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70-300mm VR for wildlife

Nathan Craver , Oct 21, 2008; 06:32 p.m.

I just bought a D700 and I just have to say, this camera is incredible. Anyway, I am seriously considering the 70- 300mm VR mainly for shooting wildlife. I am not a wildlife shooter, but I just moved to an area with lots of wildlife preserves and parks and would like to take some photos of the wildlife. I have done searches and have come up with mixed reviews on this lens. I can not afford the 70-200 VR or 80-400 VR, but the 70-300 VR is in my range. I am trying to find out if this lens is suitable for this at 300mm or if I would be better off saving for a while for the 80-400. With the high ISO performance of this camera, I don't think that the max apertures should be too much of a problem on that lens, especially in daylight. Can anyone who has this lens with a D3 or D700 give any insight and maybe post some examples of pics taken with this combo? Thanks in advance. Nathan


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Tim Knight , Oct 21, 2008; 07:54 p.m.

You will be very pleased with this zoom lens from 70-200mm, 300mm is not its best optics but not that bad. I attached a butterfly shot at 300mm for you to judge. The other option would be to purchase a 300mm/f4.0.

Attachment: fileH44OHa.jpg

Shun Cheung , Oct 21, 2008; 08:11 p.m.

I suggest you take a look at this discussion: http://photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00REos

In particular, you have an FX body and if anything, you'll need a longer lens. The 300mm/f4 AF-S + TC-14E should be a decent option, but that is going to be about 3 times as much as the 70-300mm AF-S VR.

Joseph Wisniewski , Oct 21, 2008; 09:31 p.m.

I'm with Shun on this one. Nikon 300mm f4 with a TC will give you a lot of reach and versatility. I'd be saving up for that before a 80-400mm VR (which I have little respect for). The 70-200mm f2.8 is near useless for what you're doing unless you are the absolute master of building blinds, covering yourself with skunk scent, and stalking.

You're going to be shooting on a tripod, VR is not an issue, and wildlife are prettiest at dusk and dawn when the light (to use the technical term) sucks. The 300mm f4 is a 420mm f5.6 on the TC, and you'd probably be happiest with it at f8, so it's a good combo. Used, the 300mm f4 AF-S is about $1000, only about twice what a new 70-300mm VR would cost you.

The TC, about $300 used, so $1300 to get up and running. You can buy the lens before the TC, since you were looking at a 70-300mm anyway, the 300mm f4 AF-S would give you a better 300mm (which you need) without all that baggage from 70-299mm...

Now, if you can do without AF-S, the rather pleasing 300mm f4 AF is about $500 used. It can't focus with the Nikon TC-14E, but it focuses just fine with the Kenko PRO-300 1.4X. That is a pretty good little converter at about $150 used.

I confess, I've done a couple of shoots this year where I've cranked the D3 up to ISO 800 or 1600, put the TC-20E on the 300mm f2.8, and stopped that 600mm f5.6 equivalent down 2 stops to f11 and been sufficiently pleased with the results. These high ISO cameras change the rules a bit.

Shuo Zhao , Oct 21, 2008; 09:54 p.m.

Nathan, the 70-300 VR is quite a good lens for its $480 price. But it's not exactly the best choice for dedicated wildlife shooters. Although VR (if you're shooting landheld or on a monopod) and your new D700's excellent low light capabilities might help you in low light conditions to an extent, the 70-300 VR is not exactly fast at f/5.6 and 300mm. The FL of 300mm is not the lens' sweet spot, and the lens itself is also way too short for many situations in wildlife photography.

The 70-300 VR is a very cost effective lens for general telephoto shooting on the D700. But you might have to go with Shun and Joseph's suggestions if you want to be more serious about wildlife.

Rene' Villela , Oct 21, 2008; 10:08 p.m.

It all comes to how much you will use it. As everyone is saying, the 300 f4 with a tele is great. I use this combo a lot. so in my case 1,500 USD was a good investment if we can call it that. If you will use it only once in a while maybe the 70-300 would be fine. Another cheaper choice would be an AF 180 f/2.8 with a Kenko converter. Not the same reach and slower focus but it might work.

Chris Court , Oct 21, 2008; 11:04 p.m.

If budget is paramount, you might consider a used Sigma or Tokina 400mm f5.6 lens. I have the Sigma APO version, and although it doesn't get a lot of use, it's handy to have when I need extra reach beyond my other lenses. Tripod mounted, I find the quality of images acceptable if not spectacular.

Chris Court , Oct 21, 2008; 11:05 p.m.

<p>If budget is paramount, you might consider a used Sigma or Tokina 400mm f5.6 lens. I have the Sigma APO version which I bought a while back for around US$250 and although it doesn't get a lot of use, it's handy to have when I need extra reach beyond my other lens options. Tripod mounted, I find image sharpness to be acceptable if not spectacular.</p> <p>An added bonus is that it also focuses down to 1:3 macro reproduction. I'm interested in trying it out with a diopter or extension tube to bring it closer to 1:1 – the long working distance could potentially prove be a revelation with shyer subjects.</p>

Chris Court , Oct 21, 2008; 11:06 p.m.

apologies for the doubled up (and mangled) posting!

Joseph Wisniewski , Oct 22, 2008; 01:13 a.m.

And if you're looking at the Sigma, it's very important that you only get the "APO macro" version. The non-macro APO is one of the softest lenses in the entire history of photography. This is from my own personal experience, the experience of other users, and the photodo tests...

I was truly amazed the first time I tested the Sigma 400mm f5.6 APO against my "new" used Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 on a Kenko PRO-300 2X teleconverter, and the Nikon on the converter beat the snot out of the Sigma for sharpness, contrast, and AF performance. I can honestly say that the Sigma 400mm f5.6 APO was the worst lens I've ever used.

The APO macro is supposed to be much better than the non-macro.

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