What’s the best camera to shoot wildlife? It’s likely one of the first questions every traveler going on an African safari, Galapagos Cruise, or Rainforest Expedition may ask. Having a decent camera for a trip revolving around wildlife is on the top of our recommendation list. While it’s not a necessity and we’re big believers in making sure to put the camera down and actually save some photos in your memory there is a thrill in grabbing that perfect wildlife photo.
It’s also a sure way to share your wildlife experiences with friends and family back at home. There are a number of aspects to consider when looking for the best wildlife camera possible. This post is not meant for professional photographers. If you’re likely at that level you have your own idea of what the perfect wildlife camera is for you.
The Best Cameras for Wildlife
1.) Canon 80D
This is my first safari camera. I spent some time deliberating what camera would be best for me and I couldn’t be happier. The camera has a number of strong suits that make it exceptional for a wildlife camera. It’s weatherproof meaning those dusty roads and African thunderstorms won’t take your camera by surprise.
It has a cropped sensor that still shoots 24mp stills with a high dynamic range. The cropped sensor gives a greater focal length, combined with a high processing power of the latest Canon cameras means it shoots rock star photos. Also, as an EF mount Canon, it comes with a massive selection of lenses to put on the camera. With a vast selection of quality and price points.
The camera has WiFi connection so users can shoot from their phone. A sweet flip screen great for low angle ground shots and shooting video. The touchscreen LCD makes live video focusing and tracking a breeze. It’s far superior in my opinion to the 7D mkii that is now three years old and needs an update! So, it’s arguably one of the best cameras for safari and wildlife shots on the market.
2.) Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ1000
This is a bridge camera. It means that it fills the gap between the old school point and shoot cameras and the DSLR. A bridge camera has a fixed lens with an optical and digital zoom. It offers the simplicity of a point and shoots with superior image quality. For the price point, it’s a hard camera to compete with!
The advantages of this camera include a larger sensor than most bridge cameras and it shoots 4k video. While the lens is not interchangeable it has a wide range from 25mm to 400mm. The sensor is larger than most of its competitors at almost 1″ which means it is one of the best in a bridge camera. The camera body is a nice build and will feel natural in your hands.
If you’re looking for a straightforward camera that will be easy to use as a novice photographer then this camera is the best pick.
3.) Fujifilm X-T3
This beautiful and reasonably priced camera is both weather-resistant and mirrorless. It is easily the best ASP-C camera on the market and gives a serious run at many of the full-frame cameras. After all, is a full-frame camera really a necessity? In my opinion, not at all!
For any photography enthusiast, the Fuji XT3 will literally check everything down your list of expectations for your ideal camera. This state-of-the-art mirrorless camera has a highly sophisticated autofocus function, due to its cutting-edge CMOS 4 sensor and X-Processor. Almost unheard of by its competitors, the XT3 can shoot up to 30 frames per second with its electrotonic shutter and 11fps with the mechanical.
For those wanting to shoot video, this Fuji camera also shoots in 4K 200mbps. Oh, and it does 120 fps video at 1080p this thing is a beast. There is little to complain about when looking at the XT3. The only things which could be improved are its battery life. Also, for such high-end video performance, it lacks image stabilization. However, the fastest processor and autofocus available, the Fuji XT3 will make sure you never miss a shot, even with the world flying by you.
4.) Sony Rx100 III – VA
There are several versions of this camera so the final choice depends on your price point. The only model I don’t fully recommend is the latest, the RX100 VI as the price point ($1,200) puts it in competition with interchangeable cameras.
We have the RX100 V, which has one of the fastest fps in the world for still images (24 images a second), it contains a one-inch sensor, and shoots 4k video. The built-in lens is also plenty fast enough opening to a 1.8F stop and it has image stabilization for video. You can also gain full manual control with an ability to shoot RAW images even with the RX100 base model that retails for under $400. This produces wonderful images and when it comes to compressed images on a blog or Instagram you’ll hardly notice the difference between them and a full-frame camera.
The negatives are the size of the camera makes it uncomfortable for shooting all day, okay at landscapes, it has a small viewfinder and fixed lens. You don’t need a ton of accessories just a memory card with a lightweight tripod and you’re done. It’s phenomenal and the amount of camera that Sony packed into such a small product is amazing. We’ve now owned about a dozen cameras all across the board and one of my favorite cameras has been this one.
To stress the big negatives again with this camera is the viewfinder, small body, and battery. I find the viewfinder really difficult to use in hard lighting conditions, tough to operate for a full day, and the lack of a spare battery annoying. It’s also doesn’t have the best zoom at 70mm, I like a little more when taking wildlife photography.
5.) Sony A7 III
When it comes to value the Sony A7 III is the best wildlife camera you can buy at the moment. While, it sits comfortably in the prosumer price point, around $2,000 for the camera body.
It has a full-frame sensor, excellent high ISO quality, an impressive 24.2 megapixels, and full-screen auto-focusing, it is no wonder this is one of the best professional cameras you can get.
If you are wanting to take videos, the A7 III shoots in 4k full-frame format. However, that 4K results in a cropped sensor and the rear LCD still lacks a touch to focus feature like the video-friendly Canon models.
The drawback, of course, is the price. For the top of the line camera such as this, it is well out of range for an entry-level wildlife photographer. Other than the price itself, the other complaint would be about the battery life. Other than these two cons, this camera is as the top of the line as you can get for a mirrorless, full-frame camera.
6.) Fuji X-T20
This is Tasha’s camera and she has loved it after upgrading from her clunky DSLR. The camera is super stylish and looks great. If you’re looking for a camera that matches your chic safari clothes this is the one. It has a retro feel with dials, a pop-up flash, and a metal body.
Fuji’s sensor has some of the best jpegs out of the camera I have seen. It has an excellent color representation and photos require little editing, which is perfect for those who just want a great overall camera. In fact, I might say it’s the perfect travel blogging camera where the image is important, but so is time.
With so much power packed into the small X-T20, it’s no wonder that one of the camera’s biggest issues is battery life. Many people only take around 450 photos before the camera calls it quits. Other than this issue – which can be solved by carrying around extra batteries – the X-T20 is an all-inclusive camera, perfect for blogging. We have the first version of this camera the XT-10, it was tremendous and captured a lot of our Africa content.
The only drawback on the camera for wildlife is the fact is the limited lens offering. They have some wonderful lenses with the great build quality. However, the only long lens on the market currently is the 100-400mmthat has a high price tag. . At just under $700 for the full kit, you can not go wrong with this as an entry-level camera for safari and wildlife.
7.) Panasonic Lumix LX10
The Lumix LX 100 II is a compact point and shoot camera which still can satisfy even the most experienced of photographer’s expectations. The LX 100 II is so versatile that its interface is simple enough for novice photographers, while still providing extremely sophisticated manual settings which allow experts to have limitless creative control. Its lens has an aperture equivalent of 1.7-2.8, making it perfect for macro photography and shooting in low light. On top of everything else, the LX 100 II also shoots in 4K ultra-high definition.
For so many advanced functions one would think the LX100 II would also include a tilting touchscreen which is fairly common with most newer cameras on the market today. If dependent on the EVF (electronic viewfinder), be prepared for the battery to be drained severely. You can conserve battery life, however, by using the optical viewfinder. Even though weighing only 393g, the Lumix LX100 II can hold its own against the most hi-tech of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, making this camera one of the best point and shoots you can buy today.
8.) Sony Alpha a6000
For coming in just over $500 this is one of the best cameras. It has quick autofocus with both stills and video. It has a great face detection program that is effective at finding and tracking. Sony is quickly emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the photography world, with it’s class leading A7II. The a6000 offers an impressive 24.3 MP sensor and a BIONZ X image processor.
It should be no surprise that they have also brought some exciting cameras to the consumer market as well. The a600 offers interchangeable lenses which are helpful when shooting in various wildlife environments. It’s super compact size also makes it a rockstar to hold in your hand. B&H Photo offers a nice camera kit with a 16-50mm and 55-210mm lenses that should be perfect for your first wildlife camera, and photography in general.
9.) Canon 1dx MkII
The Canon 1D X MkII is the flagship DSLR of Canon and it’s a mighty camera. To put it simply the camera is the toughest, fastest, most versatile, and greatest image quality camera ever made. The full-frame camera is a monster capable of shooting RAW images at 14 fps a second. If you want to know what the guys from National Geographic are carrying these days it’s the Canon 1D X MkII.
The rear LCD is super bright so you can view your photos in the hot Africa sun. Plus the screen features a wonderful touch screen for adjusting settings, adjusting the focus on video, and swiping through your pictures. Speaking of the video the 1D X Mkii can shoot 4k at 60fps and 1080 at 120fps. That way you can catch high definition images in super-smooth slow motion.
There is one negative to Canon’s flagship camera, and that is the high price tag at over $5,000 for the camera body. So, when you add in the cost of lenses you’re looking at a hefty investment. However, for the price you get one heck of a wildlife camera prepared to handle the bush and produce top quality images.
10.) Nikon D7500
The Nikon DX series is known for its pristine image quality. The D7500 continues the line of great cameras, bringing them a step forward with its highly responsive autofocus feature, shooting at the high speed of 8 frames a second, and responsive touchscreen. Unlike the other D7000 models, the 7500 finally offers a tilting screen.
Like many other Nikons, this model is compatible with a slew of accessories and lenses. The D7500 also shoots video in 4K ultra-high definition, but unfortunately only offers stabilization up to 1080p. The only cons about this Nikon model are that it only has one SD card slot and its live view autofocus is fairly slow. With an increasingly mirrorless market, the Nikon D7500 surpasses its competition with its outstanding performance and high definition photos. An excellent mid level camera for wildlife that competes well with the Canon 80D above.
Best Wildlife Camera Lenses
Fuji XF 55-200
This lens is a tremendous value. Most long lenses are quite expensive and bulky, but for a reasonable price, Fuji delivers a sharp long lens that is fairly compact. As a plus, the stabilization in the lens is truly impressive.
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8
Sony had to compete with Canon’s classic 70-200mm lens that has long been loved by photographers. With this lens, they effectively delivered a razor-sharp lens with image stabilization and quick autofocus.
Tamron 150 – 600 G2
The perfect zoom lens will make all of the difference when it comes to wildlife and safari. A good focal length for a safari lens should come in at 200mm and up. That’s why Tamron’s 150-600 is a slam dunk. For the price, it’s really tough to beat this wildlife lens. It has an amazing feel in your hands and with solid build quality – albeit a bit heavy. The lens is sharp throughout and only sees a slight softening at 600mm, but it’s 600mm so who cares. You can snap a photo of a lion’s eye at that focal length…
A similar focal length lens from Canon or Nikon will cost several times more, some even $15,000. The value of this lens is unreal and they produce it for both Canon and Nikon shooters.
Canon 70 – 200mm
This is the second most popular lens Canon has ever made. The Canon EF 70-200mm is an amazing telephoto zoom that is loved for its image. There is a wide range of models, but I would recommend looking for more recent additions that have image stabilization. Just about every working professional has carried this lens at some point or still packs it in their bag.
Best Wildlife Camera Gear Accessories
There are a number of camera accessories that we recommend you carry for your wildlife experience. None of these things are must-have, but they’ll help you produce better results.
This is one of the best tools you can pack in your bag. It’s pretty essential for getting a stable shot with a long lens and can allow you to capture compelling images with long exposures. If you’re interested in landscape photography I can’t recommend a tripod enough. Some of our favorite wildlife photos wouldn’t have been possible without this piece of wildlife camera gear.
If you’re making the investment into some nice wildlife camera gear I’d really suggest picking up a lens filter set. At the very least you should place a UV filter on your lens. A UV filter is a clear piece of glass designed to protect your lens, this will ensure that dust doesn’t cause a permanent scratch on your lens.
You can replace a filter much easier than a lens. This is particularly important for zoom lens since the magnification will make lens imperfections more noticeable. To get the right size look at the thread size on your camera lens. If you’re having a tough time try reaching out to support or shoot Cameron an email.
Camera Bag – Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW
This is the latest addition to our collection of camera backpacks and I couldn’t be more stoked on the bag. The camera bag is purpose-built for those who shoot photos and video in the harsh elements, specifically winter conditions such as climb or ski. Since it is designed for tough winter elements the build quality and design are truly impressive.
I love that the bag opens from the backside that allows you to comfortably throw the bag on the ground and reach for gear without fear of the bag tipping of getting gear wet. This bag is the perfect kit addition for any outdoor enthusiast looking to carry some gear high into rough conditions.
Drones Around Wildlife
If you’ve seen much of our blog or followed us for a while you’ll know we made a series of videos with a drone throughout Africa. I’ve flown in every country in Africa including around wild animals. There are a couple of things to take note of!
First, you should know that drones in National Parks in Africa and around the world are a big no-no. With that being said, I have flown a handful of times with the permission of a park ranger in our presence. It’s worth noting that this was well before drones became as mainstream as they are now, and the attitude could be different now.
If you have plans to fly on your safari or other wildlife experience be sure to ask your guide or lodge manager first. Private reserves have a lot of leniencies (except Selous) than the National Park Systems. Also, keep in mind that the drone stresses a lot of animals out and you should stay at a good distance away from them. If you still decide that you want a drone you should’t get anything other than a DJI.
DJI Mavic Air
One of the latest drones from DJI is by far the most compact. As travelers when we saw the release we got super excited and now carry it with us on our travels. It fits in the palm of your hand and takes up minimal space. The drone is capable of flying at speeds up to 43mph and it films in 4K. I also love the wide range of flights modes that the camera offers such as programmed flight paths and follow features. It’s amazing how fast DJI has progressed the drone market. You can not beat the size and convenience of this drone!
My Wildlife Camera Setup
We personally use the Fuji X-T3. When I saw the travel camera was announced and read the specs it instantly had me thinking. The initial idea had been to invest in a model of the Sony A7III and to jump on the bandwagon.
However, that meant investing in new lenses and buying a whole lot of camera that I wasn’t sure we needed. We don’t sell our photographs to be placed on billboards and would likely never take advantage of a super high MP count camera in the R series of the camera. There is also a strong argument for ASP-C over a full-frame camera in regards to video.
Above all we love the ergonomics of the Fuji Xt3, we love the tactile feel, and that it reminds us of what cameras once were. After several months of use now I can safely say it’s an absolute pleasure to use and the most intuitive camera I’ve ever put my hands on. In addition to all of this, it is one of the best digital cameras on the market producing flawless images with amazing skin tones and superb sharp compact lenses.
It’s a fantastic travel camera that is a blast to handle and has us shooting photography in a way we had forgotten. I can not say enough nice things about this camera and I have little doubt it will be a hit with photographers around the world.
Wanna know what our photography looks like? You’ll find some of our favorite shots from around the world here!
Below is a list of everything we are currently shooting on.
- Fuji X-T3 – Main Travel Camera
- Fuji X Series Lenses
- Canon 80D – Backup Camera
- 10-18mm Lens
- 24-105 F4 Lens
- 40mm 2.4 Lens
- 150-600mm Tamron Lens
- Sony RX100 V – For Quick and Discreet Shots
- Fuji X-T20 – Backup Camera
- GoPro Hero 7 – For Action Sports and Snorkeling
- DJI Mavic 2
- Lowe Pro Whistler 450
- Peak Design Camera Sling
- Peak Design Clip
- Rode Video Mic – For Vlogging
- Zhiyun Crane V2 – For Cinematic Shots
- Manfrotto Tripod
Basics Of A Great Wildlife Camera
There are several criteria that make a great camera for wildlife. A lot also depends on the cameras intended use. Not everyone is in it for the photos and not everyone wants the same kind of photos. There is no clear-cut answer here for what the best camera is for wildlife shots, but there is the best camera for a specific person.
This one is an obvious criterion. Not everyone has the budget to spend thousands of dollars on a camera, nor should they. There is no point in spending lots of money on something that will just collect dust or confound the user. There is also that best bang for buck aspect. While a high-end professional camera goes for lots of money the escalation of price makes pointless for anyone, but a professional. Even some professionals see the additional cost as a waste!
FPS (Frames per second)
This is a very important aspect for many. It refers to how quickly a camera can shoot a burst of photos. With fast-moving subjects on safari, you’ll want to capture that perfect moment. This may require a burst and a fast fps. This refers to how many photos the camera can take in the period of one second. This is not the most important aspect is something to consider when comparing similar cameras.
The sensor refers to the light-sensitive chip in every digital camera that interprets how light is perceived to create a digital image. Sensors come in a variety of shapes and sizes and have the most direct impact on image quality. When it comes to wildlife photography every inch counts. This is why I’ve chosen to pick only cropped sensors that will give an added boost to any lens.
All lenses are measured mathematically for a full-frame sensor – the same size as a 35mm film camera. So, when cameras employ a smaller sensor this results in a cropped effect on lens focal length. This means 100mm on a Canon 80D is really the focal length of a 160mm lens.
Wildlife Photography Lens
The wildlife photography lens is the most important aspect when shooting wildlife photography. You can have the best camera money can buy, but if you have a wide-angle lens you aren’t going to get those stellar close-up wildlife shots. Many cameras opt for interchangeable lenses which allow for a wide range of focal lengths to get wide landscape shots and tight close-ups. When shooting wildlife the far-reaching lens, or zoom is important.
Lens distance is referred to as focal length. The focal length is measured in millimeters with a short focal length (<5omm) creating a wide-angle image and a long focal length (135mm<) creating a tight/zoomed image.
The two images above were taken from the same distance.
The African bush can be brutal on just about everything. Wildlife lodges and vehicles are constantly fighting the elements of dust, dirt, humidity, heat, wind, rain, and even wild animals. Although, it’s unlikely your camera will have to survive an elephant the environment should be a consideration.
Professional cameras are built to be weatherproof meaning they can handle the dust, dirt, and rain directly on the camera. I’ve personally carried my Canon camera through rainstorms without fear of it being ruined. There are also a number of cameras that are purpose-built to hold up to the elements.
How does the camera feel in your hands? Are you going to drop it? Is it heavy? Or does it feel like an extension of your arms and eyes? A camera with a solid grip is a lifesaver when shooting photos while walking in the bush, from a moving boat, or the game viewer.
Where to Buy Your Wildlife Camera?
We shop for almost all of our photography needs on B&H Photo. They’re easily the best camera shop in America and have been working with professional film, video, and photography needs for decades. They’re responsible for handling the equipment of major feature films, Pulitzer prize photographers, and everyday consumers like ourselves. Their support is tremendous and knowledgeable. On top of all that they offer free two shipping, so forget ordering camera gear on Amazon!
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