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Top 10 Best Lenses for Wildlife Photography
- Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM C (Editor’s Choice)
- Fujinon XF 50-140mm f2.8 R LM + Teleconverter XF 1.4 Kit (Luxury Choice)
- Nikon JAA829DA AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR (Best Value)
- Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM (Best for Canon)
- Nikon 2216 AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR (Best for Nikon)
- Sigma 18-250 mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM (Best for Travel)
- Nikon JAA798DA 55-200 mm f/4-5.6 AF-S VR DX (Best Zoom)
- Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS | APS-C (Best Ergonomic)
- Pentax 55 – 300 mm HD DA f4.5-6.3ED PLM WR RE (Best Fast Focusing)
- Sony FE 200–600 mm f/5.6–6.3 G OSS (Best Super Telephoto)
Are you searching for an ideal camera lens that you can use for wild photography?
Wild photography is a genre of photography that records the life of animals in their natural environment, such as in an underwater or a forest setting. Hence, wildlife photography often comprises the pictures of animals in movement or action, like eating, fighting, or even in flight mode.
Determining the best lens for wildlife photography depends on a few basic camera principles and your specific requirements. When searching for a new lens for wildlife photography, it is not uncommon to become a bit overwhelmed with questions about product design and lens specifications in general. Are prime lenses or zoom lenses better? Do you want a varying maximum aperture? And what is the best focal length or range for wildlife photography?
While this may sound technical at first, don’t worry. We are here to help you navigate the world of wildlife photography lenses so you can make sure you choose the perfect product for you and your individual photography needs.
Keep reading to learn all about the best lenses for wildlife photography.
How We Compared Lenses for Wildlife Photography
To find the right wildlife photography lenses, we considered multiple factors, including:
- Focal length
- Image stabilisation
- Autofocus speed
- Size and weight
- Weather resistance
- Design and build quality
Our experienced team created the following list after spending countless hours researching products and fact-checking customer reviews. We carefully chose a range of products suitable for every nature lover out there, analysing and assessing the comparison points above.
To know more about our review process, have a look here.
Lens for Wildlife Photography Reviews
Our top choice is the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM C lens. It boasts excellent image stabilisation and focal lengths, ideal for wildlife photographers.
Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM C zoom lenses have a focal length ranging from 150 to 600 mm. It has inbuilt autofocus plus two intelligent optical image stabiliser modes with an acceleration sensor to help you achieve clear images quickly, something essential for a wildlife lens. It also features a manual override for added versatility and a zoom lock switch that enables you to shoot at any angle, even facing up or down.
These zoom lenses are built with SLD and FLD lens elements for advanced image quality and clarity overall. Compared to other lenses for wildlife photography, this option has a relatively lightweight construction. These zoom lenses also have a splashproof and dustproof mount and an oil and water repellent coating on the camera body for added protection.
While we love this telephoto lens, its weatherproofing may not be at the highest level, and you could experience noise in shadows on images. The AF may not quickly lock in on an image, but we think its other outstanding features easily make up for these potential cons.
- 150-600 mm focal range is ideal for wildlife photographers
- Lightweight construction
- Two intelligent OS modes with an acceleration sensor
- SLD and FLD lens elements for sharp images
- Built-in zoom lock switch for versatile shooting angles
- The autofocus functions could be slower than expected
- It may not have the most effective weatherproofing
- You might experience noise in shadows on some images
The Fujinon XF 50-140mm f2.8 R LM + Teleconverter XF 1.4 Kit is another fantastic choice. Not only is it a lens for wildlife photography, but its high versatility also makes it suitable for portraits and general photography purposes.
It is built with a triple linear motor. This particular lens has a constant f2.8 aperture and is capable of a 1.4x zoom with the addition of the teleconverter. This makes it equivalent to a 107 to 299 mm lens in a 35mm format. The glass features a Nano-GI coating and high transmittance electron beam coating to reduce flare and ghosting and establish edge to edge sharpness.
A quiet and fast autofocus system paired with a 5.0-stop optical image stabiliser helps you capture the perfect shot, even when your wildlife subject is on the move. The Fujinon XF 50-140mm f2.8 R LM + Teleconverter XF 1.4 Kit is also weather-resistant, dustproof, and is built to function well in colder temperatures reaching as low as -10 °C.
Be aware that this is a great lens for many reasons. Still, it is somewhat bulky, and the image stabilisation system makes a relatively constant whirring noise which could bother some wildlife photographers. It also has a slightly lower maximum focal length, but 300 mm is still plenty for most wildlife photography purposes.
- Fast and quiet autofocus
- Low temperature resistant
- Water-resistant and dustproof
- Advanced lens coatings for reduced ghosting and flare
- The 5.0-stop image stabilisation technology
- Slightly lower maximum focal length
- Somewhat bulky
- Image stabilisation makes a fairly constant noise
Excellent value and quality overall make the Nikon JAA829DA AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR telephoto lens a fantastic choice for most wildlife photography. It is also compact and lightweight.
This Nikon lens is equipped with vibration reduction technology and a smooth and fast autofocus system that functions quietly. It has more straightforward controls to change focus settings using the camera menu instead of the lens’s barrel. Ideally, this will help you achieve the most convenient settings for your particular style as a wildlife photographer.
This compact telephoto lens has a wide range of focal lengths, perfect for all kinds of photography, especially wildlife photography. It also has a much wider maximum aperture, excelling in low light conditions like dusk and dawn.
The Nikon JAA829DA AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR is a fantastic lens. Still, it does have a slightly lower maximum focal length, and it could have a lower quality image stabilisation system when compared to other top options on our list. Reports indicate that it may not come in the original packaging, but you should be fine as long as you double-check for authenticity upon arrival.
- Excellent value option
- Vibration reduction technology
- Wide maximum aperture excels in low light conditions
- Simplified controls for user ease
- Smooth, quiet, and fast autofocus system
- Slightly lower maximum focal length
- Reports of it not coming in the original packaging
- Lower quality image stabilisation
The Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM is one of the best Canon lenses, especially for a wildlife photographer. It is a prime lens with many benefits, including a super low aperture and relatively lightweight construction.
We chose the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM as the best wildlife lens for Canon due to its nearly silent operation and ultrasonic autofocus speed. As a prime lens with a low fixed aperture, it excels in low light conditions, is fast to focus, and promises quality overall. This option is great for wildlife photography in various situations with a wide-angle lens.
The optics configuration on this prime lens is also suitable for portraits and indoor sports, again thanks to its top quality design and construction. These prime lenses even facilitate a compressed perspective in portraiture, which helps to create depth and improved image quality overall. In addition, Super Spectra coatings significantly reduce flare and ghosting so that you can depend on clear, sharp images.
Although this has been chosen as the best telephoto lens for Canon cameras, you should know that it lacks image stabilisation. The autofocus could be less dependable when compared to other top contenders. Lastly, the prime lens design with a fixed focal length eliminates the option to zoom, so it may not be for everyone.
- Fast ultrasonic focusing
- Low aperture is excellent in low light conditions
- Near silent operation
- Compressed perspective in portraiture
- Lightweight and compact lens design
- Fixed focal length
- Lacks image stabilisation
- Autofocus could be less dependable
Finding the best telephoto lens for Nikon can be tricky since they have so many options. However, we sorted through the picks and think you will be pleased with the excellent image quality of the Nikon 2216 AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR zoom lens.
This makes a great all-around lens for wildlife photography and more. It is pretty versatile thanks to its wide-angle zoom and high optical performance. We also love that its ultrasonic focus is almost instant and that you can use the manual focus even if the AF is on. So, you can easily fine-tune the focus and make adjustments to ensure you get the best shot each time.
The Nikon 2216 AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR lens is built with three ED glass elements for better resolution and contrast. It features optical image stabilisation and vibration reduction for smooth and steady images, even at fast shutter speeds. To top it off, it is also relatively compact and lightweight promoting user ease and general steadiness.
We think this is the best wildlife lens for Nikon cameras, but it might not be ideal for low light conditions, and the images may not be as sharp as some people had hoped. Lastly, it could make more noise than some people prefer but don’t let these cons dissuade you too much; it is still a great lens for wildlife photography.
- Vibration reduction system
- Ultrasonic focus is almost instant
- High optical performance
- Versatile all-around lens
- 16.7x telephoto to wide-angle zoom
- It could be louder than expected
- Less sharp images are possible
- Not ideal for low light conditions
The Sigma 18-250 mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM is another lovely choice on our best lens for wildlife photography list. If you are looking for a macro lens, you may want to give this option a closer look.
This impressive lens comes equipped with Sigma’s optical stabilisation technology and a fast autofocus system to help you capture crystal clear images. A significant perk contributing to this being one of the best lenses is that it can be used as both a macro and a telephoto zoom lens. It has a super short 35 cm minimum focus distance, so you can easily shoot extreme close-ups of insects and other miniature objects.
Comparatively, this wildlife photography lens is small and lightweight, making it easy to manoeuvre and travel with. It also features SLD and aspherical lens elements for improved image quality with minimal disturbance and ghosting.
The Sigma 18-250 mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM has a relatively shorter maximum focal length and is not water-resistant. As a result, the images also have the potential to be slightly less sharp than expected, but it still has fantastic image quality overall.
- 35 cm minimum focus distance
- Great for macro photography
- Small and lightweight
- Sigma’s optical stabilisation technology
- SLD and aspherical lens elements
- Shorter maximum focal length
- Not water resistant
- Images could be less sharp
If you are searching for the best zoom lens, the Nikon JAA798DA 55-200 mm f/4-5.6 AF-S VR DX should be strongly considered. It produces sharp images and boasts high versatility so that you won’t be restricted to wildlife photography alone.
The Nikon JAA798DA 55-200 mm f/4-5.6 AF-S VR DX zoom lens enables a 3.6x zoom with a micro ultrasonic autofocus system. This makes a great lens for sports photography, portraiture, nature photography, and wildlife photography. Moreover, it is built with all-important vibration reduction and image stabilisation features and has three shutter speeds for even more added versatility.
The optics on this Nikon lens are built with ED glass for minimal chromatic aberration and increased image clarity in general. You will easily be able to switch between manual and autofocus due to this lens’s intuitive design. If you want high-quality optics, you can’t go wrong with this option.
This telephoto lens has a more restricted focal length range, and the autofocus motor may not be the quietest lens around. There are also reports of possibly inauthentic products without a warranty card being shipped.
- 3.6x zoom capability
- Easily switch between manual and autofocus
- Three shutter speeds with vibration reduction
- ED glass for minimal chromatic aberration
- Micro ultrasonic autofocus
- More restricted focal length range
- Autofocus motor may not be the quietest
- Doubts about authenticity
Ergonomics can play a significant role in deciding which lens is best for you and your photography needs. If ergonomics and outstanding quality are important to you, the Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS | APS-C could be the right choice.
This telephoto zoom lens features one aspherical element paired with three ED glass elements for top-quality optics with minimal chromatic aberration and improved sharpness overall. It is constructed with a fast XD linear motor and advanced optical stabilisation for ideal shooting conditions. This lens also features a convenient zoom lock that prevents it from extending under the weight of the lens and allows you to shoot from different angles without interference.
This compact and lightweight lens for wildlife photography has the option for auto and manual focus with superior ergonomics for a quick switch between the two at a moment’s notice. Another stand out trait of this lens is that it is dust and moisture resistant, so you won’t have to worry about unsuspected weather changes.
The Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS | APS-C lens may not be ideal for lower light conditions, and darker images are sometimes possible. Finally, it might not be suitable for bird photography, but it is still great for other types of wildlife photography.
- Incredibly sharp images
- Dust and moisture resistant design
- Convenient ergonomics for the focusing system
- Fast XD linear motor
- Lightweight and compact build
- It may not perform its best in lower light conditions
- It might not be ideal for bird photography
- Darker images are sometimes possible
The Pentax 55 – 300 mm HD DA f4.5-6.3ED PLM WR RE zoom lens is quick to focus so that you can catch every possible shot. It has several upgraded features often found in the best lenses for wildlife photography and performs well in various conditions.
This telephoto zoom lens features a recently upgraded autofocus system driven by a pulse motor, making it faster in telephoto and wide-angle settings. Compared to the previous model, the improved speed increases this lens’s overall performance. The autofocus system also functions quietly and allows a quick shift to the manual whenever you choose. This lens was also constructed with an HD coating for high power contrast, sharpness from edge to edge, and reduced flare and ghosting.
Lightweight and compact overall, this lens shouldn’t weigh you down or take up too much space in your camera bag. In addition, it features a reliably weather-resistant build plus Pentax’s proprietary super protectant coating, which repels dust, water, and grease. This enhanced protection should keep your gear safe in inclement weather and other unexpected circumstances.
The Pentax 55 – 300 mm HD DA f4.5-6.3ED PLM WR RE zoom lens is probably not ideal for bird photography due to the more restricted maximum focal length, but it should be fine for general wildlife photography. In addition, the image quality may slightly diminish at the full focal length, and this lens may not be compatible with older camera models, at least not without a firmware upgrade.
- Proprietary super protectant coating for weather resistance and more
- Lightweight and compact build
- HD coating for high power contrast and sharpness
- Quick-shift between manual and autofocus
- A pulse motor drives fast autofocus
- It might not be ideal for bird photography
- Performance could diminish at the max focal length
- It may not be compatible with older camera models
The Sony FE 200–600 mm f/5.6–6.3 G OSS telephoto zoom lens makes a fantastic choice for wildlife photographers. This super-telephoto lens brings excellent image quality and a wide focal length range ideal for fast action and far away shots.
With the Sony FE 200–600 mm f/5.6–6.3 G OSS telephoto zoom lens, you get a wide focal range with an extra-long 600 mm maximum focal length perfect for wildlife photography. Its high power focus drive system enables autofocus with quiet precision and speed. Plus, an Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation system eliminates camera shake as well.
Five ED elements paired with one aspherical lens give this telephoto zoom lens excellent resolution throughout the entire zoom range, which isn’t always easy to achieve with super zoom lenses. Sony’s proprietary Nano AR coating also helps to minimise ghosting and flare to bring you sharp images.
As with many telephoto zoom lenses, this lens is bulkier and heavier than other options. We also think it could perform better in backlit scenarios and be brighter in low light conditions. Still, if you are looking for a super-telephoto option, it makes a fantastic choice overall.
- Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation
- Super telephoto zoom lens
- Sony Nano AR coating minimises ghosting and flare
- Fast and precise autofocus
- High resolution throughout the entire zoom range
- Bulkier and heavier design
- It could be brighter in low light conditions
- Not always the best in backlit scenarios
Buyer’s Guide to the Best Lenses for Wildlife Photography
After reading through our reviews for the best lenses, you may wonder about a few key concepts and differentiating treats.
Fortunately, we take a closer look at the most important features found in the best lenses for wildlife photography to help you choose the best lens for your needs. Check out the following sections below, which answer some of the most common questions we’re anticipating for you.
Is a Prime Lens or Zoom Lens Best for Wildlife Photography?
You can use both zoom and prime lenses for wildlife photography. Which style lens is best ultimately depends on your personal preference. However, most photographers choose a zoom lens for wildlife photography.
Zoom lenses give you a range of different focal lengths to work with to quickly get shots with varying magnification levels. There is no need to switch lenses while trying to shoot with a zoom lens, which is particularly handy for capturing images of moving targets, like wildlife. Zoom lenses are also versatile, and you probably will only need one at a time to get the photographs you want.
Prime lenses only give you one focal length, but they often perform better in low light conditions with a lower aperture. Prime lenses are also more lightweight and can be found with longer focal lengths. However, the fixed focal length of prime lenses can often be restrictive when shooting moving targets. It can also force you to carry multiple lenses to achieve the same range as one versatile zoom lens.
Is a 200 MM Lens Enough for Wildlife Photography?
When it comes to lenses for wildlife photography, most people search for a 300 mm lens or even more significant. Nonetheless, some 200 mm lenses will also work nicely. Just don’t expect to shoot wildlife at extreme distances. One perk to a more restricted focal length is that the lens will often be more compact.
Is a 400 MM Lens Enough for Wildlife Photography?
A 400 mm lens is fantastic for most wildlife photography. It enables a far distance and isn’t overly bulky. If you plan on photographing medium to large-sized animals, a maximum focal length of 300 mm or 400 mm should be plenty.
For bird photography, you may want to go as high as a 600 mm or 800 mm lens as birds are much smaller in size, and a larger lens will make them easier to photograph at a closer distance.
What to Look For in the Best Lenses for Wildlife
Look for the following traits to ensure you get a lens that can live up to the demands of wildlife photography. While you may not need to prioritise every attribute listed below, consider the ones you think you will find most useful to ensure you achieve the best user experience and photographic results from the lens you choose.
What is the best focal length for wildlife photography? As we discussed, it depends on the size of wildlife you will be shooting and the distance. A lens with up to 500 mm is generally considered the ideal maximum aperture for wildlife photography.
If you plan on using your lens for macro photography, you will also want to look for a lens’s minimum focus distance. Macro lenses enable a clear shot during extreme close-ups of miniature subjects. Without a macro lens, this type of photography is often inaccessible.
We highly recommend considering the aperture range to find the best lenses for wildlife photography. A lower aperture is faster, allows more light in, and is considered better quality overall. Remember that speed and low light performance are often essential for wildlife photography. Also, depending on the type of wildlife you envision photographing, you may find it is best to shoot at dawn or dusk, when many animals are most active.
Among all other factors, noise is one of the essentials you have to consider. Many professional wildlife photographers look for telephoto lenses that operate so they won’t accidentally disturb or scare off wildlife. You often have to be patient and wait quietly in secret to capture the best shots. The last thing you want is for your lens to frighten wildlife at the opportune moment causing you to miss the best photo or any shot at all for that matter.
Due to their exaggerated size, telephoto lenses are often more difficult to keep steady. For this reason, the best lenses for wildlife photography feature some kind of optical image stabilisation system. Image stabilisation also helps ensure you get a clear shot that is sharp the first time.
The best lenses for wildlife photography will have a fast autofocus system. Note that the quicker, the better when it comes to this feature. As you most likely know, moving targets, like wildlife, are often harder to photograph, and a fraction of a second can make a significant difference. So choose a lens with a super-fast autofocus system to facilitate more opportunities for a great shot.
Size and Weight
Compared to other lenses, wildlife photography lenses are almost always bulky and heavier due to their telephoto capabilities. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t look for a slightly more compact and lightweight lens. This could be important for your comfort as a user if you do not plan on using a tripod.
Generally, a lens with a smaller focal length will be somewhat smaller and more compact but make sure you don’t sacrifice functionality for a slightly lighter lens.
Seeing as how almost all wildlife photography is conducted outside, such as in the forest or underwater, many photographers prefer lenses with weather resistance features.
In that sense, better look for water-resistant, dustproof, and possible oil-resistant lenses to get your device’s complete form of protection. While we don’t recommend taking your lenses or camera body out into heavy rainstorms, weather resistance precautions can often save you in less severe or unexpected weather.
Design and Build Quality
As you may have guessed, the best lenses for wildlife photography will have a convenient design and excellent build quality.
The best lenses should be intuitive and easy to use: attaching them to a camera body and accessing the focus controls and settings. The last thing you would want is to struggle with your lens and miss the perfect shot.
Lastly, we think a top-quality build is essential for wildlife photography—better equipment results in more professional results. Quality construction also ensures the longevity of your lens and often comes with a warranty.
The Best Lens for Your Photography Needs
The best lens for wildlife photography should be easy to spot now that you know what to look for. Our favourite is the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM C zoom lens. It has a focal length range of 150 to 600 mm and outstanding image clarity, which is ideal for wildlife photographers. It also features two intelligent OS modes with an acceleration sensor, SLD and FLD lens elements for sharp images, a zoom lock switch for versatile shooting angles, and a lightweight construction compared to other top options.
While this versatile lens has some weatherproofing, we have reason to believe it might not be the most effective, so we don’t recommend taking it out in the rain intentionally. The autofocus functions could also be slower than expected, and you might experience some noise in shadows on some images.
Suppose these specifications don’t match your particular wildlife photography needs. In that case, one of the other fantastic telephoto lenses or prime lenses on our list should be able to exceed your expectations more. So choose one, and if you don’t already, you’ll be calling yourself a professional wildlife photographer in no time at all.
We hope this article has been helpful to you as we listed down the top ten best lenses for wild photography. We also provided you with some juicy information about what you need to consider when looking for the ideal lens for your project. Besides, we added some frequently asked questions and their corresponding answers that you should know.
Have you decided on which lens is suitable for your wild photography needs? We would like to hear your thoughts about it and this article! So let us know by typing your comments and even suggestions below.