Best DSLR Cameras for Wildlife Photography

Written by Antonio Cala.

Last updated on March 17, 2024

Table of Contents

Wildlife photography presents unique challenges that require robust equipment capable of capturing fast-moving subjects in varying conditions and DSLR cameras are often the tool of choice for capturing stunning wildlife images. When selecting the perfect DSLR camera for wildlife photography, photographers must consider factors such as sensor size, image quality, speed, durability, and the availability of lenses. 

While the market is saturated with options, finding the right DSLR for your needs can be difficult to find. In this article, we’ve compiled the best models available today so you can make a better and more informed decision.

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

Key Takeaways

  • DSLR cameras are preferred for wildlife photography due to their high-quality sensors and versatile lens options.
  • Important factors in choosing a DSLR camera include sensor size, autofocus speed, and durability.
  • The leading DSLR cameras balance these features to provide exceptional wildlife photography experiences.

Quick Recommendations

Check out this quick list of our favorite DSLR cameras for wildlife photography, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

Nikon D850

Absolute Best

Nikon D850 Review

Canon EOS 90D

Best Value

Canon Rebel T8i

Best for Beginners

Nikon D7500

Best Budget

Top DSLR Cameras for Wildlife Photography

Our Pick For

The Absolute Best DSLR Camera for Wildlife Photography

  • 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 a top choice for wildlife photography due to its professional-grade features and exceptional performance. Its high-resolution 45.7-megapixel full-frame sensor captures intricate details, making it ideal for wildlife shots. 

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 because of its high resolution, exceptional low-light performance, rugged build, and advanced autofocus system. However, potential drawbacks include its weight, buffer capacity, and price.

Our Pick For

Best Value DSLR Camera

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Body Type: DSLR
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Weight: 1.54 lb (701 g)
  • Price Range: $$
  • Effective Megapixels: 32.5 megapixels
  • Autofocus Points: 45 cross-type AF points
  • Buffer: Up to 58 Large/Fine JPEGs or 25 RAW images
  • ISO Sensitivity: 100-25,600 (Expandable to 51,200)
  • Image Stabilization: No in-body image stabilization
  • Burst Mode: Up to 10 frames per second
  • 4K Video: Yes, 4K UHD video recording
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Silent Mode: Yes
  • Weatherproof: No
  • Battery Life: Approximately 1300 shots (CIPA)

The Canon EOS 90D is a compelling option for wildlife photography, offering a blend of advanced features and versatility. With its 32.5-megapixel APS-C sensor, the camera delivers high-resolution imagery, ideal for capturing intricate details in wildlife scenes. 

The 45 cross-type autofocus points enable swift and accurate focusing on moving subjects, essential for wildlife photography. Its impressive burst mode of up to 10 frames per second allows photographers to capture fast-paced wildlife action effectively. Additionally, the camera’s 4K UHD video recording capability provides an added dimension for wildlife documentation.

Pros:

  • High-resolution sensor for detailed wildlife imagery
  • Fast and accurate autofocus system with 45 cross-type points
  • Impressive burst mode for capturing fast-paced wildlife action
  • 4K UHD video recording capability for high-quality wildlife videography
  • Built-in WiFi for convenient image transfer and remote shooting

Cons:

  • Not weatherproof, requiring additional protection in challenging outdoor conditions
  • Limited buffer capacity for continuous high-speed shooting
  • No in-body image stabilization for handheld wildlife photography

In summary, the Canon EOS 90D stands out as a strong choice for wildlife photography due to its high resolution, advanced autofocus system, impressive burst mode, and 4K video capability. However, potential drawbacks include its lack of weatherproofing, buffer limitations, and the absence of in-body image stabilization for handheld shooting.

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Our Pick For

Best DSLR Camera for Beginners

  • Skill Level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Body Type: DSLR
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Weight: 18.17 oz (515 g)
  • Price Range: $$
  • Effective Megapixels: 24.1 megapixels
  • Autofocus Points: 45 cross-type AF points
  • Buffer: Up to 7 frames per second
  • ISO Sensitivity: 100-25,600 (Expandable to 51,200)
  • Image Stabilization: No in-body image stabilization
  • Burst Mode: Up to 7 frames per second
  • 4K Video: Yes, 4K UHD video recording
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Silent Mode: Yes
  • Weatherproof: No
  • Battery Life: Approximately 800 shots (CIPA)

The Canon Rebel T8i presents a suitable option for wildlife photography, particularly for enthusiasts and beginners seeking a capable DSLR. With its 24.1-megapixel APS-C sensor, the camera offers good resolution for capturing wildlife details. 

The 45 cross-type autofocus points enable effective subject tracking, essential for wildlife photography, while the 7 frames per second burst mode allows for capturing fast-moving wildlife moments. Additionally, the camera’s 4K UHD video recording capability provides an added dimension for wildlife documentation.

Pros:

  • Good resolution sensor for capturing wildlife details
  • 45 cross-type autofocus points for effective subject tracking
  • 7 frames per second burst mode for capturing fast-paced wildlife action
  • 4K UHD video recording capability for high-quality wildlife videography
  • Built-in WiFi for convenient image transfer and remote shooting

Cons:

  • Not weatherproof, requiring additional protection in challenging outdoor conditions
  • Limited buffer capacity for continuous high-speed shooting
  • No in-body image stabilization for handheld wildlife photography

In summary, the Canon Rebel T8i serves as a solid option for beginners, offering good resolution, effective autofocus, burst mode, and 4K video capability.

Our Pick For

Best Budget DSLR Camera

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Body Type: DSLR
  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Weight: 1.41 lb (640 g)
  • Price Range: $$
  • Effective Megapixels: 20.9 megapixels
  • Autofocus Points: 51-point AF system
  • Buffer: Up to approximately 50 RAW/NEF (14-bit lossless compressed) or 100 JPEG shots
  • ISO Sensitivity: 100-51,200 (Expandable to 1,640,000)
  • Image Stabilization: No in-body image stabilization
  • Burst Mode: Up to 8 frames per second
  • 4K Video: Yes, 4K UHD video recording at 30/25/24p
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Silent Mode: Yes
  • Weatherproof: Yes
  • Battery Life: Approximately 950 shots per charge

The Nikon D7500 presents a compelling budget-friendly option for wildlife photography enthusiasts. With its 20.9-megapixel APS-C sensor, the camera delivers good image quality, suitable for capturing wildlife details while remaining cost-effective. 

The 51-point AF system enables precise and quick focusing on wildlife subjects, essential for wildlife photography. Its weatherproof construction adds durability and reliability when shooting in outdoor environments, making it a practical choice for wildlife photographers on a budget.

Pros:

  • Good image quality with the 20.9-megapixel sensor for wildlife photography
  • 51-point AF system for precise and quick focusing on wildlife subjects
  • Weatherproof construction for durability in outdoor conditions
  • 4K UHD video recording capability for high-quality wildlife videography
  • Decent battery life for extended wildlife photography sessions

Cons:

  • Slightly limited buffer capacity for continuous high-speed shooting
  • No in-body image stabilization for handheld wildlife photography
  • The maximum continuous shooting speed may be lower compared to some higher-end models

In summary, the Nikon D7500 serves as a practical budget-friendly option for wildlife photography, offering good image quality, an advanced autofocus system, weatherproof construction, and 4K video capability. However, potential drawbacks include buffer limitations, the absence of in-body image stabilization, and a slightly lower maximum continuous shooting speed.

Comparison Table

Best DSLR Cameras for Wildlife Photography

-
Nikon D850
Canon EOS 90D
Canon Rebel T8i
Nikon D7500

CAMERA

Nikon D850

Canon EOS 90D

Canon EOS Rebel T8i

Nikon D7500

BEST FOR

Overall

Best Value

Beginners

Budget-friendly

SENSOR

Full Frame

APS-C

APS-C

CMOS

PRICE

$$$

$$

$

$

WEIGHT

2 lbs 3oz

1 lbs 9oz

1 lbs 1oz

1 lbs 9oz

MEGAPIXELS

45.7 MP

32.5 MP

24.1 MP

20.9 MP

BURST RATE

Up to 7fps

Up to 10fps

Up to 7fps

Up to 8fps

AUTOFOCUS POINTS

153

45

45

51

View at Amazon

View at Amazon

View at Amazon

View at Amazon

3 Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing the Right DSLR

When chasing the perfect wildlife shot, a photographer must consider the camera’s sensor size, autofocus capabilities, and shooting speed.

Full Frame vs. Crop Sensor

Full frame DSLR cameras offer a larger sensor, providing a wider field of view ideal for capturing expansive habitats. Wildlife photographers often appreciate this for its better low-light performance and wider angle shots. Conversely, crop sensor DSLRs have a multiplication effect on lenses, giving extra reach which is invaluable when photographing distant animals. For detailed comparisons on DSLR cameras, one can look into specific models to see which sensor type fits their needs.

Autofocus Performance

Autofocus performance is crucial in wildlife photography. A camera that can quickly and accurately focus will increase the chances of capturing a clear image of a fast-moving subject. High-performing DSLRs feature sophisticated autofocus systems with numerous focus points and advanced tracking capabilities. The Nikon D7500, for example, is highly regarded for its autofocus performance in wildlife photography.

Frames Per Second

When dealing with quick and unpredictable wildlife, a high frame rate can make or break a photo opportunity. The more frames per second (FPS) a camera can shoot, the more likely a photographer will capture a fleeting moment. A DSLR with a high FPS, such as the Canon EOS 90D, can fire off a rapid succession of shots to ensure the subject is captured in the best possible stance, offering photographers several options to choose the perfect shot.

Conclusion

Best DSLR Cameras for Wildlife Photography

When it comes to the best DSLR cameras for wildlife photography, the Nikon D850 emerges as the top choice overall due to its exceptional 45.7-megapixel full-frame sensor, advanced autofocus system, and robust build, making it a reliable companion for professional wildlife photographers. 

For those seeking the best value, the Canon EOS 90D stands out with its 32.5-megapixel APS-C sensor, impressive autofocus capabilities, and 4K video recording, offering a compelling combination of features at a reasonable price point. 

As the ideal option for beginners, the Canon Rebel T8i shines with its user-friendly interface, 24.1-megapixel sensor, and 4K video capability, providing an accessible entry point into wildlife photography. 

Lastly, for budget-conscious enthusiasts, the Nikon D7500 proves to be the most budget-friendly choice, offering a balance of image quality, a versatile 51-point AF system, weatherproof construction, and 4K video recording, making it a practical and cost-effective option for capturing stunning wildlife moments.

Frequently Asked Questions

When picking a DSLR for wildlife photography, aspiring photographers often have a barrage of questions, from affordability to equipment used by professionals. This section aims to address those common queries.

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

A solid entry-level DSLR camera for wildlife photography is the Canon EOS 90D. It offers a great balance of resolution, speed, and value, ideal for those just diving into the genre.

How much should I expect to spend on a decent wildlife photography camera?

The price for a decent wildlife photography camera can vary widely, but one should expect to spend anywhere between $1,000 to $2,000 for a camera that provides a good balance between performance and cost.

Can I get a solid camera for wildlife photography without breaking the bank?

Yes, one can find a solid camera for wildlife photography without breaking the bank, such as the Nikon D7500, which is often recommended for its high-quality imagery and robust build at a more affordable price point.

Are there any compact cameras that are suitable for bird photography?

For bird photography, some compact cameras may be suitable, such as the Sony RX10 IV, known for its impressive zoom range and speed, making it a good choice for capturing birds in flight.

What models do the pros use for wildlife shots like in National Geographic?

Professionals often use top-tier cameras such as the Nikon Z9 or the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III for wildlife shots that you might see in National Geographic, known for their unparalleled performance in speed and image quality.

Between DSLR and mirrorless cameras, which is the preferred choice for wildlife photography?

The choice between DSLR and mirrorless cameras often comes down to personal preference and specific needs. However, mirrorless cameras like the Sony Alpha 1 are becoming increasingly popular for wildlife photography due to their lighter weight and advanced technology.

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

DSLR Camera Reviews Online

During your research, you might want to consider checking out articles from various publications that provide insights into the best DSLR cameras for wildlife available.

Below are a few articles that caught my interest.

Which DSLR is Best for Wildlife Photography?Shutterhow.com

Which DSLR camera is best for wildlife photography? – Quora.com

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 DSLR Cameras for Wildlife Photography
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