Zoom Lens Comparison and Advice

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by joe_willmore, Jun 11, 2013.

  1. I'm shooting with a Nikon D7000. I'm looking to upgrade my zoom capability--right now I've got a range of 200mm and 300mm lens none of which are faster than f4.5.
    I was looking at the Nikon 80-200mm AF f2.8D ED, but then I noticed the Tamron AF 70-200mm f2.8.
    Anyone have any advice/comparisons on how these stack up against each other? Or, are there other fast 200mm compatible zooms I should be comparing against the Nikon? Primary uses for this are going to be shooting sports in poor light (HS football at night, basketball inside, etc.).
  2. HS sports night and indoor photography is challenging with the very poor lighting at most venues, especially the older ones. A 2.8 lens will help, probably more with football than with basketball. I have tried a lot of cameras and lenses for basketball, the 50/1.8 AFS G is hard to beat for a DX camera if you can shoot from the baseline.
    One other lens for consideration would be the 80-200 AFS lens that is now pretty affordable used. The one I have clearly outperformed the D version it replaced in my bag, and can work with the Nikon TC. I have not tried the Tamron.
  3. I would get a version of the lens that has AFS focus. The Sigma version is called "HSM," and I don't know what the Tamron version is called. Shooting moving subjects in dim light is very demanding, and that usually calls for a more expensive lens. There was a Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 AFS from the late 1990s if I remember right. It would do what you want.
    Kent in SD
  4. Joe, there are two versions of the Tamron, one with VC (their VR), one without. The one without is known to be optically really good with really very very slow AF. Not a sportslens. The new one with VC is very recent, and probably quite a bit more expensive. Same for Sigma, the latest version with OS is their best according to all reviews I've seen, but it's priced accordingly. Still, attractive solution too.
    I have the AF-D 80-200 f/2.8 (2-ring current version). On a D300 and D700, it's certainly not slow to AF, but these bodies have pretty beefy AF engines in the body; on my D80 it was noticeably slower - I have no idea how the D7000 stacks up in this respect. It's a good lens, not as great as the newer 70-200VR lenses though, but value for money, it works well, in my view. It does not make a bad choice by any means. But I think there are better options nowadays.
    With no knowledge on the new Tamron VC version, I'd personally shortlist these:
    1. Second hand Nikon 70-200VR (version 1) - the older version which is fine on DX, and can be found for decent prices.
    2. Sigma 70-200 OS - tests I've seen suggest this lens is an really good, cheaper alternative against the current 70-200VR2 (which is an outstanding lens according to all). (zoom and focus turn the other way around, though, than Nikkors do - just something to consider if you're very much used to the Nikon-direction of zooming/focussing).
    3. Nikon 70-200 f/4 VR - one stop less, but the D7000 covers that with excellent high ISO performance. A lot better handholdable, excellent optics. A bit pricey, but looks to be worth it.
    One thing to seriously consider is the weight; the f/2.8 lenses are close to 1,5kg. For handholding, that does require a bit more thinking about technique (and fatigue)... or a monopod. The f/4 lens strikes a really nice middle ground there, and for me, would actually take the number 1 spot in my shortlist, would I be buying today.
  5. I have an 80-200 f/2.8 AF-D (two ring - well, I have a one-ring as well, but it doesn't work...) - I was originally very disappointed in its performance, but have since established that it's much better at longer distances. If you plan to shoot close with it, the 80-200 may not be for you (though others may disagree); I've heard that by design it's not correcting perfectly at short range, and that this explains some of the autofocus issues I've had in addition to general sharpness. The 80-200 f/2.8 AF-S is an different, and apparently better, optical design. (I don't object to the focus speed of the AF-D, at least on my D700/D800. My one-ring mk1 80-200 is much much slower. It's not going to trouble my 200 f/2 for moving subject tracking, but it'll keep up with most subjects.)

    The Nikkor 70-200 mk1 is a very good lens on a DX camera. To me, the biggest difference between it an the mk2 is that the corner performance on an FX camera at 200mm is abysmal; if you every expect to go to FX, steer clear. However, if you're happy as a DX shooter, be happy that it's a bargain because of all the FX shooters who upgraded! If there's not much price difference between the AF-S 80-200 and the mk1 VR, you may as well have the advantage for the VR system.

    It used to be the case that the third-party options in this range were a bit iffy; however, they all seem now to be much better, but cost more. I'd be wary of an old lens, but otherwise I'd only be advising based on reviews.

    I decided to get my 80-200 because I wanted a lens that offered me both some zoom range and some control over depth of field; at small apertures I was (at least on my D700 - it doesn't hold up so well on a D800) happy with my 28-200 zoom, and I had fast primes already. If you want this lens to give you depth of field control, the f/4 lens is obviously an issue; if you just want an optically good telephoto zoom, I agree with Wouter that I'd look closely at it. But it's not cheap.
  6. I'm impressed by the quick response--in less than 2 hours of posting I've got a handful of very good technical responses. Yes, I get the weight issue and I've used a tripod and monopod when it was okay and appropriate. I'm less worried about AF speed since for distance shooting I'm almost entirely manual anyway though I appreciate those who pointed out the AF "hunting" issues for particular options. Thanks very much for the advice and tips.
  7. I own the Tamron 70-200 and have used the Nikon 80-200. Both are very good and even though I always prefer Nikon I would say the Tamron is just as sharp. But I have found both lacking when it comes to autofocus under low-light, fast action situations. I shoot a lot of figure skating, where the skaters are moving extremely fast under relatively low light. (2.8 at somewhere between 1/125 and 1/250 at ISO 1600). Neither of these lenses can AF fast enough under those conditions, which are probably comparable to night high school football and high school basketball. I have seen an significant improvement with the Nikon 70-200 VR, and even better results with the Nikon 70-200 VRII. I currently used the Tamron for portraits and events and other day-to-day shooting but rent the Nikon VRII for skating.
    Haven't used the Sigma so I can't speak to it.
    For low light sports you definitely need at least 2.8. IMHO, you also need a zoom rather than a fixed lens like the 50 because the distance from you to the player is constantly changing. (The one exception might be basketball, where you can focus on the net and wait for the ball and players to come to you. But for that you don't need AF in the first place.)
    Bottom line is that if you're going to shoot sports, I would get at least the Nikon 70-200 VR, and would go for the VRII if you can afford it. Used would be OK with either one.
  8. Photozone.de is a good place to start for good comparative tests.
  9. I have used the Sigma 70-200 HSM (non OS), The 80-200 F2.8 two ring, and both Nikon 70-200 Vr/s.; I hate to say it but like most things in life it boils down to money.
    So here is an observation about sharpness. If you are shooting for publication in a newspaper, sharpness is a virtual non-issue. The resolution for newsprint is crayon on napkin anyway. Most newspapers have a website and sorta' the same thing given the size they will likely display. Then given the low-light in which you will be shooting, the sharpness of these lenses in an absolute sense will pale in comparison to your technique, ISO and the shutter speed you can muster. So in other words, I would not worry about that very much. Of course you will use the lens for other purposes too once you have tried it so you can give sharpness a glance anyway.
    The Sigma was pretty fast to focus and was a decent performer. I was not wild about its build quality compared to the Nikons.
    The 80-200 F/2.8 is a wonderful lens. It is sharp and should be fairly fast focusing on your D7000. It is built like a tank. The AFS version is better focus wise but you will be buying that used so you just have to find a good copy. It will cost more and I don't know if that will be worth it to you. Optically both of them are so good that you have to be a pixel peeper to find any difference or complaint at all.
    If it is affordable the 70-200 AFS VRI is a great choice. You will pay about $1500.00 for one. The VRII costs much more but my opinion is that it is not worth an additional $1000 on either DX or FX as the edge issue is irrelevant on one and insignificant on the other.
    If money is an issue, Tamron has an answer that might work for you. The Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 DI LD (IF) Macro is only $779.00 at Adorama and has nice reviews. I have no personal experience with it but it should be about the same price as a used 80-200 F2.8 Nikkor.
    Indoor basketball will be all about how close. I absolutely agree with a Robert that if you are shooting from the sidelines you will find the 50 F1.8 hard to beat. You have a lot of pixels to work with on your D7000 you know.
    Please resist the temptation to look for trivial differences between lenses. All of these lenses can take Pulitzer prize winning photographs or shots for National Geographic. Given for what and how you are going to use them, they are all optically a wash. Internal focus (AFS) and VR are useful but not game changers. Get the one you like the best that fits within your budget. If you are spending significantly more with the notion you will get noticeably better image quality you are chasing a phantom.
  10. The 70-200 2.8 G VR1 is a great lens in my opinion. I have version 1 and I've not had difficulty with focusing in relatively low light. I would also echo Rick M's remarks just above. The trivial differences amongst these lenses is quite small.
  11. " ...But I have found both lacking when it comes to autofocus under low-light, fast action situations. I shoot a lot of figure skating, where the skaters are moving extremely fast under relatively low light. (2.8 at somewhere between 1/125 and 1/250 at ISO 1600). Neither of these lenses can AF fast enough under those conditions, which are probably comparable to night high school football and high school basketball..."
    AF in low light is a matter of camera, not lense.
  12. "AF in low light is a matter of camera, not lense."
    Yes, some camera AF better than others. But I've used three different lenses on the same camera body (literally the same body, not just the same model) shooting the same subject under the same conditions and have seen a clear difference in AF performance. This has all been with a D200. I also have a D7000, which is supposed to be better at AF. Surprisingly, I've had better AF results with the VRII on the D200 than on the D7000, at least under these particular conditions.
  13. i wouldn't use a lens with known AF speed issues--the tamron 70-200 non-VC-- in situations where you need to capture fast action. the nikon 70-200 VRII is excellent in these type of situations. as for manual focus, i dont really think that will work out too well, unless you stick to zone focusing, which would not be optimal.
  14. AF in low light is a matter of camera, not lense.​
    Not entirely true. While the AF system in the camera plays a very significant role, it's not the only part of the equation. A faster lens, letting more light in also gives the AF system more light to work with. Given the same camera with same AF settings, a f/2.8 lens is frequently faster to focus.
    Straight comparisons are hard because the AF-S versus non AF-S and the strength of the AF motors also comes into play... which also depends on the lens, in case of AF-S.
  15. Read the suggestions here, and then take a look at lens reviews.
    Lens Reviews
  16. I want to thank everyone for their comments and insights--I was impressed by how quickly I got technically relevant feedback from a range of sources--almost all of it very helpful to me. I decided to go with the Tamron. The range of reviews (both in here and technically) satisfied my concerns. The point about slow AF was consistent but also not an issue for me (I'm not shooting figure skating for instance and I'm going to have the time to prefocus on a particular area). The bigger aperture mattered a lot to me in this case so I wasn't willing to drop down to an f4.5 (I've already got three zooms...a 200mm, a 300mm and the Nikon 28-200mm G) that are solid zooms but not good enough in low light situations. Again--thanks to everyone for sharing your insights and experiences.

Share This Page