If your goal is to capture animals in their natural environment, you will need a suitable lens to do the job. Telephoto zoom lenses are the best lenses for wildlife photography as they allow you to isolate details of the landscape, shoot from a long distance, and avoid disturbing the animals. Telephoto lenses can be heavy and often need to be mounted on a tripod in order to be used. However, the extra effort is worth it, as the images you will bring back home cannot be captured with any other type of lens.

Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6

Aperture Range – Wide / Longf/4.5-32 / f/5.6-40
Aperture Max by Focal Length100-129mm = f/4.5
130-259mm = f/5.0
260-400mm = f/5.6
Number of Aperture Blades8
Rounded Aperture?
Manufacturer Specification Weight48.7 oz  (1380g)
Actual Weight48.4 oz  (1370g)
Lens Hood Weight3 oz  (85g)
Tripod Ring Weight4 oz  (114g)
In-Use Weight55.4 oz  (1569g)
Manufacturer Spec Size (DxL)3.62 x 7.44”  (92 x 189mm)
Measured Size (DxL)3.6 x 7.75”  (92 x 196.8mm)
Max Diameter at Tripod Ring4.4”  (112.5mm)
Max Length at Full Extension10.91”  (277mm)
Internal Zoom? / Extends with Zoom?N / Y
Zoom Extension Length3.17”  (80.5mm)
Internal Focusing? / Extends with Focusing?Y / N
Lens Hood Size (DxL)4.51 x 3.65”  (114.6 x 92.8mm)
Lens Length with Hood (Min-Max)11.15  (283.2mm)
Size of Rings: Focus / Zoom0.96” / 0.63”  (24.3mm / 16.1mm)
Filter Size77mm  
Front Element (Filter Mount) RotatesN
AF Motor TypeRing USM
Full Time Manual FocusY
Focus Ring Rotation127°
Focus Limiter? / Focus Limiter Ranges
Distance Scale? / TypeY / Window
Close Focus  
Specified Min Focus Distance70.87”  (1800mm)
Tested Min Focus Distance (Wide / Long)
Maximum Magnification (MM)0.20x
Magnification Range with 12mm Ext Tube0.19-0.03x
Magnification Range with 25mm Ext Tube0.35-0.07x
Tripod Ring Included? / Removable?Y / Y
Zoom Ring Lock Switch?N
Lens Hood Included / Model?Y / ET-83C 
Weather Sealed? / Filter Required?P / Y
Image Stabilization? / Stops? / Tripod Sensing?Y / 2 / N
Extender Compatible?Y
Case Included? / Type?Y / LZ1324
47.25″ x 31.5″ Subject Framing Distance100mm = 11.73′
135mm = 15.27′
150mm = 16.75′
200mm = 22.06′
250mm = 27.62′
300mm = 33.00′
350mm = 38.48′
400mm = 43.43′
23.62″ x 15.75″ Target:
560mm = 29.21′ (w/ 1.4x)
800mm = 42.86′ (w/ 2.0x)
1200mm x 800mm Subject Framing Distance100mm = 3576mm
135mm = 4654mm
150mm = 5106mm
200mm = 6723mm
250mm = 8420mm
300mm = 10061mm
350mm = 11728mm
400mm = 13236mm
600mm x 400mm Target:
560mm = 8904mm (w/ 1.4x)
800mm = 13064mm (w/ 2.0x)

Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6

Nikon has been limiting affordable super telephoto zoom lenses above 300mm to the 80-400mm VR lens, while keeping its high-end super telephoto line of zoom and prime lenses available only for those with deep pockets. With Tamron and Sigma pushing great budget-friendly 150-600mm options, Nikon finally decided to release its first constant-aperture super telephoto zoom competitor in August of 2015. Specifically designed for beginner and enthusiast wildlife / sports photographers, the new Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR became the first hand-holdable Nikon lens to reach 500mm at a relatively low price point of $1,399. This offering, coupled with the upcoming Nikon D500 DSLR, makes a killer combination for action photography. With an equivalent field of view of 300-750mm and the capability to shoot fast action at up to 10 frames per second on the D500, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR is definitely going to become one of the most popular lenses in Nikon’s lens line-up, thanks to its versatility and reach. Although our team at Photography Life has not had a chance to test this particular combination due to unavailability of the D500 in the US, we have been actively using the lens on camera bodies like the Nikon D7200, D750, D810 and D4S for this particular review. We are planning to write a follow-up article covering the use of the lens on the Nikon D500, once we get our hands on the camera. Meanwhile, please enjoy the review of the Nikon 200-500mm VR lens, along with comparisons to Tamron 150-600mm VC, Sigma 150-600mm C / Sport and Nikon 80-400mm VR lenses.

Lens typeZoom lens
Focal length200–500 mm
Image stab.Yes (4.5 stops)
Lens mountNikon F (FX)
Max apertureF5.6
Min apertureF32
Min focus2.20 m (86.61″)
Max magnification0.22×
Weight2300 g (5.07 lb)
Length268 mm (10.55″)

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3

Offering an impressively versatile range with a portable form factor, the Canon EF-mount 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM from Sigma is a Contemporary-series telephoto zoom characterized by its sophisticated optics and flexible handling. One FLD element and three SLD elements are used to reduce color fringing and chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range and a Super Multi-Coating also helps to suppress flare and ghosting for improved contrast and color accuracy when working in strong lighting conditions.

Balancing the optical design, this lens also features a Hyper Sonic Motor, which provides especially fast and quiet autofocus performance as well as full-time manual focus override. An Optical Stabilizer also works to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. Additionally, a removable, rotating tripod collar is included to suit working atop a tripod or monopod.


Aperture Range – Wide / Longf/5-22 / f/6.3-29
Aperture Max by Focal Length150-184mm = f/5.0
185-320mm = f/5.6
321-600mm = f/6.3
Number of Aperture Blades9
Rounded Aperture?Y
Manufacturer Specification Weight101 oz  (2860g)
Actual Weight101 oz  (2860g)
Lens Hood Weight10.4 oz  (295g)
In-Use Weight111.4 oz  (3155g)
Manufacturer Spec Size (DxL)4.8 x 11.4”  (121.9 x 289.6mm)
Measured Size (DxL)4.76 x 11.77”  (121 x 299mm)
Max Diameter at Tripod Ring5.1”  (128.6mm)
Max Length at Full Extension15.31”  (388.8mm)
Internal Zoom? / Extends with Zoom?N / Y
Zoom Extension Length3.62”  (91.9mm)
Internal Focusing? / Extends with Focusing?Y / N
Lens Hood Size (DxL)5.84 x 4.45”  (148.4 x 113.1mm)
Lens Length with Hood (Min-Max)15.24 – 18.87”  (387.1 – 479.2mm)
Size of Rings: Focus / Zoom1.85” / 1.8”  (47.1mm / 45.7mm)
Filter Size105mm 
Front Element (Filter Mount) RotatesN
AF Motor TypeHSM
Full Time Manual FocusY
Focus Ring Rotation145°
Focus Limiter? / Focus Limiter RangesY /
32.8′ (10m) – ∞
8.5′- 32.8′ (2.6m – 10m)
Distance Scale? / TypeY / Window
Close Focus  
Specified Min Focus Distance102.36”  (2600mm)
Tested Min Focus Distance (Wide / Long)89.8” / 90.47”  (2281mm / 2298mm)
Maximum Magnification (MM)0.20x
Zoom Ring Rotation126°
Tripod Ring Included? / Removable?Y / Y
Zoom Ring Lock Switch?Y
Lens Hood Included / Model?Y / LH1164-01 
Weather Sealed? / Filter Required?Y /
Image Stabilization? / Stops? / Tripod Sensing?Y / /
Extender Compatible?Y
Case Included? / Type?Y /
47.25″ x 31.5″ Subject Framing Distance150mm = 17.25′
180mm = 20.02′
200mm = 22.27′
250mm = 27.66′
300mm = 33.02′
400mm = 44.32′

Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3

Tamron released the SP 150-600mm zoom lens near the end of 2013, and it’s far and away the longest optic offered by the company. The lens is available in Canon, Nikon and Sony lens mounts, and includes Tamron’s VC (Vibration Compensation) style of image stabilization. (The Sony version excludes this feature, as its cameras have image stabilization built-in.)

On a Canon sub-frame body like the 7D this will equate to an equivalent 35mm field of view of 240-960mm: on a similar Nikon or Sony digital body this equates to 225-900mm. This lens isn’t a “constant” lens, in that as you increase the focal length, both the maximum and minimum aperture sizes decrease.

Format Compatibility35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
Camera MountsCanon EF, Nikon F, and Sony A
Focal Length150-600mm
APS-C Equivalent Focal LengthCanon: 240-960mm
Nikon: 225-900mm
Sony: 225-900mm
Maximum Aperturef/5.0-6.3
Minimum Aperturef/32-40
Angle of View16° 25′ – 4° 8′
Minimum Focus Distance8.86′ (2.7 m)
Maximum Reproduction Ratio1:05
Lens Construction20 elements in 13 groups
Aperture Blades9
Tripod CollarYes, removable
Image StabilizationCanon, Nikon: Yes, Vibration Compensation
Sony: No
AutofocusUltrasonic Silent Drive Motor
Filter Thread95mm
Dimensions4.2 x 10.2″ (10.6 x 25.8 cm)
Weight4.3 lb (1.95 kg)

Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6

he new 80-400mm offers some significant specification improvements compared to its predecessor. It features four ED (extra low-dispersion) elements, one ‘super ED’ element and Nikon’s Nano-crystal coating, which should improve optical performance, especially at the wider end of the zoom. It also features Nikon’s ring-type AF-S focus, and a revamped VR system capable of a claimed four stops of vibration reduction.

Lens typeZoom lens
Focal length80–400 mm
Image stab.Yes (vibration reduction up to 3 stops)
Lens mountNikon F (FX)
Max apertureF4.5–5.6
Min apertureF32
Min focus2.30 m (90.55″)
Weight1340 g (2.95 lb)
Length171 mm (6.73″)

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