swimming and wedding - mid tele - nikon 105mm f/2.8G VR prime?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by ed_lemko, Jun 22, 2012.

  1. Have a d7000 that I use to shoot swimming (my 2 kids, every week), and some events (parties and family wedding soon in august.)
    I just got rid of my sigma 50-150 2.8 HSM EX because, for the life of me, it was constantly soft, unless I cranked up the f to 5-6 range, which begged the question, "I can just use my outdoor optically stabilized zoom at that point" what's the use of 2.8 when even the point of focus is not sharp.
    To replace it for an upcoming wedding (not as much swimming) I got a sigma 17-50 2.8 OS. Nice and sharp now, great for small rooms, up close, etc for wedding. But I'm still out my swimming lens. Dark pools, medium and long distances, indoor with weird gym lighting.
    Would getting a 105mm f/2.8 prime be good for that? (and would a macro be appropriate for sports work at medium distances) i.e.)
    I'm thinking yes- it'll give me the sharpness as a prime and with the OS OR VR, better than my soft previous sigma above, and for the getting ready shots (not much sports motion yet) , I can slow down the shutter and take advantage of the OS or VR.
    This would bring me a bit closer-
    but there are comments that this reduces from 2.8 to f/5.6 when focused 1:1 so it's not a true 2.8
    Lastly, there's this
    Would be a relief to have the in and out of the zoom, but nervous that it would not give me the sharpness I want, being a zoom not a prime, and also not having the optical stab. needed for dark still shots. My budget is in the 600-1000 range, which is where all these lenses are.
    Thanks for any thoughts!
  2. The reviews I've seen of the 150mm Sigma suggest it's extremely good, and unusually free of chromatic aberration - I want one. I think you'll find all the lenses reduce their effective aperture as focal distance decreases - the only way to avoid this is to change the lens's focal length instead. (For a simple lens, to focus the subject closer to the camera, you have to move the lens away from the focal plane - which means its effective aperture reduces.) Is the 150mm longer than you'd like on a DX sensor?

    If you actively want a macro, the Tokina and Tamron 100mm and 90mm are well-respected, but they lack the OS of the Sigma. I guess you might find an AF-D or Sigma 85mm f/1.4 that might be an option if you're happy to substitute aperture for stabilization - they're not as good as the AF-S, but that costs double. (I often recommend the manual focus 85mm f/1.4 Samyang, but not if you've got moving subjects; either 85mm f/1.8 Nikkor is an alternative if you're slumming it.) You could get a 135mm f/2.8 AI for (manual focus) emergencies with the change, if you can stop down a bit for sharpness.

    I'm not sure if you'll find it in your price range, but a used 70-200 f/2.8 VR mk 1 Nikkor might be worth a look - it's soft in the corners on full frame at 200mm (unlike the mk2), but on a D7000 it should be extremely good. I'm guessing a new Sigma 70-200 OS would blow the budget.

    Have you considered a monopod?

    Good luck, and I hope that's more helpful than it is misleading. :)
  3. Andrew -
    Thanks for the thoughts. I have 2 separate issues - 1 is which lens I should get - and the second is understanding this effective focal length thing, which is secondary, though I dont feel good not understanding it.
    Taking the 2nd topic 1st, I noticed under the "question and answer" for this
    Sigma 150mm f/2.8 prime, someone said "I returned this. It focused slowly and went to f5.6 when close focused to 1:1By ALAN F ยท Apr 30, 2012" So that I don't get - if it's a f/2.8 prime, with no zoom, why would the f change if it's a constant lens. When I had my Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 HSM zoom (not OS), I would take swim shots at 50mm, then zoom to 150mm, be on manual at f/2.8, and no matter where my focus or zoom would be, the f# on the exif data on my computer always showed 2.8 on those shots since I set it to be that. A closely related question is, for far-away swim shots, would I be ever be focused at 1:1, and I assume the answer there is no. Although I would dabble in bugs, this lens will be for wedding portraits, pj style, and swim shots indoors at medium distance (pool edge, concrete deck, a couple of bleacher rows up, that's me).

    Regarding if 150mm is too long, no. Even on crop, I'd want that. On my old sigma 50-150 that I traded in, I found that 80% of the time I'd want to be maxed out at 150mm anyway, and wanting a bit more.

    But sticking with this effective aperture for a minute longer, I dont know whether that's just for primes, or whether that exists for zooms as well. As I said, I never noticed any exif data moving away from 2.8 when that's what I had set in camera. So Here's the other lens candidate again, the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX HSM OS prime:


    and again as in the sigma 150mm prime we have a guy commenting the Q&A popup for the product that it's not a true 2.8 lense.
    "The lens is not a true 2.8 lens as you focus the lens the aperture shifts due to the barrel extension all the way to 4.5 The lens primary function is to be a macro lens. I purchased this with hopes of getting a 105mm 2.8 portrait lens.

    Although I was disappointed as mentioned above, the lens is tack sharp, has excellent color rendition, and contrast. The lens has a good construction, and came with a nice case and lens hood.

    I choose to keep the lens and add it to my collection.

    Kevin Russo -Photographer"​
    So I really don't know fully what that means- when you focus, the barrel extends and it pushes you to f/4.5 on your shot? Whah? If a swimmer is close to me, I can't take the shot at f/2.8?
    Anyway, all this is secondary to which lens is best for my needs, and I appreciate your other comments there as well. Regarding the Samyang, I already had my eye on that for a couple years, but I do so much swimming stuff that it wouldn't be used, even though it reviews beautifully for price and manual focusing, I know...
    I could get a monopod, but there are kids, stairs and feet all over in these crowded pools. Plus I'm attracted to the OS as a feature as it works great on my other lens, the sigma 18-200 OS, which I use outdoors only as it's f/3.5-6.3.
  4. "but there are comments that this reduces from 2.8 to f/5.6 when focused 1:1 so it's not a true 2.8"
    It is a true constant aperture f/2.8 lens. But EVERY lens looses speed when focused at extreme close-up distances via (considerable) extension of the optics, even if the viewfinder info might not report it. At 1:6 and higher magnifications you will start to see a (barely) noticeable loss of speed, about 1/3 stop. At 1:4, about 1/2 stop; at 1:2 about a full stop; at 1:1 about 2 stops, etc, etc. The same principle (bellows extension factor) applies whether it is a macro lens with built in focusing helicoid extension or a "normal" lens mounted on fixed extension tubes.
    At normal distances (1:10 to infinity), it will give you a "true" f/2.8 speed. So don't let that be a factor in your decision.
  5. I was typing while you posted your second post.
    For a 105mm lens for example, 1:6 magnification (1/3 stop loss of speed) occurs at approximately 0.8m (2.6ft). I would presume that for a swim meet, in order to focus close enough to get a noticeable loss of speed (1:4 and closer), you are going to be very, very wet. :)
  6. If top image quality wide open and the fastest, most accurate AF are truly important to you, Nikon's 70-200mm VR (either version) is probably your best choice.
  7. If you want to get a basic simple understanding of what happens when a lens is focused extremely close, take a flashlight into a darkened room. Hold it about about 3 inches from the wall. Now move it so it is about 12 inches from the wall. The amount of light the flashlight emits is obviously constant, but the intensity of the light on the wall will decrease the further you move the flashlight from the wall. That is basically what happens when the optics of a simple lens are moved further from the image plane to focus closer. The further the lens moves from the image plane, the dimmer the image becomes (lumens/unit area), even though the amount of light (total lumens) entering the lens does not change. Exact same amount of light, but spread over a larger area.
  8. Michael-
    OK, so I got from your optics humor that I won't need to worry about changes in effective aperture as I'll be focused way out on a swimmer, not up close at a water droplet 2-3 feet away. Plus I see that many of these (all?) macro primes have a switch on the barrel to pick subject distance and subsequent ease of focus (lack of focus hunting). For swimmers, I won't be needing the switch.
    Does the guy in the Q&A quote above mentioning "barrel extension" on the sigma 150mm f/2.8 prime mean literally that, that the lens telescopes to a bigger length when you focus? Even on my old sigma 50-150 f/2.8 all the movement was internal.
  9. Thank you, Elliot, but unfortunately that's why I posted my budget, because that one is not in there. ... Would be nice.
  10. "Does the guy in the Q&A quote above mentioning "barrel extension" on the sigma 150mm f/2.8 prime mean literally..."
    Hard to say, since he is apparently "technically challenged" about some basic principles (the aperture does not "shift" with closer focus). I'm not familiar with that lens. But as it uses a "Floating Internal Focusing" system, that would seem to imply that the barrel probably does not extend.
  11. Ed, the 70-200mm VRI lens (used obviously) is only not much more expensive than some of the lenses you linked linked to. So again, if top image quality wide open and the fastest, most accurate AF are truly important to you, there is really only one choice. The Nikon lens will hold more of its value in the long run and cost you less overall in the long run. And give you exactly what you want and need. A few hundred dollars over the high end of your budget would hopefully not break the bank. Other lenses may be a compromise.
  12. The 105VR is a good lens but I wonder if you will find the AF fast enough for sports. Other macro lenses, such as the 150mm Sigma that was mentioned, are also unlikely to have fast AF in fact they may be slower. Try the lens somewhere and see if you're satisfied.
  13. My suggestion would be a new 80-200 f/2.8 D the two ring version.
    AF will be fast enough, the image quality is more then good enough and you have the tank like build of a Nikon Pro lens. And best of all it is new with the 5 year warranty
  14. Elliot - I appreciate your persistence when I dont fully appreciate your point about the value and quality of that lens, even if over budget. Point taken.
    nick- I hadn't thought of the slowness of the AF. I wonder if there's some Dxo optics number for the "fastness" of a lens's autofocus. Maybe lenses tagged "macro", while fine for portrait work, have less technology devoted to the AF, since it would be presumed that a macro subject would not move as fast as splashed water or a moving ball?
    Michael - interesting option. Looks like a nice one. I have a backup Nikon D40x, though, which will be incompatible with that. No matter, it's something to consider. And, related to nick's comment, the 80-200 is obviously not a macro lens, and so I'm curious what about the AF built into it performs better than a macro lens. Contrast-based? etc?
    Is any macro lens (or mid tele prime) comparable in AF speed to a lens like what Michael suggested?
    Trying to cut myself down to the 700-900 $ area if I can... but I'm aware that an extra 200 bucks could put me in a much better strata.
  15. Ed
    Macro lenses are built to focus slow because of what they are built to do. Macro photography in itself is not something that happens quickly.
    The 80-200 is built to shoot things that are moving it is an internal focus design and that in itself helps it to focus faster. How fast it focuses is more dependent on the camera body then on the lens. A stronger motor in the body like in a D300 D3 D4 will move things around much faster.
    The AF D lenses do not have a motor built into them they depend on the in camera motor to focus the lens.
    You could look at the 135 f/2 or the 105 f/2 DC lenses but I think they are over your budget. You can also look at the 180mm f/2.8 AF-D lens might be in your budget and a very fine lens in its own right.
    And look here for the 80-200 for a little less money
  16. I would not limit yourself by the limitations of a back-up camera. The Nikon 80-200/2.8 AF and Nikon 180/2.8 AF are very good lenses and more suited for swimming than a medium telephoto prime. I would even go so far as to add a Nikon 300/4 AF to your list of possibilities, particularly for swimming when you can't get close.
    The one lens that you may find in your budget that has AF-S, making it compatible with both bodies, and is simply a stunning performer, is the Nikon 80-200/2.8 AF-S. I used to have one of these myself and I do miss it. They seem to be getting even more rare because smart people are keeping them!
  17. It seems like that 50-150mm would have been ideal for outdoor swim meets where you are fairly close to the pool (on deck) and plenty of light. Indoor is another story. Perhaps you got a bad sample. I usually use an old Nikon 70-210 f4.5-5.6 AF-D for my kid's swim meets and it works very well on my D300. I had a lot of focus issues using this lens on my D70s where it would tend to lock onto water splashes in the foreground and couldn't focus fast enough to catch head-on shots. I usually ended up shooting from the side. The D300 solved both issues. The D7000 should also do quite well.
    I have pondered a new lens and that Sigma 50-150mm always comes to mind as that is the range that I would mostly use. For primes, the 85mm and 105mm would be very useful. You just have to pay attention to what lane your kid will be swimming in and select the lens accordingly. If in the near land and you are pool-side, that 85mm will likely be too much. Also, you can always go wider and crop in post processing.
    My kids have a couple meets this weekend (year round team and summer team) so, I'll be out there ...
  18. i would have kept the 50-150. mine is tack sharp by f/4.
  19. portrait lenses arent fast enough for sports. ideally the lens you want is the 70-200.
  20. cjk


    I have both the Nikon 105 AF-S Micro and the Nikon 70-200 VR2. Among other things I shoot swimming competitions, indoors and outdoors as well as portraits.
    There's no comparison: the 105 just doesn't autofocus fast enough to be usable in competitions. Don't even consider it.
    The 70-200 VR2 kicks ass both in autofocus speed and accuracy and in IQ. I know it's not in your budget so I would recommend you look seriously to see if you can manage to get a used 70-200 VR1.
    The 80-200 might be a good option though I am not familiar with it.
  21. Cesar- wow, that's my dilemma, I'm glad you threw that in there, about the 105 AF, that's exactly what I've started worrying about. I just read the dripping syrupy reviews of the 70-200 VR II. Drat. It should be the centerfold of playcamera magazine. Everybody and their neighbor loves it, the sharpness, the IQ, the VR, everything. drat. Don't have 2300$ in the budget....
    The reviews are all stellar for the nikon 105 2.8 prime as well, but very few must be sports shooters there, so not much comments come up for AF speed-- as Michael said, I suppose the macro world has different AF performance requirements.
    Eric- I'm with you - I would have loved to have kept the 50-150 it was ideal for the constant 2.8 and the handy zoom range. But it was consistently soft, I sent it in to sigma twice, and the 2nd time they said it back focuses on their demo D7000, and front focuses on my D7000 from the pictures I sent them. ??? All I knew is no matter what, I couldnt get consistent shots out of that thing that I was happy with. Plus, the AF on that was hunting and pecking. I didnt care that it was HSM and quite. Be noisy and fast! I have the Sigma 18-200 3.5-6.3 OS, the walk around lens, and although I can only use it outdoors morely, it's super sharp. My experience with the sigma 50-150 is keeping me from really considering the approachable 1200 dollar version of that same lens, new for 2012, and newly optically stabilized now. On paper, it would be great...
    Anybody have this guy, or it's 50-150 2.8 OS cousin?
    Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Auto Focus Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon AF
    And why has no body agreed with this choice-
    Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 DI LD (IF) Macro, Fast AF Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon AF Mount -
    It says "fast AF" and has a decent warranty, but the main lenses mentioned are 1st nikon for quality and then sigma for decent quality and price. Tamron and Tokina dont hold a candle in this long tele prime or fast tele zoom category?
    Stan- I'm surprised you are satisfied with the IQ from your f4.5-5.6 with shots taken at dark indoor pools. Still, yes, action, with a higher shutter speed, I could never get enough light with my walkaround outdoor lens.
    EDIT: PS- Is to really dumb or just partially dumb, remembering the budget of $600-999, to go with a $499 nikon 85mm f/1.8G prime (a super-well reviewed sharp lens) , and get a 2x teleconverter? For days when I can get close to the deck, I can take advantage of the 1.8 light, and on days I'm stuck father out, I can get 170mm at f/3.6 with the teleconverter... ? Or is even the Tamron above a better solution than this cobbled-together idea?
  22. A single focal lens is not necessarily any sharper than a quality pro zoom. At some point, it's a tripod/head that really gives sharpness. As for me, there is no way I'd ever give up the flexibility and speed of a quality zoom. You might look into finding a (used) Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 AFS. That was the lens they made before the NIkon 70-200mm VR-1, which is what I'm using. The second thing I'd try if I were in your shoes is the new Sigma 50-150mm OS. It's a new design and just might do the trick. Return if it doesn't. Finally, I think the sharpness of so-called "primes" is often WAY oversold. Especially if you are comparing lenses that are being handheld, not on a tripod.
    Kent in SD
  23. Ed,
    hi, sorry to keep banging on the drum for the 70-200VR but......it is a realy good lens and I've just used mine last weekend for a meet (http://www.peverilphoto.com/section476808_510106.html). I know it's not cheap, so why not rent one for the wedding (and try it on some swimming at the same time)? The really good lens for swimming is a 400 f2.8..........
  24. Just to clarify, the 70-200 VR2 is a lovely lens, but its biggest benefit over the VR1 is that the corners are sharp at 200mm on full frame. If you don't have a full-frame camera and don't plan to get one, most of the advantages are unnecessary. I believe either 70-200 is significantly sharper than the 80-200 (of which I have the two-ring AF-D version, but they all have the same optics). I suspect the VR1 is your best price/performance option.

    Just to revisit the aperture thing, bear in mind that Nikon cameras report the effective aperture (reflecting the amount of light hitting the sensor, and showing the aperture relative to the distance between the lens's nodal point and the sensor). That is, as you focus closer and the lens's aperture moves farther from the sensor, the hole through which light is passing "looks smaller" to the sensor; the camera reports an f-stop which is the aperture divided by the aperture-to-sensor-distance. This distinction is negligible at normal working distances, and very significant at macro distances - ask a large format photographer. Canon cameras report the aperture relative to the nominal focal length of the lens - so an f/2.8 lens will appear to be f/2.8 irrespective of how much light is actually reaching the sensor or how far away from the sensor the aperture has moved. The actual optical behaviour is identical, just what the camera reports is different, but this may be confusing some reports. [Disclaimer, I should probably be using terms such as "nodal point" to describe effective distances here, but chances are I'd mis-use them and cause more confusion.] On Nikon, anyone not seeing this effect is either not focussing closely enough, or using another design that (like the 70-200) changes its focal length (field of view) instead of the aperture.

    And, to clarify, the Sigma 150mm doesn't change its length as it focuses. Many lenses, including my 90mm Tamron, do - especially macro lenses, since they have to move so much during focus.

    And the 400 f/2.8? I might be a bit worried about its close-focus distance (not that I'll turn one down if offered one). I repeatedly bounce off the limit on my 200 f/2.

    I'd be nervous of (sometimes) using a teleconverter and exposing the sensor in a moist environment like a pool. It's going to be a bit fiddly switching between lengths in a hurry, too. I'm not 100% sure that the Nikon teleconverters will fit the 85mm - I suspect they do, but because the 85 f/1.8 G is new, I'm struggling to find documentary evidence (and, because they tend to be designed for longer lenses, they may not work well. Worth checking if you consider this. Good luck, whatever you choose.
  25. Thanks guys. You've got patience for someone rumbling around the corridors of indecision...
    Try as I might to commit to the real choice here, the Nikon 70-200 VR II, I can't justify the price new or used.
    And given my d40x backup, the older Nikons, though HQ IQ will not work on that body in case of emergency.
    I'm starting to hold my nose, and consider the Sigma 70-200 2.8 HSM EX OS. It's new, with a longer than the focal length of my previous sigma 50-150, it's optically stabilized, and it will work (AF) on my D40x body.
    I'm holding my nose because I didn't think I'd be back with sigma. Although I have 2 sharp sigmas, my old 18-200 f/3.5-63 OS zoom, and my newer 17-50 f/2.8 OS zoom, both of which are great, the build of that 50-150 and its front focusing and soft shots really put me off. There are plenty of reviews of that non-OS zoom misfocusing, and I even sent it on to Sigma for calib. to my D7000 but no change in IQ. PLus they tell me that it's front focusing on my D7000 and back focusing on their D7000. That doesn't make sense to me.
    I'm hoping that the new design (+updated optics?) of this 70-200 OS, slightly longer focal length, and OS will make this lens a different experience.
    No decision yet but this is where I"m leaning.
  26. Ed, I still don't know why you're looking at the VR2. Unless you're going to move to full frame, the VR1 is almost as good if not better (the bokeh is considered superior by some), and much cheaper - and will probably hold its value better too. That's still over your limit, but at least we're looking at $1500 used rather than $2300. dpreview.com has, I think, reviewed and compared these lenses with the Sigma.
  27. ed lemko
    Actually I am not satisfied with my 70-210 for indoor swimming which is why I may be looking for a f/2.8 or better lens. For outdoor events, it is very good, tack sharp after all these years and focuses VERY fast.

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