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The 7 Best Nikon Lenses For Wildlife Photography in 2022

Best Nikon lenses for wildlife photography

Thinking about heading outdoors, but need the best Nikon lenses for wildlife photography for your trip? These are the 7 best Nikon lenses for nature photography no matter where you’re headed.

The Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 200-500mm is the best overall choice offering the perfect balance of form, function, and cost. However, there are other lenses on our list that just might be a better choice for you. 

Introducing the 7 Best Nikon Lenses For Wildlife Photography

Let’s dive right in, but stick around for the buyer’s guide to help you pick the right wildlife lens for you! 

1.  Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED: Best Overall

Nikon 200-500 mm F 5.6 AF-S NIKKOR E ED VR Lenses

Specs

  • Focal Length: 200 to 500 mm
  • Size: 108 x 267.5 mm
  • Weight: 2,300 g
  • Sensor Type: Full-Frame
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Autofocus: Yes

Thinking about getting Nikon camera lenses for wildlife photography and want to skip right to the top? The Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 200-500mm is by far your best choice for a solid wildlife photography lens. 

Best for Birds, Beasts, and Everything In between 

What are the essentials in a wildlife photography lens? You need to be able to capture crystal-clear images, but still, keep your distance from wild animals. This lens allows you to get up-close and personal without disturbing the wildlife.

You’ll be capturing images that represent nature in its pristine, unbroken beauty. Whether you’re exploring the woodlands near your home or venturing deep into a jungle, this lens will let you catch beautiful images from a respectful distance. 

This lens is a steal when you factor in the features. It’s also got a modest form factor when we consider how big wildlife lenses tend to get! 

Pros

  • The cost is pretty competitive for the quality even if this is outside of some budgets 
  • The focal length lets you capture shots of animals without disturbing their natural habitats 
  • At roughly 5 pounds, this lens is less heavy than some of the competition 
  • Tripod collar for extra support on an already balanced body 
  • Rugged design is going to stand up to repeated treks into the unknown 

Cons 

  • Price tag and weight might be a little high for some 
  • Low-light performance isn’t exactly stellar, but far from being “bad”
  • That f/5.6 aperture might be too slow for some fast-moving subjects 

2. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR: Best for Pros

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 80-400mm f.4.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Specs

  • Focal Length: 80 to 400 mm
  • Size: 95.5 x 203 mm
  • Weight: 1570 g
  • Sensor Type: Full-Frame
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Aperture: f/4.5
  • Autofocus: Yes

Want Nikon telephoto lenses for wildlife photography that lets you flex your muscles as a pro photographer? Well, this is the one for you. 

Encounter Wildlife as a Professional 

Are you a professional photographer looking to break out into Wildlife photography? This is the lens you want to buy.

These lenses give you the versatility to do everything from portrait shoots to weddings, to tracking out with National Geographic for the next expedition. It’s got a professional price tag, but it’s going to become a valuable part of your overall kit. 

Pros

  • Handles everything from weddings to wolves with ease 
  • Great for pros who are looking to experiment with wildlife, but don’t want to commit with a dedicated lens 
  • The focal length lets you respond quickly to wildlife without swapping lenses 

Cons

  • The price might be out of range for hobbyists 
  • A little obnoxious for doubling as a street photography lens 

3. Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm F/4.5-6.3G ED VR: Best on a Budget 

Nikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f 4.5-6.3G ED VR Lens for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Specs

  • Focal Length: 70 to 300 mm
  • Size: 72 x 125 mm
  • Weight: 415 g
  • Sensor Type: ASP-C
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Aperture: f/4.5
  • Autofocus: Yes

This is the best budget Nikon lens for wildlife photography. You won’t need to spend much to get access to this broad focal length range. You might even already have it! 

The Nature and Wildlife Photography Lens You Already Own 

Kit lenses are often overlooked when we discuss the best lenses for photography. These are the lenses that typically come with mid-range cameras. While these lenses definitely aren’t the same quality as their professional tear counterparts, they are more than enough to get you started in wildlife photography. 

Consider this a test of your skills and a cost-conscious consideration. At the end of the day, cheap Nikon lenses for wildlife photography are all you need to get started. 

Pros

  • So cheap you might already own one
  • Lightweight and easy to toss in a bag for long hikes 
  • If your photography skills are up to the task, you can get stunning images out of this lens with a little bit of work 

Cons 

  • Kit lenses have a bad reputation for durability and image quality 
  • You’re going to replace this eventually which makes it a less savvy purchase in the long-term 
  • Might not stand up to long trips in tough weather 

4. Nikon AF-S Nikkor DX 18-200mm F/3.5-5.6G ED VR II: Landscape and Nature in One  

Nikon 18-200mm f 3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon DX-Format Digital SLR Cameras

Specs

  • Focal Length: 18 to 200 mm
  • Size: 77 x 96.5 mm
  • Weight: 560 g
  • Sensor Type: APS-C
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Aperture: f/3.5
  • Autofocus: Yes

Figuring out which Nikon lens is best for wildlife photography can be tough especially when you like other styles of photography like landscape photography. Why not get a lens that lets you do them all? 

Capture Photos of Animals and Their Environment 

One of the big challenges of getting into wildlife photography is that it typically requires lenses with some pretty extreme focal lengths. However, this zoom lens lets you do everything from interior design photography to capturing animals in their natural setting. 

Pros

  • It’s very affordable 
  • An ideal focal length range for the consummate nature photography enthusiast 
  • Also works great for street, portrait, and more types of photography 

Cons 

  • It’s an APS-C frame lens which means it doesn’t get true 18mm focal lengths 
  • The build quality leaves something to be desired 
  • Covers almost every focal length, but doesn’t master any of them 

5. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens: Best Wildlife Prime Lens

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 300mm f 2.8G ED Vibration Reduction II Fixed Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Specs

  • Focal Length: 300 mm
  • Size: 124 x 267.5 mm
  • Weight: 2900 g
  • Sensor Type: Full-Frame
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Autofocus: Yes

This is far and away, the best Nikon prime lens for wildlife. With a 300mm focal length and an f/2.8 aperture, there’s nothing you won’t be able to catch with this lens. 

The Best Prime Lens for Wildlife Photography 

What makes prime lenses so special? Essentially, a prime lens is dedicated to one focal length and achieving the best possible image quality at that focal length. This lens is fixed to a 300 mm focal length which makes it ideal for wildlife photography and getting crystal clear images.

If the price tag doesn’t scare you away, this is a true ideal wildlife photography lens. 

Pros

  • Get up close and person without worrying about your lens breaking down 
  • This lens is practically designed with wildlife in mind
  • The f/2.8 aperture lets you catch up with even the fastest wildlife  

Cons 

  • This lens might cost more than your camera 
  • Prime lenses mean adding more focal lengths to your kit which means more weight and more cost 

6. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR: Extreme Long Distance

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 600mm f 4E FL ED Vibration Reduction Fixed Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Specs

  • Focal Length: 600 mm
  • Size: 166 x 432 mm
  • Weight: 3810 g
  • Sensor Type: Full-Frame
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Aperture: f/4
  • Autofocus: Yes

What kind of lens do you need when you want to get crystal clear images, but you can’t get very close to your subjects? This lens can help you get intimate photographs of some of the hardest to capture animals. 

Get the Shot No Matter How Far Away 

One of the biggest challenges in wildlife photography is getting up close and personal with your subjects. Wild animals are difficult to photograph in the best of circumstances and can be downright dangerous to photograph under challenging circumstances. This lens lets you get great shots with animals you can’t get close to. 

Being a prime lens, it also offers great quality and clarity especially given how extreme the focal length is. 

Pros

  • This lens offers extreme performance at this equally extreme focal length 
  • Ideal for when you need to be far away from your shots 
  • A great choice for serious wildlife photographers 

Cons 

  • This lens definitely costs more than your camera 
  • This is also the heaviest lens on our list 
  • Great for sports and wildlife, but not much else

7. Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED: A Macro Lens for Micro Wildlife 

Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f 2.8G IF-ED Lens

Specs

  • Focal Length: 105 mm
  • Size: 83 x 116 mm
  • Weight: 720 g
  • Sensor Type: Full-Frame
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Autofocus: Yes

When we think of wildlife photography, we tend to think of the biggest animals out there. However, wildlife photography also covers some of nature’s smallest creatures. To capture them and stunning photography, you’re going to need a macro lens. 

Get Up Close and Personal With The Smallest Wildlife 

A macro lens is a telephoto lens that gives you a close-up view of things that were tough to see with the naked eye. This lens is ideal for people who are looking to take wildlife photography of insects, reptiles, and every other animal that’s just a little too small to catch with a traditional lens. 

Pros

  • Perfect for photography involving insects, reptiles, and other small creatures 
  • High quality macro images 
  • Small size and modest weight make it a great addition to your kit 

Cons 

  • Not much versatility 
  • Will need to include other lenses in your wildlife photography kit 

How To Find The Best Nikon Camera Lens For Wildlife Photography

Buying the best Nikon lenses for wildlife photography can be tricky. Even after going through our list, you still might have some pretty big questions about what makes a certain lens the “best.” 

Here’s a quick walkthrough of some of the biggest questions in wildlife photography. 

What Lenses Do Professional Wildlife Photographers Use? 

You’ll often find people making sweeping statements about the types of lenses that professional photographers use. However, professional photographers tend to have countless lenses as at their disposal to help them get the exact right shot.

This often comes from years of experience. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of countless different lenses which allows them to swap them out as needed depending on their circumstances. While you’re working to build up this level of proficiency, you should pick a lens that connects with your goals and your style. 

The best Nikon lenses for nature photography are going to be the ones that let your photography stand out. Even if you’re not a pro photographer yet, there are lenses that can help you build up your skills and get you started on your photography journey. 

How Much To Spend On The Best Nikon Lenses For Nature Photography? 

This is one of the biggest challenges for picking a lens. Everyone wants to get the biggest, most expensive lens they can find in order to show off, but that isn’t always the right choice to make.

If you’ve got the money, go ahead and get the best possible lines that you can afford. However, if you need to make a budget choice then you’re going to have to make some compromises. This often means balancing your wildlife photography goals with your current budget. 

One of the biggest things to remember here is that it’s not the quality of the lens, but the skill of the photographer that matters. Even the most basic tools can create incredible art in the hands of a skilled Master. You can build up and refine your skills using the most budget equipment out there.

If you’re looking for a more practical guide for how much to spend on a nature photography lens, consider that these lenses often seem more wear and tear than other types of photography. It’s going to rain, snow, and you might even get caught in a sandstorm depending on where you’re doing your wildlife photography. This means you’re better off saving up for the better build quality than risking it with a low-end lens. 

The best choice is lenses that can take that kind of beating but don’t spend so much money you’d be worried about taking the lens out for a trip. 

Prime Or Nikon Zoom Lenses For Wildlife Photography?

Here’s one of the biggest debates in photography. Do you go for a prime lens or for a zoom lens?

Prime lenses have a single focal length. It might seem like there’s a more basic model, but prime lenses tend to be the more expensive and more professional line. This is because prime lenses can be focused to achieve a singular goal.

Zoom lenses have a trade-off to make. They’re going to offer you multiple focal lengths, but there are going to be quality compromises along the way. This isn’t to say those zoom lenses are inferior, but it is to say that where they gain multiple focal lengths, they trade image quality and build quality. 

Best Way To Start Building A Professional Lens Kit

If you’re just building out your photography kit, you want to get lenses that you can grow into.

Starting off with that 600 mm prime lens might be tempting, but that’s going to be a huge financial commitment upfront. You might be better served getting a zoom lens that can let you build your skills and be a little more flexible with your style. 

Beginner Tips to Keep Your Wildlife Lens Safe 

Now that you’ve got your lens, you are ready to head out into the great outdoors. However, how do you keep your lens safe when you’re trekking through the wilderness?

Treat your lens like it’s an investment. Keep it in a bag that can protect you from the elements and keep a lens cleaning kit on you to handle any dust that might get on your glass. 

Conclusion – What Is The Best Nikon Lens For Wildlife Photography?

The right wildlife photography lenses are going to let you capture stunning images of nature’s most interesting animals.

Whether you’re going with our number one pick, the Nikon AF-S FX Nikkor 200-500mm, or going macro with the Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm, there’s a lens on this list for you. You could even try the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm to get up close to the most extreme animals out there! 

Which of the best Nikon lenses for wildlife photography are you going to add to your photography kit? 

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