Photography - Gear/Equipment

Wildlife Photography: Best Lenses for Wildlife Photography (A Buying Guide)

900 Views - 9 mins read

Getting that terrific shot requires a lot of effort especially if you are into wildlife photography. You might have to wait for days before you manage to capture that shot. If you are patiently waiting for long, then you want to make sure that you have the appropriate photography gear for it. The camera and lenses are the most important equipment that you need. The camera would allow you to capture what you want and the right lenses would take you closer to your subject. But, most people often wonder as to how to choose lenses especially for the purpose of wildlife photography. Choosing the best lenses for wildlife photography can be a tough task particularly if you are a beginner. There are a lot of factors that have to be considered. We have listed the factors that you need to look into before purchasing a lens and a few telephoto lenses that you can choose from. We have also mentioned a few tips that can help you get a terrific shot. 

How to Choose Lenses for Wildlife Photography

When it comes to wildlife photography, you need to understand that it is a very different from other types of photography. This is because unlike humans, the animals won’t pose for you. They are rather unpredictable and wouldn’t like it if you get too close to them. Most of the animals are quite fast; they would either run away or fly off. 

This means that you would require either short lens for wildlife photography or zoom lens that is capable of keeping up with their pace. For that, there are a few factors that you need to consider while choosing a lens for wildlife photography. 

Shutter Speed

This is a necessary consideration especially when you want to freeze a bird in motion. Of course, the maximum shutter speed would be determined by your camera but the maximum aperture of the lens would give you the chance to use swift shutter speed with the prevailing light. The lower the f-number is in the lens, the faster it would be. 

Focal Length

When it comes to choosing the best wildlife photography lens, the focal length is one of the most important factors. When you use a short lens for wildlife photography, it is quite obvious that you wouldn’t be able to get too close to your subject in order to fill the frame. This is why some of the lenses meant for this purpose have a focal length of 200mm or higher. Also, you need to remember that when shooting with a Canon or Nikon telephoto lens, you have to pay attention to image stabilization. This becomes especially important if you aren’t carrying a tripod. 


When you are shooting a bird in motion or an animal running, you have to make sure that your lens can keep up with the pace. The animal would be long gone if you have to set the focus each time the animal is making any movement. Thus, when purchasing a lens, make sure to check its autofocus speed. 

A prime lens can be useful but it is best to use a zoom lens as they are ideal when it comes to shooting every movement of wildlife. If you choose to use a prime lens, you would carry a few that have different focal lengths. However, with a zoom lens, you can capture stunning pictures with just one or two of them. 

camera settings for birds and animals
Perfect camera settings (source)

Best Lenses for Wildlife Photography

The cost of the best lenses for wildlife photography varies and beginners look for lenses that are reasonably priced. We have selected a few Nikon and Canon lens which we feel would work brilliantly for beginners and experts alike. 

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

Wildlife photography is an interesting but tough job. Imagine standing in the middle of the forest, with a lens that is too heavy to hold.  Doesn’t sound too great right? This is why most professional photographers prefer lenses that aren’t too heavy to hold. The Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens is the perfect lens that you can easily carry for a long period of time. When it comes to the build quality and performance of the lens, it is lighter, smaller and delivers brilliant results. Also, it is quite affordable. It would give you the perfect blurry background and you can enhance its performance by mounting an extender behind it. 

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens
Best Lens for Wildlife Photography

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

If you plan on shooting the wildlife in an extremely low light condition like during late evening or night, This is the best Canon camera lens option for you. The 400L IS II is actually the longest f/2.8 focal length lens that’s available in the market except for the Sigma lens. The sigma lens undoubtedly delivers brilliant performance but is priced incredibly high. The f/2.8 aperture on this lens maintains quite an impressive aperture when it is mounted on with the extenders. Considered as one of best lenses for wildlife photography, you can expect impressive images and excellent performance from it. 

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens (source)

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

The Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II is the most recommended lens when it comes to choosing Nature Photography Lens Set or lens for shooting wildlife. This is definitely heavier, larger and an expensive option but is worth the investment. The focal length is excellent and image quality that it delivers is amazing. You would require a monopod, tripod or some other kind of support to shoot with this lens. 

It focuses on the subject accurately and has a sturdy build which makes it one of the best lenses for wildlife photography. The lens alone can deliver excellent performance but when mounted with the 1.4x extender, it can give you slightly better results.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens
Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

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

For wildlife or nature photography, the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L is the best Canon camera lens. The reason why many people choose this lens is that of its inbuilt extender. With the help of the extender, the 200-400mm native focal length range can extend up to 560mm. You could even add external extenders to further the focal length even more. The aperture isn’t as great but it is definitely flexible with its zoom focal length range. The image quality is fine and if you are looking for an affordable lens, you might want to consider this one. 

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L (source)

Canon EF 1.4x III Extender

Extenders are lenses which when used with a compatible lens would multiply the focal length of the lens. Multiply your current lens’s focal length by 1.4 and then narrow the aperture down by 1 stop. This would be the effect that you would get by mounting this extender behind a lens that’s extender-compatible. There might be a slight degradation in the quality of the image along with a very slight decrease in the autofocus. You would get better results with the extender if you use the best lenses for wildlife photography. 

Canon EF 1.4x III Extender
CaptionCanon EF 1.4x III Extender

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens

If you have no problem in carrying a slightly heavy lens that delivers the perfect shot each time, the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G might be the ideal wildlife photography lens for you. Having a maximum aperture of f/2.8, the lens would be able to capture brilliant pictures even while using a fast shutter speed at the start or end of the day. The quality of the image will leave you surprised. 

The VR II (vibration reduction) in this Nikon zoom lens would allow you to take pictures while being handheld without any stabilization to up to four stops. Of course, the 70-200mm focal length might not be the highest, but, you can easily work with it by mounting it on with extenders/teleconverters. 

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED

Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR AF-S Nikkor Lens

The first good thing about this camera: it has an excellent range of 400mm. This range is perfect for shooting wildlife from a distance. On the other hand, the 80mm is great to use when you wish to include more of the scene in your frame. The autofocus is also pretty impressive. 

The professional wildlife photographers look for versatility in lenses to work with and this lens is the perfect example of that. This also means that you wouldn’t have to carry multiple lenses with you when going on a hike. However, the large zoom range does make this lens a bit heavy. The aperture isn’t as wide as you would expect to be but being decently priced, this would work quite nicely.  

Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR AF-S Nikkor
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens (source)

Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR Nikkor Zoom Lens

The 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G is the ideal Nikon telephoto lens having an impressive range. The lens is affordable considering the amazing performance that it delivers. The vibration reduction has also been included in this lens which is an added benefit. Even though the zoom range is pretty large, the lens is portable and lightweight. 

The only downside of this lens is its aperture. The aperture isn’t too wide, only f/4.5 to 5.6. It would work fine during the daytime but isn’t suitable for low-light conditions. If you are a beginner and are on a budget, this would be the perfect lens for you to hone your photography skills. 

Nikon 70-300mm
Nikon 70-300 lens

Tips to Get a Marvellous Shot 

Now, that you are aware of the best lenses for wildlife photography, choose which one would be the ideal one for you. As we have mentioned a few lenses, we would also like to provide a few tips that can help you in getting the perfect shots. 

Tip #1 Patience is the Key 

In wildlife photography, patience is the key to getting that perfect shot. You cannot just reach the spot with your Canon telephoto lens and hope that the animal would pose for you. The best pictures are those wherein the animals are enjoying in their natural habitat. It might be days before you get that one stunning shot, but once you do, it would be worth it. While you are waiting patiently, give more attention to the composition of your image. Think of ways in which you can make it better. 

If you spot wildlife in front of a fascinating background, there are high chances that it would return there. Make your calculations and plan your composition according to that. Also, be prepared with your camera at all times. You might be able to capture a once-in-a-lifetime shot. Remain patient and be prepared, you would surely be rewarded. 

Tip #2 Include the Surroundings 

The surrounding or the context is one of the most crucial aspects in creating an effective wildlife picture. It might not be possible at all times but when you include the beauty of the landscape nearby, the picture seems a lot better. 

With this, we mean that you do not need to fill the entire frame with your subject. A few photographers take the picture in such a way that the animal remains hidden in the landscape itself. Try and include the wildlife along with the scenery in your picture. 

Tip #3 Try To Get Close 

Try to get close to the animal but do not scare them away. A few animals would allow you to get close to them while a few might not. At times, you would have to win the trust of the animals so that they allow you to get close to them. Other than that, camouflaging yourself is a great option. Whatever you do, make sure that you do not end up startling the wildlife or cause distress by going too near. 

Master these tips and we swear you will be an expert. We also have informative tips on wildlife photography for beginners, that will help you understand wildlife photography deeper. 

wildlife photography tips
Stay patient and click unqiue shots

Summing Up 

The best lenses for wildlife photography would aid in bringing the subject up close so that you get a sharp and crisp shot. But, remember that it is not just the equipment that helps you get stunning pictures; it's your skill and technique. So, step out and keep practising. 

Cover Source