Wildlife can be a tricky subject to photograph. Many animals run away when photographers creep closer to create the perfect photo, and some animals are far too dangerous to photograph up close. Wild animal sightings are also unpredictable, which makes it hard to get the angles and lighting conditions right. The right lens can help solve many of these problems. Some lenses let photographers take photos of natural subjects without getting too close, whereas others provide highly accurate renderings of the animal in its natural surroundings.
Choosing lenses for wildlife photography
When choosing lenses for wildlife photography, there are two important things to consider: focal length and aperture. These aspects dictate how far away photographers can be from the subject when shooting and how much light enters the lens.
Focal length describes the lens's angle of view, which determines how much the lens can magnify its subject. Lenses with long focal lengths have greater magnifying power, which means that they are useful for photographing things that are far away. This usually comes in handy for wildlife photography. Focal length is always expressed in millimetres.
Maximum aperture describes how much a lens opens and closes, which affects how much light it lets in. This is usually expressed with the letter "f" and a number. Lenses with lower f-numbers open up wider and let in more light, which makes them faster. Lenses with higher f-numbers have smaller light-gathering areas and are much slower.
In terms of wildlife photography, lenses with lower f-numbers are useful in situations with low natural light and capture sharp images of moving subjects. Lenses with higher f-numbers produce sharper images in environments with lots of light but do not work well with fast-moving animals.
Telephoto lenses are among the most popular for wildlife photographers. Telephoto lenses have focal lengths greater than 70mm. This lets photographers zoom in on subjects that are far away without getting closer to the subject. A 200mm or 300mm lens, such as the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II or the Canon 100-400mm f/5.6 IS, is usually sufficient for wildlife photos, but photographers may want to use 400mm or 500mm lenses, such as the Canon 500mm f/4 IS or the Nikon 400f/2.8G VR, for subjects that are very far away, such as birds in flight or animals in the water.
Teleconverters, or extenders, are not stand-alone lenses, but they can help get more focal length out of existing lenses. Telephoto lenses tend to be expensive, so photographers on a budget may not be able to afford several different complete lenses with different focal lengths. Teleconverters are a great budget solution when a photographer does not need an extremely long 600mm focal length often enough to justify buying a 600mm lens, but they find tele-extenders useful to have on hand for those few times they do need them.
A superzoom lens is a cross between a standard lens and a telephoto lens. These can take shots in standard zoom ranges under 70mm and telephoto ranges over 70mm. Superzoom lenses are popular with wildlife photographers who do not want to carry a lot of heavy gear when they hike into the wilderness. They are also popular with beginners who do not want to invest a lot of money in several different lenses. Superzoom lenses can compromise on image quality, so photographers who are only happy with the sharpest photos should opt for telephoto lenses.
Wide-angle lenses have short focal lengths of around 24mm to 35mm. They are ideal for taking photos that incorporate the landscape as well as the animal in the shot. Wide-angle lenses are not ideal for close-up photos of animals, but they can be useful for taking landscape photos that include wildlife or for photographing large groups or herds of animals.
Photographers typically use macro lenses to take extreme close ups. They have magnification ratios larger than 1:1. Macro lenses, such as Nikon's Micro-NIKKOR lenses or the Canon MP-E65 f/2.8 1-5X, are very useful for photographing insects, spiders, and other small wildlife.
How to buy camera lenses on eBay
Sellers on eBay offer a large inventory of lenses and teleconverters compatible with many different camera brands. You can search for lenses by manufacturer, lens type, or focal length, or you can simply perform a general search for "camera lens". If you want to narrow the search to a specific type of lens, then use filters to trim the list of results by lens type, brand, focal length, or maximum aperture. Look for lenses that come bundled together or with other useful camera accessories at a lower price than buying them separately.