Telephoto Lenses for Canon: Best Telephoto Lens for Wildlife Photography

  • Lenses
  • 7 min read
Telephoto Lenses for Canon

Good afternoon friends. Today we will talk again about lenses for photography. It’s no secret that in a photo shoot, “glass” is more important than the camera itself (although, perhaps, this sounds not entirely correct, since it is difficult to separate inseparable things and prioritize them). But still… Take a closer look at animal photographers. You will often see a good and not cheap telephoto and a middle-class camera body with them. Some wildlife photographers can boast of a professional “camera body” and a professional lens (this is absolutely great! smile). And not so often you will see a photographer shooting with a professional “brand” with cheap “glass” screwed on it.

In one of the previous articles, we looked at several telephoto lenses for photography. My friends, wildlife photographers, shared their invaluable experience of using various lenses, expressed their opinion, praised and scolded the “glass” a little. I think this article will be helpful for aspiring wildlife photographers when choosing their first telephoto lens. In that article, we did not make a division between Canon and Nikon. Now I want to talk about telephoto lenses exclusively for Canon cameras, and give all the possible models suitable for photography that exist in this line. We’ll also talk about what to look out for when choosing a lens for Canon cameras, and learn how and where to compare lenses.

So, what should you look at first when choosing a lens for photography?

1. Focal Length

This is undoubtedly one of the most important factors in wildlife photography. Since animals and birds are often photographed from a decent distance, you need long-focus lenses (lenses with a long focal length) or so-called telephoto lenses (in common people – “telephoto”). Many wildlife photographers talk about the so-called focal “minimum” – the minimum focal length required for photographing animals.

I have heard about the 300mm figure, although opinions sometimes differ. Birds can often be photographed at a smaller focal length (200mm or less). Most often, such shooting is carried out from a concealment. I myself filmed the wood grouse on the current at focal length 150mm. If the subject of photography is extremely careful, or the photo-hunting is carried out from the approach, then a more detailed telephoto is desirable. Lenses with a focal length of 400-600mm are suitable here.

In the bulk, wildlife photographers operate with focal lengths within 200-600mm (sometimes more). If there is not enough focal length, you can use a teleconverter (for the Canon line up there are 1.4x and 2.0x converters (extenders), which increase the focal length by 1.4x and 2x, respectively.

However, do not forget that shooting at large focal lengths is fraught with certain difficulties: the larger the focal length, the less depth of field (the border of the sharply depicted space, at the “far end” it is quite difficult to shoot handheld, especially the dynamics, besides, almost all telephoto lenses at the far end are rather “dark”).

2. Telephoto Lens Design

Here we distinguish between telephoto fixes and zooms. These names speak for themselves. “Zoom” is a variable focal length lens (for example, the classic Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L). That is, the photographer can change the focal length during the photo shoot. It is very convenient – you can “catch” a bird at 100mm, then zoom in to 400mm and take a picture. It is also very convenient if the subject is very close to you. But convenience comes at a price. Since there are much more lenses in such “glasses”, the picture quality of such telephoto lenses is slightly worse than that of “fixes”.

Now about the “fixes”… Probably, as you already understood from the name, this is a lens with a fixed focal length (for example, Canon 400mm f/5.6L). Such lenses have a better picture than zoom lenses, but are less convenient, because in some situations the photographer is unable to change the focal length. “Fixes” are usually chosen by photographers who shoot mostly from shelters, while “zooms” are preferred by “approach photographers”.

3. Lens Aperture

The aperture ratio is characterized by the value of the maximum aperture opening, or, in simple words, the aperture ratio is a parameter that shows the ability of the lens to transmit light. Since photographing is usually done in rather difficult conditions (forest, lack of light, etc.), it is recommended to choose a faster telephoto lens. But every cloud has a silver lining – high-aperture “glass” is expensive, so here you should take into account your financial capabilities. As a result, taking into account the ratio “price-quality”, the most optimal choice for a novice animal photographer is telephoto lenses with aperture ratio f/4-6.3.

4. The Presence of an Image Stabilizer and An Ultrasonic Motor

The first, respectively, is responsible for image stabilization, and the presence of it on the telephoto lens will allow you to shoot at longer shutter speeds. “Motor” allows the lens to focus faster. For Canon lenses, these markings on lenses look like this:

  • IS (Image Stabilization) – Optical Image Stabilization
  • USM (UltraSonic Motor) – Ultrasonic Motor

So, we talked about the main characteristics when choosing lenses. Let’s imagine that you now know which lens you want and have decided on the approximate cost of your future purchase. I will now list below all of Canon’s telephoto lenses that wildlife photographers use in their creative endeavors.

A. Budget Options from Canon

And in fact, there are not so many of them.

  • Canon 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS
  • Canon 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 (IS and USM models available)

With a stretch, you can shove another Canon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS here. Suitable at the very beginning, you can also take pictures of landscapes on it.

B. Canon Professional Series (L Series)

These are serious lenses, they are usually made in a reliable design, many of them in a metal case, they use high quality materials and optics. Accordingly, these lenses are much more expensive than their older counterparts.

Fixed Focal Length Lenses (“Fixes”):

  • Canon 300mm f/4L IS USM
  • Canon 400mm f/5.6L USM

Variable Focal Length Lenses (“Zooms”):

  • Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L (IS and USM models available)
  • Canon 70-200mm f/4L USM (IS model available)
  • Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 L IS USM
  • Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM
  • Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS USM (comes in two versions)

And the most expensive models in this professional “line”:

  • Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS USM
  • Canon 400mm f/2.8LS USM
  • Canon 500mm f/4L IS USM
  • Canon 600mm f/4L IS USM
  • Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS USM
  • Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS USM
  • Canon 200mm f/2.0L IS USM

This line also includes Canon Extender 1.4x and 2.0x converters, which work only with L-series lenses and no others.

C. Lenses from Third Parties

These are usually Sigma and Tamron. And although, according to numerous reviews and tests, they are slightly inferior in quality to native Canon glasses, there are also very decent telephoto lenses among them.

  • Sigma 120-400 f/4.0-5.6 APO DG OS HSM
  • Sigma 50-500 f/4.0-6.3 APO DG OS HSM
  • Sigma 150-500 f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM
  • Sigma 150-600 f/5.6-6.3 DG OS HSM
  • Tamron 150-600 f/5-6.3 DI VC USD

So, we made up our minds and chose a few lenses that fit into our budget niche. But how can we compare “glasses” and find out which one is better.

Well, that’s all for today, friends. Now we have learned how to choose and compare lenses for photography, learned what telephoto lenses for Canon exist in market. I hope this article will help you when choosing a telephoto camera for photography. I wish you interesting encounters with wildlife and good pictures.