Best Canon Lenses for Wildlife Photography- The Ultimate Guide

Whenever optics are mentioned, it’s almost a given that Canon will be mentioned instantly as well. The two words are almost synonymous, and rightly so, Canon is a Japanese company that has been a terrific manufacturer of high quality cameras and optics in general for many years. Thus, if anyone is looking to buy any optical product, one of the first brands that come to their minds is Canon. Therefore, if you have a Canon camera and you are in search of the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography, then this article is for you.

Canon offers an extensive range of tremendous lenses that are particularly useful for wildlife photography.  There are several options that fit most budgets and needs.  And most wild animals are nocturnal in nature, which means you can only have a chance to photograph them late or early in the day. Since these conditions are usually low-light and cloudy, it is always helpful to have a lens with a larger maximum aperture.

Wildlife photography is no backyard photography, and apart from incredible skills and techniques, it requires incredible lenses as well. In this guide, we will be reviewing some of the best lenses that Canon has to offer, and are suitable for wildlife photography. Not only that, you will also get to read some tips that will be of great help to you when making your final buying decision.

Let’s get started!

The 7 Best Canon Lenses for Wildlife Photography of 2018

Canon EF 70-300 mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM Lens

Designed for advanced photographers and hobbyists in search of a long lens for an array of applications such as wildlife and sports, the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM is a very capable lens.

Being the first lens from Canon to have a display that shows key lens information such as focal length, focus distance, camera shale, and depth of field, you can see why this Canon lens is so revered.

Furthermore, in order to decrease chromatic aberration, the design of the lens features an ultra-low dispersion lens element. This lens also features an effective Image Stabilization system which decreases shake, especially when being used hand-held.

 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 3.15 x 5.73 in / 8 x 14.6 cm
  • Weight: 1.57 lbs / 0.71 kg
  • Focal length range: 70-300 mm
  • Max. aperture: f/4 – f/5.6
  • Compatible mounts: Canon EF
  • Compatible formats: Full frame, APS-C

Pros

  • Lightweight & compact
  • Affordable
  • Excellent build quality
  • Quick autofocus
  • Improved image stabilization
  • Lens information display screen

Cons

  • No weather seal

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Super Telephoto Lens

The EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens is another high-performance lens from Canon. At first sight, you will immediately notice that this lens was built with easy handling and portability in mind. Featuring a UD-glass element, there is minimal chromatic aberrations and you get only sharp images. Also, the lens comes with a detachable tripod mount and an incorporated hood.

Furthermore, the lens features an ultrasonic autofocus motor which enables silent, fast, and smooth autofocus and it also has a full-time manual override which allows for accurate manual focus regardless of the mode. Besides, this lens supports a two-stage focus range limiter which can be easily turned with a flick of a switch.

 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 3.54 x 10.12 in / 9 x 25.7 cm
  • Weight: 2.8 lbs / 1.27 kg
  • Focal length range: 400 mm fixed
  • Max. aperture: f/5.6
  • Compatible mounts: Canon EF
  • Compatible formats: Full frame, APS-C

Pros

  • L-series optics construction
  • Long focal length
  • Compact size
  • Quiet, fast USM autofocus
  • Built-in lens hood

Cons

  • Not enough brightness

Canon EF 300 mm f/4L IS USM Telephoto Fixed Lens

Combining a decent form factor with a flexible telephoto focal length, the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM is another great lens on our list. The manufacturer applied two ultra-low dispersion elements to considerably reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing so as to get a very high level of lucidity. Besides, the manufacturer applied a Super Spectra coating to keep up color fidelity and contrast when shooting in low-light conditions.

In addition, to complement the excellent imaging properties, this Canon 300 mm f/4 lens comes with an Image Stabilizer to prevent shakes image shakes. Besides, the manufacturer employed ring-type USM on this lens to produce quiet and quick autofocus performance alongside a great focus control.

 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 3.54 x 8.7 in / 9 x 22.1 cm
  • Weight: 2.62 lbs / 1.19 kg
  • Focal length range: 300 mm fixed
  • Max. aperture: f/4
  • Compatible mounts: Canon EF
  • Compatible formats: Full frame, APS-C

Pros

  • Good brokeh
  • Crisp and clear images
  • Very durable
  • Image stabilizer
  • Great autofocus performance

Cons

  • The autofocus is generally very good but it can be hard to track very fast and unpredictable wildlife

Canon EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

This is an unbelievable Canon lens, normally utilized for all sorts of photography works, including wildlife and event coverage. While the focal length is not as exceptional for wildlife, the lens will still provide a decent performance and deliver incredibly sharp images. Besides, it can be used with a teleconverter if you are looking for an increased focal length provided you need more reach.

This lens performs commendably in low light settings on account of that gigantic aperture of f/2.8, which lets abundant light through every the focal length offered by this lens. We recommend you to opt for this versatile Canon lens if you are not deeply into wildlife photography, and only do it as hobby.

 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 3.5 x 7.8 in / 8.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Weight: 2.9 lbs / 1.49 kg
  • Focal length range: 70-200 mm
  • Max. aperture: f/2.8
  • Compatible mounts: Canon EF
  • Compatible formats: Full frame, APS-C

Pros

  • Incredibly sharp images
  • Optically stabilized
  • Constant f/2.8 aperture
  • Includes tripod collar and hood

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Fairly expensive

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

The Canon EF 100– 400mm f/4.5– 5.6 Lens is another excellent Canon lens on this list and it totally merits its inclusion. This great lens produces a sublime mix of compact build, splendid resolving power, and cutting-edge performance that’s perfect for wildlife and sports photography.

With one super UD element and one fluorite element incorporated into the construction of the lens, you can be sure that there will be minimal distortions and aberrations all through the zoom range so as to produce incredible sharpness, brilliant color reproduction, and notable clarity. Besides, so that there will be minimal glare and ghosting in this lens, Canon applied an An Air Sphere Coating to the elements of the lens.

Not the cheapest lens for sure, but it offers beautiful performance that in my opinion justifies the price. For that reason it is my top pick.

 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 3.7 x 7.6 in / 9.4 x 19.3 cm
  • Weight: 3.46 lbs / 1.57 kg
  • Focal length range: 100-400 mm
  • Max. aperture: f/4.5 – f/5.6
  • Compatible mounts: Canon EF
  • Compatible formats: Full frame, APS-C

Pros

  • Incredibly sharp
  • Optically stabilized
  • Quick autofocus
  • Fairly compact
  • Good value for money

Cons

  • Maximum aperture is OK but average and variable
  • Quite costly

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM II Super Telephoto Lens

Are you in search of a Canon lens with a perfect combination of quick fixed aperture and a long focal length? You have just found it. The Canon 400mm f/2.8L is a mesmerizing option that you can’t just ignore. It features a wide f/2.8 aperture, which makes the images sharp throughout. Apart from the fact that the automatic is fantastically fast, it is also quiet.

With this lens flawless and high quality images, brilliant bokeh backgrounds, and incredible resolving power, this lens might just be the one for you. There’s absolutely nothing to correct in its deliveries. Besides, its fast aperture means you can do wild photography at night without any reliance on high ISO capabilities.

 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 6.4 x 13.5 in / 16.3 x 34.3 cm
  • Weight: 8.49 lbs / 3.85 kg
  • Focal length range: 400 mm fixed
  • Max. aperture: f/2.8
  • Compatible mounts: Canon EF
  • Compatible formats: Full frame, APS-C

Pros

  • Supreme image quality
  • Very versatile
  • Beautiful bokeh performance
  • Fixed fast aperture

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Very bulky and heavy

Canon EF 200-400 mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x

Build to satisfy the different needs of wildlife and sports photographers, the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L is an incredible zoom lens with an incorporated 1.4x extender for supreme versatility. You will find the extender extremely useful since you can quickly and easily increase the zoom range to 280-560mm with a turn of a knob.

Besides the fact that the extender is very useful in scenarios where it is difficult for you to change or swap lenses quickly, it also protects fragile gear like a digital SLR image sensor in dusty environments with high humidity. The long focal length of this lens will provide you with extraordinary image quality, supreme versatility, and a very effective image stabilization.

At you can expect, this comes at a very high price tag.

 Quick Specifications

  • Size: 5.04 x 14.41 in / 12.8 x 36.6 cm
  • Weight: 7.98 lbs / 3.62 kg
  • Focal length range: 200-400 mm
  • Built-in extender: 280-560 mm
  • Max. aperture: f/4, f/5.6 with extender
  • Compatible mounts: Canon EF
  • Compatible formats: Full frame, APS-C

Pros

  • Built-in teleconverter
  • Unbelievable focal length
  • Outstanding quality
  • Image stabilization
  • Fairly compact for the range
  • Fixed aperture

Cons

  • Very expensive

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s a Good Zoom Lens for Wildlife Photography? – Factors to Consider

You can’t just buy any lens because it is from Canon. While Canon is a trustworthy and reliable manufacturer, there are still some factors you must consider before choosing one of their products to make sure it will be well adapted to your wildlife photography.

Focal length: The primary feature to check in a camera lens is the ability to magnify subjects that are far away. Most wild animals will never allow you to come near them, which means you must go for a lens that provides lots of magnification, or longer focal length in other words.

A longer focal length allows you to capture far away subjects with great ease. If you are into wildlife photography, you should consider focal lengths around 150 mm to 600 mm (but idealy 300 mm and more).

Wide aperture: Another challenge often faced by wildlife photographers is light. The fact that wild animals are often active late in the day or hidden in the vegetation means wildlife photography often takes place in low light conditions. Therefore, you need a lens with a lot of light-gathering abilities, with f/4.0 apertures or even wider. However, lenses with long focal lengths and wide apertures are always expensive, which means you should be ready to splash the cash.

Durability: Wildlife photography isn’t a child’s play, and if you are serious about this sort of photography you must purchase durable gear, including camera and lens. You will probably drop your lens several times without number, so you must consider the durability before buying so you wouldn’t have to buy another one soon. Luckily, the lenses listed on this page all have in common an excellent quality and a strong build.

Autofocus: Birds and wild animals don’t always stay still and often move around fast and unexpectedly! If your autofocus is not solid enough and struggles to focus as soon as it moves a little fast, you will be missing a lot of good shots. It’s important to make sure that the autofocus system of the lens is solid enough and able to hold the focus on fast moving subjects.

Image Stabilization: As we already said, wildlife photography often happens in low light, and on top of a wide aperture and high ISO, image stabilization plays a big part in getting clear, sharp pictures. Hence, a strong image stabilization is an important feature for a wildlife lens, particularly when you are shooting at a longer focal length.

Variable Aperture and Fixed Aperture, What’s The Difference?

You may have noticed that some lenses have a fixed aperture and others have a variable aperture. This distinction can also be a decision factor (I am referring here to the widest aperture the lens can offer). The aperture basically represents how much light the lens is able to let in, to hit the camera sensor. Between each f-number (from f/5.6 to f/4, from f/4 to f/2.8…) the amount of light that can penetrate the lens doubles.

Wide aperture leads to fast shutter speeds, which is exactly what you want to avoid camera shake and freeze the animal movements – in a word, get beautiful super sharp pictures. That’s why wider apertures are a big advantage, but I disgress.

The thing is, it is not easy to have get a lens to keep a super wide aperture all the way to a very long focal length. When a lens offers this, it is usually very expensive. The 400 mm f/2.8 lens costs 10,000 dollars.

So in a less-expensive lens, the aperture will vary according to the focal length: the more you zoom, the less  light comes in. For example, let’s take our top pick, the Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. At 100 mm, the maximum aperture is f/4.5, and at 400 mm it is f/5.6. From 100 to 400 mm, the aperture becomes gradually smaller from f/4.5 to f/5.6.

The disadvantage is that if you play a lot with the zoom you may have to modify your other camera settings to keep a good photo exposure in spite of the different aperture value. If you are shooting in aperture priority it won’t be such a big deal, and you will just be playing with the ISO sensibility if there is not enough light when you are completely zoomed in.

Why Don’t You Show Lens Prices in This Article?

I don’t directly show prices in this page because prices can change at any moment. Consequently, any price I give could quickly be outdated and I believe it is better to give you a directl link for you to check the latest price of your favorite lens.

How Did You Choose Your Top Pick?

My top pick here is the Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens because even though it is a rather expensive lens, I believe that its general performance and build/optics quality justify the price. In addition, its size and weight are kept at a reasonable level and it’s not always the case with wildlife lenses! I even selected it as my top pick in my other article about wildlife lenses.

Of course, if you have a large budget and want the absolute best, then the Canon EF 200-400 mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x and its astounding features is what you want to get.

Final Thoughts

Wildlife photography requires only the best photography gear, and it doesn’t get much better than gear made by Canon. Almost all of my photography gear is from Canon and I am a very happy customer!

Anyway, with some of the best lenses ever made by Canon reviewed, we hope this article will be of great help to you when making a buying decision.

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