If you are a bird watcher or a wildlife enthusiast, in all probability, you are also a wildlife photographer. Can you think of a better hobby or profession than admiring wildlife while also capturing stunning pictures of it to cherish for eternity?
For capturing better photographs of wildlife, your camera must be able to zoom closer. Then, the pictures you capture will be dramatic, beautiful, and engaging.
Also, capturing photos of wildlife by getting too close to the animal is not only dangerous but it is also not the right thing to do. We should only observe these stunning creatures in their natural environment, without causing them any disturbance.
It is where a telephoto camera lens can actually come in handy and solve your problem.
In a nutshell, a telephoto camera allows you to click fantastic pictures at a safe and far-off distance. This way, you can avoid the danger of the wildlife suddenly charging at you. You can also be satisfied that you are not disturbing the animal in any way.
In this article, we have listed 5 of the best wildlife camera lenses that allow you to pursue your passion for wildlife photography.
5 Best Lens For Wildlife Photography
- Winner: Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens
- Runner-Up: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM UD Lens
- Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
- Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM Telephoto Fixed Lens
- Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
A popular option among wildlife photographers, the Sigma Lens is an affordable super-telephoto zoom lens that provides a far reach along with top-notch images and increased portability.
- Focal Length: 150 to 600 mm
- Aperture: f/5-6.3
- Minimum Focus Distance: 280 cm
The most impressive feature about this lens is the zoom. If you are into wildlife photography, you will love this lens! With a maximum focal length of 600mm, you can capture stunning close-ups of wildlife in action. The lens comes with Sigma technology, such as a quiet and optimized Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM).
The image quality is incredible because even at f/5, the lens is sharp.
The Optical Stabilizer (OS) is super reliable. Along with the accelerometer, it produces sharp images even from a handheld position. It also helps you improve panning photography in a horizontal and vertical orientation. It is ideal for birding, wildlife, and motor photography.
The high focal length is preferred by those who have just embarked upon their bird photography journey. Why, you may wonder? Well, it is because it helps them work on their photography skills.
Moreover, the Sigma Contemporary touts a new zoom lock switch to lock at the focal length you desire, and the manual override (MO) switch is provided for further focusing control.
Lightweight, compact, and affordable, this lens, along with the Sigma USB Dock, will enable you to customize firmware updates and adjust the focus limiter, AF speed, and OS view.
This lens is also easy to maintain. So your focus can be on capturing stunning wildlife rather than maintaining the lens. It comes with a dust-proof and splash-proof mount. The front glass is coated with water and oil repellent coating.
- Highly affordable.
- Incredible telephoto reach that maxes out at 600mm.
- It also includes a tripod collar and lens hood.
- Quiet and fast AF.
- Great image stabilization.
- Easy quality.
- Until 400 mm, you get excellent sharpness.
- At 600mm, the sharpness is decent.
- Clicking small objects in low light can be a challenging task.
Runner-up: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM UD Lens
While the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L may not be the flashiest option on this list, still, it is a good lens for wildlife photography. If you are looking to get your first wildlife telephoto, this is a pretty good option.
- Focal Length: 70 to 300 mm
- Aperture: f4-5.6L
- Minimum Focus Distance: 280 cm
The most attractive features of this lens are the sharp image quality, autofocus speed, and focal length flexibility.
The focal length range is 70 to 300mm, and this lens allows you to take sharp images at every point of its focal length range.
Wildlife photography often requires you to capture subjects as they move about in the frame. The autofocus speed in this lens is fast, and so you can capture and track the animals as they move about in the frame.
The focal length range and versatile zoom give you plenty of shooting options. At 70mm, you can shoot environmental portraits. If you want thrilling and incredible close-ups of wildlife, the versatile zoom range allows you to capture just that.
You can also zoom out to view the surrounding landscape or foliage. The 300mm allows you to shoot some magnificent close-ups of wildlife.
There is a manual lock switch on the side of the barrel that can be locked at the 70mm range. It is ideal for travel.
Further, the lens is suited for nature, landscape, sports, travel photography, four-stop image stabilizers, two UD elements, and an eight-blade circular aperture. It is dust and water-resistant.
Additionally, the fluorine coating keeps soiling, smears, and fingerprints.
At 300mm, it may be a tad short for some wildlife photography. Also, it is white in color. Darker-colored lenses are more suited for wildlife photography because they are less conspicuous.
The white lens tends to stand out a little.
It does not come included with a tripod collar. Also, it is not compatible with extenders. Small, compact, and lightweight, this works great as a beginner DSLR lens for wildlife photography.
It is excellent for portraits and bringing what is far away right up close.
- Improved image quality.
- Impressive 4-Stop Image Stabilizer
- Robust and compact design.
- Small and lightweight.
- Reduced chromatic aberration.
- Sharp image quality at every focal length.
- Supreme build quality.
- Fast AF.
- At 300mm, it may be a tad short for some wildlife photography.
- The white lens tends to stand out a little.
Alternative: Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
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The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 L is one of the best camera lenses for wildlife photography. If you are looking to get your first wildlife telephoto, this is a pretty good option.
- Focal Length: 70 to 200 mm
- Aperture: f/4G
- Minimum Focus Distance: 3.28 feet
With this Nikon camera lens, you can set the focal length between 70mm and 200mm.
It is a tad limited, but if you are a wildlife enthusiast and want to capture close-ups of bigger animals outdoors, then this is your best bet. In fact, it is the best Nikon lens for wildlife photography.
The Nikkor zoom lens also offers multiple zoom options to choose from.
The lens comes with a compact, high-performance f/4 fixed aperture exposed setting, and so you can spend more time on getting a great shot rather than getting the aperture right.
At 1.87 pounds, it is compact and lightweight. These wildlife photography lenses also come with game-changing and highly desirable vibration reduction.
This feature will help you keep ghosting to a minimum as you are clicking wildlife photos. It comes with ring-type ultrasonic focus as well.
If you are indoors in low light, you may find speedy focus a little tricky. You can get over this by switching from autofocus to manual. Also, at 200mm, the focal length may not be enough under some circumstances.
Another highly appealing feature of this lens is that it is compatible with both the FX and DX-format of Nikon cameras. Overall, It delivers on a magnificent telephoto zoom performance.
- Accommodates FX and DX-format.
- Lightweight and compact.
- Features 3 ED lens elements and one HRI lens element.
- It comes with lens elements with Nano-Crystal coatings.
- You can adjust the focal length as needed.
- Plenty of zoom settings.
- Excellent optics, vibration reduction, and exceptional telephoto zoom performance.
- Indoor photography results in slow focus due to low light
Alternative: Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM Telephoto Fixed Lens
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The Canon EF 135 to 300mm is one of the best camera lenses for wildlife photography. This lens helps bring the subjects closer and comes with image stabilization, which keeps the subject steady during horizontal or vertical panning.
- Focal Length: 135 to 300 mm
- Aperture: f/4L
- Minimum Focus Distance: 4.9 feet or 1.5m
You can bring your wildlife subjects closer with the Canon EF 300mm f/4L telephoto lens. The best feature of this wildlife lens is image stabilization. Image stabilization helps in safe hand-holding at 2 stops slower than usual. This makes it even more valuable when the light level is low.
In other words, this compact L-series telephoto lens is equipped with an image stabilizer, which compensates for camera shake with the same effect of a shutter speed two stops faster.
The two image stabilizer modes help keep the subject steady during horizontal or vertical panning.
The lens is compatible with Canon’s EF 1.4x II and 2x II Extenders. Further, it focuses to an incredibly close 4.9 feet, and so it can envelop the frame with a subject the size of a postcard.
Fast shutter speed and long focal length are essential for sports action. This lens comes with both features, so you can use it for capturing both wildlife and sports events.
Finally, the multi-layer lens coating reduces flare and ghosting. If you are looking for a lens with good resolution, contrast, color, and sharpness (but no zoom), you will like this wildlife lens.
- Excellent image stabilization.
- Compatible with Canon’s EF 1.4x II and 2x II Extenders.
- Helps in safe hand-holding and sharp images even in low light levels.
- Ideal for capturing both wildlife and sports action.
- Fast shutter speed.
- Long focal length.
- Multi-layer lens coating keeps flare and ghosting to a minimum.
- It has poor focus and hence softer images.
- It is unsharp at all apertures.
- It comes with too many chromatic aberrations.
Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR is one of the best Nikon lenses for wildlife photography.
This lens delivers on both high power and high performance. It is perfect for photographers who want an excellent range with focal length but don’t want to be burdened with a large and heavy super-zoom telephoto lens.
- Focal Length: 70 to 300 mm
- Aperture: f/4.5-5.6L
- Minimum Focus Distance: 4.9 feet or 1.5m
This lens has a focal length of 70 to 300mm with an f/4.5-5.6 maximum aperture. It can be used for Nikon digital SLR cameras. It features a 4.3x Telephoto Zoom Nikkor lens that delivers a picture angle performance equal to a 105-450mm lens.
You get super optimal performance from this lens, thanks to the two Nikon Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements. It is ideal for both digital and 35mm photography. The ED glasses lower the chromatic aberrations. It contributes to superb contrast and resolution performance.
The lens has a fast Auto Focus that allows you to focus relatively easily on the intended targets. If you are a photographer, you will love the quick AF feature that this lens offers.
You can focus as close as 4.9 feet through the entire zoom range. The auto-focusing is soft and quiet due to the presence of the SWM (Silent Wave Motor). You can also switch from auto mode to manual mode in an instant!
For each VR NIKKOR lens, there is specially engineered vibration reduction technology. It is paramount for capturing images whether you have shaky hands or a pair of steady hands.
It also allows handheld shooting at up to 4 shutter speeds slower than usual. What you get are dramatically sharper still images and video capture.
Perfect for intermediate wildlife photographers, the Nikon AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Lens is an excellent option with a decent zoom. You can also back off the zoom for taking wider photos to feature more of the landscape in your photos.
The relatively small and lightweight telephoto zoom of this lens is suitable for you if you prefer less weight when going outdoors for capturing wildlife photographs.
Additional features include a non-rotating front element for convenient use of circular polarizing filters and the Nikon Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System.
It is also equipped with a nine-blade rounded diaphragm opening that makes even those elements that are out of focus appear natural.
- Fast and quiet auto-focusing.
- Minimal chromatic aberrations.
- Superb contrast and resolution performance.
- Sharp images.
- Vibration-reduction OS.
- Versatile zoom range.
- Great for intermediate wildlife photographers.
- Small and lightweight telephoto zoom.
- Captures even out of focus and make them appear natural.
- The zoom although dynamic may not be enough if you are into serious bird photography.
Lens For Wildlife Photography FAQ
What lens do I need for wildlife photography?
Lenses play a huge role in determining how good your wildlife photograph turns out. A lens with long focal lengths is ideal. Even if you are miles away from the animal, you can still get a good enough snap of it to give off the impression that you were right up close to it.
Also, it is recommended to use lenses with focal lengths 300mm and above. You should also look for a larger aperture lens, indicated by F/(value). The Sigma, for instance, has an aperture of f/5-6.3. Sigma offers zooms covering already very long focal lengths, such as 150 to 600mm.
Is a 300mm lens good for wildlife?
The focal length for a camera is measured in millimeters (mm). It is displayed with the name of each lens. If a lens label reads 150 to 300, it means that the focal length range is 150mm to 300mm. So, what is the difference between the two extremes of focal length?
The smaller focal length captures more of the background scenery and landscape, whereas the larger focal length brings the subject closer. So, a 600mm focal length magnifies the subject more than a 300mm focal length lens and so on.
For landscape photography, wide-angle lenses are popular because they show the entire scene. Most of the telephoto lenses listed in this guide offer high focal lengths to bring the subject in nice and close for capturing some stunning pictures!
A 300 mm lens is good if you are looking for a starter wildlife lens, but if you are a professional or serious wildlife photographer who does not just take wildlife pictures for merely the fun aspect, then you should go for longer focal lengths.
For wildlife photography, you need a minimum focal length of 300mm. Some pro photographers even prefer a 500mm because it allows them to get close-up shots that fill the frame. For capturing birds and other smaller wildlife, you need a longer lens.
How far can you shoot with a 300mm lens?
You can shoot up to infinity! Yes, let’s say the focal length is 70 to 300mm. You can even shoot super distant subjects like the moon and even the sun if you zoom all the way to 300 mm. The zoom lens magnifies the object you are focusing on.
A 300mm lens will have the equivalence of a 450mm lens on a 35mm camera. Mostly, cameras come with 8X or 12X zoom, which means that the most extended focal length is 8 to 12 times longer than the widest focal length.
What is a good shutter speed for birds?
Birds have different speeds at which they fly. Capturing birds that fly slowly is a lot harder than ones that fly at lightning-quick speed.
Camera settings and mainly shutter speed play a huge role in determining how well the shots turn out. Typically, you should go with a faster shutter speed to capture the motion of flying birds.
You need a shutter speed of 1/1250th of a second or faster. If the light allows, you can even go as high as 1/2500 or 1/3200s.
When you are shooting in aperture priority mode, you can select the shutter speed by increasing or decreasing the aperture. You should choose a smaller f-stop number for a faster shutter, and for a slower shutter, you should go with a more significant f-stop number.
Once you have set the optimal shutter speed, you can close the aperture at f5.3 or slightly higher (as much as your lens allows).
This gives you more field depth and will enable you to capture all the essential parts of the bird in focus – the head, the body, and the forewing.
The relationship between the shutter speed and the size of the lens you are using is also a crucial factor.
The general rule of thumb is to have a minimum shutter speed that is the reciprocal of the focal length of your lens.
For instance, if you have a 500mm lens, you will want to shoot at 1/500th of a second or faster while you handhold the camera. This is mostly if the subject is still.
If you are a passionate wildlife photographer, you may have dreamt of photographing a wild animal or bird in its natural habitat.
As a frequent traveler to wildlife sanctuaries and nature parks, you may wish to shoot wildlife like bears, tigers, bison, elephants, and deer in the wild. One thing you need to take with you on these trips is a good camera with a great wildlife lens.
You may have the most expensive camera in the market. But if a poor quality lens accompanies it, then the quality of the images may suffer.
So, we have gathered 5 of the best wildlife photography lenses available in the market at the moment to make the process easier for you. We hope you will find the perfect lens for your particular camera from this list and click plenty of gorgeous wildlife photography like never before!
Happy Wildlife Photography!Back to Top