Tamron 200-500 VS or Sigma 150-500?

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Aug 6, 2009
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Midwest USA
Any experience with any of these two lenses.

I'm looking for a lens of this FL, to bring to the field, mainly nature preserve and road side photography in the upper midwest.

Camera is full frame Nikon, amateur hobbyist, looking for a cheaper,
alternative. I don't care if the built is not as good as nikon, but image should be as good.

Thanks.
 
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Jan 12, 2009
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Not so many people have used both of these. Maybe someone will reply.

But ask yourself- do I plan to carry a tripod?
 
Joined
Oct 11, 2007
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I've been looking at both of these as well as a possible next lens for me. Here's what I have discovered in advantage for each lens

Tamron 200-500 - Sharper throughout the range than the Sigma 150-500. No OS so handholding is very difficult and not recommended. Much smaller than the Sigma 150-500 so easier to haul around.

Sigma 150-500 OS - Still fairly sharp, though less than the Tamron. Does have OS and capable of good photos handheld. There is supposedly a good bit of sample variation on this lens though so you'd be best to buy at a store where you can easily return, or buy a used copy that has samples showing it's a sharp copy.


Either of these lenses, you really SHOULD be using a tripod anytime it is possible. These two lenses are nowhere near as sharp as something like the Nikon 200-400 (though most say sharper than the 80-400) so it's important to eek out every bit of sharpness as possible. That means sticking it on a tripod to prevent camera shake as much as possible. Based on that assumption, you may as well spend $300 less and get the Tamron and spend that $300 toward a good tripod/ballhead setup....this is the route I plan to go when the time comes.

Lastly, check out Flickr. There is a group for each lens. I am hugely impressed by a lot of the Tamron 200-500 photos....find somebody with a few good photos (someone who knows how to use the lens well) and view all of their shots with that lens.....surprisingly sharp considering the cheap price of the lens.


Don't know if that helps you at all, but hopefully so. Good luck with your decision.
 
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With all due respect, the preceding is conventional wisdom, which may or may not be correct. Apparently not backed up by a direct comparison. If there is such it would be useful to see it.

I have the Sigma 150-500, and I am happy with the results without tripod in the circumstances that I use it. With both of these technique will limit you for a while and you will have to learn to approach the intrinsic capabilities of the lens.
 
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I would challenge the statement that the Tamron/Sigma zooms are sharper than the 80-400 VR!

My copy of the 80-400 is only slightly less sharp than the 300 f/4 + TC-14, which is as good as it gets for 400mm under $2000.

Everything I have seen leads me to believe that the Sigma 150-500 is in fact not as sharp as the Nikon 80-400. The Tamron 200-500 may be equal to the 80-400 for optical quality, but no VR.

The 80-400 is more compact than the Sigma or the Tamron, so it's a great choice for hiking - if you can live with 400mm.

Cheers

Mike
 
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Lol...I guess you guys think I'm just making stuff up. Threads about these two lenses are made about once a week here lately. While I myself have not tested them...many others on the forum have.....since I'm the only one not too lazy to search, here you go....

In the lower price range of options, I think the Tamron 200-500mm is the lens of choice. I did a pile of research and some side-by-side shooting tests. It was much better than the Nikon 80-400 I tested with. In the research and forum reading (several threads at a handful of different web sites) the consensus seemed to suggest that the Tamron tended to be sharper than the similarly price Sigma options. Because of the quality control issues with Sigma, I chose to go with the Tamron. It's certainly not as sharp as my 70-200, not too many lenses are, but I've been content with the results. I hope to have one of the exotic lenses one day (400mm f/2.8 and/or 600mm f/4) but for now, I'm able to shoot 500mm at f/6.3 and get results I'm good with (I'm very picky). I always shoot with it on a good tripod, or supported by something very solid, as I don't think there is a substitute for good camera handling technique.
Hi,

if you can afford the 200-400/4, go for it. It is the best long zoom available at the moment.

The Sigma 150-500 is much better than the old Nikon 80-400 I tested. The AF is faster, the IQ is better, and it's 100 mm more reach. The 80-400 is just too old, I guess. It was among the first VR lenses from Nikon, together with the 24-120.

Maybe there will be a new AF-S-Version of Nikons 80-400, but nobody knows for sure. I can highly recommend the Sigma 150-500, which I use since more than a year on D300, D2Xs, D700 and D3.

Regards

Mattes
I have one and like it a lot. Light, easy to use, and sharp enough. Af could be faster though, but at F/6,3 we can't expect much better.

I don't really agree with the "needs to be stopped to F/8" statement, it's sharper at F/8 of course (as any other lens) but it's quite good at 6.3 too.

Some samples from mine:
500mm F/6.3 ISO400
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


500mm F/8 ISO1600
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


500mm F/6.3 ISO400
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)



And some more here:
http://fernandobatista.smugmug.com/gallery/7759959_BqpvM#P-1-15

And a 100% crop (Exif included)
http://photos.smugmug.com/photos/526298076_3XATb-O.jpg

https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=189416&highlight=tamron+200

https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?t=227798&highlight=Tamron+200-500

Tamron @ 500mm f/8
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmcantrell/3101951209/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/playoflight74/tags/tamron200500/

All are excellent lenses here. The point is to realize that the Tamron and Sigma are very good lenses that are extremely comparable to the quality that you get with the 80-400....but the Tamron and Siggy are slow lenses so you need good light.
 
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Joined
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I would challenge the statement that the Tamron/Sigma zooms are sharper than the 80-400 VR!

My copy of the 80-400 is only slightly less sharp than the 300 f/4 + TC-14, which is as good as it gets for 400mm under $2000.

Everything I have seen leads me to believe that the Sigma 150-500 is in fact not as sharp as the Nikon 80-400. The Tamron 200-500 may be equal to the 80-400 for optical quality, but no VR.

The 80-400 is more compact than the Sigma or the Tamron, so it's a great choice for hiking - if you can live with 400mm.

Cheers

Mike

Also...it may be possible that the person doing the tests had a really good copy of the Tamron and a subpar copy of the 80-400. I agree...VR would be extremely useful at these focal lengths, but the Tamron is a very good alternative for those who can't afford the 80-400. I mean, the Tamron is on par with the 80-400 on IQ for half the cost (850ish vs. 1650ish)....so it's a very good compromise with only one or two real draw backs....no VR and a slower lens (though not much slower than the 80-400).
 
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Also, you can use a monopod in lieu of a tripod. Most of my photos with the Tamron 200- 500 are on a monopod.

There are many threads here debating these lenses.
 
W

Wileec

Guest
Also...it may be possible that the person doing the tests had a really good copy of the Tamron and a subpar copy of the 80-400. I agree...VR would be extremely useful at these focal lengths, but the Tamron is a very good alternative for those who can't afford the 80-400. I mean, the Tamron is on par with the 80-400 on IQ for half the cost (850ish vs. 1650ish)....so it's a very good compromise with only one or two real draw backs....no VR and a slower lens (though not much slower than the 80-400).
Ok - I'll bite - since I was the one quoted. In my testing the 80-400 wasn't as sharp as the Tamron, at 200 or 400mm. And the Nikon doesn't go to 500. In the ready and inquiries I made all over the place, the sentiment was pretty consistent among those that had shot both. To be honest, the people that were the most up on the 80-400 were those currently shooting it.

I chose the Tamron, partly due to my test, partly due to simpler design, partly due to more reach, and partly based on the research I did. I didn't know about NikonCafe at that point, so none of the research was here. In truth, the Cafe tends to be more pro Sigma than Tamron, while I found in other forums more Tamron interest and support - and negative Sigma experiences, as one finds here, too. I don't have a local source to see Sigma lenses, and didn't want to play Sigma QC roulette.

I already knew that anything much above 200 really benefits from a tripod, so I wasn't planning on hand-holding and I had already invested in a really good tripod and ball head - I used that and remote release in my testing. So, it made no sense, to me, to pay for the complexity and weight of the 80-400. And I can say, to begin with, it was the lens I thought I would be getting, until I read as much as I did, which seem to confirm what I had observed myself.

Bottom line, if hand holding is important, then you have to consider a VR lens, regardless of brand. The Tamron is not for handholding - I've attempted a few shots with it that way - in the heat of the moment and rarely get anything I'd put my name on. Also, initially, I thought it would be sharper at f/8 than wide open, so tried to shoot that way. Then, through testing I determined it's sweet spot was f/10-11, decidedly softer at f/8 and almost as sharp at f/6.3 as at f/10. I have better tools for some of that testing, so intend to repeat it, to see if it's still the case. My sample is dead on in terms of AF. It neither front, nor back focuses, at 500mm, which is where I use it most of the time.

Any way - choose what makes the most sense to you. Technique is a big enough factor, that even if you get a $9k lens, you can get crappy shots.
 
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> Technique is a big enough factor, that even if you get a $9k lens

Definitely. I would bet that ANY new user at 400-500 mm will have a learning curve. Maybe an advantage to buying the Nikon lens is that most users will assume it's NOT the lens.
 
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Ok - I'll bite - since I was the one quoted. In my testing the 80-400 wasn't as sharp as the Tamron, at 200 or 400mm. And the Nikon doesn't go to 500. In the ready and inquiries I made all over the place, the sentiment was pretty consistent among those that had shot both. To be honest, the people that were the most up on the 80-400 were those currently shooting it.

I chose the Tamron, partly due to my test, partly due to simpler design, partly due to more reach, and partly based on the research I did. I didn't know about NikonCafe at that point, so none of the research was here. In truth, the Cafe tends to be more pro Sigma than Tamron, while I found in other forums more Tamron interest and support - and negative Sigma experiences, as one finds here, too. I don't have a local source to see Sigma lenses, and didn't want to play Sigma QC roulette.

I already knew that anything much above 200 really benefits from a tripod, so I wasn't planning on hand-holding and I had already invested in a really good tripod and ball head - I used that and remote release in my testing. So, it made no sense, to me, to pay for the complexity and weight of the 80-400. And I can say, to begin with, it was the lens I thought I would be getting, until I read as much as I did, which seem to confirm what I had observed myself.

Bottom line, if hand holding is important, then you have to consider a VR lens, regardless of brand. The Tamron is not for handholding - I've attempted a few shots with it that way - in the heat of the moment and rarely get anything I'd put my name on. Also, initially, I thought it would be sharper at f/8 than wide open, so tried to shoot that way. Then, through testing I determined it's sweet spot was f/10-11, decidedly softer at f/8 and almost as sharp at f/6.3 as at f/10. I have better tools for some of that testing, so intend to repeat it, to see if it's still the case. My sample is dead on in terms of AF. It neither front, nor back focuses, at 500mm, which is where I use it most of the time.

Any way - choose what makes the most sense to you. Technique is a big enough factor, that even if you get a $9k lens, you can get crappy shots.
Thanks for the clarification. I agree that these focal lengths should be used on a tripod to get the best shots...and if that's done, it makes the tamron as a huge bargain since VR isn't really needed on a tripod.
 
D

dmcantrell

Guest
Lol...I guess you guys think I'm just making stuff up. Threads about these two lenses are made about once a week here lately. While I myself have not tested them...many others on the forum have.....since I'm the only one not too lazy to search, here you go....

Tamron @ 500mm f/8
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmcantrell/3101951209/
Hello,

I'm the dmcantrell from the flickr link you've posted there. flickr.com image stats led me here...

Here's what I have to say about the Tamron 200-500 :

For me, the Tamron lens is a tale of disappointment and excitement, heh. I do like the lens, but at first I did not.

I wanted the performance of the Nikkor 200-400 in the price of the Tamron 200-500, and it's just not like that. The Tamron takes some getting used to, but it is definitely worth the $1000 price tag.

As with anything complicated, the user needs to learn the ins and outs of the equipment to use it to its full potential. In order to get sharp photos with this lens, extra care to long-lens technique is imperative. a tripod is a *must*, and a good one that that. I bought myself a Manfrotto w/ a Manfrotto hydrostatic ball head. I used to have a plastic Velbon that just wasn't cutting it. I also use a sand bag on top of the lens/camera, and I don't extend the neck of the tripod to make it a "monopod-on-top-of-a-tripod".

Also, this lens is sharpest a f/8. I had to do some reading to find out about that. My initial results with the plastic tripod, poor lens technique, and f/6.3 were very disappointing -- and I was pretty PO'd I'd spent the 1000 bucks.

Now that I understand the equipment, I am much happier with it.

One thing to note is that the focus is a screw-type. People complain that it's not "fast" enough. I would say that those people either read online reviews, or they are trying to shoot birds on the wing. The user has to realize that, with a screw-type focus mechanism, focusing on fast-moving objects (that don't move perpendicular to the centerline of the lens) is outside the intended usage for the equipment. This was something else that I had to realize and assimilate into normal usage.

Now, with all that being said, I really enjoy the lens. Please don't take this as a negative review because it's not -- it's just a matter of understanding the nuances of the equipment.
 
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I was happy to find this thread as I am in the market for one of the lenses, was leaning a bit toward the Sigma. But I had my first bad experience with a Sigma the other day, my 70-200 2.8 stopped auto focusing on my D200, so it is off for repair (thankfully it came with a 10 year warranty). I can get a decent deal on the 150-500, with trade-in, but am wondering if I need it now, or wait till next years horse show season. The 70-200 was great for the jumps, just want to get a bit closer I guess (maybe a 2nd body with 300mm would work too :biggrin:)
 
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My brother has a Sigma 50-500 and I had a Tamron 200-500. Personally, we both could see a better IQ at 500mm with the Tamron and that's the focal length you get it for. They are "birding on the cheap" lenses. My Tamron did an excellent job until I decided to be serious about bird photography this year. I sold it to KEH.

I don't know if it's true, but I've not heard great things about the Sigma 150-500. I've heard the sample variation is even worse than Sigma is known for and the IQ is not as good at the Bigma. I heard that LenRentals quit carrying the 150-500 because of the high failure rate. I'm sure an owner wouldn't abuse it as much as a rental, but still the stigma sticks.

If you are really concerned about image quality, I think you'd do much better with Nikon's 300 f/4 and a Nikon brand teleconverter. This combination will set you back about twice what these cheap super zooms do, but you will get a much better IQ for your trouble. You'll also get a premier 300 prime for when you don't need the converter.

As much as I liked my Tamron 200-500, like many who've used these type cheaper lenses they end up sitting on the shelf too much. I'd step up a notch and do it right the first time. If you can't afford the Nikon 200-400 f/4, do the 300 plus a converter.
 
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I came very close to buying the tammy 200-500, but had a nikon 80-400 VR at the time. did a side by side comparison of both lenses (the nice sales person at Calumet Photo let me play with the Tammy hoping I would buy it).

I went home and looked at comparison images side by side and there was no doubt in my mind that the nikon 80-400 was inded much sharper.

I wish you luck finding either of these lenses that will match up IQ wise with any of the nikon teles, the 200-400 included. There really is a reason why they are $$$$.
 
W

Wileec

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I came very close to buying the tammy 200-500, but had a nikon 80-400 VR at the time. did a side by side comparison of both lenses (the nice sales person at Calumet Photo let me play with the Tammy hoping I would buy it).

I went home and looked at comparison images side by side and there was no doubt in my mind that the nikon 80-400 was inded much sharper.
In most comparisons like this the Tamron comes out on top. From the reading I've done (a couple years back) and in side by side testing I did when I first got my D300. I shot at 200mm and 400mm, tripod mounted, remote release and the Tamron was sharper at both focal lengths, plus it had 500mm to go, so more reach as well. It won't be as sharp as the Nikon 200-400 or the exotic primes, but then none of the Nikon consumer glass is either.
 
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In most comparisons like this the Tamron comes out on top. From the reading I've done (a couple years back) and in side by side testing I did when I first got my D300. I shot at 200mm and 400mm, tripod mounted, remote release and the Tamron was sharper at both focal lengths, plus it had 500mm to go, so more reach as well. It won't be as sharp as the Nikon 200-400 or the exotic primes, but then none of the Nikon consumer glass is either.
I may have had a bad Tamron copy. The color rendition from the Tamron was also questionable. I wanted to buy the lens at that time, my 80-400 simply out performed the Tamron, both lenses were shot in broad daylight resting on a car hood. The Tamron was definately softer. I use my 80-400 in a variety of situations and am very happy with it's sharpness and color rendition. Actually, the more I shoot my 400mm f/2.8 prime, the more I have a benchmark to compare performance at that focal length with similar lenses. This is why I say I'm happy with my 80-400, and unhappy with the 200-500 that I almost purchased. I did not own my 400 at that time.
 
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Wileec

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No problem - you certainly aren't the only 80-400 user that has liked the lens. If my test had shown the same results as yours, I would have leaned toward a similar conclusion.
 

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