What Lenses to Use? Here’s my recommendation…

Elvis Elvis

This is the most important equipment decision you will face, by far! The quality of your lenses does more for the quality of your photographs any other piece of equipment. If you are serious about nature photography, you need serious glass!

What do I use? I do not use what I would really like to use. There are some seriously expensive lenses on the market, but they are worth every cent. I am currently saving up for the monstrous Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM. This guy, coupled with the Canon Extender EF 2x II and Extender EF 1.4x II respectively delivers an effective focal length of 1960mm manual focus (on most cameras) and 1344mm autofocus.

However, most of us will never need such long focal lengths (although it must make you fell good knowing you have that sort of power). Apart from the reach these long primes offer us, they have further advantages such as brilliant colour, narrow depth of field and unequaled sharpness.

On the other hand, they are very big and unreasonably expensive! A further drawback is that they are prime, and not zoom. Most professional photographers prefer prime, but they most probably have a setup allowing them to use their prime monsters to good effect.

Professionals go on safari with special filming vehicles (allowing a 360 degree view) and permits allowing them to go where the rest cannot. Trust me, to change lenses all the time in the dusty African bush, with limited space in your vehicle, makes the cheaper zoom glass very attractive indeed.

What Lenses to Use? Heres my recommendation...

My favourite – the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM

My current champion is the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM. I use this guy with the Canon Extender EF 2x II to great effect. The drawback of the extender is that you sit wit a manual focus setup. To me, this has not been a problem. The one thing that bothers my about this setup is the lack of a really shallow depth of field, and that manual focusing and action photography do not sit at the same table. I take the extender off for action shots and shots of flying birds, and when I am lucky enough to get really close to the wildlife.

I also use the very short Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM. This guy won lens of the year two years in a row, and performs very admirably. It is necessary to have very short options with the digital camera bodies and their crop factors.

I use only Canon lenses and mainly those with the L quality rating (indicating professional quality craftmanship). These are more expensive, but simply put they are the best. No-one else has lenses like Canon, and that is not just my opinion. I have used Sigma lenses in the past, and I hold Nikon glass in high regard as well. Beyond that you should ask someone else. No need for me to know.

Think carefully before you buy lenses based on affordability or the camera body you currently own. I strongly believe that you should decide what glass you will be using and then base your decision of a camera body on this. Saving money now, will cost you money later when you realize you need to upgrade in any case.