The Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography 

Nikon D500

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Why is the Nikon D500 one of the best cameras for wildlife photography?

Key Nikon D500 Features


Nikon D500 Autofocus Capabilities

The Nikon D500 features a 153 focus point configuration.

The auto-focus mechanism involves the camera automatically focusing on a subject or area. Because wildlife movements are often unpredictable and sudden, the window of opportunity for capturing a beautiful wildlife shot can be limited to a few seconds (or less), having a camera with autofocus can be the difference between “getting” the photo and “not getting” the photo. Not all Auto-Focus systems are created equal. A key factor in assessing Auto-Focus quality is the number Focus Points the Auto Focus system includes, Focus Points represent all the different areas the camera can automatically focus on, the more focus points a system has the better - beginner-level digital cameras feature as low as 11 focus points, while higher end models can feature upwards of 100 focus points. Higher numbers of focus points lead to more accurate detection of subjects (including moving subjects) and higher focusing performance in low-light situations.

At Exploringbirds.com we consider Auto-Focus quality to be one of the most crucial features of a digital camera. The Nikon D500 Auto-Focus system is the strongest and most advanced in the history of the company. A 153 focus focus point capability offers the ability to capture moving subjects (like birds and other wildlife), in less than ideal lighting situations, with tremendous accuracy. If you are serious about wildlife photography you can rest assured that the Nikon D500 passes the Auto-Focus test.

Nikon D500 Shooting Capabilities

The Nikon D500 offers 10 FPS of continuous shooting and the ability to shoot 4K Ultra HD to video with the electronic Vibration Reduction feature.

Continuous Shooting is measured in frames per second (FPS), which indicates how many images a device can capture in one second. Continuous shooting is a very important feature when it comes to shooting moving objects, which is a common occurrence in wildlife photography. The ability to shoot continuously allows the photographer to capture an entire scene, which then offers the opportunity for the photarahter to choose which picture in the sequence is most desirable. Most digital camera offer around 5 FPS.

4K UHD (resolution: 3840 × 2160) is currently the pinnacle of professional movie recording production. The Nikon D500 also offers the ability to shoot 4K UHD time lapse videos.

At Exploringbirds.com we hold that, the more FPS a digital camera offers, the better - as continuous shooting is a vital component to shooting moving and flying birds. The Nikon D500 once again sits in the upper echelon with its 10 FPS capability. Needless to say it passes the Continuous Shooting test.

Nikon D500 ISO Range

The Nikon D500 offers standard ISO Range of ISO 100 to ISO 51200. That range is expandable to Lo1 (ISO 50) and Hi5 (ISO 1640000).

ISO is the camera’s ability to manipulate light. As you increase ISO you are ordering the camera to capture (create) more light, which is sometimes necessary in situations with insufficient lighting. If you decrease ISO you are ordering your camera to capture less light (or telling it that is doesn’t need to create additional light). Shooting with a low ISO is ideal because the lack of processing will lead to crisp, detailed images (minimal grain) and optimum colors but oftentimes wildlife photography is shot in less than ideal, low-light situations - making higher ISO a necessity. ISO 100 is the minimum on the ISO spectrum, while beginner level digital cameras often max out at an ISO of around 25000.

At Exploringbirds.com we now that wildlife rarely present themselves in perfect lighting situations, in fact many species of birds spend their lifetimes in the dark, shadowy confines of mature forest and dense shrubby - needless to say we can attest to the importance of a high ISO. With a standard max ISO of 51200 the Nikon D500 enables a photographer with the ability to shoot a shot it otherwise would not be able to take in a very low light situation - a highly valuable advantage bound to pay dividends. Yes, I’m thinking of a warbler in a shadowy forest at 3 am.

Nikon D500 Megapixels

The Nikon D500 offers an image resolution of 20.9 megapixels.

Megapixels are a measurement of graphic resolution, the higher the number of megapixels, the higher the image resolution. High resolution, which leads to crisp, detailed images, is a necessity when it comes to professional-quality wildlife images.

At Exploringbirds.com we recommend using cameras with at least 12 megapixels. A 12 megapixel camera is able to product images with a resolution of 4200×2800, which means it could print a professional quality 16 x 24” print at 300 DPI. At 20.9 megapixels the Nikon D500 offers more than enough megapixels to shoot high resolution wildlife images.

Nikon D500 Weight & Durability

The Nikon D500 body weighs 26.9 oz.

The Nikon D500 body is made of carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic. While the top and rear covers are magnesium alloy. The camera is sealed for water and dust resistance.

Unless you shoot entirely by tripod camera weight is an important consideration for any type of photographer, as the heavier a camera weighs the more it will contribute to “camera shake,” which leads to blurry images.

Any wildlife photographer knows that their gear must be rugged enough to endure wild adventures. A camera engineered with high quality materials can give a photographer piece of mind that the camera will be to withstand all that nature has to throw at it.

At exploringbirds.com we recommend shooting with a camera body under 30 oz. though the bulk of the weight while shooting will actually come from the lens, not the camera body itself. We are convinced that the Nikon D500 literally could not weigh less than 26.9 oz. considering the quality of it’s internal sensors, processors, and other components.

We also recommend using camera designed to withstand mother nature. All digital cameras are expensive machines, it’s worth paying extra to get a durable camera. You can rest assured the Nikon D500 is built to last - carbon fiber is used in the manufacturing of luxury automobiles, while magnesium alloy is used in the manufacturing of aircrafts.

Nikon D500 Battery Life

The Nikon D500 uses a rechargeable EN-EL15 Lithium-ion Battery, capable of shooting approximately 1,200 shots or approximately 50 minutes of video. An optional MB-D17 Multi-Power Battery Pack can be attached to the camera, furthering its battery power.

A reliable and long-lasting battery is an obviously necessity for any wildlife photographer.

At Exploringbirds.com we know how frustrating it can to run out of battery in the middle of wildlife shooting session. Which is why recommend not only fully charging your battery before starting a session but also possessing a powerful battery to begin with - and it does get not much more powerful than EN-EL15, which should easily get a wildlife photographer through an entire day (and likely more) of shooting without fear of running out of battery. The optional MB-D17 is a nice bonus battery option, especially for those who may be shooting for a multiple days without a place to recharge the EN-EL15.

Nikon D500 Screen

The Nikon D5 features a 3.2 inch, tiltable, high resolution LCD, touch screen monitor. Which enables the photographer to use touch to adjust Auto-Focus and Shutter functions.

The camera screen is used by photographers to adjust different functions and to view image playback. A high resolution LCD screen is important for a precise view of the quality of the shot before (if shooting video) and after its taken. While a touch screen capability adds a level of convenience that can make a big difference in crunch time. A tiltable screen adds value for videographers, as the video is shot using the monitor rather than the viewfinder.

At Exploringbirds.com we find that the Nikon D500 checks all the boxes when it comes to monitor functionality, we are especially impressed by the monitor’s

Nikon D500 Memory Card Compatibility

The Nikon D500 is equipped with two memory card slots; one XQD slot and one UHS-II SD slot. It’s possible to use both types of memory card at once, and there are multiple recording options available: you can record two full cards of data, record the same data onto two cards for instant backup, or record RAW and JPEG simultaneously onto separate cards. It is also possible to transfer data from one card to another, as well as selecting a slot for movie recording according to the remaining capacity on each card.

Memory cards, in the case of digital cameras either SD cards or XQD cards, store the images and or video taken by a digital camera. Most new digital camera models have one UHS-II SD slot. SD cards are the standard memory card used for digital cameras and range in size from 8GB to 256GB. XQD cards recently burst onto the memory card scene, XQD cards come offer much faster processing speeds than SD cards and some are even capable of holding up to 2TB of memory. Only new, higher end digital cameras offer XQD slots.

At Exploringbirds.com we regard memory card capability as just as important as battery capability. A wildlife photographer’s worst nightmare is running out of memory space while in the middle of a shoot. With the Nikon D500 offering two memory card slots, (with one of them being able to store the innovative XQD) that nightmare can averted. The cross compatibility between the two cards is also neat feature - especially the ability to create instant backup by recording the same data onto both cards.

Nikon D500 Connectivity

The Nikon D500 connects to the Nikon SmartBridge app, which enables the photographer to transfer images images and videos from the camera to your smart device. It also allows the photographer to view the images on the camera from a smart device (even if the camera is turned off). SmartBridge also allows photographers to use their smart device to shoot remotely. Finally SmartBridge offers the ability to embed date, time and location information.

The Nikon SmartBridge app is neat feature that makes reviewing images/videos