Urban Exploration Photography: The 5 Best DSLR Cameras

Urban Exploration, aka Urbex, is this alluring activity of exploring and documenting abandoned sights, such as factories and prisons. Often, these places that have you questioning if you’ve time-warped into a horror scene have a story to tell. Urbex includes an elite branch of photography that is quickly gaining popularity.

Not many experiences can supply this kind of thrill – heart racing moments alternating between fear and excitement! Accessing such a unique property likely required crafty planning. This anticipated moment must be captured with the justice it deserves! This is where urban exploration photography enters the mix.

The camera you have and the shots it enables you to take can make or break the experience, so be sure to think this investment through. Discussed here are the benefits of DSLRs for urban exploration photography, our top five picks, and which features are most important when choosing an urbex camera.

urban exploration photography

Why DSLR’s Are Great For Urban Exploration Photography

Although they are a long-time standard technology in photography, digital-SLR cameras are far from obsolete. Sure, your smart phone can take a nice quality shot, and there are some acceptable mirrorless camera options, but when narrowing in on the specific factors required for proper urbexing, nothing will compare to a DSLR camera.

DSLRs have the versatility for withstanding the variety of conditions and situations you will find yourself in while urbexing. You will often be shooting in poor light or dusty/dirty/wet environments. The camera may endure some light abuse and you need to remain agile for access to unique angles or for a quick getaway from a potential fun-ruiner.  Maybe you want to shoot a macro of some intriguing decay or to capture the entire cavern or building.

The DSLR offers ease of use for manipulating manual settings. You will appreciate being able to adjust settings like exposure and depth of field efficiently.

DSLRs also provide endless and convenient options for incorporating gear and accessories. Items such as lenses and filters, tripods, lights, extra batteries, and remotes will be useful in your urbex missions.

But the fun doesn’t end once you return home. A DSLR’s ability for supplying high-quality and raw files allows for amazing post processing later. Multiple programs like photoshop, Lightroom, PhotoMatrix are available to enhance your masterpieces and help you evolve as a photographer.

urban exploration photography

Our Top 5 Choices for The Best DSLR for Urban Exploration Photography

With the seemingly endless DSLR options available today, it can be hard to narrow in on which is streamlined and lightweight, durable yet easy to transport, but with the versatility to be customized for each type of urbex adventure. Listed here are our top five options that encapsulate the most important features for impressive urbex photography.

Canon EOS 90D

A camera designed for enthusiasts, the EOS 90D has the highest sensor of all APS-C cameras at 32.5 megapixels which barely impact its impressive low-light performance. Its expansive focus area coverage ensures a clear shot even when the subject is far away or off center.

Comfort and usability were also in mind in this design, maintaining a balance between the body and lens weight and a useful battery charging function. It is weather sealed and the easy-to-locate and customizable functions make this camera ideal for any urbexer.

Featured Specs

  • 33MP – APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 25600
  • Canon EF/EF-S Mount
  • 3” Fully Articulated Screen
  • Optical viewfinder
  • 11.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 701g. 141 x 105 x 77 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body

SEE LATEST PRICE FOR CANON EOS 90D

Nikon D7500

Known for having a streamlined lightweight build, the D7500 offers high-quality yet comfortable performance. A fast continuous shooting speed with high-performance sensors override the slightly lower pixel count from it’s Canon equivalent, the EOS 90D.

Convenience features like a tilting LCD screen and super efficient battery are appealing to urbexers. Capture images with intensity even in low light due to a high ISO range and 20.9 megapixel format.

Featured Specs

  • 21MP – APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 51200 ( expands to 50-1640000)
  • 3.2” Tilting Display Screen
  • Optical viewfinder
  • 8.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 720g. 136 x 104 x 73 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body

SEE LATEST PRICE FOR NIKON D7500

Nikon D780

Loaded with a 25 megapixel full frame sensor and with impressive max ISO, this new edition the the Nikon family is great for providing high-quality in both low-light or really bright situations. It features focus bracketing, a fun feature allowing you to take multiple photos of a shifting focus point.  It’s an awesome addition and suggestion for stellar urban exploration photography.

It averages a significantly higher count of frames able to be taken with a single battery charge compared to its competitors. With new-age technology features like connecting your smartphone as a remote control, the Nikon D780 will not leave you disappointed on your next urbex adventure.

Featured Specs

  • 25MP – Full frame BSI-CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 51200
  • 3.2″ Tilting Display Screen
  • Optical viewfinder
  • 12.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 840g. 144 x 116 x 76 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body

SEE LATEST PRICE FOR NIKON D780

Canon EOS 6D Mark II

Even after its updated design from the EOS 600D, the Canon EOS 6D MII is still one of the lightest full-frame DSLRs on the market. It even has built in WiFi and GPS and smartphone comparability.

It’s cutting-edge sensor technology makes it great for dimly lit settings or the broad light of day and supply high resolution images at 26 megapixels.  Environmental sealing makes it resistant to dust and water which is perfect for the potential for sub-par conditions.

Featured Specs

  • 26MP – Full frame CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 40000 ( expands to 50-102400)
  • Canon EF Mount
  • 3″ Fully Articulated Screen
  • Optical (pentaprism) viewfinder
  • 6.5 fps continuous shooting
  • Built-in GPS
  • 765g. 144 x 111 x 75 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body

SEE LATEST PRICE FOR CANON EOS 6D MARK II

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

An impressive 30.0MP full frame sensor contributes to the high-quality images this camera will provide you with. Improved dynamic range capabilities and high ISO expandable to 102400 allows for a crisp representation in any setting.

Combine that with its high ratings for ergonomics and handling and you are on your way to conveniently capturing some remarkable scenery.

Featured Specs

  • 30MP – Full frame CMOS Sensor
  • ISO 100 – 25600 ( expands to 50-102400)
  • 3.2” Fixed View Display Screen
  • Optical viewfinder
  • 7.0 fps continuous shooting
  • Built-in GPS
  • 890g. 151 x 116 x 76 mm
  • Weather Sealed Body

SEE LATEST PRICE FOR CANON EOS 5D MARK IV

Features of the Best DSLRs for Urban Exploration

Sorting through the extensive list of features offered in modern DSLRs can be a tiring task. Ensuring you are prepared for the less-than-ideal environments to be documented along with bing mindful of your intention are important considerations when choosing an urbex-worthy camera. Here we discuss the primary physical attributes and internal settings a DSLR camera should posses to qualify it for urban exploration.

Necessary Physical Attributes for Urban Exploration Photography

Camera body size and weight

Imagine all the rare and exciting places you will take your camera. You’ll want to make sure it is not a burden to carry around so lightweight camera is of course the most ideal but the dimensions make a difference when it comes to packing too. Think about how you will be transporting it and factor in the other items you may be bringing along.

Note: Keep in mind that the lens weight is not typically factored in when listing camera weight. Be sure to research any lenses you may wish to acquire and their weight ahead of time as well.

Weather resistance

Some cameras are fully waterproofed but most are made to be weather sealed. Weather sealing will keep the precious insides of your camera safe from the dust, debris and humidity. Some cameras are constructed from plastic and others from aluminum or other metal which can impact what conditions it will withstand.

Although you will more often than not find yourself in dirty situations, you will not likely have your camera submerged under water. A weather sealed camera is totally acceptable for the typical urbex experience.

Ease of use and availability of equipment

You will appreciate efficiency when it comes to things like changing lenses if needed, or setting up a tripod. As your urbex passion grows, so will your pack of related gear. Some brands make it easier than others when it comes to the availability of these equipments and their transitions onto and off of your camera.

Not all equipment is universal amongst top manufacturers either, so keeping in mind any additional equipment you may desire is beneficial when picking out your camera.

Battery longevity and ease of charging

All cameras are designed to run several features simultaneously for extended periods of time, however not all achieve this as well as others. Be sure to notice the battery ratings and how easy it will be to recharge/replace the batteries. Don’t let the worry of low battery life impose upon your exciting experience.

Wide angle lens

A wide angle lens will be your best bet, especially if you are just starting out with learning photography and how to use your camera. It is the most versatile and provides perfect capturing of those enticing urban scenes. A wide angle lens will include more of the scenery of confined or narrow spaces and gives the subject of the shot a more demanding presence.

Required Adjustable Settings for Urban Exploration Photography

Good dynamic range

You will not want to change lenses regularly for pesky dust and contaminants, so having appropriate dynamic range capabilities will give you a more convenient experience. Having decent HDR capability will allow you to shoot in different environments and lighting conditions, capturing multiple exposures at once.

This is a great way to apply the commonly sought after dramatic affect in post-processing. It is beneficial for any subject matter, but especially fitting for all the urban beauty you will chase through the course of urban exploration photography.

Manual modes

You will get much more out of an image if you do not rely on the automatic features. To achieve specific desired results you will want to take control by manually adjusting these yourself. In urbex photography, you will most commonly be manipulating your aperture, ISO and shutter speed. Setting proper aperture, or depth of field will become second nature as you explore in and out of your decaying surroundings. Setting up long exposures grants the ability to capture the maximum amount of detail, especially in dimly lit settings you will often find yourself in.

Final Thoughts

When participating in an activity as extraordinary as urban exploration photography, a proper camera is essential. Investigating abandoned sites becomes a rewarding art that is exciting, dangerous and fun – so be sure to do with the care and attention it warrants.

There are several choices available and it can become overwhelming to know how to choose a camera. Knowing which features are most important for the type of photography you participate in makes it a much less daunting task.

Whether you’re just starting out with urban exploration photography or are an experienced professional, you will appreciate the versatility, durability, and ease of use a DSLR camera provides for urbex photographers. Hopefully we have helped you narrow in on your next camera purchase. Choosing your camera is an exciting fist step in urbexing, so do not forget to enjoy this part of the process too!