Super Telephoto Zooms - thoughts on?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Cschend, Apr 2, 2007.

  1. Cschend

    Cschend

    58
    Apr 1, 2007
    SLC, Utah
    I am trying to determine the best super telephoto zoom for my meager budget. I would love to hear any pros/cons on any of the following lenses.

    Sigma 50-500
    Sigma 170-500
    Tamron 200-500 (currently offering a rebate)

    I already started another thread on the nikon 80-400 which is why it isn't listed here.

    I am currently shooting my D80 with the 70-200vr + 1.7TC, but want to get more range. So far, I mainly shoot wildlife and birds, with the occassional kid's sporting event. I am fond of the idea of a zoom, but am not entirely opposed to a prime (if the difference is that great). If I had unlimited $$$ I would get the 200-400VR and/or the Sigmonster 300-800 (in my dreams). I am a newbie, serious amature, but aspire to something more.

    THANKS for your input!
     
  2. weiran

    weiran

    966
    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    If you want good 500mm then a second hand Sigma 500mm f/4.5 goes for about $2000 and is superb, would beat the super-zooms anyday.
     
  3. Cschend

    Cschend

    58
    Apr 1, 2007
    SLC, Utah
    Thanks! I'll look into it!
     
  4. TimK

    TimK

    Apr 17, 2006
    Hong Kong, China
    Another one you can check out is the Sigma 120-300 f2.8. Its handheldable, very sharp and works great with the Sigma 2x TC to give you a 600 f5.6 that you can carry around.
     
  5. weiran

    weiran

    966
    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    Ahh yes the 120-300mm Sigma is actually sharper at 300mm than the Sigma 300mm prime, and I think I've read that someone from Sigma readily agreed with this.

    A very good zoom lens.
     
  6. gugs

    gugs

    490
    Feb 24, 2006
    Belgium
    my favorite allround long lens, just for info: Sigma 80-400OS, much better than the Nikkor (cheaper, on par optically, tripod mount WAY better, and on board motor for fast AF)
     
  7. weiran

    weiran

    966
    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    I thought the Sigma 80-400OS didn't have HSM?
     
  8. That's right, no HSM but still comes with its own AF motor.
     
  9. I breifly had the Sigma 170-500mm D (not newer DG) and was not happy with it. It lacks both sharpness and speed, something most lenses either have one or the other of. It was also the poorest build I've ever seen on an EX Sigma. It shares the same poor build as the 135-400mm (though this lens atleast produces results inline with its cost and reach).

    If I were buying a super-tele zoom i'd likely want the 120-300 f/2.8 and both 1.4x and 2x TCs. Past that I'd stick w/ either the 100-300mm f/4 HSM + 1.4x TC, 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM + 1.4x and 2x TC (I have this lens, about to buy the TCs), 80-400mm OS, or 50-500mm HSM.

    On the cheaper end (under $500 used) the newest internal-focus version of the Tokina 80-400mm isn't too bad either, though it lacks the VR/OS of the Nikkor/Sigma versions.
     
  10. The Sigma 170-500 is NOT an EX - which is why it does not have the EX build quality. It doesn't have the EX price tag, either.

    The Sigma 80-400 OS indeed does not have HSM - it was the last lens Sigma introduced before HSM. As such it has an internal ring motor that one might view as the predecessor to HSM. It's not quite as quick as the HSM and AFS lenses, but it is MUCH quicker than a screwdriver AF lens, especially on a D40/50/70/80/100.
     
  11. You're right, the 170-500 is not an EX. The newer DG version of the 170-500 and 135-400 both have the rubberized EX finish (similar to the 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5).
     
  12. Cschend

    Cschend

    58
    Apr 1, 2007
    SLC, Utah
    I would like to hear more about the Sigma 80-400. I am thinking of getting the nikon version, but if Sigma is on par or better than nikon I want to hear about it. Post some pix!
    I really wanted to get beyond the 300mm range. My 70-200 + 1.7TC does a great job at this range, but isn't quite long enough. I am hoping to avoid a lot of duplicating of lenses as well.
     
  13. Pixelographer

    Pixelographer

    510
    Dec 22, 2006
  14. Cschend

    Cschend

    58
    Apr 1, 2007
    SLC, Utah
    Thanks for the info Dave. I'll take a peek.
     
  15. gugs

    gugs

    490
    Feb 24, 2006
    Belgium
    a few pics with the Sigma 80-400OS for info:
    (@400mm)
    On the D200:
    191465300_9ed5d20f10_b.

    195137252_3096becf90_o.
    with a 500D close-up lens
    186809495_a79c0ce751_b.
    A few old ones on the D70:
    108023998_c885df4fa0_o.

    106898966_6ecee8c12a_b.

    108026062_582b29d976_o.
     
  16. Donzo98

    Donzo98

    Nov 10, 2005
    Merrick, NY
    That whale shot is amazing!
     
  17. PaulAloe

    PaulAloe Guest

    I thank Christine for starting the thread. I was about to pull the trigger on buying the Nikon 80-400, but now I am not so sure what is the best long lens to get. I have an 18-200 Nikon and a 28-200 Sigma (don't ask how I got both), and a teleconverter, but I would like to get a longer lens for water shots and sports. I am concerned that the Nikon does not focus all that fast, which is a problem. I noticed on the two lenses I now have that the nikon focuses way faster than the sigma and the slow focus on the sigma often causes me to miss a shot
     
  18. weiran

    weiran

    966
    Jan 2, 2007
    Nottingham, UK
    That's because the Sigma you have doesn't have HSM (or AF-S as Nikon calls it). If you do want fast focusing make sure you get a HSM Sigma lens. BTW the Nikon 80-400 doesn't have AF-S and is a comparatively slow focusing lens compared to something like a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 which has HSM, however while the Sigma 80-400 doesn't have HSM either it does have an in-lens focusing motor, which some people in this thread have said focuses faster than the Nikon 80-400 which might be screw driven?
     
  19. I can only speak for the Sigma, as I haven't yet had a chance to compare it to the Nikkor. It's some kind of love-hate relationship, as you may get tack sharp images at 400mm, like this lucky shot:

    139563766-O.

    But it also has some drawbacks: First one is that I found 400mm only usable above f8 for critical(!) sharpness (better f9). That means that shooting in bad light becomes rather difficult. The main problem with apertures below f8/f9 is that strange kind of flare which you get below f8, like you can see here:

    135537078-O.

    Look at the blown feathers. The kind of flare (don't know if it's the correct term) I mean is a kind of halo you get at very contrasty (bright) edges. It almost completely vanishes going from f7.1 to f/8 and above.

    Second drawback is that Sigma's OS can't keep up with Nikon's VR (compared to my 70-200VR), and I tried two Sigma's.
    Despite the fact that the OS sometimes behaves a bit wobbling and needs a second try to become stable, I have after some deeper investigation the impression that it's rather useless for 10mp sensors as it introduces some micro vibration to the image most of the time which prevent tack sharp images. This is even the case if the image appears very stable in the viewfinder.

    Comparisons under the same (good) lighting conditions of the lens hand held with and without OS at high shutter speeds (>= 1/320s @ 400mm) consistently showed that I can get better images without OS than with.
    I'm not completely through that issue yet (need to do some more testing with MLU to see if it's the shutter vibration the OS can't cope with or if it's introducing that mini vibration by itself) but compared to my 70-200's VR I'm quite disappointed.

    (This OS issue was not so apparent with my D70 which I had before so my guess it's the bigger resolution of the D200 which shows the OS's limits here).

    The stupid thing however is that a xx-400mm zoom is the ultimate zoo lens :wink: (I sometimes get more attention than the animals if I show up with that thingie) and I haven't seen any alternatives yet that can compare with the versatility of those both 80-400mm lenses for that purpose.

    I might to go to some faster lens (also because of that flare/halo issue) but a fixed focal length lens might be unconvenient for uncooperative aminals and besides that it seems that there are no other zooms that go to 400mm without TC (and preferrably have some kind of VR).

    The Sigma 100-300 f/4 would be a candidate that I would like to test but I fear that once you put a TC on it to get in the 400mm range you'll end up with no significant IQ improvement over my current 80-400.

    Too bad I didn't had the chance to test the Nikkor against my Sigma to see how well it could bear up against the Sigma and my nit-picking expectations!
     
  20. I have the Tamron 200-500 and while it is a nice lens and has decent image quality it is not the fastest lens on the block, which makes it not so great for shooting animals on the move, birds on the wing, etc. It does give you nice reach so is fine if the bird is quietly perched on a limb, but just isn't responsive enough when the bird takes off. It is a slow lens in terms of light, too, so that you really need to be able to use it in excellent lighting conditions. That isn't always possible, of course, especially in the early morning or early evening.
     
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