Does the perfect wildlife lens exist? If so, what is it?


posted Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 6:00 AM EDT


Wildlife and nature photographer Morten Hilmer often gets asked what the best lens is for wildlife photography. It makes sense to say something like a 600mm f/4 lens, right? After all, it's the go-to lens for many professional photographers. However, others opt for the lighter 500mm f/4 and many more still opt for a more affordable and versatile telephoto zoom lens, such as a 150-600mm lens. Perhaps instead you value light-gathering capabilities and want a 400mm f/2.8 prime lens or a 300mm f/2.8, which will be easier on the back and lighter on the wallet.

As you can tell, there are a lot of options and each lens has different pros and cons, which leads Hilmer to say that there's no such thing as the perfect wildlife lens. However, understanding your own needs will allow you to make the best choice for you, even if there's no "best" wildlife lens overall.

For everything you gain with one lens, you also lose out on something, there's a tradeoff. A 600mm f/4 delivers some of the best sharpness you can find and it offers a lot of telephoto reach. However, the tradeoff is that it's very expensive, heavy and there's no way to zoom out if you are too close to a subject. On the other hand, a 150-600mm lens offers the same maximum reach plus its more versatile and much less expensive, but you're sacrificing image quality, build quality and autofocus speed. There are always tradeoffs.

You'll also notice that in the video below, Hilmer is using Nikon's new 180-400mm f/4 lens with a built-in 1.4x teleconverter. I currently have my hands on a review sample of this lens and you can expect to see gallery shots and my Field Test of it in the coming weeks right here on Imaging Resource.

(Via Morten Hilmer