What lens do I need for wildlife?

Question: I want to shoot more sports and wildlife but I only have a basic DSLR and kit lens. What lens do I really need to buy  to get started?

Answer: Focusing in on a particular photographic genre usually requires an investment in specialist gear. This is especially true for sports and wildlife photography, where a long telephoto lens is often absolutely paramount to getting a decent shot. Unfortunately, high performance equipment doesn’t come cheap, making fast-action photography a more expensive hobby than shooting landscapes or portraits

Choose the right glass
As a general rule, the price of telephoto lenses increases with focal length, although the maximum aperture also has a big impact. Most professional sports and wildlife photographers own a 70-200mm for close-up work, such as shooting a tennis match, and then at least one lens of around 400-600mm. Traditionally, the exceptionally high cost of these longer lenses has put them out of the reach of enthusiasts, but recently both Sigma and Tamron have introduced budget models that have opened up wildlife photography to everyone. I would strongly recommend you consider one of these, or if you’re on a budget, a 2x teleconverter on a shorter lens will suffice. Any other similar option will cost you in excess of £4000. Here are some of the best budget lenses for fast-action shooting.

Three great wildlife lenses to consider...

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3
Sigma has released two affordable 150-600mm lenses with excellent image quality. The cheaper version (designed for the Contemporary line) has a less complicated optical design, is smaller and lighter, and has no weather-sealing. Aside from a few differences, the lenses are very similar. The more expensive S lens belongs to Sigma’s Sports line. 

Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3
Almost identical in spec to Sigma’s cheaper C-range 150-600mm lens, this budget telephoto with image stabilisation offers a very wide focal range, the equivalent of 225-900mm on an APS-C model. Advantages over the Sigma include wider zoom and focus rings and a slightly closer focusing distance.

Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6
This very well-priced full-frame (FX) compatible telephoto zoom comes with Nikon’s Vibration Reduction system built in, reducing the risk of camera shake when used handheld. Unlike the Sigma and Tamron models, the 200-500mm has an aperture of f/5.6 through the whole zoom range. Focusing is powered by Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor for virtually no noise.