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The Best Canon Lenses for Wildlife Photography

Best Canon Lenses for Wildlife Photography

Expect the unexpected. That’s the motto for every wildlife photographer. Given that they cannot dictate nor predict the behavior of their subject, patience and going along with the flow is the way to go. But all of these efforts will be wasted if you don’t have the best equipment for this kind of photography.

The good news is that there is a bunch of options for equipment designed for wildlife photography. Here are some of the most beloved lenses for photographing animals in the wild.

Our Top 5 Canon Lenses for Wildlife Photography in 2021

A Rundown of the Best Canon Lenses for Wildlife Photography

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM IS II USM

Best Wildlife Photography Lens

Five Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 70-300mm
Dimensions: 3.15 x 5.73 x 3.94 inches
Weight: 0.53 lbs
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/4-5.6

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Great for wildlife photography due to its versatile focal length
  • Capable of producing great shallow depth of field effects
  • Fast and quiet autofocus performance

The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM IS II USM is a very capable lens despite not being in the same category as the brand’s L-series line. It can produce clear images with a great level of sharpness and clarity. If having a lens with a wide aperture is a must for you, then you might be better off with another zoom lens. On top of all these, the lens is a must-have for those who often shoot subjects from a distance like those engaged in wildlife and sports photography. It’s definitely among the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography.

 Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

Best Lens with Versatile Focal Length

Four Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 70-300mm
Dimensions: 5.63 x 3.50 x 3.50 inches
Weight: 0.53 lbs
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/4.5-5.6

  • Quality build
  • Fast autofocus performance
  • Good image stabilizer performance
  • Great chromatic aberration performance

Canon made the EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM as a successor to the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM. The lens comes packed with features including a versatile telephoto lens capable of giving a 112-480mm equivalent focal length range. It also comes with a Super Spectra coating for minimizing ghosting and flaring. Lastly, it is integrated with ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM) for a fast and quiet autofocus performance and the ability to offer full-time manual override. However, the downside with the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6L is that it is pricey compared to others that offer the same features, and it somewhat good aperture performance.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Best Premium Wildlife Photography Lens

Four Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 100-400mm
Dimensions: 7.60 x 3.70 x 3.70 inches
Weight: 3.46 lbs
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/4.5-5.6

  • Excellent premium build
  • Quick and quiet autofocus
  • Dependable image stabilization technology
  • Excellent image quality

If you are looking for a premium and capable wildlife photography lens, the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is the one to get. This Canon lens features a lens design composed of 21 elements in 16 groups, 24°–6°10′ diagonal angle of view, and a maximum aperture of 40. The lens’s price tag is its biggest drawback but can be easily overlooked due to its capabilities. This Canon lens is a recommended accessory for wildlife photographers who has some extra cash in their pockets.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM

Best Sigma Lens for Wildlife Photography

Five Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 100-400mm
Dimensions: 3.39 x 3.39 x 7.17 inches
Weight: 2.56 lbs
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/5-6.3

  • Budget-friendly
  • Great build quality
  • Compact size
  • Great sharpness quality

Sigma’s offering for wildlife photographers is as capable as those from Canon and Nikon but comes at an affordable price. The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM comes with an integrated HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) for fast and quiet autofocus, an optical stabilizer system for sharper images, and a Super Multi-Layer Coating for achieving contrast-rich and color-neutral images. At the end of the day, this lens is a very capable one that does not sacrifice image quality. Its budget-friendly price tag is just the cherry on top.

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM

Sharpest Canon Lens for Wildlife Photography

Five Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 400mm
Dimensions: 13.5 x 6.42 x 6.42 inches
Weight: 8.49 pounds
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/2.8

  • Sharp image quality
  • Fast autofocus performance
  • Crisp bokeh

If you are a wildlife photographer looking for a telephoto lens that gives out super sharp images at every take, the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is the one to get. This lens features an exceptional high-quality body that comes with weather sealing to protect it from moisture and dust. It also comes with a very fast and accurate autofocus technology that is a must for when immortalizing actions in the wild. Sharpness is the lens’s greatest quality. It is razor-sharp corner-to-corner wide open. You might not even consider using the lens stopped down. It’s the lightest lens in its class, over 28% lighter than its predecessor. The EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is made for wildlife and sports photography.

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4.0 IS USM

Best Lens with Built-in Extender

Three Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 200-400mm
Dimensions: 14.41 x 5.04 x 5.04 inches
Weight: 7.98 lbs
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/4

  • Built-in 1.4x extender
  • Four-stop image stabilizer
  • Great build with weather sealing
  • Lens collar for direct attachment to a tripod

The EF 200-400mm f/4 IS USM is Canon’s attempt to pack all the most wanted features into a single lens. This lens even included an unusual feature – a built-in 1.4x extender that allows you to reach a focal length up to 280-560mm. Features also found in this Canon lens include a 320-640mm equivalent focal length and a Super Spectra coating for greater contrast and color neutrality. It also comes with an Optical Image Stabilizer to help with camera shake and to achieve great images despite low light conditions and the use of slower shutter speeds.

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM

Best Super Telephoto Lens

Four Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 500mm
Dimensions: 15.08 x 5.75 x 5.75 inches
Weight: 7.03 lbs
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/4

  • Lightweight for a super telephoto lens
  • Fast autofocus
  • More durable build
  • Great image stabilization technology

The EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM was designed especially for those in wildlife, nature, and sports photography. The lens’s design was centered on making it lightweight compared to its predecessors and other competitors in the market. The EF 500mm f/4L comes with an optical design composed of one fluorite and two Ultra-low Dispersion (UD) glass elements. This design allows the lens to still produce quality images while getting rid of the weight problem of lens that came before it. The EF 500mm also has a a third Image Stabilization mode option. This feature allows you to have greater tracking flexibility. When Mode 3 is activated, the Image Stabilization effect will not occur until the shutter is pressed. It allows the viewfinder image to appear more natural in appearance while tracking a subject.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L is III USM Super Telephoto Lens

Best Bird Photography Lens

Five Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 600mm
Dimensions: 6.6 x 6.6 x 17.6 inches
Weight: 6.72 pounds
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/4

  • Great build and lightweight
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Good sharpness
  • Dependable image stabilizer

You can say that this lens was designed and manufactured with wildlife photographers in mind. The lens comes with all the essentials needed by capturing wild animals in their habitat. The Canon EF 600mm f/4L is III USM Lens comes with an Optical Image Stabilizer system that provides shake reduction for up to 5 shutter speed stops. A great feature for bird photographers who like to perfect their way on shooting birds in flight. The lens also features a more lightweight body compared to its predecessors. it has two layres of heat protection to help maintain image quality and reduce thermal effects. With its capabilities and lightweight form, it is another lens in the list of the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography!

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM

Best Affordable Weatherproof Lens

Three Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 150-600mm
Dimensions: 10.20 x 4.10 x 4.10 inches
Weight: 4.25 lbs
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/5-6.3

  • Very good build quality with weatherproof
  • Quick autofocus performance
  • Sharp images
  • Affordable

The 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM from Sigma makes it possible for any photographer to produce great images using the latest technology without breaking the bank. This lens is capable to stand side by side with heavyweights from Canon and Nikon, as well as from the Sports line of lenses from Sigma. It comes with a great and lightweight build, great sharpness, and a versatile focal range. However, you should not expect that at this price range that this Sigma lens comes with the same level of weatherproofing as those high-end lens.

Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2

Best Tamron Lens for Wildlife Photography

Three Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 150-600mm
Dimensions: 10.20 x 5.00 x 5.00 inches
Weight: 4.40 lbs
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/5-6.3

  • Excellent sharpness
  • Fast and quiet autofocus
  • Great image stabilization
  • Lockable zoom mechanism

Tamron brings another solid performer for wildlife photographers. The SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 is an upgrade to the brand’s first entry to the telezoom lens. This one comes with a more refined optic, a build with weatherproofing, and a great image stabilization system. Its biggest advantage is its dust/rain-sealed design. It is a recommended lens for those looking for an affordable, lightweight wildlife photography lens. However, if you are looking an excellent overall performer, its bulkier predecessor, the SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, is definitely preferred than the G2.

Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 L IS USM

Best Overall Super Telephoto Lens for Wildlife Photography

Four Stars

Technical Specs

Focal Length: 800mm
Dimensions: 18.15 x 6.42 x 6.42 inches
Weight: 9.92 lbs
Lens Type: Telephoto
Compatible Mountings: Canon EF
Aperture: f/5.6

  • Great image stabilization system
  • Fully weather-sealed body
  • Long focal length
  • Extremely fast and accurate autofocus

The Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM is a heavyweight and not just literally. This lens is a great lens for wildlife photographers who want a super telephoto lens capable of delivering sharp, high-quality images. The lens is one of the those with the largest focal lengths with an optical Image Stabilabizer in the world. Aside from producing sharp images, it also capable of reducing chromatic aberrations, giving great color and contrast, and at the same time eliminating distortion.

Common Questions About Wildlife Photography Lenses

How to choose the right lens for wildlife photography?

Given tha mount of lenses available in the market, it is best to do research and find important features that should be a great wildlife photography lens. According to those invested in this kind of photography, the right lens should have:

  • Faster aperture
  • Longer focal length
  • Fast focusing speed
  • Ergonomics

Focal Length – What is the best focal length for wildlife photography

Focal length can make or break your subject. Having the right one is essential in capturing your subject may it be in short or long distance. The following are recommended focal length for each kind of wildlife photography:

  • Bird photographers are advised to have at least 400 mm for starters and it can go up to 800mm.
  • For those who are shooting mammals, you need at least 200mm up to 600 mm.

Which mode is best for bird photography?

The following modes are most recommended for photographers shooting birds:

  • Manual mode is best for when you know what kind of image you want to produce. This mode allows you to set all important aspects to your liking. If you want something less burdensome, you can also opt to have your camera in semi-automatic mode.
  • If you want control over how much light goes into the sensor, you should choose aperture priority mode. This mode allows you to select how blurred you want the background to be. In this mode, once you set the aperture, the camera does all the other work for you.
  • Shutter priority mode is somewhat similar to aperture priority mode, but this time with shutter speed. This mode allows you to avoid motion blur more easily. It is most recommended when photographing birds in flight.

Aside from using these modes, the following suggestions can also help in taking photographs of birds:

  • High-speed continuous shooting. This shooting mode allows you to take multiple photos in order to select the best image. This technique comes as a big help when shooting birds that continuously move or those in flight. However, you can also use it for taking pictures of slower-moving subjects like a flitting songbird.
  • AI Servo for Canon users or AF-C for Nikon users. This is most helpful when shooting birds in flight. These modes allow the camera to continuously focus on a moving subject as long as your shutter button is held halfway down. Once you have the shot you wanted, you can click on the shutter button and make use of the high-speed continuous shooting available on your DSLR.

What is the best lens for long distance photography?

The following lenses are additional lenses for long distance photography:

Best Canon Zoom Lenses for wildlife photography

Best Alternative Lenses for Wildlife Photography

Best Canon Telephoto Lens for Wildlife Photography

The Best of the Best – What is the best Canon lens for wildlife photography

The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM IS II USM really lived up to its name as among the best Canon lens for wildlife photography. It ticks all the boxes that makes up a great wildlife photography lens. It comes with a versatile focal length, fast and quiet autofocus technology, and the ability to generate shallow depth of field effects. All these features are rounded up by its compact, lightweight build and affordable price tag.

For the runner-up, the Canon EF 600mm f/4L is III USM Super Telephoto Lens offers a lot especially if you are into bird photography. This lens comes integrated with Canon’s special mode that allows for great autofocus performance especially when taking photographs of birds in flight. That is on top of having a great and lightweight build, great sharpness and fast autofocus performance.

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