Best Canon Wildlife Lens

I’ve been shooting wildlife photography for years and have been able to test dozens of lenses. I am a huge Canon fan and once I started using the best lenses for wildlife photography my image quality skyrocketed. After reading this article you will know which Canon lenses to use for wildlife photography.

Check the quick list below for links to customer reviews and prices or read on for the full review

  1. Canon EF 600mm f/4L IIII USM
  2. Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM
  3. Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM
  4. Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM
  5. Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM
  6. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
  7. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM
  8. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM
  9. Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM

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Best Canon Wildlife Lenses – Top Picks

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IIII USM

This is my favorite canon lens for wildlife photography. The performance is beyond belief and provides true professional image quality. If I could only have one lens in my bag it would be this one. It is incredibly well constructed and lightweight. It is more than ready to stand up to the abuse of getting outside and shooting in poor weather. It does come at a premium price but if you are looking for the absolute best Canon lens it is well worth the investment.

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Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM

The 500mm Canon IS lens offers the same high quality performance and build quality as the 600mm. The primary difference is this lens has a wider focal length. It is also smaller and comes in at a lower price point making it an exceptional value overall. When you want your backgrounds to be more prominent this wider focal length lens is the way to go. This lens creates a beautiful background blue that make your subjects pop. This is another top pro quality Canon wildlife lens.

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Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM

This Canon wildlife zoom lens provides amazing image quality. It provides a built in 1.4x extender and is made with wildlife photographers in mind. It is incredibly versatile in the field and performs flawlessly every time I have shot with it. It is made to withstand the elements and will last you for many years. This lens requires a sizable investment but is absolutely worth the cost.

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Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM

This Canon lens is perfect for shooting in low light conditions and comparable lenses often cost far more money. The 400L IS USM offers you the longest f/2.8 focal length on the market right now. And it offers wide aperture even when usng extenders. This lens is my go to when shooting in dense cover where shadows are challenging. Overall the performance is superb and the build quality matches. If you enjoy shooting in challenging lighting then this is the lens for you.

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Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM

This lightweight wildlife lens from Canon provides solid performance and durability. This lens is a great option for when you have adequate lighting and need a lightweight option. This lens will not fatigue you quickly even when shooting in hand all day. The price is reasonable as well making it a solid overall value.

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Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

This lens is one of Canon’s most popular for wildlife photographers. Once you shoot with it you will understand why. It provides top performance and professional image quality consistently. No matter the focal length and aperture you use it will maintain it’s performance. This lens’ built in viewfinder makes framing long distance shots simple. This lens is also popular with aircraft, sports, and even surfer photographers.

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Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM

This Sigma offering is marketed toward athletic photography but it provides all the performance and features a seasoned wildlife photographer demands. It is capable of taking wide and tight shots while maintaining great image quality. The build is excellent and it is weatherproof so you can even shoot outside when the weather turns poor.

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Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM

There are numerous lenses in the 150-600mm range that offer great performance but this Sigma version is my current favorite. It provides excellent performance and offers a solid and durable build. You get all this and the price is the best for what you get in this focal range. Prior to writing this article I had owned mine for two years and it has been a solid performer so I may be a little biased.

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Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM

This lens is one of those instances where the lower priced model provides the same performance as it’s higher priced cousins. This Sigma 100-400mm lens is a real value. It has been gaining popularity with wildlife photographers for this very reason. The main downsides is this lens does not have the widest aperture and it lacks a tripod foot. Other than that this is one great low cost Canon lens option.

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Canon Wildlife Lenses Explained

Because a wildlife photographer will be dealing with many unknowns during a session it is important to have the tools you need to handle any shot that you encounter. Lack of gear will lead to missed shots.

Wildlife subjects tend to avoid human contact so many of your shots will require a lens that can handle long distances without sacrificing image quality. You will also have to handle obstructed views and poor and low light conditions.

Most photographers getting into wildlife photography will try to use a kit lens but they will get frustrated with poor image quality so it is very important to get yourself a lens made for the inherent challenges of shooting animals in the wild.

I like to think of this as environmental portraits and like photographing humans you will need a lens that can capture your subjects in the most flattering way. To do this you will need a lens with the right focal length and that is why you need a lens designed for these challenges.

If you can only invest in one lens right now, I recommend selecting one with the longest focal length you can afford. You can always add more lenses in the future but if you miss most of your shots because your focal length isn’t long enough you will lose interest and that is avoided with proper lens selection now.

A longer focal length will also open up more photography opportunities because the closer you have to get to your subject, the more likely you are to scare them off.

A longer focal length will also allow you to create a more eye catching background to your photographs. These lenses make it easier to achieve a blurred background (read about bokeh) and this is a great technique for making your image more interesting.

Because animals tend to be most active during the early morning and the late evening, you will need a lens that can handle low and poor lighting. This means you will want a model with a wide aperture so that you can get more light to the sensor.

One more feature that is great for wildlife photography is image stabilization. Because you will likely want to be able to shoot moving subjects, this feature will help maintain crisp and clear images. Even with image stabilization, many wildlife photographers keep a tripod or monopod to help them keep their photos looking sharp.

And because you will eventually be shooting when it’s raining or snowing it is very important that your lens be weatherproof and made to stand up to some abuse. When I am hiking through the forest seeking a great shot, my lenses get bumped and dropped. A poorly built lens won’t last long in these conditions.

Conclusion

  1. Canon EF 600mm f/4L IIII USM
  2. Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM
  3. Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM
  4. Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM
  5. Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM
  6. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
  7. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM
  8. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM
  9. Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM

There are hundreds of lens options out there and I have tried just about every one of them. For the beginner wildlife photographer it is very important to invest in the best wildlife photography lens you can as early as possible. Shooting with a low quality lens will lead to poor image quality and frustration. Any of my top picks will help you get the best photo quality possible.

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