Looking for new lens about $300 USD or less

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by philip_brazina, May 10, 2009.

  1. I'm not sure if this is in the right forum, so please forgive my ignorance as I am a newbie to this board.
    My old camera was a Sony 828 which had a built in 18-200 lens.
    I just got a new Nikon D200 and using an 18-105 VR lens. It is working nice and I like the quality, but lacking the following functions: macro, zoom.
    I don't really want to change lenses too often (or at all if possible) until I get more familiar with this DSLR.
    I am looking for at least the quality of the clarity and sharpness of my existing VR lens.
    Someone advised Sigma as they have a 70-300 as well as a 18-300 lens which does have a macro switch. What this switch does, I do not know, but hoping it will let me get nice macro shots. I am not against buying the Nikon/Nikkor brand, but usually you are paying a premium for the name. I am seeking to spend about $300 for what I am seeking. Also, I am not limited to 300mm as it can be more, but preferably not less.
    On another board, it was advised I go to a camera store and try out the lenses, but before I do, I want to at least know 2-3 lenses for which to research to test.
    The types of pics I take can be found at http://phillydog.info/events/perfect and I have recently added to the Flora section (so you can see the Nikon pics).
    -ANY- help is appreciated.
  2. What is it you want Philip? A telezoom, a marco lens, a lens? First you have to answer that question yourself, before anyone can help you.
    A 300 dollar budget will not get you too much to choose from, I am afraid. Either you should consider second hand lenses, but especially Nikon will not come cheap. Or you are likely to buy entry level quality consumer stuff, which is a waste of money on the very decent D200.
    Why not use your current set a bit longer, and develop your own preferences. In the mean time save some more money, why not rent a lens over the weekend. Perhaps then you can buy a decent lens, that answeres to your - a bit more specified - desires.
  3. I think you should practice more and learn about what you're going to want, exactly. A crazyzoom like an 18-270 has good points and drawbacks - you'll never find a fast one, and optically it will not be as good as most lenses with more conservative zoom ranges.
    There are a few Sigma and Tamron 70-300 variants, starting with ones with no AF motor and moving up to AF motor and ED or APO glass elements. You might not want the built in motor because your D200 already has one and in this price class it's got a good chance of outperforming the built in motor versions. The Sigma APO version is under $200 and has macro (which you use for focusing from a few feet while in the 200-300 range, giving you a high magnification).
    There are also two Nikon versions. The one that's under $200 isn't really very good. The one that's a few hundred more than that is the best of the group, but it's over your budget by a few hundred.
    I have the motorized, non-APO Sigma 70-300, which is a great value but not incredibly sharp especially for long distances (I think it's better at macro than tele). Here's a sample.
  4. ok, if you can plunk down another $100, you could get an actual 1:1 macro lens like the tamron 90, tokina 100, sigma 105, or nikkor 60. you might also be able to find one used within your budget at Keh or eBay.
    tele-zooms with "macro" functions are rarely 1:1. you might be better off with something like the sigma 17-70, which duplicates your 18-105's focal range, but has 1:2 macro and 2.8 aperture at the wide end. that and some close-up lenses might be all you need.
  5. If it is macro capabilities you want you could always buy a set or Plus Diopter lenses that screw on the front of your current lens or you for a little more you could get a set of the inexpensive Kenko Extension tubes which will work with your current lens and still give you autofocus and exposure The extension tubes can be purchased either locally for about $160 or sometimes you can find them on Ebay for around $65. Either of these options will let you continue to use your current lens to get quite a bit closer than you currently can. The tubes will give you a little better quality than inexpensive diopter lenses but they are a little more expensive. On the other hand you don't have to remove your lens from your camera to use the diopters as they attach just like a filter.
  6. I would go for a tripod, and something like a Cannon 500D for your current lens. Get the 72mm size and a step-up ring.
    Kent in SD
  7. Thanks for all the advice so far. I left out some info which may answer some questions. One is that it is my bday coming up and my criteria was a budget of $300. I like macro, but my priority at the moment is zoom which would be more important, as I could (if needed) take a pic at full 10mp, then crop out what I want, and in turn get the macro I am seeking. I am currently doing that with my 18-105 lens and while a hassle, the end does justify the means.
    My first question: Do those +1/+2/+5/+10 macro filters that screw on the front of lenses actually do anything? I have a 50mm 1.8 prime and if it is worthwhile, I could use that to solve my macro issue as they are fairly inexpensive as I see them on ebay. I think I may have even bought them for my Sony and forgotten about them.
    As for zoom (forget about the macro for now), can anyone suggest an accompanyment lens or replacement lens to my existing one. As Andrew points out above, the D200 does have a built in motor. I do like to take a lot of pics while on vacation, and sometimes I am not close enough to take pics.
    I know the best option would be to rent one for a weekend, but I first need to limit my choices (hopefully to 3), then I will go to B+H and see if they have what I want.
    They are generally helpful, but I like to know what I want before going in and getting the sales person's advice.

    The guy at J+R Musicworld (NYC) actually told me that he ONLY recomments the Nikon 18-200mm VR lens and that all others do not compare. When I bought my 18-105, based on reviews I saw online, it was actually sharper than the 18-200. His advice would have cost me $700, while my lens was only $150.
    Does this clear up a few details? Again, my apologies for not putting in all the details as I thought this would be like most boards where I get no replies. :)
  8. Your best bet would be to go with a 70-300 from Sigma. Given the price range your looking at, you'll likely get more for your money from a 3rd party lens maker like Sigma or Tamron. I think the make a few that have a macro feature. They aren't as good as a true macro lens, but they give you the added benefit of a zoom. Nikon makes a pretty nice 70-300 VR but it's not a macro and it runs about $550.00.
    I think this is an ok lens for the money:
    Not as long and no macro feature, but probably sharper with VR
    Hope these help you a little.
  9. Sorry I just read your second post.
    The ones I chose pretty much still hold up. To get better you'll have to spend quite a bit more. About double your budget. Out of the 3 links if macro is not that important I would probably pick the Nikon 55-200 VR. Even though it is not as long, it has VR and is probably sharper. The 55 short end would allow it to be more functional so your not having to change lenses as much too. If you could afford to jump up to about 589 I would get the Nikon 70-300 VR.
  10. I know exactly what you need, Philip.
    First, your terminology is off a bit. "Zoom" is just the ability of a lens to change focal length - your 18-105 is already a zoom lens. What I think you mean is that you need a "telephoto" zoom lens - one with a longer focal length range.
    I think you would probably be satisfied with Nikon's 55-200mm VR lens. It's a good optical performer and has VR, which is very important in this focal range. There are alternatives, and the 55-200 does have weaknesses, but it's a good choice and will hold its value, making it likely less expensive to actually own than many third-party lenses. It is quite decent at 200mm, whereas many of the xx-300mm lenses are actually not very good (poor, even) beyond 200mm, so you don't add much with that extra range that you couldn't get by cropping from 200mm. The 55-200 is also small and light, making it a great walking-around lens. I have a comparatively expensive and quite heavy 80-200mm f/2.8 professional telephoto zoom but have no qualms about using the 55-200 when I don't want to carry around all that weight. It makes for a versatile combination.
    As for macro function, the 55-200 focuses down to about three feet at 200mm, which gets you fairly close - it might be all you need, although I'm not sure about the 18-105 performance in this area. However, if you want to make it focus closer, it takes 52mm filters, meaning that a good-quality close-focus attachment will be relatively inexpensive for it.
    On that note, stay away from cheap close-focus lenses. The Canon 500D is actually a two-element lens and I've heard that they are very good. Marumi also makes a two-element close-focus attachment that is also highly recommended by some who have used it.
    Finally, the price is right. You can still get a perfectly good "reburbished" 55-200mm VR for well under $200, leaving enough to also get the best close-focus lens and still be within your budget.
  11. Brian and Glenn, this is exactly what I was seeking... thank you.
    I was hoping to get xx-300, but I suppose now that I have 3 choices to choose from, I can compare and see if the 200-300 is really worth the extra money.
    I was looking at this in the interrum, but not sure if it is worthwhile. Brian, I will look at your links above.
    and I think this is the one you are stating to use:
    Is the VR all that hype? I ask as my Sony didn't have any IS and 99% of pics came out perfect, even when on a moving train. For my nightshots, they are all taken with a tripod.
    Sorry for so many questions, but, as pointed it, it is better to do something right initially then to keep trying. :)
  12. I think VR is very helpful. You don't realize how effective it is until you have a lens that doesn't have it. I think the 70-300 Nikon is a decent lens as well. I think the general conscensus on this class of lens is that the 200-300 range is not that great image wise. I think it is very usable, but I think the 55-200 will be a sharper lens. Especially with VR. I had an 18-200 for a while and it is a very versitile lens, but that versatility came a cost of image quality. The VR was very impressive though.
  13. Yes, the cheaper Nikon 70-300 comes highly recommended by people who spell it "lense" :)
    To answer you question, VR is very helpful as it does allow you to take longer exposures than you otherwise would be able to without getting the image blurred by hand shake. Suppose you're shooting at 200mm and you figure you need a 1/250 exposure to have a reasonably good chance of not blurring the shot, you could get the same shot at 1/125 or 1/60. Note that moving subjects can still get blurred so this isn't a great strategy for shooting sports, birds etc. Also I've found that the 55-200VR needs to be stopped down a couple stops to be sharp, but I guess that's true of all the inexpensive tele zooms. For the price, it's a good value. I was planning on selling mine after I got the Sigma but I've been procrastinating because I'm not entirely psyched to give it up.
  14. >The guy at J+R Musicworld (NYC) actually told me that he ONLY recomments the Nikon 18-200mm VR lens and that all others do not compare. When I bought my 18-105, based on reviews I saw online, it was actually sharper than the 18-200. His advice would have cost me $700, while my lens was only $150.
    that J+R salesman obviously had commision on his mind. the only area all others do not compare is in price (except for the 16-85, which is optically superior). the 18-105 gets the highest kit lens marks from thom hogan.
    glenn offers good advice but if all you need is length, i would actually recommend one of the 70-300s over the 55-200. IMO the 200-300 range is fairly significant, maybe not for macro, but for casual use, certainly. it's a bit closer to what you're used to. VR is nice to have but a tripod is better for sharp pics.
  15. Here is a review for the 55-200
  16. Here's what you need. Nikon 55-200mm VR, Canon 500D (52mm.) Both will come in around your budget. Yes, the VR is worth it. If you were to try shooting a 300mm lens without a tripod, you would very quickly find out why I say that. The cheap diopters aren't so hot. Buy the real thing--a Canon 500D ($75.). It will do what you want, the other deal won't. As a bonus, the 52mm 500D will fit on your 50mm lens. You will also have money left over, and I highly recommend you get a 52mm polarizer with that if you are photo'ing flowers. I have both the 55-200mm VR (E Bay $132,) and a Canon 500D (77mm), which I use on my Nikons 70-200mm f2.8 VR and 80-400mm VR. It works great. So there you go--this is exactly what you need for the money you have to spend.
    Kent in SD
  17. Here is a review for the 70-300 VR. It's more than your budget but it would be nice addition.
  18. Hi,
    I used to own Sigma 70-300 and used it with my D40x and later with D80 it was pretty good lens for the price the "MACRO" switch locks the lens focal lenght between 200-300 mm.
    focus was quite slow and motor was kinda loud. but for $300 this might be one of very few options.
  19. You could buy a manual focus nikon 200mm/ f4 Macro lens on ebay, for less than $300. Super sharp.
  20. You might try to find a Tamron Adaptal mount, 90.mm.2.5, in the used market place!
  21. Back in my "un-wiser" days I owned a Tamron 70-300 macro zoom, which is a cheap lens, and only does 1:2 from 180mm-300mm. It was a very soft lens at those focal lengths which rendered it pretty much useless!
  22. I think the answer has at least as much to do with what you plan on shooting, and what you plan on doing with the photos, as it is which lens (or even which type of lens) you choose. These kinds of choices get easier the more you shoot and really get to know your own style and needs.
    Some non-VR lenses are better quality, for example, than VR, but you will get better results with a VR if you need to shoot handheld (or just strongly prefer that).
    Both of the sample photos uploaded would have yielded much higher image quality with the best prime lenses rather than zooms, on tripods with no VR. But to see those differences, it depends a lot on the intended viewing format: if you're just aiming for online viewing, the difference would likely be negligible. If you want truly high image quality, especially large, prints, the better quality will not be coming from the zoom, as much as they have improved in recent years.
    On the other hand, zooms can be a big benefit creatively by allowing different cropping and perspective very quickly. That is why, for example, with my Canon my most frequently used lenses are a 24, a 50, a 24-70, a 100, and a 70-200. The overlap in focal range is not redundant in my mind because they work differently in different situations.
    It is also worth mentioning that very high quality prime lenses tend to be bargains (especially used) in these days of zoom-dominance.
  23. I have my 50mm 1.8 prime which I will put on the Canon 500D (as suggested above) to remedy my macro dilemma. I have my 18-105mm for general scenery, portraits, etc...
    I am looking for a lens to handle distance (bell in the bell tower, bird watching), etc.... distance.
    Basically, my question is for $300, what is best lens I can get. The budget is limited as this is a gift and that was my criteria.
    So far, I have limited to the following:
    *Nikon 55-200 VR (item 2166) http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/486717-USA/Nikon_2166_55_200mm_f_4_5_6G_ED_AF_S.html
    *Sigma 70-300 APO DG http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/549304-REG/Sigma_5A8306_70_300mm_f_4_5_6_APO_DG.html
    *Nikon 70-300 (non-VR - item 1928) http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/207359-USA/Nikon_1928_Zoom_Telephoto_AF_Zoom.html
    I do need distance... 200mm minimum, but I think I would like to try my hand at 300mm.
    Budget is limited at $300. Reading reviews, the Nikon 70-300 VR lens is not much better than the Sigma one.
    I am leaning towards the Sigma as it is supposed to be fairly sharp and with my previous camera I did not have IS, so as I am used to shooting without it.
    Any advice on those 3?
  24. Okay, I know I said the above, but I got a few PMs from people I know and they said it would be worth it to get this one:
    Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 2161 Lens
    Is this really much better than the above 3? I found it for an awesome price and at a reputable place.
  25. A very good price for the VR lens is about $540 - if less I'd suspect it's gray market (not labelled for sale in the US - parts bought this way are the same as the US models but with no warranty). It's a better lens than these others you've listed, but is it worth the extra money? That depends more on you than it does on the lens.
    If I had to choose and my budget were $300 max, I'd go with the Sigma APO - the non-VR Nikon 70-300 isn't very good, and the 55-200VR is good but lacks the 300mm zoom and the close focus, and I've found it not as sharp at wide apertures.
  26. I'm going for the 70-300 VR.... I think I will just chip in the extra 250 bucks and go for the gold. :) Thanks everyone. I tried it today and it was sharp as a tack.

Share This Page