Top 10 Best Value Wildlife Photography Cameras

Looking for a great wildlife photography camera? It can be challenging to choose the right gear from all the available options.

What’s important for a wildlife setup: long reach (minimum 500mm equivalent for bird photography), fast autofocus, high continuous shooting rate (nice to have), weather-resistant, and ideally wide aperture (f/5.6 or faster). Tough requirements on a budget!

Here are some “bang for the buck” options:

Micro Four Thirds

With a Micro Four Thirds sensor setup, you sacrifice low-light performance (and megapixels) in exchange for massive weight savings. There’s also the chance to get insane levels of stabilization (body + lens working together).

  • Olympus E-M1 Mark II: 20 megapixels, phase detect autofocus, 121 AF points, 2.36 MP EVF, weather sealed, 5.5 stops of IBIS, 60 fps continuous shooting. $500 used. Combine with an Olympus 75-300mm F/4.8-6.7 II ($300) for a whopping 150-600mm equivalent stabilized setup. Total: $800 used. 
  • Alternatively, pair the E-M1 Mark II with an Olympus 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS lens ($1000 used). That’s 200-800mm equivalent, stabilized, for $1,500!

DSLR (Canon APS-C)

DSLRs can more than hold their own against mirrorless when it comes to fast action / sports / wildlife photography.

  • Canon 40D: 10 megapixels, 6.5 fps continuous, 9 autofocus points, weather resistant. $75 used. Add a Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM lens for $125 and you’ve got a fun kit for $200 total!
  • Canon 7D (Mark 1): 18 megapixels, 8 fps continuous, 19 autofocus points, weather resistant. $250 used. Combine with the legendary Canon EF 400mm F5.6 L USM ($650). Total = $900.
  • Canon 7D (Mark II): 20 megapixels, 10 fps, Dual-Pixel autofocus, 65 AF points, weather resistant. $400 used. Combine with the Canon 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens ($1,400) and you’ve got a world-class kit for $1,800.

DSLR (Nikon APS-C)

  • Nikon D5200: 24 megapixels, 5 fps, 39 AF points. $250 used. Combine with the excellent Nikon AF-P 70-300mm F4.5-6.3G ED VR lens ($150) for a total of $400.
  • Nikon D300: 12 megapixels, 6 fps, 51 AF points. Still great today, and only $150 used. Pair it with the Nikon AF 300mm F4 ED IF ($350) for a grand total of just $500.

Note: choose the first option (D5200) if you want a lighter, compact package without weather-sealing. Go for the D300 kit for a more rugged setup (but considerably heavier and bulkier). 

  • Nikon D7100: 24 megapixels, 6 fps, 51 AF points, weather resistant. $400 used. Combine with Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary ($500). Total = $900.
  • Nikon D7500: 21 megapixels, 8 fps, 51 AF points, weather resistant. $700 used. Combine with the Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 VC G2 ($800 used) for a total of $1,500.
  • Nikon D500: 21 megapixels, 10 fps, 153 AF points, weather resistant, $1000 used. Pair with the excellent (but heavy) Nikon AF-S 200-500mm F5.6 ED VR ($900) for a total of $1,900.

These are just some budget-oriented ideas. If you want to get fancy, wildlife photography can get fancy indeed – with setups easily exceeding $25,000. Something to grow into!

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