Returning a 70-300, what should I get instead

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by james_cockroft, Nov 13, 2011.

  1. Hello,
    I recently ordered a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR to shoot some portraits for a friend and as a general use telephoto zoom. Unfortunately (and despite paying for 2 day shipping), the lens didn't arrive in time; fortunately the 50mm 1.8 worked beautifully.
    So I'm planning on returning the 70-300 and getting something else that's more appropriate for 1) my shooting style (available light), and 2) my growth as a photographer.
    I shoot a D7000 and my current rig consists of the Nikkor 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 (used for shooting landscapes and real estate for a realtor buddy), the Sigma 30mm 1.4 (my general walk-around lens), and the Nikkor 50mm 1.8G, which I'm very happy with.
    So I'm thinking of going a couple of ways with the refund.
    1) Nikon 85mm f/1.8D AF. This would extend my range somewhat, though I've seen mixed reviews on this lens, and leave a few bucks to put towards 2) or 3) at a later date.
    2) Wait a bit and get the 80-200 2.8, which would cover pretty much everything that I'd use the 70-300 for (portraits and occasional walk-around reach), with far better low light performance, and a larger span between coverages.
    3) Wait a bit longer and get the 105mm f/2 DC, which would serve as a brilliant portait shooting lens, but leave me with rather limited reach.
    I really want to stick with fx lenses from here on out, just in case I end up with a full frame camera some day.
    I also want to avoid poor low-light performers, since I'm fairly addicted to wide apertures and pleasant bokeh.
    And I'd also like to get something that forces me to work a bit harder at becoming a better photographer. The 70-300 kinda fits this, but I'm not very excited about the weak aperture.
    With that in mind, I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have.
    Thanks in advance!
  2. what about the sigma 85/1.4 HSM? plays nice with the 30 and the 50, and faster AF and better wide open performance and bokeh than the nikkor 85/1.8. pricier, tho'...
  3. Looks like an option, Eric! Thanks! Definitely better than the Nikon 85mm 1.8 (assuming a good sample), and I do need to be willing to break out of my recent 'nikon-only' mindset, so I'll add it to the maybes...
  4. I'd get the 80-200 f2.8 if it were me.
  5. If you want the hard way to learn portraiture, manual focus glass is everywhere at a very convenient costs. Samyang / Rokinon 85/1.4 and Nikon 105/2.5 AI-S delivers unbelievable good portraits for less than a hand & a leg :)
  6. I have the first two lenses you contemplate. My copy of the 85 f/1.8 is not stellar wide open, I avoid using it at wider apertures than f/2.5. Some people have copies that are fine wide open, some people complain about excessive CA (I have no problem with that). In my view, from f/2.5 on, it's really a fine lens. Bokeh-wise it's OK, not great. It's quite small, well built and for its money a very decent lens. The Sigma Eric mentions would make a good choice for sure, but it's 3 times the price.
    The 80-200 is a fine choice too - but do consider its weight. It is not a generic walk around lens. It's 1.2 kilo large lens, it is imposing and sometimes just unpractically large.
    Option 3.... if you want a great 105mm portrait lens, consider the Ai or AiS 105mm f/2.5. At ~$200-250, it's a simply epic performer. If you value really good bokeh, this one beats the other two easily. Probably the 105DC is better, but for the price, the old MF lens cannot be beat. On DX, 105 is a bit long for many, though. And of course, manual focus can be limiting.
    Neither of these lenses will make you a better photographer, though, nor force you in any way. Nor will a 70-300VR really do anything in that respect. All of these lenses have their weaknesses and strengths, and as such they all impose a lesson to be learnt; the 80-200 for example may seem the most convenient solution which restricts you the least, but wait until you work with it for one hour hand-held - your muscles will tell you.
    So, I'd keep the 70-300mm, as it's a fine performing lens and will restrict you far less than you think. Then you can relaxed find out if 85mm or 105mm really is your thing or not, and find out that depth of field at longer lengths can be limited enough even despite a slowish aperture.
  7. Thanks for the suggestions, Peter and Mihai!
    Given that the D7000 can use any Nikon lens made after 1977 (AI and on), I've been thinking of popping in to the old camera junk shop that's on my way home from work and seeing what there is to see.
    And, to be honest, I sorta miss the twisty-twisty tactility of manual focus lenses. Plus, I could put the saved money towards the 80-200 or 105 (or a new bag, as my current one is already a bit tight).
    Adding the Rokinon 85 f/1.4 (and good manual focus glass in general) to the list!
    Current votes:
    85mm - 2 (neither for the nikon 1.8D...)
    80-200mm - 1
    And if anyone has experience with these various lenses on the D7000, I'd love to hear thoughts!
  8. [​IMG]
    James, 105/2.5 AI-S is a great performer on D7000.
  9. Sorry I missed you Wouter! And I know no lens can make me a better photographer, but some will make me work harder than others, and between VR and 39 point autofocus, there's a bit of technical knowledge that would escape me. That said, fast, sharp, manual lenses will also limit my growth (to a degree).
    And I was wondering if someone was going to recommend holding on to the 70-300! The thing about that lens: I never really wanted it, but it was the best thing I could afford that would serve the need I thought I had (shooting a portrait). Had I known the 50 would work beautifully, I wouldn't have bothered at all. Plus, I always buy the best I can afford, and I rarely buy anything without fully researching other alternatives, testing to see if what I have on hand can be made to work, and then waiting several weeks to make sure the need still exists. That didn't happen with this purchase, and now I'm sorta stuck with several hundred dollars worth of credit.
    That 105 Ai-s looks gobsmackingly good! Thanks for the recommendation, Wouter and Mihai! The last *real* camera I shot with was a Mamiya/Sekor 1000 DTL, and I sometimes miss the feel focusing and messing with settings on the lens when I'm pressing buttons and spinning dials on the D7000.
    I could pretty easily get the 105 Ai-s and the Rokinon 85 (or an old Nikon 85 f2) for what the 70-300 cost.
    Thanks for the example shots, Mihai! I'll be stoping by the old camera shop this week, for sure (and comparing prices, if anything's available, against the online outlets).
    So the tally now:
    85mm nikon - no recommendations, 1 'don't bother,' and 2 votes for other manufacturers.
    105mmDC - no recommendations, 2 for the Ai or Ai-s models.
    80-200 - 1 yay, 1 nay.
    Thanks so much, everyone, for all your help! I'll keep thinking and researching, and I'll report back if/when I decide and have some pictures to share.
  10. If it were me, I'd go for the flexibility of the 80-200mm f2.8. I'd skip the 85mm f1.8D (I once owned it.) Second choice would be the Sigma 85mm f1.4. That lens is under priced! Now for some philosophy. No camera gear is going to make you a better photographer. Like a lot of people I once thought that. Then, I came to realize that understanding how to use Light is the only thing that makes you good. I am comfortable using any camera gear to get what I want, including a $5 Kodak Brownie from the 1950s. As for portraits, that's more about off camera lighting than anything else. It's the lights that make the difference between a snapshot and a pro portrait, not the lens or camera. FX (full frame) has been "hot" on camera gear forums, but I really have begun to think it's overhyped. It will cost you a ton of money to buy the camera as well as the first class lenses, but in the end I honestly doubt you'll see any difference in your shots. FX really hasn't taken off to near the degree as DX. FX is a format rooted in the past, 1927 to be specific DX seems to be where the bulk of photography is going, or the even smaller formats.
    Kent in SD
  11. + 1 to recommending the Samyang 85mm f/1.4. It's sharper wide open than my Ai-S 85mm f/2 Nikkor and is slightly ahead of the 105mm f/2.5 for corner definition at comparable apertures. If you can live with manual focus there's almost nothing to beat it.
  12. I would skip the Sigma. If you want to spend that much money on a portrait lens, get a Nikkor 1.4D. I've got a Siggy 30/1.4, and while I *love* it optically... the paint has started to chip off of my third copy. The autofocus mostly works (after having to send it back a few times), but is very quick when it does work. The manual focusing action is not great (the 85/1.4D wins out here by a big margin). And Sigma service is, of course, a joke at best (they package a nearly $500 lens with less protection than Amazon did, they used superseded parts for repair, don't know how to deal with NEFs, don't bother to read detailed explanations of the problem at hand, nor do they bother communicating with the customer). I'd be hard pressed to think of any Sigma lens that's underpriced.
    Yeah, I'd consider Sigma for their cheap *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#* (or if they still made premium manual focus lenses), but they definitely don't stand behind their "EX" lenses at all. With HSM, that's just too much to risk IMO. If you're going to pay the big bucks you might as well go with a premium brand like Cosina (Zeiss or Voigtlander) or Nikkor that will provide premium support. As an added bonus, if you go with a Nikkor you can have a number of well respected non-Nikon service centers work on it if/when something breaks (much less of an issue for an MF lens than an AF-S/HSM lens).
    As for the Korean glass, I'd probably skip that too. Last I heard it was stop-down metering only as it lacks an auto-diaphragm. If you're okay with that, go for it.. but do a bit of research into the differences between the different brands. They're all basically the same, but the coatings might be different? Maybe they finally chipped some? Plastic mount tho, IIRC.
    If you're okay with manual focus lenses, by all means look at some used Nikkors. The various manual focus 85s are still good lenses, and the 105/2.5 (Ai/Ai-S) is cheaper than anything else on your list. If you're okay with stop-down metering KEH has an Ai'd version for about $60, and their Ai/Ai-S versions run about $100. Free shipping if you order >= $100 by today too (and a fairly liberal return policy).
  13. If you want to replace the 70-300 because it's giving you blurry pictures due to limited apertures, then go all out. However, don't believe that because of the variable aperture, the lens doesn't allow you to grow as a photographer. The 70-300 is a camera that is used by professionals that want the extended reach, without the increased size. It is harder to tell with Nikon, but if you look at Canon, they have their "L" lens lineup, which signify professional-grade. While you see the usual 50mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.4, 135mm f/2, etc., you will also find lenses like the:
    28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L
    70-300mm f/4-5.6L
    100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L
    Many professionals prefer the smaller aperture because of decreased cost and greater portability. You need to decide what's more important to you, but having a single lens that can instantaneously zoom from 70-300mm can be better for many than the other options that you mention. For example, in the midrange zoom category, the 16-85 f/3.5-5.6 is often more desirable than the much-maligned 17-55 f/2.8, and the full-frame 24-120 f/4 has been just as well received as the 24-70 f/2.8.
    I don't think the 80-200 is all that flexible, unless you need a decent speed AND a telephoto zoom. I used the Canon version (70-200 f/2.8, NON-image stabilized) when I used to work for a newspaper, to shoot sports, speeches, etc. but I had the lens on a monopod most of the time, and it's pretty annoying to use compared to a prime, or a lens like the 70-300. Read these articles about lens design, they clear up a few things about the compromises that every lens design makes:
    Where are you seeing mixed reviews about the 85mm? All I have seen and experienced with it is nothing but positive. In fact, photozone calls it a boring test, because nothing goes wrong with it optically. It's probably your best bet for portraits. If not, choose another option, like the Vivitar/Samyang/Rokinon 85mm f/1.4, which works beautifully wide open, or the Sigma 85mm.
    While your best options for portrait are all FX capable lenses, I wouldn't recommend trying to keep your kit FX only, "just in case."
  14. Not sure if you tried the 70-300 before returning it? Its a gem and one of my favorite lenses. The 80-200 is a beast weight not very user friendly.. as well it does not have VR which is very useful for portraits outdoors. I also own a 70-200 2.8(non VR) but it only comes out in the dark or for sports when I need blurred backgrounds football . Have another looks see..I think you would be happy with the weight and the image quality.
  15. I've been in photography for almost 60 years. The best trick in portraiture that I have come upon is "Bounce Flash". With just one Flash mounted on the Hot Shoe, great portraits are easy. Just get the right angle to get "catch lights" in the eyes, and as little "under the chin or nose" shadow as possible. As for bokeh, I love it! The closer you are to the subject, the better the bokeh, even with a medium aperture, say F 5.6. My 85mm lens, F 3.5 micro or even my kit lens can give a beautiful bokeh. I just wanted to inject "bounce flash" into the equation. Thanks.
  16. The 80-200/2.8 AF-D works really well on the D7000. I've been very happy with it. Nice tripod collar on that one too. That big front element moving in and out takes a bit of getting used to, but the AF works just fine on the D7000. It may not have the speed of an AF-S 70-200, but then it doesn't have anywhere near the price either. As someone else mentioned, it is a big lens. I do find it a bit harder to carry around compared to the old 300/4.0 ED-IF, even though the weight is about the same, since the 80-200 is some much bigger in diameter.
    If you do get one try to find an older (pre AF-s) 1.4x teleconverter. I use an old Tamron I've had for about 12 years, it pairs very well with the 80-200, and AF still works well.
    The 85/1.8 is okay on the D7000, but I think that the 80-200 is a lot more useful.
  17. James,
    To nuance my answer a bit, I was not actually saying "don't bother with the 85 f/1.8" nor "nay for a 80-200 f/2.8". While I have reservations about aspects of them, I still own these lenses and I have zero intent of selling either.
    The point is knowing where and when these lenses are most useful. As much as I love my 105 f/2.5's (and I do), manual focus isn't always practical. I have good eyesight, and am OK with the viewfinder of my D300 (D7k should be the same), but manual focus in dim light isn't always that easy. So, for that alone, the 85 f/1.8 earns its place - if I want/need to keep things small. If size and weight are no issue, the 80-200 f/2.8 is the most versatile, and the fastest to AF (of this list!). If I know I have plenty of time and need the various lengths, I use the 105 and a AF 180 f/2.8 - both are in my view optically superiour to the 80-200 f/2.8. But if I know there isn't time to switch lenses, if I know I have to rely on AF - the 80-200 wins easily. Stopped down to f/8~f/11, the 85 f/1.8 is still impressively sharp - makes a very nice landscape lens. Etc.
    It's horses for courses. None of these lenses does everything right. For that reason, my recommendation to start using the 70-300. See which lenghts you end up using the most, and whether long lenses are really something for you or not. Then, in time, you can make a much better informed decision whether a manual or auto focus 85 f/1.4 would suit you best, or a f/2.8 zoom, or maybe the 70-300VR turns out to be more than good enough. The 70-300 is a relatively cheap way to find out, and a very good lens in its own right.
  18. alex zepeda, unfortunate you had a bad experience with the sigma 30/1.4, but your complaints have nothing to do with the 85/1.4. i've had two copies of the siggy 30; both were flawless. currently using the sigma 50/1.4 on d3s, where it gets more and more impressive. i have no qualms about the sigma 85/1,4.
  19. You may want to figure out which focal length(s) you really want before you decide on a lens.
    FWIW, the 70-300mm VR is a lot of lens for a small amount of money compared to other lenses that offer a similar zoom range, and is actually quite a bargain - still typically under $400 (an sometimes available in the $350 range) used. Bokeh is surprisingly pleasant on the long end. And the VR is quite effective if you are shooting stationary objects. And it is quite light in weight.
    Perhaps you should give the lens a try before you return it. You may find you like it.
  20. Let's also remember that for INDOOR portraits on DX, even 85 is often too long. My 105 f2.5 AI only gets outdoor work for such things.
  21. Well, I go off to sleep and come back with a dozen comments! Thanks, everyone!
    As to keeping the 70-300. I haven't even held it, yet, and part of my desire to return it stems from FedEx's failure to make a good faith attempt to deliver it. But, again, I didn't really want it in the first place. A zoom would be nice to have, to be sure, and a lightweight, very portable zoom with a huge range, even more so. But for that, I might as well get the 18-200 (for a bit more) or the 55-300 (for a bit less). While I'm certain that the 70-300 is a great lens, it was a compromise for something I thought I would need to get the proper perspective (but didn't). And it'll be easy to return: I'll lose a few bucks shipping it, but maybe that will help me remember to take my time and be sure about the need before I buy something like that.
    Apologies for not taking the time to respond to everyone, but I've got to head out to work. I'll make some time later today to respond in detail.
    Thanks again!
  22. For portraits -- if you want a dedicated lens -- I would go with a manual focus lens. You can critically focus better manually than the best digital system. I would also consider the best lens you can find in the refurbished or used market.
  23. The Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 and similar lenses are real artillery pieces, but if you don't mind the size and weight the 80-200 f/2.8 is a very good lens at a relatively reasonable price. If you want something smaller and lighter, don't mind giving up 50mm, and are willing to get a DX lens, the Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 HSM is a very good lens. I love mine. It's discontinued so you may have to search out a used one. Sigma announced an OS version of the lens, but I don't think it's been released.
  24. Sure you don't mean the 70-200 instead of 80-200? I didn't think they still made the 80-200. But either would cover the focal lengths you're talking about. If mone is an issue, Tamron and Sigma both make 70-200 2.8s for a lot less than the Nikon. I've been playing with the Tamron lately (thinking about buying it from a friend). It's super tack sharp, but doesn't autofocus as quickly as the Nikon. Whether you need fast AF depends on what you shoot. Standard setup for most professional I work with are a 12-24, 24-70 and 70-200 (or something in those general ranges). Super fast primes are good, but they are icing on the cake after you've covered the basic three-zoom kit that covers 90 percent of what most people are likely to shoot.
  25. Eric, unless Sigma has a specific warranty center for the 85, my experience is indeed relevant. The 1.4D and 1.4G are expensive and backed by great service. The Sigma is expensive (comparable to a 1.4D) and backed by clowns. The Korean glass is cheap, and that affords a lot more compromise than one should/would otherwise accept with the Nikon or Sigma variants. If you have a problem with the HSM in your Sigma, would you be comfortable knowing your $900 lens is going to be sent back to you packed with only an air bag to keep it safe? Hell, even skewered Sigma for having the worst service in the industry. It hasn't changed. 'Course the Nikkor 70-300 VR is at the top of the latest list.
    I've kept the 30 because when it works, it works well. If the paint continues to chip off I'll probably risk it and send it back (again), and hope that this time they'll have managed to figure out how to make paint stick to metal.
    If the OP is looking for a portrait lens, I'd say buy a 105/2.5 from KEH (or somewhere else with a similar return policy), try it for a few weeks and see how it goes. It's a cheap way to figure out what you want. If manual focus isn't the way to go, look at the AF options. If 105mm isn't the focal length, look for something shorter (85, 90, 100/2.8E?) or longer (135, 180?).
  26. Hi, James
    It's not that easy to understand your real will, as you say "But, again, I didn't really want it in the first place" but you consider both the heavier 80-200 or two consumer grade zooms with a larger zoom factor.
    One side you consider the 70-300 too slow, thus looking for a 2.8, but you refer to the other ones. Regardless the aperture values of those lenses, both the 18-200 and the 55-300 are DX lenses and you stated that you want to stick with FX compatible lenses.
    You also say that the 105 DC would leave you with a "with rather limited reach", and this indicates you would like to have a telephoto longer than the 135 mm full frame equivalent and more than the range usually considered as appropriate for portrait lenses, by many people.
    With the high ISO capabilities of your body the 70-300 would not be a problem for your improvement as a photographer, but if want a top choice and you are ready to wait for a while the 70-200 VR II would be probably the best choice. This is the lens that tempts me for a long time, but the size and weight are the main reasons why I still stick with the 70-300 VR, as it also gives me very good results.
    My portrait lens being the AF 85 mm F:1.4 D (on FX) I agree that the DC can be a good choice, but you get the same focal distance with the 50mm DX while the DC will offer you the 135 mm equivalent. The choice between the two can be driven by your usual working distances.
    The 105 DC is an excellent working tool, but you shall consider the importance of the DC control flexibility and how it meets your interests. The neutral position can take profit of the qualities of the lens, but the use of the DC control will demand that you grasp it.
    Your present set gives you a lot of possibilities for landscape, walk-around and portrait. If you return the 70-300 and you go for one of the portrait lenses and/or the 80-200 you may get some marginal specific advantages, but I'm afraid that the impact on you learning process will not be as big as you may least in the near term.
  27. Hi there, Have you considered the Tamron 70-200 2.8?
    Yes it's getting a little long in the tooth and doesnt have VR/OS/IF but its a constant 2.8 through the zoom range, and gives really sharp pictures. AF is a little slower than a modern lens (AF-S) but the price range is similar to the Nikon 70-300 VR (at least here in the uk, new is £520.00 as opposed to about £400 for the Nikon).
    I have the Nikon 70-300 and love it. I find on the D300 I can use ISO up to 800 without a loss of quality (with careful PP).
    It you want to stick with primes consider a Macro lens Tamron 90mm or Sigma 105. The sigma has a better AF but both give great low light portrait performance, although performance doesn't kick in until arounnd F4.
  28. @Ariel: Thanks for the links! They'll provide nice after-dinner reading for me later on. And your comments on professional uses for variable aperture lenses make perfect sense.
    @António: Sorry for the miscommunication. I considered (and long ago) rejected the 18-200 and the 55-300 because I don't really want a lens just for convenience and because they're both dx lenses. I used those two as examples of other lenses that I could choose if I were looking specifically for a walk-around lens with decent reach. I ordered the 70-300 because 1) I could afford it right then, 2) had doubts about the 50mm as a portrait lens, and 3) it is a full frame lens. I didn't want it for the reach, or portability, or anything else, and only bought it without thinking much about the purchase.
    And everyone else, thanks so much for all the suggestions, comments, and critiques of various lenses and manufacturers.
    But I've decided to go with something else entirely: a 75-150 f/3.5 ai-s series E, that I found for ~$100. It gets great reviews, has a constant aperture, and, while not giving the range that I would get from the 70-300 (or the relatively fast af, or the vr), will allow me to see if I like having the range, while giving me an opportunity to play around with manual focus.
    I'll hold on to the refund credit for awhile and see where the 75-150 takes me.
    Thanks again, everyone, for all your help, and especially for suggesting a bunch of lenses I wouldn't have otherwise considered!
  29. Hi
    For portraits I think the 85 1.8 is stellar and won't break the bank. I generally shoot landscapes in which case I mainly use a couple of zooms.
  30. I have an unused Nikon 85mm f/1.8D AF for sale.
    I would get the AF-S Nikkor 80-200 or 28-300 if I were you.
    The 28-300 is very sharp at the 28mm end and fill the gap from your 10-24.
    For low light and Video I prefer the 35mm f/1.8 or AF-S Nikkor 28-70.

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