Choosing the right wildlife photography equipment is the first step to taking stunning photographs of wildlife. What you choose to buy matters a lot, so we will cover some of the basics to get you going.
Wildlife Photography Equipment: Camera Body
A DSLR camera body is a must for wildlife photography. It gives you greater control over the shots you take and enables you to easily change lenses.
Entry level DSLR’s can be bought for around $500. They produce excellent images and are a great place to start. The Canon EOS Rebel T5 (1200D) is Canon’s latest entry level DSLR which also shoots full HD video.
If you have the budget then professional DSLR’s are faster and more rugged, but this comes at a price. At the top end of the scale there is the Canon 1DX which costs over $6000!
I tend to buy used cameras. You can get Canons 1d Mk II for around $400. This is quite dated now but is still a fantastic professional camera.
If you’re on a budget then spend much more on lenses than on your camera body.
When planning what wildlife photography equipment to purchase, your choice of lens is far more important than your choice of camera body. You should spend the majority of your budget on lenses.
Other than the obvious image quality, some of the things to look for when buying a lens are:
- Fast focusing so that you don’t miss that perfect moment.
- Quiet focusing so that you’re not making too much noise and scare the wildlife away.
- Wide aperture so that you can get a good depth of field and shoot in lower light conditions.
- Build quality as you can often be shooting in wet or dirty conditions.
With wildlife photography no lens is long enough! You’ll often find yourself shooting at the maximum end of any zoom lens that you have. Aim to have a lens of at least 300mm, especially for bird photography. We reveal the ideal lens for bird photography here.
You can get away with less if you’re photographing large mammals such as red deer, but even then you’ll find yourself restricted.
If you’re keen to photograph dragonflies, butterflies, or an entire mini world, then you need a macro photography lens. Macro lenses allow you to focus very closely and fill the entire frame with a small insect.
A good macro lens will allow you to capture the detail of the hairs on a butterfly. Click here to discover more about macro photography lenses.
When buying wildlife photography equipment, once you have bought your camera body and lenses, there are plenty of situations where you will also need a good quality tripod:
- When light is low (often the case with wildlife photography), shutter speed is also low and even the slightest movement of the lens will result in blurred images. The tripod will keep the camera still and therefore result in sharper images.
- To support a heavy long lens, especially for long periods of time.
- For long exposures.
When budgeting for wildlife photography equipment many people avoid buying a tripod, or just buy a cheap one but this isn’t a good idea. A cheap tripod will not do the job and will still result in blurred images.
Things to look for:
It must be sturdy enough to support your camera and lens otherwise there is little point.
If it has a centre column then it should be removable otherwise it gets in the way when trying to shoot low.
Consider the weight of the tripod, remembering that you may have to carry it around for some time. Carbon fiber tripods are lighter but cost more than aluminium ones.
Ensure that it has pivoted legs, to allow you to get down as low as possible.
Ensure that it has the ability to attach an external head, such as the Wimberley head which is pretty much a de-facto standard for long lenses, although it is expensive.
Ensure that it has a maximum height so that you can use it comfortably without bending your legs. Most of the time you’ll be getting down low with your tripod, but there are occasions where you’ll use it at full height.
Flash Photography Equipment
If you’re a wildlife photographer but not using flash then you’re missing a trick! Whether you use it to fill in detail or to create a catch-light in the eye, our flash photography tips page will get you going.
To get started you’ll need a flashgun – click here to cut through all of the jargon and discover exactly what to look for when buying one.