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6 Best Cameras for Bird Photography in 2022 [Fast Autofocus]

With the right birding camera, bird photography can be a lot of fun. These tiny creatures know how to maintain their distance, and you’re not going to get very many shots without a decent size sensor, a long lens, and some assistance from in-camera or on-lens stabilization.

When looking for bird watching cameras, especially when you’re just starting out and don’t want to break the bank, so to speak, it’s easy to feel daunted by the incredibly expensive lenses and gear you see pros toting in their kit. It doesn’t have to be that way, however.

After much research, what I’ve narrowed down for you here is a list of simple, accessible cameras that will help beginner bird photographers like you start out on their hobby without fear of either cost or a steep learning curve.

6 Best Cameras for Bird Photography in 2022

I’ve compiled this list with the aim of keeping things approachable and affordable. With that in mind, I’ve also gone with a rather unusual approach of including some older and even some used cameras in the list. These cameras are still capable, inexpensive, and perfectly suited for taking pictures of birds.

  • Sensor Resolution: 20.1MP
  • Max Video Resolution: 4K 30 FPS
  • Battery Life: 240 shots
  • Weight: 0.67 lbs

The Sony RX100 VII is a compact camera, but one packing some incredible pro features. You’ll find a 2.35-million dot pop-up EVF, a tilting touch-screen that flips up to help with vlogs, a metal build, fully-customizable buttons, and even a control ring on the lens.

Why is it suited for Bird Photography?

When it comes to bird photography, the RX100 VII excels, even managing to outperform some pro cameras. The 1” sensor is small by DSLR standards, but that also means it’s incredibly fast, with the camera capable of pumping out 20 fps in a burst with full AF and AE, as well as 90 fps in a 7-frame burst for capturing quick action.

To add to this, you get a 24-200 mm equivalent zoom, clear image zoom up to 2x, 4 stops of IBIS, and, the most important feature of all, real-time tracking in both stills and video that also supports animal eye-tracking. Many full-frame mirrorless flagships can’t do this!

Video Recording

Video recording features are equally impressive. The optical steady-shot IBIS helps keep handheld shots steady, even when the lens is fully extended, and that real-time tracking AF system will keep things nicely in focus no matter what. The camera supports 4K 24/30 as well as FHD 120, not to mention uncompressed 4:2:2 output over HDMI.

Battery Life

This is a tiny camera so battery life is only rated at 240 shots. However, the NP-BX1 battery isn’t too expensive and you can usually buy this camera with two batteries in the kit.

Is this camera for you?

The RX100 VII is easily one of the best bird photography cameras you can get right now. It’s small, but it’s also fast, features a long zoom, image stabilization, and real-time animal eye-tracking, features you’ll only find in the most expensive pro cameras. At this price, the RX 100 VII is a steal. It also has been featured in my list of top-rated fixed lens cameras in 2022.

Pros
  • Real-time AF tracking
  • 20 fps burst mode
  • 4K 30 video
  • 200 mm zoom with 4x digital zoom
  • HLG support
Cons
  • Battery life
  • Tiny sensor

A DSLR is probably the most preferred choice for beginners, and if you’re one of them, I must say this is a great tool to start off. Specs-wise, D7500 is one of the best DSLR cameras under $1000. Read on to know if it’s the perfect fit for yourself!

  • Sensor Resolution: 20.9MP
  • Max Video Resolution: 4K 30 FPS
  • Battery Life: 950 shots
  • Weight: 1.41 lbs

Being a DSLR, the Nikon D7500 is a large, comfortable camera with a deep grip that’s well suited for the large lenses you’ll need for bird photography. Oh, and despite its size, it’s not that heavy, owing to extensive use of carbon fibre in the chassis.

Why is it suited for bird watching?

DSLRs still beat most mirrorless cameras for autofocus speed and performance, and the D7500 is no exception. The interchangeable lens mount also gives you access to a wider variety of lenses, making it well suited for bird photography. Toss in Nikon’s famed 3D tracking system and RGB metering system, and you now have a camera that can still put most premium mirrorless cameras to shame.

Video Recording

Video recording isn’t a DSLRs forte. The D7500 does record 4K 30 or FHD 60 video but at a heavy 2.25x crop and 1.3x crop. You’re also limited to contrast-based focus when shooting video, which isn’t great for tracking. Still, the fact that this camera at least supports video is good, and it can be useful in a pinch.

Battery Life

One of the biggest advantages of a DSLR is battery life. While most mirrorless cameras are rated at around 400-500 shots per charge, DSLRs like the D7500 can pump out an astounding 950 shots per charge. Battery life in video recording is significantly lower than that of mirrorless cameras, however.

Is this camera for you?

Don’t write off DSLRs just yet. They feature some of the best AF systems in the world and are a great learning tool owing to their fully manual controls and interchangeable lenses. Overall, D7500 is a great birding camera for beginners who wants to learn the basics of photography on an inexpensive body. 

Pros
  • 3D AF tracking
  • Weather-sealed body
  • Nikon F mount
  • Incredible battery life for stills
  • RGB metering system
Cons
  • Severe crop in 4K
  • Contrast-based AF for video
  • Sensor Resolution: 12.1MP
  • Max Video Resolution: 4K 30 FPS
  • Battery Life: 380 shots
  • Weight: 1.51 lbs

The Panasonic LUMIX FZ300 is a super-zoom camera in a DSLR-style body. This translates to a body that is large, and because of the lens, heavy as well. However, the grip is also deep and the camera is well balanced so the weight won’t feel like an issue.

Why is it suited for Bird Photography?

The 12.1 MP sensor limits options for cropping, but the 24-600 mm equivalent zoom lens more than makes up for that by letting you frame your shot perfectly from the start. Coupled with a class-leading 60 fps burst mode with ES, and nearly unlimited shooting in an 8 MP burst mode, you’re not likely to miss even the tiniest movement that those birds make.

Autofocus uses Panasonic’s DFD system which is contrast-based. This system isn’t as effective as PDAF systems in newer cameras, but it is fast and will usually get the job done.

Video Recording

The camera supports 4K30 and FHD 60 recording modes, as well as HD 120 and SD 240 fps slo-mo modes. All of these use the DFD AF mode with 4 stops of OIS to ensure smooth and fast focus and stable shots. This video performance is so good that you’ll also find me recommending it as one of the best Point & Shoot film cameras.

Battery Life

At 380 shots, battery life is a little below average for a mirrorless camera, but the high-speed burst modes and small sensor should make sure that you make full use of the shots at your disposal.

Is this camera for you?

Given its price, it’s hard to say no to the 600mm of zoom on offer here, especially given that it remains at F2.8 even at the tele end. The resolution and battery life may not be the best, but you’re getting reach that you simply won’t get with many other cameras in this price range. For a bird photographer, this is definitely worth buying.

Pros
  • 600 mm equivalent zoom
  • F2.8 constant aperture
  • HD120 fps slo-mo video mode
  • 60 fps burst at 12 MP
  • 30 fps unlimited burst mode
Cons
  • Battery life
  • Sensor resolution
  • Sensor Resolution: 20.3MP
  • Max Video Resolution: FHD 60 FPS
  • Battery Life: 205 shots
  • Weight: 0.97 lbs

Canon’s Canon PowerShot SX540 has one of the longest zooms I’ve ever seen on a point-n-shoot camera. This does make the body a bit heavy, but the increased weight and size also help develop a more stable grip when using this lens at the tele end.

Why is it suited for Bird Photography?

Forget birds, with a 1200mm equivalent telephoto lens, you could shoot the moon and find Neil Armstrong winking back at you. I jest of course, but this 50x optical zoom paired with an image stabilizer allows you to get up close and personal with high-flying birds like few other cameras in this category.

Video Recording

This camera will give you FHD 60 fps video that is, despite the camera’s age, surprisingly usable. It also records stereo sound with its inbuilt mic, allowing you to capture ambiance while shooting that bird off in the distance.

Battery Life

Battery life is rated at a piddling 205 shots so be sure to carry plenty of spare batteries with you on your shoots. This is one of the first generation mirrorless cameras, which is why battery life isn’t impressive. That said, you’re also getting it dirt cheap, which more than makes up for the loss in battery life.

Is this camera for you?

This camera is quite old by today’s standards, but its 1200mm zoom gives you reach that would cost tens of thousands of dollars to acquire on modern mirrorless bodies. If you’re in search of the best point and shoot camera for birding, this is eminently suitable.

Pros
  • 24-1200 mm zoom range
  • 0 cm macro mode
  • 5.9 fps burst speed
  • Captures 4 sec of video per photo
  • Comfortable grip
Cons
  • No external mic input
  • Battery life
  • Sensor Resolution: 18.1MP
  • Max Video Resolution: 4K 30 FPS
  • Battery Life: 330 shots
  • Weight: 1.35 lbs

Another large camera this, but again, one that’s ergonomically built and comfortable despite that monster of a 1200mm equivalent zoom lens. The Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 also incorporates a bright EVF and a handful of controls that greatly simplify navigation and control.

Why is it suited for Bird Photography?

Optically, the Lumix FZ80 can go from 20-1200 mm, but if you don’t mind cropping your image, you could end up with an effective focal length of around 6700 mm. That’s basically telescope territory and will let you capture the finest details in the eyes of a bird a mile away.

An excellent stabilization system and a ridiculously fast 30 fps burst mode (limited to 8 MP) will ensure that you never lose a shot to jerky motion or an inattentive trigger finger.

Video Recording

Video features are quite impressive for a camera that costs as little as this one does. You get a good quality 4K 30 video with the option of taking 8 MP stills, as well as for Panasonic’s slower, but usually reliable depth-from-defocus focusing system.

Battery Life

330 shots per charge are low but better than that of many cameras in this class. This will fall dramatically when using the EVF or recording video, however. Thankfully, Panasonic gives you the option of charging the batteries via USB, so all you’ll need is a good power bank.

Is this camera for you?

This camera redefines “super-zoom” with that 6700 mm equivalent cropped zoom mode it’s offering. Coupled with a 30 fps burst mode and 18 MP stills, and at such a low price, you’d be foolish to pass up on the FZ80.

Pros
  • Unlimited 30 fps burst
  • Up to 6700 mm equivalent zoom
  • Sturdily built
  • 4K 30 video support
  • Internal focus-stacking support
Cons
  • Contrast-based focus is slow
  • Soft at the tele end
  • Sensor Resolution: 20MP
  • Max Video Resolution: HD 25 FPS
  • Battery Life: 195 shots
  • Weight: 0.72 lbs

If you like traveling with a light kit, Canon PowerShot SX420 IS may be right for you. It’s a superzoom with a compact, relatively light body with a deep grip that’s helpful when shooting at the tele end. Controls are limited, and there’s no EVF, but for a travel zoom camera on a budget, it’s packing enough.

Why is it suited for Bird Photography?

The 24-1008 mm equivalent zoom on this lens is great for bird photography. Stabilization is good and while the burst rate of 2.2 fps is on the slower side, it’s still good enough to capture action if you’re using a high shutter speed. Digital zoom can further boost the total zoom by 4x if you need it.

Video Recording

The SX420 IS can shoot video in a pinch, but it’s primarily a stills camera. For that reason, don’t be disappointed that it can only shoot 720p (HD) video at a maximum of 25 fps. If nothing else, the video mode can be used to log notes for your shots.

Battery Life

The official CIPA rating for this camera and its 800 mAh battery is a mere 195 shots. This camera costs next to nothing, though, and you aren’t likely to find a better deal, or better battery performance, at this price.

Is this camera for you?

Given its price, this is, hands-down, the best value you can get for your money. It’s a good camera for birding with fantastic zoom range. Sure, video features aren’t that great, but at this price, that’s simply asking for too much.

Pros
  • Great value
  • 1000+ mm equivalent zoom
  • Lightweight body
  • 4x additional digital zoom
  • Deep grip
Cons
  • HD video
  • 2.2 fps burst

Frequently Asked Questions

What features are important in a camera for birding?

For birding, you primarily need a camera with a great zoom range and optical image stabilization. Additional features like real-time subject tracking and a fast burst mode also help a great deal. Some cameras will specifically track animals.

Which lens is better for bird photography?

A long telephoto lens of at least 200 mm equivalent focal length is the minimum that you’d need. For serious bird photographers, something in the 400-600 mm range would be a better place to start.

How much zoom do I need for bird photography?

Look for a zoom lens that goes to at least 10x from its wide-angle mode. This should give you around 200 mm of equivalent focal length, which is the bare minimum to get you started.

How to take sharp pictures of birds?

A fast shutter speed and sharp lenses are essential. Birds move fast and at the longer ends of the focal length, it’s not easy to hold your camera steady. A reliable autofocus system will also help maintain focus as you and the birds move

Verdict

In this category, the best bird camera you can get is the Sony RX 100 VII. With a 200 mm equivalent zoom and real-time tracking as well as an animal-eye tracking mode, you’ll capture some incredible photos. As for the rest, depending on your budget, here’s what I’d recommend:

  • The Nikon D7500 is my camera recommendation if you’re looking to learn camera basics and invest in lenses. It’s an old camera, but a great learning tool for beginners.
  • The Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 is a brilliant choice if you need a video camera for bird watching. Its cropped zoom mode will let you get closer than ever to your subject.
  • Lastly, those looking for the best value should consider the Canon PowerShot SX420 IS. It’s dirt cheap, has a long zoom, and when capturing pics in daylight, image quality is excellent.

As you can see, bird watching need not be an expensive hobby, and with the right photographing birds equipment, a tonne of fun! I hope this list serves you well.