Telephoto lenses are extremely popular with wildlife photographers, street photographers, and landscape photographers due to their versatility and reliability. If you’re new to telephoto lenses, you’ve probably seen them ranging in the thousands of dollars. While there are high-quality telephoto lenses that can cost that much, you don’t need to spend thousands on a reliable telephoto lens.
To help you find the right lens for your setup, we’ve compiled a list of the best cheap telephoto lenses for DSLR cameras. These lenses offer impressive zoom capabilities while also offering distortion control and beautiful depth of field, all at very affordable prices.
Let’s take a look at the six best cheap telephoto lenses that you can buy today!
1. Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III (Overall Winner)
Lenses that are Canon-branded are known for being fairly expensive, but the Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III is surprisingly affordable! The 75-300mm focal range lets you shoot group photos and street photography while also getting tight shots from far away. It offers an impressive zoom for hard-to-get wildlife shots without the price tag of other high-end telephoto lenses.
In fact, there are a few Canon kits that offer this lens as part of the set due to its popularity and reliability. This was actually the first telephoto lens I used when I purchased my Canon, and I absolutely love it.
This lens is lightweight and easy to use, offers a smooth autofocus with the micro USM, and creates a dramatic depth of field with a wide aperture of f/4. A must-have for Canon users!
We can’t mention a Canon lens without adding a Nikon lens to the list. While the Nikon counterpart to the Canon telephoto is more expensive, it has tons of flexibility and an extremely high-quality build.
It offers a slightly larger focal range than the Canon, but the aperture doesn’t open quite as wide, though at longer telephoto ranges, f/4.5 is definitely wide enough to create the depth of field effect you’re looking for.
This lens is compatible with a wide range of Nikon cameras and allows you to access the lens settings from the camera menu, which is one of the top benefits of using a Nikon-branded lens. The image stabilization is top-class and the autofocus is impressively-smooth!
Anyone that’s researched third-party lenses knows the name Tamron. Offering a wide range of high-quality third-party lenses for most major camera brands, Tamron is a go-to for many amateur and professional photographers.
The Tamron SP 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di VC USD is available on Canon, Nikon, and Sony, meaning most photographers can use this impressive telephoto lens! What really sets this lens apart is the transition from autofocus to manual focus. The autofocus is extremely smooth and responsive – it’s powered by a new ultra-silent drive motor for faster focus times and a quieter operation.
The transition to manual focus is seamless, giving you complete control in tough-to-get shots. The nine diaphragm blades give you a crisp finish and beautiful bokeh at the widest aperture of f/4.
This Tamron lens is multi-format compatible, meaning you can use it with full-frame, APS-C, and 35mm sensors. While this lens is slightly more expensive than the other options on our list, it’s absolutely worth it for the impressive versatility.
While not as common a brand as it used to be, Pentax is still a reliable camera brand that’s popular around the world. The HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED WR offers an extremely broad focal range, giving you significant versatility no matter what you’re looking to shoot.
At 55mm you’ll be able to capture beautiful wide-angle landscape shots and dramatic portraits, while 300mm will let you easily capture wildlife and sports photography. It’s tough to find a lens that offers this kind of range, especially at this price point. If you shoot Pentax, definitely check this lens out!
The lens has a durable weather-resistant coating to protect your lens from the elements, allowing you to shoot in a wide range of conditions. While there is some room for aperture improvement at f/4.5, this lens is a solid addition to anyone looking to expand their Pentax lens collection.
5. Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro (Budget Winner)
Our budget winner for cheap telephoto lenses for DSLRs is another well-known third-party lens manufacturer. When photographers think of Sigma, they typically think of high-quality. That’s exactly what you’re getting with the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro – a great focal range, additional macro features, and an unbeatable price point, all with Sigma-quality construction and design.
This Sigma lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Pentax, and Sony mounts, meaning you’ll be able to get this lens for almost any camera on the market today. The focal range is on-par with the rest of our list, giving you versatility for wider-angle shots as well as longer telephoto ranges.
I would like to see a wider aperture than f/4.5, but considering the price point, it’s a small sacrifice that’s more than worth it. There is also a dedicated macro mode, although the focusing range is slightly farther away. You may want to look at a dedicated macro lens if you’re interested in macro photography as well.
If you’re not sure which lens to get for your first telephoto lens, I highly recommend this Sigma. You know you’re getting a high-quality lens (because it’s a Sigma) and you’ll get to test out what a standard telephoto lens shoots like without investing a lot of money.
Choosing Cheap Telephoto Lenses for DSLR Cameras
You can’t go wrong with a telephoto lens, and as you can see, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started with telephoto photography. I use my telephoto lenses for wildlife photography, but they’re also ideal for sports photography.
You’re not going to find a 1000mm range when you’re looking for cheap telephoto lenses for DSLRs, but the fact that you can get a 300mm zoom for rock-bottom prices makes it easier than ever to jump into shooting telephoto.