For the last 15 years, I have been presenting nature-based photography workshops and tours across Australia and the world, many of these specialising in wildlife. One of the most common questions I have been asked over the years has been “What is the best lens for wildlife photography”. There are many different factors and variables to take into account when choosing the ‘best’ lens, so below I have written some of the points to consider.
1. Weight of Lens
One of the major factors in deciding which lens to choose is the weight of it. Some photographers, for various reasons, simply can’t lug a heavy, cumbersome lens around. My advice is to physically pick up any lens (or lenses) you are interested in, to see if you are comfortable carrying it around for a reasonable length of time.
2. Minimum Aperture
One very important factor when deciding to buy a lens for wildlife photography is what the widest aperture is, when fully zoomed. For example, a 300mm 2.8 let’s in plenty of light and is especially useful in low light conditions, but it’s quite expensive and quite heavy. The Sigma or Tamron 150-600mm lenses have great focal lengths and much cheaper, but in low light, at a minimum aperture of 6.3 when zoomed out, they can struggle to give you the shutter speed you need. It’s all about weighing up options – weight, versus cost, versus minimum aperture.
3. Focusing Speed
It’s always beneficial to ‘test drive’ a lens you are interested in purchasing, whether you borrow a fellow-photographer’s lens or try one in a camera store. Speed of focusing can have a major impact on whether you end up ‘nailing’ that split-second shot of some amazing wildlife behaviour.
4. Is The Lens Waterproof
Sometimes, to get that special shot of wildlife, you need to be out in the elements. Rain, snow, sleet – they can all damage your lens if it’s not waterproof. If so, that’s great but if not, there are a number of different ‘raincovers’ that can be purchased to fit your specific lens. Definitely a worthwhile investment!