I'm shopping for a 300mm lens for my Nikon D60. Which lens do you suggest? I want to use it mostly to capture images of animals in the Kruger National Park?

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    What budget do you have? – ElendilTheTall Feb 22 '12 at 13:15
  • Have you considered renting rather than buying? For a once in a lifetime type trip a pro-body and more rugged lens would be worth the investment... – James Snell Feb 12 '13 at 12:06

Did you try searching? You only have three choices as you can see.

One of them is stabilized (and weather-sealed but that does not count on your camera), the other two are not. Since you are shooting things that move, the stabilization impact will matter most when you shoot the animals at rest. The Nikkor AF-S 300mm F/2.8G ED-IF VR II and the Sigma 300mm F/2.8 let one stop more light in but beware that it they weigh at least one kilo more than the non-stabilized one. Most shots are taken from a Jeep in Kruger park, so it is recommended to bring a beanbag for support to cushion the lens against the window/door frame for stabilization. This means the Sigma 300mm F/2.8 will probably be a great compromise among these.

EDIT In case you do not mind a zoom, there are quite a few more which reach to at least 300mm. Note that some of these are quite slow (F/6.3) at the long end which is not ideal for wildlife.

  • 2
    What about Sigma? – mattdm Feb 22 '12 at 15:42
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    And, on a slightly different note, what about zooms in this range? – mattdm Feb 22 '12 at 15:42
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    The Sigma 300mm f/2.8 has a built-in ultrasonic motor and Sigma lists it as able to auto-focus on the Nikon D60 and other Nikon cameras without a focus motor. I have no personal experience with it, so maybe I'm missing something, but perhaps there's an error in your database? – mattdm Feb 22 '12 at 16:28
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    Well if you are going that route, autofocus wasn't asked for either. – dpollitt Feb 22 '12 at 16:36
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    Not trying to be pedantic but usually people look for a lens that can autofocus on their camera but when they specify a single focal-length, they mean a prime lens. Not everyone knows that a prime lens is. This based on personal experience not on empirical research but has rarely proven wrong. – Itai Feb 22 '12 at 17:46

I would get the Nikon 300mm f/4. I chose a 300mm f/4 as my first lens when I got into wildlife photography and it's been excellent, I've used it extensively.

  • non-Nikon lenses will autofocus more slowly, which is a hindrance with wildlife
  • f/2.8 lenses, while having some advantages, are a lot heavier and a great deal more expensive.
  • Image Stabilisation is very useful even from a car
  • Teleconverters can be useful .. but image quality (and autofocus speed) takes a hit. I have one but rarely use it.

You may want to consider a zoom like the Sigma 120-300. Driving around a park you may get much closer to animals than you think, and being able to zoom out is quite useful - changing lenses as little as possible while on a dusty road in an open vehicle is a good thing.

Also consider getting a 1.4x TC. Sometimes 300mm may not seem like nearly long enough and then you will appreciate the extra range... it comes with a price though, you lose a stop or two of light.

Whatever you get practice with it at the zoo and in someones car before you leave so you are used to how it works.

  • Generally in game parks in SA you're confined to the roads, and are not often that close to the animals. Except when they decide to cross the road which doesn't happen that often. – James Youngman Feb 23 '12 at 23:54
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    I was in other parks in Botswana where we were also confined to roads, but a number of animals still got very close (crossing the road or being very near it). – Kendall Helmstetter Gelner Feb 24 '12 at 2:49

In addition to the fixed 300mm lenses Itai has mentioned, you could get a Nikon 180mm f/2.8 plus a 1.6x or 2.0x teleconverter. This would give you between 290 f/4 and 360mm f/5.6, depending on the teleconverter. This would cost much less that the 300mm f/2.8, and probably less than the 300mm f/4, and you might find it more versatile (using with and without the TC).

Another versatile options would be the Sigma 150-500mm f/5.6 (slow but has image stabilisation) or the Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR.

  • I'd not go for either of those 2 zooms. AF is too slow, especially in low light (I own the 170-500 btw, it's a nice if somewhat soft lens in bright light, but quickly fails when things get dusky). A better alternative would be a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 with 2x TC. – jwenting Feb 23 '12 at 8:30

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