Best telephoto zoom

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by schonphotography, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. Please excuse this if it has been asked before.

    I'm lookIng for a fast, telephoto zoom for Nikon. My brother owns a Nikon 70-200 2.8 VR and I love it; it's quite hard not too. But after
    looking at similar lenses, I began to wonder if there is anything better. The main lens in question is the Sigma 120-300mm 2.8 OS. I
    havn't seen anything else like it, and it would be really nice to have that extra reach but still have a fast 2.8 aperture. Has anyone had
    experience with this lens in comparison to the Nikon, or does anyone have any recomendations for a lens similar in focal length,
    speed, sharpness, and price ($5000 for a Nikon 300mm f/2.8 is way out of the question, and the 300mm f/4 just isn't up to the quality
    I feel should be delivered from Nikon; for example no VR and a very poor tripod collar).

    Thank you for all your help, this is something that's been in the back of my mind for a bit and I'm sure has been for others.

    -Alex Schon
  2. i just shot a concert with the 70-200VR II today. that's about as good as it gets.
  3. Subject: Best telephoto zoom​
    Which body are we mounting said lens on?? If you can afford it, purchase the 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII it's the ant's pants of short telezooms.
    and the 300mm f/4 just isn't up to the quality I feel should be delivered from Nikon; for example no VR and a very poor tripod collar).​
    Are you wanting to take photos or prefer to fret over an easily replaced/fixed lens collar issue? I virtually fixed the lens collar "issue" on my 300/4 with a $2 rubber stopper. Any dud exposures I get with my 300mm f/4 are due to me, not the lens collar.
    Any of the 300mm Nikkor primes is going to produce better IQ than the 70-200mm VR with any teleconverter. As for lack of VR - how many exposures are you going to take unsupported (ie hand held) with a 300mm prime which involve shutter speeds slower than around 1/125th?
    IMHO VR is a great assist for unsupported shots at sluggish shutter speeds, anything faster than 1/125th is usually 'do-able' hand held with good shooting/lens technique.
  4. agree with Eric. 70-200 f2.8 VR2 is a stunningly good lens. it is my #1 go-to lens for bicycle racing and other sports I shoot. It has served my well in all sorts of other situations. It's the only lens I have that I consider "perfect".

    and Eric -- nice photo... to top it off, it's Tower of Power! even better!
  5. +1 Matthew Brennan. You saved me a whole lot of typing this morning.
  6. I use the older Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 in fact it is my main go to lens for what I do. I find the AF to be fast and accurate on my D300 in all kinds of lighting. I find it to have very good color and contrast the lens is very usable at f/2.8 and by 3.5 it is hard to beat.
    You will pay more for the 120-300 then for the 70-200 but I think it is worth it.
    Shot this at 300mm f/2.8 into the sun
  7. I never tried the Sigma, but it sounds interesting and the sample photos from Michael and on Amazon look great. However, I think the overwhelming majority of people will tell you to get a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII. I have it and if something happened where I had to get rid of my camera stuff, that's the last thing that goes. To me, that lens is as good as it gets...period. And if you are in DX, even the old version will be stellar because the vignetting is a non-issue. I've heard nothing but great things about the Nikon 300mm f/4 also even though it's a little dated. I would say rent one of these lenses the next time you want to shoot something and see for yourself.
  8. that is a great shot, michael.
  9. For those asking the lens will be used between a D7000 and (when it comes out... 2 more days?) a D800. I was out
    using a 70-200mm 2.8 this morning photographing pronghorn antelope and just wishing I could have a little more on
    the long end. The results were fantastically sharp though, with a D7000 it's easily cropped. So now I'm split between
    all 3 lenses. The 300mm f/4 can be easily used wih a teleconverter to get to 500 f/5.6. But, as with all primes, you
    have no short end. The 70-200mm f/2.8 is brilliant; a perfect lens. So that seems like the obvious choice, but it's
    something about being able to use a 300mm f/2.8 for under $5000, and still be able to zoom with it that's really
    tempting. Unfortunately none of the stores around me carry it (Philadelphia region), so there's no way to see how I like
    it without renting (for that lens its expensive) or taking a trip up to New York. How bout I get all 3... That would make
    choosing easy!
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR II is of course legendary. If you want something longer, Nikon's 300mm/f4 AF-S is excellent optically, but the poor tripod collar is well known. IMO, another issue is the relatively slow AF speed, especially for an AF-S lens. For something that demands fast AF, such as birds in flight, I would rather not use the 300mm/f4 AF-S..
    Any 300mm/f2.8 lens is going to be big. Occasionally I use that hand held for birds in flight shoots, but unless you are unusually strong, most people won't be able to hand hold that for long. So if hand holding is what you have in mind, I think you can forget about any 120-300mm/f2.8 zoom. And you want some sort of support anyway if you are demanding on optical quality.
    I captured the attached image with the 300mm/f4 AF-S on the D7000, wide open at f4 and ISO 250. It is heavily back lit so that shutter speed is a modest 1/800 sec, but that is fast enough such that I wasn't missing VR.
  11. If your budget is around $2000 US then you should definitely go for the 70-200 2.8 II. I bought the version 1 refurbished and, while a great lens, I think the new one is a big step forward. I demo'd it in the store and got perfect sharpness at 1/5th and 200mm handheld. Unbelievable.
  12. I second the recommendation of the 70-200 combined with 300/4 AF-S. Practical, hand-holdable in a pinch (that is the 300mm; the 70-200 Mk II is hand-holdable, period), good image quality even wide open, and it will not cause as much back pain as a 300/2.8 (or any zoom that reaches 300/2.8). I recommend getting a Burzynski tripod collar for the 300/4 from It's smaller than the Kirk, RRS, or Nikon collars and very solid. If you do not want to order from Europe then get one of the American equivalents.
    I must say that I need at least 1/800s to get sharp hand-held pictures from the 300/4 consistently. No, I don't have Parkinson's. I can, however, get a sharp shot with the 200/2+TC-20E III at 1/125s (400mm focal length!) thanks to the VR. My back will hurt afterwards, and not every shot will be as sharp, but the VR does help.
    I sold my 300/4 AF-S one year ago as I was planning on getting the 300/2.8 VR ... but of course I cannot make that kind of money so easily. Then I stumbled upon the remarkable new 2x TC and while TC rigs are never as sharp as prime lenses of the correct focal length, this combination of 200/2+TC-20EIII is actually quite good and satisfactory for my needs (on 12 MP FX cameras). I normally use it on tripod, but in a tight spot I can hand-hold it successfully and so it will service my occasional need for reach. But if you need 300mm (or 400mm) reach regularly then you will want a proper lens that has the desired focal length without TC if possible. The 300/4, while it has no VR and the AF is slightly on the jittery side (for an AF-S lens; the autofocus is nonetheless better than that of non-AF-S lenses of comparable focal length), nevertheless is in my opinion the most practical way of getting a high quality 300mm if you're a Nikon user. Those of us who decided to wait for an update with VR could be waiting for a number of years as any 300/4 with VR is going to affect sales of Nikon's star performer, the 300/2.8. Even though the 300/2.8 has VR, one extra stop, high performance with teleconverters, and faster AF, it is decidedly not what I would call "travel friendly", nor is it a lens I would prefer to hand-hold except in an emergency that lasts a few moments. Following a moving subject with a heavy lens like that isn't so easy though obviously those who are long lens experts will have mastered it.
    I have not used the TC-14E with the 70-200II; that is however a budget option you can consider and will give you VR II. The TC-20E III is a little "muddy" on the 70-200II and I stopped testing it after making some prints that were less than satisfactory.
  13. I use my 300 f4 a lot. Portrits,sports.and closeups that could not be sharper. AF works fast enough for 90% of my shooting. For any price this is one of nikons greats. They don't need to change It. Best lens you can buy for around 1500 bucks. Hears A shot Enjoy.
  14. I saw $2,000 mentioned in this thread. If that is your budget, one thing you could consider is a combination of a new 80-200/2.8 AF-D and a mint used 300/4 ED-IF (the one that pre-dates the AF-S version, and has a really good tripod collar). I use both on my D7000 a lot and have been very happy. The older 300/4 has a fairly slim body and is very easy to handhold or carry around for long periods of time. AF speed on the D7000, while nowhere as fast probably as an AF-S lens, is also not really all that bad. If money is no object, then the newer lenses are probably well worth the extra money - but if money does matter, this would be something to consider.
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    For those asking the lens will be used between a D7000 and (when it comes out... 2 more days?) a D800.​
    If the plan is to use these telephoto lenses on a D7000, I would get the latest optics. The 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR II works great on the D7000, even at 200mm, f2.8. If you need something longer occasionally, I would add a TC-14E to the VR II, at least as a temporary solution and wait for the successor to the 300mm/f4 AF-S and with VR II. I am very puzzled why Nikon still has not added VR to the 300mm/f4 yet.
    I have no idea what this future "D800" will be like. Assuming that we are talking about a high-pixel-density FX body, once again you want new lenses. However, I would ignore all the mis-information from the rumor sites; they have no idea what they are talking about; they build up all this false expectation only to let everybody getting disappointed.
  16. I replaced the tripod A-S mount on my 70-200 with one from Kirk. If shooting hand-held I just remove the whole thing.
  17. Assuming that we are talking about a high-pixel-density FX body, once again you want new lenses.
    What a bizarre thing to say. By increasing pixel density in the camera you get more detail out of your existing lenses, which is a good thing and makes it less likely for you to want to upgrade lenses since you're getting better value out of your existing ones. Only if Nikon ruins the camera by putting a consumer AF system into it, which is unlikely in case of an FX camera, would there be a significant problem.
    With a high pixel density FX camera you have effectively increased zoom range if you're normally satisfied with DX quality. And you can chop your image to any aspect ratio you like, and still get a detailed, large print. Panoramic? Square? Your choice.
  18. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    By increasing pixel density in the camera you get more detail out of your existing lenses,​
    Ilkka, the potential problem is that any high-pixel FX-format DSLR is demanding on lenses, as the 24MP D3X does. When the sensor out-resolves your old lenses, you cannot get more details from them.
    That is why I don't like to talk about rumors. Since nobody knows exactly what this "D800" is, it is all hyperthetical. But take the D7000 as an example, its 16MP sensor out-resolves my 500mm/f4 AF-S, and I need to stop down a bit to take full advantage of those 16MP. The problem with FX is that it requires a larger image circle. You'll likely have edge/corner problems with not-so-great lenses. On the sensor, pixel density is the same in the center and in the corners; however, on any lens, the resolution is best in the center and tapers off towards the corners.
  19. Since nobody knows exactly what this "D800" is, it is all hyperthetical.​
    Is that the opposite of hypothetical?
  20. Matthew Brennan said it best.
    I will also throw the Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 AF-S into the mix. The Nikon 300mm f2.8 AF-I or AF-S are both in the price range of a new Sigma 120-300/2.8.
  21. Shun,
    Which lenses are being reported as out-resolved by the D7000 or D3x?
  22. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    As I said, the D7000 out-resolves my 500mm/f4 AF-S, first version @ f4. It also clearly out-resolves my new 28-300mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR @ 300mm, f5.6. That same lens otherwise works quite well on 12MP FX-format DSLRs such as the D700 as both Bob Krist and Bjorn Rorslett reported:
    Both of them posted to that thread themselves so that you can read their own words directly.
    Even my D300 out-resolves the 18-200mm DX on the 200mm end. If you mount that on the D7000, it can only be worse (I have done that but only briefly).
    The otherwise highly respected 17-35mm/f2.8 AF-S produces soft corners on the D3X, especially on the wide end. You need to keep in mind that the 24MP D3X actually has slightly lower pixel density than the 12MP D2X, D300, and D90. Therefore, the D3X's center is not even as demanding as the D300; the problem is that FX is over twice the area of DX so that corners on FX tend to be problematic.
    This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some examples. But generally speaking, the new generation of high-pixel-density DSLRs, both DX and FX, are demanding on lenses. It will only get more extreme as pixel count goes further up. The issue on the D3X is well known among those of us who reviewed that camera:
    having 24MP on a still relatively small 24×36mm FX sensor begins to show the limitations for this sensor size and the lenses. To take full advantage of 24MP, you are restricted to the best lenses in their “sweet spot” apertures, low ISO and tripod usage.​
    but since it is so expensive, no that many people own a D3X so that the discussion is not wide spread. In fact, I can't afford a D3X myself; I tested it with a review sample Nikon USA loaned to
  23. Chun,
    Thank you for taking the time to put all of that out again.
    'Interesting how the reviews of only one year ago seem to be so long ago, and how time has informed us even in that short interval. Rapid digital sensing development compresses our sense of time as generations of sensors and bodies turn over fairly quickly. As I buy glass, I try to anticipate what bodies will appear down the road and what demands will be placed upon it. That is how I bought the first generation 70-200mm 2.8 VR for my then new D70s, thinking it would also serve when full frame rolled around. I like landscapes, and so I now have the second generation. Still the lesson for glass seems to be to go with the highest image quality one can afford and thereby have some reserve resolving power when new bodies demand more.
    It is also interesting how some of us, hopefully not myself too often :), do not know enough to know how little we actually know. ;-)
    Dave Ralph
  24. Shun, I quite understand how a lens like the 28-300 is outresolved by the D3X, however I find it hard to believe that the 500/4 is. My observations of details on Velvia 50 with a 200/2 AI and 400/2.8 AIS, compared to identical images on a D2X, at ISO 100, suggest to me that there is room beyond a full frame senor of 24 MP before outresolving these lenses.
    I agree that 12 MP cameras like the D2X make a level playing field for lenses since they cannot resolve the detail that the extremely sharp, read that as extremely expensive, lenses provide. I dream of having a camera that can take advantage of what the truly sharp lenses can resolve and show the unsharp lenses for what they really are. This is what we learned back in the days of Kodachrome 25 and Velvia 50 and 25 ASA B&W.
    Perhaps I am misunderstanding some of your thoughts but you seem to be downplaying the need for hi-res bodies because they are going to outresolve most lenses. I however say "bring it on", at least until the very best lenses are outresolved, and then of course there is no need to go further.
    As in the film days the resolution of 24x36 film was limited too, but it was the size of the camera body and lenses that made the format ideal for sports and ideal for portability, not to mention the possibility of blistering frame rates. Which is, and always will be the advantage of the 24x36mm sensor DSLR and even the crop bodies. Eventually medium format digital will truly be back to 56mm x yy mm and that format will be ideal for high res pro studio, architectural, fashion and landscape photography as it was in the film days.
    I can see a day when Nikon/Sony and Canon take their sensor manufacturing abilities to push into the market of larger sensor format cameras, or if they don't want to get into the expense of creating a whole new niche market system they will simply sell their sensor manufacturing abilities to the medium format camera manufacturers.

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