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Sports Lens: 200-500 f/5.6 or 300/2.8 VR I

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by ijm5012, Dec 4, 2017.

  1. Looking to seek some advice from those of you who've shot sports for a while, or have one one of (or both) of the above mentioned lenses.

    I'm currently looking to pick up a telephoto lens for shooting sports to supplement my existing kit (Nikon D500, Tokina 11-20/2.8, Nikon 17-55/2.8, Nikon 70-200 VR II/2.8, Nikon TC-14E II). Sports I'd be looking to shoot would be primarily motorsports, but also some track & field. Some of you may say "why do you need VR when you're shooting sports", which is a valid question since you'll want to keep your shutter speeds up. However, when shooting motorsports I'll regularly shoot with slower shutter speeds while panning to blur the background and help give the sensation of speed. Also, this lens will be used recreationally as well for trips to the zoo and what not, so I'm not always going to be shooting at 1/1000. Also, the VR has a seal at the lens mount and presumably better weather sealing, which is a nice-to-have since car will race in the rain (and a lot of times that's when you get some of the best images).

    I recently had a chance to handle both of these lenses at Midwest Photo in Columbus, Ohio and was impressed with both of them. The 300/2.8 was the first AF-D, so modern optics and focusing motors, but no VR. Here are my thoughts:

    • VERY nicely built. I was surprised at how tight everything felt, how smooth the zoom action was, etc. The focusing ring was a bit loose, but I don't manually override the autofocus very often so that's not a big deal.
    • VR is seriously impressive. I was hand-holding in the store and was easily getting 5 stops worth of stabilization
    • It's only f/5.6, so shooting motorsports when the light levels drop may result in having to seriously crank up the ISO (unless I intentionally want slow shutter speeds for panning)
    • It's cheaper than the 300/2.8
    • It's a zoom, so there's more flexibility as well as better reach (I could make the 300 a 420mm f/4 with a TC when more reach is needed).
    • VR not as good as the 200-500 (VR I vs VR III), but still better than nothing (the 300/2.8 I handled didn't have VR, and it was very evident in the viewfinder).
    • Fast focusing motor. I thought the 200-500 focused fine, but the 300/2.8 is definitely quicker. I don't know if that matters much, or if the 200-500 would be "good enough" in terms of focusing speed (note that I would be shooting with the focus limiter on to eliminate the close focal range of the lens, which would help).
    • It's f/2.8 vs f/5.6. This is the difference between ISO 1600 and 6400. While the D500 has a great sensor, limiting the ISO whenever possible is always a good idea.

    Note that currently, this is just a hobby of mine. However, I wouldn't be opposed to picking up some paid gigs where possible. I could buy the 200-500 new or used (they seem to be going for around $1,100 used, which is a good savings and would allow me to buy a 3-stop ND and CPL filter for the monstrous 95mm filters). I would be buying the 300/2.8 VR used. I've seen some deals lately where they're going for $2,000-2,500.

    I'd appreciate any feedback you can offer regarding these lenses for the intended purposed. Thank you.
  2. I didn’t read your whole post but

    I own both lens and have shot sports for 10+ years with the 300

    For AF speed, IQ and f/2.8 there’s no comparison. The 300vr1 is a very special lens in the top 10 all time. The 200-500 is a nice lens for wildlife. On a 1 to 10 the 300 is a 9.8
    The 200-500 is a 7
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. OT
    Randy, how would you rate the 300 PF?
  4. Very High, def a pro quality lens, maybe a 9.0
    I held off getting one for a long time because I had too many 300’s and I thought it might have been a gimmick lens (because it was so small) but it’s got killer IQ
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. What Randy said. There's a significant difference between a 2.8 lens and a 5.6 lens obviously. The zoom and extra fl are nice, but the 300 2.8 is a great bg killer and it's a snappy focus rather than a more "gradual" one. You have your comparisons accurately stated. I shot the non VR 300 2.8, I currently shoot the 200-500 vr and they are both great lenses, but for sports if I had to choose it would be the 300 2.8 hands down. As for $$$, two years from now when you're loving it you'll forget about the price difference.
  6. @Randy@Randy and @bobbyv@bobbyv, thank you for input (even if it's what I expected to hear).

    Regarding the 300/4 PF, I'd thought about it but seeing as I already own the 70-200 f/2.8 & 1.4x TC, that together gives me a 280mm f/4, so I didn't really see a point in spending $2,000 on a lens that I basically already have. Also, the discussions about the VR "issue", the AF speed, and how the PF handles flare (i.e., shooting into headlights of a race car) all lead me to look elsewhere. From an IQ standpoint, the 300/4 PF looks fantastic, but for my specific scenario it didn't seem like a good fit.
  7. Yes, I understand your point.
    I have recently sold my trusty AF-S 300/4 D. I could use it only on tripod and rarely used it. I am searching for a valid substitute with VR.
    I am thinking about 80-400 VR II or 300 PF. The 200-500/5.6 could be an alternative, but it's large, heavy and not much HHable. I have also read about 200-500 QC issues ...
    Since I already own a 70-200/4 VR, I am also considering the 300 PF: the two lenses share the same tripod collar, and I could use the 70-200/4 on FX and the 300/4 PF on DX, both cameras being easily HHable with those lenses. Moreover, I think that the two lenses have a superior quality with respect the two zooms (80-400 & 200-500).
  8. I didn't see wildlife (in the wild) mentioned so 300 for sports. You'll want the 200-500 later though. Best nikkor value hands down.
  9. DougB


    Jun 12, 2009
    Kingston, ON
    Doug Boufford
    I recently purchased the 200-500 f/5.6E and shoot some pro soccer. Used it with a D7200 & D3S. Love it!! f/5.6 is NOT a problem. I can get the net at the far end of the pitch nice & sharp. I do use another cam with a 24-120mm for when the players get real close.For the price, you can't beat it. Have also done some birds with it. Sharp as can be. For soccer I am f/6.3; 1600 sec & adjustable ISO. Latest match shots are here TFC vs Columbus Crew SC - November 29, 2017 - Eastern Championship - Zing-Graphics. (Name of shot denotes camera used - D72_= D7200)
  10. Wayyy too much BG for me but still good looking shots
    I’m a 2.8 junkie for sports, 100%
  11. I'm with Randy when it comes to sports involving moving bodies. Nothing matches the speed of focus and isolation achieved with this lens, even at f/4. As one photographer said to me early in my venture into sports "This (the 300mm f/2.8) is my money-maker."

    However, I've shot a bit of motorsports and I suspect that the zoom might prove acceptable for that use. For track and field the 300mm f2.8 would definitely be better as you really need the isolation.

    So my take, if you can swing it, buy the 300mm. You won't regret it, and you'll have a lens you'll never want to sell.
  12. Well, I jumped on a 300/2.8 VR tonight. Managed to snag one on eBay that appears to be in excellent shape from a very well established seller (well over 1,000 transactions) for only $2,300. IMO, that's an excellent deal for the lens.

    It's a lot of money to spend on a lens, but I'll be selling my Olympus 150mm f/2 along with the teleconverters, which will definitely help off-set a large part of the cost. I look forward to using the lens here in the spring for track and field as well as motorsports.

    Thanks again for those of you who chimed in, I really appreciate it!
  13. that's a great price, lowest I've seen
  14. Yeah, I was a bit surprised to see that I had won the auction at that price.

    Anything to be on the lookout for? I'll check to make sure the AF motor doesn't squeak/squeal, but other than that I haven't read of any issues with that lens
  15. always shot wide open to test it
  16. Will do. What are the expectations regarding edge & corner sharpness wide open? Keep in mind I’ll be shooting this on a D500, so I won’t be using the full width of an FX sensor. I may look at renting a D750 for a day to fully test the lens.

    Thanks for the input Randy.
    • Agree Agree x 1
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