There is arguably no subject matter more beautiful than nature itself. From summer meadows among rolling green hills, through to harsh mountainous peaks with icy snow topped caps – nature has it all. We will never cease to be amazed by the stunning regularity that mother nature produces almost incomprehensible beauty perfect for photography.
The way photographers approach nature shoots is often very different to how they approach other subjects. Nature photography is a slow, methodical process. There is no need to rush, the scene will often not be time sensitive and as such you have time to prepare the perfect shot.
Because of slower nature of nature photography, there are some cameras that are better suited to taking nature shots than others. Today we are going to look at our top 5 best cameras for nature photography, that we think are perfect for amateur and professional photographers alike.
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The Absolute Best Camera For Nature Photography – Sony a7R II
Our top pick for the best camera for nature photography is the Sony a7r II. It’s a mirrorless camera that has a huge sensor perfect for capturing all the detail of a majestic landscape shot. It’s more expensive than many other mirrorless cameras but in our opinion its worth every cent for anyone serious about their landscape shots.
The Sony contains the world’s first full frame back-illuminated CMOS sensor. Its massive 42MP sensor is not the biggest on this list, but its more than enough to capture the detail landscape shots demand. The shots it takes are crisp, clear, and capable of competing with some of the mirrored cameras on this list. The sensor is coated with anti-reflective coating and as such does not need to contain a low pass filter. This greatly increases light collection efficiency and results in stunning vivid images.
While it’s not an essential feature for nature photography (you will usually be using a tripod), image stabilization is still something we like to see on cameras of this quality. It makes it perfect for those (admittedly rare) time sensitive moments that don’t allow you to set up your gear properly. Sony’s 5 axis stabilization is some of the best IS technology in the world, and it will prove itself useful time and time again.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
When it was shipped, this camera was surprisingly unable to shoot in uncompressed RAW format. Some compression was taking place and was introducing artifacts into the images. Needless to say, this was not well received by customers, and Sony acted quickly to rectify it. A firmware update was made available which allowed the Sony to take uncompressed RAW images. It’s not difficult to update the firmware, but its an extra bit of hassle we would rather not have to deal with.
The Best Canon Camera For Nature Photography – Canon EOS 5DS R
Our top Canon pick is the Canon EOS 5DS R. It’s a stunning camera that is packed full of features that make it in our opinion one of the best Canon cameras for nature photography that money can buy. It’s not a cheap camera, and it’s a premium product with a premium price tag. But if you can afford the initial investment, we doubt you’ll regret it.
The main thing we like about the Canon is the huge sensor it can boast about. As you will learn in the buyer’s guide later in this article when it comes to landscape photography the bigger sensor the better. You want to be able to capture as much detail as possible, in the highest resolution possible. The massive 50.6-megapixel sensor in this camera is one of the biggest on this list and will allow you to take stunning shots in a high enough resolution for large format print.
Mirror Vibration Control System
A tripod is essential when you are shooting high quality, super high-resolution landscape images. The devil really is in the detail with nature shots, and you need to ensure you have no wobble whatsoever. Even with a tripod, internal mirror vibration is a real issue that can make a shot loose some of its crisp clarity. Canon’s mirror vibration control system largely solves this issue, ensuring perfect shots each and every time.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
The Canon doesn’t have inbuilt image stabilization, which is not a deal breaker, but it’s sorely missed. While we know the vast majority of nature pictures you take will be done using a tripod, sometimes there is opportune time sensitive shots that require handheld shooting. Image stabilization would be worth its weight in gold in these situations, and we would have like to have seen it on the Canon – especially considering the price of the camera.
The Best Compact Camera For Nature Photography – Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 RII
The best compact camera for nature photography on this list is the second Sony we have recommended. It packs many of the features (and the same sensor) of our top pick into a smaller body, but it is missing some functionality. However if you are looking for something capable and portable at the same time, this camera comes highly recommended.
This camera actually has the exact same sensor as the Sony we chose as our number one pick. It’s 42MP which means it will pick out every last bit of detail and capture it with astounding quality.
However, while the sensor is the same, there are a few differences in image quality. These differences are mainly related to the low pass filter. This cameras filter is adjustable, so it can be fine-tuned by the photographer to produce the perfect results depending upon the lighting conditions. This is a tricky thing to get right for many inexperienced photographers, but the automatic LPF setting does just fine if you are still learning.
Zeiss Sonar Lens
The 35mm Zeiss lens on this camera is incredible. Sony and Zeiss worked together closely on this product and the lens has been specifically designed for optimum use with the 42MP sensor. The results speak for themselves with stunning brightness and razor sharp crispness found in abundance.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
The Sony we picked in the top spot has their 5 axis image stabilization technology included in it (which we feel is some of the best in the world). Due to the compact nature of this camera, Sony was unable to include here. Again it’s not a deal breaker considering the nature of nature photography, but we would have liked to have seen it on this product.
The Best Nikon Camera For Nature Photography – Nikon D810
Nikon is arguably the most respected camera manufacturer in the world. Their D180 is one of the highest resolution cameras they produce and is in our opinion the best Nikon camera for nature photography.
The sensor on the Nikon is one of the smallest on this list in terms of resolution. But just because it’s the smallest doesn’t mean it small. Its 36MP in size, which allows for an incredible amount of detail to be captured. More than enough for to capture stunning images of natural landscapes.
What this camera lacks in size it makes up for in speed. Nikon has included their EXPEED 4 image processing chip in this product, and it’s super fast. This is not usually something that is required in nature photography due to its slow methodological nature. But sometimes you need super fast burst shooting to capture wildlife in a scene. The Nikon outperforms every camera on this list in terms of speed, and it’s not something that should be overlooked.
RAW Small Size Option
Despite the advances in storage technology, file size continues to be a reasonably limiting factor for photographers that like to shoot in uncompressed RAW format. Sometimes you don’t need the full 36MP resolution, but you want smaller file sizes and don’t want compression. Nikon’s RAW Small option allows you to take 16MP shots that are uncompressed and use half the space of a full RAW shot.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
There was a thermal noise issue with some of the earlier versions of this product. At long exposure white artifacts would be introduced into the images. Nikon rectified this pretty quickly with a firmware update. So you will need to update the camera’s firmware to ensure you do not encounter this issue.
The Best Cheap Digital Camera For Nature Photography – Sony Alpha a6000
When Sony released the Alpha a6000 we doubt they had any idea of the kind of success they would experience. The camera was portable, capable, and took great shots in a wide range of situations. Since the release of the a6300 and the a6500, the a6000 has dropped in price considerably. This makes it our pick for the best cheap digital camera for nature photography.
The 24MP sensor inside the a6000 may seem a little bit small compared to some of the heavyweights on this page. But don’t be fooled, this is a serious sensor that can capture images at a very high resolution. Unless you are planning on printing images out in large format, you are realistically not going to notice much of a difference most of the time.
It’s an incredibly portable camera that uses Sony’s e-mount technology. This is a proprietary connector, but due to the cameras immense popularity, there are a huge number of compatible lenses.
Many of the best shots are going to be out and about in the wilderness and off the beaten track slightly. Ensuring you have a portable camera that is not going to weigh you down while hiking around looking for shots is something that cannot be underestimated. The a6000 is the lightest and smallest camera on this list, and as such it gets two thumbs up from us.
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
The only limitation we can see with the a6000 is due to its smaller sensor size. Some of the larger cameras on this list take photos in such high resolutions that you can basically crop it however you want. But with the a6000 you will need to be much more careful and selective with your composition. Too much cropping on a 24MP image can result in much lower quality images.
Nature photography is a bit different to many other kinds of photography. It’s a much slower and more technical process.
The landscapes you will be shooting are often not going to change much while you take the time to get out your tripod and set up your equipment perfectly. So while our other guides focus on things like speed and image stabilization, there is only really one concern when it comes to nature photography. Sensor size.
When it comes to nature photography, literally everything else comes second to sensor size. The best images are often taken with incredible detail and clarity from huge sensors with massive megapixel ratings. The crisp images they provide literally makes or breaks a nature shot.
All the other features you would be looking out for on a camera still apply. It’s better to get one with IS than without, wider ISO ranges are better, faster chips are better etc…
But you should almost always choose the biggest sensor you can, everything else is secondary.
So there you have it, 5 of the best cameras for nature photography in the world. We have provided a nice selection here that should cover most budgets and brand loyalties. All of the products on this page are excellent choices.
Nature shots can be some of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring photographs you will ever take. They can take a little bit of time to compose, and require some technical photographic knowledge to shoot correctly. But when you learn, the possibilities are endless and the world becomes your photographic oyster.
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