Searching for a fast, 2.8 telephoto

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by lynn_malpass, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. I do almost exclusively concert photography. I have been getting amazing
    results from my Tamron 2.8 zoom lens, but I need a telephoto at this point. I
    purchased a used Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC and love the lens, but it's too slow
    for my purposes and I can't use it. (I'm now offering it for a really good
    price in the classifieds if anyone's interested). What do you recommend? (other
    than a VR telephoto, because honestly, I can't afford one of those right now,
    besides the fact that as far as I know, most concert photographers don't find
    the VR to be particularly useful). Thanks.
  2. Oh, and I'm shooting a D70s currently.
  3. Confusing, you have a Sigma 50-150 F2.8 and you want a different F2.8 lens? Do you mean a different focal length?
  4. nikon 80 200 2.8AF ED is nice
  5. VR is VERY useful for concert photography - be careful whose advice you follow. I suspect that these concert "photographers" aren't paid for their work, consequently they talk down equipment they can't afford. At ISO 800 you are lucky to stay in the range of 1/15-1/60 at f/2.8 - well below the speed needed for a non-VR telephoto. If you can live with the inherent loss of mobility, use a tripod.

    I use a 70-200/2.8 VR for 80% of my concert photography, followed by a 28-70/2.8 (non-VR) when I'm shooting on-stage. The non-VR 180/2.8 would be an reasonable choice at less than half that price (a little slow in the AF department).
  6. Lynn,

    I was in a similar situation to you in deliberating over a fast telephoto zoom. I made the
    decision to get a second hand 80-200 single zoom push pull lens (for around ?400) which
    served me well for a while and then after a couple of years when I'd saved up enough I
    upgraded to the 70-200 AFS VR.

    I second the comments about VR - I find it invaluable.

    I've written about my experiences here if it's of interest to you:

    I mostly concentrate on documentary subjects rather than concert photography but the
    comments should be relevant.

    All the best.

    Duncan Ireland
  7. You don't have any choices other than other 2.8 telephotos. I'm quite confused as well.

    If you can get it, the extra 50mm on the 70-200 isn't a bad idea. If you really feel like you can't afford the VR, then get an 80-200 or a non-macro DG Sigma 70-200 (the macro one still might have some unresolved AF problems). The Sigma will focus faster.

  8. Is the 50-15 to slow, or is it the D70s? Something to think about. I've never had a focus
    speed issue with the 50-150 on my D200.

    You know tha answer, find a way to get a 70-200/2.8 VR Nikkor.
  9. Nikon makes nice telephotos: 180mm f/2.8, 300mm f/2.8, and 400mm f/2.8 AF Nikkors. They also make a very fine 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom. They even make a really nice 200mm f/2 telephoto.
  10. Ellis: Haha, sorry, I had to have a bit of a chuckle because he comments on how he can't afford a Vr telephoto and you name-drop the 200mm f/2. ;)

    Lynn: Save for the 70-200 VR f/2.8. Best lens I ever bought (and it does 95% of my concert photography).
  11. Lynn, I would suspect the problem may be not with the lens but more likley with the D70s body.

    Borrow a faster focusing body such as the D200 and try the lens to see if an upgrade to a faster focusing body is what you need rather than a different lens.
  12. I have the Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR and D70s. Shooting concerts, even with the slow
    aperture, I find VR absolutely necessary for hand held. I do use a monopod at times, but
    prefer handheld. I am very seriously considering a Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8, even with the
    shorter focal length, just for the faster f stop.
  13. Why not a 105VR? It could be a good substitute prime lens for your 50-150. Looks like this lens have the best medium to far distance performance of all Micro-Nikkors, plus the ability of focus up to whatever closer you want (up to 1:1!) for that detail shots. Cheaper than the 105/2 DC and 135/2 DC, is VR and AFS. Reasonably sized in comparison with the huge 70-200/2.8 or 200/2.8 for hand held shooting. Do you need anything more?
  14. I have the sigma 50-150 and it's fast, not slow. I also have a D70s. The OP can slam a 70-200 VR on the camera but will have the same problems. And no prime of similar focal length without af-s will be faster than the Sigma lens with HSM.

    There are two different solutions to this problem. The first is to get another body with more sofisticated af performance, preferably a pro body in the D2/D3 series. The other solution is to learn how to use af and how to set up the camera.

    I don't want to write a novel here but the D70 IMHO needs to be setup like this to use in low light: single af area mode, center focus point selected, af-c, ael/afl set to af-on. If using flash on action where you have to time the right moment, flash needs to be in manual or auto not ttl and never ever wireless CLS for that kind of work.

    Techniques to learn are how to focus with af-on, pre-focus for speed and focus on high contrast substitute subjects.

  15. lynn,
    you already have a fast 2.8 telephoto. in fact, the sigma has HSM, which makes it very quick in terms of AF speed. it's quite possible that you will experience the same issues even if you move up to the much more expensive 70-200, especially at long range, which can challenge even a 2.8 lens in low light. if you look around, you'll see that other options might give you a faster aperture (like the 85/1.8 and 85/1.4), but no zoom capability and no internal (AF-S/HSM) motor. it's doubtful an 80-200 or even a 105 VR will be any faster than your sigma, either.

    as other posters have pointed out, the problem may lie in the d70's AF system, not to mention the fact that the d70's high ISO performance maxes out at 800 or thereabouts. Using a 50-150 on both a d80 and d300, i've noticed that the 50-150, while fast with the d80, is even faster with the d300. not only that, but the d300's superior AF system tends to lock and hold focus much better. With the d80 and the 50-150, the HSM was near-instantaneous, but if i held the shutter button down for too long, the focus lock indicator light would often start blinking and i'd have to reacquire focus. the solution was to wait until the last second before capture, quickly half-depress the button, then take the shot. that worked well, which is a sign that the HSM does in fact do the job. With the d300, though, i can hold the button for longer without the camera losing focus lock, which is likely the result of the d300's better AF.

    in your earlier post, lynn, you compared the sigma to the tamron 28-75, which is a little unfair, since the sigma is twice as long at the extreme end of its zoom range. even though IMO the sigma is the result of the latest and greatest tech and does many things well, even the most advanced engineering algorithims can't overcome the simple physics at work: at 150mm, the AF has to work twice as hard as at 75mm, and the light has to travel twice as far before capture. it is true that the tamron is sharper at 2.8, but i've found the sigma is no slouch wide open, even at 150mm. any long telephoto will be challenged by black backgrounds, extreme low-light, and constantly changing lighting conditions.

    regarding VR in concert photography, shooting live stuff at 1/15-1/60 is simply not fast enough to freeze motion. VR is useful for preventing camera shake, but won't stop moving subjects, which is where high ISO and wider apertures come in. i can usually shoot at 1/60 or even lower handheld, but blurry pics often result. i get much sharper results at 1/100-1/160, at the expense of allowing more light into the camera. the solution for me was to get a d300, which has much better high ISO performance than any other nikon DSLR except a d3, and allows me to shoot at higher shutter speeds with Auto ISO enabled.

    As a matter of fact, i just used the d300 and 50-150 this past weekend for a live show in a dimly-lit bar in SF. With the d300, I was able to shoot at a top shutter speed of 1/160 and get usable shots at ISOs ranging from 1250 to 3200. this still presented a challenge because of the inherent difficulties of live concert performance (Low-light, variable stage lighting, etc.) but using flash excessively would have been distracting in this type of initimate club setting. so i occasionally used the pop-up flash, dialed down a bit, mixed with no-flash shots. the d300's active d-lighting feature worked well with the dark backgrounds, allowing more shadow detail and preseving highlights without clipping. the d70, which is an older camera, doesn't have this feature, however.
  16. Peter is right that cameras must be optimized for best results according to the shooting conditions. the AF-on button is particularly effective in conjunction with burst shooting, since it seperates the acts of acquiring focus and capturing the shot. and matrix metering may not be the best solution when trying to focus on a single subject moving quickly, since the camera has to evaluate the entire scene before locking focus and exposure. as peter suggests, spot metering will typically result in faster AF performance.

    another thing to consider is that Auto WB is generally better outdoors than indoors; for live club/concert shots, you might also want to use the lowest K setting in WB, i.e. 2500K (this takes out a lot of those pesky reds so common in stage lighting set-ups) or do a custom WB profile.
  17. Step up your camera and you'll have a much easier time. I shoot my concert work with primes. I need the maximum speed I can get out of the lens.
  18. 99% of the time it's about the photographer, not the equipment. With concert, event, and wedding's also about the equipment.

    If I were shooting a concert, I'd get a D300, choose one of the side AF sensors, go portrait, and keep that sensor on the face. AF-ON, AF-C mode, just keep it focusing over and over and fire. Burst if you need to.


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