You do not have to have a camera to watch wildlife, it can even take away some of the magic if you’re spending too much time taking photos when you could just be enjoying the experience. However, if you want to capture some of your memories, then you’ll want a camera, even if it’s just on your phone and some smartphones have very good cameras, although they may not make the best quality images or get you as close as you want.
The same goes for binoculars, you do not need a pair of binoculars, but they can enhance your viewing, especially for animals in the distance and also for bird-watching. They’re also handy for finding the wildlife in the first place before moving in for a closer look.
We’ve detailed below the kit that we currently use.
I’m just an amateur photographer and by no means a professional. I’ve dabbled with photography for a number of years, but only really got into wildlife photography when I met Heather and we started out on our Wildlife trips in 2015.
At that time I was using a Nikon D200, that I’d bought second hand and had owned for a few years. I now have a Nikon D7200, which at the time I got it (thanks Heather) was the top-of-the-range DX or cropped sensor camera in Nikon’s range. Nikon have since launched the D500, a pro-level crop sensor camera aimed at professional wildlife and sports photographers. They’ve also launched the D7500, an update to the D7200.
For wildlife, my main lens is a Nikon 70-300mm 4.5-5.6 G ED VR. It’s a fairly inexpensive lens when it comes to zoom lenses and was bought for around £300 second hand. You can spend much more (thousands of pounds) for wildlife lenses, but if you’re on a budget it’s great, it’s relatively light and compact for travel – considering that you’ll often be carrying around your camera all day and want to take your kit as hand-luggage when flying. And remember, as this lens is on a crop-sensor body you get a bit extra “reach”, so it’s the equivalent of a 105-450 mm lens on a full-frame body.
Lots of pros will carry a second body and do this for a couple of reasons. 1, if your main camera breaks, then you have a back up; and 2, you don’t want to change lenses much when you’re out and about so you set up one camera body with a long zoom for wildlife and the second body set up with a wider lens for landscapes or when they are up closer to the animals.
My budget doesn’t allow for a second DSLR body and I also don’t want to carry that extra weight around. Instead when I travel, I carry a second pocket-size camera that I can use for wide-shots or to take to places where I don’t want to take my DSLR.
Again, it’s a Nikon. Its a Nikon Coolpix P310 and it’s a bit beaten up, but it takes nice images, is compact and, importantly, it has manual controls like a DLSR including Apperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Full Manual modes.
You won’t be surprised that we also have a pair of Nikon binoculars. We decided we wanted a pair whilst we were mid-trip on a ship in Alaska and as such had limited choice! We bought this pair of Nikon Pro-staff 3s with 10×42 zoom. We bought them on board for about $150, but I think they cost about £140 in the UK.
They’re quite light and robust with a nice rubberised coating. Again you can spend multiple-hundreds of pounds on binoculars, but we find these ideal for our use.
Heather bought me a trail camera (or camera trap) for my birthday in January 2019, a Ltl Acorn 5310a. It’s quite a basic model, but a good well-known brand and priced around £115. It shoots 1080 HD video and has a 12mp sensor. It is really easy to set up and runs off 4xAA batteries, but can also take 8x batteries with if you want to leave it out on the trail for long periods of time. Again, like with a lot of my gear, it’s not the most expensive camera, nor is it in the very low budget range, but in the pro-sumer or advanced beginner kind of range.
You obviously have to decide if one of these will be useful for you, they’re handy for capturing things in your own gardens, but you might not want to leave it out on public land if you fear it getting stolen.
I used it for the first time in April / May 2019 in our back garden and captured these images of the fox cubs who were born under our shed!