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Beginners Guide to Wildlife Photography Equipment

Beginners Guide to Wildlife Photography Equipment.

The most common question in the mind of a beginning wildlife photographer is about what camera, lens, and other gear should they buy to start. Every new comer in initial days needs this info and we all have gone through this often searching on the net, magazines, books etc.

Most often people think that having the most expensive camera and biggest lens is equivalent to capturing great wildlife photographs. Well to tell you the truth I have seen many people carry great gear and latest equipment to take not so good photographs and at the same time you can also see people taking great photograph even with a mobile phone. Having said that, equipment does play a major part in wildlife photography.

Most new comers often fall into the brand thing and most photography forums are filled with which brand is better for wildlife photography. Brands like Nikon, canon, leica are all great and have good range of camera equipment. When deciding which brand to choose depends on various factors like availability, cost, service.

Majority of the wildlife photographers around the world are either nikon or canon users, mostly cause of their varied range of long telephoto lenses that are required for wildlife, their cost and available service. Brands like leica are mostly out of reach for most people as they cost a fortune especially if you want to do wildlife photography.

I shoot Nikon and I am quite happy with it. But then my Pro friends who shoot cannon are also equally happy.

What Camera should I buy for Wildlife?

If you are serious about photography specially wildlife photography then I suggest you buy a DSLR i.e. Digital SLR. SLR cameras allow you to change the lenses depending on your photography requirement.

Digital because you can shoot as much as you can, which in turn can help in a fast learning curve.

Examples I give are Nikon as I have always used Nikon equipment and less familiar with other brands. However you can use any other camera system that gives you the same level of comfort and features, like canon system.

Buy an entry level camera first, as most people tend to lose their interest once they have a camera.

Nikon D3000 should be perfect.

Points to keep in mind when buying a camera.

  • Buy a camera that gives you control over exposure i.e. aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation.
  • Depth of field option
  • Preferable buy a DX format camera (the cameras 1.5x focal increase helps atleast till you have a super lens)
  • Ability to shoot both RAW and JPG (Shoot RAW for post processing control)
  • Autofocus (most of the cameras are autofocus nowadays)
  • Multiple frames per second.
  • Mega Pixels – 6 or above  (don’t get obsessed by mega pixels)

Which Lens should I buy for wildlife?

For wildlife you normally buy lenses with big focal length called telephoto lenses. You can’t normally get very close to wild animals and hence use the biggest focal length to photograph them. For Birds the biggest lens is the normally the best lens.

For beginners buy a lens that allows you to shoot up to 200 mm or 300 mm.  A zoom between 70 -200 or 300.

The Nikon has 3 versions of 70-300 mm lens; this is a good range for wildlife especially big game and with a DX format camera it becomes 105 – 450 mm.

If you can afford, buy the VR version of this lens. If you can’t afford buy the G type non ED lens (my first telephoto zoom, still have it, I use it when I am trekking and in rough weather)

Points to keep in mind when buying a lens.

  • Buy a lens in range of 70 – 200 or 300 mm focal length
  • Max Aperture – 2.8 is a big aperture very good very expensive.  Something in 4 – 5.6 range is acceptable. Fixed Large Aperture lenses of 2.8 are usually expensive, fixed means same aperture at all focal length of zoom.
  • Vibration Reduction or Image Stabilizers help to keep the image sharp.
  • Silent wave lenses are good but also expensive mostly high end.

Equipment Safety

Buy a decent bag to carry around.

If you live in high humidity place like Mumbai, you would want to keep that moisture away. Keep using the equipment and when not in use keep it in an air tight box with a silica gel. Remember to change the silica when the color changes. Much cheaper when compared to repair and cleaning cost when you have fungus on the lens.

Best is if you can buy a Dehumidifier or Dry chamber e.g. Digicabi (available from Kalabhai in Mumbai)

Startup kit

  • Dslr camera
  • Zoom lens between 70-200mm or 300mm
  • A pair of 2gb or 4 gb cards for storage.
  • Air Tight Box
  • Silica Gel
  • Good camera lens holding technique

What next

Read the manual and know your equipment and practice a lot, you don’t want to search for the buttons when photographing. Photograph as much as possible. Practice till changing the settings of your camera is second nature.

Now that you have it go out shoot around, you need not be in the wildest of places to start, try practicing in your backyard, in a zoo to get a hang of the subjects. Buy this book “Nature Photography Field Guide by John Shaw” one of the best written books about nature photography right from basics to advance topics.

Once you have graduated using the startup kit extensively you will automatically understand the basics of what more is required and depending on what your direction in wildlife photography is you can select from a variety of available cameras and lenses.

Join one of our wildlifephototours

Beginners Guide to Wildlife Photography Equipment

17 thoughts on Beginners Guide to Wildlife Photography Equipment

  1. Thank you Sir,

    Beautifully written and well explained. Point to point work.

    Only practice can make a person perfect (not perfect but to understand how and what at the applications at the wild life place.)

    I have nikon D5000 but with kit lens ( 18-55). I will be upgrading to 70-300mm in short time. (now funds shortage).

    Still will be like to be in contact with you.

    Sweet moments to you.


  2. Thank you Sir,

    Beautifully written and well explained. Point to point work.

    Only practice can make a person perfect.

    I have nikon D3000 but with kit lens ( 18-55). I will be upgrading to 70-300mm in short time.

    Still will be like to be in contact with you sir,
    Sweet moments to you.
    Madan bisht.

  3. thank u very much sir,I really enjoyed your precious suggestion to the beginners who is oftenly cofused about will definately help them to start work with dare. thanks alot sir have a nice day sir

  4. Hi,

    Landed on this site by chance and for the first time found something most valuable to some of us beginners (basic equipment required) . I recently picked up a cannon 600D with 18-55 and 55-250 IS lenses and have been practicing clicking caged animals in the zoo and people on the street. Looking forward to joining a group for a wildlife photography tour. Would be happy if i can get some advice on what other lens + filters I should buy. Ashish

  5. You can start with what you have currently. 250 mm not the best but is decent for big mammals. You can look at the canon 100-400 lens or sigma lenses for more range. best wishes.

  6. very encouraging…. If possible, than please cover some technical fields like aparture, iso, focal length etc…. Thanks

  7. sir i want to buy dslr camera under rs.40k plz help me,i have little practice with digital cameras???

  8. Akash, I think if you are just starting up photography you can buy any Nikon/Canon starting model.
    e.g. Nikon d3300 or even its previous models (d3200/d3100). You can save on camera body and depending on your budget & requirement you can buy a decent lens.

  9. Dear Sir
    I wanted to be a wild life photographer and I have a camera Sony Alfa 58 with 18 to 200 mm lenses and I just started clicking Wild life for fun only.I clicked lot of tigers in JIM,Ranthambore and Sariska. Kindly guide me how can take it forward. I am perusing my PG in Literature in Delhi in regular Course.

  10. Sir
    I have Sony alpha 58 with lenses size of 200.Wanted to pursue my career in Wild life but I am a student of litrature and doing Post Graduation.Kindly guide

  11. sir i have NIKKON D40X as i working as a wedding photographer.
    i have basic lens(18-55)
    is it ok with camera body if i take other lens?

  12. most wildlifephotographers in india are self taught and serious hobbist with another full time profession. You can do this as a hobby and meanwhile submit your photographs to forums, magazines etc. best ofluck

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