The two operative words to take into consideration when choosing the best cameras for wildlife photography are wild and life. Gone are the niceties of a warm studio or street scene where you can quickly take a break by popping into the nearest coffee outlet. These are replaced with damp and possibly humid conditions, where you may have to lie down for hours at a time.
Therefore, a few requisites are needed to capture the most skittish of wildlife. The first main choice is between the DLSR and mirrorless camera types, each having its pros and cons. DSLRs still provide the best battery life, with an as-you-see-it optical viewfinder.
The mirrorless variety has the advantage of silent operation, while also being lighter in weight. Both types need to have highly accurate and fast autofocusing and the shooting speed to rattle off lots of images before your chosen animal runs away into the bushes.
ISO range is also a factor to cover low-light conditions, with most modern cameras for wildlife photography covering this base very well. And while full-frame sensors arguably provide the best quality, don’t discount crop sensor cameras as they can provide more magnification for the money.
2. Sony a9 II
Like it or not, Sony showed the world the capabilities of the mirrorless format, which is evident from the Sony a9 II. The camera is wrapped around a full-frame 24.2MP Exmor RS BSI stacked CMOS sensor, with an amazing 20 fps shooting speed via the whisper-quiet electronic shutter or 10 fps with the mechanical shutter. The ISO range also goes up to 51,200 (expandable to 204,800) for the lowest of light conditions. The camera is also capable of UHD 4K video at 30 fps.
You also won’t be short of AF points with 693 phase-detection versions available, with intelligent subject tracking. A five-axis image stabilization system has also been included which, when coupled with an equally-capable Sony stabilized lens, allows for shooting at very low shutter speeds.
If you’re coming straight from the DSLR world, it’s almost sickening how well the Sony can perform. The only real downside is its still very high price point, which is why it didn’t hit our number one spot. Explore more features in our Sony a9 II review.
The Canon EOS 90D may not have the same shooting rate as the options above at only 10 fps. But being a crop sensor camera, it inherently has more magnification added to any lens, which is very much needed for wildlife shots. Also, being a DSLR camera, the 90D has access to the whole back catalogue of Canon EF lenses without needing any type of adapter like the mirrorless varieties.
The 32.5MP APS-C CMOS sensor is very capable of capturing high-quality images, with an ISO going up to 25,600 and video facilities coming in at 4K/30p and HD at 120p. The cross-type AF system has 45 points, while in Live View 5,481 points are available. The vari angle rear touchscreen is also very helpful for shooting at all the weird angles you can think of. We cover more in our Canon EOS 90D review.
The Fujifilm X-T30 proves that you can own a good-looking camera and pro-level features in one package. The 26.1MP APS-C format X-Trans CMOS sensor is capable of shooting at eight fps with the mechanical shutter, 20 fps with the electronic shutter, and an incredible 30 fps with a 1.25x crop factor. The ISO of 160-12,800 may not be as wide-ranging as the other cameras, but it’s still highly capable.
There are 425 phase-detection AF points available, with a multitude of tracking options, along with exposure compensation down to -3.0 EV. Another advantage is the manual buttons and dials, which are a very hands-on and tactile way to quickly dial in settings on the fly.
If you prefer a very lightweight solution that still has bags of power and speed, our Fujifilm X-T30 review finds it to be a very capable machine, which also benefits from the multitude of Fuji film simulation modes.
5. Sony a6400 (Budget Winner)
Although most people will be eyeing up the Sony a9 as a high-quality wildlife shooter, the Sony a6400 can now be picked up at very reasonable prices and is chock-full of features. The 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor is accompanied by an ISO range of 100 to 102,400 and a still-respectable 11 fps shooting speed with the mechanical shutter or eight fps with the silent electronic shutter.
Real-time eye tracking is available via 425 phase-detection AF points and the magnesium alloy body is solid enough for most conditions. The a6400 may not contain all the fully-fledged features of the a9 in scope, but considering its current price point and the ability to shoot 4K video, it’s a great all-round camera. See our other findings in our review of the Sony a6400.
Which Cameras for Wildlife Photography Are Truly the Best?
Cameras are only half the equation when it comes to quality wildlife imagery. Generally speaking, high-quality telephoto lenses are also a must, which have fast apertures and excellent weatherproofing. But you still need a decent camera body to capture all that light information, which is also quick enough to capture any type of wildlife.
All the cameras for wildlife photography above will fit the bill for quality wildlife shots. But the ultimate decision will come down to your own personal budget levels. However, just like choosing a high-quality lens, the pricier versions generally provide the most rounded facilities, while also providing the highest quality results.