Bird photography poses some serious difficulties. Unless you’re shooting close-ups of pelicans and the like, or tethered birds of prey, it tends to demand shooting small creatures at long distances. You, therefore, need all the telephoto power you can lay your hands on. Tracking the erratic movement of birds in flight can be notoriously difficult.
Traditional methods include ‘digiscoping’, a term coined at the end of the last century for mounting a camera on a birdwatcher’s spotting scope, via a specialist adapter. It’s typically a low-budget solution but, more recently, powerful telephoto lenses have become available for the latest digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras.
There are some fabulous zoom lenses on the market, including the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x and Nikon AF-S 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR, both of which have built-in teleconverters. However, at around $11,000 or more, they’re beyond the reach of most of us, and super-telephoto prime lenses can be even more expensive.
So here, we’ve rounded up the best buys that deliver mighty telephoto reach along with fast autofocus systems, capable of tracking birds in flight.
Best Lenses for Bird Photography
1. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, Lens Only
10 used from $1,788.99
- Compact, high performance L-series super-telephoto zoom makes it ideal for sports and wildlife photography
- Rotation-type zoom ring allows for more precise composition and excellent balance when handholding
- Improved zoom torque adjustment ring allows easy setting of zoom tension, Focal Length & Maximum Aperture:100-400mm 1:4.5-5.6, Closest Focusing Distance-3.2 ft. / 0.98m
- New Air Sphere Coating (ASC) helps to significantly reduce backlit flaring and ghosting, Highly resistant to dust and water, and amazing durability enabling shooting even in harsh conditions
2. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
23 used from $899.00
- 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens with f/4.5 maximum aperture for Canon SLR cameras
- 2 Image Stabilizer modes make it easy to capture far-off action or close-in portraits
- Flourite and Super UD-glass elements largely eliminate secondary spectrum
- Compatibility with extenders 1.4x II and 2x II; 5.9-foot close focusing distance
- Measures 3.6 inches in diameter and 7.4 inches long; 1-year warranty
3. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L is II USM - International Version (No Warranty)
1 used from $2,087.04
- EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, 77mm, 21 elements/16 groups