The Best Full Frame Cameras for Wildlife Photography

In the pandemic, everyone became a wildlife photographer. A few premium cameras were released that are fantastic for this kind of photography. Lots of them were full frame too! Everyone loves full frame! So we’re rounding up the best full frame cameras for wildlife photography. We’ve tested all of these in various situations photographing birds and other wildlife. Take a look!

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How We Chose the Best Full Frame Cameras for Wildlife Photography

Here are some insights into how we chose the best full frame cameras for wildlife photography in this roundup:

  • Our Editorial policies don’t allow us to talk about cameras that we haven’t done full reviews of in these roundups. With that said, these cameras have been fully tested by our staff. Each section has links to our full reviews so you can make a more informed decision. Further, the photos in this roundup were all shot by our staff. 
  • The Sony a1 is one of the best full frame cameras for wildlife photography because of how durable it is along with the massive selection of lenses. The autofocus is also no slouch at all.
  • The Canon EOS R3 is arguably the single best. It deserves to be on this list of the best full frame cameras for wildlife photography.
  • The Nikon Z9 is the best that Nikon offers, and its unique innovations make it really fantastic at bird and wildlife photography.

Sony a1

Pros

  • Sony’s a1 shows that stacked sensors are the future
  • Detail rich images with great dynamic range
  • Excellent ergonomics (the best Sony camera to date)
  • The a1 features the new touchscreen menu system
  • Fantastic overall autofocus performance
  • 30 frames per second with the electronic shutter with virtually no rolling shutter or banding issues
  • 1/400th mechanical shutter speed with compatible TTL flashes and triggers
  • Sony’s 9.44 million dot EVF is a work of art
  • Excellent build quality
  • Good battery life
  • 8K video
  • Excellent performance with CFexpress A cards

Cons

  • It has the same old 1.44 million dot LCD
  • The LCD is not fully articulating
  • Bird AF is a work in progress
  • Multi Shot mode is inconsistent
  • Autofocus suffers a little in very low light situations
  • It’s $6,499

How’s the Autofocus?

In our review we said:

“Sony has introduced bird AF in the a1. This is a nice feature. However, it feels like this mode is in beta. The bird AF in the Canon EOS R5 and R6 is miles ahead of the a1. The a1 will indeed detect a bird, and a tracking box will be placed around it. If you’re close enough, the Sony a1 will track the bird’s eye. However, the tracking is erratic and not very accurate. With the Canon EOS R5 and R6, the cameras find the bird, then the eye, and the tracking stays locked on the eye almost all the time.”

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Canon EOS R3

Pros

  • Impressive autofocus performance with both action and low light
  • Face recognition works phenomenally, even on birds and in dark scenes
  • Reduced rolling shutter distortion and 1/180 flash sync with electronic shutter
  • Excellent noise reduction at high ISOs
  • Eye Control AF
  • Built-in vertical grip
  • Lots of great controls
  • Weather-sealed

Cons

  • Resolution is lower than competitors (but this is partially why low light quality is so great)
  • Higher learning curve
  • Hot shoe adapter recommended for weather-sealing with older flashes
  • Heavier and larger than the R5 and R6
  • Pricey

How’s the Autofocus?

In our review we said:

“I was similarly impressed with the R3’s animal detection AF. The camera locked onto the tiniest eyes even with limited contrast — such as the tiny beady black eye on the black head of a Black-Capped Chickadee. It seamlessly went from birds to deer, recognizing the eyes in both scenarios.”

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Nikon Z9

Pros

  • High Speed sync works to 1/8000 and possibly beyond
  • The Nikon z9 genuinely feels like the first serious camera for a professional photographer along with the Canon EOS R3.
  • Nikon’s absolute best autofocus
  • Once you get the hang of it and set everything up just the way you want, it’s an excellent camera.
  • Light up buttons are the absolute best thing.
  • Lots of customization options
  • Fast and quiet shooting
  • 3D tracking is great for animal photography.
  • Auto subject detection is quite good.
  • Nikon’s in-camera cropping feature is so wonderful to get more reach from your lenses.
  • The world’s first camera for photographers without a physical shutter.
  • I had zero camera shake issues. Anything pertaining to it would’ve been issues with using a slower shutter speed.
  • Rolling shutter is considerably eliminated, and it’s only visible if you pixel peep.
  • Pretty good tracking autofocus in low light!
  • The vertical grip is a nice addition.
  • Tons and tons of buttons that can do virtually everything

Cons

  • The AF illuminator dramatically slows down the autofocus.
  • I’ve surely seen better high ISO results.
  • Exposure preview setting has been completely changed.
  • Heavy, but that’s to be expected
  • Noise reduction is very strong.
  • I wish all the buttons lit up and not just a few. What about the buttons on top?
  • Animal autofocus is good but not as good as Canon or Sony.
  • Nikon still doesn’t have anything unique about their image quality that would make me want to buy it over Canon or Sony.
  • Pushing the shadows introduces a significant amount of noise even if you’re not looking at the image at 100%
  • Editing Nikon’s colors in mixed lighting is a nightmare I never want to go through again.
  • At this level, the in-camera multiple exposure feature should make the files into RAWs and not JPEGs.
  • 17×22 prints are a bit soft if you’re looking super close. You’ll also see grain at ISO 6400, unlike we’ve seen with a few others. But it’s acceptable.
  • Pricey, but not as expensive as competitors for sure.

How’s the Autofocus?

In our review we said:

“With exposure preview turned off, photographing birds was super fun! I used a combination of AF-C, 3D tracking, automatic point selection, and auto-scene or animal-scene detection. It worked really well. Combine this with Nikon’s in-sensor cropping features, and you get more from your lenses. A 45MP sensor cropped to an APS-C sensor size still gives you a lot of details. That’s what I did, as those were the only lenses available to me.”

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The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done in-house. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear we’ve fully reviewed. If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Chris Gampat

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