Choose a Digital SLR Camera for Nature Photography - dummies

Choose a Digital SLR Camera for Nature Photography

By Doug Sahlin

The perfect digital SLR camera for nature photography is easy to handle, has the options you need, and fits your budget. A digital SLR with interchangeable lenses gives you complete control over your photography. You can choose the lens that best suits the type of nature photography you enjoy most.

A digital SLR has useful controls for controlling depth of field and freezing action. A digital SLR enables you to use sophisticated lenses, plus the camera has a larger sensor than point-and-shoot cameras, which ensures you get higher-quality images than possible when photographing with a point-and-shoot camera.


If your goal is to photograph a red-shouldered hawk, but he’s not in his usual spot, you can change to a macro lens and photograph wildflowers. Then you can switch to your telephoto when the hawk returns.

There are lots of digital SLRs with myriad features. Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, and Sony all manufacture great cameras. The camera you choose should have the following options:

  • Shooting modes: Most digital cameras give you the option to manually set exposure or expose the scene based on the aperture (Aperture Priority mode) or shutter speed (Shutter Priority mode) you choose.

  • Exposure compensation: This option lets you increase or decrease the exposure from what is automatically metered by the camera. Use exposure compensation if the resulting image is too dark or too light.

  • Histogram: This option displays a graph on your LCD monitor that lets you judge whether the exposure is correct.

  • Maximum shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second or faster: A fast shutter speed gives you the power to stop action.

  • RAW file format: The option to shoot RAW images gives you complete control over the final outcome of the image while processing the photo.

  • Multiple drive modes: Get a camera that takes one picture with each press of the shutter button and that also has a continuous drive mode. The latter keeps taking pictures as long as you hold the shutter button down. It’s a bonus if the camera has a fast drive mode that can capture six to nine frames per second.

  • Auto-exposure lock: This feature enables you to lock exposure to a specific part of the scene instead of metering exposure based on the center of the frame. This option is useful when you have a dynamic range that is more than the camera can handle, such as a sunset.

    With auto-exposure lock, you point the camera at the part of the scene that you want to be perfectly exposed, press a button, and then move the camera to get the desired composition.

  • Self-timer: This feature delays the shutter actuation for a given period of time. Many cameras have two intervals for delays: 2 seconds and 10 seconds.