Best budget telephoto zoom (Nikon AF-S)

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Best budget telephoto zoom (Nikon AF-S)

Postposted on Sat Jun 14, 2008 5:07 pm

My sister has a D40 and so far only has the 18-55 kit lens. She's going to be heading to Africa in a few weeks and is looking to take some wildlife photography. Now the obvious choice of cheap(ish) telephoto lens would be the new 55-200mm VR, but I'm a little concerned that might not give her enough focal distance. The Nikkor 70-300mm VR is the next step up but is unwieldy with the D40's small body and perhaps a little pricier than she would like. Sigma has a couple 70-300mm HSM lenses that are worryingly cheap and lack image stabilization. Tamron just came out with a 70-300mm as well that's similarly priced.

Your thoughts? Anyone know of links to good review of these lenses, particularly the Sigma and Tamron?
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Re: Best budget telephoto zoom (Nikon AF-S)

Postposted on Sat Jun 14, 2008 5:18 pm

The better (APO) sigma ones are decently regarded for what they are, if my memory serves. The non-APO ones are not good choices. I'm not familiar with the reputation of the tamron. If the 70-300 VR is considered unwieldy there's not a lot more to consider. One thing that I would like to say is that almost all lenses are cheap relative to a trip to Africa. I wouldn't be too concerned on budget - I'd be looking more upmarket (at sigma's 100-300 or some of the lenses that reach to 400 or 500), to be honest, but I'm biased that way.
http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/46-niko ... est-report
http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/Nikkor% ... m-f4-nikon

http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/Canon%2 ... rt--review - sigma on canon
...
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Re: Best budget telephoto zoom (Nikon AF-S)

Postposted on Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:22 pm

Is VR a necessity? Can she not simply use a tripod?
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Re: Best budget telephoto zoom (Nikon AF-S)

Postposted on Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:28 pm

Thanks for the insight and the links. That Sigma 100-300mm looks intriguing, but I don't think she's ready to drop a grand on a lens yet. Thing is, the last time she was in Africa (working), all she had was a crappy 25+ year old Pentax film SLR with an equally crappy 28-200mm lens and her pictures didn't turn out so well.

I've been looking at some sample photos from both the Sigma APO and Tamron 70-300mm and neither are terribly sharp at longer focal lengths, a fact which their MTF charts corroborate. Personally I wouldn't be satisfied with their optical performance, even if it's only being mated to a 6 Mpixel sensor. You get what you pay for I suppose.

That leaves the Nikon 70-300mm VR, which according to the linked review has, despite some CA, quite decent optical performance and stopped down a little is still sharp at 300mm. I think I might try convincing her to go that route. If not, I'll point her toward the 55-200mm VR which received a very favourable review.
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Re: Best budget telephoto zoom (Nikon AF-S)

Postposted on Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:37 pm

SPOOFE wrote:Is VR a necessity? Can she not simply use a tripod?

That's a possibility, but I don't know how much space she has in her luggage or if she will want to haul around a tripod in addition to her camera bag. This trip isn't just a sightseeing vacation so I don't know how much she's willing to be "inconvenienced" :lol: by extra stuff to carry around. One of the reasons she bought a D40 was because of its compact size :P.
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Re: Best budget telephoto zoom (Nikon AF-S)

Postposted on Sun Jun 15, 2008 5:15 pm

Having shot wildlife in Africa I'd throw in these two cents
- 300mm is about the minimum acceptable for wildlife. Using a zoom lens I found I was almost always well above 200. I even used a teleconverter a few times, though the results were pretty bad. But you don't find many lenses above 300 that might be considered travel-friendly. Still, I don't think a 200 lens is worth considering for this purpose, VR or not. It'll just be frustrating.
- Tripods are pretty much useless. You're generally shooting from a vehicle, whether you're on proper safari or bombing around on your own (I did both). The animals ignore people in vehicles, but if you get out of the truck things get... interesting. For the animals that might not consider a person standing behind a tripod easy pickings -- baboons, say, or giraffes -- you're probably going to be shooting handheld with your "walkaround" lens anyway. A tripod might be nice for those "sun setting behind the acacia tree" shots but that's about it. I certainly would not consider taking one the next time I go. Get one of those "bean bag" things instead, to steady the camera lens on a window ledge or landcruiser roof, or perhaps a C-clamp style mount that you can quickly attach to the vehicle.
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Re: Best budget telephoto zoom (Nikon AF-S)

Postposted on Mon Jun 16, 2008 2:42 am

Great points UberGerbil. Thanks.

Well, she ended up getting the 70-300mm VR. Now I'm expecting some quality pics on her return :).
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