What’s the best lens for Nikon and Canon Cameras for bird photography?

What’s the first thing you think of when choosing a lens for your camera, whether it’s for a Canon or Nikon for bird photography? You’re probably thinking about getting a really long lens that has a great focal length for long distances bringing the birds in closer.

Another thing to take a look at would be vibration reduction, which makes it possible to handhold, especially when you’re trying to photograph birds in a low light situation.

Of course, let’s not forget about our budgets when it comes to choosing a lens for bird photography. I don’t know about you, but the first thing I always look at when looking for a lens is the price.

I’ve owned both Canon, Sigma, and Nikon lenses. So what is the first thing you want to do when choosing a lens? Some photographers suggest just sticking to the manufacturer of your camera when it comes to selecting a lens. I have had good results with a third-party lens, the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary telephoto lens. I’ve also owned the Canon 100-400 mm IS lens with excellent results.

I do understand the opinion that quality does come at a price, but I always tell people when they ask me, “What do you think the most important thing is”? When it comes to bird photography or any kind of photography, equipment is. Still, I say its the person behind the camera that’s the most important thing. You could have the most expensive camera gear in the world. Again, if you don’t know how to use it correctly with proper technique and composition, it doesn’t matter how expensive your camera gear is.

I have written reviews below of lenses like the Canon 100-400 mm IS II and the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary telephoto lens I’ve owned and some information from the research on other lenses.

Canon 100-400 mm IS II.

The picture above is a Dickcissel bird in flight photographed in the Presson Oglesby prairie in Charleston, Arkansas, using the Canon 100-400 mm IS lens. It was an incredibly hot and humid day. I spent about four to five hours trying to photograph a Dickcissel bird in flight. One of the things I like about the Canon lens is how lightweight it is. Only weighing 3.04 lb. It’s an EF-mount lens with a full-frame format. Its aperture range is f/ 4.5 to f/40. It has four aspherical elements and an adjustable zoom ring lock and a detachable, rotatable tripod collar. It has the optical image stabilizer-like most new lens these days. I’ve even taken really long exposures with this lens and was really happy with the results. So for the price I paid for the lens brand new, I think I paid about $1700.00. I’m pleased with the results over the years I used this lens.

I no longer shoot with a Canon camera, I shoot with a Nikon now, but I was always happy with the results that I got from the Canon.

Focal Length & Maximum Aperture

100-400mm 1:4.5-5.6

Lens Construction

21 elements in 16 groups

Diagonal Angle of View

24°-6°10′

Focus Adjustment

Inner focus system / USM

Closest Focusing Distance

3.2 ft. / 0.98m

Zoom System

Rotation Type

Filter Size

77mm

Max. Diameter x Length, Weight

Approx: 3.7 x 7.6 / 94 x 193mm

Approx. 3.46 lbs./1570g (without tripod mount)

Approx. 3.62 lbs./1640g (with tripod mount)

Sigma 150-600 Contemporary

The image above of the Horned Grebe was shot with the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary telephoto lens. I photographed it in San Diego, California, at the Embarcadero South Park. I’ve been able to photograph some great images with this lens so far. I’m excited to get out this summer and use it some more! It’s Sigma’s first hyper-telephoto zoom from their contemporary line. I also like that it’s lightweight. It only weighs 4.25 pounds with compact and robust construction. This definitely helps when taking those long hiking trips to find birds to photograph. It’s dustproof and has a splash-proof mount. It’s water and oil repellent, which makes cleaning the glass element a lot easier. One of the things I discovered about this lens is it has a hypersonic motor (HSM) and a newer optical stabilizer system within an accelerometer for improved panning. I have significantly found this beneficial in my bird photography, and it works both vertically and horizontally. I’ve been very pleased with the Sigma lens.

SPECIFICATIONS

Focal Length

150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM / C

Minimum focusing distance

280 cm/110.2 inches, focal length :150-600mm.

Diaphragm blades: 9

First hyper-telephoto zoom from the Contemporary line,

Dustproof and splashproof mount

95mm filter

Lightweight & compact

Weight : 1930g/ 68oz

Here are my choices for camera lens for bird photography for both Nikon and Canon cameras, and I will start off with Canon first.

Canon Lens

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

This is an excellent lens if you’re starting out in bird photography. It’s pretty affordable. It’s around $1,300 brand new. It’s a lightweight option which takes quite sharp pictures. It’s very good at close focus, so you can get about 3 to 4 ft to your subject. It has an excellent image stabilization system that can detect when your panning following birds in flight. All the reviews that I’ve read on the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM IS II USM lens have been very positive.

Focal Length & Maximum Aperture

70-300mm f/4-5.6

Lens Construction

17 elements in 12 groups

Diagonal Angle of View

34° – 8° 15′ (with full-frame camera)

Focus Adjustment

AF with full-time manual

Closest Focusing Distance

3.94 ft. / 1.2 m

Filter Size

2.6 in. / 67mm diameter

Max. Diameter x Length, Weight

Φ3.15 x 5.73 in., approx. 25.04 oz. / Φ80 x 145.5mm, approx. 710g

Canon EF 400mm f/4.0 DO IS II USM.

This lens is for serious bird photographers; it’s going to cost you about $7,000. One of the great things about this lens is its lightweight, so if you don’t want to carry a super heavy lens, this is definitely the one to have, plus if you prefer to shoot handheld with its image stabilization you can still get great bird shots without using a tripod. Having a lens speed of f4 is excellent for bird photographers, especially when shooting in dim light. The reviews I’ve read are also positive for this lens. The only kind most people have with the lens is the cost; it is definitely a higher-priced lens.

Focal Length & Maximum Aperture

400mm 1:4

Lens Construction

18 elements in 12 groups

Diagonal Angle of View

6°10′

Focus Adjustment

An inner focusing system with USM

Closest Focusing Distance

10.83 ft. / 3.3 m

Filter Size

52mm drop-in

Max. Diameter x Length, Weight

Approx. 5.04 x 9.16 in. / 128 x 232.7 mm

Approx. 74.1 oz. / 2100 g

Nikon Lens

Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR

Here’s a great Nikon zoom lens. Really good for the Nikon fx-format cameras. This Nikon lens comes at an excellent affordable price at around $900. The lens has incredible sharpness, and like most lenses these days, it has image stabilization, which works really well for handheld shooting. It has powerful zoom capabilities of 10.7 x, and it features a silent wave motor, which is a new advanced technology from Nikon. Even if you own a dx-format Nikon camera, this is still an excellent option for your bird photography. The reviews I found on Amazon and other sites were really really good for this lens. So if you want to keep your price range under $1,000, this is definitely the one for you.

Focal Length Range

28 – 300mm

Maximum Aperture

f/ 3.5-5.6

Format

FX/35mm

VR (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization

AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)

Approx. Dimensions (Diameter x Length)

3.26 in. (83 mm) x 4.5 in. (114.5 mm)

Approx. Weight 28.2 oz. (800 g)

NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR

One of the great things about this lens I found out is it’s compact and lightweight for a lens of its capability at being a 500mm lens. Best Nikkor lens is probably going to run you around $3,600. It’s pretty expensive but not too bad compared with others running about $12,000. It has an incredible image quality combined with Nikon’s extra-low dispersion glass it produces high-resolution, high contrast images with incredible background blur if that’s what you’re looking for. The great thing about it being a lighter lens is it allows you to focus faster. It has the silent wave motor for peak performance with fast and quiet autofocus. Once again, the reviews on this lens are very, very good no matter where you look amazon or others.

Focal Length

500mm

Maximum Aperture

f/ 5.6

Format

FX/35mm

VR (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization

Nano Crystal Coat

AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)

Approx. Dimensions (Diameter x Length)

4.2 in. (106 mm) x 9.3 in. (237 mm)

Approx. Weight

51.2 oz. (1460 g)

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