When you first begin bird watching, you’ll only need to start with the essential, but as your interest and skill level grows, so will your need for improved equipment!
One of the joys of watching birds is being able to take photographs of them in the wild, and with the right equipment these photographs can look pretty spectacular.
Your phone just isn’t going to cut it, and you’ll need a camera with the right lens. Some birdwatchers in the industry feel that to get the best photos, you need the most expensive lens. If you get the right lens, however, you will be able to take some pretty amazing and professional looking photographs.
Cameras are made up of many parts but the lens is one of the most important.
- 1 Why The Lens Is So Important
- 1.1 1. Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens
- 1.2 2. Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Zoom Lens
- 1.3 3. Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens
- 1.4 1. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens
- 1.5 2. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens
- 1.6 3. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens
- 2 Selected Others – Our Recommendations
- 3 Buying Guide: What To Look For
- 4 There You Have It!
Why The Lens Is So Important
You can have the highest specification camera you can afford, but if your lens isn’t up to the job, your photographs will not look as clear or as colorful as you would like them.
- The lens controls how much light gets through and it affects the overall quality of every photograph you take. If the aperture is too small your photographs will appear dark, and if it is too big it will look too bright and possibly overexposed.
- The lens will also control the angle of the light which will affect the overall photo quality.
You don’t need a top of the range lens, and there are many options to consider when you are looking for the best budget lens for bird photography. Here are just a few lenses which we think will give you perfect photographs every time.
1. Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens
The Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras has an excellent specification to help you take the best photographs on a budget.
The 4x telephoto zoom lens will give you excellent focus on birds which are just 4.9 feet, or 1.5 m, away to pick up every detail of the bird. It also has a DC autofocus motor. The lens is lightweight and includes Canon’s Super Spectra coating, which allows up to 99.9% of light to get through to the sensor, enhancing color and providing clearer contrast.
It is a great lens for those looking to shoot wild life and it makes it easy to snap those spur of the moment photographs.
2. Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Zoom Lens
The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Zoom Lens which is designed to take clear, vibrant photographs or videos. The design is lightweight which makes it easier to control the camera and it has features to help you get the best focus in any situation. The lens has auto-focus and image stabilization so you can concentrate on the bird, and not on the camera.
The lens has a high-precision aspheric lens for excellent image quality, and to help reduce chromatic aberration no matter how near or far you are zoomed in. The coating will provide the best color and contrast, and reduce ghosting and flare.
If you want to shoot video footage of your birds, this lens is compatible with the Movie Servo AF Feature found on many EOS cameras, and it will shoot quietly so as not to frighten the birds away while you film.
3. Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens
Another Canon lens worth considering is the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens.
This lens comes with Canon’s optical image stabilization which gives you better quality with a better shutter speed. This telephoto zoom lens will help you take high quality and detailed photographs of any birds. Chromatic aberration is corrected with the use of a UD glass lens, no matter how near or far you are zooming.
This lightweight lens has been designed to help you shoot in lower light and over long distances. The zoom feature has a DC motor help you focus quickly and clearly and it comes with a one year Canon warranty.
1. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens
For Nikon users the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus will produce quality images every time. This telephoto zoom lens is lightweight and versatile.
This lens will allow you to take wide angled shots or close-up images of any birds and will even allow you to blur your background, leaving everything else in the front sharp.
The lens can be used for still images as well as HD videos and thanks to vibration reduction you can be sure that all your images will be crystal clear even when you are unable to hold the camera still. Vibration reduction can also help in low light situations so that you can still get perfect photographs even at dusk.
Nikon has developed Silent Wave Motor technology so no matter how near your target is they will not blur. The lens has three aspherical and extra-low dispersion glass elements for crystal clear contrast and minimal flare and ghosting.
The lens comes with a snap on front lens cap and a rear lens cap.
2. Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens
If you want clear photographs then the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus is just what you need.
This lens is compact, and does everything you need it to. It has a wide angle option and will zoom in to focus with ease. You can even get up close and personal taking an image in great detail at just 1.48 feet away from your chosen subject. You can take photographs or videos of the birds and are guaranteed great detail every time.
The silent wave motor keeps the autofocus feature quiet enough so that it will not disturb the birds, and the VR image stabilization means you get crystal clear images in low light and even when your hands are shaking.
The aspherical and extra-low dispersion glass helps reduce chromatic aberration, ghosting and flare.
3. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens
The Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras is a non-zoom lens but still offers excellent quality at a great price.
This lightweight lens includes all the latest Nikon technology including the Silent Wave Motor and an aspherical lens. The lens can switch from manual to autofocus in no time at all and is perfect for images with a shallow depth of field. It is versatile and will produce the same quality whether the weather is sunny, cloudy or you are in low light.
So that you appreciate the detail of your chosen subject, this lens will produce a natural background blur and the focal length is ideal to give your photographs a natural perspective.
Selected Others – Our Recommendations
1. Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 Lens
A quality lens from Sony is the E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 Lens for Sony E-Mount Cameras (Black). The telephoto lens includes Sony’s Optical SteadyShot image stabilization which helps you get clear, sharp images when your hands are shaking or in low light.
The glass includes 2 extra-low dispersion elements which help you get the best color accuracy on your final images.
The lens has been designed specifically for shooting nature or sports events. It is compatible with most Alpha E-mount cameras.
2. Altura Photo 8mm f/3.0 Professional Ultra Wide Angle Aspherical Fisheye Lens
From Altura we recommend the Photo 8mm f/3.0 Professional Ultra Wide Angle Aspherical Fisheye Lens for Canon EOS 77D 80D Rebel T7 T7i T6i T6s T6 SL2 SL3 DSLR Cameras. Altura have recently updated this lens to include new technology.
The lens has manual focus and is capable of 180° views for panoramic scenes, and can also give you a sharp close up of your subject. It is multi-layered and coated and has an aspherical element so it reduces ghosting and flares and creates, clear, vibrant images.
Included with the lens is a custom designed lens case for safe storage and it comes with a 1 year warranty.
It is compatible with all Canon APS-C cameras; including the Rebel T7, T7i, T6s, T6i, T6, T5i, T4i, T3i, SL1, SL2, SL3, EOS 60D, 77D, 70D, 80D; EOS 7D, 7D MK II. Is also compatible with FULL FRAME
3. Samsung NX 50-200mm f/4.0-5.6 OIS Zoom Camera Lens
Our final choice is the Samsung NX 50-200mm f/4.0-5.6 OIS Zoom Camera Lens (Black). Whether you’re looking for clear close ups or atmospheric long distance shots, this lens can handle it.
This telephoto lens features Samsung’s I-Function technology so you can manually adjust the camera to adjust the aperture, shutter speed or view your image in real time. Optical image stabilization means your pictures will always be clear, even if your hands are shaking or if you’re shooting in low light.
Included is a lens hood and the lens is compatible with all Samsung NX Compact System Cameras.
Buying Guide: What To Look For
You really don’t need to invest in an expensive lens for bird watching and photographing. Modern technology means most lenses have many functions which are useful and help you get clear images, and vibrant colors.
Here are some tips to help you find the right lens.
The first thing may seem obvious, but it’s so easily forgotten if everything else on the lens meets your needs: is it compatible with your camera?
The best way to find this information is to check the manufacturer’s website, or ask them.
Fixed v Zoom Lens
Your next decision is whether or not you want a fixed lens or a zoom lens and this is really down to how and where you will be doing your birding.
Lenses which don’t zoom are called prime lenses and these have a single focal length number. If you are likely to be in the same position and proximity to the birds you will be photographing, a fixed lens may work for you and they will provide you with sharp images.
Zoom lenses allow you to focus quickly whether a bird is close to you or a little further away. You can alter the focal length quickly, and often quietly, to photograph birds at a distance, and then switch back for a bird which is nearer.
The aperture opening is how wide the lens can open and how much light it can let in. This is indicated by the letter ‘f’ and generally the lower the number, the better the quality of the lens. Professional photographers will use lenses with a low f-number but most amateurs will get excellent results with slightly higher numbers – learn more about camera apertures here.
This one is important to bird watchers. The focal length will decide what you can take a photograph of. The length is usually measured in millimeters,
A small focal length will give you a wider focus so you capture a larger area, such as a patch of water if you are watching water birds. A larger focal length will magnify your subject and make them appear closer.
Most lenses have a good range when it comes to focal length giving bird watchers the option to capture birds up close, or pan out for birds which you cannot get so close to.
One other thing to check is how the lens will cope with low light, such as dusk. Most lenses have technology in the glass which allow for low light, but if you think you may be birding later in the day, or in all weathers, it’s worth checking before you buy.
Another important factor to birders who are out in the field is the weight of the lens. You don’t want to carry a heavy lens all day along with all your other equipment, so check out the weight of the lens to make sure it’s not too heavy.
There You Have It!
A good lens will help you create some amazing photographs to help you look back on your sightings and bring back pleasant memories. You don’t need a top of the range lens to get great results, and if you take the time to research your lens, you’ll soon be producing some incredible photographs of your birds.