If you are serious about wild life photography you are going to have to invest in a long tele lens, i.e. one with a focal length of 400mm or more. The top end tele lenses (the 500mm. 600mm, 800mm etc.) are very, very expensive and if you want one you are going to have to be prepared to part with several thousand bucks. Not many photographers have this sort of money spare, and these lenses are out of budget. Fortunately, there are some alternative lenses that not only provide the reach but are also affordable. Okay, I say this lenses are affordable, but they are still pretty expensive and you are going to have to be prepared to dig deep to buy one, but they are ultimately affordable.
The first thing you have to appreciate with the affordable tele lenses is they are not in the same league as the top end tele lenses. These affordable tele lenses aren’t as tough and robust, are not as fast and do not have the same image quality as the top end tele lenses, but then considering the difference in price these differences are to be expected. To put this in to perspective a Sigma 150 – 600 costs approx. £1,300 where as a 600mm Canon L lens costs over £11,000. The point I am trying to make is you can’t compare the budget and affordable tele lenses to the top end tele lenses.
All things considered the affordable and budget tele lenses are very good however it soon becomes apparent they are made on a budget. The overall build quality is acceptable, but it won’t blow you away. These lenses are well made, however they need to be treated with a bit of respect as you won’t get away with being a little ham-fisted with them like you can the Canon L series lenses. If you treat one of these affordable tele lenses with care you won’t have any problems and it will provide years of trouble free service.
The affordable tele lenses aren’t fast, and at focal lengths of 400mm or more the maximum widest aperture is typically around f5 – f6.3. Okay, this is not ideal but there are ways around the issues and you’ll have to start pushing the ISO, using your tripod/monopod more frequently etc. in order to get sharp shots. One thing I can guarantee is you will see an improvement in your photography skills using these slower lenses. The image quality of these affordable lenses is good, in fact all things considered it is very good, but don’t go expecting too much.
From what I read on blogs, in the forums etc. many photographers are disappointed with these affordable tele lenses, but then from what I can see the main problem seems to be expectations are too high. Many of these photographers seem to think that if they are spending £800 - £1,500 on a budget tele lens the image quality should be as good as other £800 - £1,500 lenses (regardless of what lens it is) which isn’t really fair. A fairer comparison is to compare the image quality of these affordable tele lenses to the image quality of other budget lenses, and when you do this you will see the image quality of these budget tele lenses is very good.
The main player in the affordable tele lenses market is Sigma, and they do have a few different lenses available to choose from. Since the lenses are made by one company you can expect the same build quality and similar build quality across the range – the only difference will be with the focal range, the maximum widest aperture and whether or not there is optical stabilisation.
Tamron are another manufacturer of affordable tele lenses but they do not have as many lenses in the range as Sigma. The Tamron lenses are also very good, and on par with Sigma but Sigma has the lion’s share of the affordable tele lens market.
The top rated, and most popular affordable tele lenses available are as follows and all of them will be idea for wild life photography, and help you capture awesome wildlife photos.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.