Best Wildlife Telephoto Option for $1,000?

Discussion in 'Nikon Lenses' started by Rafterman, Feb 28, 2018.

  1. Rafterman

    Rafterman No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    After a hiatus of a few years, I'm getting back into photography as a serious hobby. I just bought a refurbished D500 from Adorama and I'm in the process of selling my old D7000 on Craigslist.

    I love wildlife photography, with a particular focus on birds. I used to have a Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC, but 95% of the time I was at 300mm and it was often not enough reach, even with the DX crop factor in consideration.

    I'm looking to add a sharp, capable lens to my kit for around $1,000 and have come up with three options that meet my needs and budget, but I'm just having some trouble deciding what would be the best. As a hobby shooter, image quality is of course important to me, but it's not like my life depends on it. I'm not producing 60" x 40" gallery prints or working halfway around the world for National Geographic. The biggest print size I would make is probably 20" x 24" or 16" x 20", which any of these lenses can easily handle.

    Here's my options, from high to low price. I have no problem with used lenses as long as they're not beat up.
    • ~$1200 - Used Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 (300-750mm on DX)
    • ~$1100 - Used Nikon 300mm f/4D and 1.4 teleconverter (450mm f/4 up to 630mm f/5.6 on DX)
    • $800 -New Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC (150-600mm on DX)
    Weight is a factor in this decision, so here's those numbers, from highest to lowest:
    • 81.2oz - Nikon 200-500mm
    • 50.8oz - Nikon 300mm (57.5oz including the teleconverter)
    • 39.3oz - Tamron 100-400mm
    Although a 750mm f/5.6 would be pretty awesome, the weight, bulk and price of the 200-500mm Nikon puts it last on my list. Plus, I would definitely have to use either a tripod or a monopod for that lens, adding even more weight to carry around. Lugging that behemoth on vacations would not be much fun. The 300mm f/4D doesn't have VR, but I know that won't help me for moving subjects anyway, so I'm not all that concerned about it. The option to leave off the TC and have a 450mm f/4 at my disposal is also a nice bonus. The Tamron is the lightest lens and has VC, but it's got the shortest reach of the three I'm considering and also has the slowest aperture at it's maximum focal length. However, it is the cheapest option and comes with a 6-year U.S. warranty from Tamron.

    I'm not interested in any of the Sigma offerings like the 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 OS (too wide of a focal range) or 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS (also too wide of a focal range), so please leave those out of your suggestions. Again, I never used the shorter end of my previous Tamron 70-300mm, so there's no point in paying for a feature I won't use.

    Thanks in advance for all thoughts and opinions!


     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2018
  2. ac12

    ac12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I would go for the Nikon 200-500, but the weight difference vs the Tamron 100-400, IS significant.

    IMHO, the 25% increase from 400 to 500mm is not significant. You can easily crop that much without loosing much quality.
    The Tamron is only 1/2 stop slower than the Nikon 200-500. A 1/2 stop is not significantly slower enough to really matter. If it was more than 1 stop, that would be a difference.

    I went with a Nikon 500mm manual focus lens. At $150 it was very affordable.
    BUT, follow focusing a fast moving subject if VERY hard. If the subject is stationary, not a problem.
    And being old, it does not have VR, so I NEED a support to shoot it, without shaking.
     
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  3. jaomul

    jaomul Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Why is the sigma 150-600 or the tamron 150-600 not in your consideration list?
     
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  4. Rafterman

    Rafterman No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Actually, the Tamron is only one third stop slower than the 200-500mm, which is even better than one half. Plus, it weighs less than half as much as that beast. Reviews I've read for the Tamron are very positive with regard to its use as a travel lens. Besides, with the high ISO capability of the D500, I'm not worried about compensating for a third of a stop anyway.

    I was initially leaning towards the 300mm f/4, but between the lens and the 1.4 TC, I'm easily $300-400 above the price of the Tamron and pretty darn close to the 200-500mm. I know the 300 is a quality lens despite its age, but I'm not sure if I want to buy a teleconverter just to use on one lens. At the long end, we'd be talking about a difference of only 30mm between it and the Tamron. I don't think it's worth me paying an additional $300 or more just to have a 630mm f/5.6 with the Nikon + TC as opposed to a 600mm f/6.3 lens with the Tamron.
     
  5. chuasam

    chuasam Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Find a mirror lens. If that works for your shots go for it.
     
  6. Rafterman

    Rafterman No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Because those models weigh 68oz and 70oz, respectively. Add in the D500, which weighs 27oz (without a battery) and you're talking about a combo that weighs over SIX POUNDS! I don't want my arms to fall off while I'm walking down the beach photographing sea birds or while I'm on a 3-hour hike looking for critters in the woods.

    I think it's safe to say at this point that the Nikon 200-500mm is off the list because of its immense size and weight. I don't want to carry seven pounds of camera & lens, plus a monopod or tripod too.
     
  7. jaomul

    jaomul Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Ok
     
  8. VolkswagenMommy

    VolkswagenMommy TPF Noob!

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    I have zero input technically.... but I have to say after using a very old Nikkor 80-200 ED last weekend for gymnastics, I literally had to rest it in my shoulder a quarter of the meet!!! That biooooch was heavy! My wrists! Lol ——— so walks on the beach with it would be impossible. But good luck finding the right one! Can’t wait to hear what you found has a balance of both.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  9. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    The Nikkor 500mm f/8 mirror lenses are $135-$165 or so, used, but are only f/8 nominally, and VERY difficult to focus even on the larger viewfinder image on the Nikon D610 and D800, and would likely be even more-challenging to focus on any of the crop-sensor cameras, with their smaller viewfinder images. I recently bought a 500/8 Nikkor mirror...I have NOT tried it using Live View, but on its first couple outings, I had a lot of missed focus shots. Plenty of missed focus shots.

    I dunno...the 300/4 AF-S is a very sharp lens; with the TC14-e II it's a nice 420mm f/5.6 wide-open, but it's still just one,single focal length. Not sure, but I think I would rather have the flexibility of a zoom lens. I think the earlier 300mm f/4 AF-D is going to be a rather slow focuser for birds in flight.

    I dunno...
     
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  10. Rafterman

    Rafterman No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks so much for that feedback! I was actually looking at the 80-200mm f/2.8D, but although it's a quality lens, it weighs in at 45oz and wouldn't give me enough reach for small birds anyway. Besides, I already have the 85 f/1.8G for portraits and indoor events, which I'm sure is far lighter to carry around.
     
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  11. Cortian

    Cortian No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    To reach their own, but Kristofer Rowe (@coastalconn) does it. And his Canon bodies are heavier than the one you're talking about. Look up his work with the Tamron 150-600 G2. It's pretty darn impressive.
     
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  12. baturn

    baturn TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    The Nikon 200-500 on the D500 is awesome. I shoot mostly wildlife, mostly birds. I am 71 years of age and have never found the weight to be a problem. Oh and I also so have a battery grip installed. Trust me the 200 - 500 is the way to go.
     
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