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8 affordable telephoto lenses for wildlife photography in 2022

July 29, 2022

Most photographers have telephoto zoom lenses in their kit bag, generally of the 70-300mm type or the equivalent. These are a great starting point for shooting wildlife but, if you want to get serious about the subject, their relatively short reach can quickly become somewhat limiting. This is why we’ve found the best telephoto zoom lenses for wildlife!

Telephoto zoom lenses are the obvious choice for wildlife photographers as they let you get close to the action without physically having to be too close to a timid or dangerous animal.

Fortunately, there are some great longer and affordable telephoto lenses beyond 300mm on the market that won’t break the bank (or your back!) in the way large telephoto primes do.

Choosing the best focal lengths

The best focal length depends on how close you can get to your subject.

If you’re forced to keep your distance then a longer focal length will serve you much better, so we recommend aiming for at least a 400mm range.

If you also add in a 1.4x or 2x converter to increase the focal length, you can be going beyond 600mm or even up to 800mm at the long end of your telephoto zoom lens.

Usually, telephoto zoom lenses tend to be a little cheaper, but don’t offer as bright or as wide an aperture.

Having a telephoto lens that provides a versatile zoom coverage also saves the hassle of changing lenses in the field, which could possibly result in a missed shot, allow dust or dirt to creep into your camera or scare your subject.

Anyhow, without further ado, here are some of our favourites for best affordable telephoto lenses for wildlife.


Top 8 affordable telephoto zoom lenses for wildlife

Nikkor AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

Price: £1,399 | www.nikon.co.uk

Nikkor AF-S 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR

Nikkor AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VFR – at a glance

  • Minimum aperture: f/32
  • Maximum aperture: f/5.6
  • Lens construction: 19 elements in 12 groups (including 3 ED glass elements)
  • Filter thread: 95mm
  • Weight: 2300g (including tripod collar)

For Nikon DSLR shooters, the 200-500mm f/5.6 offers a unique option, being a relatively affordable telephoto lens, while offering a very useful long range – extending to fully 750mm equivalent on DX-format cameras such as the Nikon D500. Its f/5.6 maximum aperture means that it’s relatively portable considering its range, and not so heavy that it can’t be shot handheld. Focusing is snappy and accurate, thanks to the AF-S motor.

However, it’s not claimed to be weather-sealed, and being an E-type lens with an electromagnetic diaphragm, it’ll only work on relatively recent Nikon bodies – so do check compatibility with your camera before buying.

Read our Nikkor AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Review


Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS

Price: £2,149 | www.sony.co.uk

Sony FE 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 GM OSS

Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS – at a glance

  • Minimum aperture: f/40
  • Maximum aperture: f/4.5
  • Lens construction: 22 elements in 16 groups
  • Filter thread: 77mm
  • Weight: 1395g (without tripod mount)

Perfectly matched to Sony’s high-speed Alpha 9 full-frame mirrorless camera, this stunning telephoto lens combines fantastic image quality with super-fast, near silent autofocus and extremely effective image stabilisation.

While it’s full-frame compatible, it can also be used on APS-C bodies such as the Alpha 6500, giving a 600mm equivalent reach. It’s very pricey, though, so Sony mirrorless users on a tighter budget should also consider the FE 70-300mm f/4-5.6 G OSS telephoto lens – it’s a step above the typical consumer telezoom.

Read our Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Review


Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C

Price: £679 | www.sigma-imaging-uk.com

Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM I C

Sigma FE 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C – at a glance

  • Minimum aperture: f/40
  • Maximum aperture: f/5
  • Lens construction: 21 elements in 15 groups
  • Filter thread: 67mm
  • Weight: 1160g

Many users can’t justify the cost of long zooms, and don’t want to cart around the weight, either. But this Sigma telezoom addresses this: it’s a far more affordable telephoto lens, and noticeably smaller than other 100-400mm zooms.

This comes at the cost of maximum aperture, but with the high ISO performance of modern DSLRs, that’s really of little comparative concern. It’s a great choice for APS-C DSLR cameras in particular, but users should be aware that it’s not weather sealed.


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

Price: £2,359 | www.canon.co.uk

Canon EF 100-400mm f:4.5-5.6 L IS II USM

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM – at a glance

  • Minimum aperture: f/40
  • Maximum aperture: f/4.5
  • Lens construction: 21 elements in 16 groups
  • Filter thread: 77mm
  • Weight: 1640g (with tripod mount)

Most of the camera makers produce high-end 400mm zooms, typically offering a decent range in a relatively portable package with fast, ultrasonic-type autofocus and optical image stabilisation.

Canon’s is a particularly fine example: a significant improvement on the firm’s older ‘Mark I’ version, it’s impressively sharp at all focal lengths. On APS-C models such as the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, it offers a very useful 160-640mm equivalent range.

Read our Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Field Test


Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4-5.6 II Power OIS

Price: £499 | www.panasonic.co.uk

Telephoto lenses for wildlife - Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f4-5.6 II OIS

Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4-5.6 II Power OIS – at a glance

  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Maximum aperture: f/4
  • Lens construction: 17 elements in 12 groups (one ED lens)
  • Filter thread: 67mm
  • Weight: 520g (excluding front and rear lens caps and hood)

If there’s one lens that epitomises the size advantages of Micro Four Thirds for telephoto work, it’s this hugely popular 100-300mm zoom. One of Panasonic’s earliest lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system in its original guise, it gives a 600mm equivalent range in a very compact package, with optical image stabilisation and fast, silent focusing.

More recently it’s been updated to a ‘II’ version that adds weather-resistant construction and compatibility with Panasonic’s Dual IS system, in a smart new black-barrel design. If you need more reach, then Panasonic’s Leica-branded 100-400mm f/4-6.3 OIS goes all the way to 800mm equivalent, although at a significant premium.

Read why we love the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm f/4-5.6 II Power OIS


Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S

Price: £1,329 | www.sigma-imaging-uk.com

Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM I S

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S – at a glance

  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Maximum aperture: f/5
  • Lens construction: 24 elements in 16 groups
  • Filter thread: 105mm
  • Weight: 2860g

When Sigma announced two 150-600mm zooms with the same base specifications late in 2014, it looked like a strange decision, but on testing both of them we found that it does make sense. We especially like the Sport version – it’s huge and expensive, but seriously sharp, with impressively fast autofocus. It’s not so big that you can’t shoot it handheld at a pinch, although for extended sessions you’ll need a sturdy monopod at least.

The Contemporary version is smaller and easier to carry, and a much more affordable telephoto lens, but it doesn’t give quite the same image quality. Tamron’s similar 150-600mm zooms are very worthy alternatives, too.

Read our Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM S Field Test


Tamron 18-400mm f3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

Price: £599 | www.tamron.eu

Tamron 18-400mm f3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

Tamron 18-400mm f/5-6.3 Di II VC HLD – at a glance

  • Minimum aperture: f/40
  • Maximum aperture: f/5
  • Lens construction: 16 elements in 11 groups
  • Filter thread: 72mm
  • Weight: 710g

All-in-one superzooms aren’t usually the first choice for wildlife, but they can be handy in situations where you need to travel light or don’t have time to change lenses. Tamron’s ground-breaking 18-400mm is the longest lens of its type, giving an impressive 600mm equivalent range. It’s also dust- and splash-resistant for outdoor shooting, which can be a boon when shooting wildlife.

You won’t get as sharp pictures as you would with premium telephoto lenses, but with this 22.2x zoom it’ll certainly be better than not getting the shot at all.

Read our Tamron 18-400mm f3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD Review


Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

Price: £1,699 | www.fujifilm-x.com

Fujinon XF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6R LM OIS WR

Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6R LM OIS WR – at a glance

  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Maximum aperture: f/4.5
  • Lens construction: 21 elements in 14 groups (includes 5 extra low dispersion elements and 1 super extra low dispersion element)
  • Filter thread: 77mm
  • Weight: 1375g

Fujifilm X-system users have but a single choice for long telephoto lens work, but fortunately, it’s a very good one. With a lightweight build, highly effective image stabilisation and weather-sealed construction, it’s an affordable telephoto lens that you can happily shoot handheld all day.

It provides a 600mm equivalent range, but if you need to go even longer, the lens is also sold in a package with Fujifilm’s 1.4x teleconverter for surprisingly little extra money. Better still, the teleconverter brings barely any penalty to the lens’s excellent autofocus performance.

Read our Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Review


Once you’ve found the right telephoto lenses for wildlife for you, have a look at more guides in the latest round-ups and buying advice.


Further reading

Best Lenses for Wildlife Photography in 2022

The Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography 2022

Best kit for wildlife photography


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