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
14 used from $1,420.00
- 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 II USM Lens - 9524B002 (Renewed)
- Includes all original accessories plus a 90 day warranty
- Compact, high performance L-series super-telephoto zoom makes it ideal for sports and wildlife photography.
- One fluorite and one super UD lens element provides excellent correction of chromatic aberration throughout the entire zoom range, helping to deliver high-quality images with high resolution and contrast.
- Optical Image Stabilizer provides up to four shutter speed steps of correction. --According to CIPA standards (400mm focal length, when using the EOS-1D X).
3. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L is II USM Lens International Version 9524B002 - Starter Bundle
1 used from $2,079.95
- This 6AVE Bundle includes Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, 2 Year Extended Warranty, 77mm Ultraviolet UV Filter, MicroFiber Cleaning Cloth
- Product Highlights: EF-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format | Aperture Range: f/4.5 to f/38 | One Fluorite and One Super UD Element | Air Sphere Coating
- Ring-Type Ultrasonic Motor AF System
- Optical Image Stabilizer
- Weather-Sealed Design, Fluorine Coating | Detachable, Rotatable Tripod Collar