This is our buying guide to help beginners in choosing affordable camera lenses that are cheap and of good quality. The time comes for everyone to decide which lens to buy after using the one sold with their camera kit. This is not an easy choice, so we have decided to make this guide in order to support you while choosing the best budget lens for bird photography.
Choosing the best affordable lens for your needs and budget is not easy even for professional photographers, because there are many factors to consider. Difficulty that increases a lot if you are a beginner and want to buy a new product to replace the kit lens sold with your camera. With this guide to the best budget lenses to get started, we will try to guide you in choosing the lens that best suits your wildlife photography on a budget needs, explaining what are the characteristics to consider before purchasing and selecting products that we believe are very valid.
Once we understand all the features to consider, we can then move on to our selection of the best products in our opinion. It is not easy to make a selection of the best beginner lenses, precisely because the models are so many. We have therefore kept in mind a low budget below. In addition to this, with many camera brands on the market, we have made a selection of the most common models.
Our selection is the result of a study of the current market, prices and performance of each product. Within the descriptions we have included the fundamental characteristics such as image stabilizer, focus speed, aperture and focal length, together with other important aspects such as the internal composition and diameter of each lens.
1. Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
This an excellent affordable Canon lens for APS-C DSLRs, it starts where the 18-5mm kit lens stops. Although it can be considered a kit telephoto lens it is not to be underestimated; light and compact it has a new optical design with three additional elements compared to the previous IS II version, including the UD (ultra-low dispersion) to minimize chromatic aberrations and Super Spectra multilayer coating to limit ghosting and flare.
It has excellent sharpness throughout the focal range. The focus ring on the barrel doesn’t rotate when autofocusing. The stabilizer is also excellent, resulting in an advantage of 3.5 stops. Totally recommended as one the best budget zoom lens for Canon cameras!
- Light and compact.
- Image stabilizer.
- Vignetting when wide open.
- Lower image quality at 250mm.
To conclude, nothing prevents newbies from buying this cheap Canon zoom lens to learn, also thanks to the low price, but as soon as you make comparisons with other higher end lenses you will also notice difference in quality.
This lens is great for various shooting situations, the quality is average but it becomes very good considering the price range in which it is located, obviously it is not suitable for professional use, but it’s probably the best canon lens under 500 euro that you can buy for budget photography.
2. Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM
Now we make a qualitative leap. The price does it slightly too obviously, but not so much, don’t be scared. The sharpness here is superb, but the stabilizer for long focal lengths is missing, so you’ll have to help yourself with a tripod.
We are however in front of a Canon L series, the build quality is first rate and the handling is professional. There are at least 4 versions on the market for the 70-200 focal length, with f / 2.8 or f / 4 apertures, and with or without the presence of the stabilizer. This of the 4 is the cheapest.
If mounted on APS-C the focal length is shorter than the previous one, reaching a maximum of 320mm against the 400mm of the previous model. Without going too much into the detail of the optical elements, here they are at the TOP and the sharpness is pushed to the maximum for the entire focal range. As mentioned above, the only flaw is the lack of the stabilizer. So the choice is up to you, there is also the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, which is stabilized but costs a little more.
- Amazing sharpness.
- Available options.
- Lack of stabilization in the cheapest model.
- Not weather proof.
Excellent Canon lens for bird photography, thanks to its superlative image quality and excellent build quality. The lack of the image stabilizer is compensated by the affordable price at which it is offered, and in good light conditions it is not a particularly terrible lacking.
3. Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG Macro
Cheap lens proposed by Sigma, let’s say that to start is fine, compared to the others on this list, the price to pay is the loss of image quality. However, it has its positive notes such as the possibility of having the function “macro” which can be activated through a button on the barrel. Activating it reduces the minimum focusing distance, going from 1.5m to 0.95m in the focal range from 200mm to 300mm. In this way, a magnification of 0.5x is obtained at the maximum focal excursion and at the minimum distance.
Another positive note is the good optical bench and the nine aperture blades that produce a better rounding than the Canon. Also here we have the lack of the stabilizer, we will have to use the tripod in low light conditions and especially at longer focal lengths, just take into account that on APS-C at 300mm we would have a length of 480mm. The autofocus is loud and slow but it does its job anyway.
Rightly at this price you can’t expect to have a professional grade lens, certainly it is not below average. So always consider your pocket, use and what you need. Still falls within the best cheap telephoto lenses!
- Very cheap zoom lens.
- Macro function option.
- Lack of image stabilization.
- Image quality.
- Zoom isn’t very smooth.
Excellent value for money, the result is an acceptable image quality for the price spent and if you don’t expect too much “professionalism”. Great for those starting to approach the world of photography, both at long distance and Macro.
4. Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD
Here is one of the best budget zoom lens of the list. The name already says it, SP in fact is the acronym that identifies Tamron’s top range optics. Already externally you can see that the design is inspired by high-end optics rather than entry level optics. Here we have an ultrasonic motor for very fast and very quiet ring AF and the build quality is of professional quality.
Excellent optical design, the focus ring and front element don’t rotate and don’t extend during autofocus operations. There is also VC stabilization estimated close to 4 stops. In short, we believe that this Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD is one of the best budget telephoto lens out there!
- Build quality.
- Fast and quiet Auto Focus.
- Image stabilization.
- Images not sharp at every focal length.
- Zoom barrel not so fluid after 200 mm.
If you are an amateur photographer and you are looking for an affordable telephoto for shots, this is for you. It’s not very bright, but at this price, it’s still one of the best budget telephoto lens options on the market. Very much appreciated the stabilisation and the fast and silent focusing!
5. Tamron 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro
This one from Tamron is a somewhat dated lens, but just to have a comparison with Sigma. In fact, it can be considered the counterpart, it offers the same functions, we have a focal length of 70-300mm, a weight less than about 100 grams, the same possibility to activate the “macro” function in the range from 180mm to 300mm and also here we have the absence of the stabilizer.
Also in the Tamron model the front lens and the focus ring rotate during AF. Making then not be possible to correct the focus during AF. We have a good optical system and nine blades for the diaphragm to make it well rounded. The construction is good and according to Tamron it is compatible with Kenko teleconverters. Sharpness is good across much of the focal range.
- On of the best cheap camera lens for under 200 euros.
- Compatible both with APS-C and Full Frame cameras.
- Macro option.
- Lack of image stabilizer
Although it is not a professional lens, for those who are beginner in bird and wildlife photography and who want to get involved with such lenses, I would recommend this purchase. It is not a perfect lens but not a poor quality one either, and at this very low price is probably one of the best cheap lens on the market.
6. Pentax SMC-DA 50-200mm f/4-5.6 ED WR
The last product in this guide to the best budget lenses for bird photography is the Pentax SMC-DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED WR. This lens is perfect for those who own a Pentax K-mount SLR and are looking for a product to complement the lens sold with kit. It can only be used on APS-C bodies, so the equivalent focal length is approximately 56-306mm. It is perfect for long distance photography, such as sports and nature photography, but also performs well enough with portraits.
However, the brightness is not a lot since the diaphragm has a maximum aperture of f/4 at 50mm and f/5.6 at 200mm, but this is due to the price at which this product is sold. The quality is very good, the optical system consists of 11 lenses in 10 groups and the focus can focus on subjects as low as 1.1m. The peculiarity of this lens is that it can withstand splashes and dust, so it can be used in the outdoors without any problems.
- Weather proof.
- Good build quality.
- Not the brightest optic, but at this price can’t ask for much more.
A very versatile lens of excellent quality at this price range, when compared to higher end zoom lenses of course it renders a lower image quality. It’s part of the Pentax WR series which means that it’s protected from dust and water, great feature when you’re out in the outdoors doing nature photography. This feature together to the very affordable price, make of the Pentax SMC-DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED WR one of the best budget zoom lenses.
There goes our guide to the best cheap telephoto lenses and affordable zoom lenses on the market. The focal range taken into consideration goes from 55mm to 300mm.
The telephoto lens is a lens that must absolutely enter the camera equipment for wildlife photography of every passionate photographer, from a beginner level to that of photo-amateur. So read carefully our list of the best budget lenses for bird and wildlife photography, there might be the one that’s right for you.
Attention to not get caught up in the heat of wanting the TOP of the range immediately, so stay with your feet on the ground and start with one of these affordable lenses that we propose or you will find yourself spending exorbitant amounts for nothing. We try to make the most of what is right for us without exaggerating. So for that 300mm f / 2.8 that you put your eyes on, better wait to buy it, take a look at these lenses first and make the best of them!