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Help with long tele lens purchase

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by bnk190, Sep 27, 2008.

  1. bnk190


    Sep 27, 2008
    SE Wisconsin
    Hi this is my first post and I just stumbled accross this fourm. I need your help but before we get to that here is some basic information on me. I have a Nikon D80 with two lens. I have a 18 to 70 and then the 70-300 IFVR. Both are Nikon lens.

    My experience on a scale of 1 to 10 is probably a 3. I tend to shoot all of my photographs in Auto mode. Two weeks ago I was out in SW WI and came across an eagle in a tree and now I find myself addicted to photographing them. My problem is my 300 lens didn't seem to be strong enough for me to get a close up pic. If I can figure out how to attach a photo I will.

    So back to the topic. I am looking for a stronger lens. In about 2 hours I will be going to pick up the Tamaron 200-500 lens. I tried to get the Sigma 150-500 lens but they didn't stock it and wanted me to pay up front for it with me only knowing it will be in within 2 weeks to 2 months. No thank you.

    I'm concerned though since I don't know the quality of these lens. Are they any good? I don't want to use a tele convertor since I am told I will lose my autofocus. So here are my options.

    1) I could pick up the Nikon 200-400 VR lens which I believe is about $1800 but I am only really gaining the distance from 300-400.

    Sub Question - How much difference is there between 300 to 400 or 300 to 500? If a human body fills the whole picture at 300 how much closer will 400 or 500 get you? The camera place said I won't see a difference between 300-400 but if I go from 300-500 it's almost double.

    2) I could get the Tamaron 200-500 lens. Concern of off brand and that it doesn't have VR. I do know I will need a tripod or mono pod regardless but I like the comfort of VR just since in my mind it could help the rookie. I could be way off on this. My other concern is the dealer was out of these for a long time since I am told Tamaron resdesigned the lens with a different motor. Do I need to be concerned on this? Lens is about $1,000.

    3) I could get the Sigma 150-500 lens which has the built in VR but again concern of off brand. Lens is about $1000

    4) I could get the 500 or 600 lens from Nikon but concerned that I am at a fixed length and I could be too close???? I was told these lens also cost about 10 grand and if that's the case there is no way I can afford that since I'm only a rookie and also have a D80.

    Thoughts? Advice? I will take my camera along when I go and look at the Tamaron and will find out their return policy in case I buy it and everyone here says to pass.

    Thanks for your time and help.

    Edit: I see for a photo I need to paste a link to a website. All of my photos are on my pc. Can anyone recommend a good photo sharing site?
  2. HI Brian...
    Looks like youve got a bit of trouble...So many lenses, so little time to choose.
    Image Shack is a good free photo host. And to post it up, just use one of the "Forum" links it provides, hope this helps, sorry I cant provide any info on your choice, but I hope your pleased with what you do decide to get.
  3. bnk190


    Sep 27, 2008
    SE Wisconsin
    Thanks. I'm not too worried on the time. I can always take back the lens if I don't like it. I may buy it just to have it so it doesn't get sold and I'm waiting longer. I just read a thread about the Tamaron 200-500 and it appears to be a good lens but maybe not the best for wildlife and shooting eagles in low light which is when they are probably out doing their hunting.
  4. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    200-400VR @ $1800? I'll take five please.. no joking.

    Have you considered a Nikon TC 14E II Tele converter? It will work fine with your D80 and 70-300VR, and you will have 420mm, though the lens will be fairly slow. But it will save you a bunch of money and add a lot of versatility.

    The 200-400VR is a fantastic lens, but cost in the area of $4500 - $5000.

    Eagles are a great subject, and rarely will you find yourself "too close"...so a long prime might be useful. 70-300VR as your carry long lens and a 400 or 500 prime as a dedicated birding lens.

    You have a lot of options.

    You are right that the variable aperture of the Tamron, like you 70-300, will leave you struggling in low light, but you have to start someplace.
  5. bnk190


    Sep 27, 2008
    SE Wisconsin
    "The 200-400VR is a fantastic lens, but cost in the area of $4500 - $5000. "

    Hmmmm could the 80-400 lens be $1800? Guess I was wrong. Some of this is becoming a blur!
  6. bnk190


    Sep 27, 2008
    SE Wisconsin
    How muc difference is there between 300 to 400 or 420?

    So a teleconvertor would be a good option? The camera place says no. (I honestly don't know any better). Won't I lose my auto focus?

  7. Hi Brian,

    lets start from th end - for a free photosharing site try FLICKR (just google it).

    Big glass big ???

    What is your budget or willingness to get NASed (Nikon accusition syndrome), since you ask profound questions on the difference between 300 - 400 - 500mm all have one thing in common - very expensive, heavy and require skillful handling for good results. Try in a shop (if you can) Tamron 200-500mm or Sigma 170-500mm you may like it, otherwise my suggestion is to research this well, very well indeed, before plunging into purchase.

    By the way D80 have nothing to do with it, it is good camera and any recent FX or DX NIKON lens will mate with it well (notice i emphesised NIKON, therfore importance of research and shop trial)....it is just that guys sporting big lenses are also sporting more expensive bodies as well; $$$$ + $$$$ = big lens + big camera (not neccessarily good pictures)!


  8. photojedi


    Sep 25, 2008
    the suggestion for the Nikon TC 14E II Tele converter is a good one and probably your least expensive option. the Nikon TC 14E II Tele converter is an AF-S teleconverter so you will not lose autofocus. i use one with the nikon 70-200mm af-s and it works great. looks like the camera store employees are either clueless or trying to get you to spend more money. the only downfall of the teleconverter is you will lose 1 stop.
  9. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    80-400 new, maybe.

    Pre-owned it's about $1000 - 1100. I bought mine for 1150 and sold it for 1100.
  10. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    Should have mentioned.. My preferred web hosting is Zenfolio.

    A Tele Converter or TC is good option for a lot of reasons. First, you'll probably end up buying one at some point in your photo career... maybe two. I just bought my third (Sigma 1.4 & 2.0 matched TC's and Nikon TC 14E modified for non-AFS lenses). It will narrow the angle of view of your lens buy the TC amount. So, in effect, a 300 mm lens, gives the FoV of a 420mm lens (300 x 1.4) That's the upside. The downside is that adding the TC reduces your fastest f-stop by one stop. So your f/3.5 becomes effectively an f/5 (3.5 x 1.4) so you gain more reach, but you lose light; not a good thing for early morning or evening light. The TC is best used with fast long lenses, 70-200/2.8, 300/2.8, 400/2.8 etc. But it will work just fine with your 70-300VR. You'll retain auto focus as well as VR if you stay with either the Nikon TC 14E or 14E II, or the Kenko Pro 300 DG.

    By the letter of the law, a variable aperture lens, like your 70-300VR should stop auto focusing once the effective aperture exceeds f/5.6..it's a safeguard in the body, but I can tell that when I had a Kenko TC, it worked fine with my 70-300 throughout the zoom range.

    Cost of the Kenko TC is about $150 while the Nikon TC is about two to three times that.

    At some point, you'll probably end up wanting something faster (both AF speed and max aperture) but in the interim, you'll be getting some better shots of that Eagle!!

    BTW, a monopod or tripod would be a big help with the tC on!!
  11. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    The Kenko Pro 300 DG is about half the price of the Nikon TC 14E II, and is a gem. Slightly lighter build quality, but it works just fine.
  12. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    The answer is...it depends.

    There is no replacing a good tele prime. And, a cheap TC is a poor option. But a quality TC is pretty much a staple in every wildlifer's camera bag.

    Do a poll on any one of the forums, I'd the overwhelming majority of folks own and use at least one or two quality TC's. No, you won't necessarily loose AF if you use the Nikon or Kenko TC's, and use an AFS lens. To use the Nikon TC with a none-AFS lens, you need to grind a little metal tab off.
  13. Hi, Brian! You've got a great lens in the 70-300VR. Lenses longer than 300mm come with their own set of problems, and require advanced technique... and a lot of money. Your best bet for improving your results is to get closer to the birds. But if you're dead set on buying big glass, you'll find the best advisors, and some great sample pictures, in our bird forum.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  14. vinman


    Nov 15, 2006
    Upstate SC
    Ok, so now that you figured out the 200-400 is quite expensive, let's look at some other thoughts you brought up...

    First, the Sigma 50-500 (Bigma) is probably one of the most highly regarded 3rd party zoom lenses out there - period. If that lens falls within your budget, that's probably the one you should get.

    Second, with the lenses you mentioned, focal length is not the only (or even the primary) difference. The wide open aperture is. Since you rate your experience scale around a "3", let's look at aperture...

    With any lens, a larger opening (smaller "f" number) is going to give (and take) a few things. It'll give you a faster shutter speed or lower ISO and it'll give you a shallower depth of field. Depth of field (dof) is a large component in artistic composition. Focal length has a pretty substantial affect on dof, as well. The amount of area in focus at f4 at 500mm is greater than the area at 50mm. The faster (smaller "f" number) and longer a lens is, the more expensive. These faster lenses require very high quality glass and very sturdy construction - hence the higher price. Fast telephoto lenses are designed to be sharp throughout their aperture range. For example, if you are shooting a bird on the beach with a 500f4 lens at f4, assuming you are using proper technique, your bird will be in focus, but the background and foreground will have a nice, soft quality that enhances the bird - not detracts from it. A quick look through the bird section in here will show you exactly what I mean.

    You mentioned the Nikon 500 and 600 lenses. These are the top of the food chain, and they are priced accordingly. If you can afford one and need the focal length - GET IT!! You will not get the consistent quality output with any other lens that will match it. Again, it's both a need and budget based decision. If you need tele, there is NO substitute for length.

    The other component with aperture is AF. Start going above f5.6 and your camera will not want to AF smoothly. Sometimes not at all. Add a teleconvertor (any of them) to a lens with an aperture of 5.6 or smaller (larger "f" number), and you will have to manual focus. It'll be hard, too, since the smaller aperture isn't letting much light into the camera, your viewfinder will be dark.

    As far as the Tamron vs the Sigma; like I said, the Sigma is VERY highly rated. The drawback is the f6.3 at 500mm. You need really good light to have consistent, fast AF.

    Now, all that said, I just re-read part of your post and saw that you are talking about the Sigma 150-500. What I have suggested regarding reviews is the 50-500, which covers more focal length and has the same 6.3 aperture at 500mm, but lacks image stabilization. The lenses are similarly priced. Keep in mind that any sort of image stabilization is affected by your technique. If you are shooting the camera/lens mounted on a tripod or monopod (almost a necessity at 500mm for consistent results), you will have to shut off the stabilization becuase of induced vibrations from the system itself. Stabilization is effective when hand-holding or shooting from an unstable platform (such as a shoulder stock or from a moving vehicle). Proper long lens technique is imperative with telephoto lenses. Every mistake, error, wrong setting, etc is magnified intensely when shooting long.

    There's a lot to consider with your purchase. Do your homework, and you'll end up with a lens you love for a very long time. Buy the wrong tool for your work and you'll end up frustrated and trying to sell it...
  15. bnk190


    Sep 27, 2008
    SE Wisconsin
    Well I just came back after spending an hour or more at the camera store. The sales rep kept saying not to the TC. I asked about the 1.4 and he said that with my F stop on my 300 lens being 4.5 to 5.6 that with the TC I would be at an Fstop of 12. Of course the TC he was showing me was a 2x. Who knows maybe he just didn't like TC's.

    So I bought the Tameron lens. It's 200-500 with an Fstop of 5-6.3. I took some pictures with it on my camera and wow not only is the lens big and heavy but I couldn't hold it steady. I will have to upload the photos to see how they turned out. The main thing I wanted to see is what was the difference between 300-500 and there is quite a difference.

    I also picked up a mono pod so I will have to play with that as well. I already have a tripod if needed but it's heavy and I don't see myself carrying it with me in the woods.

    I have 10 days to return the lens and get my money back. I'm going hiking tomorrow so this new beast will come with. If I don't like it I will take it back and then pick up the 1.4 TC that everyone here is talking about.

    I guess I have to start somewhere and I can spend 10 grand on equipment but if my skill level isn't there I will still take junky pictures!

    Someone asked what my budget is. Well I can say the 10 grand is out and unless I get into this really seriously 4-5 grand would be out. Up to $2500 now is no problem. The lens, monopod, head, and UV Filter came to around $1100 so I didn't think that was too bad.

    Please keep the help and suggestions coming. I have 10 days to return the lens so if I find out that I made a bad purchase it can go back. This is a really nice fourm. Wish I would have found it earlier.
  16. Brian,

    Congrats, and don't forget that for sharp pic you need to stick to the rule of thumb; keep shutter speed same as focal length, i.e. 200mm equals 1/200sec, 500 mm equals 1/500 sec or faster, you want be dissapointed.

    Best of shooting,

  17. johnmh


    Nov 21, 2007
    Greater NYC
    I'd return the 200-500. Without some form of vibration reduction you'll have to use a tripod and have pretty good technique.

    Note: I've got a 200-400 and love it but it IS heavy and large - issues for backcountry use for me. It is out of your stated price range - over $5000 here.

    Looking for a long 'carry' lens, with wildlife being my main target for this lens, I looked at the Nikon 80-400 but until they make it an AF-S lens, I'm passing.... tried it an was not happy with the AF speed.

    I tried most of the available long zoom lenses at B&H and ended up getting the new Sigma 150-500 f/5-6.3 OS HSM lens. I paid about $1000 here mail order - no tax but paid shipping. I've been pretty happy with it. In my opinion, it gives you your money's worth (though I wish they'd spent another $500 on it). It has vibration reduction and an internal focusing motor AND you go to 500mm in a reasonably sized package.

    It costs more than most of the other 400/500 zooms out there, slightly less than the Sigma 50-500 (though I don't know why that's so) and about $4-500 less than the Nikon 80-400 which lacks an internal focusing motor. The Nikon 200-400 and fast primes are all FAR more expensive and in a whole different category.

    The 150-500 lens CAN be hand held - the vibration reduction IS a VERY good thing for long lenses...I leave it turned on when using a monopod as well. Another photographer using a 170-500 in Rocky Mountain NP was quite impressed when I let her try mine shooting elk.

    You CAN use a 1.4 TC - losing only 1 stop (I used a Sigma 1.4TC with mine - finding that manufacturers gear their TC's to their own lenses), but plan on manual focusing. That's going to be true with ANY long lens that's over f/4 (and the faster lenses cost a LOT of money - above your stated limit).

    I also tried using a modified Nikon 2.0 TC (you have to remove a small tab to mount this TC) as well but was disappointed with the results. This could be because I found it difficult to manually focus this on my D70 - even with a Katzeye focusing screen (split circle). Getting old and that could be as much my eyes as anything else. Still, I think you're pushing the IQ on this with a 2.0TC. Tests on a tripod showed better images than hand held or monopod mounted, but there was still a significantly lower IQ on this lens with a 2.0 tc compared to my 200-400 with the same TC. But then the Nikon 200-400 is 5-6x more money....

    The published data on this lens put it prettty much on an even par with the 50-500, previously considered to be the best of the lenses at this price point/specification category. THAT lens lacks vibration reduction.

    The only other competitors with similar features are the old Sigma 80-400 and the newer 120-400 which is marginally faster - f/4.5- 5.6 and a bit smaller. Only slightly cheaper.

    Given your experience level and what you've said after buying the 200-500, I think you'd be far better off with a VR/OS type lens. A really good photographer with good technique can do a decent job with even 'ok' lenses but you'll be happy to get the help vibration reduction offers.

    I think this lens will give you more 'keepers' and be far easier for you to use than a nonOS lens. Tamron has yet to come up with any such system and the other older Sigmas zooms to 500 do NOT have it. Nikon only goes to 400 with VR in the 'affordable' lenses - but the 80-400 lacks an internal fousing motor so AF depends on the camera body and is generally far slower.

    You're going to need to work on technique to get good shots of moving birds but you CAN get very nice shots from this lens as others have posted.

    Local shops will steer you to what they HAVE in sotock - maybe why you couldn't see a 1.4TC. Unfortunately you may have to go mail order to get what you want - though the Sigma 150-500 has been readily available here for a few months now.

    An as for the shutter speed rule... MOST of this lens is closer to f/6.3 at best. You'll need any help you can get to shoot at fast shutter speeds - good light is a start but vibration reduction WILL let you shoot at faster speeds no matter what light you've got.

  18. Long glass is expensive game, there is nothing wrong with Tamron 200-500 in a good light and begginers hands. By the way owned Nikon's 80-400AF VR for some four years, eventually part ex towards D300, lovely glass but slow, here is one shot on F80 (N80 in USA) and VELVIA (that is film) and digitised...

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    And here is one with 70-200 on D300

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


  19. Camera store was right, putting on TC on the 70-300 4.5-5.6 is a waste of time. You lose way too much light, probably lose AF ability with the 2x TC and the image quality would be bad.

    Best long lens value for $2500 is a Sigma 120-300 2.8 with Sigma 1.4 TC. You end up with 120-300 @ 2.8 and up to 420 @ f4. Downside? Lens is huge and requires a monopod but it's a winner.

    Next best thing is the new Sigma 120-400 OS (OS is VR - helps with hand holding lens at lower shutter speeds) - about $900. If you want a spend a bit more the Nikon 80-400 VR is probably a sharper lens but you'll pay $1400 or so.

    Don't hesitate to buy Sigma or any "off brand" (as you said in your first post). When they get it right, it's 90% of the performance of Nikon for a fraction of the price. The only caveat is you should try a few at the store to make sure you're getting a sharp lens.
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