Consider Minimum Focus Distance When Choosing Your Lens

by Wildlife Photographer Kathleen Reeder

When selecting which lens to use for a given wildlife shoot, keep in mind the minimum focus distance of the lens.  The minimum focus distance is the shortest distance at which a lens can focus. With DSLR cameras, the distance to the subject is measured from the focal plane mark on the camera body, not from the front of the lens.  The lens cannot focus at distances shorter than the minimum focus distance. It is useful to know how close your lens can be to the subject and still focus.  Here is a list of my lenses, their minimum focus distance and how I often choose to use them to photograph different wildlife.  Use this as a guide for how you choose which lens to use when photographing wildlife.

Lens Focal Length             Minimum Focus Distance Wildlife Uses   
Nikon 60mm macro f/2.8 .72 feet Close up – Small Mammals
Close up – Small reptiles
Close up – Aquarium
Nikon 105mm macro f/2.8 1 foot Close up – Small Mammals
Close up – Small reptiles
Close up – Butterflies
Close up – Insects
Small mammal portraits
 Nikon 200mm macro f/4 1.6 feet Close up – Hummingbirds
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 1.3 feet  Groups or packs at close range
Medium mammal portraits
Nikon 70-200mm VRII f/2.8 4.6 feet Raptors in flight
Large mammals and their environment
Large mammals running
Groups or packs
Nikon 200-400mm VRII f/4 6.6 feet Large mammal portraits
Raptor portraits
Medium – Large mammals running
Nikon 600mm f/4 15.7 feet Small birds from a blind
Large mammals behind a fence
Medium – large mammals and their environment
Large birds in flight