Claire Gillo and the AP team round up the best lenses for wildlife photography – an extensive list for both DSLR and mirrorless

In this guide, we’re counting off all the best lenses for wildlife photography. Capturing images of wild animals in their natural habitat is an incredibly rewarding discipline – but a demanding one. There are physical limitations to how close you can get to most wildlife, meaning that a long lens is not just an asset, but an essential addition to your kit bag.

We’ve used our extensive experience of testing and reviewing lenses to come up with a definitive list of the right optics for wildlife photography. This list comprises a mix of telephoto zooms and primes, each of which have their own advantages and disadvantages (which we’ll get into). There are lots of expensive telephoto primes out there – enough that we could have filled this list with them – but we’ve kept realistic budgets in mind, and provided plenty of affordable options alongside the premium stuff. If you are working to a strict budget, we do also have a dedicated guide to the best affordable telephoto lenses for wildlife photography.

We’ve included options for all the major mounts, and divided our list into DSLR and mirrorless lenses to make it easier to navigate. Before we dive in, let’s quickly look at the most important features in wildlife photography lenses.

How to choose the best lenses for wildlife photography

As we said, we’re dealing with long focal lengths here, as wild animals generally simply won’t let you get close. Ideally having at least 300mm is ideal, and often you’ll want more than that.

You’re going to be choosing between zoom lenses or primes. Having a zoom gives you more shooting flexibility, while prime lenses bind you to a specific focal length, with the trade-off of better optical quality. Zooms also tend to be cheaper, and are realistically going to be the best choice for most amateurs.

Lenses have plenty more features to take into account. Size and weight are important, as you’re going to be carrying the lens to your shooting location. Dust and weather sealing is also a consideration, given that wildlife photography is a decidedly outdoor pursuit. The minimum focus distance may be a consideration if you want to get close-ups of smaller or tamer animals.

Wildlife photography often involves tripod use, so you may want to check if the lens comes with a tripod mount (or if one is available as an optional extra).  The manufacturer may also offer compatible teleconverters – devices that can give you more reach, usually with a trade-off in aperture width. They are more practical on mirrorless cameras than DSLRs, as autofocus tends to work better.

You’ll also want to look at the maximum aperture. While you may not find yourself shooting wide-open too often when it comes to wildlife, you may find that having an aperture larger than f/5.6 comes in handy, whether it’s for creating shallow depth of field, or getting a bit more light when the sun starts to dip. Of course, lenses with larger apertures tend to be both larger and more expensive.

Whatever your needs and budgets, there are some great long telephoto lenses on the market that won’t break the bank (or your back). Here’s our pick of the best lenses for wildlife photography – and if you want some good camera options to go with them, take a look at our guide to the best cameras for bird photography.


What are the best lenses for wildlife photography? – DSLR users

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

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

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

At a glance:

  • 77mm filter thread
  • 98cm minimum focus
  • 193mm length x 94mm diameter
  • Weighs 1640g
  • Canon EF mount
  • Price: £2,589 / $2399

All the camera makers produce high-end 400mm zooms, typically offering a decent range in a relatively portable package with fast, quiet autofocus and optical image stabilisation. For many photographers, these are the logical next step beyond 70-300mm type lenses for shooting wildlife. Canon’s current EF-mount optic is a particularly fine example. It’s a significant improvement on the firm’s original version, being impressively sharp at all focal lengths. While it’s designed for full-frame DSLRs, it also offers a very useful 160-640mm equivalent range on APS-C models. It’s pricey, though, so photographers on a budget may wish to look at alternatives from Tamron and Sigma.

Pros:

  • Impressive sharpness throughout zoom
  • Rapid autofocus
  • Effective stabiliser

Cons:

  • Focus distance window too close to mount
  • Expensive

Read our Field Test review of the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM.


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

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

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

At a glance:

  • 95mm filter thread
  • 2.2m minimum focus
  • 268mm length x 108mm diameter
  • Weighs 2300g
  • Nikon F mount
  • Price: £1,399 / $1396

For Nikon DSLR shooters, the 200-500mm f/5.6 offers a unique option, being a relatively affordable telephoto lens that provides a usefully longer range then conventional 100-400mm design. Use it on a DX-format camera such as the Nikon D500, and this extends to fully 750mm equivalent. Its f/5.6 maximum aperture means that it’s relatively portable considering its range, and not so heavy that it can’t be shot handheld. Focusing is snappy and accurate, thanks to the AF-S motor. However, it’s not claimed to be weather-sealed, and being an E-type lens with an electromagnetic diaphragm, won’t work on older Nikon DSLR bodies. So do check compatibility with your camera before buying.

Pros:

  • Can be used hand-held
  • Longer range
  • Reliable autofocus

Cons:

  • Not fully weather sealed
  • Won’t work on all Nikon DSLRs

Pentax D FA 150-450mm F4.5-5.6 ED DC AW

Pentax D FA 150-450mm F4.5-5.6 ED DC AW

Pentax D FA 150-450mm F4.5-5.6 ED DC AW

At a glance:

  • 86mm filter thread
  • 2m minimum focus
  • 242mm length x 95mm diameter
  • 2000g weight
  • Pentax KAF3 mount
  • Price: £1979 / $1896

Rather than slavishly matching its rivals with a 100-400mm telezoom, Ricoh Imaging came up with something a little different. Designed for use on the full-frame K-1 and K-1 Mark II, this longer 150-450mm design is also entirely at home on the firm’s APS-C models, on which it provides an impressive 225-675mm equivalent range. The lens employs a built-in autofocus motor, backed up by Quick Shift Manual focus, and boasts weather-resistant construction. With Pentax SLRs including in-body image stabilisation, this is the only lens on our list that doesn’t include built-in optical stabilisation. Combined with its hefty size and 2kg weight, this means that users may well find a monopod helpful to minimise shake and aid composition.

Pros:

  • Quick-shift manual focus options
  • Hardy and weather resistant
  • 450mm max zoom

Cons:

  • Weighs 2kg
  • No built-in optical stabilisation

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

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

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

At a glance:

  • 67mm filter thread
  • 1.6m minimum focus
  • 182mm length x 86mm diameter
  • Weighs 1160g
  • Canon EF, Nikon F and Sigma SA mounts
  • Price: £699 / $899

Many users can’t justify the cost of long zooms, and don’t want to cart around the weight, either. But this Sigma telezoom addresses these issues: it’s very affordable for a long-telephoto zoom, and noticeably smaller and lighter than most other 100-400mm optics, too. This comes at the cost of maximum aperture, but with the high ISO performance of modern cameras, that’s of lesser concern than it might once have been.

While it’s designed for full-frame DSLRs, this is also a great choice for APS-C cameras, giving a 150-600mm equivalent range. However, users should be aware that it’s not weather sealed. Being designed for hand-held shooting, it doesn’t come with a tripod mount ring either.

Pros:

  • Affordable for a lens of its type
  • Lightweight
  • Solid optical performance

Cons:

  • Not weather sealed
  • No tripod mount

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

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

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

At a glance:

  • 105mm filter thread
  • 2.6m minimum focus
  • 290mm length x 121mm diameter
  • Weighs 2860g
  • Canon EF, Nikon F and Sigma SA mounts
  • Price | £1,329 / $1499

Sigma offers two 150-600mm zooms designed for use on full-frame DSLRs, with the same base specifications. We especially like the Sport version – it’s huge and expensive, but seriously sharp, with impressively fast autofocus. It’s not so big that you can’t shoot it handheld at a pinch, although for extended sessions you’ll probably want a sturdy monopod. It boasts dust and splash resistant construction for outdoor use, while for those who need even longer reach, it can be bought with a 1.4x teleconverter for a £100 premium. The firm also makes a ‘Contemporary’ version that’s smaller, lighter, and much more affordable, at £849, but doesn’t give quite the same image quality.

Pros:

  • Hardy outdoor construction
  • Excellent image quality
  • Lightning-fast autofocus

Cons:

  • Too big for prolonged handheld use
  • Expensive

Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD

Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD

Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD

At a glance:

  • 67mm filter thread
  • 1.5m minimum focus
  • 199mm length x 86mm diameter
  • Weighs 1135g
  • Canon EF and Nikon F mounts
  • Price: £819 / $799

If weight is your primary concern, this Tamron optic has the distinction of being the lightest 100-400mm lens for DSLRs on the market. It also stands out from its most direct rival from Sigma in offering a tripod mount foot as an optional accessory. Key features include an ultrasonic-type autofocus motor for fast, silent focusing and 4-stop optical stabilisation. The design also boasts moisture resistant construction and fluorine coating aimed to give you peace of mind in bad weather. Last but not least, this lens is compatible with Tamron’s 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, for even greater reach. Just be aware that the viewfinder will get dark and autofocus is unlikely to be reliable, if it works at all.

Pros:

  • Incredibly light
  • Optional tripod foot
  • Rapid, silent focusing

Cons:

  • DSLRs only
  • Teleconverters interfere with viewfinder

Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

Best Lens for Wildlife - Tamron-18-400mm-F3.5-6.3-Di-II-VC-HLD lens

Tamron-18-400mm-F3.5-6.3-Di-II-VC-HLD lens

At a glance:

  • 72mm filter thread
  • 45cm minimum focus
  • 124mm length x 79mm diameter
  • Weighs 710g
  • Canon EF and Nikon F mounts
  • Price: £679 / $599

All-in-one superzooms aren’t usually the first choice for wildlife, but they can be handy in situations where you need to travel light or don’t have time to change lenses. Tamron’s ground-breaking 18-400mm for APS-C DSLRs is the longest lens of its type, with its 22.2x zoom providing an impressive 27-600mm equivalent range. It’s also dust- and splash-resistant for outdoor shooting, while optical stabilisation is on board to combat camera shake, which is essential with such a long lens. You won’t get as sharp pictures as you would with a premium telephoto lens, but it’ll certainly be better than not getting the shot at all.

Pros:

  • Resistant to dust and splashes
  • Very broad zoom range
  • Built-in stabilisation

Cons:

  • Not as sharp as others
  • Distortion and vignetting make RAW shooting necessary

Read our review of the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD.


What’s the best mirrorless lens for wildlife photography?

If you’re a mirrorless camera shooter, these are some of the best lenses available now:

Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM

Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM review image by Damien Demolder

The Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM is relatively low cost for a lens of this type. Photo credit: Damien Demolder

At a glance:

  • 67mm filter thread
  • 0.88m minimum focus
  • 165mm length x 80mm diameter
  • Weighs 635g
  • Canon RF mount
  • Price: £699 / $649

This unusual optic for Canon’s EOS R-series full-frame mirrorless cameras has the distinction of being the smallest, lightest, and most affordable 100-400mm lens on the market by quite some margin. It achieves this by using a modest maximum aperture that’s a stop smaller than usual for this type of lens.

As a result, you’ll often need to increase the ISO setting by a stop to keep shutter speeds up and avoid subject motion blur. You also won’t get quite so much blur when shooting a subject against an out-of-focus background. But this could prove a small price to pay for a lens that’s highly portable and easy to shoot hand-held.

In our review, we found ourselves highly impressed by how intelligently Canon has gone about making a lens of this type so affordable. The compromises all make sense, and add up to the Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM being a very tempting proposition indeed for wildlife photographers.

Pros:

  • Highly affordable
  • Very portable
  • Impressive sharpness for the price

Cons:

  • f/5.6 may be too limiting

Read our review of the Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM.


Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM

Best lens for wildlife - Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM

Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM

At a glance:

  • 77 mm filter thread
  • 0.9m minimum focus
  • 208mm length x 94mm diameter
  • Weighs 1530g
  • Canon RF mount
  • Price: £2,979 / $2899

Rather than simply recreate its DSLR lenses for mirrorless, Canon has routinely come up with something a little different for its RF-mount range. This lens is a case in point: it achieves a usefully extended focal length range while being lighter and only slightly longer than its EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 counterpart. In other respects, it retains all the features you’d expect from Canon’s pro ‘L’ series, including weather-sealed construction, fast, silent autofocus and effective optical image stabilisation. It’s also compatible with Canon’s RF 1.4x and 2x teleconverters without any significant loss of functionality. It doesn’t come cheap, but it has a lot to offer for demanding wildlife shooters.

Pros:

  • Extra bit of zoom range
  • Weather sealed
  • Fast, silent autofocus

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • On the heavy side

Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM

Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM

Canon RF 800mm F11 IS STM

At a glance:

  • 95mm filter thread
  • 6m minimum focus
  • 282mm length x 102mm diameter
  • Weighs 1260g
  • Canon RF mount
  • Price: £1,099 / $999

This unusual lens is another striking example of Canon’s imaginative optical innovation, being the most portable and affordable 800mm autofocus lens on the market by a huge margin. In fact, it’s light enough to be entirely usable hand-held, which is unprecedented for such a long lens, especially on full-frame. Thanks to its quick autofocus, effective optical stabilisation and sharp optics, it’s also capable of delivering fine results. It’s still rather bulky, though, and the fixed f/11 aperture can be restrictive at times, requiring the use of high ISO settings even in good light. Another drawback is the long 6m minimum focus distance. Canon also makes a similar 600mm f/11 model that’s smaller and lighter, and costs £860.

Pros:

  • Can be used hand-held
  • Effective stabilisation
  • Excellent sharpness

Cons:

  • Fixed f/11 aperture might be restricting
  • 6m minimum focus distance

What’s the best Nikon lens for wildlife photography?

Nikon Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S

Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 S review image

The Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 S on test. Photo credit: Amy Davies

At a glance:

  • 77mm filter thread
  • 75cm minimum focus
  • 222mm length x 98mm diameter
  • Weighs 1355g
  • Nikon Z mount
  • Price: £2,699 / $2696

Judging from the specs alone, you might think there’s nothing particularly outstanding about Nikon’s Z-mount 100-400mm telezoom. The firm boasts that it’s the lightest in its class, but not by very much. In other respects, it ticks all the boxes we’d expect. It boasts pro-spec weather-sealed construction, employs dual stepper motors for fast, silent focusing, and includes optical image stabilisation rated for an impressive 5.5 stops of shake reduction.

In practical use, it turns out to be an excellent lens that’s a fine match for the firm’s high-speed, high-resolution flagship Nikon Z9. Our testing proved the Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S to be capable of delivering sharp images, time after time. It’s the kind of lens you can rely upon to deliver, no matter how difficult the conditions.

Pros:

  • Super-speedy
  • Reliably sharp
  • Weather-sealed

Cons:

  • Expensive

See why we gave the Nikon Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S five stars


Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC 1.25x IS Pro

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC 1.25x IS Pro

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC 1.25x IS Pro

At a glance:

  • 95mm filter thread
  • 1.3m minimum focus
  • 314mm length x 116mm diameter
  • Weighs 1875g
  • Micro Four Thirds mount
  • Price: £6,499 / $7,499

It may be sizeable and seriously expensive, but this beast of a lens demands inclusion in our list by virtue of its extraordinary telephoto reach. Built for use on Micro Four Thirds cameras such as the OM System OM-1, it offers a 300-800mm equivalent range; engage the built-in switchable teleconverter, and this extends to 375-1000mm equivalent at an aperture of f/5.6. In the unlikely event this isn’t long enough, it’s also compatible with 1.4x and 2x Olympus teleconverters, giving 1400mm and 2000mm respectively. The lens isn’t just good for distant subjects, either; its 1.3m minimum focus distance enables super-telephoto macro shooting, with 1.0x equivalent magnification. Other key features include optical stabilisation with Sync IS, and full weather-sealing.

Pros:

  • Incredible equivalent zoom range
  • Good up close, too
  • Impressive stabilisation

Cons:

  • Massively pricey

Read Andrew Fusek Peters’ review of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC 1.25x IS Pro


Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS Pro

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS Pro

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 IS Pro

At a glance:

  • 77mm filter thread
  • 1.4m minimum focus
  • 227mm length x 92.5 diameter
  • Weighs 1270g
  • Micro Four Thirds mount
  • Price: £2,399 / $2,999

Before the appearance of the 150-400mm, this superb prime had established itself as the go-to option for Olympus users in need of top-quality glass for wildlife photography. Offering a 600mm equivalent range in a relatively compact package, it’s also compatible with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, giving barely any drop in performance with the 1.4x converter in particular. At 1270g, it weighs less than most high-end telephoto zooms, making it an excellent choice for pros and enthusiasts looking for a highly mobile set-up. It’s designed for shooting in difficult conditions, being dust, freeze and splashproof. It also benefits from the firm’s class-leading Sync IS system to combat camera shake and give sharp images hand-held.

Pros:

  • Effective IS
  • Excellent prime-lens quality
  • Good teleconverter options

Cons:

  • Some may prefer a zoom

What’s the best lens for wildlife photography on a budget?

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F4-5.6 II Power OIS

At a glance:

  • 67mm filter thread
  • 1.5m minimum focus
  • 126mm length x 74mm diameter
  • Weighs 520g
  • Micro Four Thirds mount
  • Price: £499 / $647

If there’s one lens that epitomises the size advantages of Micro Four Thirds for telephoto shooting, it’s this hugely popular 100-300mm zoom. One of Panasonic’s earliest lenses for its Lumix G system in its original guise, it gives a 200-600mm equivalent range in a very compact package, complete with optical image stabilisation and fast, silent focusing. The updated ‘mark II’ version adds weather-resistant construction and compatibility with Panasonic’s Dual IS system, in a smart all-black finish. It may not quite match the image quality of higher-end optics, especially at the long end of the zoom, but makes up for this with its bargain price.

Pros:

  • Great value for money
  • Weather-resistant
  • Snappy, silent focusing

Cons:

  • Not as sharp as others
  • Dual IS only works on Panasonic body

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm ASPH F4-5.6 OIS

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm ASPH F4-5.6 OIS

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm ASPH F4-5.6 OIS

At a glance:

  • 72mm filter thread
  • 1.3m minimum focus
  • 172mm length x 83mm diameter
  • Weighs 985g
  • Micro Four Thirds mount
  • Price: £1,149 / $1,597

Micro Four Thirds users have two optically fine 200-800mm equivalent telephoto zooms to choose from, but in practical terms, we prefer Panasonic’s Leica-badged offering. Weighing in at under a kilogram, it’s one of the most portable 100-400mm lenses available, and considerably smaller and lighter than its Olympus counterpart. This makes it the ideal choice for wildlife photographers looking to travel light while packing serious telephoto range. This premium optic also features weather-sealed construction for outdoor shooting, along with extremely effective optical stabilisation that makes it easy to use hand-held. As the icing on the cake, its 1.3m minimum focus distance is great for shooting small subjects such as insects.

Pros:

  • Very portable
  • Highly effective stabilisation
  • Short min focus distance

Cons:

  • Down to f/5.6 at 400mm

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

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

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

At a glance:

  • 95mm filter thread
  • 1.75m minimum focus
  • 211mm length x 95mm diameter
  • Weighs 1375g
  • Fujifilm X mount
  • Price: £1,699 / $1,899

Unlike other 100-400mm zooms, Fujifilm’s is optimised purely for use on the firm’s APS-C X-system cameras, giving an impressive 150-600mm equivalent range. If you need to go even longer, the lens is also compatible with Fujifilm’s 1.4x and 2x teleconverters, which have surprisingly little impact on the lens’s excellent autofocus performance. Key features include highly effective optical image stabilisation that’s rated for 5 stops of blur suppression and includes automatic panning detection. The lens is dust and water resistant and will operate in conditions down to -10 °C. Thanks to its reasonably lightweight build, it’s also a lens that you can happily shoot handheld all day.

Pros:

  • Pleasingly light
  • Excellent image quality
  • Rugged build

Cons:

  • Somewhat weighty
  • 150-600mm offers more reach for same price

Fujifilm XF 150-600mm F5.6-8 R LM OIS WR

Fujifilm XF 150-600mm F5.6-8 R LM OIS WR review image by Angela Nicholson

The Fujifilm XF 150-600mm F5.6-8 R LM OIS WR mid-test/ Photo credit: Angela Nicholson

At a glance:

  • 82mm filter thread
  • 2.4m minimum focus
  • 315mm length x 99mm diameter
  • Weighs 1605g
  • Fujifilm X mount
  • Price: £1,899 / $1999

One of Fujifilm’s more recent optics goes a step further than its 100-400mm sibling, in offering a staggering 900mm equivalent range at a surprisingly affordable price. Yet this comes in a reasonably lightweight design that’s entirely usable for hand-held shooting. It achieves this by using a small f/5.6-8 maximum aperture, which keeps the size manageable, but means it’s best suited to shooting in relatively good light.

In our review, we found that the Fujifilm XF 150-600mm F5.6-8 R LM OIS WR delivers excellent sharpness, with the stabilisation system kicking in well to keep things steady even at the outer edge of the focal range. At at 900mm equivalent, that is no small thing!

The lens is compatible with Fujifilm’s 1.4x and 2x teleconverters for even longer range, although with even smaller effective apertures. As part of Fujifilm’s premium ‘red-badge’ range, the lens boasts high-end optics and built-in stabilisation. It employs a matte silver finish for shooting in hot weather and is fully weather-sealed.

Pros:

  • Excellent sharpness
  • Full weather sealing
  • Effective stabilisation

Cons:

  • Restricted to f/8 at 600mm
  • Hefty

Read our Fujifilm XF 150-600mm F5.6-8 R LM OIS WR review


Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN | C

Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary

Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary

At a glance:

  • 67mm filter thread
  • 1.1m minimum focus
  • 197mm length x 86mm diameter
  • Weighs 1135g
  • Sony E and L mount
  • Price: £899 / $899

For E-mount and L-mount users looking for a portable and affordable long telephoto option, Sigma has come up trumps. Designed from the ground up for full-frame mirrorless cameras, it can also be used on APS-C models, giving a 150-600mm equivalent range. Highlights include a dual action zoom design, either by rotating the zoom ring or pushing and pulling the lens hood, and four-stop optical image stabilisation with a dedicated panning mode.

In our review, we praised this lens highly for the value for money it offers. Optical performance is highly impressive, especially for such a compact lens, and its ability to nail the shot consistently, even at the outer edge of its zoom reach, is highly commendable.

A tripod mount ring is available as an optional accessory. The main concession to its relatively low price is that the lens isn’t weather-sealed, although it does have a seal around the mount to help protect the camera.

Pros:

  • Great imaging performance
  • Dual action zoom
  • Effective stabilisation

Cons:

  • Not fully weather sealed
  • Tripod mount costs extra

Read our five star review of the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN | C


Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN | S

Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN | S

Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN | S

At a glance:

  • 95mm filter thread
  • 2.8m minimum focus
  • 266mm length x 109mm diameter
  • Weighs 2100g
  • Sony E and L mounts
  • Price: £1,199 / $1089

Sigma’s longest telephoto lens for full-frame mirrorless cameras combines the best features of its two DSLR offerings with the same focal length range. It promises the superb optical quality of the older ‘Sports’ lens, but in much more compact dimensions similar to the ‘Contemporary’ version. It also includes Sigma’s dual action zoom design, allowing quick push/pull zooming, with the zoom torque switchable between ‘tight’ and ‘smooth’. The barrel boasts dust and splash resistant construction, and the lens comes with a detachable tripod foot that features an Arca-Swiss type profile for clamping directly onto many tripod or monopod heads. The L-mount version is also compatible with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.

Pros:

  • Quick zoom action
  • Tripod foot included
  • Superb quality

Cons:

  • Not as fast to focus as rivals

Sony E 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS

Sony E 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS

Sony E 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G OSS

At a glance:

  • 77mm filter thread
  • 1.1m minimum focus
  • 142mm length x 77mm diameter
  • Weighs 625g
  • Sony E-mount (APS-C)
  • Price: £769 / $998

Smaller sensors bring inherent advantages for shooting distant subjects such as wildlife, as they allow long telephoto reach to be attained using lighter, more compact optics. Designed for use on Sony’s A6000-series APS-C cameras, this lens offers a 105-525mm equivalent range in a package that’s smaller, lighter, and more affordable than the firm’s full-frame 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 design. As part of the G-series range, it boasts premium optics and is one of only a select few E-series lenses to include weather-sealing. It also boasts an AF-stop button and physical switches for controlling focus and stabilisation modes, making it an ideal companion to Sony’s top-end A6500 and A6600 APS-C bodies.

Pros:

  • Useful focal range
  • Premium image quality
  • Useful physical controls

Cons:

  • Not the best for bokeh

Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS

Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS

Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS

At a glance:

  • 77mm filter thread
  • 98cm minimum focus
  • 205mm length x 94mm diameter
  • Weighs 1395g
  • Sony E mount
  • Price: £2,149 / $2498

Perfectly matched to Sony’s high-speed full-frame mirrorless cameras, this stunning lens combines fantastic image quality with super-fast, near silent autofocus and extremely effective image stabilisation. While it’s full-frame compatible, it can also be used on APS-C bodies such as the Alpha 6600, giving a 600mm equivalent reach. For those who need to go longer, it’s also compatible with Sony’s 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters, while retaining autofocus. Of course, there’s no getting away from the fact that this lens is seriously pricey compared to third-party offerings from Sigma and Tamron. But in return, it’s a reliable workhorse that’s guaranteed to keep up with the Alpha 1’s 30 frames per second shooting.

Pros:

  • Exceptional quality throughout zoom range
  • Pairs well with APS-C bodies
  • Full teleconverter compatibility

Cons:

  • Very pricey
  • And third-party rivals are cheaper

Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS

Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS

The Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS is a big lens, but handles well. Photo credit: Michael Topham

At a glance:

  • Filter thread 95mm
  • 2.4mm minimum focus
  • 318mm length x 111.5 mm diameter
  • Weighs 2115g
  • Sony E mount
  • Price: £1,599 / $1,998

For Sony wildlife shooters in need of a versatile long telephoto zoom, this is a particularly strong contender. Unlike older 600mm zooms designed for DSLRs, it employs an internal zoom design for dramatically improved operability. This makes it much quicker and easier to zoom between the extremes of the range, with the balance also remaining unchanged for more comfortable hand-held shooting. Autofocus is fast and accurate thanks to Sony’s Direct Drive SSM system, and the image quality is excellent, too. The lens is fully weather sealed and incorporates three customisable focus-hold buttons. It’s still quite large and weighty, as befits a 600mm zoom, but the price comes as a pleasant surprise.

Pros:

  • Fast, reliable autofocus
  • Internal zoom mechanism
  • Well-balanced

Cons:

  • Unavoidably heavy

Read our review of the Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS


Tamron 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD

Tamron 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD

Tamron 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD

At a glance:

  • 82mm filter thread
  • 60cm minimum focus
  • 210mm length x 93mm diameter
  • Weighs 1728g
  • Sony E mount
  • Price: £1,199 / $1399

Tamron is no stranger to long telephotos, having produced the first 150-600mm zoom for full-frame DSLRs. With mirrorless it’s taken a different direction, producing a 150-500mm optic that’s not dramatically larger or heavier than typical 100-400mm designs. This means that you can pack it into a smaller bag than you’d probably expect for a 500mm lens. Built for use on full-frame cameras, it includes such desirable features as optical stabilisation for hand-held shooting and autofocus powered by a quiet, precise VXD linear motor. Tamron also says it’s fully compatible with Sony’s advanced features such as Eye AF and in-camera optical aberration correction. A removable Arca-Swiss compatible tripod mount ring comes as standard.

Pros:

  • Works with Eye AF
  • Tripod ring included
  • Optical stabilisation

Cons:

  • Heavier than it looks

Text by Claire Gillo, with contributions from Andy Westlake and Jon Stapley


Now you’re found the best lenses for wildlife photography, have a look at these articles to learn more:

How to check a second-hand lens for faults
How to capture fast moving birds and animals
Best cameras for wildlife photography
Beginners guide to wildlife photography


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