Best Lenses For Wildlife Photography – 2020 Buyer’s Guide

If you have a passion for wildlife photography, you certainly cannot underestimate the power of a good lens.

No matter how expensive your camera is, the quality of a lens can make or break your budding photography career.

Since buying a lens for your camera is an expensive investment to make, you need to consider all important aspects to choose the right one that suits your aesthetics.

Comparison of the Best Lenses For Wildlife Photography

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM

  • Best overall
  • Lightweight while using magnesium alloy barrel construction
  • Image stabilization is provided with four corrections stops for shaking
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Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II

  • Runner-up
  • Has a zoom range of 16mm to 300mm
  • Comes with a lens hood to block sunlight or UV rays
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Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG

  • Front glass is water and oil resistant
  • Focal length range is 150mm to 600mm
  • Best budget lens for wildlife photography
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NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II

  • Best Nikon telephoto lens for wildlife
  • Focal length ranges from 55mm to 200mm
  • Vibration reduction allows a stable image with four stops
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Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED

  • Has maximum magnification of 0.32x
  • Best lens for wildlife photography Nikon
  • Focal length ranges from 18mm to 300mm
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Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E

  • Best lens for wildlife photography
  • Vibration reduction mode offers 4.5 stops
  • A fast lens with f/5.6 to produce great results even in low light
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Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS

  • Best Canon wildlife lens
  • Optical image stabilization with four stops
  • One fluorite as well as four UD elements to prevent aberrations
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Sony FE 70-300mm SEL70300G

  • Best Sony wildlife lens
  • Extra low dispersion glass for distortion reduction
  • Comes with 9 blade circular aperture for smooth, defocused backgrounds
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What is Wildlife Photography?

Wildlife photography is a type of photography where photographers focus on capturing wildlife moments of animals in their natural habitat. They not only need to specialize in photography based on wildlife, but they also have to learn behaviors of different animals to anticipate their actions and capture them accordingly. This profession requires a great deal of passion, persistence, and patience for nature and art; a wildlife photographer has to put his comfort zone aside in order to explore remote areas and deal with changing behaviors of animals to get the perfect shot.

Can Any Lens Be Used for Wildlife Photography?

No, not every lens is suitable for wildlife photography. Wildlife photography uses some of the basic equipment, but for a successful outcome of photography, it requires specialized lenses for different types of subject animals.

For example, if your subject is insects, you need to use a macro lens. For capturing a bird flying in the sky, you need a lens with a long focal length; if you are planning on capturing marine life, you need to use specialized marine cameras and underwater lenses. Hence, in order to have incredible results, you need to buy a good quality lens that is well-suited for capturing different wildlife subjects.

What Makes a Great Wildlife Photography Lens?

Ever seen incredible wildlife pictures of fierce lions incredibly close to the camera, a flying bird looking straight into the lens or a stampede of wild elephants in the Savannah? You might have wondered how were those photographers able to produce such amazing results. The secret of their success lies in their knowledge about choosing the best-suited lenses and their ability to use them in the right way. Some of the qualities that you need to consider in wildlife photography lens are as follows:

Focal Length

The most important purpose of capturing wildlife is to get closer to it. The focal length is all about that. Some animals are shy when they see humans around, and hence, capturing them in close proximity becomes almost impossible for photographers. A long focal length allows you to get clear pictures of subjects that are at a large distance. Hence, to shoot flying birds or animals that are far away from you, you need to buy a lens with a wide range of focal lengths. Those having a range of 150mm to 800 mm are best suited for wildlife photography.

Wide Aperture

Successful wildlife photography requires lenses with wide apertures that are capable of capturing maximum light into the camera. Since wild animals are more active at dawn or dusk than any other time of the day, photographers need to have lenses with an aperture of f/.40, or even more than that, to be able to capture shots in low light.

Fast Shutter Speed

Wildlife photography requires quality lenses with fast shutter speed in order to freeze the movement of fast-running animals or birds flying in the sky. Such lenses hold a prime significance to capture subjects with low light at a fast shutter speed that makes it indispensable to produce high-quality photos of wild animals.

Quick Take - Best Lenses For Wildlife Photography

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

  1. ​Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM
  2. ​Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II
  3. Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG

Review of the Best Lenses For Wildlife Photography

To help you make an informed decision about an expensive investment like a wildlife photography lens, we reviewed some of the best options on the market, along with their main features, pros, and cons.

Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM Super Telephoto Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras

PROS

  • Focal length is 800mm which allows capturing fine photos of animals that are far away
  • You can easily hold this camera since it has built-in image stabilization of four stops
  • Low weight of 10 pounds that brings a great deal of convenience to photographers
  • Comes with weather-resistant gaskets that are well-suited for unfavorable weather conditions
  • Since it uses UD and super UD glass elements, it provides amazing sharpness, contrast and color correction for photos

CONS

  • Gives vignetting at some focal lengths
  • Requires a custom purchase of UV filter to block UV rays from the front element
  • Produces photos of different image qualities depending on the position of the sun

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers were thrilled with the quality of the images that this lens produces. They reported that it had a responsive focus and performed amazingly well. Some customers considered this to be on the higher end of the price range, but the overall customer feedback was very positive. In fact, many also recommended others to buy it.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This product is weather-resistant and dust-free, meaning that it works well even in harsh conditions. It produces exciting results related to sharpness, color correction, and contrast. It is easy to handle, which minimizes the need for a tripod stand. It comes with a good range of focal lengths and built-in image stabilization.

Who Will Use This Most

Since this Canon lens offers a good range of focal lengths and wide aperture, it is best suited for people who have a passion for wildlife photography. Not only that, but it also offers the required features suitable for sports photography and news photo-journalism.

Bottom Line

Overall, this is the best lens that provides you with exciting features at a reasonable price. Features like a wide range of focal lengths, wide aperture, ergonomics, and the use of two fluorite elements make it a major bang for your buck.

Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II VC PZD All-In-One Zoom for Nikon DX DSLR Cameras

PROS

  • Moisture resistant, so it works quite well for outdoor shoots
  • Works well for both wide-angle and distant telephoto shots
  • Spherical elements are deployed in it to give clear and sharp image results
  • Lens hood protects the front part from scratches and also blocks sunlight
  • Great image stabilization allows you to produce excellent results even if the camera shakes with its vibration compensation

CONS

  • Focus is sometimes lost for a closer subject
  • Needs a separate firmware update for some cameras
  • When an image is widely zoomed out, it results in a bit of barrel distortion

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers were quite satisfied with its autofocus feature and crisp image results. According to them, the image stabilization was amazing, and its zoom lock was engaging. A few complained about optical distortion in images, but the majority of buyers recommended this product to others.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens offers a stream of incredible features at an amazingly affordable price. With its wide focal range, it is suitable for both wide-angle and distant shots. It ensures fine sharpness and crisp images because of its spherical elements. Its moisture-resistant feature also allows photographers to enjoy an outdoor shoot even when the weather conditions are not so favorable.

Who Will Use This Most

Because of its wide focal length range, this lens is best suited for both indoor and outdoor photographers. It offers a macro panoramic view of wildlife as well as natural landscape photography. It also provides amazing results to sports photographers because of its wide aperture.

Bottom Line

This Tamron lens has a compact design that offers the versatility of features to photographers who do not like switching cameras a lot. It produces fine, crisp photos for wide-angle as well as large distant shoots. Wildlife photographers can rely on it to capture incredible shots of animals from different angles.

Best Budget Lens for Wildlife Photography:
Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG

Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Canon

PROS

  • Lightweight and compact construction mean that its usability is high
  • Large focal length to take perfect shots at different distances
  • You can get improved focusing control with the help of its MO switch
  • Water, oil, and dust repellent makes it perfect for harsh weather conditions
  • Allows high customization like firmware updates and focused limiter adjustments

CONS

  • Gives a bit of softness and color fringing to the images
  • Vibration control does not work well in some situations
  • Autofocus does not produce clear pictures at proximity for every camera

What Recent Buyers Report

According to buyers, this lens produced great results with its well-functioning autofocus, image stabilization, and weather-resistant features. The price seemed fairly reasonable to them as well. They also loved its low weight, which allowed them to take it to places. Overall, there were hardly any complaints from any of its users, making this an excellent pick.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens produces high-quality images with its variable aperture feature. Its low weight and solid, compact body help a photographer use it without needing a tripod stand. It offers high customization of speed, focus limiter, and manual focus function. Its big range of focal length can help users take good pictures at varying distances.

Who Will Use This Most

These lenses will suit photographers who want high-quality results out of sports. Wildlife photographers who shoot at a distance from their subjects will also find it to be a great pick. Apart from that, it also works well for indoor wide-angle photography.

Bottom Line

This is a great lens that allows wildlife photographers to experiment with their creativity beyond limits. If you are looking for a high-quality lens that comes with great size, weight, and other essential features at an affordable price, then this is just the right one for you.

Best Nikon Telephoto Lens for Wildlife:
NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II

NIKON AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED VR II Lens - White Box (New)

PROS

  • You can switch quickly between MF and AF with its MO feature
  • Seven blades diaphragm gives a more natural touch to photos
  • Provides image stabilization for blur-free images in case of camera shaking
  • Wide focal length to take photos at different distances from the subjects
  • Extra-low dispersion glass minimizes optical distortion and provides sharp images

CONS

  • Gives a bit of color fringing at the outer part of the frame
  • Vibration resistance does not work effectively for sports and wildlife photography
  • You need to make sure there is enough light available for using its autofocus feature

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers were quite satisfied with the purchase of this lens. They liked its weight, sharpness, and overall image quality. Some reported that its autofocus did not produce sharp images in low light, but overall, they were convinced by its amazing performance that they were able to get at such a great price.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens offers a versatile range of zoom to capture all kinds of photos from portraits and group shots to sports and wildlife. It produces blur-free photos with its image stabilization supported by vibration reduction. Other than that, its MO feature, wide focal length range, extra-low dispersion glass, and seven blade diaphragm produce sharp, high-quality results.

Who Will Use This Most

Because of its versatility of features, it can be used by portrait as well as wildlife photographers. Sports photographers can also get good results out of it because of its good focal length and adjustable aperture. Given its features, it’s safe to say that it’s a good pick for quite a variety of uses.

Bottom Line

This is a great multipurpose lens with a small size and compact design. It provides all the features that a wildlife photographer demands in a lens, including image stabilization, vibration resistance, minimized optical distortion, good range of focal length, and wide aperture. What else could you ask for at such a reasonable price?

Best Lens for Wildlife Photography Nikon:
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

PROS

  • Light and short build makes it convenient to use
  • Rubber seal surrounding the lens protects from dust
  • Auto-focus feature has a silent wave motor that reduces sound while capturing photos
  • Spherical surfaces minimize aberrations, and extra-low dispersion glass helps reduce optical distortions
  • Vibration reduction provides high image stabilization to prevent images from getting ruined due to camera shake

CONS

  • Not weatherproof to be used in harsh weather conditions
  • Vibration reduction mode does not have separate active and normal options
  • Focus ring used in manual mode is very narrow and located close to the lens mount

What Recent Buyers Report

The buyers reported that the lens was quite easy to handle and produced high-quality photos for them. They further state that it could focus well at a very close distance, and there was minimal optical distortion. The overall customer response was good, ensuring that users had no regrets about investing in it.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens is easily portable with its lightweight and compact design. With its vibration reduction mode, it works well to minimize the chances of getting blurred images. Its silent wave motor works to minimize shooting noise in autofocus mode. Moreover, it has features like ELD glass and aspherical surfaces that work to reduce optical distortions and aberrations.

Who Will Use This Most

We believe this is best suited for people who like to do travel photography because of its lightweight and compact design. It also shows superior performance for wildlife and sports photography due to its good range of focal length and wide aperture. It is also recommended for portraits as well as wide-angle landscape photography.

Bottom Line

All in all, this Nikon lens helps you capture a variety of amazing views, no matter how close or distant they are. It offers you a great variety of features that help you achieve high-quality, sharp, and beautiful photos while minimizing optical distortions and lens flare.

Best Lens for Wildlife Photography Nikon D500:
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

  • Compact lens that can help you in capturing photos conveniently
  • Built with magnesium, making it super durable and increasing its usability
  • Electromagnetic diaphragm provides consistent exposure through every frame
  • With its VR mode, you can get clear, blur-free photos even if the camera shakes up to 4.5 stops
  • Extra-low dispersion glass pierces even through bright sunlight to produce distortion-free photos

CONS

  • Not lightweight, unlike other high-end lenses
  • Not weather-resistant to bear with harsh conditions
  • Focus ring requires 180 degrees of rotation to capture zoomed images

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers reported that this lens had low distortion, minimal vignetting, low flare, and high image stabilization, but the weight was an issue for handheld photoshoots. However, customers were satisfied with the quality of the images it produced, which is why they were willing to overlook its weight.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This product is reasonably priced for the variety of incredible features that it has to offer. Its f/5.6 aperture allows you to capture beautiful photos with mildly blurred backgrounds. Meanwhile, its focal length delivers amazing shots for every subject, no matter how close or far it is. The VR technology and ELD glass help in providing perfect shots with minimal distortion.

Who Will Use This Most

Many kinds of photographers can use this lens to capture breathtaking photos, including wildlife photographers, events photographers, and sports photographers. Its high versatility is primarily because of the numerous features it comes with, including the ELD glass, which reduces distortion.

Bottom Line

This product does not have any focusing issues and produces minimal vignetting, low distortion, minimal lens flare, and high image stabilization. It also comes with good construction quality. All these features with such an amazing price definitely make this Nikon lens worth your investment.

Best Canon Wildlife Lens:
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x

PROS

  • Comes with hard case and straps to easily carry it with you
  • Autofocus feature works fine even in low light and for fast-moving subjects
  • Teleconverter lens increases focal length for better quality images
  • Wide aperture telezoom helps capture zoomed photos for fast motion, low light subjects
  • Strong, magnesium-coated body that is weatherproof which makes it more durable even in unfavorable weather conditions

CONS

  • Quite heavy to be carried easily while traveling and outdoor shoots
  • Expensive compared to similar lenses offering almost the same features
  • Changing the zooming lens is difficult while holding the camera in hand

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers praised the quality of images and the performance of this lens; they claim that it was absolutely top-notch, as expected based on its price tag. According to them, it eliminates the need to buy any other lens, so it was a rational investment to make. They loved every aspect of it and recommended that others invest in it too.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens has several exciting features like a circular aperture with 9 blades that produces beautiful images with a little blurred background. It has a sturdy, weather-resistant body that makes it well suited for sports, wildlife, and travel photography. It has fast and accurate autofocusing because of high-speed AF algorithms.

Who Will Use This Most

This has been designed primarily for sports and wildlife photography, as it is best suited for uninvited weather problems that can harm the camera. Travel photographers can also use it since it comes with a hard case and carrying straps. Plus, the three modes of stabilization are suited for a wide variety of shoots.

Bottom Line

This lens cannot be questioned for its image quality, compact and durable design, and other incredible features in its control theme. The price and weight, however, are slightly problematic, but it outweighs all the pros that it has to offer, making it an option worth looking into.

Best Sony Wildlife Lens:
Sony FE 70-300mm SEL70300G

Sony FE 70-300mm SEL70300G F4.5-5.6 G OSS Lens

PROS

  • Can produce clear images of subjects as close as 3 inches
  • Compact, sturdy design that suits all kinds of weathers
  • Prevents photos from being blurry with its optical stabilization
  • Quick autofocus that produces no noise with the help of the linear actuator
  • Quality telephoto zoom lens to capture clear photos at close or far distances

CONS

  • Produces a certain level of distortion at some focal lengths
  • Narrow aperture, so it does not produce the desired results in low light

What Recent Buyers Report

Users reported that they found this lens to be a bit expensive, but its image quality, build quality, and usability justified the price. Apart from that, they were quite happy with the performance it offered and had no complaints regarding the image quality it promised.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This lens works great for any subject, be it at proximity or a long distance. It has a strong, weatherproof body that is good for outdoor photography experience. Its telephoto zoom lens can give amazing results for portraits, landscapes, sport, or wildlife photography.

Who Will Use This Most

Because of the incredible versatility of its features, this can be used by all kinds of photographers that are interested in travel, portrait, wide-angle, events, sports, or wildlife photography. In addition to that, it can be used for taking both distant and close-up shots and is also a great choice for those with shaky hands.

Bottom Line

It comes as no surprise that this Sony lens offers a great focus, high-quality images, weather-resistance, and compact build quality at a fairly reasonable price. All of these features make it the best suited for all genres and levels of photography.

Aspects to Consider Before Buying

Going through the top picks is not enough to help you buy the perfect lens for yourself. You also need to take the following into consideration:

Versatility

Versatility is an important factor to consider when buying a camera lens. Most photographers take photos of different kinds, from portraits to landscapes. Making sure that your camera lens gives you enough range to shoot wide for landscapes, as well as capture insects from a shorter distance, is vital for wildlife photography.

Aperture

The aperture of a camera controls how much light is allowed in. A camera with a larger aperture lets in more light than one with a smaller aperture. Aperture usually translates to the ‘speed’ of the camera. The larger the aperture, the faster the camera. It also determines the sharpness of the photo or its depth of field. Most cameras with maximum aperture are a bit pricey, but a good deal can be found if pre-owned lenses are bought.

Size, Weight, and Quality

The construction of the camera lens varies greatly. Most cameras with better quality and faster ‘speed’ tend to be heavier, which can be quite difficult to use and travel with. However, lighter ones tend to be slower in terms of aperture and have slightly lower quality.

Price

Price is arguably the most important aspect to consider when buying a camera lens. The cost of lenses varies greatly depending largely on their brand and/or quality. Cheaper lenses tend to be less sharp and poorly constructed. However, some, for example, a 50mm f/1.8, have better performance and are significantly cheaper.

Cautious Considerations to Keep in Mind

Investing in a lens is not easy, and it will take up quite a lot of savings on your part. Therefore, to ensure that you only get the very best, make sure to keep the following considerations in mind.

Avoid Buying Used Lenses

Used camera gear has become an industry in itself. The prices are a lot cheaper, and it's easier to recover purchasing costs if you decide to resell, since you're already buying it at a discounted price. In spite of all this, the cons of buying used lenses heavily outweigh the pros. Used camera lenses bought through private dealers usually do not have a warranty or a return policy.

This is quite inconvenient, as the model might have issues or hidden problems that only come up after a significant amount of use. If that is the case, you end up spending more money than you had saved. Even if you buy these used lenses at a good price, having to replace them sooner or later or covering the costs of getting them fixed can easily result in you not saving a whole lot of money.

Check for Warranty

Checking for a warranty before purchasing a camera lens is vital. If the lens is bought from an unauthorized dealer in search of a good deal, the manufacturer will likely not provide a warranty. This can be troublesome in cases of accidental damage. Usually, regular repairs are also needed, which, without a warranty, will end up being costly in the long run.

Conclusion

Several other options of wildlife photography lens are available that may come with a more modest price tag. This article focused on the ones that produced the best results. Based on your budget and preferences of focal length, adjustable aperture, and versatility of other features, you can choose the option that you think best suits your creativity, aesthetic, and means.

People Also Ask

If you have any further ambiguities about choosing the right lens for wildlife photography, read on to get answers to the following frequently asked questions:

What Size Lens Do I Need for Wildlife Photography?

Big size and heavyweight lenses are sturdy and more durable. But, for wildlife photography, you need to buy smaller-sized, lightweight lenses for easy handling. Hence, one that weighs 1lbs to 4lbs and has a relatively small size is the best for this purpose.

Is a 300mm Lens Good for Wildlife?

The size or focal length needed for wildlife photography depends on your distance from your subjects. Generally, lenses having a minimum focal length of 150mm work well for wildlife photography. So yes, a 300mm lens is good for this purpose.

What is the Best Focal Length for Wildlife Photography?

Since the required focal length of a lens depends upon the distance from the subjects, many photographers have different preferences about it. But the majority of them like the 500mm focal length since it allows them to capture full-frame, close, and clear shots.