What is the ultimate Canon mirrorless camera wildlife lens?
Do you own a Canon DSLR camera? Our Best Canon Wildlife Lens recommendations page has your recommendations.
Wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes. Wildlife has a wide range of tolerance for human presence, and wildlife photographers have a wide range of get-close skills, patience, time, and motivation. Adding complication is wildlife images can be framed in a variety of ways ranging from tight headshots to wide environmental portraits. All this results in a wide range of focal lengths being useful for the pursuit of wildlife photography.
A kit of lenses in various focal lengths is the ideal option for wildlife photographers. Wildlife photographers opting for a one-lens kit usually need as much focal length as they can carry or afford because it is generally easier to get farther away from wildlife than it is to get closer. The farther away you can photograph your subject from, the more likely you will have time to get multiple natural shots of your wild subject before it departs. Longer focal lengths also make it easier to create a strong background blur that makes your subject stand out from the often distracting background. I don't recall ever a bird photographer or anyone photographing potentially dangerous game ever complain about having too much focal length, but be mindful that heat shimmer/haze/waves can be negatively impact long distance image quality. Sometimes getting closer is the better option.
The following examples were captured with a full-frame camera.
Wildlife is most often active early and late in the day when light levels are at their lowest. Especially in low light conditions, it is great to have a wide aperture enabling motion-stopping shutter speeds at lower, less noisy ISO settings. Wildlife in fast motion (birds in flight, deer leaping, etc.) can make the best images, and the wide aperture can be useful in that regard even under direct sunlight. The wide aperture also increases the lens's background blur capability.
If your subject is not moving or is moving slowly, image stabilization can be a huge asset for low light wildlife photography. A tripod, monopod, or other support can alternatively or additionally be used.
Wildlife does not mind rain or snow, but some lenses (and cameras) do. A weather-sealed camera and lens kit rules for wildlife photography, and it is still a good practice to cover even sealed gear with a LensCoat camera rain cover or similar.
The best wildlife lenses are among the most expensive lens options available, and the ultimate wildlife lenses will differentiate your work, delivering professional-grade image quality and appearance.
The Ultimate Canon Wildlife Lens, Awesome Overall Performance and Build Quality
As I write this recommendation, the Canon RF 600mm F4 L IS USM Lens has just moved into my most-used lens spot. Photographing wildlife often involves staying far away, due to the subject becoming scared and fleeing or becoming angry and attacking. The first issue results in no pictures, and the second issue is not a pretty picture.
The 600mm and f/4 combination creates an extremely strong blur that separates even more distant subjects from their backgrounds, a differentiating trait for wildlife photography.
The overall build quality and performance of this lens, including image quality and autofocus speed and accuracy, is very impressive. Right, the price is high.
The Longest Focal Length f/2.8 Lens, Awesome Overall Performance and Build Quality
If 400mm provides enough reach, the Canon RF 400mm F2.8 L IS USM becomes the ultimate wildlife lens. The f/2.8 aperture allows working with half as much light as with the RF 600mm F4 and a full stop lower ISO setting when in the same light levels.
This is the longest f/2.8 focal length lens available (aside from Sigma's enormous and incredibly-high-priced Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 EX DG IF Power Zoom Lens). As with the 600 f/4 at a longer distance, the 400mm and f/2.8 combination creates an extremely strong blur that separates even more distant subjects from their backgrounds, a differentiating trait for wildlife photography.
The overall build quality and performance of this lens, including image quality and autofocus speed and accuracy, is very impressive. Again, the price is high.
Ideal Focal Length Range for Landscape, Wildlife, and Sports Photography, High-Performing Lens with Pro-Grade Build and Image Quality, Image Stabilization
If I'm photographing wildlife or landscape, with few exceptions, the Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens is either mounted or in my pack. This lens produces outstanding image quality at every setting. The combination of long focal lengths, long range of focal lengths, relatively compact design, fast and accurate AF, weather-sealed professional build quality, and image stabilization make this lens the perfect companion for many pursuits.
Compact, Lightweight, Affordable, Great Focal Length Range
Canon's RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM Lens is suited for even the lowest budgets. This is a consumer grade lens with a narrow aperture, but it is nicely built, is a joy to carry and use, and delivers very nice image quality.
5. Adapt a lens from the Best Canon DSLR Wildlife Lens List
Huge Selection, World Class Options
Many additional lenses can be used for wildlife photography, but this list includes my top picks. Visit the Canon Lens Recommendations page for other recommendations.