In birds and wildlife photography often, photographers need to use the full capacity of their cameras. Photographing wildlife requires a fast camera, with a high resolution and a solid build quality of all the. Obviously, the best cameras for bird watching out there are often also the most expensive on the market.
What kind of camera is best for bird photography?
DSLRs are the main cameras used for nature photography.
Among the DSLR cameras stand out the full-frame models that have a larger sensor and better ISO resistance but no magnification factor and the models with multiplication factor (APS-C, APS-H in Canon or DX in Nikon); the latter reflex cameras have smaller sensors than a Full-Frame sensor and therefore perform not as well at high ISO although today the new technologies in the sensors allow these machines to work well up to 1600 ISO and even beyond; in addition, these reflex cameras have a multiplication factor, generally between 1.5x and 1.6x (or 1.3x for the APS-H no longer used by Canon).
The multiplication factor is certainly useful in many types of animal photography because it allows you to multiply the focal lengths of the lenses, for example a 400 mm mounted on an Aps-C reflex becomes 640 mm and this is an undoubted advantage for wildlife photography. wild.
Full-Frame SLRs are generally more expensive and more suitable for situations in which it is useful to raise the ISO a lot, for example some types of night photography or roaming or action photography.
If you are just getting started into this new hobby, it is common to not wanting to break the bank, spending all your savings on high end equipment, that anyway, you wouldn’t know how to use!
Don’t think that because you see people around with their incredible expensive sets of cameras and lenses that will make them automatically great birds and wildlife photographers, it’s not necessarily that way that it goes and in this article we’ll explore together some of the best DSLR camera for bird photography available on the market.
I’ve been doing some research for you on this topic, and what I’m trying to do here for you, is narrow it down to a list of of cameras that are some of the best options out there for this beautiful field of nature photography.
This list is simple and should be able to help all the novice bird photographers like you start their hobby without fear of cost or a too steep of a learning curve.
How we picked
When shopping for a camera body, the features you want to focus on are:
- a quick burst speed coupled with a big buffer
- weather proof build
- a fast AF
- great performance at high ISO
Detection system, autofocus points number and your lens are the factors that make the autofocus of a camera fast or not. A quick autofocus is a must for shooting flying birds and moving animals, keeping them in focus through the frame.
The size of the sensor is what makes a camera reach high ISO capabilities, that’s why newer camera with newer larger sensor, have great ISO performance with low noise on at high settings.
Of course, the larger the sensor and the higher the camera’s price will be. You need a good ISO sensitivity in order to shoot at fast shutter speeds and in low-light conditions.
If you’re shooting animals and birds, it means that you’ll spend a great amount of time in the outdoors, in the elements.
Having a waterproof camera is therefore very important as dirt, rain, humidity and wind can have terrible effects on your camera electronics. Again, it’s the most expensive models that will feature a better build quality.
Finally, remember that a great camera can only be as great as the optic you mount.
Here are the best birding/wildlife cameras you can buy:
- Nikon D5
- Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
- Nikon D500
- Canon EOS 7D Mark II
- Nikon D7200
- Canon EOS 700D
- Panasonic LUMIX FZ300
- Nikon D6
1. Nikon D5
The overall best camera for birdwatching on the market
As the best Nikon camera for bird photography, this model offers all the bells and whistles for the most experienced photographer. It offers the most popular features, such as high-quality autofocus, image processing capabilities, sensor design, and low-light shooting.
This ensures you can take images of your target regardless of direction or speed changes. It includes 12 FPS continuous shooting and 4K UHD video, so you can take home images that impress everyone who sees them.
This camera features Nikon’s most powerful processer with a 20.8MP FX-format CMOS sensor. It uses Expeed 5 to match its new innovative sensors, as well as a second processor that is dedicated to autofocusing. Users can be sure to enjoy photos with vibrant colors, exquisite textures and details, and rich tones in any kind of light.
It’s a professional camera with a great touch display.
- AF precision
- Weather proof
- Graphic quality
- White balance
- Great performance at high ISO
- Price is higher than most options available
- Definitely the weight
- Noisy shutter sounds
- No Wifi
- No Bluetooth
In short: With its incredible AF, the inexhaustible buffer and burst, the extraordinary ergonomics to infinite customisations and last but not least a unique tonal range in the world of reflex cameras, in our opinion, the Nikon D5 remains a milestone in the world of digital bird and wildlife photography.
2. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Secondary pick for the best birding camera
Now that we’ve gone over the top Nikon, we want to change gears and consider the best Canon camera for bird photography.
The Canon EOS-1DX Mark II is a top pick that comes on its own or can be paired with a CFast memory card which favour a shooting rate of 14fps, or 16fps in Live View, a 24-70mm zoom lens, or a secure camera strap. It offers both still photography and video recording with a burst rate of up to 170 RAWs in continuous shooting at 16 FPS. It can also create 4K films using a CFast card in the new 2.0 slot.
This camera comes with a full-frame CMOS sensor at 20.2 MP for the best performance in low light environments. It’s also packed with two Digic 6+ image processors to make it even quicker and easier to take all the shots you want when out in the field.
The camera also boasts an ISO range of 100-51,000 for an expanded range of sensitivities on different shots. It also includes anti-flicker shooting, the Intelligent Viewfinder II, and an iTR AF system.
The Canon EOS 1D X Mark II is large and heavy, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking of long shooting sessions or hikes. The Canon EOS 1D X Mark II camera body features a top level built and it is weather sealed. It has a sturdy handle with a comfortable shape for the fingers. It is probably the best Canon camera for bird photography.
- Offers 4K recording at up to 60 FPS and 8.8 MP frame grab still images.
- Features a magnesium-alloy body with dust and weather-sealed mounts.
- Includes a 3.2-inch touch panel LCD for easy operating when viewing images.
- Brilliant autofocus
- Resolution only slightly higher than the Canon EOS 1D X
- Limited touchscreen
- Video mode needs Quick menu
In short: It lacks the sensitivity of the Nikon D5, but it performs very well in low light, delivering excellent images within sensitivity standards. The autofocus system is also phenomenal, capable of capturing moving subjects even in the darkest light situations. This a very strong and multitalented camera that is loved by many professional birds and wildlife photographers.
3. Nikon D500
The best entry-level camera for nature and wildlife photography
The Nikon D500 is a high-end DSLR produced from 2016 as an evolution of the D300.A highly advanced camera under several aspects, which currently represents the top as regards Nikon’s APS-C reflex cameras.
The Nikon D500 is equipped with a DX sensor with a resolution of 21 megapixels and, when shooting movies, supports the 4K UHD format. As expected, from a camera of this type, the image quality offered is certainly very high. In any case, no obvious difference is to be expected from other APS-C models, even cheaper, of the same generation.
The added value of the machine is not so much, in fact, in the performance of the sensor, but in that of the autofocus and the burst.
In any case, digital noise appears almost non-existent up to ISO 800/1600 and is still quite contained even going up one or two stops. At ISO 12,800 or more, the gap with the FX DSLRs appears instead evident and the absolute highest sensitivities (the machine reaches the astronomical ISO 1,638,400) are in our opinion completely unusable.
Although the Nikon D500 can be used with satisfaction for the most diverse applications, it is above all in sports photography, birds and wildlife photography and shooting action scenes in general that it gives its best.
For these photographic genres, the Nikon D500 is virtually unbeatable: only the flagship Nikon D5 offers comparable performance, but at a triple price. Furthermore, the crop factor of 1.5x due to the DX sensor is often appreciated in such areas.
- Offers an ISO range of between 100 and 51,200 for shooting in all lighting.
- Includes a 20.9 MP CMOS sensor for top color, texture, and detail.
- Features built-in SnapBridge capabilities to share photos via Bluetooth.
- AF speed
- Accuracy and sensitivity
- Might offer less focus than some of the top of the line wildlife cameras.
- Battery duration
- Touch screen available only for limited functions
In short: The Nikon D500 is a small format DSLR camera that rightfully enters our list. In particular, we believe it is the best APS-C sensor camera ever built for wildlife and birds photos.
And in fact it is definitely not a camera for everyone: the Nikon D500 price of official dealers is over 2000 euros, and this is due to its absolutely out of the ordinary speed and precision performance.
The Nikon D500, even if it is an APS-C, is undoubtedly one of the professional-level cameras in the range of products of the Japanese brand.
4. Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Runner-up for the best beginner’s camera for birding
The prosumer market increasingly points to the choice of a full frame over a camera with a reduced sensor format, namely APS-c. Especially since technology has made the cost of full frames more accessible even to amateurs.
Canon has therefore accepted an important challenge to position itself on the market of increasingly demanding and advanced consumers and professionals.
It is our opinion that they succeeded.
The Canon Eos 7D Mark II has many features that make it performant, especially for birds and wildlife photography, like its competitor Nikon D500, (also APS-c). Think of the burst that reaches 10 fps and the extremely large buffer. The APS-c 1.6 multiplication factor makes the lenses we can use more demanding, and sometimes this is a great advantage.
The body of the 7D Mark II is solid and weather sealed, like that of a professional camera. The image quality is very good, thanks to an extended dynamic range The autofocus, then, is worth the whole camera, in case you still have doubts.
Video shooting is also good, and the camera offers the advantage of changing parameters while shooting.
- Double slot for SD cards
- Building quality
- It struggles on high ISO in low light conditions
- No Wifi
- Fixed display
In short: The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a high-end SLR introduced in 2014 as an evolution of the 7D “Mark I”. Present on the market for several years, it now hard to imagine that Canon can undertake a further update of this model and therefore in the continuation of the series.
In any case, the technical characteristics of the SLR still appear in many ways anything but obsolete and, at least for some applications, it is still a very valid model.
5. Nikon D7200
The best value affordable wildlife camera
This camera has many more strengths than defects. A complete machine, which has pretty much all a photographer could want in a camera.
The autofocus is extremely fast and precise, rarely fails and at the first shot allows perfect focus even in low light conditions. The Nikon D7200 uses the Multi-CAM 3500DX II system, with 51 points of focus, 15 of which are central cross.
So a much more advanced system than the one mounted on previous Nikon models. We also like to also point out that even in continuous AF-C mode (used for moving subjects) the autofocus behaves more than admirably, hooking the subject very well and chasing it without losing sight of it.
The noise up to 1600 ISO is practically non-existent and even at 3200 it behaves better than many even more famous rivals. Around 5000 ISO, the noise begins to be evident but still remains easily solved with a few clicks in post-production.
The sensor with which the D7200 is equipped is a 24 megapixel CMOS without low pass filter. This conformation gives a great clarity to the images taken and as we have seen, allows the camera to withstand high iso in an excellent way.
But surely the greatest peculiarity of this sensor is that of being able to work only with the central part, making a sort of cutout of the sensor itself. The result of this operation will be that you will be able to transform your lenses into real telephoto lenses, without the aid of any focal multiplier.
Also with regard to this instrumentation, Nikon did not spare himself by building the D7200, the battery is in fact really large, reaching over 1100 guaranteed shots. This means not having to worry too much about autonomy and taking pictures without hassle even during a long hike.
- Build quality
- Good performance at high iso compared to its peers
- Terrible live view
- Heavy for an APS-C
- Fixed display
In short: The Nikon D7200 is a semi-professional body and represents the link between entry level cameras and powerful full-frame cameras. This camera can therefore be used: both by novice knowing little or nothing about photography, and by a professional, who might want a second quality camera body.
6. Canon EOS 700D
Runner-up for best value modern birding camera
The Canon EOS 700D is one of the best beginner cameras for bird photography present on the market. It has an 18 megapixel sensor, the DIGIC 5 image processing process and the 9-point autofocus system.
The combination of these features allows the user to take pictures with a burst of 5fps and to work at an ISO sensitivity between ISO 100 and 12800. The Canon EOS 700D is also equipped with an excellent 3-inch variable angle 3:2 aspect ratio LCD touch screen display that has a resolution of 1.04 million dots.
The bundled 18-55 mm lens, equipped with an extremely quiet STM actuator, is also appreciated. This camera is well built yet light weight and quite compact, however, it is not weather sealed.
- Full-featured touch display
- Fast and precise focusing in viewfinder mode
- Very easy to use
- Good image definition
- Very limited battery autonomy
- Few points and focus modes
- Slow focus in live view
In short: Its most valuable features are undoubtedly the completely mobile and touch display, with functions that can entirely replace, if desired, the controls on the camera body, and an 18 Mp APS-C sensor capable of offering very good photographic quality in “standard” light conditions.
The weakest aspects are instead a focusing system with only nine points, hybrid and therefore fast in viewfinder mode but unfortunately rather slow in live view mode, together with a battery with a really too limited autonomy and a focusing system.
In light of all this, we can recommend the Canon EOS 700D 18-55 IS to all beginner photographers who want to make the leap into DSLRs. We should advise against it instead for those looking specifically for a machine with good video performance.
7. Panasonic LUMIX FZ300
Best mid-range camera for wildlife photography
The Panasonic LUMIX FZ300 is a super zoom camera in a DSLR style body. This results in a large body and, thanks to the lens, also heavy.
However, the grip is also deep and the camera is well balanced, so weight won’t be an issue. Why is it suitable for bird photography?
Well, the 12.1MP sensor limits cropping options, but the 24-600mm equivalent zoom lens amply compensates for this by letting you frame your shot perfectly from the start. Along with a class-leading 60fps burst mode with ES and nearly unlimited shots in an 8MP burst mode, you’re likely not missing even the smallest movement of those birds.
Autofocus uses Panasonic’s contrast-based DFD system. This system isn’t as effective as PDAF systems in newer cameras, but it’s fast and usually gets the job done.
In terms of video recording the camera supports 4K30 and FHD 60 recording modes, as well as HD 120 and SD 240 fps slo-mo modes. All of these utilise OIS’s 4-stop DFD AF mode to ensure smooth, fast focusing and steady shots.
This video performance is so good that you will even find me recommending it as one of the best Point & Shoot cameras for birding.
At 380 shots, battery life is slightly below average for a mirrorless camera, but the high-speed burst modes and small sensor should ensure you take full advantage of the shots at your disposal.
- Zoom equivalent to 600 mm
- Constant opening F2.8
- HD120 fps slo-mo video mode
- 60 fps in 12 MP burst
- Sensor resolution
- Battery life
In short: Being this probably the best superzoom camera for birding and given its price, it’s hard to say no to the 600mm zoom offered here, especially since it stays at F2.8 even at telephoto.
Resolution and battery life may not be the best, but you’re getting results you simply won’t get with many other cameras in this price range. For a bird photographer, it is definitely worth buying.
8. Nikon D6
Top-rated high-quality birding camera
The last birding camera on our list might be a bit expensive, but it’s also top quality. The Nikon D6 FX-Format has one of the most potent autofocus systems available and comes with a new cross-type, selectable AF sensor. It also boasts the latest image-processing engine and can be used for all sorts of photography. With extensive sealing, it keeps out dust and water in adverse conditions.
One of the extras on this camera is the anti-theft lock that will prevent anyone from taking the device when you’re remotely shooting. It also offers rear and top control panels that can be illuminated under low light to grant easy access to adjustments. In addition to offering top-notch still images, this camera can also take continuous shots at 14 FPS using a mechanical shutter.
- Allows customized presets, menus, buttons, and shortcuts for convenience.
- Offers an ISO range that reaches up to 102,400 for the best images.
- Includes a 105 point sensor AF system to take shots without recomposing.
- Price of this model may be out of the budget for most wildlife photographers.
In short: The verdict on this last wildlife camera is that it offers a considerable amount of features and can handle all of your photography needs. It has high ratings and is quite popular among those who want the best device for taking snaps and videos in the outdoors. It’s the most powerful Nikon model on the market and the chops to handle almost anything.
Putting It All Together
So which camera is the best wildlife camera for birds photography?
When it comes to bird photography cameras, a latest generation DSLR is preferable; the models with multiplication factor (APS-C or DX) offer an advantage by allowing you to increase the range of telephoto lenses by 50-60%.
Furthermore, the latest models despite the multiplication factor and therefore the smaller sensor offer a truly remarkable performance at high iso and far superior to previous models. It may be useful to have two camera bodies, one with multiplication factor and one Full-Frame for use in low light conditions or night photography.
Unlike previous models, the latest generation ones also have excellent performance in autofocus and drive, and even these two factors can simplify things and allow greater results in the field: having a burst of 9-10 or more frames per second can be useful in action shots and so having very fast, precise and responsive autofocus can help a lot with fast-moving subjects.
Obviously, the latest generation camera bodies have higher prices than older models or the so-called “Entry Level” models; in this case, for the same price, in our opinion it is convenient to choose an older but higher-end model rather than a new but entry-level model; for example. Furthermore, it is always preferable to invest more money in the lenses rather than in the camera body, in fact, in wildlife photography the lens (telephoto or super-telephoto) plays a very important role and can make the difference between a good and a bad photo.