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Nature Photography Cameras & Lenses

The best nature and wildlife photography cameras in the world

As a professional freelance nature and wildlife photographer and guide who has taken out clients from all over the world on wilderness photography adventures in Alaska, I’ve seen countless cameras in action. Over the years I have definitely noticed consistency in what brands and models of cameras and lenses have reigned supreme when it comes to capturing and producing world-class images…especially in tough, unforgiving environments. I have also, unfortunately, witnessed consistency in brands and models of cameras that have failed miserably and been a major source of frustration and disappointment for people who have spent thousands of dollars and traveled thousands of miles for a once in a lifetime opportunity to photograph the magnificent landscapes and wildlife of Alaska. Granted, some of the complications with cameras that I have witnessed out in the field is the result of user error, but in many cases, it’s simply a matter of poorly performing gear.

Camera Purchase Discernment

How to choose the right camera for nature and wildlife photography

Before slapping down your hard-earned money on a new camera for an upcoming adventure, it’s extremely important to make an informed decision based on your intended use, budget, and the level of commitment you are willing to make. You and your new camera will be embarking on an exciting new relationship together, and some cameras require more of a commitment to build and maintain that relationship than others. Purchasing a new camera is much like buying a new firearm, bow, or fly rod: it’s not going to magically hit the bullseye or perform a perfect cast every time on its own. One must be willing and ready to put in a great deal of practice for optimal results. As the first step in the camera purchase process, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this camera primarily for a one-time event, or will it be for long-term, dedicated use?
  • Am I willing to put in the time to study and practice with a more advanced DSLR camera in order to take truly outstanding, professional-grade photos, or do I simply want something I can “point and shoot” and get good, but not necessarily great, results?
  • How important is it for my camera to take fantastic video footage?
  • What do I intend to be primarily photographing? Wildlife? Landscapes? The night sky? Action adventure shots? A variety of everything?
  • What are the ultimate end results for my photos? Do I simply want good images of good memories to be viewed on a cell phone or computer screen, or, do I want photos that I can make into big, beautiful, high-quality prints for the wall?
  • Do I have available funds in my budget to purchase additional lenses, a quality camera bag, a good tripod, photo processing software, and other necessary accessories…especially if using a more advanced DSLR style of camera?

I recommend first taking some time to answer those questions. Next, you need to decide what style of camera will best fit your needs. Here is a little information about each style to help you.

DSLR Cameras

Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras are the choice of most pros and serious enthusiasts. The ability to change lenses and fine-tune settings allow a photographer to capture a wide variety of subjects and create a wide variety of images. The sky is the limit as to what one can do…literally. One can capture tiny insects and the inner structure of delicate flowers or shoot the Milky Way and aurora borealis of the night sky…all with the same camera…though different lenses may be required for the best results. DSLRs shoot in a variety of image formats and can produce extremely high-resolution photos that can be produced into large, extremely sharp prints for the wall, if one so desires.

DSLR cameras require a serious investment of both time and money. Along with the actual camera and the lens/lenses that it may or may not come with, extra, specialized lenses, and all the rest of the accompanying gear that a serious photographer may end up purchasing can take a big bite out of the bank account! Also, learning how to use a DSLR and all those other lenses and gear will also require an investment of time in order to learn how to use it properly to produce the images one is after. But, all that being said, it’s a heck of a lot of fun and there are lots of ways to learn how to use your gear: books, videos, camera clubs, community college classes, etc. So, if you’re really serious about taking the photography plunge, buying a quality, reputable DSLR is your first step.

An important point to keep in mind, no matter what brand of DSLR you choose, make sure you choose wisely, as you are not just buying a camera, but are also buying into an entire system. For example, you can’t put Nikon lenses on a Canon camera, and vice versa. While there are third party lenses that may fit your camera, in general, lenses and other accessories are brand specific.

Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras are fairly new on the scene and are still rapidly developing. They are similar to DSLRs in that they have the capacity to change lenses and fine-tune settings to shoot a wide variety of subjects with stunning clarity, precision, and depth. One major advantage of mirrorless cameras is that since they do not have a reflex mirror apparatus…which is a key component of DSLR cameras…they are much smaller and more compact than the much larger DSLR cameras.

Mirrorless cameras are renowned for fantastic image quality and exceptional video, but not so great on battery life, as they require more juice to power the electronic viewfinder and other components that take the place of the reflex mirror in DSLRs.

Point and Shoot Cameras

Point & shoot style of cameras are designed to do just that: whip it out of your pocket, point it at your subject, and shoot…with minimal fuss or fiddling with settings. These cameras are generally much smaller and more compact than DSLR or mirrorless cameras and have a fixed lens. However, many point & shoot cameras do come equipped with a zoom/telephoto lens of substantial strength and the models that are on the market today capture excellent images in a variety of formats, as well as high definition video. Personally, even while out in the field with my DSLR equipment, I always carry a smaller point & shoot in my pocket, as things can happen fast, and I don’t always have time to changes lenses, camera settings, or even get my big camera out of my backpack. While a point & shoot may not create truly professional grade images that can be printed in large formats, for general photography purposes, and for those not willing or wanting to spend the time and money learning DSLR gear, they are a great choice. I never leave home without mine!  

Below are some of the best, most dependable, and highest rated camera brands and lenses on the market today, many of which I have either used myself, that my photography colleges use, or that I have seen in action out in the field by my clients. Click on the photos below to learn more and order yours today through our Amazon affiliate service.

Nikon Cameras & Lenses

Canon Cameras & Lenses

Sony Cameras

Fujifilm Cameras

Olympus Cameras