Wildlife photography is all about capturing animals in their natural habitat, and it requires a lot of patience, skill, and the right equipment. The most important piece of equipment for any wildlife photographer is their lens. It’s crucial to choose the right lens to capture stunning shots of animals, birds, and insects.

The team here is a group of landscape and wildlife photography fanatics (not by design!). We have spent many hours learning our trade in the great outdoors. We regularly get asked by readers about lens choice and the particular question of the best lens for wildlife photography came up more than once, in fact, it was more specific than that – people wanted to know the best canon lens given their authority in this market. So we did some research, reviewed the following five cameras, and wrote this article…

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Canon is one of the leading camera manufacturers in the world, and they have several excellent lens options for wildlife photography. In this article, we’re going to review the best wildlife photography lens Canon has to offer.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing the world through a variety of lenses. Each animal encounter is a unique experience, and the right lens can make the difference between a good shot and a breathtaking image.

I have witnessed sunsets with grazing deer, the raw power of predatory birds in flight, and the heart-stopping moment when a tiger locks eyes with the lens. Each of these experiences was enhanced by using the correct lens.

Over the years, I have tried and tested a wide range of lenses on my Canon camera. Some were fantastic, others were decent, and a few were downright disappointing. This guide is a result of my years of experience in the field, combined with extensive research.

It’s not about what lens is the most expensive or has the fanciest features, but rather, it’s about what lens will help you capture the beauty of the wild in the most stunning way possible. In the following sections, we will explore the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography that will suit a variety of needs and that I hope will help you capture the magic of the wild as vividly as they have for me.

Best Canon Lens for Wildlife Photography – Our Review

Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM – Editor’s Top Pick

The Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM lens is a remarkably versatile and powerful tool that wildlife photographers will appreciate. With its impressive zoom range, this lens allows photographers to capture detailed shots of wildlife without disturbing the subjects. The image stabilization feature compensates for any movement, resulting in clear and sharp photos even when using high zoom levels. The autofocus system is fast and silent, making it ideal for capturing fast-moving animals with precision.

We found the lens produces consistently sharp images with excellent color reproduction and contrast, showcasing the high image quality it offers. Its robust build quality ensures durability and reliability, making it suitable for various weather conditions and rough handling situations in the wild. Despite its incredible range and quality, the lens remains lightweight, making it a practical choice for photographers on long treks in search of wildlife (or waiting for hours incognito as we do from time to time!)

This lens’s compact size and lightweight construction make it easy to carry in your camera bag, providing convenience and portability. It easily fits into most camera bags without any issues, even weighing less than the RF 24-105mm f/4L lens. These features, combined with the lens’s excellent autofocus performance and optics, make it an ideal choice for daily use.

In summary, you get a great lens at a very reasonable price here. The Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM lens delivers exceptional versatility and performance for wildlife photographers. Its remarkable zoom range, image stabilization, fast autofocus, and image quality make it a valuable asset in capturing stunning wildlife shots. Our only quibbles would be the autofocus does miss from time to time and there is no lens hood included. Apart from that it is hard to pick holes at this price. Whether you’re a professional or an enthusiast, this lens is a worthwhile addition to your camera kit.

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

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens is a popular choice for wildlife, sports, and travel photography. It offers a versatile focal length range and delivers high-quality images with exceptional resolution and contrast. Equipped with a new inner focusing AF system, this lens ensures fast and accurate autofocus for capturing those perfect shots.

Compared to its predecessor, the Mark I version, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens is a real improvement. It maintains sharpness across all focal lengths and performs impressively even on the edge of a full frame. The four-stop image stabilizer greatly enhances image stability, particularly useful when capturing fast-moving subjects. Vignetting and flares, while present, are not major concerns.

In our wildlife-photography field test, we found this lens to be highly adept at capturing images of birds in flight, both large and small, consistently delivering sharp shots. The lens’s build quality and performance make it an exceptional choice for professional photographers or photography enthusiasts looking to capture stunning imagery.

There is no getting away from the fact that this is an expensive lens and some will question whether it is worth it. In our view, despite its higher price compared to other lenses in its class, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens is worth the investment (also note that other models and competitors come in at a similar price tag).

In conclusion, we found the image quality to be flawless. The improved stabilization makes for a joyous user experience. As they say, you do get what you pay for!

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Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

Still as relevant in 2024 as it was when it came out all those years ago. The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II lens is a remarkable piece of equipment for wildlife and close-up photography. With its super sharp and fast capabilities, it captures stunning images with ease. Equipped with IS technology, it provides up to four stops of correction at all focal lengths, ensuring exceptional image stabilization.

One of the standout features of this lens is its solid and durable construction, making it suitable for heavy-duty field use and withstanding inclement weather conditions. The all-metal, weather-sealed design ensures reliability even in demanding environments. The zoom and focus rings operate smoothly, with the focus ring being particularly well-dampened. The cleverly designed hood makes it easy to mount, enhancing overall convenience.

In terms of performance, the improvements on its predecessor are noticeable across the board. The autofocus and image quality are notably improved, resulting in outstanding results. The lens also excels in DPAF and Video Servo AF functionalities. At 200mm, the performance is exceptionally strong, delivering impressive images.

Additionally, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II lens works well with the 1.4X extender and provides satisfying results with adapters. The contrast and color reproduction are excellent, while chromatic aberrations are kept to a minimum.

Although the lens is on the heavier side, the exceptional build quality and performance outweigh this minor inconvenience. The price tag may be at the higher end, but the lens’s remarkable capabilities justify the investment in my opinion.

In conclusion, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II is an authoritative choice for photographers seeking outstanding image quality, reliable performance, and great handling.

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Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM – Best Allrounder

The RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM is an exceptional wildlife photography lens for Canon full-frame mirrorless cameras. This high-performance super-telephoto zoom from Canon’s esteemed L series boasts an impressive zoom range and premium optical quality, making it a fantastic choice for capturing stunning animal shots in various environments.

Featuring Canon’s top-notch optical image stabilization system, the lens offers three modes – standard, panning, and during-exposure-only – providing excellent creative options and ensuring sharpness in all conditions with its five stops of shake correction.

The dual-nano USM autofocus is not only fast and accurate but also impressively silent, preventing any disturbances to the animals. The dual-motor enables precise focusing on moving subjects, making it ideal for wildlife photography.

Built to withstand rugged conditions, the lens features a tough outer body that offers dust and water resistance, allowing you to capture incredible animal photos in any environment.

With the RF 100-500mm, you’ll experience exceptional handling and perfect balance when paired with the Canon EOS R5. Although the EF 100-400L II with an adapter is workable, the RF lens provides an improved experience. The 100mm extra focal length is a valuable addition, enhancing your versatility in capturing distant subjects.

The image quality of this lens is superb, delivering sharp and detailed results. It fully utilizes the autofocus capabilities of the EOS R5 and EOS R6 throughout the entire zoom range, making it a must-have lens for bird, wildlife, and landscape photography.

While there are a few downsides, such as limited usage of extenders and a relatively slower aperture at 400mm compared to the EF 100-400L II, these minor drawbacks have minimal impact in real-life shooting situations.

In summary, the RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM is an authoritative choice for wildlife photographers. Its exceptional performance, build quality, and versatility make it an essential lens for capturing breathtaking images of wildlife and nature.

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Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM – Best Budget Option

In our opinion, there is only one choice for a budget option and this is it. First launched in 2016 this is still a great option for those looking for a lens at the cheaper end of the spectrum.

The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM is a fantastic lens for wildlife photography, offering great value and compatibility with Canon APS-C and full-frame DSLR cameras. It’s perfect for entry-level photographers looking to capture stunning shots of animals in the wild.

With a focal length of 300mm, this lens provides excellent magnification to capture wildlife from a distance. You can even snap bird shots from your backyard or capture captivating animal images in meadows or woodlands. And don’t worry, the 70mm focal length allows you to explore landscapes or take adorable portraits of cats and dogs.

One notable advantage of this lens is its image stabilization (IS) system, ideal for photography with longer focal lengths. It compensates for shakes and allows you to shoot handheld, even in low light conditions during dawn and dusk.

When it comes to autofocus (AF) performance, the USM AF system works like a charm for wildlife photography. It’s fast, accurate, and operates silently, ensuring you don’t disturb your subjects while shooting in the bush.

Despite its affordable price, the build quality of this lens is impressive. It’s lightweight and portable, making it a suitable companion for long photography sessions at the zoo. Trust me, carrying it around all day won’t leave you exhausted like those hefty 400mm lenses!

In terms of image quality, this lens shines with its sharpness and clarity. Whether it’s a close-up shot of a deer, a breathtaking landscape, or an architectural masterpiece, the Canon EF 70-300mm delivers outstanding results.

Now, let’s talk about the aperture. With an f/4.0 aperture, this lens may not be the fastest for low-light conditions. But hey, the more natural light, the better, right?

All in all, the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM is a good telephoto zoom lens for wildlife photography. It offers great value, impressive image quality, and versatility in capturing stunning photos. There is no doubt the more expensive options in the Canon range offer a better quality but this one is perfect for a starter. So grab one, head out into the wild, and let your photography skills roar (Ed; sorry bad joke!) with this remarkable lens.

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What is Wildlife Photography?

Wildlife photography is a genre of photography that focuses on capturing animals in their natural habitat. It combines the thrill of adventure, the beauty of nature, and the art of photography. To get into wildlife photography, one should start by learning the basics of photography, understanding different camera settings, and getting familiar with the behavior of various animals. The challenges in wildlife photography include unpredictable animal behavior, harsh outdoor conditions, and often, the requirement of specific and expensive equipment. However, the rewards are equally substantial. It allows you to connect with nature on a deeper level, offers unprecedented experiences, and provides opportunities to contribute to wildlife conservation through captivating images that raise awareness.

Should I use a zoom or a prime lens for wildlife photography?

Using a zoom lens is the most common approach for wildlife photography. It offers flexibility, allowing you to quickly adjust your focal length without having to change lenses. Prime lenses have fixed focal lengths and are mostly preferred by experienced photographers who require higher image quality or when shooting in low light conditions. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and the kind of shots that the photographer is aiming for.

It’s also important to keep in mind that most wildlife photography requires long telephoto lenses, which tend to be heavy and expensive. A tripod or monopod is often a necessary accessory to keep the camera steady when using these lenses. Furthermore, having some form of wind protection or an additional lens hood can help reduce any

Who Are Some of the Best Wildlife Photographers?

There are many great wildlife photographers around today, and it’s hard to choose just a few. Some of the most famous names in wildlife photography include my favorite David Yarrow, Art Wolfe, Frans Lanting, Michael “Nick” Nichols, and Steve Winter.

Beyond these well-known photographers, there are several other influential figures in the field of wildlife photography. Andy Rouse, a British photographer, is renowned for his dynamic and immersive approach, often capturing rare and endangered animals. Marina Cano, a Spanish photographer, is praised for her distinct, black-and-white images of African and European wildlife. Joel Sartore, an American photographer, is noted for his Photo Ark project, in which he aims to document every species living in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. Finally, Anup Shah, known for his innovative use of remote-controlled cameras, offers a unique perspective on wildlife photography, providing intimate portraits of wild animals.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the best lens for wildlife photography?

There is no one size fits all approach to this question. It depends on the type of animals you’re photographing, the distance between you and your subject, and other factors. However, the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens is an excellent choice for most wildlife photography situations.

What should I look for in a wildlife photography lens?

When choosing a wildlife photography lens, look for something that offers a long focal length, an appropriate aperture size, image stabilization, and good autofocus.

Do I need a tripod for wildlife photography?

A tripod can be helpful for wildlife photography, but it’s not always necessary. It depends on the lens and the type of shot you’re trying to take. For handheld photography, a lens with image stabilization can be helpful. We have not written about it in detail, the tripod we recommend for wildlife photography is the Gitzo Lightweight Traveler Series 1 Tripod.

Does a Canon Lens Fit on any Camera?

No, Canon lenses will only fit on cameras with the EF or EF-S mount. If you are using a camera with a different lens mount, then you will need to use an adapter to fit the Canon lens onto your camera. Be sure to check that your lens and adapter are compatible before purchasing them.

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Final Thoughts:

Choosing the right lens for wildlife photography can make all the difference in your craft. The lenses mentioned above are some of the best wildlife photography lenses Canon has to offer. When selecting a lens, consider your shooting style and the type of animals you’ll be photographing. Don’t hesitate to invest in a high-quality lens that offers sharp image quality, fast autofocus, and image stabilization technology. Happy shooting!

You may also be interested in other articles we have written about wildlife photography;

A Beginner’s Guide to Wildlife Photography | 2023 – Photography Revision

Best Beginner Cameras for Nature and Wildlife Photography  – Photography Revision

Best Budget Lens for Wildlife Photography – Our Top Picks – Photography Revision



The Photography Revision team are a group focused to simplifying the world of photography through revision tools, info sheets, product reviews and many more. We are an experienced team of photographers looking to help people who share the same passion.

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