When you first start out shooting nature photography you can sometimes feel pressured to learn everything at once. When you’re learning, you’ll be trying many different techniques that will provide the foundation for just about everything you’ll ever want to do with your camera. That’s why the best camera for beginner nature photography is one that offers ease of use but enough advanced features for you to grow with it as you develop your skills.
Whether you’re shooting in your garden or at a local nature reserve, you want a camera that can withstand the elements and be capable of capturing a variety of subjects, whether it’s a fast-moving insect or fungi in the low light of a forest floor.
What camera features do beginner nature photographers need?
Many photographers feel they need the best full-frame camera to shoot nature photography, but the best APS-C or Micro Four Thirds format cameras tend to be more affordable and can give you more reach given their crop factor. For instance, a Micro Four Thirds camera has a 2x focal length magnification factor, turning a 300mm lens into a 600mm lens, for example, whereas an APS-C format sensor has a 1.5-1.6x focal length magnification making a 300mm lens look like a 4500mm or 480mm optic. For more on crop factor, check out our guides on when to use APS-C lenses instead of full-frame and our breakdown of APS-C vs full-frame sensors.
When you’re looking at the best beginner cameras, you’ll usually find that their AF systems perform great in good light but may struggle a bit in low light. The best camera for beginner nature photography will have a lot of AF points spread across the frame. You can look for the cameras with the most AF points, but also check how sensitive these AF points are in low light.
Build quality is also important when choosing a camera for nature photography. Because you’ll be shooting outside in all sorts of conditions, the best camera for beginner nature photography should be able to withstand the cold, drizzle, wet grass, muddy fields, even lying down on sandy beaches. You’ll want a camera with a metal alloy body, if your budget allows for it. Also check that your intended camera has weather-proof seals along any joints and around the controls.
The best cameras for beginner nature photography you can buy today
With these factors in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best options for budding nature photographers. We’ve shot with all of these cameras, and you can read our more in-depth reviews, linked below, for a deeper analysis. For a deeper dive into the many different camera types and features available, check out our range of camera buying guides.
- Camera type: Mirrorless
- Sensor: 20.88Mp APS-C / DX (23.5x15.7mm) CMOS
- Processing engine: Expeed 6
- Lens mount: Nikon Z mount
- Sensitivity range: ISO 100-51,200; expands to 204,800
- Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2,360,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
- Screen: Tilting 3.2–inch 1,040,000-dot touchscreen
- Autofocus: Hybrid (phase and contrast detection) AF with 209 AF points, Eye AF and Subject Tracking. Firmware V.20 adds Eye-detection AF for Animals as well as humans
- Continuous Shooting: 11fps with continuous AF and exposure metering
- Video: 4K at 30fps and Full-HD at 120fps
- Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I
- Connectivity: Snapbridge 2.6; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 126.5 x 93.5 x 60 mm / 5 x 3.7 x 2.4-inches
- Weight: 450g / 15.9oz with battery and memory card but without body cap, 395g /14oz body only
The Nikon Z6 and Z7 are great, but not all photographers want a full-frame camera. The Nikon Z50 offers that alternative for Nikon users wanting a mirrorless camera, and it has plenty to offer experienced photographers thanks to a solid build and a comprehensive feature set.
Its autofocus system is excellent and is capable of capturing fast-moving subjects in pin-sharp focus, even in gloomy conditions. Further good news is that the Z50 has both Subject Tracking and Eye AF modes. Eye AF is a must-have feature at the moment and it’s incredibly useful for portraits and social event photography.
Subject Tracking works in Auto-area AF mode and it’s useful for subjects that move erratically. Pressing the OK button in Auto-area AF mode activates a tracking point which is visible on the screen and in the viewfinder.
You then position this box over the subject and press the OK button again to start the tracking. As the subject moves, the Z50 tracks it around the frame, keeping it sharp in Continuous AF mode.
Inside the Nikon Z50 is a new 20.88Mp APS-C format sensor which is paired with the Expeed 6 processing engine. Together, these enable a native sensitivity range for stills of ISO 100-51,200 with expansion settings going all the way up to ISO 204,800. Meanwhile, the video range is ISO 100-25,600.
Thanks to the Expeed 6 processing engine, the Z50 can shoot at up to 11 frames per second with continuous autofocusing and exposure metering. This rate is achieved in Continuous High Plus mode while the maximum rate in Continuous High mode is 5fps.
The Nikon Z50 also delivers great video, capturing 4K at 30fps and Full HD at a range of frame rates.
- Superb build and handling
- AF fast and accurate in low light
- No joystick
- Can't use the screen to set the AF point while you look in the viewfinder
- Camera type: Mirrorless
- Announced: 28th August 2019
- Lens mount: Sony E
- Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS (23.5 x 15.6mm) sensor
- Video: 4K (3840 x 2160) 25/30p video capture with log profiles
- Continuous shooting rate: Hi+: 11fps, Hi: 8fps, Mid: 6fps, Lo: 3fps
- Burst depth: In Hi+ 46 raw files, 99 Extra Fine Jpegs or 44 raw and Jpeg files
- Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body image stabilisation
- Sensitivity: ISO 100-32000 (expandable to ISO 50 – 102400)
- Autofocus : Fast Hybrid AF (phase-detection and contrast-detection each with 425 points), Face Detection and Real-Time Eye AF
- Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2,359,296-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
- Screen: 3-inch 921,600-dot tilting touchscreen
- Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I or Memory Stick PRO Duo, Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo, Memory Stick Micro (M2)
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 120.0 x 66.9 x 69.3mm / 4 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 2 3/4-inches
- Weight: 503g / 1lb 1.8oz with battery and memory card
The Sony A6600 is Sony’s flagship APS-C format mirrorless camera and it’s aimed at enthusiast photographers and videographers who want to shoot in a variety of conditions. It features a 24.2MP Exmor CMOS image sensor, the BIONZ X image processor and a front-end LSI as is implemented in Sony’s full-frame cameras for better enhancements in still and video image quality.
Among the A6600’s impressive feature set is Sony’s innovative 5-axis in-body image stabilisation system that provides a 5.0-step shutter speed advantage.
The Alpha 6600 also delivers an autofocus acquisition time of just 0.02 seconds, with 425 phase-detection AF points covering approximately 84% of the image area and 425 contrast-detection AF points.
Also on-board is Sony’s ‘Real-time Tracking’ and ‘Real-time Eye AF’, the latest version of Sony’s Eye AF technology, which employs AI-based object recognition to detect and process eye data in real-time.
Real-time Eye AF promises improved accuracy, speed and tracking performance of Eye AF for both humans and animals, and allows the photographer to concentrate exclusively on composition. It’s a significant bonus for pet and portrait photography.
High-resolution internal 4K movie recording with full-pixel readout without pixel binning in Super 35mm format is also on-board. You’ll also find built-in interval shooting for time-lapse videos and a 180-degree tiltable, 3.0-type 921k-dot (approx.) LCD touch screen.
It may not have the same shape as the Sony A7 series of full-frame cameras, but the A 6600 has much of the same technology, enabling it to deliver impressive results with a wide range of subjects.
- Very good image and video quality
- Fast, accurate AF system
- Excellent battery life (800+ shots)
- Poorly positioned video record button
- Little use made of the touch control on the tilting rather than vari-angle screen
- Single SD card slot
Canon EOS RP
- Camera type: Mirrorless
- Announced: February 2019
- Lens mount: RF
- Sensor: 26.2Mp full-frame (35.9 x 24mm) CMOS
- Processing engine: Digic 8
- Autofocus system: Phase detection using Dual Pixel CMOS AF with 4,799 focus positions
- Sensitivity range: Stills: ISO 100-40000 expandable to ISO 50-102400, Video: 4K Auto: 100-12800, H2: 102400, Full HD/HD - Auto: 100-25600, H2:102400
- Maximum continuous shooting rate: 5fps until card full with Jpegs or 50 raw files or 4 fps with AF Tracking
- Key video specifications: 4K (3840 x 2160) at 25/23.98fps, Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 59.94/50/29.97/25fps)
- Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2.36-million-dot OLED
- Screen: Vari-angle 3-inch Clear View LCD II touchscreen with 1.04 million dots
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 132.5 x 85.0 x 70.0mm
- Weight: 485g with memory card and battery
Canon has given the EOS RP an impressively-well specified autofocus (AF) system. As you’d expect with Canon, the imaging sensor is a Dual Pixel CMOS AF device, which means that the focusing uses phase detection. That’s usually faster than contrast detection.
The Dual Pixel design means that every photoreceptor is split in two so they can all play a part in focusing. There are 4,779 user-selectable AF points which cover 88% of the width and 100% of the height of the frame.
According to Canon, the RP’s AF system is operational down to -5EV when using an f/1.2 lens. That’s 1 stop behind the EOS R, but impressive nevertheless.
Face and Eye detection is also on hand and the Eye detection works with continuous AF.
- Compact full-frame body
- Vari-angle touchscreen
- Attractively priced
- No joystick for setting the AF point
- Poor battery life
- 1.6x crop applied to 4K video
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV
- Camera type: Micro Four Thirds mirrorless
- Announced: 4th August 2020
- Sensor: Four Thirds Type 20.3Mp Live MOS
- Processing engines: TruePic VIII
- Sensitivity range: ISO 80-25,600
- Viewfinder: 2,360,000-dot electronic with 1.23x magnification and 19.2mm eye point
- Stabilisation: 5-axis with up to 4.5EV shutter speed compensation
- Screen: 3-inch 1,037,000-dot tilting touchscreen
- Focus modes: Manual focus, Single AF, Continuous AF, Single AF + MF, AF Tracking, Super Spot AF, Face Detection AF
- Exposure modes: Programme, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Bulb, Time, i-Auto, Scene Modes, Art Filter, Movie, Live Time, Live Composite, Advanced Photo Modes (Live Composite, Live Bulb, Multiple Exposure, HDR Backlight, Silent, Panorama, Keystone Compensation, AE bracketing, AF bracketing)
- Autofocus system: Contrast detection with up to 121 points
- Autofocus point selection modes: All target, Group target (9-areas), Single target
- Exposure metering: 324 zones Multi-pattern Sensing System with ESP, Spot, Centre weighted, Highlight and Shadow mode
- Art filers: Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Colour, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Line, Water colour, Vintage, Partial Colour, Bleach Bypass, Instant Film
- Shutter speed: 1/16,000-60sec, Bulb to 30mins
- Maximum continuous shooting rate: High: 15 fps Low: 6.3 fps, Max. number of frames: High 42 raw files or 49 (LF) JPGs, Low: 945 raw files or until the card is full with (LF) JPGs
- Video resolution: 4K (3840 x 2160) / 30p, 25p, 24p / IPB (approx. 102 Mbps) Full HD (1920 x 1080) / 30p, 25p, 24p (MOV) Full HD (1920 x 1080) / 60p, 50p / IPB (F,N) / (MOV) HD (1280 x 720) / 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p (MOV)
- Time lapse: 4k, 1080p, 720p
- Flash: Built-in GN 7.2 (ISO200), hotshoe for external flash
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
- Multiple exposure: 2 frames with or without autogain
- Storage: SDHC/SDXC UHS-II
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 121.7x84.4x49mm
- Weight: 383g including battery and SD card
Although the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV can hide amongst compact cameras with smaller sensors, it’s a mirrorless camera that accepts lenses with the Micro Four Thirds mount.
Like other Olympus OM-D camera such as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, it has mini-DSLR styling with its 2,360,000-dot electronic viewfinder at the centre of the top plate. There’s also a 3-inch 1,037,000-dot touch-sensitive LCD on the back of the camera that can be tilted up or down for easier composition of landscape orientation images from above or below head height. This can be flipped down through 180° to make it visible from in front of the camera, making it ideal for shooting selfies or vlogging.
Mounting the camera on a tripod obscures the screen when it’s forward-facing, but thanks to the in-body stabilisation, you don’t need to use a tripod very often.
Despite its ‘entry-level’ status, the OM-D E-M10 IV has some advanced features such as Olympus’s excellent Live Composite and Live Time modes that make shooting long exposure images and light painting much easier than normal.
- Very compact, yet versatile camera
- Tilting screen can face forwards for selfies and vlogging
- Live Composite and Live Bulb mode make long exposure photography easy
- Sub-APS-C format sensor
- No weatherproofing
Fujifilm X-T30 II
- Camera type: APS-C format mirrorless
- Sensor: 26.1Mp APS-C (23.5mm×15.6mm) X-Trans CMOS 4
- Processor: X Processor 4
- Lens mount: Fujifilm X
- Sensitivity: Stills: ISO 160- 12800 expandable to ISO 80-51,200, Video: ISO 160- 12800 expandable to ISO 80-25,600
- Autofocus system: Intelligent Hybrid AF (TTL contrast AF / TTL phase detection AF) with up to 425 points in a 25x17 grid
- Viewfinder: Electronic 0.39 inch approx. 2.36 million dots OLED Colour
- Screen: 3.0-inch 1.62 million dots touchscreen with 100% coverage
- Key video specifications: DCI 4K (17:9) (4096 x 2160) at 29.97p/25p/24p/23.98p 200Mbps/100Mbps up to approx. 30min, 4K(16:9) (3840 x 2160) at 29.97p/25p/24p/23.98p 200Mbps/100Mbps up to approx. 30min, Full HD(17:9) (2048 x 1080) at 59.94p/50p/29.97p/25p/24p/23.98p 200Mbps/100Mbps up to approx. 30min.
- Maximum continuous shooting: Electronic shutter: 20fps for JPEG: 79 frames, Compressed RAW: 20 frames, Lossless compression RAW: 17 frames, Uncompressed RAW: 17 frames, Mechanical shutter: 8fps for JPEG: 105 frames, Compressed RAW: 23 frames, Lossless compression RAW: 18 frames, Uncompressed RAW: 18 frames
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 118.4 x 82.8 x 46.8mm / 4.66 x 3.26 x 1.84-inch
- Weight: 382g including battery and memory card, 329g body only
The lone physical upgrade that the X-T30 makes on the Fuji X-T30 is the switch to a 1.62-million dot screen on its back rather than a 1.04-million-dot unit.
The upgrades come as a result of firmware and algorithm improvements. For example, the X-T30 II gains the enhanced autofocus algorithms seen on the X-T4, which means it is faster and has improved low-light sensitivity – down to -7.0EV with the XF50mm F1.0 lens mounted. The Face/Eye detection is also more reliable, but it’s still only of use when photographing humans.
Fujifilm has also given the X-T30 II two additional Film Simulation modes, Classic Neg and Eterna Bleach Bypass. In addition, there are controls to adjust the Clarity, Tone Curve and Monochromatic Color while the Auto White Balance can be set to White Priority and Ambience Priority, and there’s the Color Chrome FX Blue option to enhance blue subjects.
In another useful improvement, the X-T30 II is capable of recording 4K video continuously for up to 30minutes whereas the X-T30 is limited to 20 minutes.
- Excellent sensor
- Robust construction
- Traditional controls
- Minor upgrade on the X-T30
- Easy to press the Q button accidentally
- No in-body stabilisation
- Camera type: APS-C (DX) format DSLR
- Announced: 30th August 2018
- Lens mount: Nikon F
- Sensor: 24.2Mp APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm)
- Sensitivity range: ISO 100-25,600
- Autofocus system: Viewfinder: 11-point with 1 cross-type, Live View: Contrast detection
- Maximum continuous shooting rate: 5fps (frames per second)
- Viewfinder: Optical with pentamirror 95% coverage
- Screen: 3-inch TFT LCD with 921,000 dots
- Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I
- Dimensions: 124 x 97 x 69.5mm
- Weight: 365g body only
While the Nikon D3500 is now listed as discontinued, no successor has been announced and it can still be found on sale.
Inside the D3500’s monocoque body is an APS-C (DX) format sensor with 24.2 million effective pixels. This is paired with an Expeed 4 processing engine and its a combination that’s capable of delivering excellent-quality images.
With just 11 individually selectable points, the D3500 AF system’s specification may seem unimpressive next that of the average mirrorless camera, but it’s fast and capable of getting moving subjects sharp.
As it’s a DSLR, the D3500 has an optical viewfinder so you see a natural view of the scene with no interpretation by the camera. There’s also a fixed 3-inch screen with 921,000 dots on the back of the camera which can be used to compose images in Live View mode (as well as review them), but the Live View autofocus system is quite sluggish.
One of the main selling points of the Nikon 3500 for beginners is its excellent Guide Mode that teaches the user about photography and the camera controls using non-techy language.
- Excellent 24Mp APS-C format sensor
- Superb guide mode that teaches you about photography
- Compatible with an extensive range of lenses and accessories
- Max video resolution is Full HD
- Fixed screen
Canon EOS M50 Mark II
- Camera type: Mirrorless
- Announced: USA: 14th October 2020, UK: 25th February 2021
- Sensor: 24.1Mp APS-C format (22.3 x 14.9mm) CMOS
- Processor: Digic 8
- Lens mount: Canon EF-M
- Sensitivity range: Stills: ISO 100-25,600 expandable to ISO 51,200, 4K Video: ISO 100-6400, Full HD & HD: ISO 100-12,800 expandable to ISO 25,600
- AF system: Dual Pixel CMOS phase detection with up to 3975 positions and 143 automatically selectable points
- Viewfinder: 0.39-type 2,360,000-dots OLED EVF
- Screen: Touch-sensitive vari-angle 3.0-inch LCD with 1,040,000 dots
- Video resolution: 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98, 25 fps Full HD: (1920 x 1080) at 59.94, 50, 29.97, 25, 23.976 fps), HD (1280 x 720) at 119.9, 100, 59.94, 50 fps
- Max continuous shooting rate: 10fps for up to 36Jpegs or 10 raw files
- Shutter speed range: 30-1/400 sec, Bulb
- Built-in flash: GN (ISO 100) 5
- Battery: Li-ion LP-E12, Viewfinder: Approx. 250 shots Live view: Approx 305 shots
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 116.3 x 88.1 x 58.7mm
- Weight: 387g (black), 390g (white) including battery and memory card
The Canon EOS M50 Mark II makes a relatively modest update on one of Canon’s most popular mirrorless cameras. Inside it has the same 24Mp APS-C format sensor paired with the same Digic 8 processing engine.
Like its predecessor, the Canon EOS M50 Mark II can shoot 4K video at up to 24p but there’s an additional 1.5x crop applied to the framing and the autofocus system relies on contrast detection. Switch to Full HD or stills shooting and the phase detection system that is enabled by the Dual Pixel sensor design becomes active.
The key upgrades made for the Mark II are eye tracking in both stills and video mode, vertical video recording and the ability to stream live to YouTube video a smartphone hotspot.
- Excellent image quality
- Superb implementation of touch-control
- Good-quality viewfinder built-in
- 4K video mode crops the frame
- Limited lens range
- Announced: 15th September 2020
- Camera type: Full-frame mirrorless
- Sensor: 24.2Mp Full frame (35.6×23.8mm), Exmor R CMOS sensor
- Processor: Bionz X
- Lens mount: Sony E
- Sensitivity range: ISO 100-51,200, expandable to ISO 50-204,800
- Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps with full AF and metering
- Video resolution: 4K: 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit, NTSC) (Approx.) 30p (100Mbps / 60Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit, NTSC) (Approx.) 24p (100Mbps / 60Mbps), 3840 x 2160 (4:2:0, 8bit, PAL) (Approx.) 25p (100Mbps / 60Mbps)
- Autofocus system: Hybrid with 693 phase detection points and 425 contrast detection points
- Eye AF: Stills: Human or Animal, Video: Human
- Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2,359,296-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
- Screen: Vari-angle 3-inch 921,600-dot vari-angle touchscreen
- Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body image stabilisation giving up to 5EV shutter speed compensation
- Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I/II)
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 124.0 x 71.1 x 59.7mm / 5 x 2 7/8 x 2 3/8inches
- Weight: 509g / 1lb 2.0oz with battery and card
If you’re looking for a small full-frame camera with Sony’s excellent autofocus and noise control systems then the Sony A7C is the way to go as it’s smallest of the Sony A7-series cameras. It has a flat-topped rectangular body that makes it look similar to the Sony A6600, but there’s also a vari-angle screen rather than a tilting monitor. And inside, the A7C has the same 24Mp sensor and core features as the Sony A7 III.
Paired with the FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 kit lens., which is a small collapsible optic, the A7C makes an attractive choice for travel and everyday photography.
However, in shrinking down the A7C, Sony also made a few compromises on the handling. There’s no joystick on the back of the camera for example, and there’s only one control dial. In addition, the electronic viewfinder is the type of unit that is more commonly found in APS-C format cameras.
While it’s great to have a vari-angle screen, if you can live without it, and don’t mind a slightly larger camera, then the Sony A7 III, which sits above the A7C in the range, makes a great alternative and costs a little less.
- Small for a full-frame camera
- Vari-angle screen
- Excellent AF system
- Limited touch-control
- Complex menu
- Underwhelming viewfinder