8 Powerful Lenses That Make Wildlife Photography Easy

These lenses will get you closer to the action on your next birding or wildlife photography trip.

There’s always talk about street, portrait, sports, landscape, and the documentary genres of photography, but little about the wildlife and birding genres. It seems as though lens manufacturers are taking note of the growing popularity of these two categories: there are more and more lenses suited to this type of work that are hitting the market. Wildlife photography and birding photography may sound easy, but I can assure you that if you aren’t skilled and do not have lenses with great reach, you will struggle. We have picked out eight lenses for various platforms that will help you get closer to the action. Check them out after the break.

wildlife photography snowy Cardinals

Two male Cardinals perched on an icy tree in my yard. Captured with the Fujifilm X-T3

Wildlife and birding photography really test your skills with a camera. Tracking animals in motion and being able to anticipate their next moves make these genres incredibly challenging, but also incredibly fun and rewarding. The fact that Sony and Olympus are trying to incorporate AI into their cameras to help photographers get shots of animals in motion shows that this type of photography is growing in popularity. There are some great lenses available to those who want to give it a try too. While some are affordable and provide excellent results, others are jaw-droppingly expensive and definitely geared towards those who do this as a career. Check out the eight lenses we highly recommend for those who want to partake in these genres and those who do this for a living.

 

Fujifilm XF 200mm F2 OIS WR

 

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Great image quality
  • Crisp
  • Weather Sealing
  • Fast autofocus
  • Image Stabilization means you can handhold this lens with the X-T3
  • Fairly compact
  • Focus switches
  • Amazingly lightweight and not difficult to carry around

Cons

  • Quite pricey

Buy now ($5,999): Adorama

 

Olympus 300mm F4.0 IS PRO

 

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Great colors
  • Sharp image quality
  • Nice bokeh
  • Incredible build quality overall

Cons

  • Pretty expensive

Buy now ($2,499): Adorama

 

Sigma 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports

 

sigma lenses

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Weather-resistant design
  • All the comments that you’ll get along the lines of, “That’s a big lens.”
  • Quiet to focus
  • Sharp image quality
  • Gorgeous, absolutely spectacular bokeh
  • Pretty close focusing
  • Lightweight, sort of

Cons

  • Can be slow to focus sometimes and inaccurate
  • Lots of different settings with image stabilization, focus limiter, etc. But that makes sense if you’re doing this professionally
  • Requires a very strong tripod

Buy now Canon EF ($5,999): Adorama

Buy now Nikon F ($5,999): Adorama

 

Wildlife Photography Long Horns

Two Longhorns grazing at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. Captured with the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary

Pro Tip: One thing is for sure: that these lenses are heavy. You can hold them in your hand, but you will feel your shoulders burn. To save your arms and shoulders, we highly recommend using them with a sturdy tripod. Not only will you save your arms when using a tripod, but you will also track moving subjects easier, and create sharper images. We have reviewed a lot of tripods over the years, so check our reviews out and find one that will suit you.

 

Sony 600mm F4 G Master OSS

 

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Build Quality
  • Lightweight (sort of)
  • Fast-focusing
  • Image stabilization
  • Weather sealing
  • Nice, sharp image quality

Cons

  • So big
  • Expensive

Buy now ($12,998): Adorama

 

Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di VC USD

 

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Weather sealing
  • Nice colors
  • Nice image quality
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Autofocus is a little unreliable at times

Buy now Canon EF ($699): Adorama

Buy now Nikon F ($699): Adorama

 

Sony 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 G Master FE

 

Sony superzoom for wildlife photography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Pretty lightweight
  • Ring around it that allows you to adjust how tight the zoom is
  • Image stabilization
  • Weather sealing
  • Sharp
  • Nice bokeh
  • Close focusing for what this lens is
  • Convenient focal lengths
  • Not too badly priced for a lens like this
  • Good for tracking subjects when shooting sports outdoors

Cons

  • Tracking moving subjects still more or less demands that you stop down the lens when shooting interior sports

Buy now ($2,498): Adorama

 

wildlife photography

A male Cardinal feeding his mate in my garden. Captured with the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary, which was adapted to fit a Sony A6500.

Pro Tip: Are you new to wildlife photography? If so, you might want to check out this wildlife photography guide. There really is a lot more to this genre than just pointing and shooting. This guide will teach you all about wildlife ethics, what it takes to be a great wildlife photographer, how to capture wildlife in its natural environment, the best places to find animals, how to increase the visibility of your work, and the importance of respecting wildlife. This guide is perfect for those just entering this exciting field. It can also serve well as a refresher for those who have been doing it for a while.

 

Fujifilm 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

 

Fujifilm zoom for wildlife photography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Not as heavy as you’d think
  • Weather sealing
  • Feels great in the hand
  • Sharp output
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Aperture doesn’t change all that much, but even so, you’d probably want to shoot at a higher ISO setting during the daytime
  • Fast autofocus performance on both the X Pro 2 and the X Pro 1

Cons

  • Though we completely understand why, some folks may be miffed at the fact that the OVF isn’t practical with a lens like this
  • Holding it vertically is tough
  • Zooming in and out moves the scene that you’re viewing due to the motion involved with tuning the zoom ring. A push/pull design would have been nicer

Buy now ($1,699): Adorama

 

Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 Contemporary

 

sigma superzoom for wildlife photography

Here are the pros and cons from our full review:

Pros

  • Your friends will be jealous
  • Excellent image quality, though not as good as some of the company’s other lenses
  • Tripod collar is large enough to also allow you to carry the lens in your hand
  • Pretty lightweight to maneuver around with even while on the go
  • Effective image stabilization; though please keep in mind that that still won’t necessarily stop fast motion
  • Surprisingly fast to focus even with moving objects

Cons

  • F6.3 on the long end means that you won’t be using this lens a lot at night unless you’re ready to go nuclear in the ISO realm
  • Large
  • Heavy
  • Switches get knocked off of your settings too quickly, and a way to lock the switches would be really, really appreciated
  • Attracts one too many “big lens” jokes from your more immature friends

Buy now Canon EF ($899): Adorama

Buy now Nikon F ($899): Adorama