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Tamron 200-500 VS or Sigma 150-500?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by enikkor, Aug 17, 2009.

  1. enikkor


    Aug 6, 2009
    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.

  2. erewhon


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

    But ask yourself- do I plan to carry a tripod?
  3. NateS


    Oct 11, 2007
    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.
  4. erewhon


    Jan 12, 2009
    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.
  5. 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.


  6. NateS


    Oct 11, 2007
    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


    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.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  7. NateS


    Oct 11, 2007

    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).
  8. morcguy


    Dec 29, 2006
    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.
  9. I used to have a Tammy 200-500 before I got my Nikon 200-400. I went through the same choices, and chose the Tammy over the siggy.

    good luck.
  10. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    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.
  11. erewhon


    Jan 12, 2009
    > 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.
  12. NateS


    Oct 11, 2007
    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.
  13. leonkoum


    Jul 17, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  14. dmcantrell

    dmcantrell Guest


    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 :

  15. 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:) 
  16. CraigH


    Mar 21, 2008
    Orlando, Florida
    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.
  17. 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 $$$$.
  18. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    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.
  19. 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.
  20. Wileec

    Wileec Guest

    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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