Wildlife photography can be extremely rewarding. Close up shots of animals in their natural habitats, performing natural behaviors, there’s nothing else quite like it!
Unlike other types of photography, wildlife photography is completely candid as once your subject knows you’re there and watching, they may completely alter their behavior, or even become a risk to your safety. This means that a zoom lens is required. Preferably a telephoto zoom if you can afford it.
To be a great lens for wildlife photography, a zoom lens should preferably have a focal range of 200mm and above. The longer, the better. Look for a lens that includes vibration reduction in order to achieve sharp photos without any blur.
With this long of a focal length, it’s often best to have your camera or lens on a tripod. Keep that in mind that when looking for very long zooms – having a tripod attachment on the lens itself can be a very handy feature.
Since there is no such thing as perfection, this list contains eight different Nikon lenses for wildlife photography that are best in their style. All you have to do is find the one that matches your needs and move on to take some thrilling and inspiring photos in your wildlife adventure!
1. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
If you aren’t sure about what aspect of wildlife you’ll be photographing, then this is the perfect choice for you. The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR is one of the very few Nikon lenses for wildlife photography that can handle very different kinds of photographs perfectly.
The focal length of this lens is also one of the biggest ranges available in all Nikon models. Furthermore, the Vibration Reduction technology of the lens allows you to capture still images of moving objects. This 80-400mm lens allows amateur photographers to handle the camera quickly and capture great images.
2. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
If you want your photos to look sharp and detailed, then the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR is the best Nikon lens for you. This lens’s expertise lies in sharply bringing out the colors and depth of images. Being one of the very few Nikon lenses that work with all the latest Nikon editions, this lens is considered to be a versatile all-rounder creation.
The VR image stabilization of the lens allows you to capture moving animals without blurring the image. Furthermore, this lens is an expert at capturing portraits thanks to its superb aperture range. Whether it’s a photo of a mother lion looking after her cubs or a bird feeding her little ones, this lens will allow you to capture real-time expressions.
See our full review of the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR for more details.
3. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
If you are looking for an extensive range to capture fantastic photos, then the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR is the best choice for you. With an unmatched lightweight design, this lens allows amateurs to take photographs like trained professionals. You can also carry the lens easily, without much trouble.
The included vibration reduction feature of the lens helps you avoid the camera shake that causes blurry photos. This product also comes with three extra-low dispersion elements and a super integrated coating to keep the lens safe from any external damage. This Nikon lens is the best choice for you if you regularly need to shoot at a range above 400mm.
To learn more about the lens, read our Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR review.
4. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II is one of the best Nikon lenses for wildlife photography offered by the brand. It’s a favorite choice among professionals in the fields of portrait, wildlife, and even sports photography. The lens uses modern technology to ensure users get the best features. Most notably, it has extra-low dispersion, which makes the optics of the lens simply breathtaking.
The Nikon 300mm is specifically designed to capture faraway objects by outlining the details at close range. This can help make an image more emotional and powerful. However, this lens may not be ideal for you if you’re more of a long-range photographer.
5. Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
This Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR is perfect for people who are passionate about the art of photography. However, this may not be the ideal choice for beginners or those on a tight budget as it’s a bit expensive. A silent wave motor also ensures a fast and quiet autofocus feature.
This Nikon product is popular among wildlife photographers as it can adjust your photographs to any light situation. Another great feature of this lens is its quick focus and ability to capture vibrant colors. Do keep in mind though that this one is a heavy lens that may require a monopod or tripod to be operated efficiently.
6. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR is a successor of the previous heavy and massive 500mm lens. This model is lighter which makes it great to carry and use for handheld shots.
The quality of the optics and features of this model are impeccable. The images this lens produces reflect a kind of softness as well. This is a great lens to take close-up shots of different animals while being a considerable distance away making it one of the more ideal Nikon lenses for wildlife photography you can find.
The top three features of the model are the autofocus speed, image quality, and accuracy making it the perfect choice for shooting birds because of its reach and focus speed. At full zoom, you only need to stand at roughly 12 feet away from the subject to get a closeup picture at a quick speed. This lens earns a place on our list because it has most of the essential features of a lens and won’t break your wallet.
7. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR is the last lens on our carefully compiled list. This lens is the heaviest one on our list but is also the one with the most features.
The Nikon 600mm is the best choice for any wildlife photography enthusiast because of its sharp image capturing ability, crystal clear focusing, and unbelievable image quality. Most bird photographers go for this model since it can capture beautiful moments at a high quality.
If you can’t handle a heavy lens, it’s a good idea to have a tripod to provide support. Combined with a professional camera body, the whole kit can weigh up to six kilograms! This may seem like a lot, but any professional long-distance kit is bound to weigh this much.
8. Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED IF VR (Budget Winner)
For people who are looking for excellent wildlife lenses on a tight budget, the Nikon AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E EDIF VR is perfect. Nikon designed this lens as an economical package with as many features packed into it as possible. The 70-300mm is the ideal choice for you if you’re a fan of capturing large animals, or grand landscapes.
If your niche is more like fish or bird photography, this lens may not be the best because it has a limited zoom. The image quality and the compact design of this specific lens are the two distinctive features that make the lens both easy to carry around and an expert at capturing images.
Bottom Line on Nikon Lenses for Wildlife Photography
These are eight hand-picked Nikon lenses for wildlife photography. This list talks more about the feel and the applicability of the lenses rather than the technicalities. This should help you know more about how each lens would work for you.
Remember that the most important part of buying the right lens is to get exactly what you need. Our list provides you with the first-hand photographic perspective of the models, but it’s up to you to dive deeper.