Best Canon Lenses For Wildlife Photography

10 Best Canon Lenses For Wildlife Photography In 2021

Canon is the industry leader when it comes to making superior telephone zoom or wildlife lenses. That is why a large number of wildlife photographers use them for taking magnificent shots of the wildlife in its natural habitat. Canon’s lenses are perfect for filling the frame with subjects besides tracking the unpredictable movement of animals. Similarly, they are sharp, fast, and offer incredible image quality. Therefore, we will look at the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography in this guide.

Best Canon Lenses for Wildlife Photography

You can choose from wide a range of telephone zoom lenses such as RF (for R-Series), EF-M (for M-series) as well as EF and EF-S lenses for DSLRs. All these lenses are ideal for wildlife and sports photography. Also, keep in mind that we have tried to cover lenses on both ends of the price spectrum on our list. You can choose the one while keeping your budgets and requirements in view.

ImageModel NameFocus TypeCheck Price

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L


Ultrasonic


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Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM


Autofocus


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Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L


Autofocus


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Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS


Autofocus


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Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM


Ultrasonic


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Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS


Ring-type ultrasonic


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Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS


Ring-type ultrasonic


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Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L


Ring-type ultrasonic


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Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 IS USM


Ring-type ultrasonic


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Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS


Micromotor


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1.    Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens: Best Canon Lens for Birdwatching

The original Canon EF 100-400mm zoom lens has a cult following. However, not everyone liked it mainly because of its trombone-style-pull zoom mechanism. The upgraded version of the lens often called EF 100-400 Mark II, is a much improved lens with a myriad of upgrades.

To begin with, the Mark II features a typical twist-action zoom ring, much to the pleasure of wildlife photographers. Secondly, features like high-tech Air Sphere Coating, Super Ultra-low Depression (UD), and a more refined optical path with fluorite make it the best Canon lens for wildlife in general.

Nature photographers also love this lens for fluorine coating on front and rear and weather-seals. Furthermore, the triple-mode image stabilization is more effective than Mark I as well.

The maximum focal length of 400mm is also ideal for capturing bigger wildlife such as deer, elk, bears, and big cats. Similarly, you can easily take shots of bigger birds as well. However, it also provides you with good shots of smaller wildlife, especially if they are tame. In a nutshell, the lens has quite a flexible focal length at 100-400mm.

Another great feature of the lens is IS that makes this already light lens a breeze to handle even at slower shutter speeds.

EF 100-400mm also offers terrific image quality even at 400mm, unlike most zoom lenses. Similarly, you can the lens for every type of close-ups including critters thanks to the minimum focus distance of 3.3 feet.

The only problem with the lens is a somewhat limited performance at low light. This is because of its f/4 and f/5.6 maximum aperture at 100mm and 400mm respectively. It is also quite an expensive lens for its focal length.

Pros
  • Very flexible focal length
  • Lightweight and easy to handle
  • Excellent image quality
  • Can be used for close up shots
  • Weather sealing
  • Lightning-fast autofocus
Cons
  • Limited low light performance
  • Relatively expensive

2.    Canon RF 600mm f/11 IS STM Lens: Another Good Lens for Birdwatching

Canon RF 60mm f/11 IS STM is the least conventional lens on our list. Primarily designed for Canon mirrorless cameras belonging to the EOS-R series, it offers a very unique and different experience. It is nothing like a typical prime photo lens in terms of design, features, and performance. However, it is still an excellent Canon wildlife photography lens, especially for birdwatching.

The lens has a maximum focal length of 600mm which is perfect for capturing bigger wildlife. However, it can collapse to 200mm because of its clever retractable design. The maximum magnification or zoom means you can also zoom in distant objects and wildlife with the utmost ease, ensuring safe distance between you and the animals.

The lens only weighs 930 grams because of the narrow fixed aperture rating of f/11 and the use of Diffractive Optics. Some people would argue that f/11 aperture rating is very limited for wildlife photography. However, it is more than enough when you pair it with a fast and reliable Canon’s Dual Pixel sensor-based autofocus system as in the case of this lens.

The image quality of the lens is also very impressive. Similarly, it is very easy to carry and handle because of its compact size and low weight.

The lens does not have weather sealing but it is a great choice for wildlife photography as a whole.

Pros
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Strong image quality
  • The Dual Pixel autofocus system
  • The maximum focal length of 600mm
  • Best for capturing bigger wildlife
  • Good magnification
Cons
  • Fixed f/11 aperture
  • No weather sealing

3.    Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L USM Lens: Best Zoom Lens for Wildlife Photography

Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 is the newest telephoto zoom lens for the Canon EOS R series of mirrorless cameras. Although, you can use Canon EF 100-400mm on the mirrorless cameras yet is primarily a DSLR lens. Therefore, it was quite hard for Canon to improve its image quality for mirrorless cameras. Therefore, they decided to introduce RF 100-500mm with an extended optical range.

The extended optical range means the lens has even more reach. It can easily and beautifully capture small as well as large wildlife. However, it also results in the meager maximum aperture of f/7.1 at 500mm.

The lens excels in all kinds of situations, especially when you pair it with cameras like EOS R5 and R6. You will get the 6 stops image stabilization besides incredibly fast autofocusing. The focusing can be even quicker if you use the lens on Canon EOS R and RP cameras.

The lens has built quality that can put the Canon’s legendary L-series to shame. Similarly, the optical performance is stunning, to say the least.

All in all, Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 is one of the best Canon zoom lenses for wildlife we have ever tested.

Pros
  • Stellar build quality
  • Stunning image quality
  • Versatile focal range
  • Very fast autofocus
  • Excellent image stabilization
Cons
  • Expensive lens
  • Narrow maximum aperture

4.    Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Lens: Best Cheap Lens for Wildlife Photography

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4l IS USM is the cheapest wide angle lens for Canon full-frame DSLR cameras. It has a focal range of 70—200mm which is perfect for close-ups. However, it also delivers 112-300mm equivalent focal range if you use it with APS-C sensors.

The maximum constant aperture of f/4 delivers consistent performance across the zoom range. The lens is lightweight and compact because of the constant aperture as well.

Canon EF 70-200mm features two ultra-low dispersion glass elements to reduce chromatic aberration and color fringing. Similarly, wildlife pictures also look stunning thanks to the single fluorite element.

The lens also has quite a fast autofocus as well as image stabilization. The closest focusing distance of 1.2 meters is also ideal for taking brilliant close-ups.

The lens has a relatively minor hood gripe but that is negligible, to say the least.

Pros
  • Very cheap lens
  • Best for close-ups
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Spectacular bokeh
  • Stunning images
Cons
  • Ugly lens hood

5.    Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM: Best Telephoto Prime Lens for Wildlife Photography

If you are looking for an excellent telephoto prime lens for wildlife, you must consider Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM. The lens boasts a build quality akin to the Canon’s legendary L-series lenses. Similarly, the optical performance is stunning even though it is relatively an old lens.

The lens lacks image stabilization which is understandable considering its age. Images are very sharp though thanks to the UD and super UD-glass elements. Both these elements also reduce the chromatic aberration.

The focal length of 400mm is ideal for wildlife photography, especially smaller wildlife. The lens also features an inner focusing system with USM. The close focusing distance of 35 m means you can zoom in on the distant objects with the utmost ease. It is especially important for safely capturing dangerous animals such as lions, wolves, and beers.

More importantly, you can buy the lens for less than $100 which is an absolute bargain. Therefore, it is also an ideal choice for people on the hunt for the best budget Canon lenses.

Pros
  • Very cheap lens
  • Fast and quiet autofocus
  • Compact size
  • Large focal length
  • L-series build quality
  • Good optic performance
Cons
  • Lacks image stabilization

6.    Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens: Most Versatile Lens for Wildlife Photography

Canon EF 200-400mm g/4L has been one of the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography since its inception. But – what makes this lens so good for wildlife?

Just like EF 100-400mm lens, this particular lens also offers brilliant image quality. On top of that, the images are very sharp across the aperture, from f/4 and up.

The lens has a maximum aperture of f/4 even at 40mm. As a result, it is extremely fast. Similarly, it comes with very strong autofocus, something required for capturing fast moving objects.

However, the best feature of the lens is its focal range. It is an incredibly powerful lens going from a minimum of 20mm to a maximum of 400mm. As mentioned above, it delivers fabulous image quality across the entire range.

You can even extend the focal range to 560mm using a teleconverter. It does push the maximum aperture back to f/5.6. However, it is a trivial problem considering the overall benefits of the lens.

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L offers endless opportunities. You can shoot everything from wide shots to intense close-ups and tighter portraits. The flexibility it offers is simply amazing.

Pros
  • Incredible focal range
  • Fast autofocus
  • Fabulous image quality
  • Very flexible lens
Cons
  • A bit pricy
  • Long and heavy

7.    Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens: Most Durable Canon Lens

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens is extremely difficult to handhold because of its huge size. Similarly, it is ridiculously expensive at $9000. Not many photographers, even the most established ones, can afford this lens. However, this is the lens for you if you want matchless performance in every other area.

Canon EF 500mm f/4L excels in every single department. Just consider its focal length that is 500mm. It is ideal for small critters and birds, especially if you have a crop-sensor camera. You can even increase the focal length to 700mm and thus, the lens’s reach by using a 1.4X teleconverter. It also means it is not a particularly good lens for larger wildlife, unfortunately.

Some photographers also consider it the best wildlife photography lens, especially for smaller wildlife. It can give you the same reach as a 600mm f/4 lens with the help of a teleconverter even if doesn’t have the same bulk.

The autofocus system of the lens is also extremely fast and accurate. It is perfect for low-light conditions thanks to the four stops image stabilization system as well.

Not to mention, the lens has excellent built quality. It is moisture and dust resistant and can last for decades.

Pros
  • Very fast autofocus
  • Excellent low light performance
  • Long focal length
  • Best for small wildlife
  • Focal length can be increased
  • Excellent built quality
  • Moisture and dust resistant
Cons
  • Very expensive
  • The focal length is a bit long for large wildlife
  • Huge and difficult to handle

8.    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Lens: Best Budget Canon Lens

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L is the least flashy lens on our list. However, it deserves a mention because of its many features as well as affordability. It is especially a great option for people looking to buy their first ever wildlife lens.

The biggest benefit of having this lens is the excellent image quality across the entire focal range. Similarly, the autofocus is very fast that can easily and accurately capture fast moving objects.

The lens offers plenty of shooting options because of its flexibly focal range of 70-30mm. it allows you to shoot breathtaking environmental shots at 70mm. On the other hand, it is possible to take excellent close-up images at 300mm. The 70-30mm focal range is also ideal for larger wildlife if it is tame.

However, the maximum focal length of 300mm is too short for small animals and critters. It is rather difficult to take close-ups of smaller wildlife.

Canon EF 70-300mm is a small and lightweight lens, ideal for “walking around” in the forest. Available for only around $1300, it is also one of the best budget Canon lenses for wildlife.

Pros
  • Excellent image quality
  • Fast autofocus
  • Affordable lens
  • Best for newbies
  • Plenty of shooting options
  • Good for large wildlife
Cons
  • 300mm is too short for most animals

9.    Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 IS USM: Lens with Longest Focal Length

Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 IS USM Super Telephoto lens has an incredibly long focal length of 800mm. In fact, it has one of the longest focal lengths of all the Canon lenses. However, it has the highest price tag as well.

Despite being expensive, it is the best lens for wildlife photography, especially if you want the longest reach possible. Besides wildlife, you can also use the lens for sports and photojournalism. It also has a comparatively lighter and cheaper 600mm version (above).

Canon EF 800mm f/5.6 IS USM offers countless benefits such as built quality of Canon L-series, two-mode image stabilization system, and panned subjects. Similarly, you can use the weather-sealed lens in all kinds of conditions.

In short, the lens has everything you need to get amazing wildlife shots. After all, that is what you expect when you pay more than $9000 for a lens.

Pros
  • Very long focal length
  • Best for long range shots
  • Superior built quality
  • Two modes image stabilization
  • Weather sealed lens
  • Stunning image quality
Cons
  • Very Expensive

10. Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS: Most Balanced Lens for Wildlife Photography

Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Standard Zoom Lens for DSLRs is the one of the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography if you are looking for a balanced lens.

The lens has a limited focus length without any doubt. However, it is the best lens for taking extreme close-ups of the animals. The adjustable focal length of 18-200mm is also good for capturing bigger wildlife. It is worth mentioning that the lens delivers similar performance as 320mm on a DSLR camera at a maximum focal length of 200mm.

This is also the ideal wildlife photography lens for people on a tight budget.  It features built-in four stops image stabilization besides an aperture range of f/3.5 to f/5.6. It also comes with a configurable 72mm filter.

The lens also has a fairly fast micrometer-type autofocus system. The maximum close-up magnification of 0.24x is also quite reasonable.

Pros
  • Best for close-ups
  • Adjustable focal length
  • 72mm filter
  • Fast autofocus
  • Image stabilization
  • 0.24x magnification
Cons
  • Limited focal length

How to Choose the Best Lens for Wildlife Photography?

You can easily choose a good wildlife lens from our list of the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography. However, picking the right lens requires more than reading a random list. You need to keep certain lens features and attributes in mind while making a decision.

You should not overlook the following features when you are shopping for a new lens.

Focal Length

You need a lens with a good long focal length to take shots from a distance. We recommend buying a lens with a minimum focal length of at least 200mm for wildlife photography. Similarly, you need a lens with a focal length of 400mm if you want to zoom in on distant objects and for bird photography.

Aperture

Your camera will deliver good performance in low-light conditions only if the lens has a wide-open aperture. Most wildlife photographers prefer an aperture size of f/2.5. Unfortunately, you cannot find that range in most telephoto zoom lenses. However, you can always choose a lens with an aperture of f/5 or less.

Autofocus

Wildlife photographers love lenses with fast and quiet autofocuses. Such a lens enables them to easily pick the wildlife and focus on their most striking features when they are in motion irrespective of the light conditions. Go for the autofocus systems that feature a good glass, a low f-number, and optimized image stabilization.

Size

The size of the lens is also a very important consideration. As a wildlife photographer, you have to do rigorous hiking while carrying your gear. Therefore, the best wildlife lens for Canon photographers should be lightweight, compact, and easy to carry. Look out for the focal length of 300mm or less if you are in search of a compact telephoto zoom lens. On the other hand, be prepared to carry larger lenses if you like to take sharp pictures and close-ups of distant objects. Similarly, some super zoom lenses offer a terrific balance between size and performance and thus, are very easy to carry as well.

What Do You Need a Lens for?

It is imperative to decide what kind of wildlife you are going to photograph while choosing the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography. Remember that macro photography, wildlife photography, and bird photography are different from each other. Therefore, you need to find a lens that meets your requirements if you want to produce the best images.

Wildlife Photography

You do not require a bigger zoom to capture larger wildlife. However, it is important to have a large enough focal length to ensure safety. It is better to have a telephoto zoom lens for wildlife because it can be so unpredictable. Similarly, choose a lens with varying focal lengths and the best wildlife camera as well.

The focal length of 18-200mm is ideal for taking photographs from a safe distance in the case of a lighter lens. Such a focal range is also a good option for taking wider shots. The focal range of 100-400mm will provide even more space between the wildlife and the photographer.

Bird Photography

It is an exhilarating experience to photograph birds in their full glory. But – capturing birds in the right moment is easier said than done. Birds are usually small and incredibly quick. Therefore, you must have a very fast camera with a zoom lens to take the best shots of the birds. It is also necessary to get a lens with a focal length of at least 400mm. EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L and other best Canon lenses for wildlife photography makes it convenient to photography birds.

Macro Photography

Most photographers overlook wildlife like amphibians, spiders, lizards, and spiders. However, they are the best candidates to be included in your photos. As most of these creatures are very small, you need a macro lens to capture them on camera. A macro lens enables you to record even the smallest details of these creatures.

Final Thoughts

Wildlife photography can be a thrilling experience if you have the right camera and lens. In this regard, Canon makes some terrific wildlife lenses and our guide to the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography helps you to find the best out of them.

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