Best Canon Lens for Bird Photography

Best Canon Lens for Bird Photography – Buyer’s Guide

Birds come in every size and shape. Their tolerance for human beings can vary.  Anyway dedicated bird photographers have the necessary motivation and skills to get close to their objects. To make things complex, images of birds can be brought within a frame in many ways like close head shots to full body pics as also enclosing them into extensive portraits with a natural backdrop.

However, all these depend on the kind of lens that you buy. And you will never go wrong if you fit a Canon lens to your camera. In fact, choosing the right Canon lens can be the most decisive decision that any bird photographer can make. 

Even pros with a lot of experience tend to buy one lens after another without ever getting good results. You might have an excellent sensor and the fastest of the autofocus system that there is, but a low quality lens can make a mockery of your photographs.

How Come?

Your camera has many sensors like the camera sensor, metering sensor and the autofocus sensor. In fact all these sensors depend on one crucial factor: the incoming light that your Canon lens lets in. When the quality and build of a lens is poor, the light that enters get dispersed or diffracted while going through the various lens elements. 

Apart from this, both the blades and aperture opening play an important role in managing the light that percolates through your lens.

These are the exact reasons why it is imperative to acquire a high quality lens. These are also reasons just why you should invest in a Canons lens that is most appropriate to your needs.  But one thing! Quality never comes cheap and frankly there is no exception to the rule. Canon lenses can be very expensive and the lens for bird photography is the most expensive of all.

There are many who purchase lenses manufactured by third parties rather than getting them from Canon. Such lenses are of low quality, and low on AF performance which is vital to bird photography.

Bird portraits that are tightly framed have become the thing these days. By amalgamating the issues mentioned above you can find out the prime focal length for a birdlife lens. A series of lenses in a range of focal lengths remains best option for you.

Bird photographers without exception require a Canon lens with a good focal length although this can be expensive. It is not always possible for them to get as close as possible to a bird to take a snap as there is every chance for it to fly away. So if you can get a good photograph from farther away so much the better. 

It is here that a Canon lens with high focal length comes in. In this way you can take multiple shots of your subject. Besides, a lens with a longer focal length can create that hazy blur in the background making the bird seem zip through the air.

To preserve the quality of the image it is necessary to choose a Canon lens with a focal length of 400mm or more for effective bird photography. Such lenses tend to be expensive. Here are a few of the finest in Canon lens for bird photography.

Canon APS-C Cameras

A Canon camera of the APS-C type can be the optimum choice for moving closer to your bird. For instance, go for a lighter, smaller and cheaper 400mm lens with this Canon camera that functions like a 640mm lens rather than going for a real 600mm lens. 

As far as APS-C cameras are concerned, the equation of focal length multiplied by 1.6x will show you the real field of view. Due to the crop feature, a Canon APS-C is the prime choice for you to get as close to the subject as possible.  However there is a negative side to this as APS-C cameras decrease image quality as far as pixel levels are concerned. 

This is exactly where the Canon DSLR camera sporting an APS-C format comes in with its enhanced pixel density sensor as compared to full frame cameras.

The Canon IS Lens

Without a doubt, the best lens for taking photographs of birds is a Canon IS lens. The letters IS stands for Image Stabilizer.  This means that this type of lenses come with an image stabilization feature. And of all the image stabilization lenses Canon IS remains the best. All Canon lenses don’t come with this feature but only those with an IS in its title viz., Canon IS. 

This usually comes with a few switches on its barrel in order to adjust the way it works. This system lets you capture images at slower shutter speeds than you could use otherwise, and it works by moving elements inside the lens to balance any movement that it can decipher from the photographer. Experts are of the opinion that if you are choosing an IS lens it should be a Canon.

The IS feature is particularly helpful while using telephoto lenses, since these normally need fairly fast shutter speeds for the images to be very sharp. Using such a system, using slower shutter speeds can be extremely safe. However, image stabilization is ineffective when the subject is moving and you got to choose faster shutter speeds to compensate for this.

Canon Lens Autofocus

Even if your camera has lens with the finest optical quality, without autofocus it is not of much use.  This is because birds do not remain at the same place always but tend to flit about constantly. Even if they are sitting still, you require a lens with AF that can precisely and quickly gain focus. 

It is also necessary for the lens to track your birds as the best way it can, so that you can click a series of pictures and choose the ones that are in the best focus. In order to enhance the autofocus performance, it is necessary to keep the aperture opening wider. 

This has other advantages too such as fast shutter speeds, better color reproduction and light contrast, as well as high quality images.

A Canon L lens, although very expensive, can achieve awesome accuracy of focus, performance and speed. These can be used in outdoor and low light conditions. And while you are at it, go for a lens with a HSM or USM technology mainly because such motors are almost silent in operation as well as the quickest. An Ultra Sonic Motor allows you the maximum focusing speed.

Given below are the Best Canon lenses for bird photography:

For Beginners

This is by far the most extensively used lens by bird photographers in general. Many have it for a standby lens. This popular Canon lens boasts of awesome lens quality and range to snap both close-ups as well as habitat shots.

This is comparatively a smaller and inexpensive lens that produces incredible sharpness. There are many rave reviews of this great lens and so it is worth a try if you are a beginner.

For the Budget Minded

Since most bird photographers are short on their budgets, this lens is an ideal choice for them.  Until the IS II lens was introduced, this Canon lens was extensively used. It uses a push-pull system, meaning to zoom in and zoom out push it backward or forward. This lens is particularly good with a Canon 5D Mark III as it produces good results although, suffers a bit in sharpness.

Another excellent Canon lens is the 300mm f/4. It has an excellent lens with commendable contrast and sharpness.

This lens comes with fine a lens with a fairly good image quality. However, buy this only if you are on a shoe string budget or you have only casual interest in bird photography.

Canon Lens for Professional Bird Photographers

These lenses can make a deep dent into your bank account. As already mentioned here, you need at least a 400mm lens for bird photography. The ‘at least’ here is significant as to get really a good picture you need a 600mm lens. 

Some try to save money by using a 300mm lens with a focal length of f/2.8 along with a tele-converter instead of going for a 500mm and 600mm f/4, or even an 800mm f/5.6. 

You can save about a whopping $3000 this way. However, using a tele-convertor along with a 300mm never equals 600mm. Besides the zoom you get by using a tele-convertor is nothing but digital zoom and never optical zoom. You know the difference!

Now let’s get on track.

This Canon Lens is a hot favorite with bird photographers. In effect, this lens captures as sharply as any 600 f/4. Lighter weight, fine contrast and high quality pictures are its other characteristics. 

As per many reviews, this lens is as sharp as a 600mm f/4. It’s also a much lighter lens but produces high-quality images with excellent contrast and sharpness. This lens also has a manageable 3 kg weight.

Without any doubt, this Canon lens by far produces the best and sharpest pictures. The f/4, creates the precise balance between enhanced focal length and light collecting potential of the lens. Besides, as far as bokeh and contrast are concerned this lens is incredible indeed. On the downside, this lens weighs about 4 kg, making it extremely heavy to hold in your hands for any length of time.

One of the biggest limitations of these lenses is their weight. While the latest versions of these two lenses weigh just short of 4 kg, it would still be heavy to handhold for more than a minute. 

To make this harder the overall weight can reach around an unmanageable 8 kgs. This is somewhat disheartening, but considering the quality of your bird shots, it’s worth every kg of it. However, to overcome this Gimbals plus Gitzo tripod is recommended.

The Canon 600mm is the best anytime but its sheer weight and lack of maneuverability makes it less of a favorite

This Canon lens has the longest focal length, but it is prohibitively expensive. Besides, this lens loses a stop when it comes to maximum aperture compared to a 600mm lens. This can be a serious handicap when you are clicking a bird.

The Matter of Affordability

As mentioned before Canon lens for bird photography doesn’t come cheap. This means that you should be very careful when choosing the right lens. The gravest error that you can make is to fit the wrong type of lens to a high end professional camera body. 

As you know very well, the lens is the most important thing in a camera because all the sensors such as camera sensor, autofocus and metering sensors functions depend upon the light that enters through lens. So you should go for a lens that is of the highest quality that you are able to afford. 

The best choice is a 500 or 600mm Canon lens, if you can afford it, as they offer exceptional contrast, image quality and sharpness and so worth the high cost.

To conclude armed with the appropriate and affordable Canon lens attached your camera, you are assured of getting high quality photographs of the birds that you want to capture. Happy clicking! 

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