Guide to buying a DSLR for Wildlife Photography

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In this guide I cover the most important specs to consider when purchasing a DSLR for Wildlife photography.

Mirrorless or DSLR?

Over the last few years we have seen mirrorless cameras come along way, and while the gap between mirrorless and DLSRs is closing, DSLR Cameras remains the best choice for wildlife photography. DSLRs are still able to offer better overall Auto Focus performance, faster continuous shooting with larger buffers, better ISO capabilities and increasing availability of long telephoto lenses. All these benefits help with capturing wildlife in action.

Full Frame or Crop Sensor (APS-C)?

Full Frame cameras offer the benefit that they tend to offer better ISO performance in low light, as the larger sensor allows the camera to receive more light. As a lot of wildlife photography is carried out during dusk or dawn when lighting  might be limited, good ISO performance is one of the most important things to consider.

Another important factor in wildlife photography is telephoto length, allowing you to photograph subjects that are in the distance.  APS-C cameras have a smaller sensor that give a crop factor, which is normally around 1.5x your lenses focal length; thus extending your equivalent focal length. For example, a 300mm lens on a 1.5x APS-C camera offers the equivalent focal length of 450mm. This extended telephoto reach can help increase the chances of photographing animals in the distance.  However, full frame cameras with a higher megapixel count allow for the user to crop the images later, or enable a crop mode within camera to offer an extended reach.

Crop sensor cameras are normally cheaper than full frame cameras, which allows the photographer to invest more money in higher quality lenses.


Auto Focus Performance

Your cameras auto focus importance is extremely important when it comes to wildlife photography.  A good auto focus system will be able to quickly and accurately track moving animals, while coping with bushes or branches that come between the subject and the camera.

When you are checking a cameras auto focus system there are a few things to look at. Firstly, the number of auto focus points. These cross-type points allow the camera to focus on different areas, and the higher number of AF points available, the more accurate the focusing system tends to be. The type of auto focus methods available is also important, newer AF systems with less AF points will out perform an older AF system with more AF points.  New AF technologies such as 3D tracking may offer you more accurate methods of tracking animals in motion.

Good auto focus systems can be found in both full frame and crop sensor DSLRs.
Lenses also play an important factor in determining your cameras focusing ability. Cheap telephoto lenses tend to suffer from poor AF, with slow turning motors and inaccurate focusing. Whereas more expensive professional telephoto lenses, offer fast AF motors, and smarter AF algorithms that lets the lens focus faster. These more expensive lenses also feature better quality optics, that produce sharper photographs.

Continuous Shutter Speed – Frames per second and buffer
When photographing wildlife you will find it best to use a continuous shooting mode, to rapidly fire off your cameras shutter button so that you can take a series of photographs.
The higher the frames per second, the higher chance you have at photographing animals in action. Another important factor is the buffer, which is the number of frames your camera can store before it needs to process them.  Larger files, such as RAWs or high megapixel files can cause the buffer to fill up more quickly. However you can increase your cameras buffer size by using memory cards that offer a faster read and write speed.


As mentioned, the cameras ISO performance plays a huge part in wildlife. The higher the ISO, the more noise produced on the sensor. Full frame cameras normally create better ISO results, however with the recent advances in ISO technology some ASP-C cameras such as the Nikon D500 are also capable of achieving higher ISOs with minimal noise.

Before purchasing a camera, make sure to check its noise performance so that you can make sure you will be purchasing a camera suitable for low light performance.

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  • Ithfifi
    September 20, 2017

    This is such a helpful guide, thank you! I was looking into DSLR’s a short while ago and so many guides and websites left me more confused than to start with. You have a fantastic way of explaining things 🙂

  • Josselyn Radillo
    September 21, 2017

    This is such a helpful guide, now I know what to but to my bf!! thanks for explain it so well.

  • Courtney Blacher
    September 21, 2017

    These tips are really useful. And photos you make are great. Thank you for sharing.

  • Cia Black
    September 21, 2017

    These are great pointer for photographers and not just for shooting wildlife.

  • acheerymind
    September 21, 2017

    I am actually looking at new camera for my travel photography. So your article comes handy 🙂 I will need to check out those DSLR Cameras!

  • TheMrsTee
    September 22, 2017

    This is such a great guide for anyone looking to purchase a DSLR for something specific such as wildlife photography! Your images prove you know what you’re talking about!

  • Erica Schwarz
    September 22, 2017

    I have a DSLR and I barely know how to use it! But the auto features make it so easy and takes amazing photos, wildlife included.

  • Menaka Bharathi
    September 22, 2017

    I need to buy one for my husbands birthday and was looking for specifications. Thanks for this informative post

  • Techfern Websolutions
    September 22, 2017

    DSLR .. is the one who capture most amazing pictures!! but after seeing all your pics i recommend all to but this !! thanks for sharing

  • platformsandpacifiers
    September 22, 2017

    What a great guide!! A great camera really makes all the difference!

  • Kiwi
    September 22, 2017

    These are great photography tips. Didnt know about mirrorless cameras.

  • afroz261
    September 22, 2017

    I wish i had read this post a month before:( I brought my first dslr last month only.
    Such excellent post on dslr. I am very much interested in food photography for my food blog.

  • Nadine (@WhatNadineLVS)
    September 22, 2017

    I have to admit, even though I am a blogger and should know a little bit about photography, I know nothing about DSLR. I want to buy a new camera soon and learn a little bit when I have it.

  • nicoleflintkontrol
    September 22, 2017

    These are great tips! I had no clue about mirrorless cameras.

  • eclectickristal
    September 23, 2017

    Loving the camera detail.I love having a fresh camera in my hands and being able to work it out..

  • Courtney Klimka
    September 24, 2017

    You’re photography is absolutely incredible! So crisp and vibrant! I don’t know very much about cameras so this was really interesting!

  • Renuka
    September 24, 2017

    This is such a helpful post. I love photography but always found wildlife photography really intimidating. But you have put everything in a very easy and understandable way. And by the way really amazing photographs here

  • elenasts
    September 24, 2017

    These are great tips. I am obsessed with photography and I cannot wait to go somewhere to take photos. FOr some reason I lack inspiration when I am at home.

  • lucicoo
    September 24, 2017

    Really great tips. Mobile phones have gotten better when it comes to takes pictures so much so they look professional.

  • Akshay Malhotra
    September 25, 2017

    I so much wanted to buy DSLR camera and these tips will guide me to buy it with confidence now cause now I know what to look for while purchasing a brand new DSLR camera. Anyone who is into photography will find this page so useful. Very well written Glad I came across 🙂

  • Elizabeth O
    September 25, 2017

    What a great tips. This is such a right timing. I am planning to buy a DSLR camera. I will find your tips really helpful for me.

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