Best Lens for Bird Photography for Beginners and Experienced Photographers

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How to choose the best lens for bird photography

Choosing the camera body for bird photography invited a lot of debate! It was good in fact. It opened up a lot of information.

If you haven’t read the comments, I would recommend you to read it now. As the comments have some of the important debates. You might find some interesting information there.

Today I have another debatable topic for you – choosing a lens for bird photography.

It’s the most crucial decision that you have to make. Even then many bird photographers fail to invest in the right lens. They buy lens after lens without actually gaining anything worthwhile.

Many bird photographers fail to invest in the right lens. They buy lens after lens without really gaining anything worthwhile.

Are you making the same mistake?

If yes, this article might prove to be an eye-opener for you. Pay attention and listen to me carefully.

Lens is the most important element in photography. No matter how good a sensor is and how fast the autofocus system is, if a poor quality lens will ruin your photographs.

Here’s why…

All the sensors in the camera – camera sensor, autofocus sensor, and metering sensor – depend on incoming light. The light enters through the lens. If build and quality of the poor then the light gets diffracted or dispersed while traveling through different lens elements. Finally, the aperture opening and the blades will play a significant role in handling the incoming light well.

The larger the aperture opening, the better is your autofocus performance. Other advantages of a larger aperture are of course faster shutter speeds, better light contrast, better color reproduction, and superior image quality.

Read the above paragraph twice. That’s why it is of significant importance to buy a quality lens.

Quality doesn’t come cheap. It’s the universal rule. There’s no exception here. Quality lenses can cost your several thousand dollars. That too lens for bird photography costs a bomb.

Make a wise decision while buying a lens. Invest wisely!

DISCLAIMER: I have given choices only for the Nikon and Canon users. I don’t have any exposure to the other camera and lenses. If you are using a different camera body, I am sorry I cannot help. I hope you understand that.

Choosing a Lens

First things first.

Always try to go for camera manufacturer’s lens. Third party lenses, with few exceptions, are not made of great quality. They usually suck in their autofocus performance. And as you already know from the last newsletter, autofocus performance is a deal-breaker in bird photography.

Quality comes at a price. If you want quality photographs, invest in a quality lens. There’s no second guessing about it.

Any lens you buy, make sure it has superior image stabilization feature. Only purchase an IS lens in Canon and VR lens in Nikon.

Only in certain cases, if there’s no other alternative lens, you could consider buying a non-IS or non-VR lens. Provided it’s a prime lens. Remember…quality comes first, and the prime lenses are meant to produce the quality output.

Below I am giving 2 broad categories to help you make a right decision.

Bird Photography Lens for Beginners

For beginners, you have an excellent choice of lens for bird photography. Here are few of my favorites.

Canon 100-400mm IS II Lens

Probably the most widely used lens by many Canon bird photographers. It’s used as a secondary lens by the professionals too. Canon 100-400mm IS II lens quality is fantastic and the range is excellent for making habitat shots to the close ups.

Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 VR Lens

Nikon 200-500mm is the best thing that happened to Nikon users. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good reach. I have checked the performance and the quality. It’s a fantastic lens. You have a good reach and a constant aperture combined with the VR. What else can one ask for?

Close your eyes and buy it!

Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens

Another sharp lens which is widely used by Nikon photographers. I haven’t used it but I have seen some professionals using it as a secondary lens.

In my opinion, Nikon 200-500 is your best bet when it comes to Bird Photography. You will get a better reach and a quality output for a phenomenally low price.

If you are looking at a versatile lens that can double as a landscape, wildlife, and a bird photography lens, then you could consider buying 80-400mm VR instead.

Canon 400mm f/5.6L Lens

I think Canon users should check out this tiny lens. It’s an inexpensive lens with superior sharpness. When I first looked at this lens while I was shooting in Bharatpur, I couldn’t believe that it’s a 400mm prime. As 400mm is too short.

But I have heard that it’s a fantastic lens. The reviews seem to back it as well. I think it’s worth checking out.

Lenses For Budget Conscious Buyer

If you are short on the budget (tell me who is not? :)), you could buy Canon 100-400mm IS lens (previous version).

Canon 100-400mm IS lens (Push-Pull)

Probably the most widely used lens until the introduction of IS II lens. It uses a push-pull technology where you have to push the lens to zoom in and pull it back to zoom out.

I have used this lens coupled with Canon 5D Mark III for more than a year. I had very good success with this combination. Though I felt the sharpness was not up to the mark.

Or you can think of buying a second hand 100-400 IS/200-500VR/80-400mm VR lens. If you can spend a good time in understanding how to check a second-hand lens, you will get unbelievable deals. Don’t be lazy. Google and find out the best ways to test the lens. Ask your friends with more expertise to help.

While checking second-hand lens, make sure to check for obvious wear and tear, fungus, scratches, etc. It’s good always to go with another photographer so that you can discuss out few things.

When I purchased my first and only second-hand lens, Nikon 18-200 VR, I did a lot of research. Then I took my friend to check it. It was his friend’s lens that made the matter much easy. I have used this lens for more than five years, and now it’s with my brother-in-law from 3 years 🙂

Canon 300mm f/4L IS Lens

Another decent option is 300mm f/4 lens from Canon. As for as I know it’s a brilliant lens with excellent sharpness and contrast.

Nikon 300mm f/4 VR Lens

I didn’t know about theVR version until now!

With VR capabilities, Nikon 300mm f/4 lens can prove extremely useful. I am hoping that it is as sharp as the earlier version. As I know, the 300mm f/4 non-VR lens is one of the sharpest lenses from Nikon. I am assuming this new lens to be as good as the earlier version.

Couple with 1.4x Teleconverter

Since it’s a prime lens, you can couple it with 1.4x teleconverter which will give you good reach. Unless you are an experienced bird photographer, I would recommend not to use a teleconverter. There are 3 reasons:

  1. You would lose a stop of light which means you will loose on the shutter speed.
  2. Due to reduced shutter speed, the chances are that you will introduce camera shake.
  3. The autofocus slows down affecting the performance.

I would suggest this combo only to an experienced bird photographer.


Lenses For Extremely Budget Conscious Buyer

If you are extremely short on budget, then you can consider buying Canon/Nikon 70-300mm IS/VR version.

Canon 70-300mm IS Lens or Nikon 70-300mm VR Lens

It’s a fairly decent lens with good image quality. Don’t expect to surpass 100-400, 200-500 or 80-400 lens. Purchase this lens if and only if you are completely out of cash. Or, you are not very sure if you like bird photography or not.


If you are cribbing that you don’t have money, then I have a suggestion for you. Save money for a year. It’s not hard to save $200 a month, isn’t it?

While you save your money, learn the skills needed with the current equipment. It’s the skills which pay off in the end, my friend.

Some Fun and Interesting Facts

I started off with a second-hand 18-200mm VR lens, which was the backbone of my initial 4 years of photography. Then I have used 70-300mm VR for quite some time with great results.

As I repeatedly state;

It’s not the camera or the lens; it’s the man behind the camera which matters a lot!

My best friend, Carl Benson, and I would put it in a funny way to tease each other:

It’s not the camera man; it’s the man behind the camera, man!

I owe a lot to my Carl for his help in many respects. Thank you! Carlski.

Celebrate this Migratory Season with An Outrageous Offer (Valid only for 72 hours)

Most popular Bird photography ebooks or books. Professional Bird Photography and Post-Processing Tips and Techniques by Prathap.

In celebration of this World Photography Day, I am offering an outrageous discount of 83% on two of my most popular eBooks Bird Photography Simplified – A Virtual Masterclass & A Step-by-Step Guide to Post-Processing Bird Photographs.

I am glad to say that most of my readers have jumped at my offer.

“…Bird Photography Simplified is going to be one of the best eBooks on bird photography for a long time to come. Prathap’s uncanny ability to simplify the concepts of bird photography and his evocative bird photographs makes this a unique eBook. The practical orientation and “think like a pro” concept is worth a read for any aspiring bird photographer and the experienced ones alike. It is loaded with field techniques that a pro photographer often uses…”

– Rathika Ramasamy, Multiple Award-Winning Professional Wildlife Photographer.

If you have bought it, first of all, let me thank you and congratulate you. You have at your disposal two of the most practical guides to improve your bird photography. You have to put serious effort in reading, understanding, and practicing the techniques outlined in both the eBooks. It’s my sincere request to you to practice the techniques in the field.

I have heard many of my bird photography workshop students claiming that they’d love to read my eBooks post my workshop because they understand the importance of it. I know it’s not possible for everyone to attend my workshops, neither it is possible for me to teach 12,000+ students. But, Bird Photography Simplified – A Virtual Masterclass eBook is your best bet.

“I just had to look at your ebook today. What an incredible resource you have put together! I didn’t have time to read the whole thing, but I looked at every page, skimming the text, reading some parts in full. The photos are stunning, your conversational tone is wonderful, and your tips are spot on, every time.”

-Melissa Groo, Multiple Award-Winning Professional Wildlife Photographer.

This is the FIRST TIME EVER in four years of Nature Photography Simplified existence that a huge discount of 83% is offered. Hurry before you miss the chance forever.

Lens for Experienced Bird Photographers

More experienced bird photographer you are, deeper pockets you need 🙂

It’s a pity that all our savings gets eaten up before we even realize. It’s maddening. But we are mad. Isn’t it?

In bird photography, reach trumps everything. I know it’s a contradicting statement from me. I can understand the frustration here. When I say reach trumps everything, I don’t mean the effective focal length that you get out of a cropped sensor.

I mean the real focal length. For instance, it’s always better to have a 600mm lens than a 400mm lens as long as you are using the full frame camera.

It’s never enough, in fact. It’s usually a debate between using a 300mm f/2.8 with a teleconverter and buying a 500mm f/4, 600mm f/4, or 800mm f/5.6.

Take this idea for granted. A 300mm f/2.8 + 2.0x is never comparable with 600mm lens. Sooner you accept better it is. Think about it for a second. Why would Nikon/Canon charge you a whopping $9,000 for 600mm lens while you can get the 300mm f/2.8 + 2.0x combo for $6,250?

A 300mm f/2.8 + 2.0x is never comparable with 600mm lens. Sooner you accept better it is.

Teleconverters are like digital zoom. Digital zoom is never same as an optical zoom. Google it to find out the difference.

Here are a few of the best lenses for bird photography.

Canon 600mm f/4L IS II lens or Nikon 600mm f/4 VR lens

The 600mm lens is arguably the sharpest and best quality lens produced both by Nikon and Canon. At f/4, it strikes the right balance of high focal length and light gathering capabilities. They superb when it comes to contrast and bokeh.

One of the biggest caveats of these lenses is their weight. While the latest versions of these two lenses weigh just short of 4 kg, it would still be heavy to hand hold for more than a minute.

You would always have to use the Gitzo tripod + Gimbal head combination to get the sharpest results with these lenses.

Overall the weight could go close to 8 to 9 kgs making it a pain. It might take several months to get adjusted to this heavy weight equipment.There are several instances where I would curse their sheer weight! It’s frustrating really when you are unable to adjust your position because of the rigid tripod setup. But, the quality that you get is next to none.

Think about it…the guy next to you with a hand-held lens is maneuvering the lens as he wishes, but you are struggling to get your height adjusted. It feels annoying. But then, you need that quality.


Canon 500mm f/4L IS lens or Nikon 500m f/4 VR lens

I think arguably this is the most widely lens by wildlife and bird photographers. As per the reviews, this lens is as sharp as a 600mm f/4. It’s also much lighter lens but produces high-quality images with excellent contrast and sharpness.

One of the biggest concern of 600mm f/4 and 800mm f/5.6 is the sheer weight.

A 500mm f/4 lens is just about 3 kg! Can you believe it? I can hand-hold it the whole day. Mind you; I have hand-held my 300mm f/2.8 lens which was about the same weight.

In fact, I was supposed to buy a Nikon 500mm f/4, but there was no stock. I had to buy a lens before going to Bharatpur and I bought a Nikon 600mm f/4. Do I repent? May be or may be not 🙂

The 600mm is always the best but when I consider the weight and maneuverability, I wish I had a 500mm lens. One day when 600mm f/4 lens weighs 3 kg, then I will be the first to buy it. (Really ?! Money???)


Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens or Nikon 800mm f/5.6 VR lens

There is a reason why the longest of the focal length is in the 3rd spot. First reason is it’s ultra expensive. The second one is it looses one stop on the maximum aperture compared to a 600mm lens.

I think loosing a stop can be heavy in terms of bird photography. I am not sure if I would ever be excited to buy this lens. But you never know.


Canon 300mm f/2.8L IS II or Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR II Lens

At 300mm, the lens is too short of the focal length. But, because of its smaller price tag (compared to 500mm and 600mm), it’s a preferred choice of many bird photographers. I did use the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 as you might be aware.

It’s an ultra sharp lens with amazing quality. However, I would not recommend this lens if you are seriously into bird photography. It hinders your performance seriously because of the shorter reach. It’s never the same as using a 500mm or a 600mm lens. Believe me, save some more and buy a 500mm or a 600mm lens. You’ll thank me.

Thinking of using it with a teleconverter? See the last section.

Canon 400mm f/2.8 or Nikon 400mm f/2.8 Lens

This lens is almost in the border with no real reason to buy for bird photography.

First of all, the reach is not great. Then because of its higher aperture, it’s hefty. It’s almost 4 kgs. Most importantly, it’s cost close to a 600mm f/4 lens! One stop gain in light is not worth so much money.

I wouldn’t suggest this lens to you.

Affordability

It always boils down to one question. Can I afford this lens?

It’s a million dollar question which lingers on. Every bird photographer or any photographer, for that matter, will have to be careful while selecting the lens.

Remember that a wrong lens on a professional camera body is much worse than a great lens on a decent camera body.

The lens is the window to the camera sensor, the autofocus sensors, and metering sensors. Always consider buying the highest quality lens that you can afford.

If you can afford to buy a 500mm or 600mm lens, go for it. Both these lenses are excellent regarding sharpness, contrast, and image quality. You will know it when you use it. They are well worth the money.

If you cannot afford them now, I would suggest you save the money. Instead of buying a cheaper lens, why not wait for a year or so? It’ll be worth a wait. Believe me.

The bottom line is…Start saving money for a superior lens.

Third party lenses and Teleconverters

I have dedicated a whole article to discuss the pros and cons of third party lens and the teleconverters.

Celebrate this Migratory Season with An Outrageous Offer (Valid only for 72 hours)

Most popular Bird photography ebooks or books. Professional Bird Photography and Post-Processing Tips and Techniques by Prathap.

In celebration of this World Photography Day, I am offering an outrageous discount of 83% on two of my most popular eBooks Bird Photography Simplified – A Virtual Masterclass & A Step-by-Step Guide to Post-Processing Bird Photographs.

I am glad to say that most of my readers have jumped at my offer.

“…Bird Photography Simplified is going to be one of the best eBooks on bird photography for a long time to come. Prathap’s uncanny ability to simplify the concepts of bird photography and his evocative bird photographs makes this a unique eBook. The practical orientation and “think like a pro” concept is worth a read for any aspiring bird photographer and the experienced ones alike. It is loaded with field techniques that a pro photographer often uses…”

– Rathika Ramasamy, Multiple Award-Winning Professional Wildlife Photographer.

If you have bought it, first of all, let me thank you and congratulate you. You have at your disposal two of the most practical guides to improve your bird photography. You have to put serious effort in reading, understanding, and practicing the techniques outlined in both the eBooks. It’s my sincere request to you to practice the techniques in the field.

I have heard many of my bird photography workshop students claiming that they’d love to read my eBooks post my workshop because they understand the importance of it. I know it’s not possible for everyone to attend my workshops, neither it is possible for me to teach 12,000+ students. But, Bird Photography Simplified – A Virtual Masterclass eBook is your best bet.

“I just had to look at your ebook today. What an incredible resource you have put together! I didn’t have time to read the whole thing, but I looked at every page, skimming the text, reading some parts in full. The photos are stunning, your conversational tone is wonderful, and your tips are spot on, every time.”

-Melissa Groo, Multiple Award-Winning Professional Wildlife Photographer.

This is the FIRST TIME EVER in four years of Nature Photography Simplified existence that a huge discount of 83% is offered. Hurry before you miss the chance forever.


That’s it for today. I hope I made your life painful now 🙂 I have put more confusion to an already confused soul. That’s my job 🙂

You might be tempted to buy an affordable lens with the money you have at hand, but remember you will come back to square one. You will not be satisfied. Then you will start cribbing again. I can guarantee it.

Bird photography is about patience. Agree? Be patient my dear friend. Save as much as you can. Cut down on unnecessary expenditure. In the meantime, learn more skills. Master the skills.

Now it’s your turn to tell me about your favorite lenses. It’ll be nice to know which lens you would ultimately want to buy and what’s your plan of action to buy it.

Cheers,

Prathap

 

Best Books on Bird Photography. Bird Photography eBooks. Free Bird Photography book. Post processing eBook. Best Nature and Wildlife Photography eBooks.

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48 Responses to Best Lens for Bird Photography for Beginners and Experienced Photographers

  1. Myer Bornstein May 21, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

    Prarhap
    Today I was out shooting with the Nikon 200-500 wish the D00 Body I photographed Birds high in s tree not only the bird were sharp but could see all the small insects flying around.

    In fact I love this combo the my 500 mm f/4 for sale

    • Prathap May 21, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

      Hi Myer, I am assuming you are talking about Nikon D500. That’s excellent to know. I am going to try this combination pretty soon as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. AJ Fedak May 22, 2016 at 12:28 am #

    Hi Prarhap, I am currently using a D90 with the Nikon 80-400mm VRII. I used it for an African Safari. I’ve since upgraded to the D750 with the Nikon 80-400mm VRII. I found the combination with both cameras provide very sharp images and easy to maneuver. I am saving to upgrade the lens to the Nikon 500mm F4 VR.

    I also would like to thank you for your in-sight and reviews into world of bird photography.

    • Prathap June 3, 2016 at 12:37 pm #

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts too, AJ Fedak. I think Nikon D750 + 80-400mm VRII is a great combination. I second your decision to buy Nikon 500mm VR.

  3. Melissa May 22, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    I have the Canon 300mm F/4, which I bought secondhand. I bought it primarily as a dragonfly lens (which it is perfect for with an extension tube), and also because it was in my price range at the time and fits with all my camera gear in a carry-on for flying, which a larger lens would not.

    It is very sharp, and it’s okay as a first bird lens for someone on a tight budget – IF the birds are very close or very large. It wouldn’t be my first choice as a bird lens if I had more money, especially on full frame (which is what I have), but it’s not bad, and the image quality is better than the 100-400mm (it’s also significantly lighter and easier to handhold).

    If the 400mm prime had image stabilization I would seriously have considered that instead.

    • Prathap June 3, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

      I agree with your thoughts about 300mm f/4 completely, Melissa. I think when you know what you are shooting with, it’s just a matter of working with the limitation. I think you are doing just that. Prime lenses always give amazing quality compared to a zoom lens. I would always prefer a prime over a zoom. But then, it’s not possible to get what you want 🙂
      I hope you will be able to upgrade to a 500mm f/4 in the near future as you have a full-frame body.

      • Melissa June 8, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

        Ha, I wish. Not in my *near* future! But maybe someday. I do occasionally miss having zoom capability, when I encounter the rare too-friendly subject that decides to get very close. Tradeoffs.

        I’ve found what I photograph has been very much influenced by the strengths and weaknesses of my gear. Better to shoot nice subjects I can shoot well right now than other subjects I love but don’t have the gear for.

  4. Navendu May 22, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    What is your take on lenses like Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DiVC ?

    • Prathap June 3, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

      Hi Navendu, I would always go with the manufacturer’s lens as you are aware. I wouldn’t bet on any third party lens though now-a-days they are making some drastic improvements.

    • Jose salgado January 10, 2017 at 11:57 pm #

      I have a Tamron SP 150-600mm F5-6.3 for my Canon EOS 80 D, and I am very happy with the results, a very fast focusing lens.

  5. Ed Harris May 23, 2016 at 10:24 am #

    I use a Canon 400/5.6 lens for Birds-in-flight. Must use high shutter speed for BIF pics in any case so the lack of IS is not an issue. But the lens is very very sharp.
    Canon 500/4 with 1.4 x for all other birds.
    If you are on a tight budget go for the 400. Do not buy a zoom. Bird photographers require quality and reach, don’t compromise with a zoom !!!

    • Prathap June 3, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

      Very well said about the quality and reach, Ed Harris! I agree with you completely. If you have noticed, most often, all the bird photographers will be using the far end of the zoom lens almost all the times. So, I am not sure if there is any point in buying a zoom, unless of course, the cost is a concern.

  6. Crunch Hardtack May 24, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

    I use the Nikon 200-400 mm. coupled with the Nikon 1.4x teleconverter. I’ve used this combo on both a D300 and D800 body, but with the huge files the D800 produces, I find the DX factor of the D300 not so compelling anymore when cropping the D800 files.

    One thing you may wish to touch upon in a later post would be using a quality gimbal head attached to a sturdy tripod.

    • Prathap June 3, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

      Hi Crunch, that’s a very good combination I suppose. I can understand why D800 surpasses the quality of a D300. I would definitely try a Nikon D500 to see if it gives me better performance. I am hoping so.
      I have actually dedicated some sections in my Bird Photography Simplified eBook about the tripods and gimbal heads.
      I will keep this in mind for the future article.

  7. Hussain Kodinhi May 25, 2016 at 5:33 pm #

    Hi Prathap
    Thanks for the write up. I have a Nikon 5-300mm. But your article doesn’t mention that lens. What is your take on the lens.

    • Prathap June 3, 2016 at 12:48 pm #

      Hi Hussain, are you referring to Nikon 50-300mm lens? If so, I don’t think that’s an option. I would prefer a 70-300mm if you are extremely tight on budget. But if you already have the lens, just make sure you practice a lot. Later you can upgrade to a Nikon 200-500mm lens.

  8. Sushant May 27, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

    300@2.8 or 600@5.6/6.3…which one….its simple to figure…what do you wish to do…long telephoto lenses of 600 are good if the bird is at quite a distance…may be water birds…or if you are a Natgeo who wanna shoot bird’s behavior and so must be at a distance….bird are always around…they live mostly in shade…in trees…up there…in bushes…your apartment society may have a line of trees…neighborhood parks…you would need more light..and just more light….the only way to get it sharp is to get as much as light as you can and as fast as you can….thats’ where the trade-off is…a 300@2.8 is better and more versatile ..you can top it up with a TC when you want that extra reach..but for everyday bird photography..in cities…a 300@2.8 is to look for….I wished Nikon/Tokina or some other lens manufacturer makes a 300@2.8 manual lens that costs around 10-15K utmost..so that people who really love and love the art of it…could afford it….I have a Nikon 70-300 Manual focus lens and it captures really well if you love the birds and wildlife and not the acclaim …you have to love wildlife and not the picture!

  9. Shivayogi Kanthi June 2, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    Hi Prathap

    I recently tried both Canon 500 & 600 on my 7D Mark II and the results were excellent. I was initially planning for 600 for the additional reach however the weight discouraged me. I currently use 100-400mm IS (Push Pull) and have got some very good shots as well.

    • Prathap June 3, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

      Hi Shivayogi, I think you have made the right choice. Many-a-times, the weight factor can be annoying. I have used 100-400mm IS as well. It’s a good lens for sure.

  10. DeGood Goodluck June 28, 2016 at 12:39 am #

    Just to realy appreciate you for relentless supports. I always find them so educative. More grease to your elbows and God bless you in Jesus name

    • Prathap June 29, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

      Thank you so much! DeGood Goodluck.

  11. Annette,Costa Rica June 29, 2016 at 10:48 pm #

    I am probably one of those nutcases you cite. All the lenses mentioned were bought second hand 🙂

    About 10 years ago I bout the MF 400mm 2.8 Nikkor. it is heavy and a bit awkward but I have got used to the manual focus. Not for birds in flight, but it is a great lens that I stil use for some things.
    Then I bought a 600mm MF Nikkor, the 5.6 version.
    This is the one I still use a lot, it is light for hiking and easy to use handheld. It is even great with a 1.4 converter.

    And then I bought the 200-400mm. WHY you say.. Well I like to shoot butterflies and dragons in flight,too. Also it is very good for fast short distance hummingbirds and long distance big birds in flight. All the others can’t focus down to 2m!

    At last, about 2 months ago I saw a second hand 800mm.
    YOUR ARTICLE OR WHAT I REMEMBERED OF IT WENT THROUGH MY MIND.
    then I thought… it is all about getting close, isn’t it. And here birds tend to sit always high up in the trees 🙂
    So I bought it, after all it was less than a new 600mm. You know what, it isn’t dark as I feared, it focusses very fast and I love it.
    it is even lighter than my old 400 2.8!

    the only downside is the silly electronic diaphragm because it makes it incompatible with most TCs.

    I have already shot a lot of birds in flight handheld with it. Can’t ask for more can I 🙂

    • Prathap July 19, 2016 at 11:23 am #

      Hi Annette, It’s absolutely amazing to learn about you. The choices are all great. I think 800mm f/5.6 is definitely a great choice. You are from Costa Rica, such an awesome location! I would love to visit the place in the near future. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      • Annette July 25, 2016 at 6:39 pm #

        Please let me know if you want to come here. I would be thrilled to show you some great places. And i would love to learn from you

        • Prathap July 25, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

          Sure! Annette. Let’s take it up offline.

      • Gary Haigh May 29, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

        I don’t think that any MF Nikon lens is suited to a Nikon digital camera body, the sensors are not set up for manual focus glass and the diaphragm pin on the manual lenses are not reliable if shooting at speed (10fps) and are therefore VERY prone to exposure errors.
        A modern VR lens is essential in my opinion & as such I would never put manual focus glass on my D500 or D800.
        It is tempting as the cost of these MF beasts is considerably lower than the current counterpart but, the reasons I have outlined above and the fact that this manual glass is just so heavy is what makes it so much cheaper. Yes the new glass is also heavy but you have around 4 stops to play with by using the VR and the lens coatings are specifically designed for use on a digital camera.

  12. John staines July 18, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    Hi Prathap, I am off to Costa Rica next year with my Canon 50D and Canon 100_400mm. Obviously I would like to upgrade but the means to do so are not obvious yet . I have been wanting a 7D mark ll so if a miracle were to happen do you think that this combo would be better than a full frame with the 100_400mm ?
    Thanks john

    • Prathap July 19, 2016 at 11:04 am #

      Hi John, That’s awesome to hear! Costa Rica is on my bucket list as well. I would suggest you to try a second hand Canon 1DX instead of 7D Mark II. I have seen several experienced hands not happy with 7D Mark II performance in terms of quality. Full frame is your best choice because it’s a long-term investment.
      Perhaps, you could try renting it for your trip.

      • John Staines July 20, 2016 at 1:48 am #

        Thanks Prathap for your reply…I will investigate both options. John

  13. Ram Dantuluri July 27, 2016 at 2:02 am #

    After 5 years with point & shoot I am planning to invest on Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500.
    Found your site today.
    Please let us know once you try this combination.

    Thanks for all the advice 🙂

    • Prathap July 30, 2016 at 9:58 pm #

      Hi Ram, I think that’s a great combination. It might take some more months before I try this combination. I would recommend you to go for a test ride with a rented equipment. It’ll give you a very good experience and you’d be able to make a firm decision.

  14. Sameer RK November 11, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    Hi Prathap,
    Have you used sigma sports 150 – 600mm lens?
    Can you please suggested me if this is good for birding or not ?

    Thanks

  15. Sujith December 7, 2016 at 9:37 pm #

    Hi Pratap
    I have been seeing reviews and texts on the lenses for some time.Currently i am having a Canon 550D body with three lenses namely 18-55,55-250 and 50 mm lenses.I am looking out for a lens which can be used for bird photography and from a budget perspective the new Tamron and Sigma with 150-600mm fits in the budget as Canon 100-400 mm comes around for Rs.150000/-.The Tamron and Sigma comes in the range of Rs.70000/- 90000/- .Can you please let me know whether the 550D body will be ok for this telephoto lens?

  16. Cindy Kassab December 9, 2016 at 12:01 am #

    Hi Pratap,
    Great article on the different lenses. I had heard about the new Sigma 150-600mm zoom lens. The new sport model and how good it was, but I still love that Canon 500mm IS 2 lens. I can actually hand hold that one and capture great images. It’s sharp too. So glad Canon came up with a second version.

  17. Prakash G (alias Prakash Srivaths) January 26, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    A good article with a lot of information about DSLR lenses.

    • Prathap February 9, 2017 at 8:15 pm #

      Thank you, Prakash.

  18. Girish G Menon February 21, 2017 at 1:05 pm #

    Hi Pratap
    Thanks for the great article. I myself was confused whether to buy a prime lens for birding as an amateur. Then decided to go for a more economical lens Nikon 200 to 500. I am happy I made the right decision. I use this lens in combo with my Nikon D750 and a Telecovertor Nikon TCiii E1.4. Some of the photographs I have taken were stunning and I recommend this combo to all beginners . You will enjoy birding and will surely end with a few photographs comparable to that of professionals.

  19. Arunava Chakraborty March 8, 2017 at 10:33 am #

    Mr.Prathap…Good Morning friend. I have a basic knowledge of photography and love to capture the photo of bird. I use Nikon D5200. I want to know with this set which lens will be compatible for bird photography?

  20. Jeanette Bartlett May 4, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    HI its Jan from England. Interesting info. you give. I have a Nikon D7000. will it be any good for Bird photography and wildlife? Or would I be better off swapping and getting the Nikon you suggested. I was advised to get the following lenses but now wish I had read your info first. I am a beginner and wanting to know how best to understand all the technical terms ect. which book should I get first? I have your info on mistakes, thanks so much. Ideas welcome and any advise as to how I can get those shots!!
    I have A Nikon AF -Nikkor 55-300mm. 1.4.5.6Ged. Also a NikonDX AF-18-105mm. plus a Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Macro. A Vitacon DSLR HD Wide angled lenses 67mm-0.5x.
    I am trying not to keep using my Sony HX300 Sony bridge cyber shot, but its so easy, but the camera shop said I should now use the SLR for better quality. Need direction Please. Cheers Jan.

  21. Jackie Fornuff May 5, 2017 at 6:25 am #

    Great article and thank you!

    Best money I have ever spent on photography equipment is the Nikkor 200-500mm. I have a 1.4 teleconverter but the autofocus is too slow and not worth using on this lens. Quality is better without it. I also have the D750 and use manual mode 100% of the time. Bird/Wildlife photography is my passion!

  22. VISHNU T May 20, 2017 at 10:20 pm #

    Thanks for your writeup.Have decided to save money and buy a combination of Nikon D-750 and a lens of Nikon 200-500 mm f/5.6VR

  23. TUHIN KANTI DAS July 23, 2017 at 10:09 pm #

    Can I use Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 VR Lens with D90?

  24. Evarts August 2, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

    Hi Prathap. I have a Canon 80D and recently bought the Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens for bird photography. I am very dissapointed with the image quality as none of the images are sharp. Do you think its a problem with the lens or the settings I use?

  25. janiarto August 5, 2017 at 4:16 am #

    i’m wondering, is 300 mm is enough to go birdwatching?

  26. Vernon Chalmers August 18, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

    A few birds in flight from Cape Town (all handheld)

    With Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens

    http://www.vernonchalmers.photography/2017/01/birds-in-flight-photography.html

    Regards,

    Vernon Chalmers

  27. Ankit Agarwal September 27, 2017 at 2:40 pm #

    the work you do is truly breathtaking!
    I m not a professional photographer, but surely an enthusiast, I just wanted to ask whether a superzoom camera is good enough for bird photography ?(considering the fact that they offer a good range in less cost because even though I have a dslr I don’t want to invest so much in a higher zoom dslr lens)

  28. RAVICHANDER MV October 18, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    my son is a visually handicapped person,he has done MSC in ELECTRONIC MEDIA From madras university,and at present doing MSC in Cyber Forensic and Internet security in the same university, he is interested in wild life photography,i bought him a NIKON D51000 CAMERA AND D800E AND ALSO D3S full frame camera.iam very much impressed by your bird photography photos.my son is blind in his left eye and he has only 40% vision in his right eye,i want to take him for bird photography in vedanthangal in chennai.will 200 to 500 nikon lens help him in capturing the birds in the trees. pl visit his facebook page PR PHOTOGRAPHY and kindly give your valuable advice. iam a retired person aged 63 from central govt .i want my son to enjoy natural life like any boy of his age.photography is his passion.

    Regards
    RAVICHANDER

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