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Old Jan 22, 2007, 8:48 PM   #1
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I'm lens shopping....here's my predicament.

I have D80 and D50, currently longest lense is 70-300mm f/4-5.6G AF Zoom-Nikkor. I have become pretty happy with the results from this lense, but think I would like to go longer.....so, I'm just about ready to pull the trigger on a 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED AF VR Zoom-Nikkor (about $1500), but I've read alot about the slow focusing of this lense.

Now, I don't know, but I don't think my current 70-300 is particularly fast focusing lense, and that seems OK for what I'm doing......I guess I should tell you what that is.

I think the most demanding thing I'm doing, is "in-flight" bird shots. I usually use "continuous focus" with "dynamic" focus area. I seem to be able to track the birds pretty well in this mode. (The most frustrating aspect of this lense is it will often seek focus, going all the way through the range in both directions, then coming up empty, so to speak. I'm thinking the limit switch on the 80-400 will help with that sort of thing) Also, the slow f stop hasn't bothered me, so far.

Therefore, unless the 80-400 is alot worse (slower) at focusing, the rest of the stuff (ie. f stop, etc) is pretty much the same as I'm used to. And I think the 80-400 will have sharper, better contrast images. (don't really know why I think that)

The size (read "portability"), and cost are both atractive, compared the my alternatives....which are.....

Should I get the 200-400mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor ($5,000) for the faster f-stop and, I've read, much faster focusing, ....or the 400mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF-S II Nikkor (about $7500), giving up the flexibility of zoom, but getting lots faster glass and focusing. This might also open up new possibilities for me with the 2.8 speed (not to mention opening up my wallet, considerably)

Or, (last option, I promise) should I consider the "Bigma" or Tamaron 200-400? I think of this as a "last" option, cause of some previous disappointments with 3rd party lenses.

So, there's the question! Gimme some advise, PLEASE!

ps. The $'s do matter, but, if I buy the 80-400, only to remain disatisfied, I'll probably end up getting one of the other lenses someday....leading to the old "why didn't I get that in the first place" lament.

Thanks, in advance, for your help....I SURELY NEED IT!
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Old Jan 23, 2007, 12:01 AM   #2
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You're right. The 70-300 G is rather slow and prone to hunting. I saw some of your shots, and they're quite good for this rather low-quality lens.

However, before you decide which new lens to get, you should think about what you would consider most valuable in a new lens.

Is it the longer focal length? The faster AF? The VR? The better IQ?

For me the choice was b/t the Nikon 300mm f/4, the Sigma 80-400 OS (the Nikon was too expensive for me), and the Sigma 100-300 f/4.

When I was in the same predicament, I decided that I valued fast AF and better IQ the most. I figured that for in-flight shots I needed 1/400s and faster anyway, so VR was not a high priority, but if I didn't acquire focus fast enough, there might not be another chance.

I ended up getting the Sigma 100-300 f/4. Very fast focusing, and with its superior IQ, I could often crop the image and still get decent shots.

A couple months later, I decided I did want more reach (you can never have enough, right?). I added a 1.4 tele-converter. Unfortunately, with it, I now have a 420mm that is just f/5.6 wide open, no faster than the two 80-400's. On top of that, I had no VR/OS! While I was able to hand-hold at 300mm fairly successfully, at 420mm, the IQ wasn't quite the same (due to the TC), and I noticed that my technique wasn't up to hand-holding such a lens--it's not just that you need the VR for camera shake during the shutter release, but it would have come in handy during focus acquisition as well!

Moral of the story? Not quite sure, but I'd think long and hard about what you're really looking for before you sink that much money into a lens (and you sound like you're still unsure).

Also consider the weight. When you're holding a really long and heavy lens, all of a sudden you have to factor in the price of monopod/tripod, and you'll have to learn a completely new technique.

Finally, at the price of a 400/2.8, you could afford a Canon 1DMk2 with excellent glass (or stick with Nikon and get a D2hs with excellent glass).

Personally, I don't consider the Nikon 80-400 a good deal. If you're looking for an interim solution, you could take a look at the new Nikon AF-S 70-300 VR. It'll give you VR, AF-S, and better image quality as you figure out where you really want to spend your money, and the 70-300 VR will still be a nice small telephoto zoom to carry around even after you've bought your big birding lens.

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Old Jan 23, 2007, 3:56 AM   #3
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Since you mentioned lenses in the $7500 range... I'm not sure if you're familiar with it, but I recently read some post about the "Sigmonster" (Sigma 300-800). One post says that it's better than the Nikon 400 with 2.0TC. My jaw dropped when I saw the size (and price) of that beast.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...-300-800.shtml
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone


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Old Jan 23, 2007, 7:27 AM   #4
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I'm not sure many in these forums have experience with the lenses you mention. Unfortunately, the cameras you own aren't pro level, and therefore the focus motors are not as advanced, which will probably not give you the performance you are looking for regardless of how much you spend on the lens. You'll really need one of the top of the line bodies to come close to the performance you are looking for.

I have a Tamron 200-400 which is a decent lens, but it's nearly impossible to handhold at full zoom due to the size and weight. I've had some success shooting sports with it, and for the price I can't complain.

There's also the new 70-300 vr which has gotten very good reviews, and is in the $600 range.
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Old Jan 23, 2007, 10:29 AM   #5
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rjseeney , with AF-S lenses, will the body matter? I thought the focus motor was in the lens on such. I know the 80-400 isn't AF-s, but some of the others are.

Thanks.
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Old Feb 11, 2007, 10:14 AM   #6
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rjseeney wrote:
Quote:
I'm not sure many in these forums have experience with the lenses you mention. Unfortunately, the cameras you own aren't pro level, and therefore the focus motors are not as advanced, which will probably not give you the performance you are looking for regardless of how much you spend on the lens. You'll really need one of the top of the line bodies to come close to the performance you are looking for.

I have a Tamron 200-400 which is a decent lens, but it's nearly impossible to handhold at full zoom due to the size and weight. I've had some success shooting sports with it, and for the price I can't complain.

There's also the new 70-300 vr which has gotten very good reviews, and is in the $600 range.
with AFS lenses the focus motor on the camera has no bearing... the lens is driven by a completely different system and wont be affected...

you cant go wrong with the 400 2.8... fast glass and accepts TC VERY well, and when your in a pinch and need the 2.8 its there, on the other hand, the 200-400 will give you more flexibility and VR, if you wait for the PMA show there might (MIGHT) be a chance they add VR to the longer glass...

IMHO i would take the 200-400, just for the flexibility and VR and its is marginally lighter and smaller and not to mention $2500 dollars cheaper that you could put to faster shorter glass... YMMV
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Old Feb 11, 2007, 11:32 AM   #7
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Thanks for the advise, Log.....

I have since purchased the 70-300VR, and like it very much...

Still am thinking of longer choice. Maybe I'll wait a bit, and see what's coming.

Thanks, again.
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Old Feb 11, 2007, 12:19 PM   #8
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I own both the 70-300 ED and the 80-400VR and they are light years apart. The 80-400 is at least as fast as the 70-300 and with the focus limiter it is faster. The colour and contrast are far better, and it's not that heavy a lens to carry on long hikes. It may not be AFS, but for my wildlife hobby I can't justify $5000 for a 200-400 either. Enjoy your new lens, and if you want more reach, test drive the 80-400.
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