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decisions....70-200 vs 80-300? What do do?


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Forgive me if something like this has been posted. I couldnt find a similar posting.


I am a newbie/amatuer photographer with a D80 with an 18-135. I need to get a

longer zoom. I tend to take pictures of my son playing indoor ice hockey and

typical vacation type photos (outdoor and indoor).


I am struggling to make a decision on what lense to purchase. Specifically:

Nikkor 70-300 AF-S VR F4.5-6 or

Nikkor 80-200 AF F2.8 or

Nikkor 70-200 AF-S VR F2.8


I have a few questions:


Is there that big of a difference between 200mm and 300mm?

Do you know of a white paper/write up of the difference in lense lengths?

Is the VR worth the cost? That is the 80-200 AF is significantly less costly than

the 70-200 AF-S VR.


Theoretically I could purchase the Nikkor 70-300 AF-S VR F4.5-6 and the Nikkor

80-200 AF F2.8 or just the Nikkor 70-200 AF-S VR F2.8. Is it worth having both

the Nikkor 70-300 AF-S VR F4.5-6 and the Nikkor 80-200 AF F2.8?


In advance, thank you for your assistance.



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For indoor sports photography you basically must have a lens which is f/2.8 or better. f/5.6 is just not in any way adequate unless you can access an external flash system which is set up at the location. Also, the two f/2.8 lenses are of better optical quality than the 70-300.


Using a camera with the DX camera format, the 80-200 and 70-200 are "long enough" for hockey in my opinion. The 70-200 would focus faster with the D80 body so that is your best option of the three lenses you mention, but it is also the most expensive. If you cannot afford the 70-200, the 80-200 will also be very good optically, but ideally you would want a D300 or D2/D3 series camera to drive its autofocus. Their AF sensors would also be more sensitive and effective in sports photography, also they would allow you to use higher ISO settings to get better pictures in low light. But I think you should get pretty good pictures with the D80 already, provided that you get one of the f/2.8 lenses.


To be able to use a 300mm lens effectively for indoor sports, you would definitely want a higher end camera and preferably a prime lens.

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"For indoor sports photography you basically must have a lens which is f/2.8 or better."


Agreed, unless you use flash. I shoot indoor basketball with my monolights placed in the ceiling trusses near the side wall (the guy running the league pulls out the lift for me). The light is high enough, and to the side, so that it doesn't hit players or spectators in the eyes.

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It's unlikely you'll have access to setting up monoblocks indoors. Though it would be fun and educational, for shooting your son's hockey, I doubt you're ready to drop thousands into gear, but hey. If you are, then you'll still want the f2.8 lens.


Yes, there's a big difference between 200 and 300mm, but the loss of light will kill you. Even though a hockey arena looks bright, the usual ugly lighting of them will have 1-2 stop variation depending on where you are shooting toward on the rink.

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A 300mm lens covers less than 50% of the area a 200mm lens covers:



To me, there is a big difference.


However, if the choice is between a 200mm/f2.8 and a 300mm/f5.6, for indoors, I would go with f2.8. You'll need f2.8 not only for capturing the image but also AF. Indoors, even though there is light, f2.8 will give you much better AF than f5.6.

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That being said, here's a link to something you might end up with:




Most of my shots were done at f4.5 to f5 on my 80-400 on a D70. Not too shabby for a slow camera and "slow focus lens". I had a lot of throwaways, but I got something. My close shots were at 80mm and the long at 160-185mm. Not too shabby for something that people would never consider for high speed sports like hockey.


Several shots were in the 1/80th second, while others I cranked up to 1/160-1/320, underexposed a bit and then pulled them back in post. If your contrast range isn't too high, a trick is to shoot in Raw, underexpose but make sure you're not clipping blacks, then push the curve back up in post. It works. Not as nice as having an f2.8 lens, but you use what you've got.

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I just did some hockey pics with a 55/200 at 5.6, ISo 1000. I do this so seldom and that is the only AF tele I own so that is what I used.


I did wish for a longer lens, but honestly you do not have a whole lot of time to do anything but frame and push the button.


If I wanted to buy a lens for this , I would get the 70/200 2.8 and use it at 2.8 or 4, lower ISO and crop.


I set up the color with a few JPEGS before the match, indoor light WB, and set the camera on manual to overexpose the ice 1.5 stops. Exposures were all good.


Your big problem will be shooting thru the glass walls or going to the very top and shooting down. They made provision for the pro shooters to overcome these limitations. If you get rinkside, 200mm is sufficient, 300 from the top of the seats.

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VR is very helpful if you shoot slower shutter speeds but someone always adds, "VR only helps with camera movement, not subject movement."


I think VR is wonderful but it will probably be of limited use for you, at least trying to photograph ice hockey. It is a high speed game. Many of your shots will be wide open at the highest shutter speed you can use.


Think about adding a tripod for decent support, or at least a monopod. That will help with some of the camera shake.

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You can have an idea of the area covered by 70 to 300mm focal lenghts translating them to your 18-135 zoom. You can draw marks on your lens barrel and check that difference by yourself. Imagine that


135 on your lens=300mm


90 on your lens =200mm


36 on your lens=80mm


31,5 on your lens=70mm


The perspective will not be exactly the same but it could help to give you an idea.

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Forget the Nikon 70-300 AF-S VR f4-.5.6. It is too slow and has a reputation for not

being very sharp at the long end. Go for the Nikon 80-200mm AF f2.8 or the Nikon

70-200mm AFS VR, both good for action sports.


Another good option would be the AFS version of the Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 which is

only available used. It will focus quicker than the Nikon 80-200 f2.8 AF lens Nikon

still markets and performs well on FX format: one reason I think this lens retains its

high resale value.


Some say the 70-200mm f2.8 AFS VR will soon be replaced because of perceived

poor corner performance on the FX format. If so, it may be had for a good price

used as people "upgrade". Performance on the DX format of your D80 would be

terrific, however.

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VR is very helpful when using the 70-200mm at the long end with a DX camera, but I don't think it's really a big deal. Ideally for most hockey shots you would want high shutter speeds which make VR of lower significance. However, I think the AF-S feature is of supreme importance in sports photography if you do it with a D80.


If you can get a good deal on the 80-200/2.8 AF-S (instead of the AF-D N) 2nd hand, then that would be a good lens to choose, as an alternative to the 70-200. Unfortunately it is no longer available new. The 70-200 is famous for its beautiful bokeh and great center sharpness but also infamous for its blurry corners on the D3 (an issue which has no significance on the D80 since it has a smaller sensor).

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Someone can feel free to correct me, but I think that the corners on the 70-200 only get blurry at the largest apatures at 200mm on full frame. Chances are your corners are going to be out of focus anyway when you are shooting f2.8 at 200mm so I'm not sure how much of a weakness that is. There is some falloff wide open at 200mm on fullframe as well but again how much of an issue is it at f2.8 at 200mm? As I understand it at f8/200mm the corners are tack sharp with no distortions. And as stated above on the DX sensor it's a mute point anyhow.


I shoot hockey with the 80-200 2.8D. At 1/320 I don't miss too many shots because I don't have VR. I do miss shots because it won't autofocus fast enough. Autofocus on the 70-200 is silent and instant. IMHO, for your application I would say that would be the reason to shell out the extra greenbacks. I do not know how fast the autofocus is on the 80-200 AFS is compared to the 70-200.

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Clayton, the corner fuzziness at 200mm extends to basically all apertures at 200mm. There is vignetting at f/2.8 and f/4 (I have some images taken at f/4.5 where the vignetting is bothersome) at most of the focal length range which is especially evident when photographing skaters - the ice is very bright and vignetting is clearly visible in the ice. So while I think the corner sharpness is not relevant here, the vignetting is problematic in ice hockey photography. But the OP is using a D80, which means that this is not important to his current situation. I only mentioned this because it may affect the future value of the 70-200mm and if the OP views it as a long-term investment, this may warrant some consideration. It is still the best choice for his current situation.


For a D3 camera, the 300/4 or 300/2.8 would be better choices. 200mm is too short a lot of the time.

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I don't have either of the xx-200/2.8s. I do have the 70-300 vr. It is a tad softer at 300mm so I usually shoot at f8. That's troublesome for sports outside. Indoors it will be very difficult to deal with. It's not really comparable to the faster lenses when it comes to sports.


Another possible lens to consider is the Sigma 70-200/2.8.

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I have photo'd figure skating and found I pretty much needed f2.8. You are at a fork. You will need 300mm for any wildlife photography and will find 200mm doesn't go very far outdoors. Here's two things you could consider. (1) Buy a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 HSM lens and a sigma 1.4x. That gets you 200mm f2.8 AND a ~300mm lens for outdoors. It also gets you very fast HSM autofocus. That would be my first choice. (2) Buy Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 AND Nikon 70-300mm VR lens. Two purposes, two lenses. (3) Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR AND Nikon TC-14E. This lens is a real pig, but it will do what you want. DO look hard at the choice #1. You will love what that combo can do for the money.



Kent in SD

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I agree with Craig. The 70-300 VR lens is basically a f/8 fixed aperture lens. It is significantly softer wide open as well as at f/11 than at f/8. f/8 is awfully slow for sports and wildlife. I've also found that it's significantly better on a tripod (w/ VR off) than hand held even with the VR on and the quality is very good at the short end 70-150mm (quality at f/8 ranges from acceptable to very good) whereas the quality declines towards 300mm, where it is a bit fuzzyt. A 300mm prime or the 200-400/4 should be the primary choices for 300mm.


By the way the 1.4x converter with the 70-200 doesn't give great results on DX (need to stop down a lot for sharpness) but on the D3 the results of this combination (if you can lift it!) are fine.

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