Determining the best cameras for bird photography comes down to personal brand preference and camera capability. The best bird photographers have an eye for composition, attention to detail, and a full understanding of their camera’s features, so it is important that you select a camera that you will take the time to get to know. More so than most other forms of photography, bird photography relies on speed and instinct. So if you choose a camera that you can’t operate with speed and intuition, you’ll likely find yourself missing many potential moments.
DSLR cameras and newer Mirrorless cameras are the best options for any birder that wants to capture images of the birds they observe in the wild. The technical options that are available with professional cameras give any birder the ability to turn brief sightings into impactful works of art.
Choosing a Camera Brand
Choosing the brand of camera you want to use for bird photography is all about preference and budget. Despite what avid users of any camera maker might say, any camera maker you go with will have an option that suits bird photography.
The camera you choose will determine the tools and accessories you will buy in the future so choose wisely. The most popular and best brands for bird photography include Nikon, Canon, and Sony cameras. There are body and lens options available from each of these brands that will help you capture professional quality images once you are familiar with the camera.
Selecting a Camera Model
After you have decided on a camera brand, you will need to choose a model that is able to deliver the types of photos you plan on capturing, and that is within your price range. Models increase in price as the technology and capabilities increase, but you don’t always need the most expensive or fanciest camera to get the type of shots you’re after. Before shopping, make a list of the basic and minimum options you would like in a camera and kit, and then take a look at what your brand of choice offers with those options. Focus on the following features.
The autofocus capabilities of a camera are what set it apart from other models on the market, and a little bit of what drives up the price. When you are photographing birds you really need to rely on the ability of your camera to autofocus and do so quickly. The split second that it takes for a camera to focus on a subject can be the difference between getting the perfect shot or missing out entirely. There is absolutely nothing more frustrating in bird photography than getting a near-perfect shot that is slightly out of focus!
Pay attention to a cameras autofocus capabilities when you are shopping for the best camera. Cameras with incredible autofocus capabilities include:
Frame Rate Capabilities
The frame rate of a camera determines the number of photos it is able to take per second. When you are trying to capture action shots of birds in action or in flight, you often want to be able to snap as many photos as possible in the brief seconds in which these events occur. Therefore a high frame rate is especially important to any bird photographer and should be high on the list of desired options in a camera. Cameras to consider for their frame rate include:
Solid high ISO performance in low light is often near the top of anyone’s wishlist when it comes to a new camera, and it’s not too different for bird photographers. While you are typically shooting bird photography during the mornings and afternoons within the 100 to 800 ISO range, there may be situations when photography takes you into blue hour at 1600 or even 3200. This obviously depends on your lens aperture as well as your personal artistic preference, but having a camera with good high ISO performance will increase your flexibility.
Most major camera makers make sturdy and well-made cameras, but there are some elements of the camera that you need to be conscious of when you are using it outdoors. Not all cameras are built for the elements or tough enough to withstand outdoor use. Take a look at camera brands and bodies that specialize in making camera bodies for nature photography or outdoor use.
Hopefully, all of these options gave you a good idea of what the best cameras for bird photography look like so that you can move on to building a camera gear kit to take with you as you head out to shoot.