What’s the Best Camera for Photographing Lizards in the Field?

Hi Everyone, I am in the market for a new field camera. Looking for something durable, portable, and that can take great shots of anoles and their dewlaps (so good at close-ups, but not necessarily a macro lens). I currently use a Nikon D5100 SLR, but it is fairly bulky and fragile. What sorts of cameras and camera systems do you use in the field? Thanks!

About Graham Reynolds

Graham is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Asheville. His research focuses on Caribbean herpetology- specifically anoles and boas.

7 thoughts on “What’s the Best Camera for Photographing Lizards in the Field?

  1. I am very satisfied with Pentax K5: handy, pretty small, dust- and weatherproof (if you use original lenses). You can use it with an optional battery grip, losing the smallsize-advantage, but with the pro that you can feed it with AA-batteries and these are obtainable in the obscurest parts of the world.
    The cons are mainly that the lenses (and flashes and …) are usually not in stock at your local radio shack like all those canikon-gadgets. But how often do you buy new stuff? …and then there’s still the www-market.
    Current model should be K3 and like its predecessor (my K5) it topranks most published tests.

  2. Graham , let me preface this with the acknowledgement that I have a quite biased view on this matter.

    If size is a real concern, I would suggest you check out mirrorless system cameras. I have been using a micro four thirds camera (m43) from Panasonic. In addition to the m43 system shared by Panasonic and Olympus, Sony and Fuji also produce mirrorless system cameras (although these each have manufacturer specific mounts). By removing the viewfinder mirror and using smaller sensors these cameras can get really small. My camera with a pancake lens fits in the baggy pockets of my field pants. In the field I am able to carry the camera with a 60mm macro, a 100-300 tele, and a 14-42 zoom along with field gear like a GPS, field notes, etc in a small messenger-style bag.

    The smaller sensor can be a double edged sword, it allows for much smaller lenses, but can cause problems if you are shooting in low light. I have been frustrated at times trying to shoot in the late-afternoon in closed-canopy forest. This may not be an issue for dewlap images where you will be using a tripod and a flash. That issue aside, I think image quality is quite good. If you recall the series of posts Shea Lambert shared from his time in Cuba, those images were all taken using an m43 camera and lenses.

    If I was shopping today, I would look at the Olympus E-M1. It is weather sealed and has in-body IS – this is especially useful if you want to use an adapter and shoot with lenses you already have laying around and counteracts the small sensor problem a bit. Some of the high-end lenses for m43 are weather sealed as well.

    I’m happy to share more details if you have any questions.

    1. I should add that the camera was rather quick in focussing ( although by times quite stubborn in liking background better then the anole), nearly all shots are made with the build-in flash and the camera became a but wet the first day and never really dry again in the next ten days. It’s now dry again and so far does not seem to have suffered any problems.

  3. Hi Graham, I used a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 for take a great shots of lizards and others animals… is a excellent compact camera, but the last model is “Sony Cyber-shot Sony HX400V/B” and is better that my old model…
    Definitely I recommend you this camera, is cheap, lightweight, the lens and image sensor are of excellent quality.

    All the photographies that you can view in my page are taken with my camera Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 field.


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