Best Lenses For Bird Photography – 2020 Buyer’s Guide

In 2019, photography has turned into an even bigger profession than it was before. Especially its strains like nature photography and wildlife photography, have more and more people involved every day. But starting on something, as a profession, a hobby, or a skill you want to acquire cannot be easy if you don’t know where to start or which equipment you need.

So, in this article, we will be discussing bird photography, a subset of wildlife photography, and what lenses are best for taking perfect photos as a bird photographer.

Comparison Chart of the Best Lenses For Bird Photography

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED

  • Lens with both normal and telephoto capabilities
  • Minimum aperture of 8mm and a maximum aperture of 34mm
  • Minimum focal length of 70mm and maximum focal length of 300mm
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Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens

  • Lens type is telephoto
  • Minimum aperture of 4mm and a maximum aperture of 32mm
  • Minimum focal length of 70mm and maximum focal length of 300mm
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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L

  • Best budget lens for bird photography
  • Minimum aperture of 5.6mm and a maximum aperture of 32mm
  • Focal length is 400mm, and focus type is ultrasonic
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Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E

  • Best lens for bird photography Nikon
  • Minimum aperture of 5.6mm and a maximum aperture of 32mm
  • Minimum focal length of 200mm and maximum focal length 500mm
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Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L

  • Best Canon lens for bird photography
  • Minimum aperture of 4.5mm and a maximum aperture of 40mm.
  • Minimum focal length of 100mm and maximum focal length of 400mm.
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Can Any Lens Be Used For Bird Photography?

Bird photography is a subset of wildlife photography and requires a certain type of lens to get the perfect shot. So, no, any lens cannot be used for bird photography. We have three main types of lenses based on focal length, wide-angle, standard, and telephoto. Wide-angle lenses are great for dramatic shots, and standard lenses are good for any kind of slightly distanced photos, but for bird photography, in which most of the birds you want to take a photo of are shy and flighty, these two just won’t do.

That leaves telephoto lenses, which are the best option because they have the greatest zooming capability out of all three. Plus, you can take photos with complete clarity and detail even when you are at quite a distance from the specimen.

Why Did These Lenses Make Our List?

Lenses that are great for nature and wildlife photography and video recording require a few special features to go along with them, as any standard camera will just not do. Some of the features that lenses specifically for wildlife and bird photography, need to have been discussed below:

Greater Zoom Range

Wildlife photography is something that cannot be done brashly. You can’t be just running around a forest or an open meadow, chasing some sort of animal or bird around with your camera for the sake of a good shot. That is a pretty fast way to alarm the specimen and make them hide or attack because they feel threatened. Most of the creatures startle or run as soon as you try to get close. Therefore, a telephoto lens is required for such jobs. It has the greatest capacity for zooming in and out of all other lenses, so you are able to take amazing photos even from quite a distance. 

Fast and Quiet Autofocus

As stated before, wildlife and bird photography are delicate arts. Most photographers have to wait for a long time to get the perfect shot and to make good recordings as the animals and birds are super sensitive to sound and can take off if they feel the slightest bit threatened. This is where the autofocus comes in. A good autofocus feature does not make any sound when it is turned on and also is fast in capturing movements and details of the creatures without disturbing or startling them.

Protection Against the Elements

Wildlife and bird photographers have to get used to rough conditions pretty quickly. Let’s face it; the wild is not a five-star hotel. They need to lay down on dirty grounds for hours at times, crawl around on their hands and knees, wait in the pouring rain, run around and climb trees, etc. They have to do all this for the sake of a good shot. So manufacturers need to keep in mind these rough conditions and develop the equipment in accordance with the consumer’s needs. Protection against rain, dust, breakage, etc. is a must for any good lenses if they really want to last and be known in this community. 

Great Optical Display

The most basic thing after all the shooting and recording has been done is for the image or the video to have good optical quality. Nowadays, lenses are manufactured with materials such as fluorite, SLD glass elements, UD glass elements, etc. Basically, these materials are great at minimizing the chromatic aberrations or other such disturbances from photos, as well as giving them a good color balance. Good optical quality is important for any professional photographer.

Quick Take - Best Lenses For Bird Photography

Before we dive into our review, here are the best lenses for bird photography:

  1. Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED 
  2. ​​Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens 
  3. Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L

Review of the Best Lenses For Bird Photography

Now, we will discuss the different types of lenses that have been rated the best and discuss some of their features, pros, cons, and why they are considered the best when compared to others.

Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR Fixed Zoom Digital Slr Camera Lens, Black

PROS

  • Resistant to rain and dust as the lens is sealed
  • Large zoom ring provides optimal torque for smooth and even zooming
  • 4.5 stops of vibration shooting for better hand-held shooting and better low-light capabilities
  • Improved autofocus with a stepping motor for faster and quieter focusing for action or live recordings
  • Electromagnetic Diaphragm mechanism promises great photos because of exposure control during high-speed sequences

CONS

  • Lens fit is very tight and can get stuck
  • A little too soft-focused in some cases
  • Has limited compatibility with the cameras

What Recent Buyers Report

People who have recently bought this lens and used it have given it really positive reviews and recommended it for use to other people. They say that they have taken it with them for their safaris, bird-watching, and annual cross country trips, and it has performed extremely well. They were able to take lots of photos of nature, especially birds and other wildlife, with complete clarity and full detail. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

It stands out to us because of its autofocus feature. In most lenses, this can actually be really noisy while being used or makes weird whirring noises. When it comes to bird photography, even the slightest sound can make them fly away, so this feature that works fast smoothly and quietly is a big plus for professionals and amateurs both. 

Who Will Use This Most

People who love to go on outdoor adventures or trips, such as safaris, cross country road trips or bird watching, etc. will love this lens. It is perfect for taking photos of wild animals and birds, anything that you cannot get really close to for fear of scaring it off.

Bottom Line

It is a good lens, with a lot of improved features than its previous versions, such as image quality, speed, autofocus, durability, image stabilization, etc. People who have bought and used it have been impressed by it and have recommended it to other users, showing that it is a promising product.

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

PROS

  • Optimum color balance in photos throughout
  • High optical performance is seen in the entire zoom range
  • Consists of three pieces of SLD glass for high-quality photos
  • Multi-layer lens coating and design minimize chances of flare and ghosting
  • Consists of a switch that converts lens to macro photography when it is within the 200-300mm range

CONS

  • Soft focus at full zoom
  • Micro-focusing adjustment issues have also been reported
  • Lens prone to dust and rain damage, as there is no weatherproofing

What Recent Buyers Report

People who have recently bought and used this lens are greatly satisfied with their performance. Most of them love it, saying how it is easy to carry around when they go exploring or bird watching. They further state that the photos and recordings come out really clear and detailed with great color balance.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It stands out to us because of SLD glass elements used in the manufacture of the lens. Two SLD glass elements are present in the front lens group, while one is present in the rear lens group. This gives the photos a better quality, as it prevents chromatic aberrations throughout the entire zoom range.

Who Will Use This Most

People who frequently take up projects that require telephoto lenses should definitely use this. It covers a wide range of photography and is considered ideal for portraits, nature photography, sports photography and wildlife photography. And since bird photography can also be included in this category, it is safe to say that this is a great choice for that as well.

Bottom Line

It is a great lens that comes highly recommended for use by old and recent users. Its features, such as tele-macro function, SLD glass elements, color balance, multi-layer lens coating, etc. are all assets for a photographer. They make your job a bit easier for you by improving the quality of your photos and videos. 

Best Budget Lens for Bird Photography:
  Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Super Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

PROS

  • UD glass elements for optimal optical quality
  • USM autofocus feature that is both fast and quiet
  • Super telephoto lens is able to take photos have great quality
  • Portable and lightweight, perfect for taking from one place to another
  • Built-in lens hood for protection against damage because of dust or rain

CONS

  • Not good in low light scenarios
  • Needs a tripod for good still shots in some cases
  • Lack of image stabilization is a problem for some people

What Recent Buyers Report

People who have recently bought and used this lens are greatly satisfied with their performance. They say that it is a great lens that needs to be more commonly used in the photographers’ community, especially by professionals. They also state that it is portable and easy to handle, which is always welcome when you are on the go.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It stands out to us because of the use of UD and super UD glass element in the manufacturing of its lenses. One UD glass element and one super UD glass element have been used in its making, and because of them, it has outstanding optical and image quality that makes it more clear and detailed. 

Who Will Use This Most

People who are specifically interested in wildlife photography, nature photography, and bird photography should definitely give this lens a try. It is a great model and has been recommended by people who have previously used it. It gives good quality results and is durable, which are the most basic qualities that a photographer looks for in any lens. 

Bottom Line

It is a good quality product that should definitely be given a try by professionals and amateurs alike. Its features, such as USM autofocus feature, UD glass element, super-telephoto lens quality, portability, etc. are all greatly sought after in the photography community. Do check it out if you are interested. 

Best Lens for Bird Photography Nikon:
  Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

PROS

  • Super integrated coating lessens flare and ghosting
  • Possible to take photos at slower shutter speed in low lighting  
  • Electromagnetic diaphragm is present to turn fast-moving action to amazing photo sequences
  • Silent wave motor autofocus system is fast and quiet when it comes to shooting or recording videos
  • Vibration reduction image stabilization prevents shakiness up to 4.5 stops for sharp photos and videos

CONS

  • Autofocus performance is a bit sluggish
  • Can be soft rather than sharp in its focusing
  • Lens hood falls off because it does not have a lock

What Recent Buyers Report

People who have recently bought this lens have praised its performance and have recommended it for use by amateurs and professionals alike. They say that it is of very good quality and that they are quite impressed by the results they have acquired after using it. Some also say that they take it with them on their trips and adventures, so they can capture all the beauty around them in the greatest detail.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It stands out to us because of the ability to take great photos with low shutter speed and low lighting. Most cameras actually are not able to do this; their results are usually too dark or too unfocused even to make out. But this feature of this lens makes it a must-have for anyone who wants to capture special moments at night as well.

Who Will Use This Most

People who are interested in wildlife and bird photography and want to get into this kind should definitely go for it. It is also suitable for both beginners and professionals. It is a good quality product that has been recommended for use by old and recent buyers alike. It has fulfilled all of their requirements and given them good results and hopefully will do the same for you.

Bottom Line

It is a product of fine quality that should definitely be tried out. Its features, such as super integrated coated lenses, silent autofocus with stepping motor, vibration image stabilizer, etc. all contribute to it being a great product that will remain in use. It also gives amazing and high-quality results for years to come.

Best Canon Lens for Bird Photography:
 Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, Lens Only

PROS

  • 9-blade circular aperture renders beautiful and soft backgrounds
  • A three-mode image stabilizer allows for four-step photo correction
  • New Air Sphere Coating (ASC) helps minimize backlit flaring and ghosting
  • New inner focusing AF system ensures fast and accurate focus with up to 0.31x magnification
  • Manufactured of fluorite and super UD element to provide contrast to photos and to minimize chromatic aberration across the zoom range

CONS

  • Heavier in comparison to other lenses
  • Locking mechanism is quite lacking in function
  • Tripod collar foot is hard to attach and remove

What Recent Buyers Report

People who have recently bought and used this lens have loved it and have been greatly satisfied with its performance. They say that it is a quality piece of equipment that they have been happy to buy and that is of good quality so they will be able to use it for years to come. Users also state that they take it with them on their adventures as it is very easy to carry around.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It stands out to us because of the New Air Sphere Coating (ASC) that is used in its manufacturing. Basically, what it does is that it coats the lenses and makes sure that the chromatic aberrations that cause backlighting of flares or ghosting effects are minimized. This leads to good optical results, which are essential.

Who Will Use This Most

People who are interested in taking up wildlife or bird photography, or are already professionals in this field should definitely check this lens out. It is of fine quality and has been recommended for use by people who have used it before. It gives good quality results, is easy to handle and carry from place to place, which is important for nature or wildlife photographer.

Bottom Line

It is a good quality product for beginners and professionals alike. Its features, such as Air Sphere Coating (ASC), portability, 9-blade circular aperture, three-mode image stabilizer, etc. all contribute to it being a good quality lens for your camera. It is a reliable product that will give you optimal image results for years to come. 

Advantages of Investing in a Quality Lens For Bird Photography

The advantages of investing in a good quality lens for bird photography are as follows:

Long-Lasting

Rather than buying lots of lenses for cheap rates and cheap construction, invest in a few expensive and quality ones that will last you for years to come. It is always said that you should choose quality over quantity, and it is true. Cheaper and poorly manufactured lenses can break or stop working sooner than later, and just make you spend more money in buying new ones. Meanwhile, a few good quality lenses may put a dent in your pocket at the time but will fill that dent in the years to come by being long-lasting and giving you quality results.

Better Quality Results

It is quite obvious to know that a better quality lens will give a better result and optical display. It is a good idea to invest in a quality lens for bird photography, as birds can range from super small to really big. All of them have different movement patterns, are of different colors, make different sounds, etc. Therefore, to capture all of these amazing details with precision and clarity, one must have a high-quality lens handy. This will ensure that there is no blurriness, distortion, etc. in the photos.

Conclusion

As stated before, photography, especially nature and wildlife, is becoming a more common profession and hobby day by day. It is enjoyed by a lot of people casually and as a means for money. Both of these types require good quality equipment so that the results obtained are of the highest quality. These can impress others with your skills and make you happy with the praise and money you receive. And even if it is not done for the money, developing a new skill is good enough too. 

People Also Ask

You might still have some questions about the perfect lens for bird photography. So, to make it easy for anyone who is interested, a few questions have been answered that people commonly ask down below.

Is 400mm Enough For Bird Photography?

The main requirement of bird photography is a telephoto lens with a high zoom range. For beginners, it is recommended that they buy and begin using lenses with a minimum of 400mm because that is considered the minimum acceptable focal length if you want to start with bird photography seriously. Professionals usually use 600-800mm lenses, as they are more experienced and have already used a wide range to know which ones give the best results. 

What is the Best Focal Length For Wildlife Photography?

The best focal length varies and depends on a range of factors such as your subject or specimen, the distance from which you are photographing, specimens’ sensitivity to light, etc. Usually, photographers like to keep their distance from the creatures, which require a good zoom range for a good quality photo. So, a minimum of 300mm is good for an APS-C DSLR and 400mm for a full-frame DSLR