If you’re ready to make the exciting transition from observing birds to photographing them, you might be a bit overwhelmed when looking for a camera. From the Nikon D850 to the Sony a9, there is a huge variety to choose from. The first step into the universe of birda photography is to choose the camera body and lens that will work best for capturing photos in your specific area of interest. You might be looking to capture birds in flight, or perhaps you want to photograph them in specific locations. Either way, it’s vital to choose the right gear for the most outstanding results.
No gear combination can cover all the photographic bases on every occasion. However, you can thoughtfully consider your most-favoured areas of interest and set your expectations to land on a kit that will deliver quality images to your standards. Let’s discuss your options for the best camera for bird photography.
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What Are the Options for Bird Photography?
The best camera for bird photography will depend on your experience level. If you’re just getting started and your experience is mostly limited to snapshots on your phone, your best option is a “bridge” camera. These are models that have integrated body-lens designs, perfect for making the jump from birdwatching to bird photography.
If you have some photography experience but are still new to bird photography, you’d likely do well with a DX crop sensor body, especially with a solid zoom lens. You might also want to do more in-depth research on the best focal length for bird photography. If you’re a more serious enthusiast you might go with a Canon or Nikon, ranging anywhere from 400mm to 800mm prime lens. With this grouping, you’ll be able to capture every photographic opportunity, from still birds to those in flight. You should consider both DSLR and mirrorless full-frame options.
See also: Best focal length for bird photography
The Best Cameras for Bird Photography
1. Canon Powershot SX70 HS
The Canon Powershot SX70 HS is the latest model in this line. It has a better, higher resolution image sensor than its predecessor, as well as a 65x zoom. It also features an electric viewfinder which you find with other higher-end cameras.
2. Nikon Coolpix P1000
Nikon’s P1000 is the latest model in the long-running Coolpix series, which is well-known for being a quality line of digital compact cameras. The Nikon Coolpix P1000 features an impressive 125x optical zoom which gets you a 35mm-equivalent focal range from 24mm up to 3,000mm. It also includes a Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction system, which stabilises movements so you get clear photos every time.
3. Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV
Despite the mid-line price tag, the Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV is among the best in its class. It can shoot up to 24 frames per second thanks to its 1-inch image sensor and phase-detection focus. You can photograph birds both close up or at a distance with the 25x zoom which gives you a 600mm reach.
1. Canon EOS 7D Mark II
The Canon EOS 7D Mark II has stood the test of time. Despite entering the market in 2014 and sporting an APC-C crop sensor, it’s still a favourite in the bird photography world. It includes dual DIGIC processors which deliver continuous shooting of over 1,000 JPEG images and 31 RAW photos. Plus, it has a reliable phase-detection AF system that allows you to capture any bird in flight.
2. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
If you’re getting serious about photography and want to take your images to the next level, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a great choice. It’s one of the best full-frame cameras for bird photography options. It has a similar configuration to that of the Canon 7D Mark III but delivers better shots. It has a 30.4MP resolution sensor and uses a Dual Pixel CMOS sensor that yields better autofocus results. It also has an ISO range which you can adjust up to 32000. You can easily shoot outdoors thanks to the low weight of this camera, plus you can check out a live view as your capture photos via the LCD monitor.
3. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Canon’s EOS-1D X Mark II was released in 2016, but they continue to innovate and build on this camera. The newest version can capture 16 frames per second (FPS) in Live View mode or 14 FPS with full AF/AE tracking with a burst rate of 170 RAWs with a CFast card. This camera offers incredibly detailed photos as it has a 20.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and dual DIGIC 6+ image processors. With this camera, you also get reduced color noise and impressive dynamic range.
4. Nikon D500
The Nikon D500 is the DX flagship. Despite its streamlined camera body, it has the processing power and technical tools to capture challenging photos of birds in motion. This includes 10 FPS shutter speed and auto-focus tracking. The camera also has a 20.9 megapixel CMOS sensor to capture details and colors, as well as a 20k autofocus system with 153 AF points, creating amazing image quality.
5. Nikon D850
The Nikon D850 doesn’t live up to the shutter speed of the D500 at 7 FPS, but it makes up for this with its 45.4 megapixel RAW file size. It provides impressive resolution with a 45.7 megapixel back-side illuminated CMOS sensor, which achieves amazing image quality with enhanced lighting and truer color. In other words, even photos taken at a distance will appear with exquisite detail.
6. Nikon D7500
The Nikon D7500 is a great step up from beginner or consumer cameras. It doesn’t have the same performance features as the D500, but it comes at a much lower price point. However, it has the same Expeed 5 image processing engine and 20.9 MP DX-format image sensor as the D500. It offers up to 8 FPS continuous shooting for 50 RAW images, making it effective for capturing birds in flight.
1. Fujifilm X-T30
The Fujifilm C-T30 is smaller and lighter than previous models but offers similar performance. This includes a phase-detection AF system with close to 100% frame coverage and continuous shooting of up to 30 FPS. If you have less experience with photographing birds, its Advanced SR Auto function will optimize your settings to suit the scene, so you’ll get a great photo every time without worrying about adjusting the camera functions.
2. Olympus OM-D E-M1X
The Olympus OM-D E-M1X is a pro-level camera that includes exciting features like world-leading image stabilization and AI-based Intelligent Subject Detection AF for smooth, clear photos. It includes a 15 FPS mechanical shutter burst and a 60 FPS electronic shutter capture. The camera is also lightweight, compact, and weather-sealed so it can face the elements.
3. Panasonic LUMIX GH5
The Panasonic LUMIX GH5 is known as a revolutionary hybrid photo and video camera, and it certainly delivers on the still photo aspect. It has a 20.3-megapixel micro four-thirds sensor with no low pass filter, so images are sharp. It offers 12 FPS and 60 FPS in terms of continuous shooting specs. Plus, the body’s weather-sealing makes it dust and splashproof, perfect for taking outdoors.
4. Sony a7 III
The Sony a7 III offers higher-end features for a mid-tier price tag. Released in 2018, the camera can shoot 10 frames per second and includes a 24-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. It also has 693 phase-detection AF points with 93% image coverage. With a long-lasting battery worth up to 710 images per charge and weighing in at just 1.7 pounds, the Sony A7 III is ideal for bird photography on the go.
5. Sony a9
The Sony a9 includes an autofocus system with 693 AF points that can cover 93% of the frame. When you use its electronic shutter, there’s no vibration or shutter blackout. In fact, it’s the world’s first blackout-free camera with continuous shooting up to 20 FPS. You won’t scare away any birds with this silent camera even if you’re taking photos in rapid-fire style. It includes a Z battery which holds about 2.2 times the capacity of W batteries, making it long-lasting.
Round-Up: The Best Cameras for Bird Photography
So, what really is the best camera for bird photography? It depends on what you’re looking for! We’ve named a top camera in each category below. If you are looking for the best app to share your bird photography. That’s easy!
Start sharing your bird photography with a worldwide community of like-minded bird lovers on Birda. Log, identify, share and compete. Join now. It’s free!
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Best Bridge Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000
The Nikon Coolpix P1000 is the best point-and-shoot camera for bird photography.
- Easy to use
- Can shoot RAW
- Features image stabilisation
- 125x zoom for 3000mm
- Wireless file-sharing
- It will require a tripod for high zoom videos
Best Full-Frame DSLR Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
This camera is by far the best full-frame camera for bird photography thanks to its impressive list of technical advantages.
- Continuous shooting up to 7 FPS
- 61-point autofocus system
- Lights up focus points in red
- Excellent performance in low light
- DCI 4K video
- No output for HDMI 4K
Best Crop Sensor DSLR Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
This camera is by far the best crop sensor camera for bird photography thanks to its impressive list of technical advantages.
- Continuous shooting up to 10 FPS
- 65-point autofocus system
- Crop sensor increases lens magnification by 1.6X e.g. 100-400mm lens acts like a 160-640mm lens
- No built in wireless file-sharing (requires Canon Wi-Fi Adapter W-E1)
Best Mirrorless Camera: Sony a7 III
The Sony a7 III ranks as the best full-frame mirrorless camera due to its impressive setup that captures even the most minute details in all lighting for clear, sharp photos.
- Silent shutter
- 693 autofocus points
- Up to 10 FPS continuous shooting
- SteadyShot in-body stabilization
- Impressive sensor
- Excellent battery life
- Fewer equipment options compared to Nikon and Canon
- Dedicated battery charger not included
See also: Garden bird photography
A Final Note on Lenses
Once you figure out your camera set up, you’ll need to choose a lens. Some may even argue that the lens is the most crucial part of your setup, as it will ultimately determine how your photos turn out. Take a look at our article ‘Best Focal Length for Bird Photography’ for help making this decision.
Choosing the best lens can get confusing, but all you really need to focus on is getting a durable lens with good quality glass and zoom. It’s always helpful to check what other people think of a lens in the reviews – this can help you figure out if a lower-priced lens holds up under real-life use. In terms of zoom, be sure to research whether images are still good quality at high magnifications, as some cheap lenses only provide good photos at lower zoom.
At the end of the day, choosing the best camera for bird photography comes down to your personal skill level and preference. Whether you go with a Sony a9 or a Nikon D500 – or something in between – you’ll be glad you invested in the hobby of bird photography.