nikon 200-500/5.6 comparison with Tamron 150-600/5-6.3

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by skip_wilson, Oct 11, 2016.

  1. Does anyone have any comparitive experience with the Nikon 200-500/5.6 lens and the Tamron 150-600/5-6.3. Both these lenses came out within the last two years, I believe and seem to be about the same price point. I shoot with a Nikon D 7100 and want more reach than my 70-200/4 provides for sports and birds, wildlife. Thanks.
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I don't have either, but 100 mm is more than one might think. Try this to see the difference.
    My experience over decades is that same system lenses work the best.
    Good luck with your decision.
  3. I've been happy with the Nikon 200-500mm, especially after I paired it with the D500.
    The Tamron seems to get generally good reviews, but my concern with that lens is that it reaches the f6.3 max aperture at around 430mm, so AF speed will be compromised at that FL (and longer) in less than the brightest days.
    Another limiting factor is your body's AF speed. I'm not familiar with the D7100's AF speed, but I did notice a significant difference in the 200-500mm's AF performance when I first got it (using a D800e) and today (D500).
  4. I suppose the difference in reach would depend a little on how much room you have to crop. I have a D3200 which like the 7100 has enough pixels that cropping might win over a longer lens if the quality is better.
    I tried the Tamron about a year ago, and it was not bad, but the vibration control was so so. I ended up getting the Nikon and have not regretted it, as mine is good and sharp, and the VR is amazingly good. I seem to recall seeing that Tamron has updated this lens and the newer ones might be better. The one I tried was in the $1000 range. It was certainly a tempting price, but I really like the way the Nikon behaves. Between the two I tried, the VR was the clincher, making the Nikon a truly hand holdable lens.
    I have read that sample variation in both these can be pretty wide, especially the Tamron, so it's probably a good idea with either to get one from a reputable dealer who takes returns, if you can't try it in a store.
  5. I've not tried the Tamron, but I can vouch for both the
    image quality and VR capabilities of the Nikkor. Most
    tests I've seen suggest the Nikkor and the (larger) Sigma
    Sport are the best of the recent telezooms (with the
    cheaper version of the Sigma and the Tamron behind).

    That said, I gather Tamron have just updated their
    design, so there may have been improvements (Or you
    may get the old one at a discount).
  6. I have the Tamron. I specifically did not buy the Nikon because it's crippled with film cameras. I can only say that I have adored the Tamron. Now Tamron has a new version out that looks great but IIRC they now also don't work with Nikon film cameras, so if that matters to you, try and find the first version.
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Personally I would stay away from any AF lens that is slower than f5.6, especially if you are after AF performance. I have the Nikon 200-500mm/f5.6 AF-S VR. It is a very good lens at an excellent price. However, its AF speed is definitely not great, but I would say it is good enough under bright sun light.
    The Nikon 200-500mm is an E lens. Any Nikon SLR prior to the 2007 D3 and D300 will not be able to control its aperture. To me, it is not a big deal to be stuck at f5.6, which is how I use it anyway. IMO, f5.6 is already pretty slow for a 500mm lens and I rarely stop that lens down.
  8. I haven't used the Tamron but I absolutely love the Nikon 200-500mm paired with the D500. The AF speed can be slow at times and sometimes it focus hunts when you try to focus on a small object in front of a busy background however I take a lot of photos of humming birds both perched and in flight.
    My setup works very well for that type of photography even with the focus hunting (which is a minor issue that only occasionally happens) and the focus speed which despite being on the slower side compared to other lens/camera combos is fast enough for me to get photos of the birds in flight.
  9. I own the Tamron, purchased used, for the very reasons mentioned in the OP. I am still trying to align my expectations with this lens' performance. I'm starting to wonder if I should have sprung for the Nikon 200-500mm, but I need to do more work with the Tammy to make sure I'm truly getting the most out of the lens. Last weekend was spent in Yellowstone shooting wildlife in real-world conditions. I'm still working the raw files to verify my results, but I'm not feeling real positive. The images seem to be softer than what I was hoping for, among other concerns. I'm shooting on a D7100. My (still tentative) feeling is that the Tamron 150-600/5.6-6.3 is adequate in bright light and good conditions, but with performance that rapidly deteriorates as one departs from optimal conditions. If you have a choice now, and cost is essentially the same, then go with the Nikon.
  10. I have owned a tammy 150-600 for over 1 1/2 years now and really enjoy it. It is not a hand holding lens. Must be used with a monopod or tripod with good head. I use it with a D7100 and start the early morning at 1200 iso and lower it down as the day progresses. Can't afford a Nikon now so will enjoy my "low cost" lens. Biggest complaint is the weight, hence the monopod and tripod. It does take a patient learning curve.
  11. The 200-500's VR is much better than it has any right to be. I used it in Yellowstone too, and although I did use it on a tripod, it was mostly hand-held - mostly around f/8 (it may not be perfect at f/5.6, but to be honest I didn't try too hard to compare and trusted Thom Hogan's comments). If the Tamron struggles unless it's on a tripod, that's a major difference between them in my book.
  12. Andrew, the lens doesn't struggle, my old achy body struggles. It has very fast af and even with the best VR, one has to hold a lens somewhat steady. I cannot. Hence, the tripod.
  13. I've the 200-500 and still question if it was a good purchase. This primarily due to slow focus and too much hunting (w/ D5, D800, D7200). The VR is quite good and once focused the images are good.
    From what I remember the new Sigma Sport 150-600 was much better focusing, not quite as good VR, and fairly equal images depending on aperture. It was a heavy beast though and I do a lot of lugging stuff through airports, train stations, and handholding so weight was a critical bit of why I didn't go with it.
    From people I've talked to the Tamron is not quite as good as the Sigma Sport though perhaps comparable to the lower end Sigma 150-600. I'd love to see Nikon come out with a really good, fast aperture, fast focusing, great VR, and fairly light FL version of the 200-500 or better 150-600. I think it'd be worth the money... To me anyway.
  14. Bill: Understood. I have the advantage of a large belly, which makes a good elbow rest. (I've checked and this is how I believe I can use a 400 f/2.8; a 500 f/4 currently requires too much arm extension unless I put on even more weight...)

    Walker: Agreed that the autofocus on the 200-500 isn't spectacularly fast at focus - to an extent I guess Nikon might not want to compete with their own 200-400 f/4, although the impression I get is that Canon really have the edge on that lens and that Nikon should consider a proper redesign. Making it fast aperture and light is going to be challenging, although now they have their diffractive technology working it's probably not an impossibility. Sigma, of course, make a 200-500 f/2.8 - although I don't think I've seen a review that tested autofocus speed...
  15. I am pretty sure that you can’t put a Nikon tele-converter at the Tamron lens. Maybe 500 is enough with DX but at my D800E I always use a 1,4 so it still is possible to AF (f/8) and get 700mm.
  16. I thank you all for your responses. This site offers so much in the way of varied and cumulative experiences of many photographers making it very informative for the rest of us.
  17. Agreed that the autofocus on the 200-500 isn't spectacularly fast at focus - to an extent I guess Nikon might not want to compete with their own 200-400 f/4, although the impression I get is that Canon really have the edge on that lens and that Nikon should consider a proper redesign.

    Canon's lens is about 57% more expensive than the Nikkor and arguably a prohibitative cost threshold is exceeded there for many potential customers. I agree Nikon should make improvements to their lens but if the updated lens becomes more expensive than a 400/2.8, 500/4, or 600/4 then it can be asked, what happens to the market size? Today, with high resolution sensors, one can do a bit of cropping to finalize the framing in many action situations and still expect excellent results if starting from a top quality prime lens. The additional stop can be used to obtain faster shutter speeds which further increase the chances of a successful crop especially in low light.
    I just recently photographed some figure skating and I felt using a zoom (70-200/2.8) it can be difficult to maintain framing while following the action and making sure the subjects are in focus. In covering skaters from one end to the other of the rink, a 200-400/4 would no doubt be a valid option if the zoom is fast to operate, and I can see the convenience of the flip in/out TC. However, f/4 means roughly ISO 6400 in the indoor arena where I shoot (in competition lighting; theatrical lighting can be worse), and f/2.8 gives you about ISO 3200 (1/1250s). The lower noise afforded by giving the sensor more light allows one to retain good image quality better if you need to crop. And even with a zoom, it can be hard to maintain exact framing while following the action, so it can be a subtle affair, whether there is in fact a benefit from using the zoom. I am starting to fall in the camp where I think it's best to use a fast prime in this scenario and concentrate on times where the action is at a suitable distance, and finalize the composition in post-processing (this step may be necessary even if using a zoom, as it can be hard to hold the verticals absolutely straight when following the action, also the subjects may require a different aspect ratio than 2:3).
    Now, the situation is different when photographing in natural daylight outdoors. I am not suggesting the Canon lens does not have its own applications. However, I do believe is too expensive for most people, given the advantages of other lenses available in the same price class. Thus I question whether Nikon can actually gain or lose sales if they reach the same price with a future new version of the 200-400/4. Fortunately Nikon has made a few long lenses that are within many people's reach, and yet offer good results, such as the 200-500/5.6.
  18. Ilkka: Perhaps you should be interested in the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8, then? (If you don't already have one.) Honestly, it'd be on my list as a possibility too, although my existing NAS (and Brexit) means I'm not going to be shopping for a while. Besides, I've always wanted a 400 f/2.8, and that means I need to save up for a good long time...

    The problem I always had with the 200-400 f/4 is the 200 f/2. Yes, I'm sure the zoom is better at the long end, and the zoom is convenient, but for the same price I'd rather have f/2 available and live with a teleconverter. Perhaps if it was an f/2-4 zoom! But then I don't shoot active sports, so for a zoom, the 200-500 will do me. :) Personally I'd not be after the Canon one if I shot Canon, but the integrated TC14 and the apparently better performance still make me think Nikon is behind the curve for those who could use one. I'm sure Nikon would charge Canon money for it if they felt they could. The 200-500 and various 150-600 options mean that I think these lenses are approaching the "money no object" range anyway - the "affordable" versions are suddenly way more competitive than back in the day of the 150-500 Sigma OS I owned.
  19. Andrew, I'm happy with the lenses I have; I don't need the 120-300. The range is good for figure skating and it seems like a very fast focusing lens. But I don't think it gives enough of an advantage over the lenses I already have. I would be interested in a lens like the Nikon 200-400/4 if the autofocus and the out of focus rendition could be improved but not at any price. With any of these lenses I would expect to be able to use it wide open without significant image quality loss, given that I need fast shutter speeds and the lighting is what it is.
    The point I'm trying to make is that Nikon needs more than a few customers to stay in business. Canon aren't charging "what they can" for the lens, they are pricing it based on the expectation of near zero sales, and by doing so, they are guaranteed that the expectation is met. If the price is no object to the customer, I think most will pick a faster or faster and longer prime.
  20. I went to check out the 120-300 anyway. The latest version has internal zoom, and seems light enough to operate quickly.
    I had not realized they moved from telescoping to internal in the Sport version. This seems well suited to the task actually,
    thanks for the tip.
  21. Well, there aren't many faster and longer primes than a 400mm f/4! But I could understand if I'm not the only one more tempted by a 400 f/2.8 than a 200-400 (of course, being tempted is one thing, spending £10k is another). Canon, of course, have always (well, for a while) had the 400 f/4 DO lens and a 400mm f/5.6 prime, which Nikon have never felt the need to compete with - possibly because they had the 200-400 and didn't want to impact on it. I'm just glad Nikon have decided to offer something half decent in the "relatively affordable and longer than 300mm" category at last, even if Sigma and Tamron decided to do it too.

    Big disclaimer about the 120-300: others on the forum have given it glowing reviews, but I have no personal experience other than noting that it's probably not much less hand-holdable than the 200 f/2 and it's half the price of the 200-400. Some day when I win (and enter) a lottery... Meantime, I've got to admit that the 70-200 is quite a lot easier to carry around. :) I can carry, relatively easily, a 70-200, 200-500, 14-24 and 24-70 in one bag, with a few extras to spare. The same bag will hold a 200 f/2 (and, I guess, therefore also hold the 120-300) but I'd be dropping other lenses to do it. That may not be the end of the world depending on what the TC-2001 does to the 120-300... Hmm. I must stop thinking of ways to spend money. :)
  22. Here is an example of what is possible with the Tamron 150-600/5-6.3. This was taken two weekends ago in Yellowstone NP, and is my best result so far with this lens. This was shot at 500/8, hand-held, but braced against a tree.
  23. This seems well suited to the task actually, thanks for the tip.​
    I looked at this Sigma 120-300mm once, but it is very big and heavy. I knew immediately I held it that it was not going to work for me. I get the feeling that my reaction is not untypical. In the end I went for the Canon 70-300L as a happy medium, but this would be not a lot of use for an indoor arena.
  24. Very nice, David. Belatedly, for comparison, here's a 1:1 crop from the long end of the 200-500 (f/7.1) on a D500, also in Yellowstone. (There are two in the non-cropped version, but we're pixel peeping here!)
  25. Nice eagle, Andrew! I'm not so much into pixel peeping, certainly not with this lens. At 1:1, 90 dpi (screen resolution), it gets very soft, as much from the quality (or lack thereof) of the lens as from the monitor. Probably similar to your eagle shot. What it does offer is "adequate" performance at long focal lengths for reasonable cost. You get what you pay for, but sometimes what you need is really long reach. I still contend this class of super-telephoto is much better under good conditions with bright sunlight, or at least sky light, and stopped down to f/8 or f/11. There is a thorough and informative comparison of three lenses (Nikon, Sigma, and this Tamron) <HERE>. Each clearly (pun intended) has its strengths and weaknesses, and none is an absolute winner overall. The buyer must decide which set of tradeoffs best fit his or her needs. Here is a 1:1 heavily cropped:
  26. Thanks, David. (Any credit is entirely the model, not me. And I suspect the other person on a tour with a current 500mm prime and big tripod was doing better - this was hand-held.)

    And phew, slightly - the sharpness your image got made me worry a lot about my choice, so not being at 1:1 reassures me! At 1:1 your owl actually still looks pretty good to me, except for some motion blur (which is normally the cause of the line doubling) - I do like the VR on the 200-500, even if I didn't need it much for my shot - though I can't say if yours was subject motion. I should clarify my eagle went through DxO, so it's had a little (default) sharpening and been flattened a bit to darken the sky and lift the shadows. It also has a little more CA than I'd have expected - though it was off to the left of the frame a bit.

    Some day I'll have a 400 f/2.8 and be able to see what real sharpness looks like in a telephoto. :) (Even I didn't decide to carry my 200 f/2 around half of the US, and most subjects weren't close enough for it anyway...)

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