful for shooting from high or low angles. This camera is a great choice for those on a budget, as a telephoto zoom lens can easily cost as much.

Pros:

  • Broad zoom range
  • Deep shot buffer
  • Very reasonable price

Cons:

  • Smaller sensor than mirrorless models
  • Big zoom inevitably compromises sharpness

Read our hands on review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000


Best Pentax camera for wildlife photography – Pentax K-3 Mark III

Best cameras for wildlife - Pentax K3 Mark III

Pentax K3 Mark III. Photo credit: Andy Westlake

At a glance:

  • DSLR
  • 25.7MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Pentax KAF2 mount
  • 101-point autofocus
  • 12 fps shooting
  • Price: £1,899 / $1,996 (body only)

In some respects, the K-3 Mark III is the most advanced APS-C DSLR available, with a number of features which make it an intriguing option for wildlife shooters. It offers rapid 12 frames per second shooting, complete with continuous AF. The 101-point autofocus system includes 41 user-selectable points, with the reminder used to help track moving subjects. Meanwhile the 25.7MP sensor delivers plenty of detail and gives good results at high ISO settings up to ISO 51,200.

In typical Pentax fashion, you get a rugged, weather-proofed body with lots of external controls. Notably, it boasts the largest optical viewfinder you’ll find on an APS-C DSLR. The K-3 Mark III is also compatible with a huge array of K-mount lenses, including the largest range designed specifically for APS-C DSLRs. Unfortunately, though, few third-party long telephotos are available new. Even so, for existing Pentax users looking to up their wildlife game, it’s a fine choice.

Pros:

  • Excellent weatherproofing
  • Huge optical viewfinder
  • Solid continuous AF

Cons:

  • Tele lens selection inferior to other brands
  • Tech lags behind mirrorless rivals

Pentax K-3 Mark III review


Best Sony compact for wildlife photography – Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV

Best cameras for wildlife - Sony Cybershot RX10 IV

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV compact/bridge camera. Photo credit: Andy Westlake

At a glance:

  • Compact / bridge
  • 20.1MP 1.0-type CMOS sensor
  • 24-600mm equiv. f/2.4-4 lens
  • 315-point autofocus
  • 24fps continuous shooting
  • Price: £1,715 / $1,698

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

Perhaps the next most attractive feature for wildlife photographers is the extremely capable autofocus system. This has 315 AF points covering 65% of the image sensor and it combines both phase and contrast detection for both speed and accuracy. It does a great job of getting moving subjects sharp, and what’s more, it can keep them focused while you shoot at an impressive 24 frames per second in full-resolution 20MP raw.

In addition, for composing your images there’s a 2.36m-dot OLED viewfinder that provides a respectable 0.7x magnification, plus a 3-inch 1.44m-dot tilting screen. There’s also a comprehensive range of external manual controls on offer, which makes this a great choice for enthusiast photographers. As all-in-one cameras go, it’s the best you can get.

Pros:

  • Super-long zoom
  • Comprehensive autofocus system
  • 24fps in full-res Raw

Cons:

  • Expensive for a bridge camera
  • No AF-area joystick or AF-on button

Review: Sony Cyber-shot RX 10 IV: Best all-in-one you can buy


Best Sony mirrorless for wildlife: Sony Alpha A9 II

Sony Alpha A9 II

Sony Alpha A9 II.

At a glance:

  • Mirrorless
  • 24MP full-frame stacked-CMOS sensor
  • Sony E lens mount
  • 693-point AF with subject detection
  • 20fps continuous shooting
  • Price: £4,199 / $4,498 (body only)

Sony started the trend for eye-detection AF, and for a long time the firm lead the way with its Real Time Eye-AF and Real Time Tracking modes. In the A9 II, this includes the ability to detect and track animal eyes when shooting silently at 20fps, with no viewfinder blackout. The autofocus system 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 a good amount of detail.

The A9 II uses a similar compact body design to the firm’s popular A7 models, but adds top-plate dials for quick access to autofocus and drive modes. Files are recorded to dual UHS-II SD card slots, so unlike its higher resolution rivals, there’s no need to buy expensive CFexpress media.

Sony’s lens range has also expanded over the years and there are now plenty of long lenses available for use on its E-mount cameras. This includes some tempting third-party options from Tamron and Sigma, which aren’t available in Canon RF or Nikon Z mounts.

Pros:

  • Superb bird autofocus
  • Good noise control
  • Useful top-plate dials

Cons:

  • Some users may want more than 24MP…
  • … especially for more than £4K

Sony Alpha 1 V Sony Alpha 9 II: Head to head


Best professional wildlife camera: Sony Alpha 1

Sony Alpha A1 Review

Sony Alpha A1. Photo credit: Andy Westlake

At a glance:

  • Mirrorless
  • 50.1MP full-frame stacked-CMOS sensor
  • Sony E lens mount
  • 759-point AF with subject detection
  • 30fps continuous shooting
  • Price: £6,499 / $6,498 (body only)

The Sony Alpha 1 builds on the A9 II, with more than double the resolution and faster 30fps continuous shooting, complete with AF tracking. Wildlife photographers will also be pleased to hear that it gains Real-time Eye AF for birds, as well as animals and humans. In addition, there’s AI-based Real-time Tracking, with a subject detection algorithm that looks at colour, pattern, and subject distance data to keep up with fast-moving situations.

A pixel count of just over 50 million means the A1 can capture a huge amount of detail, giving plenty of scope for cropping with distant subjects. 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. Hybrid shooters are well served too, with 8K video available at 30fps, or 4K at up to 30fps.

The compact body handles well, while the huge, detailed viewfinder combines 9.4m-dot resolution with 0.9x magnification. Overall, the A1 is a phenomenal camera that can handle almost any type of photography with aplomb.

Pros:

  • Exceptional image quality
  • Best-ever autofocus system
  • Enormous, high-res viewfinder

Cons:

  • Very, very expensive
  • Probably overkill for most people

Read the full Sony Alpha 1 review


Best Nikon DSLR for wildlife photography – Nikon D7500

Nikon D7500 reviewed, one of the best Nikon DSLRs

The Nikon D7500 sits in the mid-range of the line-up.

At a glance:

  • DSLR
  • 20.9MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Nikon F lens mount
  • 51-point autofocus
  • 8fps continuous shooting
  • Price: £1,049 / $999 (body only)

Nikon’s D7500 is aimed at enthusiast photographers and uses the same 20.9MP DX (APS-C) format sensor as the pro-level D500. This means that you get great noise control within the native sensitivity range of ISO 100-51,200, but only fractionally less detail resolution than its 24MP or 26MP peers.

For viewfinder shooting there’s a 51-point AF system, with 15-cross-type points, which is very fast and accurate. It includes a Dynamic-area AF option which can be set to use 9, 21 or 51 AF points for tracking the subject. While the larger groups can come in handy with larger subjects, the 9-point option is the most reliable. We’d caution against using live view with the tilting rear screen for shooting wildlife, though, as the camera switches to an inferior contrast-detect AF system.

The D7500 employs a carbon fibre monocoque construction that helps to keep its weight down, but it’s still fairly robust and weather-sealed to keep out dust and moisture. With the Nikon F lens mount, it’s compatible with a huge range of lenses designed for both full-frame and APS-C (DX) format.

Pros:

  • Lightweight but tough
  • Loads of lenses to choose from
  • Solid noise control

Cons:

  • Poor Live View AF
  • Only one card slot

Nikon D7500 review – A solid all-rounder for enthusiast photographers


Best second-hand DSLR for wildlife: Nikon D500

The Nikon D500 has an astonishing top ISO value of 1,640,000!

Nikon D500

At a glance:

  • DSLR
  • 20.9MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Nikon F lens mount
  • 153-point autofocus
  • 10fps continuous shooting
  • £800 / $1,100 (used)

The Nikon D500 is a professional-level DX-format DSLR, and like the D7500 it has a resolution of 20.9MP. However, it’s much higher specified than its more affordable sibling in most other regards, including autofocus, shooting speed and build quality. It handles superbly, too, with all the most important controls placed at your fingertips.

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. Dual card slots are on board, with one accepting high-speed XQD or CFexpress cards enabling extended 10fps burst shooting for 200 frames in raw.

The D500 is one of the best APS-C DSLRs ever made, and a great choice for Nikon users who’d like to tackle fast, erratic subjects such as wildlife.

Pros:

  • Great control layout
  • Smart tracking autofocus
  • Comprehensive weather seals

Cons:

  • Comparatively low resolution
  • Only available used

Read our five-star review of the Nikon D500


Best Nikon mirrorless for wildlife: Nikon Z 9

Best camera for bird photography - Nikon Z9 mirrorless

The Z 9 is possibly the absolute best mirrorless camera for wildlife photography. Photo credit: Andy Westlake

At a glance:

  • Mirrorless
  • 45.7MP full-frame stacked-CMOS sensor
  • Nikon Z lens mount
  • 493-point AF with subject detection
  • 20fps continuous shooting
  • Price: £5,299 / $5,496 (body only)

The Z 9 sits right at the top of Nikon’s range, above even the Nikon D6 pro DSLR. Its specification reads like a dream for wildlife photographers: the 45.7MP full-frame sensor can capture bags of detail, while its 493-point AF system does a great job of getting subjects sharp. Meanwhile you can shoot at 20fps in raw or 30fps in JPEG, and when using a fast CFexpress card, the camera will keep going almost indefinitely.

Thanks to deep-learning artificial intelligence, the Z 9 can also simultaneously detect any of up to nine different types of subjects including people (eyes, faces, head and upper body), vehicles (cars, motorbikes, ‘planes and trains), and animals (whole bodies and heads and eyes for cats, dogs, birds and ‘other animals’). That’s a massive bonus for wildlife photographers, especially with many other cameras forcing you to change modes between animals and birds.

With its rugged build and pro-level handling, the Z 9 will also keep on shooting in demanding environments. It’s a great choice for professional or serious enthusiast wildlife photographers, as long as they don’t mind its hefty size and weight.

Pros:

  • Class-leading continuous shooting
  • Deep-learning AI autofocus
  • High resolution

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • And requires expensive memory cards

Read Andy Westlake’s review of the mirrorless Nikon Z 9


Best Canon DSLR for wildlife photography: Canon EOS 90D

Best camera for bird photography - Canon EOS 90D

Canon EOS 90D. Photo credit: Michael Topham

At a glance:

  • DSLR
  • 32.5MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Canon EF/EF-S lens mount
  • 45-point autofocus
  • 10fps continuous shooting
  • Price: £1,199 / $1,199 (body only)

Canon has aimed the EOS 90D at enthusiast photographers, with a solid-all-round feature set and comprehensive external controls. Perhaps its biggest attraction for wildlife shooters is the high-resolution 32.5MP APS-C format sensor, with lets you capture the maximum amount of detail with distant subjects. It also supports 10fps shooting when using the viewfinder, or 11fps in Live View mode. Whichever way you choose to compose your images, using either the optical viewfinder or the 3-in vari-angle touchscreen, the EOS 90D employs fast and accurate phase detection autofocus.

As it’s built around the Canon EF lens mount, the EOS 90D can be used with a huge range of lenses, including the firm’s EF-S optics that are purpose-designed for the APS-C format. Some great long telephotos are available from both Canon and third-party manufacturers. This all makes the EOS 90D a great choice for enthusiast Canon DSLR photographers.

Pros:

  • Huge lens selection
  • Generous pixel count
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • Other cameras have faster burst
  • Aging autofocus system

Read our full review of the Canon EOS 90D


Best cheap Canon mirrorless for wildlife: Canon EOS R7

Canon EOS R7 with 18-150mm lens in hand, Lifestyle, JW

Canon EOS R7 with 18-150mm lens in hand. Photo credit: Joshua Waller

At a glance:

  • Mirrorless
  • 32.5MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Canon RF lens mount
  • 5,915-point AF with subject detection
  • 30 fps shooting
  • Price: £1,349 / $1,499 (body only)

Canon’s latest APS-C model uses a similar 32.5MP sensor to the EOS 90D but places it behind the mirrorless RF mount. This enables faster shooting and more sophisticated autofocus in a smaller and lighter body. Notably, the EOS R7 inherits the subject recognition AF from the high-end full-frame EOS R3, which works with animals as well as humans or vehicles.

The EOS R7 also offers speedy shooting, at 15fps with the mechanical shutter, or 30fps with the silent electronic shutter. Its high-resolution sensor and 1.6x crop factor helps record plenty of detail with distant subjects. Canon DSLR users should find its handling and operation generally familiar, although the combined rear dial/joystick takes some getting used to.

Our biggest reservation lies with the lack of APS-C format RF-S lenses, with just a couple of uninspiring standard zooms initially available. However, wildlife shooters are well-served by telephoto options such as the lightweight RF 100-400mm F5.6-8. The EOS R7 also works very well with EF-mount DSLR lenses via a mount adapter.

Pros:

  • Subject-recognition AF
  • High-resolution APS-C sensor
  • Up to 30fps burst

Cons:

  • Very few RF-S lenses
  • And they aren’t weather sealed

Canon EOS R7 full review


Best Canon mirrorless for wildlife: Canon EOS R3

Canon EOS R3

Canon EOS R3. Photo credit: Andy Westlake

At a glance:

  • Mirrorless
  • 24.1MP full-frame stacked-CMOS sensor
  • Canon RF lens mount
  • 1,053-point AF with subject detection
  • 30fps continuous shooting
  • Price: £5,879 / $5,999 (body only)

Canon’s flagship mirrorless camera sits just below the EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR in the company’s line-up. It uses a similar robust, weather-sealed design, with an integrated vertical grip that includes a duplicate set of controls for portrait-format shooting and houses a chunky high-capacity battery for extended shooting. It’s capable of shooting at a pacey 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. What’s more, this is combined with Canon’s eye control focus technology, which means that if there are multiple possible subjects in the frame, you can select one simply by looking at in the viewfinder. It works brilliantly, leaving you free to concentrate on the composition and timing of your shots. For well-heeled Canon wildlife shooters, there’s no better choice.

Pros:

  • Eye-detect AF
  • Eye-control focusing really works
  • Robust, weather-sealed design

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • No third-party lens options

Read why we gave the Canon EOS R3 top marks


Best mid-range Fujifilm camera for wildlife photography: Fujifilm X-T4

Best cameras for wildlife- Fujifilm X-T4

Fujifilm X-T4. Photo credit: Michael Topham

At a glance:

  • Mirrorless
  • 26.1MP APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Fujifilm X lens mount
  • 425-point autofocus
  • 20fps continuous shooting
  • Price: £1,549 / $1,699 (body only)

Robust and compact, the X-T4 has found a place in many enthusiast photographers’ kit bags. Fujifilm offers a wide range of lenses perfectly matched to the APS-C format sensor, including 70-300mm, 100-400mm and 150-600mm telephoto zooms. These make it an attractive option for wildlife photography.

The 425-point Intelligent Hybrid AF system is well up to the task for shooting fast-moving subjects, and its subject-tracking response can be customised via the menu to maximise your hit rate in a variety of situations. There’s the ability to shoot at up to 15fps with the mechanical shutter, or 20fps with the electronic shutter. Plus, if you’re happy to accept a 1.25x crop that gives 17MP files, you can shoot at 30fps for up to 60 lossless compressed raw files.

The raw files from the X-T4 are excellent, but it also produces some of the nicest JPEGs straight from the camera that you’re likely to encounter. This is great if you don’t want to fill up your cards lots of raw files from burst shooting.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous JPEG quality
  • Good array of burst options
  • Intelligent autofocus

Cons:

  • Showing its age a little
  • No touchscreen menu navigation

Full review of the Fujifilm X-T4


Best Fujifilm camera for wildlife: Fujifilm X-H2S

Best camera for bird photography - Fujifilm X-H2S

Fujifilm X-H2S. Photo credit: Andy Westlake

At a glance:

  • Mirrorless
  • 26.2MP APS-C stacked-CMOS sensor
  • Fujifilm X lens mount
  • 425-point AF with subject detection
  • 40fps continuous shooting
  • Price: £2,499 / $2,499 (body only)

Fujifilm’s X-system flagship model is an enticing option for serious wildlife photographers who’d like a more affordable alternative to full frame. It combines high performance with portability, with its 26.2MP APS-C stacked CMOS sensor supporting silent shooting at fully 40 frames per second for up to 140 frames. Dial down to 15fps, and the camera can keep shooting almost indefinitely (when using a CFexpress card). The X-H2S also gains the firm’s first subject-recognition autofocus system for animals and birds, along with most types of vehicle.

Fujifilm has also eschewed its signature analogue dials in favour of a highly customisable electronic interface. This allows users to configure up to six custom shooting setups for different scenarios and recall them using the mode dial. Naturally, the body is extensively weather sealed for outdoor shooting, as are most of the firm’s XF lenses. Thanks to the 1.5x ‘crop factor’ of the APS-C sensor, it’s possible to get impressive telephoto reach in reasonably portable lenses. This makes it a great choice for shooting distant wildlife.

Pros:

  • Subject-recognition autofocus
  • Up to 40fps silent burst
  • Extensively weather sealed

Cons:

  • Pricey for APS-C

Fujifilm X-H2S Review


Best Olympus/OM System camera for wildlife photography: OM System OM-1

Best camera for bird photography - OM System OM-1

OM System OM-1. Photo credit: Joshua Waller

At a glance:

  • Mirrorless
  • 20.47MP Four Thirds stacked-CMOS sensor
  • Micro Four Thirds lens mount
  • 1053-point AF with subject detection
  • 50fps continuous shooting
  • www.olympus.co.uk
  • Price: £1,999 / $2,199 (body only)

The ‘Olympus’ OM-1 is the successor to the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III. Aimed at outdoor, adventure and wildlife photographers, it has an impressive AI Detection AF system that can spot and focus on cars, motorcycles, airplanes, helicopters, trains, birds and animals. It sometimes needs a little targeting to look 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.

The OM-1 is also capable of shooting at blisteringly fast speeds. It offers up to 50 frames per second with AF tracking using most Olympus PRO lenses, or 25fps with other lenses, or up to 120fps with fixed focus. This is complemented by a clever Pro Capture mode that buffers frames from before the shutter button is fully depressed, which allows you to capture moments which would otherwise be practically impossible.

Because the OM-1 has a Four Thirds sensor, the lenses produce images with framing equivalent to twice the focal length on a full-frame camera. Hence a 300mm lens gives the same reach as a 600mm lens on full-frame, which benefits wildlife photographers because the kit can be smaller, lighter and more affordable.

Pros:

  • Excellent AF system
  • Fast shooting speeds
  • MFT gives you extra reach

Cons:

  • But it’s a smaller sensor
  • Some may want more resolution

OM System ‘Olympus’ OM-1 Full Review


Written by Andy Westlake with contributions from Angela Nicholson and Jon Stapley.


Now you’re found the best cameras for wildlife photography, have a look at these articles to learn more:

How to check a second-hand lens for faults
How to capture fast moving birds and animals
Beginners guide to wildlife photography
Read our guide to animal photography


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