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70-200mm 2.8 VR versus the 80-400mm 4.5/5.6 VR

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Kim, Jun 16, 2005.

  1. Kim


    Jun 16, 2005
    First off, I am so amateur its not even funny. That being said, I have an intense desire to photograph birds. I currently have a D70 with a Nikon 70-300mm 4/5.6. I would like to get closer shots and faster shutter speeds than this lens allows. My question, do I get the Nikon 80-400mm 4.5/5.6 VR or do I get the 70-200mm 2.8 VR and add a 1.4x teleconverter? Seems like I would get more versatility with the latter but I'm looking for any and all advice. Thanks!
  2. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    Optically the 70-200 is better, and AF performance is also going to be significantly faster. But even with the 1.4 TC that only gets you to 280mm, which is shorter than your current lens so I don't see how that's going to be long enough. I have the 1.7x TC and honestly even 340mm isn't really long enough for serious bird shooting. I suppose you could use the 70-200VR + 2.0x TC but optical quality will be somewhat compromised.

    I think for bird shooting on a budget these are some of the options to consider:

    Nikkor 300 F/4 AFS

    Sigma 100-300mm F/4.0 EX IF HSM

    Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3 EX DG HSM

    All of these cost around $1K and could be extended with a 1.4x teleconvertor, although in the case of the 50-500 I think you'd be limited to manual focusing. Optically the Nikkor 300 F/4 is probably the best but you'll have to weigh that against the versatility of a zoom.
  3. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Kim...everyone has an opinion and there probably is no definate right or wrong with either scenario. If I were in your situation, I would probably purchase the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR and a TC (or even two 1.4 and 1.7) rather than purchase 80-400mm VR. The 70-200mm is pro glass and the difference in quality is obvious. If you are in a situation where you will be shooting in low light, you will definately appreciate the 2.8 VR. Coincidently, I sold my 80-400mm VR to a co-worker to fund the purchase of a 70-200mm VR and it was a very good decision for my needs. Since then, I have sold all of my non-f/2.8 glass because it better suits my needs.

    That's my 2 cents...I am interested to read what other have to say.
  4. Chris101


    Feb 2, 2005
    Hey Kim! Welcome to the Cafe!

    A lot of people here shoot birds with incredibly expensive glass. Reach is the key, otherwise you spend all your time watching them flying away. Let's see some of what you've done with the lens you have, then we'll start in on your budding Lens Lust Disease.
  5. Brew

    Brew Guest

    I have the 70-200 VR with the 1.7 tele and for most applications it works good but I'm looking at adding the Sigma 50-500mm and a teleconverter because sometimes those little birds just keep flying away from me :wink:
  6. Hi Kim

    I am with Jeff on this, and my choice would be the 300/4 and TC14EII, which will get you 420mm with the best quality bang for the buck. While you can handhold this combo in bright conditions, your next investment should be a good support system (tripod and ball head) if you do not already have one.
  7. also keep in mind the digital crop factor of the D70 at 1.5 that yields 420mm with the 70-200 and 1.4 tc and 630mm on the 300 + 1.4 tc, both are "OK" for birding at best, not great. Of the 2 you are comparing in your original post, the 70-200/tc combo is better in my opinion. but the other lenses mentioned here bear strong consideration.
  8. HI Kim,

    I have both lenses, the 70-200 and the 80-400, The 70-200 was a recent purchase and I thought I would be able to use it, along with the 1.4 or 1.7 to "shoot" birds. However, I much prefer the 80-400 when taking photos of birds. Granted the 70-200 f2.8 is faster and is AF-S, but most bird shots are not done in low light.

    This past Feb. I was in Costa Rica and got some excellent shots with a D100 and 80-400. On the D70 at 400mm with the 1.5 crop, you've got a 600mm f5.6. The photos may be a bit soft, but there's always PS.

    On the D2X, in HSC, that 400mm becomes an 800mm f5.6, I believe. I think you would be better served by getting the 80-400 VR. Now I just wish Nikon would update the lens with AF-S.

    I can't insert any images here, PM me.
  9. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    The 80-400 is a good lens, but I have to agree with Jeff and others on this. The 70-200VR was my first 'pro' glass. I still have it, and love it, but for shooting birds, even with a TC (1.4 or 1.7) is lacks length. I'd definitely recommend the 300 f4, and then adding the 1.4 TC. This lens can be had new for several hundred $$ less than the 70-200VR, and probably slightly less than the 80-400VR.

    For excellent first hand examples of what this lens can do, check out the posts by Backdoctor (Harris), Kevin Scott, and others over on the Bird and Animals forum. They are getting outstanding results.
  10. Kim


    Jun 16, 2005
    Ya'll are great! I've gotten some good advice from everyone. Now I've just got to decide whats going to work best for me. One minute I'm leaning one way, the next I'm sure I'm leaning another way. If only I could win the lottery and buy them all!

    To Chris, maybe some day when I feel like I've taken some better shots I'll share some, but for now I'm a little intimidated.

    To Don, I went to Costa Rica in February and LOVED IT! I would love to spend more time there. Maybe after I win that lottery. ha ha
  11. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    I am not sure about the 300mm f/4. Sure it is probably a sharp lens, but according to Thomas Hogan is focuses slower than my 70-300mm f/4-5.6. Whoa..., SLOWER than my 70-300mm lens?

    Throw in a 1.4X, and you just lost an f-stop on a allegedly slow focusing lens. Can we say, even slower?

    Maybe Thom had it wrong. Anyone had intimate experiene with both lens to make a comparison?

    For birding, the 50-500mm Sigma seems to be the best choice regarding bang for buck (trust me, I am trying to find Nikon alterantives).

    The 70-200mm VR is very sharp and with a 1.4X or 1.7X, the loss in quality would be pretty small. With a 2.0X TC you are back to a relatively slow lens again but you have the flexibility of a high quality action shooting lens. This combination will run you double the Sigma 50-500mm though!

    I'm still debating what my best option is for myself.
  12. I have used the 300/4 extensively with the D2h shooting birds in flight and I have not had any issues with the 300/4 focusing too slowly, or focusing difficulties using the 300/4 + 1.4x (on D2 cameras). For me the primary factor is image quality, and in my opinion the 300/4 is superior to all the lenses mentioned except the 70-200, which does not have the reach for birds.
  13. I just checked, and that comment was made with regard to the non-AF-S version of the 300/4. Thom indicates the AF-S version is faster, and though he doesn't give it high grades for snappy-ness, at least he doesn't compare to the 70-300.

  14. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    The D2H(S) and D2X have much stronger focusing motors and are far more intelligent with more cross-hatch AF sensors than the D70 (CAM2000 vs CAM900, no contest!). I am not too surprised you get good performance with those lens on those bodies. AF-S or not, you are still going to get faster focusing on a D2 body than the D70 or D100.

    The problem here is if I only have a D70 or D100, am I wasting money on a 300mm F/4? The AF-S version supposedly was not that much faster. I guess I would have to rent one to see for myself.
  15. Good lens for birds

    I am rank amateur but I manage to get some decent bird pictures with the 80x400 Nikon lens. Something noone has mentioned is that if you can't hold a big lens steady manually the VR on the 80x400 is marvellous. Using a tripod for birds does not get one enough mobility - they move around too much LOL. This Great Blue Heron was taken with the 80x400
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  16. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    Yeah you are right! Sorry if I confused anyone! Looking it over again, I think the AF-S 300mm f/4 is a good candidate for relatively low cost (heh, counting the new tripod collar and TC14E though... ugh expensive!) telephoto solution. Sadly, it isn't the end all to birding... 400mm is the 'low end' range of remotely decent birding for DSLRs.

    While he doesn't compare it to the original 70-300mm, I think it is somewhat 'fair' to say it is as fast and probably a bit faster than the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 (I mean come on it's getting more light and doesn't rely on the body motors!)

    To the original poster:
    Honestly, if you are hitting up on birds, why would the zoom be as big of a deal? The consumer level 70-300mm like lens are sharp at 70-200mm if you can stop down to f/8 and soft at 300mm at every stop. The lens gap is a high quality 300mm. So, why replicate that with a big zoom lens that covers < 300mm and might not be as sharp at 300mm? Just my 2 cents.

    Of course if you would care NOT to carry around more lens, then I could see some weight leading towards the zooms especially the ridiculously convenient bigma. In the end, you have to make sure the lens choice will match your shooting style and if you have the proper support. Even with the sharpest lens, if you don't feel like carrying it or can't shoot well due to poor support (read: cheap tripod+head), it would be all for naught!
  17. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005
    The 300 f4 is both a very sharp and very fast focusing lens, no matter which camera it is used on. It has an internal focus motor (hence the AF-S designation). A new 300 f4 costs $1,159. The 80-400VR goes for $1,429 (a $100 rebate is currently available), and the 70-200VR lists for $1,649.

    The weights of these lenses are all within a few 10ths of a pound (300 f4 - 3.1, 80-400VR - 2.9, 70-200VR - 3.2), so that isn't much of a factor. I encourage anyone that is thinking about getting a lens for birding to look at it. Again, check out Kevin Scott's and Backdoctor's shots over on the Birding forum. They both have outstanding posed and flying birdie shots, both with and without the 1.4 TC (giving a length of 420mm).
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