Featured Image by Yichun Lu on Unsplash
Birdwatching is one of the greatest underrated hobbies around. There’s a certain beauty in its simplicity, and an undeniable sense of serenity gained through an afternoon of quiet, relaxing birding. If you’re a fan of birdwatching, chances are you want to take some impressive photographs to showcase the unique creatures you’ve spotted. To do this, you’re going to need the best camera for birding.
To get the most out of your birding experience, we highly recommend picking up a quality bird watching camera with a few key features. Considering that most birds are going to be spotted in the trees, and most of your photographs are going to contain a plethora of vivid colors, you need a large sensor with a high megapixel count to capture a wide dynamic range. This will allow the bright and majestic bird colors to really shine in the captured images.
Another key feature when choosing the best birding camera is 4K video capabilities. Many birding enthusiasts love to take videos of the birds while they chirp and flutter between tree branches. To get the best image quality, you want a camera that supports sharp 4K video.
Now let’s do some digging and find the best camera for bird photography for you!
Check Out the 5 Best Cameras for Birdwatching
1. Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera
It’s hard to compete with Canon. Their lineup of impressive SLR cameras are some of the best in industry, and the EOS 7D Mark II is at the top of its class. For birding, this camera has it all. A large sensor, great ISO ratings, serious autofocus, a smart viewfinder, and so much more.
When it comes to getting expert snapshots of birds in flight, the 7D Mark II’s 65-point AF does so amazingly. You can be assured every shot will be superbly focused, even in low-light situations. And while there is no 4K, the HD video shooting still produces movie-quality video, great for recording birds in the trees.
One of the key features with the Mark II is its intelligent viewfinder, which is simple to use even for amateurs. You never have to look away from the viewfinder while changing settings and modes. Considering the ease of this camera and its incredible autofocusing, any birding enthusiast will be happy with this baby in their camera bag.
- Incredibly powerful sensor
- AF system is huge
- Shoots video like a camcorder
- Viewfinder is surprisingly intelligent
- Works with a Wi-Fi adapter in SD slot
- Allows high-speed shooting up to 10fps
- Camera is a little heavy
- Not so ergonomic
2. Nikon D850 SLR Camera
The Nikon D850 SLR is a birding camera at superpowered levels. As the most expensive unit on our list, you can expect the D850 to outperform in every way imaginable. The camera has one of the best sensors ever designed, back-side illuminated with a capacity of 45.7 megapixels. This translates into enhanced image quality like you’ve never seen before.
With high resolution comes high speed. The EXPEED 5 works to process your data at lightning speeds, producing a huge dynamic range of color and extremely sharp details. You also get continuous shooting at 9 frames per second and 4K UHD video recording that is next level, allowing you to sit back and record birds in their natural environment.
The autofocus has 153 points, which means all you need is to push the button when you spot the bird in flight and the camera does the rest. You can even focus on quick-moving birds at dusk or dawn with the D850’s phenomenal handling of low light. This is definitely the best premium camera.
- BSI full-frame sensor
- 7 megapixels w/ massive dynamic range
- Full-frame 4K video recording
- Unbeatable ISO rating down to 32
- Shoots continuously @ 9fps
- Slow-motion @ 120fps
- Super Expensive
- No built-in flash
3. Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Camera
Say hello to the best point and shoot camera for birding. Not only does the FZ1000 from Panasonic come with all the crucial features you need in a birding camera, but it also comes at a reasonable price for any level of hobbyist.
You get remote shooting with Wi-Fi, allowing you to leave the camera set on a tripod while you control it from a distance. You can even use filter effects directly with the camera after taking a shot. If somehow you get close enough to a bird, you can use the FZ1000 for macro photography all the way up to 3cm.
Image stabilization has never been better thanks to the 5-axis correction. Onehanded shooters will rejoice at this feature since it takes away any possible blur when using just one hand. But the features don’t stop there. The Lumix FZ1000 offers 4K video shooting for ultra-realistic movies, including 120fps slow-motion recording and very crisp sound.
More, birding lovers will appreciate the massive 1” sensor and 20.1 megapixels, bringing the birds they see in nature to life at home on their computer or smartphone. This is definitely a great camera that anyone can pick up, point, and shoot while out birdwatching.
- Huge 1” MOS sensor w/ 20.1MP
- 4K video capabilities
- Specialized lens stabilizing system
- Smartphone connectable via Panasonic app
- Incredibly snappy AF + macro photography
- Loads of Panasonic accessories
- No convenient touchscreen
- Camera body is pretty large
4. Nikon COOLPIX P900 Digital Camera
The COOLPIX P900 is a pretty cool digital camera. It only has 16 megapixels and a standard sensor, but it makes up for the lack of pixels in its extreme range of zoom. This impressive camera comes with a 2,000mm focal length of zoom, filling your entire frame with tiny birds you can’t even see with your naked eye. If you’re perched on a cliff, hiding in the brush, or otherwise trying to snap a shot of faraway birds, this is a great camera for you.
The P900 is also simplistic in its design, easy to use for the freshest birding photographer. The LCD swivels for convenience, while the eye-level viewfinder offers clear resolution for framing your shots. These two features allow you to play with funky angles and different modes of snapping photos of your favorite birds.
A big feature birding lovers will enjoy is the built-in GPS. You can keep track of the exact location where you snapped the photo of that elusive bird, allowing you to go back later for seconds or track their daily movements.
- Price is very reasonable
- Ideal for long-distance birding
- 83x optical zoom + 166x fine zoom
- Integrated Wi-Fi & NFC
- Swiveling LCD + EVF
- Great settings for advanced photographers
- No RAW formatting
- Only 16MP
5. Sony a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera
No list is complete without at least one high-quality Sony camera. The a6500, succeeded recently by the outrageously priced a6600, comes with everything you need for the perfect day birding. The APS-C sensor is great with 24.2 megapixels. Then you get the advanced ISO power that allows dusk and dawn birding photography without any issues.
A big bonus with the a6500 is how rugged it is. Although I wouldn’t suggest it, you could probably toss it down a few rocky hillsides, brush it off, and then keep shooting as if nothing happened. It has sealing around all of the important parts, completely resistant to dust and moisture. Plus, its magnesium alloy body is super tough.
The a6500 is compatible with a large array of different lenses. It has effective 5-axis image stabilization, great for birdwatchers with shaky hands, or who like to snap quick photos. The optical viewfinder offers continuous shooting at a striking 8fps, while the 4K video recording gives you an amazing 35mm format with 2.4x oversampling for movie quality that is equivalent to 6K.
The best feature is definitely the 4D focus. Sony is promising with their a6500 that you receive the fastest AF acquisition in the world, locking onto a subject in roughly 0.05 seconds. That’s faster than you can blink! For catching birds in flight, the a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera from Sony is a superstar option at a reasonable price.
- Unbelievable image quality
- Very intuitive features
- Compact and comfortable to hold
- Autofocus is truly amazing for birdwatching
- Effective image stabilization
- 4K movie making
- The touchscreen is subpar
- Sensor is not very big
The five cameras we just reviewed are the best in the business for birding. You won’t find other cameras better equipped for the art of bird photography. When making your final decision, it is important to understand how serious you are of getting the best photos, which generally translates to how much money you’re willing to spend.
Taking into consideration the extreme importance of having a large sensor to capture maximum light and color, the importance of topnotch autofocus to snapshot birds while they’re in mid-flight, and the life-saving importance of image stabilization to get crystal clear images every time, we would say the Sony a6500 Mirrorless Digital Camera is a smart choice.
This is not only a phenomenal, easy-to-use camera with a durable body and tons of features, but it comes with a powerful sensor, 5-axis image stabilization, silent shooting, the world’s fastest autofocusing, 425 points of AF, and it’s small enough to fit into your pocket. It can also be equipped with the best lenses for even greater performance.
Plus, the Sony a6500 is the last generation, behind the Sony a6600. This means you are going to get the camera at a bargain price.
Another high-class birding camera on our list is the Nikon D850. This is a massive full-frame camera that is going to shoot clear and arresting photographs of birds up close or at a distance using 45.7 megapixels. This is the most expensive model, above the Sony a6500. For a budget model of those interested in starting birding, we suggest the Nikon COOLPIX P900. It’s a great starter camera for birding.
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