Last Updated on 09/13/2018 by Mark Beckenbach
Wildlife and nature photographers spend the vast majority of their time outdoors, capturing images of birds of prey, all the way down to insects that roam around on the ground. But what are the best cameras to consider for these genres of photography?
APS-C based cameras are perfect for these two genres of photography thanks to their crop factors. Canon’s bodies offer a 1.6x crop, Nikon bodies 1.5x, Sony crop bodies have a magnification of 1.5x, Fuji crop sensors have a 1,5x crop and micro four thirds systems have a crop of 2x. What does this mean? Basically any lens you use on your camera will have its focal range magnified. A Sigma 150-600 f5.6-6.3 on a Canon body will have an effective focal range of 240mm-960mm, suddenly you can see why APS-C and M4/3 cameras make sense for wildlife photography.
Here’s a look at five amazing APS-C and M4/3 cameras for both wildlife and nature photography.
Canon 7D Mk II
When it comes to Canon APS-C based cameras the 7D2 is really hard to beat. The 7D Mk II is built to withstand the elements. It’s rugged dust and water sealed magnesium alloy body mean this camera can be outside in the harshest of conditions and it will not miss a beat.
In our review we said:
“The Canon 7D Mk II has the battery life to get you through a super long shooting period, the shooting capabilities to photograph that amazing catch at the football game, the focusing system to shoot at the very low light parties that you haunt at night, and the image quality to make both you and your clients happy.”
The Canon 7D Mk II features a 20.2 megapixel sensor, 65 all cross-type focus points, dual-pixel autofocus, and it has a burst mode that can fire off 10 frames per second. The RAW buffer of 31 images means you should be able to capture the action quite easily before the buffer kicks in. The 7D2 is also good when it comes to tracking objects as well; perfect for when you are panning across the sky to capture our flying friends. Low light performance is also very good thanks to the ISO range of 100-16,000. As we have come to expect with Canon cameras, battery life is very good so you can shoot for long periods of time. When you look at all of these features and then add in the fact that you will have the ability to use the very large Canon EF lens library, the 7D Mk II becomes a very good looking APS-C DSLR for wildlife photography.
Buy it now $1,078.95. Amazon
Canon 7D Mk II Sample Images
Pro Tip: To get the sharpest possible images of the world around us, make sure you have a sturdy tripod
The Nikon D500 is the king of the APS-C world when it comes to Nikon bodies. The D500 is basically the smaller brother to the monstrous Nikon D5 which is one of the greatest pro cameras in the business. The Nikon D500 features a 20.9 megapixel sensor and the impressive EXPEED 5 image processor. Like the 7D2 above, this camera is fully weather sealed which means you can use it in the pouring rain or out in the freezing cold and it will be just fine.
In our review we said:
“The Nikon D500 is an incredibly capable camera–and I honestly recommend it for both pros and semi-pros. It offers very good image quality, superb battery life, great ergonomics, high reliability in the autofocus department and a load of other cools things like WiFi. It’s a seriously great camera that I’d recommend to sports, photojournalist and wildlife shooters. They’re bound to make the most of it.”
The autofocus system found in the Nikon D500 is the same as the one found in the Nikon D5. With 153 autofocus points, excellent object tracking, a max burst rate of 10 frames per second, and a RAW buffer of 79 images, the D500 is perfectly suited for wildlife and nature photography. Image quality is quite simply fantastic, and the low light capabilities of this APS-C body are also incredible. With a native ISO range of 100-51,200, shooting in low light will be no problem at all. If you also like shooting video while out in the field then the 4K video capabilities will be sure to please you.
Buy it now $1,896.95. Amazon
Nikon D500 Sample Images
Pro Tip: Make sure all of your gear is safe and sound while in the field by owning a quality camera bag
Sony’s Alpha line of mirrorless cameras really shook things up when they hit the market, no more so than the Sony A6500. This little camera may not look like a serious piece of kit, but it packs a mighty punch. What makes the a6500 unique is it’s range finder design and its small footprint. You can carry this camera around for long periods of time without it becoming a chore, unlike much bulkier DSLR’s. The build quality is also very good too. Thanks to its weather resistant, magnesium alloy body this camera will withstand bumps and bangs with no problem, and will also function well out in the elements.
In our review we said:
“Sony states that this camera has moisture and dust resistance. Of any of the mirrorless cameras on the market, the a6000 series have always felt the most hearty. Indeed, this proved to be true when I took the camera out into the snow for shooting time. It shrugged off the snow with ease.”
Where things get really impressive with this mirrorless body are the specs. The A6500 features a 24.2 megapixel sensor which is paired with the great BIONZ X image processor. When you look through the electronic viewfinder you will see a whopping 425 focus points, and when you couple those with the 11 frame per second burst mode you have a wildlife photographers dream. The a6500 can also shoot 107 continuous RAW images before the buffer will begin to slow things down. The 5-axis in body image stabilization (IBIS) works perfectly, and it can really help keep things steady at longer focal lengths. Object tracking is another area where a6500 excels, as it can easily track and keep in focus any fast moving object you decide to place in front of the lens. The Sony a6500 also shoots beautiful 4K video, and the touch screen on the back makes using this camera fun. Definitely one to consider taking on the trails with you.
Buy it now $1,098. Amazon
Sony A6500 Sample Images
Pro Tip: Be sure that you never run of out juice. The a6500 can charge over USB so this power bank would be ideal.
The Fujifilm is the new boy on the block when it comes to mirrorless APS-C camera bodies, and thanks to a ton of features packed inside its rugged body it is perfect for wildlife and nature photography. The X-H1 features a 24.3 megapixel X-Trans, and the X-Processor Pro which helps the fuji recreate beautiful images with great color reproduction.
In our review we said:
“The Fujifilm X-H1 is a fantastic camera in many respects. The company gave it, bar none, the best autofocus of any APS-C camera out there. On top of that there is great image quality, in-body image stabilization, and the addition of great video. Plus it’s weather sealed and has menus that are pretty simple to use.”
The features don’t stop there though. The Fujifilm X-H1 offers a 5.5 stop in body image stabilization system, which will help in low light situations, 325 auto focus points, a burst rate of 14 frames per second, and a RAW image buffer of 27. While native ISO performance isn’t the best in this list, the ISO range of 100-12,800 when coupled with in-body image stabilization will make low light work easy. The X-H1’s body is constructed of magnesium alloy that is 25% thicker than that found in the XT-2 and it has increased dust and water resistance. If you are a fan of Fuji’s offerings and would like a camera in their lineup that would be a great hiking companion, the X-H1 is the body for you.
Buy It now $1,649. Amazon
Fujifilm X-H1 Sample Images
Pro Tip: Don’t get caught out. Stock up on memory cards before you head out the door.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
Many people don’t really consider micr0 four thirds cameras to be suitable for wildlife and nature photography, but these cameras are more than capable of stepping out into the wild side of things. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a powerhouse of a camera that boasts features others cameras on this list can only dream of. The 20.4 megapixel Micro 4/3 sensor is paired up with the TruePic VIII Dual Quad Core Image Processor, and combined they produce some really great images. The insane amount of weather sealing means you will likely stop working before the OM-D E-M1 Mk II does.
In our review we said:
“Consider the fact that we ran it under a faucet. What I didn’t tell a lot of folks is that I did this twice. The first time, when I filmed the video, I realized that it was out of focus. So I went back and ran it under the faucet for probably 10 minutes total. The camera survived and continues to function. If that isn’t durable, I’m not sure what is.”
The really impressive part of this camera is the fact that it can shoot at 60 frames per second. Yes, 60, and that is full RAW images when using the electronic shutter. When using the mechanical shutter, users can still expect to be able to fire off 15 frames per second. The buffer does limit you to 84 shots before things start to slow down, but 84 images should be more than enough to capture the perfect shot. The E-M1 Mk II has 121 all cross-type focus points which also allow for robust object tracking performance. Low light performance is good thanks to its native ISO ranges of 64-6400 (25,600 expanded), and the 5-axis image stabilization will help when shooting in low light too. Thanks to the 2x crop factor you can use a 70-300mm and have the equivalent of a 140mm-600mm telephoto lens. The Olympus E-M1 Mark II is a great Micro Four Thirds option for wildlife and nature photography.
Buy it now $1,699. Amazon
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II Sample Images
Pro Tip: Keep you Micro Four Thirds camera clean with this handy camera and sensor cleaning kit.
Do you use APS-C or Micro Four Thirds cameras for wildlife and nature photography? Let us know what you use in the comment section below.