So I've been given an early christmas present in the form of money and I want to get a telephoto. I have about $500 to spend. After I get a decent telephoto I will have a good focal range for most types of photography. The short version: 70-300 VR vs. 80-200 f2.8, more importantly: image quality and utility. Also, brief opnion on the sigma 70-200 2.8 Anyways, I want to get a tele that I can use for nature shots, snowboarding shots, and other normal tele-usage to eventually be submitted as stock photography (I know the draw-backs of this approach, but I still want to give it a try). The two lenses I've really been considering are the 80-200 f2.8 (AF-S hopefully if i can find one at the right price) and the 70-300 VR. I know the image quality and build quality will be better on the 2.8, but I'm not sure how much better. I went and handled an 80-200, and here are my impression: It's solid, but not as solid as I'd expect from a pro-level lens. I've used my buddies 70-200 f2.8 VR and this was nowhere near that level of stoutness. I also found that the pull-zoom on the ED was almost counter-intuitive, as the only pull zoom I have is for my 35mm, and you push forward to zoom. In that regard I'd like to get the AF-S version with the twist zoom, but finding one in my price range is a bit daunting if not impossible. I have yet to physically handle a 70-300 VR, but apparently the build quality is on par with the 18-200 VR and significantly better than the entry level nikkor's. One big plus of the 70-300 is the lighter weight which may get it more usage. I was also curious how the VR actually holds up to its reputation. If my math is straight: VR = 2-4 stops, at 5.6 @ 300mm, this should be similar to a 2.8 lens(5.6 > 4 > 2.8, but in terms of shutter speed), correct? I know I wouldn't be able to stop motion very well, but on almost all the occasions I'd need to do that I assume I'll be outside in sunlight so it's not too much of a concern. In low light, a 2.8 aperture would probably do a lot more justice than a finicky image stabilization system, but I'd still have the versatility if needed. Ok, now image quality. Is the 80-200 going to be that much better? I've read reviews on both lenses, and they both fall off at max length. The lenses appear to be similarly sharp at 200mm, although the 70-300 has a larger CA size at max. focal length. So what are peoples opinions? And what do people think about the similar sigma 70-200 f2.8 HSM? Oh, and sorry for the novella.