Outdoor photography can be one of the most satisfying activities a photographer can undertake. Capturing the natural world in ways that are unique, inspirational, or gritty and true-to-life allows us to take a deeper look around ourselves and stay grounded.
So, what are the five best cameras for outdoor photography in 2023? Read on to learn about our favorites!
Our Top Picks – H2
Canon EOS Rebel
Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom
Best for Beginners:
The Canon EOS Rebel is a popular digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera made by one of the leading manufacturers in the digital camera industry. The term “Rebel” is primarily used in the North American market; in other regions, these cameras are often known as the Canon EOS XXXD or XXXXD, where the “XXX” represents the specific model number.
The Rebel balances ease of use, affordability, and image quality, making it an excellent choice for those looking to upgrade from compact cameras or smartphones but not to more expensive, professional-quality models.
The Canon EOS Rebel series encompasses a wide range of models (for example, the Rebel T6, T7, and T8i). Canon releases new models periodically, with each iteration typically offering improvements in features, image quality, and technology.
One of the reasons we love the EOS Rebel for outdoor photography is that it’s compatible with a wide variety of interchangeable lenses that allow photographers to adapt for different types of photography, from wide-angle landscapes to telephoto wildlife shots. Another reason this is one of the best cameras for outdoor photography is that most Canon EOS Rebel models feature an APS-C-sized image sensor, which is larger than the sensors found in most compact cameras and smartphones. This larger sensor size generally results in better image quality, especially in low-light conditions.
EOS Rebel cameras are known to be user-friendly, making them suitable for beginners. Their intuitive menu systems and various shooting modes, including automatic, semi-automatic, and manual modes, make these cameras appealing to photographers at all different skill levels.
Rebel models allow you to compose photos using the camera’s LCD screen rather than the optical viewfinder, which can be really useful when you’re using it for outdoor photography because you can keep the larger landscape in your peripheral view while focusing on a more defined subject. Additionally, they often offer video recording capabilities, with some models even supporting 4K video.
Another feature we love about the Rebel camera for outdoor photography is that they are well-built, yet lightweight. Although this means they may not be as rugged as higher-end professional DSLRs, they’re also less bulky to haul around.
Overall, the Canon EOS Rebel is a popular choice for amateur photographers and enthusiasts, providing an affordable avenue into the world of DSLR photography.
- Compact and portable
- Full-frame mirrorless design
- Advanced autofocus system captures fast-moving subjects
- 8K video-recording capabilities
- Compatible with Canon’s extensive RF lens line
- Possible firmware issues
- Shorter battery life than some others
- Less rugged than some competitors
Best Budget Option
Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom
Our best budget camera for outdoor photography is the Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom. This camera is designed for consumers who want an affordable and easy-to-use digital camera with a powerful zoom lens. The Astro Zoom’s zoom capabilities make it a great choice for capturing distant subjects and wildlife. It offers a zoom range that exceeds what you would find in most compact digital cameras, with some models in the series providing zoom ranges of up to 50x or more. This means you can get close-up shots of distant objects–like scenic cliffs or majestic wildlife–without risking life and limb or messing with additional lenses.
We also love the PIXPRO Astro Zoom for outdoor photography because it comes with a variety of shooting modes and features, including automatic modes for beginners, manual controls for more experienced photographers, and preset scene modes to optimize settings for specific shooting conditions, like outdoor and low-light situations.
The PIXPRO Astro Zoom is designed to be compact and lightweight, making it easy to carry around on your outdoor photo shoots.
- Easy to use
- Slow to capture movement
- Image quality isn’t as good as some higher-end models
Best for Beginners
The Nikon Z50 is a mirrorless camera, which means it’s generally more compact and lighter than traditional DSLRs, making it easy to carry around. This feature makes it attractive to beginners who have enough to think about during an outdoor photography shoot than how to maneuver a heavy camera.
The Nikon Z50 is also a popular choice for beginning outdoor photographers because of its intuitive and user-friendly interface, which make it easy for beginners to navigate settings and controls. It’s less intimidating for new photographers as a result.
What makes the Z50 especially good for outdoor photography, though, is its electronic viewfinder, which allows you to compose your shots more easily and accurately, especially in bright sunlight. For beginners transitioning from smartphone photography, this is a familiar and welcome feature! The camera comes with Nikon’s reliable and fast autofocus system, which offers both phase-detection and contrast-detection autofocus, ensuring quick and accurate focusing even in low-light conditions.
It also has in-body image stabilization, which helps reduce the effects of camera shake, resulting in sharper images, particularly when shooting in challenging conditions or with slower shutter speeds. This is a valuable feature for beginners taking outdoor photos who may not have stabilized lenses. However, for those who do want to experiment with different lenses, the Nikon Z50 uses the Z-mount system, which provides access to a range of high-quality lenses. Beginners can start with the included kit lens and later expand their photography capabilities by investing in additional lenses as their skills and interests grow.
The Z50 features an APS-C sensor, which is larger than the sensors found in most compact cameras and smartphones. This results in better image quality, especially in low-light conditions, and allows for more creative control over depth of field.
Although the Z50 isn’t the cheapest camera on the market, it is priced reasonably for an entry-level mirrorless camera and provides a solid foundation for learning photography without a significant financial commitment.
- Full-frame sensor and high resolution for detailed images
- Robust build and weather sealing for outdoor conditions
- Good image quality and dynamic range
- Compatible with a wide range of Nikon lenses
- HIgher price than some others
- Short battery life
Best for Outdoor Sports
Looking for the best camera for outdoor photography at your favorite sporting events? The Fujifilm X-T4 is one of our favorites, thanks to its fast and accurate advanced autofocus. It includes phase-detection autofocus points across the sensor, making it excellent for tracking fast-moving subjects that are commonly a staple of outdoor sports.
The X-T4 is also equipped with in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which is highly beneficial for outdoor sports photography. It helps reduce the impact of camera shake, enabling you to capture sharp images, even when using telephoto lenses or shooting at slower shutter speeds.
For capturing fast action, the X-T4 offers a high continuous shooting speed of up to 15 frames per second (fps) with the mechanical shutter and up to 30 fps with the electronic shutter. This rapid burst rate allows you to capture the decisive moments in sports events. The camera’s high-resolution electronic viewfinder (EVF) and tilting LCD screen provide a clear and responsive view of your subjects, while allowing for easy low-angle and high-angle shooting, which can be particularly useful for outdoor sports. Fujifilm offers a range of high-quality lenses suitable for sports photography, too, including telephoto zooms and fast prime lenses.
What good would a camera be for outdoor photography without proper weather sealing? The X-T4’s weather-sealed design allows it to withstand various outdoor photography conditions and keeps it resistant to dust, moisture, and cold temperatures. This durability is crucial when shooting outdoor sports in unpredictable weather.
Also making the X-T4 a great camera option for outdoor photography is its impressive battery life, which allows you to shoot for extended periods without frequent battery changes. This comes in handy when shooting extended outdoor sporting events where power sources may be limited. The camera’s dual card slots are also a blessing for extended shooting sessions. You can use one slot for overflow or backup, ensuring you don’t miss critical moments.
Finally, the X-T4 allows a ton of customization, which allows you to make quick adjustments to your settings as needed while shooting outdoor sports.
- APS-C mirrorless camera with advanced autofocus and burst capabilities
- Continuous shooting at up to 15 frames per second
- Compact and weather-sealed
- Works with a wide range of high-quality Fujinon XF lenses
- May tend to overheat
- Doesn’t take great video
Best for Landscapes
Maybe you’re more of a landscape photographer than a sports one. For you, we recommend the Sony α7R IV camera for your outdoor photography needs.
The α7R IV boasts an impressive 61-megapixel full-frame sensor, which delivers exceptionally high-resolution images. This sensor allows you to capture fine details and intricate textures in landscapes, making it ideal for producing large prints or cropping images without significant loss of quality. Combine that with Sony’s advanced image-processing technology, and you get top-notch image quality with excellent dynamic range and low noise levels. This is particularly important in landscape photography, where capturing details and handling various lighting conditions is essential.
In fact, one of the reasons we love this camera for outdoor photography is because of its wide dynamic range that allows you to capture both bright highlights and deep shadows in a scene. This is crucial for retaining detail in landscapes with a wide range of contrast. If you do want to play around with different lenses (for example, landscape photography often requires the use of wide-angle lenses to capture expansive scenes), rest assured that the α7R IV’s full-frame sensor works well with a variety of wide-angle lenses, providing a wider field of view and reducing distortion.
Sony’s 5-axis IBIS feature helps reduce the effects of camera shake, allowing for sharper images, especially when shooting with slower shutter speeds or in low light. This is valuable for handheld landscape photography. This camera’s electronic shutter option allows for silent shooting, which is advantageous when photographing landscapes in quiet or serene environments.
Weather-sealed to protect against dust and moisture and packing a long-life battery, the α7R IV is well-suited for outdoor photography, even in adverse weather or when you’re far from a power source. Manual focusing aids, like focus peaking and magnification, help you achieve precise focus, especially when using manual focus lenses or when capturing foreground and background elements in landscapes. The α7R IV’s tilting LCD screen allows for low-angle and high-angle shooting, helping you compose unique perspectives in your landscape photos.
- High-resolution full-frame sensor captures details
- IBIS for sharper handheld shots
- Fast and accurate autofocus
- Compatible with Sony’s diverse collection of lenses
- Higher price point
- Heavier and larger than some competitors
- Poor heat dissipation
- Large file size
Camera for Outdoor Photography Buyer’s Guide
Types of outdoor photography
There are so many ways to explore the wonders of outdoor photography! Many require specialty lenses and training. You’re probably family with some common types, like nature and wildlife, but there are several genres that may be new to you, like the following:
- Astrophotography: capturing celestial objects, such as stars, planets, the moon, and galaxies, as well as dramatic nightscapes with the Milky Way or meteor showers. Long exposure times and specialized equipment are often required.
- Golden hour photography: capturing the soft, warm light that occurs during the first and last hours of daylight. It’s particularly popular for landscape and seascape photography.
- Macro photography: capturing extreme close-ups of small subjects like insects, flowers, and other tiny details in the natural world. Specialized macro lenses and techniques are used to achieve high levels of magnification.
- Underwater photography: using waterproof camera housings to capture marine life, coral reefs, and other underwater scenes. It requires specialized equipment and knowledge of diving.
- Street photography: documenting everyday life in urban or outdoor environments, often capturing candid moments of people going about their daily routines. It requires a keen eye for storytelling and human interactions.
- Architectural and cityscape photography: capturing the beauty and design of buildings, cityscapes, and urban environments. It often involves using wide-angle lenses and understanding architectural composition.
- Weather and storm photography: capturing dramatic weather conditions, such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, and lightning strikes. Safety precautions and specialized equipment are essential for this genre.
Consider the kind of outdoor photography you plan to practice most, and then weigh the importance of portability before purchasing the best camera for your needs. Something light and compact might suit you best if you plan to shoot in places you have to hike into, while outdoor sports, where you can set up on a sideline and stay put, might allow you to go with a heavier, larger camera.
Also be sure to factor in weather sealing and overall rugged design, as needed, when choosing a camera.
The ability to swap out lenses might be important for your genre of outdoor photography. If so, look for a camera that is compatible with a wide range of lenses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I invest in a more durable camera body or a more expensive lens?
Whether you should invest in a more durable camera body or a more expensive lens depends on your specific photography needs, preferences, and budget. Both camera bodies and lenses are crucial components of a photography kit, and the choice between them often involves trade-offs.
A more durable camera body is essential if you plan to shoot in challenging conditions, such as extreme temperatures, rain, dust, or rugged environments. Weather-sealed bodies can withstand these conditions better and offer greater peace of mind.
High-end camera bodies often have a longer technological lifespan, meaning they may support more advanced features, faster processors, and better autofocus systems. This can extend the useful life of your camera setup. They also typically offer advanced features like dual card slots, faster burst rates, better low-light performance, and improved ergonomics, which can be important for professional photographers.
Finally, a durable camera body can serve as a versatile platform for a wide range of lenses, including those you may invest in later.
On the other hand, high-quality lenses can significantly impact the sharpness, clarity, and overall image quality of your photographs. In many cases, a better lens can make a more significant difference than upgrading your camera body.
Lenses can be used on various camera bodies, too, so investing in a good lens can offer more versatility and a potentially longer lifespan compared to upgrading a camera body. High-quality lenses also often retain their value better than camera bodies, making them a better long-term investment from a resale perspective.
If you frequently shoot in challenging conditions or prioritize long-term durability and professional features, a more durable camera body may be the better choice. However, if you’re primarily concerned with image quality, creative control, and versatility, investing in high-quality lenses may offer a more noticeable improvement in your photography.
What’s the difference between mirrorless and DSLR cameras for outdoor shooting?
Mirrorless and DSLR cameras are both capable of capturing excellent outdoor shots, but they have different designs and features that can affect your outdoor photography results.
- Are generally smaller and lighter than DSLRs
- Offer advanced autofocus systems that make them excellent for capturing moving subjects in outdoor sports and wildlife photography
- Are more consistently weather-proof at lower price points
- Are compatible with a greater number of lenses from a variety of manufacturers
- Have longer battery life than mirrorless
- Use optical viewfinders with zero lag
Ready, Aim, Shoot!
There are so many great cameras for outdoor photography on the market. With a little research and consideration, you’re sure to find one that captures the amazing shots you hope for.
Now, go find the scene of your next great outdoor photo shoot!
- About the Author
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Ronda Lindsay is a professional writer and editor who has worked in government communications for nearly two decades.
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, she fostered her love of nature and the outdoors by exploring the Pacific Northwest’s many natural playgrounds before moving to the Washington, DC, area to see what the eastern side of the country had to offer. She’s also spent plenty of time camping, hiking, and floating around central Texas, where she now lives.
With a bachelor’s in English and a master’s in professional writing, Ronda loves to learn and write about the latest trends in outdoor adventuring and share that information with Beyond the Tent readers.