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200-400VR instead of Sigma 300/2.8 & 500/4.5 ??

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by MMarz, Sep 17, 2008.

  1. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    This is just a feeler here...

    Since adding the 500 I haven't touched the 300/2.8. I feel like I have abandoned an old friend. The 300/2.8 is the staple lens for most and I have one sitting unused. (insert all the "send it to me" jokes)

    Most of my work is of wildlife. Mid to large birds for the most part, small birds for fun. The 500 is a great piece. I have none of the acquisition problems I thought I would have, it seems to be plenty fast, and although I have modified my TC's to AF on the 500, I have yet to use either of them.

    I still have and use my Sigma 70-200/2.8 and it responds very very well to the 1.4 APO EX DG TC, netting me 280/4.0... that's almost 300/4.0.

    The 500 is a commitment I am up to. You don't take this lens walkabout. The Sigma is about the same size and weight as the Nikon 200-400VR, and though a third stop slower and no VR I don't miss what I haven't had.

    So someone tell me I am nuts to be considering ditching the 300 and the 500 in favor of a 200-400VR, paired with the 70-200 + TC.

    Are we ever happy?? Where does it end?
  2. Well firstly a few disclaimers; I don't own a 500mm or 300mm of any sort but do have the 200-400VR. I also like shooting wildlife including birds.

    I can only afford one exotic lens (at this time anyway) and I chose the 200-400 for its versatility. So far I'm very pleased with that decision. That being said, I do not think the 200-400 is as sharp as a prime (especially at longer ranges) nor does it take TC's as well as a prime.

    To me, a dream combination would be the 200-400VR and 600VR, but for now I'm happy with the big zoom (I guess I have to be because I can't afford two exotic lenses!)

    Before the 200-400VR, I used a 300/4+TC on a tripod and the 70-200VR+TC hand held. Since I acquired the 200-400 I've sold off my 300/4 and recently traded my 70-200VR for a 70-180 micro -- my point being that when it comes to wildlife, I really I think the 200-400 can do most everything very-well-to-excellent with perhaps the one exception being small/distant subjects. So head-and-beak bird portraits are out, but frankly I'm finding that really good pictures require framing -- i.e. back off the shot -- which is more easily done with the zoom.

    That being said, I would never suggest anyone sell a 500+ prime for the 200-400VR -- it really boils down to a personal choice.

    BTW so far I shoot 90% hand held. Gotta love that VR!

  3. depends on what you shoot.. I had a 200-400 f4 afs, now have the 400 2.8..
    If I had to choose between the 300 and 500 versus just the 200-400 I would choose the 300 and 500... with the 400 at the long end you have 400 f4, the 500 offers more reach same f stop... put a tc on the zoom and you have a 550 5.6 put a tc on the 500 you have a 700 5.6... the light drops.... you have a 300 2.8.... where the zoom...constant 4...if you shoot birds, as I think that's what you like shooting... 400 is not enough reach...
    IQ of the zoom is excellent.... but in the long run I don't like paying $5,000 for a 400 f4 with vr... just my 2 cents...
  4. rogerj


    Mar 4, 2008
    I've had just this dilemma over the course of the past few weeks, --- even started a thread on it. With help from other Cafe members a good deal of sense has been talked.
    In the end I fore went the opportunity to buy a Nikon 200-400mm ..........and instead went for the Sigma 500mmf4.5. Just got it today, and am looking forward to getting used to it.

  5. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    I tend to agree...hence my comment that I am nuts.. But man...I can barely hand hold the 300, forget holding the 500.

    That makes a lot of sense Mike.

    Roger, it's a great lens. I have zero complaints for the 500 or the 300, or my 70-200 Sigma or 150!! My only reason for contemplating this was because I hate the thought of any of these lenses sitting unused.

    I shoot the 500 on a Gitzo 1325, Sidekick and Markins M20. Works fantastic. Enjoy and congrats!!
  6. RichNY

    RichNY Guest

    I wouldn't give up f/2.8. Have you considered swapping out the 300 f/2.8 for a 200 f/2?
  7. I might sell my 200-400 VR, For some reason I think I'd rather have a 300 f/2.8 VR now. I'm beginning to not like how slow the 200-400 VR focuses. The F/4 really limits it's ability to get a proper lock. Also it does not work well with TCs compared to a prime.
  8. RichNY

    RichNY Guest

    Do you need both a 200 f/2 and a 300 f/2.8?
  9. kopp

    kopp Guest

    Hi Everbody,

    Just joined the forum. This is one of those posts that possibly has no real answer. Because of the 'quality' of a prime 500/f4, would you really regret going to say the 200/400 tele? Apart from the aspect of differing light gathering capabilities, ie.2.8 vs 4.5 or 5.6, does it not depend on what you need it for. Birds in flight, small birds at a distance that require enlarging to see clearly etc...is a 2.8 400/500 prime that much better that say 80/400 Nikon or the 150/500 Sigma both with VR as far as capture capability is concerned??
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 18, 2008
  10. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    You pose and interesting series of questions...

    Remember that my concerns are not related to shortfalls of the 500..but to the lonely 300 sitting in my gear locker. The 200-400 could bring with it a lot of flexibility and would likely see more use than either the 300 or 500 on their own.

    The 80-400VR & 150-500 don't fit in this equation. The Nikon is a non-AFS lens with awkward AF/MF clutch system, where the 200-400VR is AFS II and the 500/4.5 is an HSM. Both the 80-400 and 150-500 are slow variable aperture lenses. Is a prime better than either of these? IMHO, there's no question the primes are better (though larger, heavier, more expensive). I owned the 80-400VR. I would like to have it back in my arsenal, but certainly not for this kind of work.

    My thoughts focus was more on combining the efforts of the 300/2.8 & 500/4.5 into a single more versatile 200-400VR.

    But as noted above, I think the answer might more likely be swapping the 300/2.8 for a 120-300/2.8 zoom from Sigma.

    Nice first post, thanks for sharing and welcome to the Cafe!
  11. This is how I see it.

    200-400 VR - Excellent field lens if you can only bring one body.

    500/300 combo - Ideal situation when you have two bodies.

    Hey Michael, I'd hold off on the 120-300. I had one, and it backfocused insanely. The Nikon 300mm prime is bar none sharper. It's the one Sigma lens that burned me bad. FYI though, the 500 HSM is sharper than the 200-400 in my opinion!
  12. Nope. But it gives me a reason to fudge around my lens collection! :biggrin:
  13. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    All good stuff, thanks.

    I have yet to bring the 300 & 500, though I almost always have two bodies with me. It's usually the 500 and the 70-200.. the 300 is kind of large as a "second" body over the shoulder..

    Oddly, I have seen only one review of the 120-300, well yours makes two, that mention the AF being other than bang on. The 300/2.8 rocks no matter how it's used (by itself, with a 1.4tc or a 2.0tc) the key it has to be used and right now it isn't!!
  14. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    I don't think I would make much use of a 200/2.0

    I have a 70-200/2.8 and a 300/2.8... a 200/2.0, as sexy as it is, would be a huge wast of money.
  15. Just a couple of thoughts based on my experience...

    The Sigma 120-300/2.8 is a nice lens (had one once) but it doesn't have the IQ of the 200-400 (IMO). Even though the Sigma is lighter than the 200-400 I could never hand hold the 120-300 like I can the 200-400. When shooting wildlife, to me the 120-300 isn't nearly as important as the 200-400 range. (I only wish it were 200-500!). Although it's certainly nice to have the Sigma's f2.8, the paper-thin DOF makes short range shots tricky.

  16. I'm sure I had a bad copy of the 120-300. I'm not fond of sending lenses in to Sigma either. I sent the 120-300 to Sigma 3 times and each time they said it was fine, but every time I tried it, it would back focus! Maybe with the new focus adjustments it would be different, but when I got my 300 f/2.8 AFS-I it was perfect from the get go. The Sigma 500 is too good of a deal to get rid of, the 500 VR is nice but spendy.
  17. scooptdoo

    scooptdoo Guest

    i wish i were in this delema!
  18. I found a BIG difference in focusing lock-on capability between an elderly Sigma 120-300/f2.8 and a brand new one. The older one had been in to Sigma, too. I realize that this shouldn't happen, but it clearly did. And it wasn't just one body, either - we tried them on at least four bodies (a D2h, two D2x's and a D3).
  19. Same issue. D2X and D200. Major Back focus with the 120-300. Plus it's more like a 280mm, not a true 300mm.
  20. kopp

    kopp Guest

    Hi Michael,

    Many thanks for you kind welcome, it is appreciated. Reason for posting, is that I am looking at getting one, of a couple of, used if possible options; the Sigma 150/500 or 50/500 or nikon 80/400.

    Like the idea of VR, & as I live in Spain, the light is pretty good most of the time so during the summer months, when I the Bee Eaters etc.. are here, these ought to get me some reasonable shots on the D300.
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