Best Canon Lenses for Wildlife Photography

What are the best Canon lenses for wildlife photography chosen by professional wildlife photographers? Once your field craft skills have got you close, it is your choice of lens which will give you the best chance to get that perfect shot. 

For wildlife photography you will need your lens to be fast and long. When I first started I used non Canon lenses on my Canon body. I soon realised that to get the best results and dramatically improve my "hit rate" of successful shots then I had to use Canon.

Canon EF 500mm f/4.0 IS II USM

What can I say about this lens? If you can afford it then buy it!

It is my workhorse telephoto lens of choice and is a serious  wildlife photography lens used by practically all of the pros that use Canon lenses.

It comes at a high price, its big and its heavy (3.1kg), but I believe it is the ultimate Canon wildlife photography lens.


  1. Image sharpness and quality is fantastic.
  2. It focuses very fast, very accurately and very quietly. 
  3. The diffused background blur created when shooting with it makes your images really stand out.
  4. It can be hand held for short periods.

When used with a 2X III tele-converter and a 1.3 crop factor on a camera like the Canon 1d Mark II you have a maximum focal length of 1300mm.

Why are these features important?

It's often a very brief moment when everything comes together for the shot that you want.

You've used all of your fieldcraft skills to get close to the subject, the light has momentarily hit it perfectly, and for a very brief moment it turns its head and looks towards you.

These moments are often over in seconds. The odds of taking that perfect shot are much greater if you're using this lens. It instantly and silently focuses when you depress the shutter button.

Lesser lenses are prone to "Focus Hunting" - taking a while to attain focus and can be quite noisy.

To discover more about this lens click here.

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

For short range shots the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 is ideal. It is a great lens in low light because of the f/2.8 aperture.

When I'm out using my 500mm I generally have this lens with me mounted on my second camera body, usually with a 1.4x teleconverter attached. This allows me to quickly take shots that I might have missed if I only had the 500mm prime with me.

I can highly recommend having this Canon wildlife lens to work in conjunction with a longer prime lens. For more details about what makes this lens so good, click here.

  1. Image sharpness and quality is fantastic.

  2. It focuses very fast, very accurately and very quietly.

  3. Excellent out of focus blur quality.

  4. F/2.8 at all focal lengths.

  5. It can be hand held for long periods.
When used used with a 1.4X II teleconverter you have a 98-280mm f4.0 lens. With a 1.3 crop factor this is the equivalent of 127-364mm.

Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM

This is a good all round general purpose wildlife photography lens and is relatively inexpensive.

It's great for anyone that wants to work handheld and not carry a tripod, or for a second over the shoulder lens.

Its close focus ability make it good for photographing flowers and large insects and an excellent safari lens.

For birds in flight the 400mm f5.6L is a better choice.

Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

This lens is great for general bird photography when mounted on a tripod excellent when used hand held for birds in flight. 

If you can't afford the 500mm then this is a great lens to use as your long lens and is relatively cheap can’t afford the 500mm.

For a long time I couldn't afford a 500mm lens so I used this one mounted on a tripod in conjunction with my 70-200mm f/2.8L and got excellent results.

Further Reading

I hope this page was of use to you for deciding on canon lenses to use for wildlife photography. The links below may also help you when purchasing other equipment.

Canon Flashguns - A brief look at the Canon flashguns available.

Flash Brackets - What to look for when buying a flash bracket.


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