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.
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.
- 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
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