Top 4 Lenses For Nature Photography

The Nikon AF-S 600mm in the wild with photographer Al Haley
In nature photography it’s not unusual to see someone drive up in a beater car that barely runs only to have the shooter pull out an $8,000 lens.  It is not a hobby for the financially faint of heart.
Getting enough light at those magnifications means a big barrel, and a big barrel means a lot of expensive glass.  For these lenses most photographers buy a dedicated body to use with them.  The cost of the camera is almost inconsequential compared to the lens.These are my four picks for the best in nature photography.


Quick and accurate auto-focus driven by high precision, ultra-quiet motors.  You’ll need a quality tripod to hang this bad boy but it’s worth it sit at a comfortable quarter mile away to get your shots. The color and clarity can only be described as amazing.

Canon ef 500mm
With ultra-fast and rock steady focusing that almost jumps to the subject, you’ll see this lens on a lot of the sidelines of sporting events as well as nature photography.500mm with a 4.1 degree horizontal angle of view for full frame sensor models like the 5D MKII.
If you’re not into brand names, you can save some money looking at brands like Sigma, which run closer to half what the Canon and Nikon glass costs.  There are concessions like weight and weather proofing you’re giving up, but you won’t have to trade your car for one, either.

Sigma 500mm
A little heavier than its more expensive cousins, but not that difficult to pack around and still delivers high quality images.  You’re giving up weather sealing at the lower price point, so carry a bag cover with you at all times.

Sigma 50-500
This zoom is heavy, but offers a long, flexible zoom range.  You are giving up a fixed aperture on the zoom, but considering the price point, that’s an inconvenience I can live with.