There are enough combinations of lenses -- of all different sizes, with several ranges of apertures -- to make your head spin. These lenses often cater to particular photographic scenarios. For example, a 400 mm zoom lens allows you to get in close on your subject while maintaining enough distance to avoid scaring them away. But these larger lenses can be expensive, and shooters on a budget can find reasonably priced 300 mm zoom lenses and 3.5 to 5.6 apertures, which are just fine for people starting out [source: Coe].
If you can afford one, though, a lens with aperture that goes down to 2.8 adds significant versatility. The lower aperture range allows photographers to keep many subjects -- specifically those staggered at differing distances from the camera -- in focus at the same time. Image stabilizers reduce blurriness caused by your hands shaking on those frigid winter mornings, so you should look for lenses with that feature, too.
There's no best lens for wildlife photography, per se, as different situations call for different tools. However, just know that more elusive animals such as bighorn sheep and mountain lions may be seen only from very long distances, which requires larger zoom lenses, but if you're just planning on shooting wildlife from 50 yards or so away, a 300 mm or even a 200 mm lens is probably sufficient.
As is so often the case, with cameras, you get what you pay for, and most bargains come at a cost in terms of forfeited quality [source: Coe]. Remember, any time you set out to photograph wild animals, light and motion are going to come into play, which often demands equipment with a wide array of abilities. The more sophisticated the lens or camera body, the more you should expect to spend. You can save money by buying lenses with more restricted aperture ranges if you're not interested in taking shots with low depth-of-field.
Keep reading to learn about accessories that could enhance your wildlife photography experience.