What Super Telephoto Zoom Lenses Should You Choose?

1. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S

The Sigma 150-600mm Sport boasts two top-grade FLD (Fluorite Low Dispersion) elements, but the optical design means it tips the scales at almost 3kg. It therefore feels rather substantial, and comes with a carrying strap that attaches to lugs on the lens barrel. A bonus for rainy-day shooting is that, unlike the C version of the lens (see below), this one features a full set of weather-seals instead of just a sealed mount. All fit options include a highly effective, dual-mode stabiliser for static and panning shots. The autofocus system is noticeably faster than in the other Sigma and Tamron 150-600mm lenses on test, while retaining much better sharpness at the long end of its zoom range.

2. Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

For a Nikon lens, the 200-500mm is competitively priced, although it's still rather more than the Sigma C-line and Tamron 150-600mm lenses. Even so, it's less than two thirds of the price of the Nikon 80-400mm, while boasting some updated features, including an improved VR system that's rated at 4.5 stops and a 'sport' mode. This applies to stabilisation only during actual exposures, making it easier to track erratically moving wildlife through the viewfinder. It has an electromagnetically controlled diaphragm for more consistent continuous shooting, while AF is performs well. Sharpness is on a par with the 80-400mm right up to the 400mm setting, and only drops off a little at 500mm. The lens doesn't feature Nikon's Nano Crystal Coat, but resistance to ghosting and flare is still good.

3. Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS

Top-quality glass includes fluorite and Super UD elements to boost sharpness and contrast and reduce chromatic aberrations, along with Canon's ASC (Air Sphere Coating) to tackle ghosting and flare. There's also an updated four-stop stabiliser with three operating modes. Fast autofocusing is pretty much the same as in Canon's 70-300mm lens, and there's nothing to choose in levels of sharpness and contrast at equal zoom settings. However, sharpness from the 100-400mm drops off at the long end, and it's more expensive.

4. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S

The specification for the Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports doesn’t sink in straight away. It looks and sounds like the company’s popular 150–600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports lens, but this new model’s shorter minimum focal length is the killer feature here. It makes the Sigma 60-600mm the first ever 10x zoom with a 600mm maximum. It’s no surprise that the extended focal range and complex optical construction make the 60-600mm a pretty big, weighty lens. But even though it tips the scales at 2.7kg, it feels relatively light for its physical size, so although you wouldn’t want to hand hold it all day, its fine for short periods. A brilliant all-in-one solution that is capable of capturing stunning images.

5. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C

Despite being one of the most affordable lenses here, it has a comparatively high-end set of features. There's a dual-mode autofocus system that can give priority to auto or manual focusing. To avoid zoom creep, you can engage the zoom lock switch at any position that has a marked focal length on the zoom ring. Build quality feels good; although the lens isn't fully weather-sealed, it does have a rubber sealing ring on the mount. The speed of autofocusing is pretty quick and as is often the case, sharpness drops off at the long end of the zoom range, but less noticeably than in the Tamron lens.