The Best Lenses for Wildlife Photography in 2020

Last Updated on December 29, 2021 | In Photography Equipment by Stefano Caioni Leave a Comment

Ready to discover the best lenses for wildlife photography?

Let me ask you a question, do you feel a connection between you and the animal when you are taking a photo?
The right lens helps the photographer making the most out of her wildlife experience.

Wildlife photography is one of the fastest-growing photography hobbies, and there is a good reason for that. Many of us feel we have lost a vital connection with nature and we are desperately trying to re-establish it. 

Photographing wildlife is a great way of doing so, but there are some tricks to the trade you need to learn to make the most out of your new exciting hobby.

Quick Answer: Our Best Lenses for Wildlife Photography

Getting to Know Your Subject and the Best Wildlife Photography Gear

When you want to make the most of your skills, there are a few things you need to take on board.

Yes, it is important to buy a good quality camera, however, many wildlife photographers would argue that the camera lens is as important.

Not only you need to make sure you invest in the right camera, but the right lens can mean the difference between success and failure.

However, more than anything else, it is essential to know your subject. This is why many wildlife photographers choose to specialize in photographing a specific animal.

In combination with your knowledge of your chosen subject, along with using the right camera lens for wildlife photography, you can take some breathtaking photos.

Buying Lenses. A Word of Advice

Don’t rush into buying a new lens. Take your time and find out which lens is right for your needs as a budding wildlife photographer. There are a plethora of lenses which can help you to produce the most amazing photographs of animals and wildlife in general. 

Here’s a curated list for you that I put together after more than 57 hours of research (I love keeping track of my time ?). In the first section, you’ll find more affordable lenses, adapt to new starters with an APS-C camera.

The reason why I included less expensive gear in a list of the best wildlife photography lenses is because I don’t want this article to mislead people and make new starters believe that the more they spend the better their images will be.

Your next question will be:
So why are there very expensive lenses on the market?

Don’t get me wrong.

The quality of pictures that expert photographers can achieve with professional and expensive lenses is unquestionable.
Great lenses cost more.

But if you are a new starter, you don’t have to break the bank. You have to shoot thousands and thousands of photos before gaining the experience necessary to push your gear to its limits and get the most out of it.
It takes time. I’m sorry.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t produce amazing images and have fun!

That’s why if you’re new to photography, I highly recommend you to spend your money wisely. And with what you save on a lens, you can buy a ticket (or two!) to travel to a beautiful photography destination.

Think about it!

What Are the Best Lenses for Wildlife Photography

These are our top 3 Lenses for Wildlife Photography:

Affordable Wildlife Photography Lenses for Nikon APS-C Sensor Cameras

Frequently people ask what AF-S or DX means.

  • AF-S in Nikon lenses means Autofocus Silent. The lens has a motor which is used to focus instead of the motor in the camera.
  • DX in Nikon lenses means that the lens is designed for Nikon APS-C Sensor Cameras

The Sigma lens listed here is produced for Canon cameras as well. Check the price by clicking on the link in the description.

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G

Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
  • Maximum magnification of 032x
  • Angle of view from 76 degree to 5 degree 20'. Focal length range: 18 300 millimeter, minimum focus distance: 16 feet (048 meter)
  • Aperture range from f/35 to f/22
  • Angle of view from 76 to 520'

Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G Zoom Lens

Nikon 70-300 mm f/4-5.6G Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
  • Nikon 70 300 millimeter f/4 5.6G AF Nikkor SLR Camera Lens; Maximum Reproduction Ratio 0.26x
  • Focal length range: 70 300 millimeter, minimum focus distance: 4.9 ft.; (1.5 m); maximum angle of view (dx format): 22°50', maximum angle of view (fx format) 34°20'. Minimum angle of view (dx-format)-5°20'. Minimum angle of view (fx-format)-8°10'
  • Accepts 62 millimeter filters, count on genuine Nikon optics for outstanding picture quality; compatible format(s) fx, dx, fx in dx crop mode,35 millimeter film
  • Autofocus is not supported by DSLRs lacking an autofocus motor, such as the d3000 series, d5000 series, d40, d40x, and d60, where the lens may be used with manual focus only.
  • Note: refer the user manual before use also kindly refer the compatibility image from the image section for better purchase

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 for Nikon

Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Nikon
  • 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM / C
  • Minimum focusing distance : 280 cm/110.2 inches, focal length :150-600mm. Diaphragm blades: 9
  • First hyper-telephoto zoom from the Contemporary line, Dust proof and splash proof mount95mm filter
  • Lightweight & compact in construction for higher usability.SIGMA TELE CONVERTER TC-1401 and TC-2001 are dedicated to Tele Converter lenses, which should be used with only listed lenses.The converter cannot be attached to the camera and lens whose mount is different.Do not use the SIGMA TELE CONVERTER on top of another SIGMA TELE CONVERTER, or any other kinds of converters.
  • Water and oil repellent coating on front glass element makes maintenance of the lens surface easier

Affordable Wildlife Photography Lenses for Canon APS-C Sensor Cameras

When it comes to Canon lenses for APS-C sensor cameras, please note that:

  • EF-S mount by Canon is designed to work only on APS-C bodies from Canon.
  • EF lenses instead work with full frame and APS-C bodies.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens
  • Maximum aperture: f/4.0-f/5.6
  • Optics: 12 elements in 10 groups, UD glass element
  • Canon EF-S Mount (not compatible with full sensor DSLRs)

Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, Lens Only
  • 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens with f/4 maximum aperture for Canon SLR cameras
  • Inner focusing system and ring-type ultra-sonic monitor for quick and quiet autofocusing
  • Compatible with same tripod collar (sold separately) as EF 300mm f/4L USM lens
  • 3.9-foot close-focusing distance; supports use of circular polarizing filter
  • Measures 3 inches in diameter and 6.8 inches long; weighs 25 ounces; 1-year warranty.Lens Construction:16 elements in 13 groups

Pro Lenses for Wildlife Photography

Nikon 500mm f/4E FL VR

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED Vibration Reduction Front Lens with Auto Focus Cover
  • HK-35 Lens Hood
  • CT-607 Trunk Case
  • LN-1 Strap
  • Front Lens Cover
  • LF-1 Rear Lens Cap

When you need to work with your subject from a distance, Nikon 500 super photo telephoto lens is what you will need.

It lets you snap away quickly with precision and accuracy, capturing the action in the blink of an eye. This lens also has the advantage of being lightweight, making it ideal when you need to hike in to photograph your subject.

At its price point, this is not a lens for newbies. It gives you balance, and fewer vibrations thanks to unique anti-vibration technology from Nikon. Durable because of its special fluorine coating along with fluorite elements giving you fantastic results. Capable of high-speed bursts for photographing fast-moving animals because of its electromagnetic diaphragm.

Find it now on Amazon

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II Lens

Canon EF 500mm f/4L is USM Super Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
  • EF mount; super telephoto lens
  • Fluorite and Ultra-low Dispersion-glass; image stabilizer; internal focusing; full-time manual focus
  • 500mm focal length
  • f/4 maximum aperture
  • Ring-type UltraSonic Motor (USM)

Stabilization is essential when you want to photograph wildlife. The Canon EF 500 mm offers you just that. With its high magnification and latest stabilizer technology, it is a fantastic solution for both nature and wildlife photographers.

The EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM is a high-magnification, super-telephoto lens featuring integrated Image Stabilizer technology. The perfect solution for wildlife, nature, and sports photographers working in the field.

This lens also has high moisture and dust resistance, which makes it right for photography work in several different environments, with the most extreme weather conditions. Comes complete with f/4 aperture and fluorite plus UD lens elements. Another essential feature worth pointing out is that it has a powerful focus for video capture.

Find it now on Amazon

Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 IS Pro 

OLYMPUS M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 PRO Lens, for Micro Four Thirds Cameras
  • World's most powerful 6 steps of compensation synchronized in lens and in body Image Stabilization
  • Closest focus of 1.4 meters gives a 0.48X (35mm equivalent) telemacro photography, Focal Length : 300mm
  • Splash, Dust, and Freeze proof design
  • Manual focus clutch & Lfn button to instantly switch shooting styles
  • Compatible with the MC 14 tele converter

When you are looking for a compact lens, you should consider the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 IS Pro.

Being built for Micro Four Thirds systems, it is by far one of the best “compact” telephoto lenses on the market. Its 300mm focal length is equivalent to a 600mm full frame!

Despite its range, it is small enough to fit into the average size backpack.
If you are an off-the-cuff wildlife photographer, and a Micro Four Thirds shooter, this is an excellent lens to pack at all times. Easy to use for a first time user, and you can snap some fantastic photos thanks to its field of view.

Find it now on Amazon

Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro

OM SYSTEM OLYMPUS M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO For Micro Four Thirds System Camera, Light weight powerful zoom, Weather Sealed Design, MF Clutch, Compatible with Teleconverter
  • Dust, splash, and freeze proof construction
  • Ships with lens cap (LC-72C), rear lens cap (LR-2), lens hood (LH-76), and lens case (LSC-1120)
  • Manual focus clutch mechanism

With its excellent weather-sealed protection, you can always rely on this lens. Comes complete with fast autofocus and near-silent operation. Fantastic for close up work and portraits too.

Can be bought together in a kit with Olympus MC-14 1.4X Teleconverter for the M40-150mm to give you that ultimate boost in performance.

Is it worth its price? Many experienced and beginner wildlife photographers swear by this lens as it also offers so much protection from the most extreme weather conditions.

Find it now on Amazon

Canon 100-400mm IS II

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L is II USM Lens, Lens Only
  • Compact, high performance L-series super-telephoto zoom makes it ideal for sports and wildlife photography
  • Rotation-type zoom ring allows for more precise composition and excellent balance when handholding
  • Improved zoom torque adjustment ring allows easy setting of zoom tension, Focal Length & Maximum Aperture:100-400mm 1:4.5-5.6, Closest Focusing Distance-3.2 ft. / 0.98m
  • New Air Sphere Coating (ASC) helps to significantly reduce backlit flaring and ghosting, Highly resistant to dust and water, and amazing durability enabling shooting even in harsh conditions
  • German (Publication Language)

When you know that reflection may be an issue, you should turn to the Canon 100-400 mm IS II.

This amazing lens has an optical design of 21 elements, which even includes a fluorite lens element along with an ultra-low dispersion. It gives you the chance to take perfect photographs without reflection problems from almost every angle.

Right lens for high sunlight photography or when photographing birds in flight.

Find it now on Amazon

Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II

Nikon 200-400mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
  • Vibration Reduction (VR) operation offers the equivalent of using a shutter speed 3 stops faster. Two VR Modes - normal or active for taking pictures with extreme movement - Automatically detects when photographer is panning and compensates.
  • Compatible with Nikon TC-14E II, TC-17E II and TC-20E II Teleconverters. AF operation only with TC14E II.
  • Exclusive Silent Wave Motor (SWM) enables ultra-high-speed auto focusing with exceptional accuracy and powerful super-quiet operation.
  • 4 Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements minimize chromatic aberration and provide higher resolution and superior contrast.
  • Minimum focus distance of 6.2 feet at all focal lengths.

Would you like to capture outstanding backgrounds as well as amazing animal moments?
The Nikon 200-400 mm f/4 VR II can make that happen.

It is all down to its fast speed along with consistency and great performance at low light levels. Fantastic lens to use in challenging situations and excellent for all photographers who like to keep their wildlife photography gear down.

Invaluable for telephoto work and produces images, you can be truly proud of as a photographer.

Find it now on Amazon

Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR II

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED Vibration Reduction II Fixed Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
  • Fast-aperture f/2.8 NIKKOR Super Telephoto. Wide aperture, professional telephoto performance
  • Nikon VR II (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization. Vibration Reduction is engineered specifically for each VR NIKKOR lens.
  • Exclusive Nano Crystal Coat. Further reduces ghosting and internal flare for even greater image clarity.
  • Three Extra-low Dispersion (ED) Elements. Offers superior sharpness and color correction by effectively minimizing chromatic aberration
  • Virtually eliminates coma and other aberrations, promoting image integrity

Are you looking for a superfast aperture which gives you a professional finish? In that case, you have found the right lens. You will achieve amazingly clear images with this lens even though the light may be fading.

Sharp images are produced thanks to its quiet autofocus and anti-vibration system.
Perfect lens for professionals and for amateurs who want to invest a little bit of extra money in their hobby.

Find it now on Amazon

Sigma 500mm f/4 Sport

Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM Sports Lens for Nikon F (185955)
  • Photographers can enjoy shooting super dynamic photo been under the challenging condition like near the ocean, rain or snow.
  • WR protector filter is supplied to insert into the rear part of the lens.
  • in addition, it is compatible with Sigma's tele converter TC -1401, tele converter TC 2001 and mount converter MC-11 for higher usability.

This lens has one of the best auto-focus. It may not be the most lightweight lens, but if you are looking for a lens with sustained focus capability, this is the one for you.

Delivers enhanced dust and splash proof construction with excellent optical stabilizer.

The Sigma 500 mm is a great lens when you want to photograph subjects which often change direction quickly.
Great quality lens available for Canon and Nikon.
Definitely not suited for new starters.

Find it now on Amazon

Before you go

All of these lenses have their advantages. Telephoto lenses for wildlife photography can make or break a photo. Make sure you base your lens purchase depending on your needs and capability. Above all, enjoy your photography and remember that you need to invest in other wildlife photography gear to snap that perfect image.

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