I cover settings and gear in greater depth in my Wildlife Photography Pro Course here.
Below you will find links to all the gear I use – at Amazon. Better to trust buying it at Amazon than elsewhere, at least you know you’ll get it.
WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR LIST
Camera Bodies I Own and Recommend
- Nikon D5100 – has been great for wildlife and video selfie shooting, but there is an upgrade I recommend – the D5600. It has a number of great features that make it worth it.
- Nikon D610 full-frame 24mp camera – excellent images and good low-light capability for wildlife shooting in the field. Tough in the rainforest.
- Nikon D500 – a cropped-sensor camera with 21mp and pro-capability for speed, focus, and durability. This is probably too much camera for most people – maybe even me – but I own it, and love it! Excellent for low-light. Better than my full-frame D610. This is quickly becoming my favorite camera ever. I am considering selling the D610 because of this camera.
- Nikon AW100 – waterproof, shock and dustproof – there is a newer model out, but I recommend one of the latest Olympus waterproof cameras instead: Olympus Tough TG-5.
Camera Bodies I Don’t Own, but Recommend
- Nikon D7100 (owned in past); D7200; D7500; Choose one of these newer cameras.
- Nikon D750; D850
- Nikon D4; D5
- Nikon D810
- Canon 70D; 80D
- Canon EOS 1DX; EOS 5D Mark IV
Lenses for Nikon I Own and Recommend
- Nikon 18-140 mm F/ (gives a great focal length range all in one camera)
- Nikon 35 mm F/2.0 D (rock solid, though the motor is rather loud when focusing)
- Nikon 35mm F/1.8 ED (super quiet, light, and great images)
- Nikon 70-300 mm F/ 3.5-5.6 with image stabilization (the best-priced Nikon zoom ever – love this one)
- Tokina ATX-FX 100 mm F/2.8 Macro (built like a tank! Heavy and very nice images)
- Tokina ATX-FX 17-35 mm F/4 (built like a tank! Exceptional wide-angle photos with B+H circular polarizer)
Lenses I Don’t Own, but Recommend
- Canon L-series lenses produce great images and are better made than the typical cheap Canon lens
- Canon 100 mm F/2.8 Macro L-series lens – light, and not nearly as well made as the Tokina above, but equally great images.
- Nikon 100 mm F/2.8 Macro – similar to Canon 100 mm F/2.8 above.
- Nikon 80-400 F/5.6 – for birding, teamed up with one of the latest camera bodies, this is perfect. Not too heavy, and not $10,000 USD.
SB-300; SB-500; SB-700 are all great flashes for Nikon. Obviously, the bigger the number, the more light it cranks out. For most people, even the SB-300 is more than enough. I use the SB-500 in commander mode, or as a wireless slave easily triggered by the on-camera flash of my Nikon D610. Note, the SB-300 does not act as a slave or commander. The SB-500 is the only Nikon flash with LED lights that stay on constantly in case you want to shoot video and need a soft light.
I’m not big on tripods for wildlife photography. Sure, for certain things you just can’t NOT have one. Like birding. Like shooting rhino out of the back of a jeep. I just don’t do those things often, so I very rarely bring any tripod with me anywhere. The cameras and lenses I use are good enough in low-light that I don’t need a rock-solid camera when I shoot. I can hand-hold almost anything, especially with the flash units. Especially shooting for online publication.
The one tripod I drag around with me on occasion is the ultra-light “Compact Light” Manfrotto aluminum 4-section tripod. It says the maximum weight should be 1.5 kg. I use far more weight on it than that! Am I destroying it? Maybe. Is it worth it because of the weight savings? To me, yes, absolutely! Get one! I cannot find them at Amazon.
Here is another one, similar, but holds a lot more weight and is only 3 lbs. I’ve seen this tripod at a camera store here in Bangkok, and they are definitely great quality: BeFree Manfrotto Tripod with Ball Head.
Mobile Phone for Wildlife Photography?
I have an older model iPhone 6s that shoots 4K video at 30 frames per second. This is a good backup to have in case I don’t have one of my other cameras available. It can be convenient for video. For photos, I just find it very inconvenient because I cannot adjust everything I want to, as fast as I want to. I rarely use my phone for any wildlife photos in the field.
Headlamps I Own and Recommend for the Outdoors
- Petzl Ultra Rush – my favorite headlamp for the forest by far!
- Petzl Nao Plus – a lightweight headlamp that is also amazing, but is lighter and has a less direct, more diffuse beam.
- Nike Terra Kiger II or III’s fit me best. These are trail running shoes that give great traction in most circumstances. Highly recommended. If you don’t want to wear hiking boots -trail runners are comfortable for long hours on your feet.
- Nike Zoom Wildhorse is also a trail shoe that I use – whichever I can find, they’re both difficult to get.
- Nike Boots – I haven’t worn these, but they are lightweight boots that seem to be ideal for the jungle. If I feared snakebite or wanted to support my ankles more, I’d buy these.
Backpacks for your Photography Gear
You may find it odd that I don’t buy a Lowe bag or something else that protects all my camera gear with thick foam padding. I just use a regular NorthFace backpack and wrap my lenses and camera bodies in socks and t-shirts. I’ve always done it that way. I think it comes from my fear in New York City of advertising that I had cameras on me. Thieves know camera bags. I’d hate to have something stolen. I’d be open to the idea of a good bag. I’d need one that I could remove all the foam compartments and padding on the interior when I just wanted to use the bag for clothes or something as I traveled.
Anyone know a bag like that? Let me know!
Rain Gear to Keep You Dry in the Rainforest
NorthFace rain jackets are super-light Goretex, and expensive. If money is no object, and you can buy a $300-400 rain jacket without blinking, then I definitely suggest you get one.
Here is the woman’s NorthFace Dryzzle Jacket in a cool green color >
I use a $1 plastic poncho I get at 7-11 here in Thailand. While I’m far less than happy (and wet) with it, even in 13 years I’ve not bought $300 worth of them. It’s a trade-off. I have come close to buying a $200 rainjacket at times, and then slowly fade back into reality. I’ll just use the dirt-cheap ponchos and save money for another lens!
Like my cheap rain ponchos, I also cheap-out on the dry bags. I found some ultra-cheap $9 fifteen-liter bags that are perfect for my stuff. They work every time. I’ve never had one rip or fail in any way. Highly recommended you get a few of these – Karana Waterproof Dry-bags. Here in Thailand, we get them for $9. I just saw on Amazon someone is selling them for $90. I guess with shipping, I could sell them to you for just $40. Let me know if you want one. Contact here.
Computer for Editing Your Wildlife Photos
This doesn’t matter that much with images. Most people are using Adobe products. I don’t like to spend much time editing my images, and fortunately, I don’t need to, so I just use photo-editing tools on my MacBook Pro with retina screen. I do think a great screen is necessary to see the nuances of what you’re editing.
The MacBook Pros – mine is a “Late 2013” model, are fantastic for this. I use the Preview app, and the Photos app for all of my editing. You probably can too.
MacBook Pro 13″ with Retina Screen (retina highly recommended!)
iMac 21.5″ Retina desktop computer