The 7 Best Lenses for Bird Photography in 2020


The 7 Best Lenses for Bird Photography in 2020

The Lens that you use is more important in Bird Photograqphy than the camera body that you use! Here we will show you the best lenses for bird photography that you can buy for your camera body.

Best Bird Photography Lenses for Canon Cameras

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

  • Good zoom range, making it easier to get the bird in the view finder.
  • 4-stop Image Stabilisation allowing it to be used in lower light conditions.
  • Tack sharp images throughout entire zoom range.
  • Relatively lightweight (1,640g), allowing it to be hand held.
  • Fast autofocus.
  • Fully weather sealed.
  • Smaller Aperture (f/5.6) at maximum zoom.
  • Not quite the 600mm reach of some zoom lenses.

Without paying over $10k for the Canon 600mm this  is the best overall lens for bird photography when using Canon cameras. Itis very fast to autofocus and  takes tack sharp images throughout the entire zoom range. It can be esasily hand held even in low light due to its 4-stop Image Stabilisation.

Most Bird Photography is done at the maximum end of the zoom range, but being able to zoom out makes easier to locate the bird and then zoom in on it. This is particularly useful when shooting birds in flight.

The only disadvantage is the smaller Aperture (f/5.6) at maximum zoom which  means that the ISO may have to be raised in low light conditions to achieve a fast enough shutter speed.  Although the 4-stop Image Stabilization helps dramatically with this.

It doesn't have quite the reach of some competing lenses but but it definately wins overall. You will never regret buying this lens.

  • Fantastic zoom range.
  • Excelllent price.
  • Can be hand held due to its relative Lightweight (1,930g).
  • Not quite as sharp at 600mm.
  • Not fully weather sealed.
  • Smaller Aperture (f/6.3) at maximum zoom.

The Sigma 150-600mm f/5.6-6.3 Contemporary is a great lens for its price. It ha a fantastic zoom range, although at 600mm it isn't quite as sharp but is still very good. It can be hand held held due to  due to its relative lightweight (1,930g) and Image Stabilisation.

Like all zooms I love that you can zoom out, locate the bird, and then zoom back in to get a close shot. This is particularly useful when panning whils shooting birds in flight.

Its smaller Aperture (f/6.3) at maximum zoom means that you may have to raise the ISO to get fast enough shutter speeds in low light conditions.

If I was on a budget and trying to keep the cosrt below $1000, this is the lens I would buy.

Money No Object - Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x

  • Good zoom range, making it easy to get the bird in the view finder.
  • Incredibly sharp throughout the entire zoom range.
  • 4-stop Image Stabilisation for working in low light conditions.
  • First class build quality.
  • Price.
  • Fairly heavy (3,620g) so can only be hand held for a short period.

The Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x is one the best bird phtography lenses available for Canon cameras. With the flick of a switch its inbuilt teleconverter can be enaged, extending its reach to 560mm. Add a 1.4x external teleconverter and its reach becomes 784mm. This gives a range of 200-784mm with a single lens - incredibly versatile.

Combine this with its tack sharp images throught its entire zoom range and its excellent Image Stabilisation allowing you to work in lower light conditions and you have a winner.

I chose this over the Canon 600mm prime because of its versatility. It is lighter and more compact and I like that I can zoom out, locate the bird in the frame and then zoom back in again for the shot.

The only downside is its price - you will pay the equivalent price of a small car!

Best Bird Photography Lenses for Nikon Cameras

Overall - Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

  • Decent zoom range.
  • Fantastic price.
  • Very sharp.
  • Fast auto focus.
  • f/5.6 Aperture a little slow.
  • Heavy (2,300g with collar).

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is a great value lens for the price. It has a decent zoom range and is sharp throughout the entire range.

It's a bit heavy at 2,300g which makes it harder for hand holding, but its 4.5 stop Image Stabilisation (Vibration Reduction) helps to keep the images sharp. 

Its f/5.6 Aperture is a little slow so the ISO may have to be raised under low light conditions.

Money no Object - Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR

  • Excellent build quality.
  • Excellent reach.
  • 4-stop Image Stabilisation (VR).
  • Fast autofocus.
  • Expensive.
  • Heavy.
  • Bulky.
  • No zoom.

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Best Bird Photography Lenses for Olympus Cameras

Best Overall - Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO

  • 300mm reach. This is equivalent to a 600mm reach on a full frame DSLR.
  • Tack sharp image quality.
  • Fairly high Aperture (f/4).
  • 4-stop Image Stabilisation.
  • Fast Autofocus.
  • Lightweight (1,270g).
  • No zoom. Although most of the time you would be shooting at the maximun end of the zoom range when photographing birds. 
  • A litlle pricey, but still nothing compared to the equivalent 600mm prime for a DSLR.

This is probably the best super telephoto lens that you can get. Not only that but it is easily hand holdable which is remarkable for a 600mm equivalent lens.

You can reliably shoot hand held due to its light weight, fairly high Aperture (f/4) and 4-stop Image Stabilisation. When used with an Olympus body this gives you an impressive 6-stops Image Stabilisation.

Its extremely fast autofocus allows you to lock onto birds in flight with ease.

There's very little bad to say other than the price. It is the most expensive lens from Olympus so far,  but this is insignificant compared to the price of the equivalent DSLR lens.

This is without a doubt the best bird photography lens for Olympus camera bodies.

Best Budget - Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II

  • Excellent zoom range. 
  • Very lightweight (423g).
  • Extremely compact.
  • Decent Sharpness.
  • Fast autofocus.
  • Very affordable.
  • Low Aperture (f/6.7) at maximum zoom.
  • Sharpness decreases above 250mm but still above average.
  • Autofocus can struggle at 300mm.

The Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II is an excellent bird photography lens for the price. If you're on a budget, its the one to choose for an Olympus camera body.

It has an excellent zoom range, 35mm equivalent to 150-600mm and is extremely lightweight and compact, making it perfect for carrying around.

It produces sharp images for most of its zoom range.  At maximum zoom the iamges are ot quite as sharp, but still well abover average. You may have to increase the ISO in order to get sharp images as the aperture decreases to f/6.7.

autofocus is also inclined to struggle at 300mm.

Despite some of these issues it is an excellent lens for bird photography if you're on a budget.

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