Help me choose Nikon lens for safari photography at Kruger National Park

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Oct 14, 2019
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Dhaka, Bangladesh
Hi all,

I am looking to buy a Nikon AFS lens for my Nikon D5100. As of now, the only two options available are the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR and Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR

https://www.dpreview.com/products/nikon/lenses/nikkor_55-300_4p5-5p6g_ed_vr/specifications
https://www.dpreview.com/products/nikon/lenses/nikon_70-300_4p5-5p6g_vr/overview

It seems that the 70-300 might be the obvious choice, but it was released a few years earlier than the 55-300 (2006 as opposed to 2010, of course both are old!). Which one would you recommend for wildlife photography? I will be staying at a private lodge and birding is not a priority.

Many thanks!!
 
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May 27, 2013
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The 55-300 is a DX lens, the 70-300 is an FX lens. The latter will allow putting the best part of the lens onto the sensor.
 
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If it's really important to you to determine which is the best fit for you, buy both of them from a reliable retailer that has a no-questions-asked return policy, give both lenses an ample test drive and return the one you don't want.

Your personal information displayed on the left side of your posts doesn't indicate your location, but residents of America often choose B&H because of their return policy. As an example, years ago I had no way of determining which of two digital projectors would best meet my needs without using both of them. I bought both projectors from them and returned the one that didn't make the cut.
 
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My own instincts always point to a lens with a lower multiple of focal length as picture quality usually seems to be better. So I personally would go for the latest 70-300 you can get. I used the 70-300 you mention as my go-to long lens on a D7000 then D7200 for about eight or nine years before swapping it for the newest AF-P lens earlier this year. There is no question that the new lens is better but there's nothing much wrong with the old one. Do you have another lens or more lenses that could cover focal lengths up to 70mm?
 
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St. Charles, IL
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Andy
I am looking to buy a Nikon AFS lens for my Nikon D5100. As of now, the only two options available are the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR and Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
Two considerations that I would keep in mind for your decision:
  1. Compatibility. Nikon provides guidance regarding compatibility here.
    • Notably, regarding the D5100 they specifically state "This camera supports autofocus with AF-S and AF-I CPU lenses only," which seems to rule out all but the latest lenses, but there are some really good AF-S lenses that are so-called "D" rather than "G" designations. See below...
  2. Value. If you are willing to buy used, you can get a much higher quality optic within your budget. The following two options can be obtained on the used market for approximately the same price point as the DX lenses you mention, with the added benefit of being full-frame compatible, should you decide to upgrade your body at some point:
    • AF-S 28-300 f/3.5-f/5.6
    • AF-S 80-200 f/2.8 D ED-IF
    • If you purchase from a reputable seller on an established site such as FredMiranda.com or eBay, you can return for refund any items that fail to perform as expected.
 
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If you purchase from a reputable seller on an established site such as FredMiranda.com or eBay, you can return for refund any items that fail to perform as expected.
If you purchase from a reputable dealer, you can also get a warranty. The warranty won't be as long as when buying new equipment but it will give at least a little peace of mind.
 
Joined
Oct 14, 2019
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Dhaka, Bangladesh
My own instincts always point to a lens with a lower multiple of focal length as picture quality usually seems to be better. So I personally would go for the latest 70-300 you can get. I used the 70-300 you mention as my go-to long lens on a D7000 then D7200 for about eight or nine years before swapping it for the newest AF-P lens earlier this year. There is no question that the new lens is better but there's nothing much wrong with the old one. Do you have another lens or more lenses that could cover focal lengths up to 70mm?
Thanks, this is good to know! I do have the kit lens that came with the camera originally. It covers upto 55 mm though.
 
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... there are some really good AF-S lenses that are so-called "D" rather than "G" designations. ...
In my opinion, the best combinations of features. D lenses will function with every F-mount camera Nikon has ever made. The addition of 'silent wave motor' focusing makes lenses faster to focus and, as the 's' implies, quiet. Most of the screw drive lenses I've used are pretty quick, one in particular (and a lens I use a lot) the Micro Nikkor 60mm D f/2.8 AF, is dog slow. I think they made the gears out of cast iron or something in order to make them sound so grindy! It's a ggod thing the sharpness, contrast and bokey of this lens is so good (and it's very rugged) the noise and extreme extension of this lens are ... less desirable.) All my AF-S lenses are quiet and fast. The noise they do make {fwwwwh-fwwwwh) is hushed and you can't hear it at all a few feet from the camera. Even the most difficult focusing situation is resolved (or very rarely given up on) in under a second. Usually much faster.

Stepper motor focusing of AF-P lenses may be marginally more precise and measurably fasterthan regular of an AF-S lens. That alone does not justify eliminating any form of direct manual focusing. This limitation eliminates many of the best cameras made by Nikon. AF-P will probably remain an niche level category for years. After the older cameras are broken or irrelavent, stepper motor focusing may become a thing. As I said, it is a bit better than AF-S and no doubt cheaper to manufacture (and thus more profitable.) If you are working at the limits of focus speed and accuracy, you might want to check them out.
 
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Carl
I have used the "old", now discontinued 70-300 4.5-5.6 AF S lens on my D 50, D 90 and D7100. A Sharp, excellent lens! Used values now are about half of what I remember paying for it more than 10 years ago. You couldn't go wrong with a good used copy.

But...having replaced the old warrior with the Newer AF P 4.5-5.6E ED DX, I find it is sharper throughout the zoom range, about the same weight, and familiar to use. Of course, with the C 5100, and other similar series cameras, only interface with newer lenses that have the focusing motors built into the lens itself, and not the "older" cameras with the screw drive focusing motor in the body.

Pick a lens, any lens, that works with your camera, use it, and love it! You will be amazed at the pixes you will bring back! 👍
 
Joined
Apr 21, 2009
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1,447
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Boston, MA
Hi all,

I am looking to buy a Nikon AFS lens for my Nikon D5100. As of now, the only two options available are the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR and Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
I have the first lens, and it's fantastic at like 70-150mm, but pretty disappointing at 300mm. If I went back to Yellowstone or a similar place, I'd just rent something for the week, like an 80-400 or 200-500. I think I've had no more than 5 trips where I used the 70-300 a lot, the $500 I spent could have gone to 5 rentals, and I'd have much better pictures. If you only use a lens when traveling just rent something.
 

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