Choosing the best camera for wildlife photography isn't always easy. It's more specialist than some genres, but in general, you need a camera that can keep up with the action of capturing fast-moving animals. Look for speedy autofocus features, a fast burst mode and a hardy build for outdoor use.
While there are good wildlife photography cameras to suit all budgets, you do need to be a little more selective than normal. In this guide, we've tested every single best camera for wildlife to help you decide which is right for you. If you're wondering what to look for in the best camera for wildlife, scroll to the bottom of this guide to find out.
Whether you want to capture birds in your backyard or head out on a once-in-a-lifetime safari, the best camera for wildlife photography will help you to get sharp and stunning wildlife shots every time. Let's look at the recommendations.
The best camera for wildlife photography
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Wildlife cameras for beginners(opens in new tab)
While Panasonic has brought out a few new cameras in this particular wheelhouse, namely the FZ2000 and the FZ1000 II, we reckon this is the optimal buy for relatively newbie wildlife shooters. Still widely available, the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 offers an amazing level of functionality for its price, with an impressive 16x optical zoom lens that delivers the goods, even if the maximum aperture does fall pretty sharply once you push the zoom beyond 170mm.
With multiple different burst modes to play with and satisfying, DSLR-style handling, the FZ1000 offers plenty of functionality for any nature photographer, and its video features are no slouch either, with 4K 30p video that looks great and can also be used to extract high-quality stills.(opens in new tab)
If you’re looking to travel relatively light but still want to fill the frame with your subject, then the Cyber-shot RX10 IV from Sony is the best bridge camera (opens in new tab) you can buy. The RX10 IV packs in a hugely flexible 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens, an excellent 1-inch sensor, an advanced AF system and 24fps shooting.
While Sony’s chucked everything at the RX10 IV and it’s an incredibly capable piece of kit, all this tech does come up a price. That said, if you wanted to get this kind of focal range and features in a DSLR or mirrorless combination, you’d be paying significantly more.
Read our full Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV reivew (opens in new tab)
Best wildlife trail cameras(opens in new tab)
Sometimes it’s not possible to wait for your subject to come to you, which is where a trail camera comes in. These tough cameras are activated by a subject’s movement (and even body heat), allowing you to be tucked up in bed and leave the camera to do the hard work for you. Our top pick is the Bushnell Core DS No Glow.
This packs two image sensors, with one optimized for daylight capture and the other tailored for nighttime photography. With an incredibly tough waterproof construction, you can happily leave it outside to battle the elements, while you can also capture 1080p video up to an impressive 60p.
Read our full Bushnell Core DS-4K No Glow review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Unlike the Bushnell Core DS No Glow, the Solar Dark from Spypoint doesn’t solely rely on battery power. As the name suggests, it can be solar-powered to extend its life out in the field. Alternatively, it can also draw power from either a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery or 6 AA batteries.
The 12MP resolution is modest, but images are pretty good as long as you keep your expectations in check, while there are plenty of other features here that add to the appeal of the Solar Dark. This includes the ability to detect subjects up to 110ft away, time-lapse movies, and 720P video.
Read our full Spypoint Solar Dark review (opens in new tab)
Best wildlife cameras for enthusiasts(opens in new tab)
Some were surprised to see the Canon EOS 90D arrive in 2019, but it is quite a step forward over the EOS 80D (opens in new tab) it replaced, with an all-new 32.5MP APS-C sensor that delivers excellent results, while the ability to record un-cropped 4K footage is another bonus.
While the traditional 45-point phase-detect AF system is good, it’s when you use the rear screen that it really shines thanks to the inclusion of Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel AF technology. Married to this is a polished touchscreen interface that’s really intuitive and has a battery life that’s good for 1,300 shots.
Read our full Canon EOS 90D review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Nikon’s high-end APS-C DSLR has been around for a while now, but that shouldn’t dull its appeal for wildlife photographers out there, especially as the price has dropped quite a bit in the last year or so. Borrowing a lot of tech from the then flagship Nikon D5 (opens in new tab) DSLR, the Nikon D500 (opens in new tab) is a camera geared towards action.
The 20.9MP sensor might not have the resolving power of some other sensors, but it delivers clean images even at higher ISOs, while the 153-point AF is very sophisticated for the price. A burst shooting speed of 10fps is pretty good, but what really impresses is the buffer which can handle a staggering 200 RAW files. Factor in the tough metal body and 1.5x crop of the APS-C sensor and you’ve got a great wildlife camera.
Read our full Nikon D500 review (opens in new tab)
Wildlife cameras for pros(opens in new tab)
The OM-D E-M1 X (opens in new tab) ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to wildlife photography. First up is the tough build that sees exceptional weather sealing – perfect for those times when you’ll be shooting in harsh conditions.
Then there’s the ability to shoot at up to a staggering 60fps (though this will be a little slower if you want to take advantage of some of the E-M1 X’s advanced AF settings), while the buffer is excellent at 286 shots (and that’s with RAW files). The MFT sensor is physically smaller than APS-C and full-frame rivals which do compromise things a little when it comes to image quality. The payoff is though that lenses are much more compact, with fast telephoto lenses considerably smaller than rivals.
Read our full Olympus OM-D E-M1 X review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Nikon might've been late to the game in launching its professional, top-spec mirrorless but the Nikon Z9 was definitely worth the wait. It's an absolute beast of a camera when it comes to video, knocking the Canon EOS R3 (opens in new tab) out of the park. It's capable of 8K 60p video recording or 8K 30p with an enormous 2-hour record limit. Nikon decided to remove the mechanical shutter completely which means the Z9 is capable of 120fps continuous shooting and has a max shutter speed of 1/32,000 which makes it perfect for sport and bird photography.
The Z9 is powered by Deep Learning AF (opens in new tab) which makes the camera capable of nine kinds of recognition: human eyes, faces, heads, and upper bodied; animal eyes, heads, and bodies; and cars, planes, trains, and motorbikes. It has the same 493 AF points as the Nikon Z7 II which seems impressive until you find out that the Canon EOS R3 has a whopping 4,779 AF points. The Z9 comes in quite a bit cheaper than both the Sony A1 and the Canon EOS R3 and it has a lot of advanced features.
Read our full Nikon Z9 review (opens in new tab)
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III turned out to be much, much more than we were expecting. Not only is it an update to the 1D X workhorse series beloved by professionals worldwide, it's also an important step forward for DSLRs generally, boasting deep-learning AF, uncropped 4K (something that had been missing from Canon cameras for quite some time), a revamped control system and much more besides. If you need a camera that just shoots and shoots, with whip-smart AF and an indomitable burst rate... well, you probably don't need us to tell you twice. But we'll do it anyway: the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is an astonishing camera. We do hear talk that it could be the last pro Canon sports DSLR (opens in new tab) and that its replacement will be mirrorless (opens in new tab), but in this game, nothing happens until it happens!
Read our full Canon EOS-1D X Mark III review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
The Fujifilm X-H2S (opens in new tab) is the fastest camera in the Fujifilm X-mount range, with a chunky pro-spec body and handling, a top-mounted status panel, and a fifth-generation sensor offering four times the speed of its predecessor. The X-H2S can shoot at 40fps with minimal screen blackout, capture 6K video or 4K at up to 120p, has in-body stabilization, a flip-out vari-angle screen, and a 5.76m dot electronic viewfinder. There's so much power here that only a professional photographer or videographer will need it – and it comes at a price. The X-H2S is the ultimate professional APS-C camera and is ideal for wildlife and sports.
Read our full Fujifilm X-H2S review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
It might be showing its age a bit now and be outgunned by the Canon EOS R5 (opens in new tab) in many areas, but the EOS 5D Mark IV deserves its place on the list as photos taken with the EOS 5D series of cameras have probably won more wildlife competitions than any other camera ever.
The full-frame 30.4MP sensor delivers a good balance between detail and high ISO performance, while the Dual Pixel AF system means that the AF system during live view is fast and reliable. The buffer could be a bit deeper and we’re not fans of the heavily cropped 4K video, but shoot with the EOS 5D Mark IV and you can see why pros love it.
Read our full Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
While we could have recommended the flagship Nikon D6 (opens in new tab), we think the D850 (opens in new tab) is the better option for the wildlife photographer. It might not have quite the tank-like build of the D6, but we think this is perhaps the most complete DSLR ever made.
The full-frame 45.7MP sensor is excellent and provides plenty of flexibility should you need to crop in on you subject, while the 153-point AF system is one of the best around (if a little biased to the centre of the frame). The 7fps might seem a little slow compared to some, but that should be ample for most subjects while the handling is some of the best around. Pair it with a quality, fast lens and this is a combination that will really reward.
Read our full Nikon D850 review (opens in new tab)
As sports and wildlife photography share a lot of the same priorities, it makes sense that Sony's sports flagship is also a great choice for wildlife. The Sony A9 II is an absolute speed demon, able to rattle off hundreds of frames at 20fps, and with possibly the best and fastest autofocus system in the business.
It's also got Sony's Animal Eye AF system, which can lock onto an animal's eyes with astonishing speed, making for those perfect wildlife portraits. Having the APS-C crop mode is also super-handy, allowing you to give yourself a little extra-effective telephoto reach whenever you need it. The shutter is totally silent, and the weather-sealing of the A9 II has been upgraded from the original A9. Wildlife photography is all about nailing the shot in a fraction of a second, and the Sony A9 II is one of the best cameras for achieving that.
Read our full Sony A9 II review (opens in new tab)
The Canon EOS R3 is the latest addition to Canon's mirrorless lineup, offering 6K Raw video, 30fps continuous shooting and Eye control AF so you can place a focal point simply by looking at your subject. It packs a lot of advanced features which make up for the fact it's "only" 24.1MP. It might not be the highest resolution sensor, but at least when you're shooting hundreds of images in burst mode, the file sizes will be smaller and it'll take less time to transfer than if you were shooting with something like the Sony A1 (opens in new tab). The 6K and 4K video footage is crystal clear and best of all it doesn't seem to suffer from the same overheating issues as the R5 and R6. We were seriously impressed with the R3 when we got to do hands-on with it. It's a super-fast, intuitive camera that's more than capable of producing high-quality pictures and videos.
Read our full Canon EOS R3 review (opens in new tab)
What to look for in the best camera for wildlife
When you're looking for a good wildlife photography camera, there are several things to consider. Here's a quick run-through of the most important features to look for when making your choice.
• A fast burst mode. Being able to shoot a fast burst of continuous images is desirable no matter what kind of wildlife you're photographing. Animals rarely stay still and may exhibit the behaviors you want to capture for just fractions of a second. A camera that can capture a lot of frames in quick succession is your best bet.
• Fast, efficient autofocus. You need to be able to focus quickly on a subject that's moving unpredictably. A sophisticated autofocus system with good coverage of points across the frame is the key to achieving this.
• Decent buffer depth. Buffer depth refers to how many continuous shots a camera is capable of capturing without stopping. A bigger buffer means more shots, means a longer burst, means a greater chance of capturing the moment you want. Be aware that cameras will generally be able to capture a larger buffer of JPEGs than RAW files The write speed of the memory cards (opens in new tab) is also a factor, so get the fastest card that you can afford.
• Lens or lens range. Ideally, you want to fill the frame with your wildlife subject, but most wild animals are pretty tough to get close to. That means you'll need some telephoto range. If you pick a compact camera, get one with a long zoom lens already attached – probably a bridge camera (opens in new tab). If it's an interchangeable-lens camera, whether a DSLR (opens in new tab) or mirrorless (opens in new tab), then it's worth checking out the range of lenses available for the relevant mount, and seeing the options for telephoto lenses within your budget. See the best lenses for bird photography (opens in new tab).
We’ve split our selection of the best cameras for wildlife into four categories for different types of users, with sections for beginners, enthusiasts, and professionals. We've also included a dedicated section for camera traps, also called trail cameras, which are a special kind of camera designed to be left in the wild for extended periods. See our guide to the best trail cameras (opens in new tab) for more of these.
You might also like to find out more about the best trail cameras (opens in new tab) you can buy to spot elusive wildlife. And to get closer to your subjects, check out the best 150-600mm lenses (opens in new tab) and the best macro lenses (opens in new tab).