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Best kit for wildlife photography

May 6, 2022

Wildlife photography is a very popular but demanding genre, you’ll need the right kind of kit in order to capture those elusive wildlife moments. In our guide below, we run through the best kit including cameras, lenses and accessories every wildlife photographer should have.

Best kit for wildlife photography – Cameras

Obviously you’re going to need a camera – but which kind? You may be immediately drawn towards a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera, but for wildlife photography, there’s an advantage of using cameras with a smaller sensor. The “crop factor” means that the focal length of any lens you attach will be extended. For example, if you use a Micro Four Thirds camera and attach a 300mm lens, that instantly becomes 600mm and gets you closer to the action. 

There are a couple of other functions you might want to consider if you do a lot of wildlife photography. First up is a fast frame rate – if you’re photographing a quick moving animal, being able to shoot many frames per second (fps) is beneficial. Something which has a quiet, or better yet, silent shutter mode is also good if you’re shooting something reasonably close in a quiet environment and don’t want to startle whatever you’re photographing. 

A fast and efficient autofocus will help capture fast moving subjects, look for a system that has a good coverage of focus points.

Having a weather sealed camera body is also essential, particularly if you are spending alot of time outside whatever the weather.

The Nikon D850 boasts a 153-point autofocus system

The Nikon D850 boasts a 153-point autofocus system

For DSLRs, you can apply a 1.5 or 1.6x crop, so a 300mm lens becomes 450 or 480mm. That’s not to say of course that you can’t use a full-frame camera, you’ll just need to invest in longer lenses – or teleconverters – to get the same kind of reach.

The best DSLR cameras for wildlife include Nikon D850, Nikon D500Canon EOS 7D Mark II.

Full-frame mirrorless options include Nikon Z 7II and Nikon Z 6 II. As well as professional options designed for sports and wildlife such as Sony A1, Sony A9 II, Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Canon EOS R3. Read our Canon EOS R3 Vs Sony Alpha 1 and A9 II review.

Micro Four Thirds options include the Olympus OM System OM-1Olympus OM-D E-M1X and Panasonic Lumix G9

Telephoto lenses can be very expensive, so if you’re just starting out in wildlife photography, a bridge camera can be a good compromise as you’ll get a huge zoom range for a fraction of the cost. See the best bridge cameras here.

Best kit for wildlife photography – Lenses

AF-S-Nikkor-300mm-f4E-PF-VR-ED

The best focal length depends on how close you can get to your subject. If you’re forced to keep your distance then a longer focal length will serve you much better, aim for somewhere around the 300mm or 400mm range. Add a 1.4x or 2x converter to increase the magnification, see more about these later in this article.

Telephoto zoom lenses are the obvious choice for wildlife photographers as they allow you to get close to the action without actually having to be near a timid (or dangerous) animal. You can choose between a telephoto zoom lens, or a prime telephoto lens, such as the Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM lens. Generally speaking, zoom lenses tend to be a little cheaper, but don’t offer a bright or wide aperture.

If you’re interested in insect photography as well, a macro lens is an obvious purchase, while you can also get some nice wildlife shots with wider angle lenses. For instance if you’re photographing a field replete with deer. Have a think about the type of wildlife photography you’re most likely to be shooting. Perhaps also think about hiring a lens to try it out before you commit.

Having a telephoto lens that provides a versatile zoom coverage also saves the hassle of changing lenses in the field, which could possibly result in a missed shot or spook your subject. Great examples include:

Extensive Telephoto Zooms

If a telephoto zoom covering an equivalent focal range of 100-400mm doesn’t get you as close to your subjects as you’d like, you’ll want to consider a lens with a broader zoom range. The following lenses are extensive telephoto zooms, which typically offer a focal length up to 600mm and beyond and give us a better chance of capturing shots of wildlife that can get perturbed by our presence.

See our full list of the best lenses for wildlife and nature photography.

8 affordable telephoto lenses for wildlife photography

Best lenses for mirrorless systems

Teleconverter

Teleconverter

If you’re shooting something in the distance and even a 400mm lens can’t quite get there, a teleconverter is your friend. Teleconverters are also a great option to add to a lens you may already have, especially if you are just getting into wildlife photography and don’t want to purchase a new lens. A teleconverter is placed in between the camera and lens to increase the focal length up to 2x. The downside of using one of these means the maximum aperture will be narrower when using a teleconverter – that can have an impact on the autofocusing capability of some cameras.

Teleconverters are available for most cameras from camera and third-party manufacturers. Examples include the Canon Extender RF 1.4x and Canon Extender RF 2x and the Nikon Z Teleconverter TC-1.4x and Z Teleconverter TC-2.0x

Best kit for wildlife photography – Camera bags

The Vanguard VEO Adapter S46 is a top quality backpack that's comfortable and highly protective of your kit

The Vanguard VEO Adapter S46 is a top quality backpack that’s comfortable and highly protective of your kit

Your bag choice may often depend on the type of photography you do. For wildlife photography it’s likely you’ll be stopping in one place to set up and take your images. But you also need to move around and your gear may be heavy. For that reason a backpack or rucksack makes the most sense. Make sure if you have long telephoto lenses that the bag has enough space inside to fit the lens, or lenses if you have more than one.

Best rear-loading backpacks – Amateur Photographer

Best kit for wildlife photography – Accessories

Tripods 

Giottos MT-9242 Tripod

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s likely you’ll be staying in one place for wildlife photography, and if you’re using telephoto lenses, a tripod is pretty much essential.

Look for a tripod which is sturdy and offers plenty of support for both your camera and the lens attached to it. Check its maximum load bearing weight to make sure it can handle it. If your budget stretches to it, consider a carbon fibre tripod like the MeFoto GlobeTrotter travel tripod as this should be relatively light weight while still being strong enough to support your gear.

The head, whether attached or purchased separately, needs to be a ball and socket type of tripod as it’s likely you’ll be making quick movements. This kind of socket allows for speed and fluidity.

Take a look at our essential guide to tripods.

Bean Bags

long-lens-beanbag for wildlife photography

A bean bag can also help you out when you need to rest your camera lens against something to keep it steady when a tripod isn’t necessarily practical. For instance, if there’s a conveniently placed wall, or a dedicated photography hide. You could also use them when shooting from your car if you’re lucky enough to spot a subject near a convenient parking location.

Binoculars

Prostaff_3s_binoculars

You’ll probably spend a high proportion of your time on a wildlife photography shoot just waiting. And waiting. You could look through your camera’s viewfinder, or shoot on live view, but it makes much more sense to use a pair of binoculars and save your camera’s battery. A decent pair of binoculars will help you to scan the scene to find your subjects. Plus, sometimes nice to put the camera down and watch.

Batteries

ENEL14a battery pack best kit for wildlife photography

Given that it’s a waiting game, extra batteries can be useful if you’re out all day shooting and your battery runs out. It can also be quite cold when you’re shooting wildlife so keeping a spare battery warm and ready to go can help you out.

The secret to long battery life – Top 15 Tips!

Memory cards

You’ll also want to invest in some fast memory cards that can keep up with shooting at fast frame rates, as well as hold enough storage. We recommend having extra memory cards where possible. Check out our ultimate guide to memory cards.

Back up drive

Backing up your card using a back-up device is also highly recommended if you can. The WD My Passport Wireless Pro is a good example of something you can easily fit in your camera bag for backing-up on the move without the need for a computer.

See more here: Best portable hard drives for photographers

Rain cover

thinktank raincover best kit for wildlife photography

If you’re lucky enough to be shooting in the great British outdoors, a weatherproof camera is a good idea. However if you don’t have one, or you want to get a bit of extra peace of mind, a rain cover like the ThinkTank Emergency Rain Cover is a good option. Ideally, look for one which not only fits your lens but still offers a good view of the rear LCD screen.

View more accessories for wildlife photographers here.

Clothing

At the risk of sounding like an overbearing parent – make sure you wrap up warm. Wildlife photography often involves sitting around for long periods of time in one position – even in mild conditions it can quickly get cold. Not to mention, wet.

Furthermore, you might want to invest in some camouflage clothing to help you to blend into your surroundings – especially useful when photographing meek animals. Alternatively, you can even pick up jackets which have been designed for photographers, such as the COOPH Field Jacket.

COOPH field jacket full. Clothing best kit for wildlife photography

There can be a lot of moisture around in the mornings, and just walking through long grass will be enough to get your legs soaked. Waterproofs will mean you stay dry, particularly if you are going to be lying down to photograph from ground level.

Keeping your hands warm is also a must. Gloves will be essential during the Winter months as well as colder spells in Autumn and Spring. You can get some great waterproof pairs that are warm, but thin enough to operate a camera with. Consider a hat also!

Shoes

You really don’t want to be scrabbling around in a pair of old shoes or trainers. Dedicated walking shoes are a must – they’ll grip better, support your feet more and keep them far warmer especially if they are waterproof.

Take a look at our latest buyers guides and reviews for more inspiration.


Now you have all the gear, take a look at how to get better wildlife photos:

Get great shots of winter wildlife in low light

Get great autumn wildlife shots

How to get great lighting for your wildlife shots

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