||Recommended Nikkor / Nikon telephoto lenses for action, sports, wildlife and portrait photography
If you want to get close to a distant subject, you need a telephoto lens. These are ideal for sports and wildlife photography, along with capturing candid shots of people at a distance. They’re also great for getting closer to details in both natural and urban environments which are lost in a larger view. Their broad flexibility coupled with a desire to zoom-closer than a standard kit lens makes a telephoto model the natural choice when most people start shopping for a second lens.
There’s a large variety of telephoto lenses out there and the first question you need to ask yourself is how close you want to get to your subject. If you’re shooting portraits or close-range action, then a zoom in the equivalent range of 70-200mm will be ideal, and Nikon offers a superb model.
If you need to get closer to mid-range action or start photographing wildlife though, then you’ll want at least 300mm at your disposal, and if you really get into wildlife, and especially bird photography, you’ll want the longest lens you can afford.
Vibration Reduction (VR for short) is invaluable at high magnification and if you’re shooting subjects which move quickly, then SWM focusing is also very useful; Nikkor lenses with SWM focusing motors are labelled AF-S models, and these will autofocus on all Nikon bodies including entry-level models.
Anyone shooting action or working in low light will also appreciate a lens with a larger aperture, indicated by a small f-number, such as f2.8. These may make the lens bigger, heavier and more expensive than models with average apertures, but have the major advantage of gathering more light. This allows quicker shutter speeds to be selected, which in turn enable you better freeze action or reduce camera-shake without having to increase your camera's sensitivity and compromise the image quality. Smaller f-numbers also allow you to achieve greater blurring on backgrounds, which is desirable on many action, wildlife or distant portrait shots.
Note when I mention FX bodies I'm referring to full-frame models like the D600 and D800. When I mention DX bodies, I'm referring to cropped-frame models like the D3200, D5200 and D7000. If you’d like to learn more about lens specifications, from focal lengths to f-numbers, please see my lens guide. If you find the information here useful, please support me by shopping at the stores below and if you have any questions about lenses, feel free to ask in the forum!