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norm smith Apr 9, 2006 2:27 AM

For my second lens (on a Nikon D50), I have been using the Nikon 55-200. Although this lens seems to generally reported as 'nothing special' (ie fit for purpose), I have been producing some good keepers and like the fact that it is a compact and light lens.

However, I wanted something with a little more reach for wildlife and noticed that people were generally commenting on the Sigma 70-300 APO Macro as though it delivered more than it‘s budget tag suggested. So I bought one - thanks largely to the posters here and a sensible review (ie not written by a lens snob) published in a UK magazine. By the way - I had already gone through the ‘18-200 single lens solution' argument in my head, which while attractive, would not have covered all of the shooting situations that I expect (or hope) to find myself in.

The Sigma lens cost me £200 from local store (Jacobs). The immediate advantages over my Nikon was the extra 100mm reach (becomes extra 150mm due to sensor size) and the macro ability, which has a ratio of 1:2 which appears pretty good for a budget lens.

This is a new lens from Sigma, specifically designed for digital, having additional anti-glare coatings on the lens. A thin red band around the front of the lens denotes that it is the new model. It is not the cheapest lens at the budget end, Sigma do the same version for almost half the price without the APO glass and the magazine review that I read said the cheaper lens was fine (fit for purpose) but that the APO version with the better glass was slightly noticeably better.

Compared to my 55-200, this lens is noticeably bigger and heavier. The front glass is bigger, capturing more light, allowing this thing to keep the same aperture range of the Nikon (f4 - f5.6). When opened to the 200mm to 300m end, a macro switch can be enabled, giving 1:2 enlargement. I have only tried this on flowers so far but I like the results, the images were sharp and nicely isolated from their background. I am expecting that at the 300mm end, the macro will give me some nice dragonfly shots.

I have not tested the lens against moving wildlife so cannot comment on this. My Nikon could take sharp shots of flying ducks, I expect this lens to be at least as good.

Indoors, results are nice. We have a long haired teddy bear that is helpful for testing how well a camera resolves detail. The results were crisp but natural looking since the camera does not over sharpen. Magnified on the computer, there is plenty of detail in the fur and its softness and subtle shading has been preserved.

Outdoors, I shot into bare trees (winter) against a clear sky and a weather cock on top of a church to test for purple fringing and my pictures were clean. The local church that has an alarm on the wall, which I use to test new purchases. My old Panasonic FZ5 could pick up the telephone number at the bottom of the alarm (hand held) which said amazing things about the image stabilisation of that thing but it was clear that it was using strong ‘in camera' sharpening to make numbers clear enough to read. My Canon S2IS could also capture this info but the final image was softer - still amazing though for a small handheld.

On the D50, my Nikon 22-200 could make out that there was writing on the alarm but at that range, could not resolve it. The Sigma (on a monopod) with my D50 gave the best result. The number was easily readable and it looked good, was not over sharpened and was easily within the capability of the lens. I then tried it hand held (fairly bright day on ISO 200) and still got better images that my previous prosumers had given.

These are just first impression but my bottom line conclusions are; for me this is a good alternative to my Nikon 55-200 (which for me is still a very good carry around lens), it has good resolving power with an absence (to my eye) of distortion and purple fringing. Top end prosumer cameras have a lot to offer since they often have a powerful lens, image stabilisation and macro ability. I feel that my D50 with this sigma lens has moved me on to the next level from my prosumer cameras, especially since it has higher and cleaner ISO to fall back on and the images are just nicer. Hope this helps anyone thinking about this lens.

wadge1 Apr 9, 2006 7:53 AM

hi there norm smith

I also have a D50 and i am very happy with it i also have the 55-200mm lens and i am also very happy with the results i have got with it. But like yourself i want to get closer to the subject without actually scaring the subject off.

Is there a big difference in relation to zoom on the 300mm. if poss could you post a pic taken with the 55-200mm at 200mm and the same pic from the same distance but with the sigma at 300mm just so i can see how much closer the subject is. Thats if you don't mind.

many thanks


jniel Apr 25, 2006 6:59 PM

I am trying to decide on a new zoom also. I would love to see a comparison of 200mm and 300mm focal distance. I am leaning toward the 55-200.


rey Apr 25, 2006 10:17 PM

The difference between a 200mm and 300mm is not very much. Unless the markings on my 70-300G are wrong, I actually notice a much bigger difference between a 70mm and a 100mm than a 200 and 300.

That being said, I'd pick the Sigma 70-300 DG APO over the Nikon 55-200, because of it's Macro capability.

Good Luck!

captjussi May 26, 2006 10:18 AM

Can anyone tell me if there is any difference between my Sigma 70-300 1/4-5.6 D APO macro super and 70-300 DG mentioned in the topic? My lensis already atleast 5 years old. I´m going to buy D50 so any opinnions about mySigmassuitability for D50 are welcome. Thanks!

billybobbovine May 30, 2006 5:10 PM

i too am trying to decide on a tele lens for my new d50. I am having a hard decisoin, i know i dont want the 70-300G nikkor, but i also dont see the ED version being that good either, and definately not relaly worht the money. so that leaves me with the 55-200 and the sigma. i know to steer clear from the non-APO so that leave s just 2 left.

pros and cons of each:

shorter, but it is a nikon and not a discount brand. It has a plastic mount thoguh, but is AF-S

Longer and macro feature, but its an off brand. Also"sup[posedly not too sharp 200-300" so maybe not even worth the extra reach? Its also much larger, and heaver, tho thats not much of an issue for me. Also slower.

such decisions...

rey May 30, 2006 5:33 PM


In case you didn't see my other post:

For U.S. folks, I just saw this today, Adorama is selling the 55-200 for $160.

billybobbovine May 30, 2006 5:55 PM

thanks rey, but thers no link...

rey May 30, 2006 8:09 PM


thanks rey, but thers no link...
Kinda odd, I can see it fine, and it works fine for me. Just to adorama's website and look for it.

sy20198 Jun 21, 2006 9:38 AM

Dying here. A former Canon person, I have a new Nikon D70s which came w/ a 18 - 70 lense. Nice lense but does not fill-the-bill for my purpose. I need the best, affordable lense for wildlife (safari) and polo action shots. Last night - bought Nikkor 55 - 200. Already concerned that this is not going to do it. With budget in mind, where from here? Thank you for your help. Sandi

Wowzer Jun 22, 2006 11:10 PM

I just got a Nikon 80-200 2.8 from ebay for about $350. It's an amazing lens. Fast, clear, pictures. It's older than the newer lenses, so the focus speeds are not as fast as the AF-S. GL.

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