Best Cameras for Shooting Wildlife at Night

Written by Antonio Cala.

Last updated on March 16, 2024

Table of Contents

Shooting wildlife at night presents a unique set of challenges, such as low light conditions, unpredictable animal behavior, and the need for specialized equipment. However, with the right camera and techniques, photographers can capture stunning images of nocturnal creatures and their habitats.

To get started with nighttime wildlife photography, it’s important to understand the basics of night photography. This includes knowledge of exposure, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, as well as the use of tripods, remote shutter releases, and flash. It’s also important to research the behavior and habitat of the animals you want to photograph, as this will help you anticipate their movements and capture unique moments.

When it comes to choosing a camera for nighttime wildlife photography, there are several factors to consider. These include low light performance, autofocus speed and accuracy, image stabilization, and lens selection. In this article, we will explore some of the top cameras for nighttime wildlife photography, as well as camera settings and techniques to help you capture the perfect shot.

For a complete analysis, make sure to check out the ultimate guide to wildlife photography cameras. 

Key Takeaways

  • Nighttime wildlife photography requires a combination of technical skill, patience, and creativity.
  • Understanding the basics of night photography and the behavior of nocturnal animals is essential for success.
  • Top cameras for nighttime wildlife photography should have excellent low light performance, fast and accurate autofocus, image stabilization, and a selection of compatible lenses.
 

Quick Recommendations

Feel free to check out this list of our favorite cameras for shooting wildlife at night, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

Canonr EOS R3

Absolute Best

Canon EOS R3 Review

Sony Alpha 7R III

Best Value

Best Cameras for Night-Time Wildlife Photography

Our Pick For

The Absolute Best Camera for Shooting Wildlife at Night

  • Skill Level: Professional
  • Body Type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor: Full frame
  • Weight: Approx. 822 g (1015g with card and battery)
  • Price Range: $$$
  • Effective Megapixels: 24.1
  • Autofocus Points: 1053
  • Buffer: 540 JPEG or 140 RAW files at 30 fps
  • ISO Sensitivity: ISO range of 100-102400
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Burst Mode: 30 fps with electronic shutter and up to 12 fps with mechanical shutter
  • 4K Video: Can record at a top resolution of 6K at up to 60 fps.
  • Wifi: Not specified in the search results
  • Silent Mode: Not specified in the search results
  • Weatherproof: Dust and water resistance.
  • Battery Life: Approximately 860 shots.

The Canon EOS R3 is a top-tier professional mirrorless camera renowned for its exceptional capabilities in wildlife photography. Its advanced and accurate autofocus system and impressive low-light performance make it our preferred choice for photographing wildlife at night. 

The camera’s remarkable autofocus system, high ISO performance, and rapid continuous shooting capabilities make it ideal for capturing fast-moving wildlife in various lighting conditions. The camera’s 24.1 effective megapixels and impressive image detail further enhance its suitability for wildlife photography.

Pros:

  • Extraordinarily capable autofocus system, ideal for tracking wildlife subjects with precision.
  • Ground-breaking eye control focus, providing intuitive and accurate focus control.
  • Rapid continuous shooting up to 195fps with fixed AE/AF, enabling photographers to capture fast-paced wildlife action.

Cons:

  • The Canon EOS R3 comes with a premium price tag, which may be a significant investment for some photographers.
  • Utilizing the camera’s advanced features may require a dedicated effort to familiarize oneself with the menu system and controls, potentially posing a learning curve for some users.

The Canon EOS R3‘s combination of cutting-edge technology, exceptional autofocus performance, high ISO performance, and high-speed shooting capabilities makes it the best choice for  wildlife photographers shooting at night.

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Our Pick For

Runner Up

  • Skill Level: Professional
  • Body Type: DSLR
  • Sensor: Full frame
  • Weight: 2 lb 3.5 oz (1005 g) with battery.
  • Price Range: $$$
  • Effective Megapixels: 45.7 megapixels
  • Autofocus Points: Multi-CAM 20K 153-Point AF system
  • Buffer: Up to approximately 51 frames in 14-bit lossless compressed RAW
  • ISO Sensitivity: 64-25,600 (Expandable to 32-102,400)
  • Image Stabilization: No in-body image stabilization
  • Burst Mode: Up to 7 frames per second
  • 4K Video: 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Silent Mode: Yes
  • Weatherproof: Yes
  • Battery Life: Approximately 1840 shots on a single charge

The Nikon D850 is another top choice for night-time wildlife photography due to its professional-grade features, excellent performance in varied lighting conditions and exceptional performance.

The extensive ISO range allows for excellent low-light performance, crucial for capturing wildlife in various lighting conditions. The camera’s robust build and weatherproofing ensure durability in challenging outdoor environments, essential for wildlife photographers.

Pros:

  • High-resolution sensor for capturing fine details in wildlife scenes
  • Wide ISO range for excellent low-light performance
  • Robust build and weatherproofing for durability in outdoor conditions
  • Fast and accurate autofocus system for capturing moving wildlife
  • 4K UHD video recording capability for high-quality wildlife videography

Cons:

  • The camera’s weight may be considered heavy for extended wildlife photography sessions
  • Limited buffer capacity when shooting in high-speed burst mode
  • High price point compared to some other camera options

Overall, the Nikon D850 excels in capturing wildlife at night because of its high resolution, exceptional low-light performance, rugged build, and advanced autofocus system.

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Our Pick For

Best Value Camera for Wildlife at Night

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Body Type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor: Full frame
  • Weight: 1.45 lbs (660 grams)
  • Price Range: $$
  • Effective Megapixels: 42.4 megapixels
  • Autofocus Points: 399
  • Buffer: Capable of continuous shooting at up to 10 frames per second with full AF/AE tracking
  • ISO Sensitivity: Standard ISO 100-32000 range (expandable to ISO 50-102400)
  • Image Stabilization: 5-axis image stabilization system
  • Burst Mode: Continuous shooting at up to 10 frames per second with full AF/AE tracking
  • 4K Video: Supports 4K video recording
  • Wifi: Built-in Wi-Fi for connectivity
  • Silent Mode: Yes
  • Weatherproof: No
  • Battery Life: Approximately 530 shots

The Sony Alpha 7R III camera is our preferred choice for a great value camera with strong capabilities to shoot wildlife at night. It offers good performance with its 10 frames per second continuous shooting capability. 

The A7R III is praised for its autofocus system, especially handy for animals in motion, and its impressive ISO range for the price. 

Pros:

  • High-resolution 42.4MP sensor for detailed images.
  • Good performance with 10 frames per second continuous shooting.
  • Solid autofocus system suitable for wildlife photography.

Cons:

  • Autofocus not as advanced as newer models like the A7 IV, particularly for fast-moving subjects like birds in flight.
  • Price may be a consideration compared to newer models with improved features.

In summary, the Sony Alpha 7R III is the best deal for photographers wanting to shoot wildlife at night with a high performing camera that sits in a more reasonable price range than the other options on this list.

Comparison Table

Best Cameras for Night-Time Wildlife Photography

-
Canon EOS R3
Nikon D850
Sony Alpha 7R III

CAMERA

Canon EOS R3 Review

Nikon D850 Review

Sony Alpha 7R III Review

BEST FOR

Overall

Runner Up

Best Value

BODY

Mirrorless

Mirrorless

Mirrorless

PRICE

$$$

$$$

$$

WEIGHT

1.81 lbs

2.21 lbs

1.45 lbs

ISO

100-102,400 (expands to 204,800)

64-25,600 (expands to 32-102,400)

100–32,000 (expands to 50-102,400)

MEGAPIXELS

24.1 MP

45.7 MP

42.4 MP

BURST RATE

Up to 30fps

Up to 7fps

Up to 10fps

AUTOFOCUS POINTS

1053

153

399

View at Amazon

View at Amazon

View at Amazon

Understanding Night Photography

Night wildlife photography can be challenging due mainly to the low light conditions. Capturing sharp and well-exposed images of animals in the dark requires a camera with specific features and settings. 

In this section, we will discuss the challenges of night wildlife photography and the essential camera features for low light.

Challenges of Night Wildlife Photography

One of the main challenges of night wildlife photography is the low light conditions. Animals are more active at night, but it can be difficult to capture them in sharp focus without the right equipment. Another challenge is the noise and grain that can appear in low light images. This can make the images look blurry or pixelated.

Essential Camera Features for Low Light

When it comes to night wildlife photography, having a camera with the right features is essential. Here are some of the most important camera features to look for:

  • High ISO performance: A camera with a high ISO range can capture more light in low light conditions, resulting in brighter and sharper images.
  • Fast autofocus: A camera with fast autofocus is crucial for capturing moving animals in the dark. Look for a camera with a fast and accurate autofocus system.
  • Image stabilization: Image stabilization helps to reduce camera shake, resulting in sharper images. Look for a camera with built-in image stabilization or use a tripod to stabilize your camera.
  • Fast lens: A fast lens with a wide aperture allows more light to enter the camera, resulting in brighter and sharper images. Look for lenses with an aperture of f/2.8 or wider.
  • Full-frame sensor: A camera with a full-frame sensor allows more light to enter the camera, resulting in brighter and sharper images. Full-frame sensors also have better low light performance than crop sensors.

Camera Settings and Techniques

Optimal Exposure Settings

When shooting wildlife at night, it is important to use optimal exposure settings to capture high-quality images. The recommended settings for shooting in low light conditions are a wide aperture, slow shutter speed, and high ISO. A wide aperture allows more light to enter the camera, while a slow shutter speed allows the camera to capture more light. A high ISO setting increases the camera’s sensitivity to light, which is essential when shooting in low light conditions.

Focusing in the Dark

Focusing in the dark can be a challenge, but there are techniques that can help. One technique is to use manual focus, which allows the photographer to adjust the focus manually. Another technique is to use autofocus, which can be set to track the subject and adjust the focus automatically. It is important to use a camera with a fast autofocus system to ensure that the focus is accurate and sharp.

Using Flash and Lighting

Using flash and lighting can help to illuminate the subject and create a more dramatic effect. When using flash, it is important to use a diffuser to soften the light and avoid harsh shadows. Another option is to use a spotlight or a torch to light up the subject. This technique can create a more natural effect and highlight the subject’s features.

Conclusion

Best Cameras for shooting wildlife at night

When it comes to shooting wildlife at night, the Canon EOS R3 is the top choice. Its advanced autofocus system and low-light capabilities make it an excellent option for capturing sharp and detailed images even in the darkest conditions. Additionally, its impressive burst rate and high-resolution sensor allow for plenty of room to crop and edit photos without losing quality.

However, the Nikon D850 is also a great contender for shooting wildlife at night. Its high-resolution sensor and impressive dynamic range make it an excellent option for capturing detailed images with accurate colors. Additionally, its fast autofocus system and impressive low-light performance make it a reliable choice for any wildlife photographer.

For those on a budget, the Sony Alpha 7R III, although not necessarily cheap, is the best value option. Its advanced autofocus system and high-resolution sensor make it an excellent option for capturing detailed images, while its low-light capabilities make it a reliable choice for shooting wildlife at night. Additionally, its compact size and lightweight design make it easy to carry around on long hikes or trips into the wilderness.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s a good entry-level camera for night-time wildlife photography?

For beginners, the Nikon D7500 is a great option. It has a high-end sensor, quick burst rate, and a decent battery lifespan, making it a good choice for capturing wildlife at night.

Which mirrorless cameras are best for capturing wildlife after dark?

The Sony Alpha 1 and Nikon Z9 are both excellent mirrorless cameras for capturing wildlife at night. They have full-frame sensors, fast autofocus, and high ISO capabilities that allow for clear and detailed shots in low light.

Can you recommend a wildlife photography camera that won’t break the bank?

For those on a budget, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000 and Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV are both good options. They are bridge cameras that offer a lot of features and capabilities at a more affordable price point.

What are the top picks for Canon cameras suitable for nocturnal animal shots?

The Canon EOS R5 and EOS-1D X Mark III are both great options for shooting wildlife at night. They have full-frame sensors, fast autofocus, and high ISO capabilities that allow for clear and detailed shots in low light.

What features should I look for in a camera for bird photography at night?

When looking for a camera for bird photography at night, it’s important to consider the autofocus capabilities, ISO range, and low light performance. Look for a camera with a fast and accurate autofocus system, a high ISO range, and good low light performance to capture clear and detailed shots of birds at night.

Other Wildlife Camera Reviews

If you would like to read more about camera options for wildlife photography, make sure you check out our Master Guide to Wildlife Photography Cameras.

For even more specific options, you can check out our other reviews below:

 

Camera Type 

DSLR Cameras 

Mirrorless Cameras 

Compact Cameras 

Drones

 

Skill Level

Cameras for Beginners 

Intermediate-Level Cameras 

Pro Cameras

 

Budget

Cameras Under $1,000 

Cameras Under $2,000

 

Brand 

Sony Cameras 

Canon Cameras 

Nikon Cameras

 
 

Planned activitiy 

Cameras for Bird Photography

Cameras for Shooting Wildlife at Night

Travel-friendly Cameras

Cameras for Safaris

Night Photography Camera Reviews Online

During your research, you might want to consider checking out articles from various publications that provide insights into the best cameras to shoot wildlife in low light conditions.

Below are a few resources that caught my interest.

Nocturnal Wildlifewillbl.com

When darkness falls: photographing wildlife at nightcanon.ge

About the Author

Born and raised in Southern Spain, Antonio quit his job in 2013 to travel the world full-time with his wife Amanda for 10 years straight.

Their passion for adventure and wildlife encounters took them to visit 150+ countries and experience countless of wildlife experiences. They cycled 25,000km + from California to Patagonia, sailed over 10,000NM around the Caribbean & Sea of Cortez, rode their motorbikes 30,000 kms+ across West Africa (Spain to South Africa) and visited Antarctica, among many other adventure expeditions. 

Today Antonio runs Adventure Fix with Amanda, where they share their knowledge about the places they’ve visited and the ones still remaining on their list.

Antonio Cala

Co-Founder of Adventure Fix

Best Cameras for Shooting Wildlife at Night
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