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Best cameras for wildlife photography 2022: The sharpest and fastest

Capture clear, rich images of flora and fauna with our pick of the best cameras for wildlife photography

Choosing the best camera for wildlife photography is a nightmare. As if it wasn’t enough that your chosen photographic genre involves getting up at the crack of dawn, hiding in the bushes, having to have the reactions of a gnat and face the distinct possibility of getting bitten by a badger, you’re also expected to know the ins and outs of file formats, frames per second and lens mounts.

So thank goodness for us: here, we’ve rounded up five of the very best cameras for wildlife photography. They’re all current-generation, so you’re getting the latest technology, and we’ve paid attention to the factors that make them particularly great for snapping wildlife. How many frames they can shoot in a second, any pre-shooting buffering to help you capture the perfect moment, and how well they perform when it comes to autofocusing have all been given top priority.

Not sure exactly what your priorities should be? Never fear: our buyers’ guide will take you from uneducated to unstoppable in less than the time it takes for your ghillie suit to arrive.

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Best camera for wildlife photography: At a glance

How to choose the best camera for wildlife photography

How many frames per second do I need?

Speed is key when it comes to wildlife photography. That doesn’t mean you should be employing ‘spray-and-pray’ tactics, if for no reason other than you want to keep your editing process under some kind of control. But it does mean that when you see a critical moment unfolding in front of you, you’ll want a camera that can get as many high-res images onto your memory card as humanly possible.

Look for a camera that can shoot around 9fps as a minimum, but remember there are cameras out there which – in return for more money, of course – will shoot up to 30 RAW frames per second, maximising your chances of catching that fleeting flash of teeth or once-in-a-lifetime facial expression.

What kind of autofocus do I need?

Of all the aspects of cameras that have improved in recent years, perhaps nothing has advanced as far as autofocus. Mirrorless cameras, in particular, are able to perform true wonders when it comes to subject tracking, and a suitably high-end model will also give you useful tricks such as eye and face detection.

In the past, these were particularly useful for photographing fellow humans, but these days it’s increasingly common for mirrorless cameras to also offer animal face detection, which should give you better odds of catching a sharp shot. Just remember that a camera’s autofocus is only as good as the lens it’s attached to, with pro-level lenses best able to accurately and quickly catch focus.

How can I tell which lenses will work with my camera?

Cameras from different manufacturers have different lens mounts – Sony has the E-mount and Olympus the Micro Four Thirds mount, for instance. But watch out, Canon and Nikon are currently in a spell of transition, as they move from old-style DSLR cameras to smaller, more modern mirrorless technology. This means you might have a mirrorless camera (with an RF mount for Canon or a Z-mount for Nikon) but which, with an adapter, can use older style lenses (EF lenses for Canon or F-mount for Nikon).

You’ll need to pay attention here as, in some cases, using an older lens, or a third party lens, might limit the number of frames per second your camera can shoot to below its normal capacity. Of course, this doesn’t matter if you’re going the whole hog and buying a brand new mirrorless camera and pairing it with up-to-the-minute, current-generation lenses.

How much should I spend?

There’s good news here – camera technology is undergoing a period of really rapid change, and that means that technology that was cutting-edge not too long ago is filtering down to the cheaper end of manufacturers’ product ranges quickly.

At the top end, a full-frame camera that shoots lots of frames per second, is weather-sealed and has top-dollar autofocus is going to set you back £3,000 or more. If you’re prepared to compromise, though, you’ll find plenty of cheaper cameras around the £1,000 mark.

Even at the lower end of this market, however, you can still expect a camera to produce excellent-quality images, have decent autofocus and a quick burst mode, as well as being built to last, if perhaps lacking the ultra-durable build quality of top-shelf models.

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The best cameras to buy for wildlife photography in 2022

1. Canon EOS R3: Best camera for pros

Price: £5,879 | Buy now from Wex Photo Video“…and the kitchen sink.” We can only imagine that was the directive issued by the bigwigs speccing out what Canon’s current top-of-the-line mirrorless camera should have: it’s safe to say the EOS R3 leaves no stone unturned in its quest for greatness.

The result is a camera that excels at just about everything, but which offers wildlife photographers in particular some really tempting features. For one thing, it can shoot RAW files – using its electronic shutter – at 30fps, for up to 195 frames, all the while offering some amazing autofocus capabilities.

And the quality of its subject detection, which includes animals, needs to be seen to be believed. Those who don’t want to rely on the R3’s (near magical) ability to detect subjects will appreciate the camera’s 4,779 different autofocus points, as well as its party piece, selecting an autofocus point based on what you’re looking at.

There is, of course, more. Much more. Superlative build quality that means the R3 will be as happy hammering a nail into your wall as it will shooting stills. Add to that a video mode that includes cinematic, 10-bit 4K modes plus a RAW 6K mode at up to 60fps.

Let’s not forget, too, that there’s in-body image stabilisation which, when paired with the right lens, can offer up to eight stops of extra shutter speed. Plus twin memory card slots and an 0.5in electronic viewfinder with 5.76 million pixels that genuinely might be the best EVF of any camera on the market right now.

And it’s all bundled up in a compact, 1kg package that’s natively compatible with Canon’s RF lenses, generally acknowledged to be the best the company has ever made.

Of course, you pay for the privilege of access to all this quality, and for many photographers – including plenty of professionals – the R3 represents pretty severe overkill. But for those moments you absolutely can’t afford to miss, the R3 is going to give you the best chance of getting the shot you need.

Key specs – Sensor: Full-frame, 24.1-megapixel; Lens mount: Canon RF; In-body image stabilisation: Yes, up to eight stops with compatible lens; autofocus points: 4,779; Autofocus modes: One shot, servo, subject tracking; Video resolutions: 6K RAW, 4K, Full HD; Rear monitor: 3.2in, 4.15 million pixel vari-angle touchscreen; Electronic viewfinder (EVF): 0.5in, 5.76 million pixel; Dimensions: 150 x 87 x 143mm (WDH); Body-only weight: 1kg.

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2. Nikon Z6 Mark II: Best full-frame camera for intermediate shooters

Price: £1,899 | Buy now from AmazonThe Nikon Z6 Mark II took the strong start made by its Mark I predecessor and turbocharged it. The camera itself is one of the best mid-range semi-pro cameras out there: well-built, capable of delivering superb image quality, blessed with a great autofocus and – key for wildlife shooters – fantastic performance.

The Z6 Mark II can shoot up to 14 frames per second continuously, albeit only in up to 12-bit RAW (rather than 14-bit) and with just a single AF point selected. Slowing the continuous rate down to a still pacy 12 frames per second allows you to use the Z6 Mark II’s full range of autofocus modes. Which you’ll want to employ as the AF performance is excellent. It’s capable of keeping up with birds in flight and offers some spectacularly efficient subject detection.

The positives don’t end there. The articulating, 3.2in screen is excellent (albeit with the restriction that it’s unable to face forwards, to the disappointment of vloggers everywhere), and the EVF is great too. Kudos as well, for the top-mounted info display, which shows you the camera’s current set up, without needing to keep the rear screen turned on all the time.

Pair the Z6 with any of Nikon’s incredible S-line, Z-mount lenses and you’ve got a wildlife powerhouse for a surprisingly affordable price.

Key specs – Sensor: Full-frame, 24.5-megapixel; Lens mount: Nikon Z; In-body image stabilisation: Yes; Autofocus points: 273; Autofocus modes: One shot, servo, subject tracking; Video resolutions: 4K, Full HD; Rear monitor: 3.2in, 2.1 million pixel tilting touchscreen; Electronic viewfinder (EVF): 0.5in, 3.7 million pixel; Dimensions: 134 x 70 x 101mm (WDH); Body-only weight: 0.7kg.

3. Olympus OM-1: best lightweight camera for wildlife shooting

Price: £2,397 | Buy now from AmazonOlympus’ OM range of cameras have long been tempting for photographers who value portability, image quality and lens range, and the OM-1 is a classic case in point. We suspect a fair few will be swayed by the traditional, angular design alone, but in truth there are plenty of other attractions.

For starters, it will shoot at up to 50fps, for example, or at up to 120fps if you’re happy to lock exposure and autofocus from the first shot. It’s weather and dust sealed, has two card slots, and has 1,053 autofocus points, plus the ability to track subjects automatically, specifically including birds, cats and dogs. Choosing either of the latter two categories, of course, is going to enable subject detection on a pretty wide range of wildlife.

The wildlife-related bonus points don’t stop there. The OM-1’s Micro Four Thirds sensor is a tale of yin and yang: on the one hand the small sensor doesn’t offer the same depth of field, or picture quality in poor light, as its APS-C or full-frame cousins.

But, conversely, the small sensor means there’s a focal length multiplier that applies to every lens you attach, making a (say) 100mm lens effectively a 200mm lens, in traditional 35mm terms. If you opt for something even more impressive, such as Olympus’ pro-grade, £7,000 M.Zuiko Digital ED 150‑400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO, you’re actually getting the equivalent of a 300-800mm lens in a package that weighs (lens-only) less than 2kg.

That low-weight, ultra-reach philosophy extends to the OM-1’s body, too. Partnered with some of Olympus’ smaller lenses it’s virtually pocketable, and weighs just 600g. It truly is a wildlife-first camera that you won’t mind packing in your bag for a day’s hiking, and it compares very favourably to full-frame cameras that weigh substantially more.

There are compromises, of course. Image quality takes a bit of a knock, which you’ll notice if you frequently shoot in places with poor light, or want to make particularly large prints of your images, but photographers fed up of finishing shoots with sore shoulders would gladly consider these compromises well worth making.

Key specs – Sensor: Micro Four Thirds, 20.4-megapixel; Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds; In-body image stabilisation: Yes, up to eight stops with compatible lens; Autofocus points: 1,053; Autofocus modes: One shot, servo, subject tracking; Video resolutions: 4K, Full HD; Rear monitor: 3in, 1.6 million pixel vari-angle touchscreen; Electronic viewfinder (EVF): 5.76 million pixel; Dimensions: 135 x 73 x 92mm (WDH); Body-only weight: 0.6kg

4. Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II: best camera for photographers on a budget

Price: £949 | Buy now from AmazonGetting into wildlife photography entails one of the highest costs of entry of any photographic discipline – fast cameras and huge lenses both cost big money. And that’s before you’ve bought a plane ticket to somewhere exotic where you can photograph something more exciting than the robins in your garden.

So how about the Lumix FZ1000 Mark II, a sub-thousand-pound camera with a non-interchangeable, ultra telephoto zoom lens? This could be the perfect starting point for someone looking to get into wildlife photography without breaking the bank.

We’ll start with the positives, of which there are many. The design of the FZ1000 Mark II pays homage to traditional DSLRs, albeit with a fixed lens. It’s a whopper, though. If this lens was mounted on a full-frame camera it would offer a huge focal length of 25-400mm, which makes it a great choice for, well, pretty much everything. Landscapes, photographs of people, street photography, wildlife… this handles them all with ease. It’s a really practical bit of kit.

For wildlife, in particular, that long lens pairs really well with some of the FZ1000 Mark II’s standout features. It can shoot seven frames per second, for example, which isn’t the last word in performance but is hardly sluggish. What’s more, it will shoot those 7fps while running its capable, contrast-detect autofocus system. And then display those images on a decent, 3in vari-angle rear touchscreen.

Of course, you don’t need to look hard to spot the compromises. The lens is permanent, which means you can’t swap it for specialist lenses to cater for different subjects. And because it’s motorised you’ll be waiting a while when you change focal lengths – it takes a little over three seconds to travel fully between wide-angle and telephoto settings.

The 20-megapixel sensor is a relatively small one, too. While that allows the lens to offer much more magnification without adding size or weight, it does somewhat limit the FZ1000 Mark II’s capabilities in poor light.

But while there’s lots that needs to be forgiven, redemption comes easy for the FZ1000 Mark II. Weighing in at a little over 800g it offers a spectacular amount of optical reach for the size, weight, and cash outlay. A singularly appealing option for wildlife photographers who want to dip their toes in the water.

Key specs – Sensor: 1in, 20.1-megapixel; Lens mount: N/A, fixed 25-400mm telephoto zoom lens; In-body image stabilisation: Yes; Autofocus points: 49; Autofocus modes: One-shot, servo, subject tracking; Video resolutions: 4K, Full HD, HD Ready; Rear monitor: 3in, 1.2 million pixel vari-angle touchscreen; Electronic viewfinder (EVF): 0.4in 2.4 million pixel; Dimensions: 136 x 132 x 97mm (WDH); Body-only weight: 0.8kg

5. Sony A7C: best camera for full-frame portability

Price: £1,699 | Buy now from AmazonGiving lie to the belief that all wildlife photographers use cameras the approximate size and shape of a house brick, the Sony A7C is a brilliant take on the mirrorless camera. Effectively the smaller sibling of Sony’s larger A7-series cameras, but without the electronic viewfinder perched atop it, this small, lightweight device brings to bear all of Sony’s traditional excellence with full-frame mirrorless cameras, while remaining something that can be slipped into a bag without a second thought.

The sensor employed is a full-frame, 24.2-megapixel example that produces gorgeous images, including images shot at higher ISOs, making this a good choice if you want something that won’t cause backache but which will still return clear images in poor light.

Don’t think that the A7C’s compact camera styling means it can’t keep up, either. At its fastest it will shoot 10fps which, while not cutting edge, will still give you a really good chance of catching the image you want. Aided, in no small part, by the camera’s 693 autofocus detection points, complete with effective subject (including animal) tracking.

Perhaps most usefully, despite the A7C’s non-SLR styling, its E-mount still means it’s compatible with a vast number of fantastic lenses, from relatively cheap and cheerful telephoto zooms that amateurs will love, right up to gigantic, ultra-fast super telephoto primes of the type often seen in use at top-tier sporting events. A wonderful compromise between portability and performance.

Key specs – Sensor: full-frame, 24.2-megapixel; Lens mount: Sony E; In-body image stabilisation: Yes; Autofocus points: 693; Autofocus modes: One-shot, servo, subject tracking; Video resolutions: 4K, Full HD; Rear monitor: 3in, 0.9 million pixel vari-angle touchscreen; Electronic viewfinder (EVF): N/A; Dimensions: 124 x 60 x 71mm (WDH); Body-only weight: 0.5kg

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