When it comes to nature photography, we get a lot of questions regarding the finest Nikon lenses for Best Birding Lens For Nikon D500, but we’ve also received many requests to write about lenses for wildlife photography.
When it comes to photographing wildlife and the environment, I’ll discuss which Nikon lenses I think are the best for the job, as well as how and when I use each one. You should keep in mind that the following information is based on my own experience and is subject to change.
Your favorite lens for wildlife photography may not be featured here, but feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page with some details about your lens as well as images taken with it (if you have any that you would like to share).
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Best Birding Lens For Nikon D500
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR (super-telephoto) zoom lens
The new Nikon 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 lens is a very different beast, both in terms of functionality and price, than the 200-400mm f/4 VR II, which was an obvious successor. Just to be clear, the Nikon 180-400mm f/4 is an extremely costly lens.
It now sells for an eye-watering $12,400! Compared to the 200-400mm f/4 VRII, this is a significant upgrade in capabilities.
Although it costs $1,400 more than a comparable Canon 200-400mm f/4 IS lens with a built-in teleconverter, it’s still a bargain.
Due to the size and weight of the Nikon 180-400mm f/4E lens, one could expect it to be cumbersome.
It can be handled for a long period, although it’s not very small or light. With a maximum diameter of 5 inches, the lens measures 14.2 inches long (362.5 millimeters) and weighs 7.7 pounds (3.5 kilograms).
The 180-400mm f/4E lens is only slightly shorter and heavier than the Nikon 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II lens. It also features a built-in teleconverter, so you can make use of the 180-400 mm additional zoom range.
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED Vibration Reduction Fixed Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
Nikon’s professional prime lenses are, of course, among the best in the business. Considering the price difference between the “FL” and the previous model, I’d say most potential buyers are debating whether or not the “FL” is worth the extra money (s).
It all comes down to how much you weigh. You can save money if you use a tripod, rarely fly with your gear, and rarely carry your prime lens about. However, based on DXO’s testing of the 400 FL model, the 600 FL and 500 FL appear to be about reducing weight and maintaining optical performance.
If like me, you’ve been hunched over like a Neanderthal man while stumbling across rocky terrain with a lens that’s about as light and comfortable to hold as a young pachyderm, then the FL version is a must-have.
Compared to the 600/4, the 600FL is 3 pounds lighter, 2 pounds lighter, and even 1/5th of a pound less than the outgoing 400/2.8. In addition to the total weight, the revised design is less end-heavy and more evenly distributed throughout.
Is it safe to hold? My 10-pound 400/2.8 has been in my hands for years, thus the 8-pound 600 is noticeably lighter in weight.
Even though it’s still physically enormous and demands good skill, I immediately pre-ordered this lens after seeing the technical specifications because the weight has always been my biggest complaint with ultra-telephoto lenses (literally).
The FL primes are more expensive, but they’re far easier to use, transport, install on support equipment, hold, and travel with than other options. Consider it an investment that you won’t regret if you take into account those elements.
Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED Vibration Reduction Fixed Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
As a result, Nikon chose the 400mm f/2.8 as a starting point for the development of its fluorite lens design, even though the company plans to update every super-telephoto lens in its lineup with lighter lenses that feature fluorite elements (this includes the 200mm f/2, 300mm f/2.8, 500mm f/4, and 600mm f/4 lenses).
In comparison to the previous version 400mm f/2.8G VR, which weighed a massive 4.6 kg, the new model is a far more manageable and user-friendly lens (it was quite a bit front-heavy).
With its silent wave motor and fast autofocus, the 400mm f/2.8 are popular sports and action lenses among pros.
You’ll regularly see it in action at major sporting events, as well as wildlife hotspots and concerts across the world. “Bokeh” can be rendered brilliantly thanks to its f/2.8 aperture and clever optical construction, which isolates subjects with a very small depth of field while maintaining maximum sharpness on the subject.
Even though it is a very adaptable lens that works well with all three of Nikon’s teleconverters, the 500mm f/4’s weight and bulk have kept many photographers away from it.
When it comes to weight, the new 400mm f/2.8E FL VR is a whole other beast — it’s the same weight as the 500mm f/4G VR, an engineering marvel!
Nikon AF FX NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED Vibration Reduction II DSLR Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras
This is Nikon’s greatest lens to date. Excellent optics. When shot wide open, it’s crisp and clear, and when zoomed in to 2.8, it’s stunning how well out-of-focus parts are rendered.
There are a few lenses that can “create the image” for you, and this is one of them. Customers squeal in delight as the photographer takes a picture.
As a result of this and the fact that it has exceptional transmissivity, it is a genuine f2 lens and hence ideal when lighting is scarce because it allows for more light than the nominal stop of the 70-80/200 2.8 lenses.
The Zeiss 135 Apo Sonnar replaced it as my go-to lens for image quality. Even still, it’s an amazing piece of machinery.
There are a few drawbacks to this: It’s a pain to carry, it attracts attention right away, and it’s difficult to use for only a day or two without wanting to throw it in the trash.
As with its predecessor, Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) II Image Stabilization system has been implemented into the new AF-S NIKKOR 200 mm f/2G ED VR II. As a result of the VR system’s up to four stops of correction, handheld or D-Movie video content can be captured without blurring.
It also features an Internal Focusing (IF) technology that allows the optical components to be moved within the lens barrel without affecting the barrel length. NIKKOR 200mm F/2 VR There are three focus modes available: M/A, M, and an A/M option.
Three ED glass components and one Super ED glass element significantly reduce chromatic aberration even at the widest aperture settings of the optical design.
VR image stabilization can be used even when the camera and lens are on a tripod, thanks to a Tripod Detection Mode that automatically compensates for small vibrations. For weddings, portraits, sports, and wildlife, the 200mm f/2 is an excellent choice because of its fast focusing speed and precise lens design.
Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Canon DSLR Cameras
For many wildlife photographers on a budget, being able to shoot at a focal length of 600mm without spending a fortune has long been a dream come true. This is because lenses in the 600mm focal length range may cost upwards of $12K.
Despite their lack of an f/4 maximum aperture, contemporary 150-600mm lenses offer a wide range of focal lengths, making them ideal for capturing subjects at varying distances.
Shooting with a 600mm prime lens can be challenging due to the weight and possible air haze, as many 600mm prime lens owners are well aware.
When photographing bears in Alaska or a safari in Africa, a wide-angle lens might be restricting, especially if the activity is quite close. The 200-400mm f/4 lenses are a favorite of many professional photographers because they allow them to capture activity at both short and long distances.
Even still, the prohibitive cost and weight of these lenses remain, keeping them out of reach for budget-conscious amateurs and professionals who prefer to capture hand-held images.
This is where the 150-600mm lenses come in; they’re lightweight and reasonably inexpensive, yet they give excellent performance. The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary weighs only 4.25 pounds and costs just over $1000, making it an excellent choice for sports and wildlife photographers.
NIKON NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon Z Mirrorless Cameras
Specifically developed for Nikon’s mirrorless system, the Nikon Z NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S is a professional-grade telephoto lens. After multiple delays, the lens finally became widely available in late 2020, despite its initial debut in January of that year.
We’ve tested two samples of the lens, both in the field and in the laboratory. Everything we’ve learned about the Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S, including how it compares to its popular F-mount sister, will be covered in this comprehensive review.
Among Nikon’s latest Z-system optics, the 70-200 f/2.8 VR S is one of the most cutting-edge lenses available. When it comes to its high-end build; sophisticated features; outstanding image quality; premium pricing, it’s all there in this lens.
Despite its high price tag of $2600, Nikon’s Z 70-200mm f/2.8 S isn’t a budget lens; but, many of its rivals are. It costs $2600 for Sony’s 70-200mm f/2.8, $2700 for Canon’s RF 70-200mm f/2.8, and $2350 for Nikon’s F-mount 70-200mm f/2.8E VR.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Lens
Full-frame mirrorless cameras from Nikon are the first to feature Nikon’s new Nikkor Z 70-200mm F2.8 VR S. S-types like the f/2.8 S-types are designed for professionals and serious amateurs, and they have the greater build quality and better optics than the f/4 S-types.
There are also some visual and functional differences, such as an OLED panel that can show aperture or focal length, and the option to display focus distance with a depth-of-field scale below. It also has a focusing collar and a control ring that may be customized.
Chromatic aberration is reduced thanks to the stabilizing lens’s 21 elements grouped in 18 groups, which includes no less than six EDs (extra-low dispersion), one fluorite (FL), and one shortwave refractive (SR). Arneo and Nano Crystal coatings, as well as a fluorine coating for cleaning the front element, are also available.
More than one focus group can be controlled by twin stepper motors in autofocus, resulting in smooth, quiet focusing down to 0.5 m (1.64 ft) at 70 mm, but this increases to 1.0 m (3.28 ft) at 200 mm.
This lens was tested on a Nikon Z7 with a high-resolution 47MP sensor and achieved a score of 38 as a “system result” when used with the camera. Be aware that, in certain cases, the results may have been affected by the use of a different camera body.
Just one point separates it from the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS as the best-performing 70-200 f/2.8 model in our database, which means that the two are highly similar despite their varied optical qualities.
Diffraction impacts on sharpness levels are particularly visible at f/22 with this new lens, which has a very high and consistent degree of sharpness over its whole field of view (ie, from the center to the edges and corners).
Sharpness wide open at f/2.8 is one of the new Nikkor’s most impressive features. This is because tele-zoom lenses tend to lose some sharpness at the longest focal lengths.