Which Camera System Has the Best Animal Detection Autofocus?

If you’re curious about animal detection autofocus in your camera, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve been curious about it too. What’s more, each camera system takes its own approach to how to do it. And it can be very confusing to some folks. At other times, it can be really frustrating. So we’re looking at animal detection on various camera systems. 

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What is Animal Detection

Animal detection differs depending on the camera system. A lot of them incorporate animal and bird detection together. Sony is the major full-frame camera manufacturer that doesn’t do this. But basically, it tells the autofocus to look at the scene and prioritize autofocusing on an animal instead of a human, bike, car, etc. Lucky for you, we’ve reviewed tons of cameras that do this.

For the record, we’ve tested all of the cameras that we’re talking about in this post

Canon

With Canon cameras, there are a few ways to autofocus. The system can look at a scene and recognize certain things. If you set it to animal vs. human, it will detect all sorts of animals. We’ve used the Canon EOS R5, Canon EOS R6, and the Canon EOS R3 in animal detection. Each time, it has found both birds and mammals with no issues in animal detection mode.

Practically speaking, this means that you’re less likely to miss shots. You can be walking around in the forest and have your camera set to animal mode with ease. You can be photographing chipmunks one moment and hawks another moment. Otherwise, you’d need to physically move the autofocus point over the subject to get focus. That’s often much harder when it comes to focusing on a bird through trees. But a system that recognized the warbler in the trees can get it faster.

Best Cameras for Animal Detection and Bird Detection:

Nikon

The Nikon Z9 is the only camera at the moment of writing this article that has bird detection built in. With the Nikon Z6 II and Z7 II, we’ve been able to get the animal detection to work with pets. In animal detection mode, the system will recognize birds as a moving object or something like that instead. At the moment, we’re waiting on our review unit to come in, but we’ve used the Z9 a bit.

Best Cameras for Animal Detection and Bird Detection:

  • Nikon Z9

Sony

Sony has a complicated but effective system. If you take the Sony a1 or even an older camera like the Sony a7r III into the forest to photograph birds and animals, you’ll need to set the camera accordingly. The Sony a1, in bird-detection mode, won’t do so well getting your dog in focus when you turn your camera to it. As a result, you’ll have to go quickly into the menu system and then switch it to animal focus priority. It also works well with the Sony a7 IV.

We’ve done this, and it’s been pretty annoying at times.

Best Cameras for Animal Detection and Bird Detection:

Fujifilm

Fujifilm doesn’t have animal autofocus. Come on, Fujifilm. Get with it!

Panasonic

With a camera like the Panasonic S5, you’ll be able to use animal-autofocus detection to photograph birds. There are also Micro Four Thirds cameras like the G9 and GH5 II that can do it. It does a pretty good job overall, but effectively tracking the subjects isn’t as good as it is with Sony and Canon. Even when you adjust the focusing profiles, it just doesn’t have the same hit rate.

Best Cameras for Animal Detection and Bird Detection:

Olympus

The Olympus OMD EM1x has autofocus for animals and birds. But it’s really not that great. According to our review:

“For wildlife, I walked away very disappointed at the fact that it was almost all over the place when it came to tracking. I had issues with birds, monkeys and otters. Birds were where I was most disappointed. While the Olympus OMD EM1X was able to get them in focus pretty darned well when they were still, when the birds started to get ready for take off, the camera couldn’t really keep up to get them in focus for every shot. To be clear, I was shooting at the low continuous silent setting which does 18fps. That’s the only way that C-AF and tracking will work.”

This is disappointing for sure.

Best Cameras for Animal Detection and Bird Detection:

Leica

The Leica SL2-S doesn’t have autofocus for animals, but the system has detected animals moving at times as moving subjects. Further, it has tracked them moving slowly with pretty good effectiveness.

Conclusions

In our mind, truly Canon has the best system for animal detection autofocus.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.