Am looking to get a longer lens and of course money is an issue. I have whittled my list down to the VR1 version of the Nikon 80mm-400mm, for which it seems like there are some deals due to the VRIII version. Understand that it has a pretty slow AF. I am also thinking of the Sigma 150-500 but would like feedback. What do you guys think? Are either particularly good or particularly bad in your opinion? Are there any other lenses in the general range and between 1000 and 1500 that you would suggest? Thanks for any and all help.
Purpose: Several - sports, some wildlife (including wild humans), and strangely enough cityscapes. (I shoot NYC scapes from NJ. I know that screams for a wide angle lens but I have had good success with my 70-200 at 200 and I actually want a longer lens for those shots, understanding that the angle gets smaller. Hope that makes sense.)
I have the Tamron 200-500 as well as a Nikon 200-400. The advantage of the Tamron is light weight - it is very easy to carry and handhold.
AF is a little slow for moving subjects. It's a long lens with a particularly long lens hood. It is sharpest for subjects within 150 feet and under 450mm. Like most lenses it is better stopped down a little.
Because of the length of the lens, it demands a hand over the lens barrel to dampen vibration if you are using it handheld. I've tested it against my 300 f/4 and it is very respectable with good long lens technique. The technique issue is part of why it works so well handheld - a hand under the long barrel provides nice support and dampens vibration.
The Tamron does not have VR. But with a long lens, your shutter speeds need to be kept up anyway.
My guess is the 80-400 will be a little better optically. AF will be slightly faster with the Tamron - but neither is fast. And the 80-400 is smaller but heavier. I'd probably go with a good used 80-400 over the Tamron if you can get it under $1000 (unless weight is really important to you).
I don't have any experience with the Sigma 150-500 so, I can't speak to that.
However, I do have the "old" Nikon 80-400 VR and have shot tens of thousands of birds and animals with this lens. The slow focus is well known, but can be mostly overcome by using the focus limiter and prefocusing at the anticipated distance. It is tough to use on BIF.
Take a look in my gallery and you can see a lot of examples from this lens.
Here is a shot taken this week of an American Crow. The tree in which the crow was sitting was approximately 75 feet away and this photo is highly cropped.
Roger Cicala has just published, http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2013/03/quick-take-on-the-new-nikon-80-400-vr, some limited MTF data on several lenses including the old 80-400mm and the Sigma 50-500mm OS. At 400mm they are very close. While the 50-500mm is not the the 150-500mm most reports suggest they are also pretty similar at the long end, with perhaps the 50-500mm being slightly better. So there appears to be little difference in sharpness between the Nikon and Sigma, excluding variability between copies. As Eric suggests the biggest factor in getting good image quality is likely to be technique, not which of the two lenses is used.
I want to thank all of you for your quick replies. Am going to think about it and will look to try the three lenses out but am leaning toward the 80-400mm given all of the advice here and my own research. Can't tell you how much I appreciate all of the advice.
There have been, and I suspect will continue to be some nice copies of the old 80-400mm Nikkor on the "I want to sell" forum in the mid $800 range. There are always people with both money and a desire to have the latest item. I have the older VR version of the lens and use it for daytime sports, and find it quite useful. The mid $800 price is very attractive as well for this lens. I just don't quite see another $1,000 for a new version.
Just a thought but I tested the Sigma 120-400 against the Nikon 80-400 4 years ago and found the Sigma to be very close to the Nikon in image quality and way faster in focus with the HSM it has. I purchased the Sigma and shot it quite a bit for a year or so until I got my 500 F4. I did recently get the new 80-400 which I find to be a sweet lens but my Sigma did quite a credible job for the money. Of course the old 80-400 wasn't going for $850-$900 either....
Appreciate the advice. I ended up getting the older version of the 80-400mm. I did like the Sigma but was able to get a nice version of the Nikon for $900 and really liked the shots out of it a bit more than the Sigma. Thanks again for the benefit of your experience it was helpful all the way around.
Hello, have both of the Nikon 80-400 lenses. will never part with my VRI as it is a wonderful lens. With that said, with money an issue, the VRI can be had at "Fire Sale" prices as many upgrade(?)to the VRII. Lou