What are the best and cheapest lenses for wildlife phototgraphy?

I recently got a Nikon D3100 and would like a new lens for wildlife photography.

Any suggestions would be helpful!

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    Could you try and rephrase your question to explain the actual problems you're facing, rather than just being a "what should I buy" question which are generally not a good fit for the Stack Exchange Q&A format as they are both specific to your circumstances and go out of date quickly? Thanks! – Philip Kendall Mar 10 '14 at 10:13
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    The best and cheapest lenses for wildlife are two disjoint sets. – Matt Grum Mar 10 '14 at 10:15
  • IMO, your camera is D3100, not D1300 – kmonsoor Mar 10 '14 at 10:16
  • Yeah D3100 is what i meant.... – Smeg18 Mar 10 '14 at 10:22
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    If there were a simple answer to your question, we wouldn't be so difficult about it. The fact that there are so many lenses on the market reflects the fact that there is no best answer for everyone. So, instead of asking what is best (or what to buy), ask about the underlying questions: what focal length range, what features are important, what you will get with different price ranges. – Please Read My Profile Mar 18 '14 at 13:48

It depends on what type of wildlife, but typically you will probably need a really long zoom range.

The problem however is that anything over 400mm is going to cost a lot of money but you may find that a zoom lens up to about 300mm will be sufficient, given your camera is a DX it will in fact make the zoom range more like 450mm which should be a good start.

You can pick up a range of zooms in this region from all manufacturers.

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  • I believe you mean "telephoto lens" (long focal length) rather than "zoom" (variable focal length). – Philip Kendall Mar 10 '14 at 10:24
  • No, when I said up to 300mm I was trying to say variable up to 300mm. Standard zoom, whatever you want to call it. E.g. 70-300mm. – connersz Mar 10 '14 at 10:29
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    In that case, I'd largely disagree with this answer - you need focal length, not zoom. 70mm is pretty much useless for wildlife. – Philip Kendall Mar 10 '14 at 10:31
  • Thank you for a useful answer! i understand it all a little better now! (: – Smeg18 Mar 10 '14 at 10:34
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    @PhilipKendall Yes but he wanted a cheap lens and you won't find many cheap 300mm prime lenses. I was also presuming that he is relatively new to photography and given the low budget that the lens would need to be good for a number of other things. The 70mm end might be useless for wildlife, but that's just the reason that it's a zoom. – connersz Mar 10 '14 at 10:38

"Cheapest" is easy to answer: the Rokinon 500mm f/8.0 (also sold under the Samyang or Walimex brands), and for a beginner, it might even be the best, to gain experience more than to make great photos, because it's really not a good lens at all (is anyone surprised, at a $200 price point?): horribly slow, manual focus, comparatively low optical quality.

But under the right circumstances (good light or tripod, mostly stationary subject) it will still let you take decent photos of far-away wildlife (example below, completely unprocessed picture I took last saturday, from a distance of well over 100m) that you would otherwise need a $1500+ lens for.

And once you've encountered its limitations, you will have a much better idea what qualities to look for in a supertele lens, and how much you might be willing to pay for them.

enter image description here

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