High-quality lenses for bird photography.
Have you bought a new camera with detachable lenses for bird photography but can’t get the most out of it? Consider purchasing an additional birding lens for your equipment kit. Several optics options will help you achieve more impressive results than using only the supplied lens.
Even a top-end DSLR or mirrorless camera can’t provide you with the desired results if you shoot with the wrong optics. Take some time and find the best lens for bird photography to unleash the full potential of your camera.
If you want the best performance out of your camera, you don’t have to buy a new one. Replacing the lens can be a good solution in many situations.
Below, you will find my guidelines on choosing bird watching camera lenses to help you buy the best one for you. It’s also a good idea to learn more about crop factor as the size of the camera sensor affects the lens performance.
Mount: F | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: good| Min focus distance: 0.45m | Max magnification: 0.34x | Filter thread: 72mm | Dimensions (WxL): 400mm | Weight: 1.55 lbs
⊕ Impressive quality
⊕ Macro capability with 1: 29 max Mag Ratio
If you are looking for the best lens for bird photography with extreme capabilities, then this universal model is worth considering. This is the first ultra-telephoto lens made for the APS-C format. It has a 22.2x zoom and an 18-400mm focal length, its ultra-telephoto range matches 620mm in the 35mm format. Thanks to this, you can photograph objects from a long distance and get images with perspective-flattening effects. Moreover, its incredible optical capabilities ensure excellent performance while both ultra-telephoto and wide-angle shooting.
The Tamron is a great choice for outdoor photography as the waterproof construction will provide reliable protection for your optics. This all-in-all lens is suitable for portrait, landscape, city, flora and other types of photography. Thanks to its ultra-telephoto range, you can also photograph sports events or use it for animal or bird photography. Besides, a max magnification ratio of 1: 2.9 will provide excellent macro quality. The lens comes with a classic accessory kit, including lens caps and a flower-shaped lens hood.
Mount: EF | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: good | Min focus distance: 1.6 m | Max magnification: 0.26×| Filter thread: 400mm | Dimensions (WxL): 182.3 mm| Weight: 1160 g
⊕ Warranty for four years
⊕ Has a 67mm filter
⊕ Not bulky
This lens for bird photography features fantastic quality and small dimensions. Thanks to optimized power distribution and four SLD glass lens elements, you get images with minimal optical aberrations. The manufacturer has paid special attention to transverse chromatic aberration since you cannot minimize it with the aperture yourself. As a result, the lens delivers amazing picture quality across the entire zoom.
The Sigma lens provides outstanding functionality and performance equal to more expensive models. Like its predecessor, the new 400mm lens for birds boasts incredible picture quality and performance and draws the attention of many photographers. This compact lens includes a 67mm filter and weighs just 1,160g.
Mount: FE | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: good | Min focus distance: 98cm| Max magnification: 0.35x | Filter thread: 400mm | Dimensions (WxL): 205 mm | Weight: 3.00 lbs
⊕ Great telephoto zoom range
⊕ Built-in stabilization
⊕ Zoom tension can be adjusted
⊖ Becomes wider when zoomed
This Sigma lens impresses with image quality and portability. This is one of the best 400mm lenses on the telephoto market. This option is lightweight and more compact than other telephoto zoom lenses in its segment. It has a cool optical image stabilizer for better picture quality.
This telephoto lens for bird photography includes a new Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) and push/pull zooming function, providing a more responsive approach to photography. You can use a 1: 3.8 macro feature to shoot from both far and close distances. Traditionally, this Sigma lens is made in Japan, at the factory in Aizu. The manufacturer thoroughly tests the product before sending it to the market, so you can be sure of its quality.
Mount: ED | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: good | Min focus distance: 0.9m | Max magnification: 0.18x| Filter thread: 58mm | Dimensions (WxL): 300mm | Weight: 423g
⊕ Min focusing distance 0.9m
⊕ Image magnification up to 0.18x
⊕ Quick, noiseless AF due to MSC mechanism
The new super-telephoto lens from Olympus is known for its compact size and fantastic picture quality. This budget model with a 35mm equivalent of 150-600mm is great for Olympus PEN or OM cameras. It measures 2. 7x4. 58 inches and weighs only 14. 9 ounces. This option is an excellent budget lens for bird photography, landscape, animal and other types of outdoor shooting. It consists of 18 elements combined into 13 groups. You get extreme optical performance across the entire zoom range. Chromatic aberration is minimized by using two ED lenses and one Super ED lens. Three high refractive index lenses also contribute to incredible image quality throughout the zoom range.
Mount: EF | Diaphragm blades: 8 | Autofocus: good| Min focus distance: 1.2m. | Max magnification: 0.21x| Filter thread: 77mm| Dimensions (WxL): 300 mm | Weight: 1.56 pounds
⊕ Built-in picture stabilization
⊕ Single UD Lens
⊕ Shows lots of lens info on the display
The EF 70–300mm f / 4–5.6 IS II USM makes you feel close to your subject no matter how far away you are. This is the best lens for bird photography for those who are looking for fast, quiet AF and a wide zoom range. It’s easy to capture the moment you want thanks to NANO USM technology for fast focusing. This technology also contributes to better video recording as it saves you unnecessary sounds from the lens.
The improved information display allows you to customize the most accurate shooting settings. You can see information about the depth of field, focal length and focus distance on it. If your bird photography equipment does not include a tripod, you still get crisp images thanks to the built-in image stabilization function.
Mount: F | Diaphragm blades: 9 | Autofocus: good | Min focus distance: 260 cm | Max magnification: 0.20x | Filter thread: 95 mm | Dimensions (WxL): 600 mm | Weight: 1930g
⊕ Amazing telephoto reach
⊕ Great sharpness
⊕ Fast focus
⊖ A bit narrow aperture
This lens from Sigma is very compact and lightweight. A variable aperture hyper-telephoto zoom lens provides outstanding image quality and works great at various distances. This 150-600 option includes a silent and optimized Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) and an updated Optical Stabilizer (OS) with an accelerometer. With these features, you get the best opportunities for panning photography both vertically and horizontally. Therefore, the Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 is a good lens for birds, motor and wildlife photography. Besides, this model has a new zoom lock switch. You can activate it at any focal length. It’s easier to control focus with a new manual override (MO) switch.
Mount: FE | Diaphragm blades: 11 | Autofocus: good | Min focus distance: m | Max magnification: 0.2x. | Filter thread: 318 mm | Dimensions (WxL): 600 mm | Weight: 2115 g
⊕ Long telephoto distance
⊕ Quick focusing
⊕ Inner zoom design
⊖ Max aperture is narrow
This option is a universal 200-600mm super-telephoto zoom lens. It consists of 1x aspherical element and 5x ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements providing fantastic image quality with minimal chromatic aberration. The lens features high sharpness throughout the entire zoom range. It is a good option for photographing moving subjects thanks to its quiet, accurate and fast autofocus. It is also very reliable and performs well in the field.
The SEL200600G is based on a proprietary Direct Drive Supersonic Wave Motor system. It provides excellent performance of the heavy focus group for fast and accurate capturing of the moving objects. The improved DDSSM system will help you avoid unnecessary noise. Therefore, it is a good camera lens for birding and wildlife watching.
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3Our choice
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Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3High quality
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Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5–5.6Universal
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When buying a camera with the ability to change lenses, you should remember that some manufacturers use specific mounts and you will not be able to attach optics from another company. For example, you cannot use Canon lenses with Nikon cameras and vice versa. However, you can find several brands that use the same type of mount. For example, Sigma, Leica and Panasonic have L-mounts. When buying a lens for bird photography, you should check its compatibility with your camera. Remember that you cannot always combine equipment from even one manufacturer. For example, Nikon mirrorless lenses are not suitable for DSLR cameras.
Typically, most entry-level mirrorless and DSLR cameras come with a basic zoom lens. Depending on the brand and format of the camera, it can be a 14-42mm or 18-55mm lens. Many people mistakenly think that compact cameras are inferior to their interchangeable-lens counterparts in terms of zoom capability. However, this is not true. An 18-55mm lens provides you with only a 3x zoom. It is worse than many basic point-and-shoot cameras and can’t be even compared to the Nikon P1000 with 125x zoom.
On average, cameras with an interchangeable lens have 10x zoom. You should take this into account when choosing the best lens for bird photography. However, you cannot compare a point-and-shoot camera and DSLR or mirrorless one. Interchangeable lens cameras are based on large sensors. They provide you with a better picture but need larger lenses in turn. Therefore, using a compact camera, you have a larger zoom range. To get the same zoom capability with larger cameras, you need to have multiple lenses.
The focal length is a key feature to keep in mind when choosing a birding lens. It shows the zoom level of your optics. You can find two main types on the market: “prime lens”, or fixed focal length lenses (for example, 35mm or 600mm), and models with variable focal length (e.g., 10-20mm, 100-400mm, etc.). Lenses with a focal length of 70-300mm are among the most universal. In other words, you get the wider field of vision using optics with the smaller focal length. So a 10mm focal length will give you a wide field of view. It will be narrow at 55 mm, and even less at 200 mm.
Remember, the focal length is given for a full-format sensor. It means that 18mm on a full-frame camera is equivalent to 29mm on an APS-C sensor. To calculate the focal length on two types of cameras, you need a special conversion factor. Below, you will see a diagram with information about the angles of vision provided by different focal lengths.
An aperture shows the amount of light your camera receives. It is indicated by the corresponding numbers written after the letter ‘f’. The lower the number (for example, f 1.2), the wider the aperture opens and more light enters your camera. Don’t forget this when you are looking for a camera lens for birding.