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Old Thursday 2nd August 2007, 03:35   #1
shutterflyd50
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Tamron 200-500mm vs. sigma 170-500mm

I am a young bird photographer and am looking to purchase one of either sigma 170-500mm or the tameron 200-500mm has anyone had any experience with either of these. which one is better i am looking for speed and sharpness. please help.
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Old Thursday 2nd August 2007, 21:32   #2
Duke Leto
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Hiya, do a quick search of the forum and there are loads of links on these lenses more than you will probably want to read........
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Old Friday 3rd August 2007, 15:44   #3
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My recollection is that the Sigma is probably a bit better at 500mm, but then again, I don't own either lens.

In either case, the sharpness of a long telephoto zoom is going to be compromised at the long end and at full aperture when compared with a good fixed focal length lens. Owners of these lenses will tell you that they get good results with them, and I don't doubt this, but the fact is you could do better for the same cost or less.

If you want to be a BIRD photographer you are going to be taking 90%+ of your photos at 400-500mm. and the rest of the zoom focal lengths are just along for the ride. Remember also that you will be taking the vast majority of your photos at the widest available aperture.

So what you really want is the best lens of 400-500mm. you can get cheaply that will perform well wide open. Not to sound like a broken record in these forums, but unless you are using the D40, which requires an AF-S type lens, a used Nikkor 300mm. f4 with Kenko Teleplus Pro 1.4x teleconverter is your best bet here. That's a 420mm. f5.6 optic that performs very well wide open and will autofocus, though hardly at lightning speed.

You could also look for a used Tokina 400mm. f5.6 ATX-AF-SD (whatever) tele. That was a very good, compact lens that is a good buy on the used market.
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Old Friday 3rd August 2007, 20:47   #4
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Thanks for the advice
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Old Tuesday 4th September 2007, 18:46   #5
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Tamron 200-500

Shutterflyd
I am over the moon with my Tamron 200-500 which I always use with a 1.4TC. However it has its limitations. The autofocus works on my D70 and D200. but slooow. I have to wind up the ISO to give me a reasonable shutter speed.
I find it works best at f8 or f9 on a tripod at 1/800th or faster.

It does not like poor light. In good light such as we have most of the time here in Brasil its good.

A couple of images in good light which have been sharpened a llittle attached.

Dave
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Old Wednesday 5th September 2007, 02:07   #6
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I'm in the same boat, looking at the same lenses.

What concerns me about the Tamron is the wide range of opinions. Seems like people either love or hate it. Les discrepancy with the Sigma at least with the two large models.

Good luck.

rw
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Old Wednesday 5th September 2007, 10:52   #7
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I have tried both lenses.
I used the Sigma 170-500 for a short while and later switched to the Tamron 200-500 .
In my hands - the Tamron is superior in all parameters .
Both are slow , but the Tamron is sharper at the 500 range .The Tamron is lighter and enables hand holding for long periods.
The previous Tamron zoom lens : 200-400 had a VERY bad reputation - and that is why the new 200-500 suffers , with no justice .

I agree with Doug - a prime lens is far better - but then again - you need a loving bank manager

I find the Tamron to be the best bargain for the money .
But, in the end - it's the man behind the lens that "makes" the photo .
Here is an example of a pictures shot with the 170-500 :
http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...44/ppuser/6414
http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...42/ppuser/6414

Most of my gallery has shots taken with the Tamron .
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Old Wednesday 5th September 2007, 11:03   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RonHW View Post
I'm in the same boat, looking at the same lenses.

What concerns me about the Tamron is the wide range of opinions. Seems like people either love or hate it. Les discrepancy with the Sigma at least with the two large models.

Good luck.

rw
Hello,
I find quite uncommon this comment .. in my experience (with this forum at least) there's a widespread positive attitude towards the Tamron - yes, it has its own limits, but it's a great compromise between quality and cost. Beyond this level you'll find yourself looking for other much better lenses (primes and zooms) but at a much much much higher price

As it has already been pointed out, do a search here for this lens (and in the gallery as well) and you'll find lots of info ... it's worth doing it - a common comparison is with the Sigma 50-500 (the 170-500, although a good lens in itself, is at a lower level IMHO); recently Nigel Blake here compared the Tamron with the great Canon 100-400 with a satisfying result it seems.

As always when choosing a lens for birding it's horses for courses .. you have to decide what better suits your needs - perhaps adding more info on your main use will help others to provide good advice and support.

In any case, you won't be disappointed with the Tamron - I own one (Canon mount) and I'm satisfied of it

Cheers,

Max

EDIT: I was about to suggest looking at DOC's galleries, but I see he beated me to it
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Old Wednesday 5th September 2007, 11:42   #9
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Yep, I have recently tested the Tamron and I was very surprised at how well it performed. It is very sharp throughout the zoom range but tails off a tad near the 500mm end. Within the range of lenses that cover the 100 to 500mm focal lengths I would put it a very close second behind the Canon 100-400mm, On a C type (cropped) sensor it is excellent, however on full frame sensors there are a few faults that show up, such as chromatic aberation and vignetting (from the huge lens hood).
I've yet to own or test a Sigma that I have been entirely happy with the results from.

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Old Wednesday 5th September 2007, 12:23   #10
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I'll expand a bit on my previous post. I NEVER use the Tamron 200-500 at less than 500mm. I NEVER take the 1.4 TC off. So for me and I expect for many birders a prime 500 or 600mm would have been a better buy. I have dreams of the day I'll be retiring and treat myself to one of the new Nikon 600mm VR lenses just announced. I read the reviews and other users comments of the Tamron and it lives up to the positive comments but the negative comments have also proven to be true. For now it works well for me because that's all the cash I was prepared to spend on a lens at the time. I am still over the moon with it but will be even more over the moon when I get a better prime. I have a D200 and a previously purchased D70. In my opinion the D70 works better with the Tamron so rather than sell off the D70 I will keep it for use with the 200-500 and upgrade the lens for the D200 to a prime. In summary: Unless one can afford the appropriate prime lens for the appropriate camera the result is always going to be a compromise, for me it was also but I have learned to drive it and am pleased with the results.
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Old Friday 16th November 2007, 16:27   #11
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I know I'm a Canon (boo hiss!!!!!) user, but for my 2 cents, I have the 170-500 and wouldn't buy it again. Poor build quality, noisy and slow AF I could go on. Haven't used the Tamron so can't comment.

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Old Friday 16th November 2007, 16:29   #12
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By the way, agree with Nigel Blake. I've also yet to try a Sigma that comes close to Canon lens quality.

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Old Saturday 17th November 2007, 11:28   #13
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I have the Tamron 200-500. I purchased it for three reasons as a way to get to 500 cost effectively.
1. It was less than $900 USD while the Nikon 300 with a Nikon 1.7 converter was close to $1800.
2. Most reviews showed it markedly sharper at 500 than either the Sigma 170-500 or the Sigma 50-500, not to mention much lighter.
3. My brother has the Sigma 50-500 and was not satified with its 500 wide open performance.

Now, after several months, I can say that I love this Tamron. It is a great performer throughout its zoom range and especially at 500 where I use it.

One day, I'll buy a Nikon 500 vr or the Sigma 500 prime which hopefully will have OS by then, but until I can afford the big dollar big glass primes, this Tamron is a beauty.

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Old Monday 19th November 2007, 11:45   #14
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I use the Sigma on a Canon EOS20D, and have been pleased with the sharpness for the low cost of the lens. However it is slow and noisy. I would recommend it to anyone starting out, but once the bug's bitten, I reckon you'll want to upgrade quite quickly.
Below are a couple of shots taken with above lens.
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Old Tuesday 20th November 2007, 09:35   #15
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Pete
I'm impresssed with your images. As mentioned previously on other threads I like my Tamron 200-500 but to get action shots the focus is far too slow. How did you manage to manage to get the birds in flight so sharp with the Sigma. Can you give me the camera settings you used. How much post processing did you do. The sharpness is impressive without the background noise, did you remove the noise afterwards or is it as shot.
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Old Tuesday 20th November 2007, 10:12   #16
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I used a Tamron 200-500 on a Canon 10d for about 2yrs mainly at 500mm before upgrading to a prime lens & was impressed with it especially handheld! also Steve Young did a review a cpl of years ago for Birdwatch magazine & gave it a good write up

2 shots below taken handheld cropped & slightly sharpened thru Adobe photoshop elements 2.0
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Old Wednesday 21st November 2007, 10:41   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daveash View Post
As mentioned previously on other threads I like my Tamron 200-500 but to get action shots the focus is far too slow. How did you manage to manage to get the birds in flight so sharp with the Sigma.
Hello Dave,
I don't think the focus speed is slow in itself (at least as far as the focus engine is concerned) ... as I understand it the main problem is the lack of a focus limiter, which means that when you are at the far end and "lose" your subject, the focus moves to and fro the whole range (500 > 200 > 500), causing you to miss the shot . This problem is further worsened by the lack of a full manual focus: so you are obliged to use MF OR AF - something I really detest
Action shots are always quite difficult with any lens in my opinion - this lens's limits mean that you have to work harder on your photographic skills and field techniques, preparing the shot far more in advance than with other lenses; this does not mean though that action shots are impossible to get.
In these days, since my main camera (20D) and lens (EF 400mm f/5.6) are kept prisoners at the Canon assistance centre (shutter failure - loose screw on the barrel), I'm using again my Tamron (and my 350D) in a more consistent way and with far more pleasing results than one year ago.
The following shots are both taken handheld, cropped and gently sharpened with NeatImage: obviously different lighting conditions and situations (but both birds suddenly popped out), yet I'm quite satisfied ... especially when I check them against my early days shots with the Tamron ... and I think I can do better with more practice
Cheers,
Max
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Old Wednesday 21st November 2007, 11:09   #18
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Hi Daveash,

I don't have the camera settings I used, having inadvertantly deleted my RAW files. The shot of the Canada Geese had a dose of Noise Ninja on the bg, the robin had none. I would have used three passes of USM in PS, and then I final pass once the image had been resized for the web. Getting the geese sharp was a matter of trial and error. I was so frustrated at the end of that session that I sold my old D60 and bought a 20D! I'd say out of ~20 images, this was the only one in focus - I've found the 170-500 is just too slow for reliable flight shots
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Old Wednesday 21st November 2007, 11:26   #19
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Hi gmax,

Lovely photos! Is there any chance you could show us a comparison of the sharpened and unsharpened versions. I still haven't got the hang of that sort of thing.

I have this lens and have experienced exactly the problem you describe here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmax View Post
as I understand it the main problem is the lack of a focus limiter, which means that when you are at the far end and "lose" your subject, the focus moves to and fro the whole range (500 > 200 > 500),
What is your solution to this? I wondered if I should manually set my lens to the closest focus, then switch back to AF so that it can only go out when it starts to focus. But I haven't tried it yet!

Cheers,
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Old Wednesday 21st November 2007, 12:49   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonsaibirder View Post
Hi gmax,

Lovely photos! Is there any chance you could show us a comparison of the sharpened and unsharpened versions. I still haven't got the hang of that sort of thing.

I have this lens and have experienced exactly the problem you describe here:



What is your solution to this? I wondered if I should manually set my lens to the closest focus, then switch back to AF so that it can only go out when it starts to focus. But I haven't tried it yet!

Cheers,
Hello Steve, thank you for your appreciation.
As soon as I can, since my RAWs are stored at home, I'll bring them here in my office and upload .. in any case, if the shot is good from the start, there's no night-and-day difference between the two of them: I apply just a small amount of sharpening, and take care of blurring the background when possible.

Apparently there's no easy solution to the problem mentioned: it's a structural limit.
I find quite cumbersome switching the AF/MF button, aim and switch again... usually there's no time enough to do that (or I'm not that good at it); it works for static subjects though, especially when there are twigs and branches in between, making AF struggle.
What I usually do is aiming at the point where I expect the subject coming (usually infinite) and focus on a nearby object: in this way, I'm quite prepared and need only fine tuning; it goes withouth saying that you MUST know your spot, understand what your most frequent opportunities are and CHOOSE what your next subject will be ... Murphy's Law always applies here, when I set my rig for a wader in the mudflat, a raptor appears over the reedbed, when I wait for a seagull diving in the pond, a wren pops up foraging on the ground .. that's the funny part of our hobby!

As for flight shots, I try to be as precise as possible, I wait for the subject to be quite close and autofocus ONLY when the focus point IS on the subject (and TRY to keep the focus on it), so a good panning technique is quite useful ... or, if the bird is flying, say, from left to right, I quickly anticipate it and AF on an object roughly on the same plane, then come back on the subject.
As you can see, there's no one single recipe for any situation, except buying a FMF lens ... just kidding, I do believe that lots of practice make life easier ...
Cheers,
Max
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Old Wednesday 21st November 2007, 13:35   #21
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Interesting stuff Max. I am a birder who's just bought a decent camera/lens combination so I have never been in the mindset of planning photos. This might explain some of my results!

Quote:
Originally Posted by gmax View Post
Hello Steve, thank you for your appreciation.
As soon as I can, since my RAWs are stored at home, I'll bring them here in my office and upload .. in any case, if the shot is good from the start, there's no night-and-day difference between the two of them: I apply just a small amount of sharpening, and take care of blurring the background when possible.

Apparently there's no easy solution to the problem mentioned: it's a structural limit.
I find quite cumbersome switching the AF/MF button, aim and switch again... usually there's no time enough to do that (or I'm not that good at it); it works for static subjects though, especially when there are twigs and branches in between, making AF struggle.
What I usually do is aiming at the point where I expect the subject coming (usually infinite) and focus on a nearby object: in this way, I'm quite prepared and need only fine tuning; it goes withouth saying that you MUST know your spot, understand what your most frequent opportunities are and CHOOSE what your next subject will be ... Murphy's Law always applies here, when I set my rig for a wader in the mudflat, a raptor appears over the reedbed, when I wait for a seagull diving in the pond, a wren pops up foraging on the ground .. that's the funny part of our hobby!

As for flight shots, I try to be as precise as possible, I wait for the subject to be quite close and autofocus ONLY when the focus point IS on the subject (and TRY to keep the focus on it), so a good panning technique is quite useful ... or, if the bird is flying, say, from left to right, I quickly anticipate it and AF on an object roughly on the same plane, then come back on the subject.
As you can see, there's no one single recipe for any situation, except buying a FMF lens ... just kidding, I do believe that lots of practice make life easier ...
Cheers,
Max
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Old Monday 3rd December 2007, 11:37   #22
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Hi there,
[this is my first forum post, so I hope it works ok!]
I've had the Tamron lens for a couple of days now, and, though I'm waiting to get hold of a Manfrotto 393 head to put it on, I'm pretty happy with it. I spent many hours trawling the gallery and using its excellent search function to compare shots, before settling on the Tamron. I guess it depends what camera you use with it re. light levels; my experience with my Nikon D300 so far is that exposure is great given camera's ISO ability; issue remains one of getting the focus right, and trying to avoid camera shake.
The Nikon version which I have does not have the MF-AF switch (which the Canon version does have), and comes with an aperture ring. I think that to get sharp shots in focus, I'll definitely try to use manual focus, either uniquely or in a combination with AF to get reasonably close - though matters will probably improve significantly once it's safely mounted on a tripod. I haven't had too much joy hand-held, but that's not too surprising. I can also share the issue about the freely ranging AF, but I think I've had problems with this only with relatively small subjects.
Unlike more expensive/Nikon lenses, it has no 'AF with manual priority' mode, and if you use it with your camera's AF, the focus ring will need space to be left to rotate freely. This is a consideration if resting on a beanbag (though so far I've had some reasonable results by holding the tripod mount foot on the beanbag, rather than the lens itself). I'll also try to use it with a remote when possible.
Cheers,
Dave
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Old Sunday 9th December 2007, 18:25   #23
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i had the 170/500 sigma and sent it back after a week it was hopeless poor AF and poor IQ .
the 50/500 is said to be far better .
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Old Monday 10th December 2007, 16:04   #24
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Personal perspective

Distance to subject, subject size and IQ of the lens are all inter-related. -- The first two correlate to determining the long end needs and the latter is strongly related to cost.

Mothman13 did a chart for a Nikon D80 with a 1.5X crop Factor for different FOV image sizes (18mm - 500mm)...

http://www.pbase.com/mothman13/image/74511515 (5 - 30 feet)
http://www.pbase.com/mothman13/image/74511517 (35 - 60 feet)

Evaluate your intended subjects' sizes in light of his FOV chart above.... A perched Bald Eagle is ~24" tall. At 200' the field of view for a 500mm lens is ~72" so the subject would occupy ~1/3 of the vertcal FOV. In my experience, cropping more than 1/3 - 1/2 to fill the FOV is when your IQ starts to degrade.

If you're anticipating a 'birding' lens for use out and about, then at least 500mm should, and eventually will probably be, your goal.

Having done the same due diligence, my research indicated the consensus for moderately priced ($500-1,000) alternatives (Nikon-mount) to get to 500mm seems to be--

300 f/4 + TC
Bigma
Tamron 200-500 Di

--FWIW, The Sigma 170-500 seems to be a hit or miss with good copies

--The 300 f/4 + TC has best IQ but is a bit more pricey and is a fixed focal length

--The Tamron has a bit slower AF in lower light and IQ better in the 300 range

--The Bigma has the better AF and contrast; especially in lower light, compared to the Tamron

--All best shot on stable tripod but, it good light, can produce good images w/monopod or good hand holding techniques and faster shutter speeds/higher ISO if needed.

Availability of used copies seem to be in reversed order:
--Bigma most available
--Tamron 200-500
--300 f/4


If low light/poor shooting conditions are prevalent (such as cloudy UK et al), all seem to be frustrating due to slower long end apertures. In good light/shooting conditions, with good techniques, can produce some good-great images.

The Bigma with a Kenko Pro DG 300 Pro 1.4X TC will still AF... Using the Sigma EX 1.4X TC, with the initial pin taped, will also allow AF. As one would expect, low light and/or poor contrast will cause more AF hunting when using a TC. Operator experience & technique also will play a large part in consistent results but it all starts with quality glass -- especially as the distance to subject increases and/or subject size decreases.

A lot of my images in my wildlife galleries are hand held with the Bigma/D50.


My personal Bigma review after 3-months of shooting last year--
http://www.dcresource.com/forums/sho...762#post181762

User survey of performance ratings for various lenses--
http://www.photozone.de/active/survey/querylens.jsp

Bigma Reviews-- (Some for Canon Mount)
--www.lonestardigital.com/Sigma_50-500.htm
--web.archive.org/... .../8Reviews/lenses/sigma_50500_463/index.htm
--www.fredmiranda.com/... ...roduct.php?product=105&sort=7&cat=37&page=2
--www.naturescapes.net/092003/hf0903.htm
--www.vividlight.com/Articles/413.htm
--www.ephotozine.com/article/Sigma-50-500mm-f4-63-EX-DG-APO-HSM
--www.creationview.com/Review9.html
--shutterbug.com/equipmentreviews/lenses/0101sb_megazoom/
--www.photographyreview.com/... .../sigma/PRD_84817_3128crx.aspx
--www.polkcountycameraclub.com/articles/Sigma50-500mm.html


In the end, I'd recommend the Bigma as one of the best 500mm lens for its price point, IQ and versatility. If your budget is limited, then a feeding station/blind to close the subject distance would be the way to go.
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Telecorder [Dave]
Pany FZ30
Nikon D50; Nikkor 35 f/2-D; 18-70 Nikkor DX;
Tamron 70-300 LD Macro; Nikkor 70-300 VRII
BIGMA 50-500 EX HSM; SB-600; Bogen 682B; Sigma EX-1.4X+Kenko Pro 1.4X TCs
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Old Thursday 8th January 2009, 23:20   #25
Beth_W737
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Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: NJ
Posts: 3
Can anyone give me advice for a lens? I have a Pentax K10D, and am going to Costa Rica in the spring (March/April), and wanted a good lens for wildlife/rain forest photos...currently have 18-55 kit lens and 50-200, but not thrilled with them...I'd been wanting a longer reach lens but am not sure whether I'd be better off getting a 400 or 500 mm lens, or a faster 2.8 lens (ie, 200 mm 2.8 or 300 mm 4). Can anyone give me some advice?

Beth
Quote:
Originally Posted by Telecorder View Post
Distance to subject, subject size and IQ of the lens are all inter-related. -- The first two correlate to determining the long end needs and the latter is strongly related to cost.

Mothman13 did a chart for a Nikon D80 with a 1.5X crop Factor for different FOV image sizes (18mm - 500mm)...

http://www.pbase.com/mothman13/image/74511515 (5 - 30 feet)
http://www.pbase.com/mothman13/image/74511517 (35 - 60 feet)

Evaluate your intended subjects' sizes in light of his FOV chart above.... A perched Bald Eagle is ~24" tall. At 200' the field of view for a 500mm lens is ~72" so the subject would occupy ~1/3 of the vertcal FOV. In my experience, cropping more than 1/3 - 1/2 to fill the FOV is when your IQ starts to degrade.

If you're anticipating a 'birding' lens for use out and about, then at least 500mm should, and eventually will probably be, your goal.

Having done the same due diligence, my research indicated the consensus for moderately priced ($500-1,000) alternatives (Nikon-mount) to get to 500mm seems to be--

300 f/4 + TC
Bigma
Tamron 200-500 Di

--FWIW, The Sigma 170-500 seems to be a hit or miss with good copies

--The 300 f/4 + TC has best IQ but is a bit more pricey and is a fixed focal length

--The Tamron has a bit slower AF in lower light and IQ better in the 300 range

--The Bigma has the better AF and contrast; especially in lower light, compared to the Tamron

--All best shot on stable tripod but, it good light, can produce good images w/monopod or good hand holding techniques and faster shutter speeds/higher ISO if needed.

Availability of used copies seem to be in reversed order:
--Bigma most available
--Tamron 200-500
--300 f/4


If low light/poor shooting conditions are prevalent (such as cloudy UK et al), all seem to be frustrating due to slower long end apertures. In good light/shooting conditions, with good techniques, can produce some good-great images.

The Bigma with a Kenko Pro DG 300 Pro 1.4X TC will still AF... Using the Sigma EX 1.4X TC, with the initial pin taped, will also allow AF. As one would expect, low light and/or poor contrast will cause more AF hunting when using a TC. Operator experience & technique also will play a large part in consistent results but it all starts with quality glass -- especially as the distance to subject increases and/or subject size decreases.

A lot of my images in my wildlife galleries are hand held with the Bigma/D50.


My personal Bigma review after 3-months of shooting last year--
http://www.dcresource.com/forums/sho...762#post181762

User survey of performance ratings for various lenses--
http://www.photozone.de/active/survey/querylens.jsp

Bigma Reviews-- (Some for Canon Mount)
--www.lonestardigital.com/Sigma_50-500.htm
--web.archive.org/... .../8Reviews/lenses/sigma_50500_463/index.htm
--www.fredmiranda.com/... ...roduct.php?product=105&sort=7&cat=37&page=2
--www.naturescapes.net/092003/hf0903.htm
--www.vividlight.com/Articles/413.htm
--www.ephotozine.com/article/Sigma-50-500mm-f4-63-EX-DG-APO-HSM
--www.creationview.com/Review9.html
--shutterbug.com/equipmentreviews/lenses/0101sb_megazoom/
--www.photographyreview.com/... .../sigma/PRD_84817_3128crx.aspx
--www.polkcountycameraclub.com/articles/Sigma50-500mm.html


In the end, I'd recommend the Bigma as one of the best 500mm lens for its price point, IQ and versatility. If your budget is limited, then a feeding station/blind to close the subject distance would be the way to go.
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