Nikon 80-400mm vs. Sigma 50-500mm

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by mihut_ionescu, Jan 21, 2005.

  1. I'm considering buying a lens for wildlife photography. I already
    have the Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 AF-D, but its reach is limited. I was
    wondering if anyone had experience using the Nikon 80-400mm and the
    Sigma 50-500mm and have some comparative feedback. I have a Nikon D70.

    I don't like much the Nikon lens because of its lack of fast AF. I
    played with it in a store and it's slow. I also tried the Sigma
    50-500mm in the store and it's much faster, however it's bigger and

    Honestly, I don't really see the advantage of having VR on a lens used
    for wildlife photography, I see fast AF much more important, that's
    why I'm inclining towards the Sigma. If you need to freeze subjects
    in motion, you'll need a fast shutter speed anyways which will
    probably be enough to compensate for any camera shake that the VR is
    trying to help with. Even if you shoots stationary birds/animals,
    they usually move a bit anyways, so you still need a faster shutter speed.

    I agree that I'm a beginner at wildlife photography, is my judgement
    completely off?

  2. I do a lot of wildlife photography and I do think your judgement is off (but maybe not
    completely). Believe me, a big telephoto lens, even on a tripod at 'normal' daylight
    shutter speeds, benefits a lot from stabilization. It's true that the 80-400 VR system isn't
    happy on a tripod, but other stabilization systems are, and the difference in sharpness is
    pronounced -- especially if it's at all windy, or you're trying to track a moving subject, or
    your tripod isn't on the firmest footing. Maybe if you get up in the 1/2000 second
    exposure range it's less important, but that short an exposure is not routine (especially
    with the two relatively slow lenses you are considering). Sometimes a fast AF is crucial
    (like for flying birds or running animals), but usually much less so.

    If you are interested in photographing birds and animals, my recommendation is to not
    bother with any zoom lens but go directly to the longest telephoto prime you can afford.
  3. I just traded for a 50-500HSM. I will have the first slides back soon and will post my results (a narrative anyway...I don't do digital). I posted a "review" of the handling and build if you're interested:
  4. At 400mm (600mm equivalent FOV crop), these are both around f/5.6 so your shutter speed argument is moot!

    You might try adding a Tamron 1.4x SPAF TC to your 80-200 AFD to get an effective 420mm FOV at f/4 (one of the setups I use hand-held).

    A 600mm equivalent lens definitely requires long lens techniques! The tripod collar on the 80-400VR is a joke, but Kirk sells a replacement that does work!

    There are many situations where I either turn off AF or use dynamic AF to follow a subject on the 80-400 VR (one of the setups I also use hand-held or on a tripod when I want something light to carry).

    No zoom will come close to a fast prime on a tripod in the 400, 500, or 600mm range.
  5. Here is another real possibility:

    The new Nikon advert claims that they expect the 200mm f/2 will become popular in combination with the carop mode of D2X. 400mm f/2. Add a 2X converter and you are at 800mm f/4 !!!

    If Nikon offers increases in crop modes further in their future cameras, my 105mm f/2 DC nikkor will become a super fast-super tele lens. Light weight as well!
  6. I debated the 50-500 and ther 80-400 as well. I got the 80-400 because of the VR. I traded it because the VR was slow and got the 70-200VR. I wish the Sigma had VR!
  7. Unlikely you'd want to use the 50-500 at 50mm as an all-around zoom. Have you looked into the Sigma 170-500 zoom? Lighter, cheaper, more compact and just as sharp.
  8. Arnab, are you sure about that? I did a bit of research before picking up the 50-500 and the general concensus on several sites(among the experienced folk...especially birders) was that the optical performance of the 170-500 was not as good especially at the long end and opened up (where images became slightly soft and lost significant contrast compared to the 50-500). Can you share personal experience with the two (I'm still deciding if I'll keep it)? I have yet to see my slides and I have never used the 170-500, so I have no idea personally. I am anxious to see how the 50-500 compares to my 80-200mmf2.8, 300mm f4&2.8 and 400mm/5.6 Nikkors. I'm especially interested in comparing it to the Nikkor 300mm's + tc14b. If it is in the ballpark I will be quite happy cuz those are amazing combos. If not...back to the trading block for another prime perhaps? : ) Anyway, I'm interested in what you have learned.
    Thanks for your input,
  9. Joel you caught me with my foot in the mouth. I have seen results from both and that's how it appeared to me. But I never had opportunity to compare them side by side (head hung in shame...).

    My advanced amateur friend Harald Derkx used to use the 170-500 extensively, and I've seen his Rajasthan pictures blown up to 20x30 on 200 ISO negative film and they were admirably sharp. But I don't know what focal lengths they were shot on. I may not be quite right in my last post. may be a more reliable place to get a common consensus.
  10. No need for head-hanging Arnab : ) I am always interested in the long end, wide open performance of lenses like this because that is usually how I end up using them. I realize that many lenses are just fine in the sweet spot, but I've got this 500mm 6.3 now...and I kind of hope that it'll do a good job opened up because I don't have any speed to spare. I was looking at many sites including as you mentioned. I also read a lot on naturescapes, photomigrations,,, and Nikonians. It was from all of these (and several others) that I based my decision to give it a shot. The test will be when the slides come back, and then I'll be happy to post my thoughts on how this beast performs (along with the shortcomings of my long lens technique : )
  11. On thing I'd think about is since you already have an excellent 80-200... you might be better off gettting a long zoom, rather than an ultra. (ie. Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 w/2.0 tele extender) That way you are not sacrificing performance as much.

    Of course, if weight and changeing lenses in field is a concern then you can just ignore the above. ;)
  12. Actually - ignore my advice...looking at the specs and assorted reviews... the combination I suggested will just barely top the 50-500, and cost more than twice as much. Not a significant improvement - so...retracted.
  13. I haven't used the Sigma 50-500mm. zoom, but I own the Nikon 80-400mm. VR and I think it's a terrific product. It's become my favorite lens, particularly for "walkaround" bird photography. It's for this kind of on-the-fly nature photos that VR is VERY useful. Getting a couple of f-stops' worth of steadiness can make all the difference between a sharp and a blurry photo of a bird in the field.

    Yes, the AF of the 80-400mm. VR is not the fastest, but most of the time it's adequate, and the lens is small enough to handle without difficulty in the field.

    On the other hand, if you feel you really need 500mm., the Nikon can't give you that focal length.
    Just my two cents' worth.
  14. Slightly confusing.

    Correct me if am wrong, Douglas.

    Did you not say that this lens stopped working or gave trouble, something like that?!
  15. Did I say that? Nice catch, Vivek!

    Here's the deal: I use this lens a LOT, and one morning in December I was out to do some bird photography when to my horror, I started having trouble with the autofocus. In all cases where the AF had to shift back to the minimum focus distance before whirring back to a farther focus point, the focus would "stick" at the minimum focus "place." This was mainly true at 400mm. or close to it. To unstick things I had to zoom back to 80mm. and/or put my hand in front of the lens and lightly press the shutter button. Bummer.

    I thought the problem might be the electrical contacts on the lens, so I scrubbed them with a fiberglass pencil. Meanwhile, I tried some of my other AF lenses on my D100 to be sure that the problem wasn't with the camera itself. The ones I tried worked fine. So after going into mourning for a week or so, I packed up the lens and sent it to Nikon in Torrence, Ca. Cost me $21.

    In the meantime, I wanted to take some "walkaround" bird photos so I pulled out my ancient Tokina 400mm. AF SD AF-X tele, not a bad lens for a cheapie (not as good as the Nikon 80-400mm. VR, however). To my horror, it began to exhibit the exact same pathology as my VR zoom. I quickly realized that when I had tried "other lenses" on my D100 I had neglected to try another lens with a *similarly slow aperture*. The problem seems to be associated with AF situations where light is at a premium, i.e., at f5.6

    So this time, I took my fiberglass pencil and I scrubbed off the electrical contacts *inside camera mount*. A delicate job, but certainly doable even for a non-techie like myself.

    Voila! The Tokina worked perfectly. And I suspect if I still had the Nikon VR in hand, it would work perfectly, as well. But nooooo--I had already sent it to Nikon. To quote myself at that moment of realization, "Stupid, stupid, stupid!"

    Next, I expected to get a communication from Nikon telling me that my lens has nothing wrong with it, it checks out perfectly, we'll send it back to you ASAP. But no. What I received was a repair estimate for $693.00. But wait, the lens is still under extended warranty, so the repair is free.

    I suspect that they put down a "worst case scenario" repair estimate for some kind of bookkeeping purpose, without having actually looked at the lens yet. They based the estimate on my assertion that "the AF doesn't work right." I suspect that when it finally comes time to evaluate the lens, they will find there is nothing wrong with it.

    But who knows?

    Anyway, aside from this little fiasco, I would say that in terms of its usefulness and performance the 80-400mm. VR is a terrific lens. Perfect? Heck, no. But I have gotten so many great "keeper" nature photos with it in the sixteen months I've owned it, I really have grown to appreciate this product.

    Aren't you sorry you asked? ;-)
  16. Douglas, Thanks! I am glad that I asked and I got to know about the camera contacts (never would have thought of that)!

    If it is not going to cost you too much time in waiting for the Nikon service, why not let them "fix"it?

  17. I'm very happy to see that Vivek, certainly one of our more knowledgable contributors, would not have thought to clean the internal contacts on the camera, either. Makes me feel a little less stupid, stupid, stupid :)).

    In answer to his last question, yes, I am letting Nikon "do their thing" on the lens, curious as I am as to whether they will find anything wrong and knowing that it's all under warranty. As I wrote previously, I suspect they wrote up a "worst case" estimate (based, perhaps, on getting some kind of warranty repair reimbursement from Nikon USA central?). Once they look at the lens I suspect the first thing they will do is test it. If it tests "normal" they probably won't even open it up. But who knows? I just look forward to getting it back!
  18. My 80-400 VR lens came back from Nikon today. It really didn't take them that long to finish with it. According to the invoice, they had to repair the AF gears, in addition to lubing, cleaning, etc. So there really was something wrong, I guess.

    This does give me pause as regards the lens' durability. I wonder how common this kind of issue has become.
  19. Interesting ... I thought this lens would be pretty sturdy and you only had it for 18 months or so, right? I've been mostly using the Nikon 17-35mm and 80-200mm AF-D and never had a problem with them, even on ski slopes while it was snowing on them and never had a problem. I really wonder if I should look at the 80-400mm anymore, the problem is that if I travel through Europe or some other place outside US and something breaks, there is no way to fix it, and prices in Europe are huge, basically I need reliability.

Share This Page