Zoom or telephoto for D5500

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by john_hughes|2, May 24, 2016.

  1. I'm trying to decide on a lens for long telephoto (wildlife, primarily Bison) for my Nikon D5500.
    The newer Nikon 80-400 mm AF-S is what I am currently considering (but the price is more than I wanted to spend) so cheaper alternatives are what I'm after here.
    Thanks for your help,
  2. the new Nikon 200-500 or a number of 3rd party similar lenses, most are in the same price zone (<$1500)
  3. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I bought the original 80-400 VR used in excellent shape with all accessories for $500 plus a bit for shipping. It is an excellent lens, and whichever Buffalo are the subject, they are rather large, and not exactly birds in flight for speed (though you can do a bit of that with some care and planning). Have been very satisfied with my 80-400 VR. May upgrade to the new one when I feel like spending, but not urgent. It stays on one of my FF bodies most of the time. It is a very flexible lens due to the range of focal lengths, more so in my opinion than the excellent 200-500.
  4. What will you do with the images? Are you going to print them? Are you just looking for some to post on a blog or media page? How important is image quality? How close can you get? Would this lens be sufficient? NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED ? I have it and have used it on both a crop sensor and an FX sensor and have no issues with it, though it is not a low light lens, so if you're looking for something to shoot wildlife in the early morning or later in the day, this isn't the lens for you.. How much are you looking to spend? What about something like this : Nikkor 300mm f/4D IF-ED which you could pair with a TC-14E III when you want the extra reach ? If you don't need a 'zoom', I'd go with a prime, if image quality is high on your priority list. That being said, as I mentioned, I use the 70-300 above and it works great on my FX, but on my DX, since it only uses the center of the image circle, any CA at the outside edges isn't visible.
  5. The original 80-400 VR was not an AF-S lens--had no focusing motor--and won't autofocus on John's D5500.
    The 200-500mm from Nikon has received great reviews, and would be my choice. I don't believe the D5500 has the capability of fine-tuning autofocus for individual lenses. With any lens you buy, if it won't autofocus properly, be prepared to return it.
  6. I have the 80-400mm AFS, and it's a great multipurpose lens. It's compact for travel and has a handy zoom range. It's reasonably sharp, and the nano coating makes it more flare resistant. That's why I bought it--I photo a lot of trains and their headlights make many lenses flare easily. If I were buying a lens for something like buffalo, I'd go for the Nikon 200-500mm. Partly because it's a little longer but just as sharp. The autofocus isn't quite as quick as the 80-400mm, but it's still fast enough to do birds in flight. That's the best lens for what you're wanting to do. Buffalo don't cause lens flare. I have two herds of buffalo within 15 minutes of my house. Below shot was made with D800E and 80-400mm AFS. It's heavily cropped.
    Kent in SD
  7. How close can you get?​
    Buffalo will often let you get close enough to pet them, although as a South Dakota resident, I don't advise doing that. ;-)
    All in all I'd say that buffalo are about the least demanding wildlife to photo. They're big and generally slow moving (unless you piss them off.)
    Kent in SD
  8. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Bisons are very large mammals. With a DX-format D5500, perhaps you can use something like a 70-300mm AF-S VR to save money. The 200-500mm/f5.6 AF-S VR is excellent and extremely good value for the money. However, it is a big lens. It may also be on the long side for bison, especially from a DX body.
    Before Sandy Vongries purchased version 1 of the 80-400, a lot of us advised against it: http://www.photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00diOq
    Personally, I wouldn't get that lens. There are very good reason that it is so cheap, because it is undesirable. And as Hector points out, it will not AF with your D5500.
    We had a few threads on the 200-500mm/f5.6, including some size comparisons: Nikon 200-500mm/f5.6 E AF-S VR Lens Early Impressions
  9. Get as long a lenses that you can't afford. Then sell it when you get home. You will want to stay as far from Bison as possible, (Wild Bison are not very people friendly.) and with the D5500 supposedly high ISO pic quality, that Nikon 200-500 mite be a good choice. Also the crop factor of DX, give an efective focal length of 300-750mm.
    Shoot RAW.
  10. Get a Nikon Coolpix B500 Camera its zoom reaches out to 900 and the camera complete costs $296.00. But please use a tripod or a braced monopod.
  11. SCL


    I only had a 135 with me the day this one was taken....Felt very uncomfortable being that close. So, I'd strongly suggest getting something much longer to place more distance between you and the herd...especially if there are young ones present.
  12. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The last time I was at Yellowstone was some 20+ years ago, and we got very close to the bisons because the herd was literally crossing the road. We were inside our car, of course. I could have easily used a 70-200mm type lens to photograph them from inside the car.
    Again, bisons are huge mammals. If you photograph them with a 500mm lens on a DX body, they are likely to be very far away. You may be from a safe distance. However, you are also shooting through a lot of air, and that is going to degrade your images to some degree.
    Obviously there are going to be different situations and it is best to have various focal lengths available for each situation, but a 300 or 400mm lens should get the job done.
  13. I'll second Shun's advice - the old 80-400 is not the lens you are looking for. I've owned that lens for a fairly long time and can honestly say it's a very good 80-300 lens, but if a 300 mm limit works for you, the 70-300 is a better way to get there.
    My solution was to buy a used Nikon AF-S 300 f4 and 1.4X and 1.7X teleconverters. That 300 f4 is so good for the money that it has become a kind of informal standard by which other telephotos have been judged - every new lens that has come along has been subject to the question "is it as good as the 300/4?". But my solution happened before the current crop of telephoto zooms became available. The 300/4 is as good as its reputation says, and I've been very happy with it, but it's not a zoom.
    Sigma and Tamron have introduced 150-600 mm lenses and Nikon has its 200-500, and by all accounts they are very much in the same category as the 300 f4, plus they have the versatility of zooming. If I were in the market to upgrade from my old 80-400 today, I'd be getting one of these new zooms instead of the 300/4. The advice about the 200 mm lower end of the Nikon zoom on a DX body being a problem is legit - I think you'll find the 150 mm lower end on the Tamron/Sigma offerings more versatile. If you consider them, be sure to look at the size and weight or each (they aren't the same) - long lenses get heavy - and consider how much you expect to carry the lens around. That might help you choose between a 70-300 and 150-600.
  14. I have had excellent results with the 70-300 AFS VR on my D5100 and D7100, which I purchased after some disappointments (in Yellowstone specifically) with the kit 55-200 that came with the D5100. Bison are one subject, but I would very much have preferred an even longer lens for the wolf pack we observed hunting a cow elk and her calf from across the Hayden Valley, or the wolf fighting off crows and bald eagles for the Canada Goose he was feeding on. I have had good reason to wish for everything from 12mm to 500mm at various times and circumstances in Yellowstone and Teton NP. The 18-55 and 70-300 will cover 95%+ of circumstances, but there will always be those others. I can't afford the longer lenses, but I do carry a 2x tele-extender for emergencies. It will never give the same results as longer quality lenses, but it serves in a pinch with manual focus.
  15. Obviously there are going to be different situations and it is best to have various focal lengths available for each situation, but a 300 or 400mm lens should get the job done.​
    Usually there are other critters about, too. With a 200-500mm you can quickly zoom in on a fox snatching a prairie dog. A 500mm would also be great for close ups of feeding calves etc. Buffalo are herd animals. Sometimes what you want to photo will be in the middle of the herd. I don't advise getting between cows/calves and a herd bull.
    Kent in SD
  16. So, this thread got me to thinking... I checked the local classifieds and found a Tammy 150-600mm/5-6.3 with image stabilization and all the goodies, lightly used, for $600. Various reviews, including here on Pnet, suggested this is a good lens for the price. Checked it out and bought it, so now I can't wait to get out and see how it works for all that long-range wildlife (like Shun's hummingbirds). I justified it to my wife as a good excuse for a trip to Yellowstone, etc., so I'm hoping for an early opportunity. I may hit the Bear River Bird Refuge this holiday weekend for an intro. I'll let you all know how it works out.
  17. Thanks to everyone for the good advice and for sharing your photos and experiences.
    I apologize for taking this long (a month) to acknowledge your help and I greatly appreciate that you would take the time to respond.
    I've just ordered a new Nikon 200-500mm/f5.6 E AF-S VR lens! I should have it in hand next week.
    I had some difficulty deciding between this lens and the Tamron 150-600mm/f5-6.3. I'm sure both are good performers (in the proper hands).
    I live about an hours drive from Minneopa State Park (Minnesota) where the Minnesota State Zoo and MN. Dept. of Natural Resources are managing a small Bison herd. Most of the animals are "transplanted" there from Blue Mound State Park near Luverne, MN.
    Kent, You and I are practically neighbors considering the far flung group of contributors to P.NET!
    Again, many thanks to all! I hope I'll be able to share some good pics soon.

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