Nikon 300mm f/4 or Tamron 300mmf/2.8???

Discussion in 'Nature' started by craig_andrew_yuill, May 9, 1999.

  1. I've just spent a couple of hours in the archives and using
    the search engine to help me make a decision on a lens purchase, but I
    don't feel that I found all of the info that I need. I've decided that
    I will finally take the plunge and buy a long-tele lens specifically
    for nature & birding shots that require a long lens. I'm one of
    those (in?)famous hobbyists "on a budget". A local store is selling an
    AF-Nikkor 300mm f/4 and a MF 300mm f/2.8 Tamron. What makes these
    lenses attractive to me is that I'VE ACTUALLY USED both lenses for a
    day each out in the field. (They have both been retired from the
    store's rental department.) Having used these lenses I know that both
    are very good optically--I'd say they're about equal--and clean. The
    Tamron, although mechanically quite sound, is kind of beat up compared
    to the Nikon. I'm seriously considering buying one of these lenses.
    But which one?<BR>
    Given that the Nikon lens is much lighter, more compact, has AF
    capabilities, and costs a few hundred $$$ less than the Tamron lens I
    would figure that the Nikon lens would be the obvious choice. But
    f/2.8 is f/2.8, and I've never seen a 300mm f/2.8 going for that
    little money, around $900US--certainly not one that I'm familiar with
    and would be comfortable with purchasing. (The Nikon lens is going for
    around $620US.) At times I've found that 300mm can be too short for
    some subjects, and I will certainly add a 1.4x and/or 2x converter to
    either lens. The cost of the Tamron lens with the very-good, matched
    1.4x Adaptall converter is actually a little less than the Nikon lens
    and a used TC14B. Would the Nikon combo really be any better, or would
    the extra speed of the Tamron win the day by reducing the effects of
    camera shake (like during windy days) and subject movement (as many
    nature subjects are prone to do)? I think this is an even bigger
    consideration with 2x converters, even though Nikon's TC300 2x
    converter is probably better than Tamron's 2x Adaptall converter.<BR>
    (Since I'm contemplating using converters maybe a I should consider
    getting a 400mm f/5.6 instead. ???)<BR>
    Which lens do you think you'd buy under these circumstances. Nikon AF
    300mm f/4? Tamron MF 300mm f/2.8 for a few hundred more? (Sigma or
    Tokina 400mm f/5.6?)
  2. I think you have to answer this yourself, there's no "right" choice. It very much depends on how much YOU value autofocus, whether YOU need the extra stop for the work you do, if YOU are prepared to carry the extra weight of the larger lens etc. An extra stop is useful, but so is AF.

    Since you've had the chance to use both lenses in the field and evaluate their performance, you're in a MUCH better position than most people to make the choice!

    The obvious answer is to buy both of them of course, but I won't even suggest that one...
  3. Craig,

    I currently own both of the lenses that your are thinking about purchasing. I use to own a Tamron 300 2.8AF (& wrote a review of it that is posted on the Nature Net) but sold it because it had a defect. I replaced that lens with the 300f4.0 EDIF. While I love the performance of the Nikon lens, I missed the f2.8 aperture and brightness with converters. I still have my f4.0, though my wife uses it more than I do now. About 2 months ago I purchased an old style Tamron 300f2.8 + matched 1.4x for $1400. I have been very happy with its optical performance w & w/out the converter. I have not purchased a 2x for it as of yet, but plan to in the future.

    Well, which lens should you buy? Only you know what you really want, but here are some things to consider:

    1) the Nikon lens was built and designed by Nikon to work with Nikon cameras... this is a definite plus.

    2) the Nikon lens is AF, and will allow you to use all metering modes with any Nikon body.

    3) the Nikon lens is a very fine optic.

    4) the Tamron is an equally fine optic and f2.8... do you really want an f2.8 lens (I did)... you need to be honest with yourself here.

    5) at f2.8 w/ a 1.4x, you will have 420 f4.0!

    6) the Tamron lens is heavy and bulky to carry.

    7) the Tamron lens has an Adaptall mount... this is a plus-minus issue. On the plus side, the lens is flexible in the case of future camera purchases. On the minus side, the Adaptall mount is a weak link... you will experience a little play between the body and the lens.

    Well, as you can see, I couldn't decide which lens to keep... so I now have them both... something to consider!?

    good luck, bruce
  4. Both Bob and Bruce make it plain that the right answer is "buy both!" (I may yet add an EF 300/4 IS to my bag despite owning an EF 300/2.8 that you'd have to kill me to get).

    But that's not probably the affordable answer, and sorta presumes the rest of your lens kit's filled (mine's not, that's why I've not added the 300/4 IS to my kit!)

    I'd say in your case it comes down to trying to decide which will hurt you in your shooting style the most: losing AF, or losing length? Because adding TCs to a 300/4 is less attractive than doing so on a 300/2.8. 420/4 is a VERY nice length and speed combination, much nicer than 420/5.6, if you like to shoot in early morning/late evening or nice soft overcase light. The 420/5.6 AF combo may well achieve focus faster than you will with the 420/4 MF combo, but you may well be left shooting at a slow enough shutter speed to make getting a good frame hard. You'll achieve focus with AF in this case in order to have more time to really concentrate on making things as immobile as possible before shooting.

    My own personal experience shooting birds, etc, makes me value lens speed over AF. Of course, many of you know I've spent the money to get both, but if I had to choose between one or the other, I'd choose lens speed in an eyeblink.

    All this is said in the context of your satisfaction with the optical quality of the Tamron 300/2.8 with converter. I have no personal experience with that lens therefore no opinion on its optical performance.
  5. I've used the Nikon with extension tubes to take butterfly shots with great results. But, adding a TC-14B gives up AF, and the lens doesn't provide distance info to the camera (no D or P version as of April 1999).
  6. I've pondered the same dilemma (except that I wanted 400mm lens) not that long ago. Perhaps answers to my question would be helpful to you as well. In the end, I chose fast glass over autofocus, and bought somewhat obscure Tamron SP 400/4 lens (really cheap too, $950 in near-mint condition. Lucky me :). Do I regret this decision? No. The lens turned out to be outstanding optically, and very ruggedly build.
    I'm not familiar with Nikon stuff, but if you lose autofocus with 300/4 and TC, your choice seems clear to me: if both are manual focus with TC, get the fast one. Unless you really don't want to carry extra weight around, that is.
  7. I purchased a used Tamron MF 2.8 about a year ago with 1.4 and 2.0 converters for $850. It was an outstanding buy and too good to pass up. I use the lens for nature photography and also some sports work including indoor basketball. That makes the 2.8 aperture invaluable. It's also great to sometimes have a 5.6 600 even though there is a drop in quality.

    However, I now find myself looking favorably on a Nikon AF 4.0 for the autofocus, less weight and Nikon optics. I'd feel a bit more confident of my exposures with the Nikon lens on a Nikon body. I suspect eventually I'll take Bob Atkins' advice and own both.
  8. I just faced almost the same situation- I just sold my Nikon 300f4 and purchased a Tokina 300 f2.8AF lens used for around 1200.00US. Was this a good decision? Without a doubt-- I have been able to squeeze out a few more shots with reasonable shutter speeds than before, and the resluts with a kenko 1.4X have been fine. The down side is of course the added weight-- make sure your tripod head can handle it.

    I also of course would like own both, but I have no regretted this trade off in the slightest.
  9. here i go off at a tangent again...

    have you considered the results from the Tamron vs. the Nikon?

    Now I personally have no experience with any lens longet than 200mm, but I am looking at a purchase (300mm) soon, so this is of some concern to me.

    while I am sure the Tamron is a very good lens (I have the 90mm/2.8 SP and love it extremely much), there was a marked difference in photos shot with the Nikon and Tamron (as printed in Outdoor Photographer a few months ago)... I couldn't really tell what it was, but i preferred the Nikon's results over the Tamron...

    Importantly, I found the pictures taken by the Tamron immediately recongnisable (as something was lacking)...

    Was it me, or is there *really* such a big difference in results (not necessarily sharpness, lens speed, AF, contrast)...

    Will the people with both the lenses please comment.

  10. The following is a response to Deen's Question:

    Deen, did you read the lens review of the Tamron lens on the Nature Pages of I discussed the optics of my Tamron lens there. I have both the Nikon 300 f4.0 and the Tamron 300 f2.8... on a side by side comparison w/ same film, same subject, same light, I can't tell which images were shot with which lens. As I'm not a big fan of O.P., I have not seen the images that you are referring to, but... were the images with the same film in similar light? Frankly, I find myself taking more risks with my 300 2.8 because it is a stop faster... therefore I will shoot it in marginal light...

    Quite honestly, I hate the... is this lens better than that lens question, because while optically one lens may not be as good as another, it just might fulfill the niche you need it to fill! If you need a 300 2.8 and can't afford $2500... a 3rd party lens will fill your vacant need.

    regards bruce
  11. Bruce...

    I HAVE read your report on the Tamron 300/2.8 and subsequent travails for the teleconverter... Like you I think the extra stop of the fast glass is very important, esp. if you gonna use long glass...

    Like I said, i do not have any experience at all with these lenses, and it does seems likely that the author of the OP article used the lenses on different days... so lighting and things would have been different...

    BUT... that said, i did find the pictures from the Tamron lacking in contrast, and was wondering if perhaps it would be clever to go for it, rather than the branded (Nikon) lens...

    I have the resale value/brand phobia thing upside down... you can buy any nikon lens and sell it less 20% later, so it is not a risk (I can afford any lens you throw at me)... but the Tamron (or 3-rd party lenses) do nt have much of a resale value... and so it becomes doubly important to make the right decision when you go off-brand...

    After reading your review (and others too), I am much more reassured by the idea... of course, now I have to think about the Tokina too..

    My 90/2.8 SP Macro however stays with me... I consider the equal of the Nikorr, just for the bokeh... inspite of the annoying focus clutch, lack of MF/AF switch and no IF.

  12. I had one of the original Tamron 300 f2.8s It was white. That was one sweet lens. I never went any where with out it . I hand held most of my shoots with 400- 3200 asa for newspaper pics. The only weak link of the lens was the mount. I think I went through 4-5 at $50 bucks a pop. When the olyimpics where here in 1988 I the downhill and skijumping on kodachrome, super sharp. The nikon 300 f4 af has also been in my hands but it never made my heart go faster. Maby because the autofocus never worked very well with my f4s. Right now I have the 3002.8 nikkor ed if and it may be a tad more contrasty than the tamron . A more important issue is the lens hood to keep out glare and your state of mind . I used to say that I was a focus god. Spend lots of time using your gear and burn film. Get a good moterdrive and shot in quick burst like using a machine gun when shooting action. To me 300 2.8s are normal lens good for just about anything. I like to hand hold mine because I find tripods to slow. If it was my money I would buy the 2.8

Share This Page