80-400 or 70-200 VRII+ 2xTC

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by david-w, Mar 22, 2012.

  1. The title says it all really. I can't reach to the 200-400, therefore I'm looking at these two lens options for wildlife and nature photography;
    80-400 VR
    70-200 VR II + TC20E III
    The 80-400 appears to have quite poor resolution at 400mm and slow AF, therefore I've been researching the second option. It's heavier and about twice as expensive, however I am wondering if the results from the very sharp 70-200 +TCx2 will be an improvement over the 80-400 ?
    Does the TC affect how well the VR works?
    I am also attracted to having the dual capability of the second option, ie: 70-200 2.8 and a 140-400 5.6.
    Any thoughts on this?
  2. can't you find a fixed 400mm on the used/KEH market ?
    I think both of those choices are going to suffer. Or get a crop body.
  3. Howard, even used Nikon 400mm go for thousands. The least expensive of KEH's 400mm offerings at the moment is about $4,500.
    In the past, I contemplated switching to Canon, just be able to buy an affordable 400mm prime (and a 7d) for birds and wildlife.
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Nikon has introduced a number of 400mm lenses in the past (and present). For example, there was a manual-focus 400mm/f5.6 AI and a 400mm/f3.5 AF-S, which are probably not what we have in mind here, but those lenses are not expensive in the used market.
    For something more current, Sigma, etc. have some 400mm/f5.6 AF options. Within Nikon, you can also get a 300mm/f4 AF-S and add a 1.4x TC (TC-14e).
  5. Although I no longer have my Sigma APO 400mm f/5.6, it was one of the finest (and relatively lightweight) wildlife lenses that I had when in Africa. If I need to reach 400mm I will now use my 300 f/4 and a TC 14e, or go all the way with my 500 f/4 Nikkor. While I have the 70-200 Nikkor, I feel that it, with a TC, is the wrong way to go. It's a heavy combination and I only use it this way in emergencies.
  6. You may to think outside the box. There are a lot of photographers that like the Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM. It's no Nikon 200-400 but it has the reach that you will need in the field. I don't have the lens but I use the 300-800 and it is outstanding.
  7. I have 'em both. The 80-400 I almost sold while using the D200 (very slow) but then with the D700 the lens got revived and is doing quite good - much faster focussing. The 70-200 VR II with TC20 E III is a bit faster and sharper bust very heavy for longer time use in the field. So, my preferred lens for being outside hiking (when birding) is the 80-400, for on site watching and waiting the 70-200 + TC20. (Considering I'm way over 60)
  8. I have both Nikons 80-400mm VR and 70-200mm VR-1. For trips I take the first lens. When I know I'll be in low light, I take the second, which I sometimes use with a TC-17e. The 80-400mm is slow focus but it is sharp. Not sure how you'll be using the lens or shooting what, but probably the ideal way to reach 400mm without spending thousands would be the 300mm f4 & TC-14e. The TC-17e might work on it.
    Kent in SD
  9. A short while ago I got the Sigma 120-400 4.5-5.6 HSM OS for $899 US. The little I've used it so far (see below), I do like what I see. Nikon does not recommend maximum apertures beyond 5.6 for the autofocus.
  10. This really isn't much of a decision. the Nikon 70-200 f./2.8 VR is pro glass that takes sharp images. It is an investment that you will be happy about forever. You will keep this lens and be proud of what you take with it without ever wishing you could get a sharper image with if you owned a different lens (which, by the way, would be this one).
    There are NO compromises with this lens. For the extra distance, just spend another $500 and get the Nikon 20I teleconverter to get you to the 400mm. I have the 17I because it is less of a sacrifice on sharpness and speed and it still gets me to 360mm which is all I need.
  11. As Kent suggests: AF-S 300 f/4 with TC14. Price/performance the nicest way to reach 400mm in my view.
    But judging between the 2 originally posted options... It's not as simple, in my view, as Donald above makes it seem to be. Yes, the 70-200VRII is excellent, but a TC2x is going to hurt it. I severly doubt it's still better than the above mentioned prime (which is great too), and the prime with TC is considerably cheaper.
    But there is another point, I think, to consider: adding a TC is as much work as changing a lens. When you're in need of this lens, do you need the flexibility of the wide zoom range? Effectively, how often would you be switching because the 140-400 is too long?
    I can't tell obviously, but it's worth considering. I'd balance that inconvenience against the advantage of having f/2.8 up to 200mm.
  12. I like the 70-200 II by itself but with the tc-20e iii the image is quite sharp on 12 MP FX but the images don't feel as clean
    as with the lens without TC. On the D7000 (16MP DX) in my opinion the quality of the zoom+tc combo is lower that a
    typical consumer zoom, or at least not better.

    Frankly I would get the 70-200 and 300/4 and use those as much as possible. Both lenses should take high pixel density
    bodies easily and provide very high quality images. I would just keep the TCs in the back of the cupboard. With the big
    supertele primes, TCs can work great but I do not so much care for them on these lighter weight teles.
  13. Here is a recent hand-held image taken with the AF-S 300 f/4 and TC14. It you do not need a tele-zoom lens, I highly recommend this combo for IQ, weight and price. I bought this primarily for bird and wildlife photography. I use it on a D90. Good luck with your decision!
  14. I'm sorry that my image did not attach (received a bad server error message), but if you go to my image folder, all of the recent bird images were taken with the AF-S 300 F/4 and TC14 combo.
  15. I have the 70-200 VR II + TC20E III and use it a lot – but mainly because it’s the only 400mm I have! For wildlife I find it a bit short, a bit slow (unless it’s good light) and a bit soft for cropping.

    For motorsports I use the 70-200 a lot more successfully swapping with a TC20, TC14 and with no TC. Unless it’s head on shots I’m usually panning so stopped down and I think cars are a bit more forgiving than wildlife for noticing sharpness.

    Following are a few images I took yesterday with that combination. They are all worst case 400mm/f5.6 and hand held and “Normal” jpeg straight from camera with a 100% crop. It does get sharper stopping down. They do improve with a bit of sharpening and colour/curves adjustments. I’ve no idea how this compares to the 80-400 or Sigma zooms and my assumption is it’s worse than a 300f4 + TC14.

    I find if it’s wild life (usually birds) then I’m always at 400mm. As you can see I’m rarely close enough to fill the frame. So for that reason alone I’d go for the 300mm f4 and TC14 as you would not need to zoom out very often, have 420mm reach and I expect a sharper image to crop more successfully. But it’s easy to hand hold, VR appears to still work great and it gives me some proof of what I saw while out and about.

  16. Another from yesterday...
  17. One more example...
  18. Occasionally if I’m patient (again from my car) something big gets closer and if you’re not resorting to extreme cropping the images sharpen up OK. These I took today, again at 400mm, f5.6. It flew in over the trees and banked round and glided off. Again handheld and the AF tracking and VR worked fine.
    Maybe the kit is OK, it's my technique to get close that needs improving!
  19. Quick edit of the raw file...
  20. One last before/after shot from today.
  21. The after...
  22. Thanks all, for the helpful responses. I thought I'd posted a response yesterday stating my current setup and requirements but I either forgot to post after the preview or it got lost in the ether.
    Definite food for thought there, also regarding 300mm + TC. It seems there's a few options that need trying out before I commit to anything.
  23. The 80-400 is my main wildlife lens due to ability to handhold and to crop the image with the zoom. That being said, at 400mm, where it tends to be a lot, it's images are much improved at f/6.3 vs. wide open at f/5.6. So in thinking about your choices, you might want to factor in relative lens sharpness when shot wide open. Cheers, Brian.

Share This Page