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If your goal is to capture animals in their natural environment, you will need a suitable lens to do the job. Telephoto zoom lenses are the best lenses for wildlife photography as they allow you to isolate details of the landscape, shoot from a long distance, and avoid disturbing the animals. Telephoto lenses can be heavy and often need to be mounted on a tripod in order to be used. However, the extra effort is worth it, as the images you will bring back home cannot be captured with any other type of lens.

When shopping for wildlife photography lenses there are a number of features you should keep in mind. Image stabilization is important when you shoot from a distance, as even the smallest vibration can cause the image to become blurry. Low light performance follows, especially if you plan to shoot birds in a forest where trees stop the sunlight from entering.

In this article, we have collected the ten best lenses for wildlife photography for various brands of mirrorless and DSLR cameras, accounting for price range, focal length, and build quality.

For more of our top wildlife photography gear recommendations, check out the Best Budget Lenses for Wildlife Photography

 

Quick Answer - The Best Lenses for Wildlife Photography

  1. Tamron 70-300 f/4.0-5.6
  2. Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO
  3. Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS
  4. Nikon 80-400mm VR
  5. Canon EF 100-400mm IS II
  6. Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS
  7. Fujinon XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS
  8. Fujifilm XF 100-400mm R LM OIS WR
  9. Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD
  10. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED

 

Comparison Table - Best Lens for Wildlife Photography

PictureNameMountFocal LengthWeightPriceRating
Tamron 70-300 f/4.0-5.6Nikon / Canon70-300mm0.96 lb$4.0
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APONikon / Canon70-300mm1.21 lbs$4.1
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSSSony70-200mm4.91 lbs$$$4.5
Nikon 80-400mm VRNikon80-400mm2.95 lbs$$4.7
Canon EF 100-400mm IS IICanon100-400mm3.46 lbs$$$4.6
Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSSSony70-200mm4.91 lbs$$$4.5
Fujinon XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OISFujifilm55-200mm1.27 lbs$4.5
Fujifilm XF 100-400mm R LM OIS WRFujifilm100-400mm3 lbs$$4.9
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USDNikon150-600mm4.4 lbs$$4.2
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G EDNikon300mm6.39 lbs$$$4.2
PictureNameMountFocal LengthWeightPriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - Best Wildlife Photography Lenses

Tamron 70-300 f/4.0-5.6

Specs
  • Aperture: f/4-5.6
  • Focal Length: 70-300mm
  • Length: 4.6 inches
  • Weight: 0.96 lb
  • Mount: Nikon / Canon
Features
  • Affordable Price
  • Compact Design For Increased Portability
  • Macro Shooting Function To Shoot Small Subjects

BEST FOR: SMALL-SCALE ANIMALS

Tamron 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 lens is made to complement Nikon cameras, especially DSLRs. The fact that it has an in-built motor makes its autofocus compatible with most cameras, enhancing their subject tracking ability. The zoom range of this third-party lens gives enough flexibility for regular photography, as well as telephoto or macro shots. With such zoom capabilities comes chromatic distortions, which the lens takes care of by including a low-dispersion optical element.

Another advantage of the lens is its macro mode that yields a magnification ratio of 1:2, which is half the life-size of your subject. This is especially useful for wildlife photographers taking an interest in small animals like mice or insects. And as you wander around looking for an interesting scene, the lens won’t weigh you down. With a weight of just 16 ounces, the lens offers great features but still provides comfort.

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO

Specs
  • Aperture: f/4-5.6
  • Focal Length: 70-300mm
  • Length: 4.8 inches
  • Weight: 1.21 lbs
  • Mount: Nikon / Canon
Features
  • Affordable Price
  • Large Zoom Range Allows You To Capture Wildlife Far In The Distance And Very Close Up
  • Excellent Color Quality For Enhancing Natural Lighting

BEST FOR: A BURST OF COLOR

Yet another third-party lens, the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO, is specifically oriented on color. This lens is termed APO because of its apochromatic optical elements. Their advantage over regular achromatic elements is color correction in different lighting. 

What’s more is that this lens has a large range of 70 to 300mm, covering everything from wide-angle to telephoto shooting. You can zoom into the distance to capture a glorious wildlife shot, as well as zoom up close to an insect. 

Moreover, the Sigma 70-300mm lens has a 9-blade diaphragm – the part that controls aperture – that gives you control over depth of field. This is especially useful for wildlife photography, so you can vary the depth of the landscape surrounding your subject. Plus, the lens has multiple layers of coating that protect your images from flare and chromatic distortions, as well as improve tonal contrast. Finally, it has a built-in autofocus motor, making it compatible with any camera.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS

Specs
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Focal Length: 70-200mm
  • Length: 11.93 inches
  • Weight: 4.91 lbs
  • Mount: Sony
Features
  • Dust And Moisture Resistant For Robust Reliability
  • High-Performance Optical Image Stabilization
  • Mechanical Focus System For Precise Manual Focus

BEST FOR: FAST APERTURE

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS is part of the G Master series, having superb optical design and other features. The FE 70-200mm has a wide aperture range, resulting in fast shutter speeds up to f/2.8. This lets you capture moving subjects in great detail – a must for wildlife photography. This aperture range is also helpful in poorly-lit scenes and hand-held shots. As such, you have more versatility in when, where, and how you shoot. 

The Sony f/2.8 GM OSS has another impressive feature. Harboring an 11-blade diaphragm, it gives you the ability to try your hand at different blurring effects, including bokeh, to enrich your wildlife shots. Be that a dynamic photo in motion, or a still animal portrait, this lens will have lots to offer. However, be warned that compared to another Sony GM, this one has a smaller zoom range, so if you need telephoto, keep on reading!

Nikon 80-400mm VR

Specs
  • Aperture: f/4.5-5.6D
  • Focal Length: 80-400mm
  • Length: 6.73 inches
  • Weight: 2.95 lbs
  • Mount: Nikon
Features
  • Compact And Lightweight
  • Produces Extra Sharp Images
  • Vibration Reduction System To Avoid Blur

BEST FOR: VERSATILITY OF ZOOM

The Nikon 80-400mm VR lens has the largest zoom range, covering everything from wide-angle to telephoto and macro shots. Naturally, this allows you to experiment with your style, so you can get as close as 5.7 feet to your subject and use the full zoom, as well as just zooming into the distance. You can use it with or without a tripod – whatever you are more comfortable with.

This Nikon lens further has vibration reduction (VR) up to 4 shutter speed stops, so your images look sharper. This is an asset especially for telephoto shooting, as any small movement will result in annoying blur. Besides this, the VR corrects lighting in low-light conditions. Plus, dispersion elements correct color distortions, and a Nano Crystal coating enhances colors in overexposed and backlit shots. Finally, a Silent Wave motor improves autofocus performance, without making focusing sounds.

Canon EF 100-400mm IS II

Specs
  • Aperture: f/4.5-5.6L
  • Focal Length: 100-400mm
  • Length: 7.6 inches
  • Weight: 3.46 lbs
  • Mount: Canon
Features
  • Elegant Background Blur
  • Easy To Use
  • Fast And Silent Focusing System

BEST FOR: OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

With its optical design, the Canon 100-400mm IS II lens minimizes color distortions that always find a way into any photography. Especially, it gets rid of magenta and cyan aberrations at contrast points of zoomed-in images. Another noteworthy feature is the lens’ 4-stop stabilization. What this means is that it reduces camera shake to make it appear as if the shutter speed is higher. Wildlife photographers need this, especially for telephoto shots. 

And yet, for times when you do want a blurred background, Canon 100-400mm has a 9-blade diaphragm that provides control over the depth of field and its qualities. With it, your subject will stand out more. To prevent unnecessary lens flare and motion blur, there is an Air Sphere coating. Plus, this lens is weather-sealed and protected against fingerprint smudges, making it perfect for shooting outdoors in any weather.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS

Specs
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Focal Length: 70-200mm
  • Length: 11.93 inches
  • Weight: 4.91 lbs
  • Mount: Sony
Features
  • Dust And Moisture Resistant For Robust Reliability
  • High-Performance Optical Image Stabilization
  • Mechanical Focus System For Precise Manual Focus

BEST FOR: FLEXIBILITY OF CONTROLS

Once again, Sony’s G Master line offers sharp resolution and great quality. And for wildlife photography, the lens has to track moving subjects exceptionally well. Sony F4.5-5.6 GM OSS has several focus features to tackle that need. Mainly, it has a focus range limiter and various focus hold controls that provide you with more autofocus settings. 

You can also adjust the stiffness of the zoom ring (basically, how much force you need to apply to zoom in). This is helpful if you often find yourself switching between different zoom settings, or if you are on the go and need your zoom setting to stay as it is.

The lens is weather-sealed and compact, weighing just over 49 ounces. Thus, you don’t have to worry about sudden weather changes, or that the lens will add excessive bulk to your camera. The 100-400mm has an E-mount as well, so you can use it with DSLRs and full-frame mirrorless cameras.

Fujinon XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS

Specs
  • Aperture: f/3.5-4.8
  • Focal Length: 55-200mm
  • Length: 4.65 inches
  • Weight: 1.27 lbs
  • Mount: Fujifilm
Features
  • Sharp Images Across The Entire Zoom Range
  • Vibration Reduction System To Minimize Risk Of Blur
  • Lightweight

BEST FOR: COVERING THE BASICS

If you’re looking for a standard, no-frills wildlife photography camera, then the Fujifilm XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS might be for you. This lens’ optical design works to eliminate chromatic distortions or inaccuracies that creep into zoomed-in shots. It also provides sharp images and decent control over the depth of field. 

A special Super EBC coating further protects photos from lens flare or subtle blurring. As for the zoom range, it is not the biggest one, but it does provide the basics of wide-angle and telephoto shooting. 

Naturally, this XF 55-200mm lens has a 4.5 stop vibration reduction and a silent autofocus system. The stabilization reduces camera shake to make your zoomed-in wildlife shots as sharp as possible. The linear autofocus motor works well with fast-moving subjects without making noise. And because you are a wildlife enthusiast, you will be spending some time in the wild and you might find the weight of this lens – just 20.5 ounces – helpful.

Fujifilm XF 100-400mm R LM OIS WR

Specs
  • Aperture: f/4.5-5.6
  • Focal Length: 100-400mm
  • Length: 8.29 inches
  • Weight: 3 lbs
  • Mount: Fujifilm
Features
  • Fast And Precise Autofocus
  • Weather-Sealed Construction To Guard Against Dust And Moisture
  • Excellent Background Blur Effect

BEST FOR: THE FOCUSED HIKER

If the previous lens sounded great, but you want to step it up a notch, here is the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. This lens offers twin linear motors, which is equal to an advanced autofocus that is ready to tackle fast moving wildlife subjects. It also has an improved vibration reduction of 5 stops shutter speed stops, resulting in very sharp images. 

However, we are not done with zoom and focus features just yet. A zoom lock will help you keep your zoom settings from accidentally shifting so you can focus on other things. Fujifilm XF 100-400mm also has a focus limiter switch, so that you can select how far or close-up you want to focus. This makes autofocus more efficient and accurate, especially with difficult-to-see wildlife subjects. The lens is equipped with 13 different weather seals so you can confidently take photos in any rain, storm, or even a blizzard.

Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD

Specs
  • Aperture: f/5-6.3
  • Focal Length: 150-600mm
  • Length: 10.2 inches
  • Weight: 4.4 lbs
  • Mount: Nikon
Features
  • Captures Super Sharp Images
  • Precise Autofocus System
  • Easy To Mount On A Tripod

BEST FOR: THE PHOTOGRAPHY SNIPER

Presenting the Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD, it is crucial to note that this is the lens with the biggest super zoom on this list. Although it does not present a wide-angle option, these telephoto capabilities are ideal for wildlife photography, especially from a distance. 

However, you also need to keep in mind that this means weaker exposure controls. Another important specification is its image stabilization that works even with long shutter speeds, small apertures, poorly-lit scenes, and hand-held shooting.

Just like other lenses here, various coatings protect the lens from flare and color distortions. An Ultrasonic motor adds speed to and removes noise from autofocus, letting you concentrate on the framing and not on the sounds. Conveniently, Tamron Di VC is weather-sealed, so that’s one less thing to worry about. Because it is a telephoto lens, you would expect it to be bulky, but instead it is quite compact due to static optical elements, which saves space.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED

Specs
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Focal Length: 300mm
  • Length: 10.6 inches
  • Weight: 6.39 lbs
  • Mount: Nikon
Features
  • Exceptional Low Light Performance
  • Superior Sharpness And Realistic Colors
  • Vibration Reduction System For Clear And Stable Shots

BEST FOR: THE PRIME PRO

Being the only prime lens on this list, the Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED offers exceptional autofocus and aperture speeds suited perfectly for wildlife photography. The f/2.8 aperture guarantees you an easier time in low-light conditions, hand-held scenes, and experiments with shallow depths of field. Selective focus techniques also make themselves available to you in this lens. 

In terms of the focal range, 300mm lets you shoot distant wildlife subjects. But what’s more is that if the lens if mounted on DX model cameras, the focal length will get magnified to 450mm, extending your capabilities. Plus, the lens is compatible with several types of teleconverters, which are optional magnifying lenses that will further increase the apparent focal length. Just like other lenses on this list, this one has a Silent Wave Motor, vibration reduction, and a 9-blade diaphragm.

 

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING LENSES FOR WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY

PRIME OR ZOOM

Most wildlife photography lenses are telephoto lenses, and most telephoto lenses are zoom lenses. This means that by twisting a ring on your lens you can get closer to your subject by zooming in. The downside of zoom lenses is that because of their versatility they tend to be less effective in low light conditions. This is why professionals often prefer prime (or fixed) lenses. Prime lenses don’t let you zoom in, but offer better image quality in low light, which can make a huge difference in wildlife photography.

 

FOCAL LENGTH

All lenses on this list have a focal length that varies between 55 and 600 millimeters. This measure indicates from what distance a lens can frame a subject. Telephoto lenses have a focal length of 50mm or more – the higher the number, the closer you can get to an animal without moving. Very long lenses are usually expensive and need a tripod to be used, but they also let you avoid disturbing the animals and allow you to stay at a safe distance if you are shooting wildlife that may be dangerous.

 

WEIGHT

Professional telephoto lenses are often very heavy, sometimes even heavier than the camera itself. There are many options available for photographers who’d rather pack light. However, when it comes to telephoto lenses, size and weight is a good indicator of quality. If you are just starting out, a mid-range lens will do perfectly fine in most situations. Once you specialize in a particular kind of subject – whether that’s insects, birds, fish, or big mammals – you may have to upgrade to something that is better suited for your needs. When thinking about weight, consider the fact that you’ll often need to carry a sturdy tripod with you.

 

WEATHER SEALING

Weather sealing protects your equipment from dust, moisture, and light rainfall. While not essential, it is a convenient feature to look for if you plan to spend many hours in the outdoors or in place with high humidity.

 

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

PRIME LENS

A lens with a fixed focal length that usually performs better than a zoom lens in low light conditions.

ZOOM LENS

A lens that allows you to adjust the focal length by twisting a ring. With a zoom lens you can get closer to your subject without moving.

FOCAL LENGTH

The distance between the lens and sensor, indicated in millimeters. Focal length affects the framing angle, going from wider to narrower as the millimeters increase.

APERTURE

The passage that lets the light reach the sensor and capture the image.

TELEPHOTO LENSES

A category of lenses designed to capture subjects from a distance.

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