Which DSLR camera lens for birds and wildlife?

Updated February 21, 2017

Wildlife and bird photography requires specialised equipment. The best cameras are the Digital Single Lens Reflex camera or DSLR. These cameras allow the use of interchangeable lenses. The long or telephoto lenses, featuring high magnification, are ideal for bird and wildlife photography. Telephoto lenses come in a variety of configurations. According to photographer Bob Atkins writing for the website there is no one best lens for all wildlife photography situations. The well equipped wildlife photographer possesses as many specialised lenses as they can afford.

Zoom Lens

A zoom lens offers a range of focal length or magnifications. This allows the photographer to adjust the lens to the position of the subject. Common wildlife and bird zoom lenses are 70 to 300 millimetre or 100 to 300mm. Another factor to consider is the aperture of the lens, which is stated as the f-stop. This is the adjustable opening in the lens that allows light to enter the camera. The lower the aperture number the larger the maximum opening in the lens and the better the lens will perform in low light situations. Zoom lens specifications often include two f-stop numbers indicating the maximum aperture at each end of the zoom lens focal length range. Low aperture zoom lenses perform best for wildlife and bird photographers but come with a high price tag.

Prime Lens

A prime lens does not have an adjustable focal length but offers a one specific telephoto magnification. Common prime lenses for bird and wildlife photography are 300 or 400mm. Again the aperture plays a big part in the usefulness of the lens. The lower the aperture the better the low light performance of the prime lens. The best prime lenses offer a maximum aperture of f2.8. However, the best often comes with a big price tag. Bird and wildlife photographers should purchase the best lenses their budget will allow.

Macro Lens

Close up photography of bird nests, animal tracks or even scat, animal droppings, requires a specialised lens that allows a sharp focus even when the camera is held close to the subject. This feature is referred to as macro focus or macro. This is an included feature in some zoom lenses although it can be purchased as a separate prime lens. Use the macro lens for wild flower photography on the days when the birds and wildlife aren't cooperating.

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About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.