Whether you’re shooting vast landscapes, birds in flight or colorful flowers, you want a camera that brings nature to life. There are many durable, lightweight options available. Your budget and intended activities will be the biggest factors when choosing your perfect outdoor camera.

Point-and-Shoot Cameras

Point-and-shoot cameras are the lightest and cheapest options on the market. They may not produce the image quality other camera types will, but the image sensors, megapixels and other features are continuing to advance.

Sony offers two great point-and-shoot options for nature lovers.

  • The 10.6 oz Sony RX100 V ($1,000) is a bit pricey, but is consistently rated as one of the best point-and-shoots on the market.
  • The original Sony RX100 ($450) is half the price and very similar in image quality. However, the Sony RX100 doesn’t have an electronic viewfinder, 4K video or built in Wi-Fi. The zoom range is also different.

Mirrorless Cameras

Mirrorless cameras are larger than point-and-shoots, but smaller than DSLRs. They are a good compromise for professional-grade photos with less bulk, but mirrorless cameras tend to cost more than a DSLR. Sony is a leading brand in mirrorless cameras.

  • The Sony Alpha a6300 ($748) is 14.3 oz and many professionals swear by it for outdoor excursions. It doesn’t have an electronic viewfinder and you’ll need to spend money on quality lenses, but it still takes great shots and is weather sealed.
  • The 23.2 oz, weather-sealed Sony a7R III (upwards of $3,000) is arguably the most impressive mirrorless camera as far as image quality and ergonomics. If money is no object for you and you don’t mind the extra weight, this is a great option.

Digital SLRs

DSLRs are the heaviest of digital cameras, but they have the widest selection of lenses and produce the best-quality images on and off the trail.

  • If you don’t need a weather-sealed camera, the Nikon D3400 ($500) weighs only 15.1 oz and is easy to use, making it perfect for beginners.
  • The 26.8 oz Canon EOS 6D Mark II ($1,900), is weather-sealed and offers excellent image quality at a relatively low price for a full-frame camera.

Rugged Cameras

“Rugged” or “tough” cameras are said to be waterproof, dustproof, freezeproof and crushproof. It would be perfect for someone who wants to document activities that expose them to extreme elements. The image quality is similar to a point-and-shoot, making it a poor option for someone trying to leisurely take high-quality pictures.

  • The Olympus Tough TG-5 ($400) is 8.8 oz is extremely durable and has a great zoom range, but does have a small image sensor and is more expensive than other rugged cameras.

Choosing the best camera is a big decision, as it will hopefully be with you for years to come. With so many great cameras on the market, you should research thoroughly or talk to an avid nature photographer who can point you in the right direction.