Telephoto lenses are a great investment if you photograph wildlife, and other subjects you can’t really get close to, a lot. If you want a clearer image and better bokeh, then you should look at a prime lens. Although these lenses tend to have a high price tag, they will give you the best quality image and guarantee the best glass. Here, we round up the top 10 best telephoto prime lenses – we’re classing a telephoto prime lens as 200mm or over.
1. Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED(IF) SDM
This compact super telephoto lens has a silent focusing motor, full-time manual focus override and a bright 2/2.8 maximum aperture. It gives an equivalent field of view of a 300mm lens on a 35mm camera. It received our ‘Editor’s Choice’ award for its outstanding resolution, distortion of almost zero and fast focusing ability. It’s also weather sealed and lightweight for a lens of its length.
2. Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM
This is a professional grade telephoto lens that also earned the Editor’s choice award. It has a moderate maximum aperture of f/4, image stabilisation and silent focusing with full-time manual focus override. As you can imagine it isn’t a cheap piece of kit but it does offer the very best in terms of sharpness, low CA and low distortion. It features excellent build quality and an effective image stabiliser so if you’re an avid sports photographer this just may be the perfect lens for you.
3. Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S
The Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power O.I.S is a cracking good lens that is highly functional, with a very useful teleconverter that extends the possibilities. Yes, the price hurts, but the alternatives hurt even more. This is such a pleasure to use and the results are just as satisfying, even with the fairly modest pixel count of the Panasonic Lumix G6. A definite Editor’s Choice.
4. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR
This lens sports Vibration Reduction and fast, silent autofocus with full-time manual override. The lens also has Nikon’s Nano Crystal optical coatings to suppress ghosting and flare as well as fluorine elements. It also has an electronic aperture diaphragm, to ensure accurate exposures when using it to shoot at fast frame rates. It also features a Phase-Fresnel optical element. This cleverly shaped piece of glass helps to reduce the overall size and weight of the lens, without compromising the optical design. It scored a ‘highly recommended’ rating for excellent sharpness and fast focusing.
5. Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
This super-telephoto lens carries a super price tag, but if you can afford it, it will be excellent for your sporting pursuits. It features VR technology which now has a specific sports mode to detect panning. It features the Nano-Crystal coatings to minimise flare and ghosting, and a fluorine coating on the front element, designed to repel dirt and water. It has outstanding optical quality, super fast focusing and excellent build quality, earning it a highly recommended rating.
6. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED VRII
This professional grade lens offers weather sealing and Vibration Reduction II technology. This should enable you to shoot hand-held around 4 stops slower than usual and still get sharp images. The lens also offers Nikon’s Nano-Crystal lens coatings to help suppress flare and ghosting. This lens gives you outstanding sharpness, super fast focusing as well as being excellently built. All these factors earned it our ‘highly recommended’ rating.
7. Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM –
This lens boasts a lighter build than its predecessor, a 4 stop image stabiliser with three modes and an ultrasonic focusing motor. It also has power focus for quick and accurate results. Made from magnesium alloy and titanium, the lens has the look and feel of classic L series lenses. The lens earned itself a highly recommended rating for is very good sharpness, extremely effective Image Stabilisation system and incredibly rugged build.
8. Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM
This lens offers a fast maximum aperture of f/2 and has silent focusing with full-time manual override. Autofocus is powered by a ring-type Ultrasonic motor making focus really fast. it has a smooth manual focusing ring and minimum focus os only 1.9m from the sensor plane. This lens earned a highly recommended rating for its superb sharpness from maximum aperture, excellent aperture and virtually no CA or distortion present.
9. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2G ED VRII
This lens is weather sealed, features Nano Crystal coating to help reduce flare and ghosting and has a ring-type focusing motor. It has a fast minimum aperture of f/2 and is designed for professional use. It earned a ‘highly recommended’ rating for its superb optical performance, excellent build quality and fast focusing abilities.
10. Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS Pro
This lens is offering the top of the range for Micro Four Thirds cameras, being the longest lens available for the format, equivalent to 600mm. It’s quite a large optic for the format but if you need the reach, it’s definitely worth investing in. It’s constructed from metal and is designed to withstand professional use. It received a ‘highly recommended’ rating for its outstanding sharpness, fast and silent AF, and great handling.
11. Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 E FL ED VR
This lens has huge potential for wildlife and sports photographers as a whopping 600mm prime optic. The maximum aperture of f/4 is very good for an optic of this length. There is a specific VR mode for sport, ideal for moving subjects. There is a minimum focusing range of 4.4m making the lens quite versatile in terms of subject matter. It received a ‘recommended’ rating for its high-quality images, fast and silent AF, and highly effective VR.