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Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR vs Sigma 50 500mm

Carlos Guaimare , Apr 14, 2010; 09:04 a.m.

I am beggining to take pictures of birds. I do not have the money for the big primes. My camera is a D700. Which lense would you choose? thanks a lot. Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR vs Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3 EX DG APO HSM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon SLR Cameras.

Responses

Maxime Gousse , Apr 14, 2010; 09:46 a.m.

Hey Carlos,

I have purchased the Sigma 150-500 OS HSM. For the price, I love it. If you can wait a few weeks, rumors are that Nikon will update their 80-400 VR...

Regards

Max

Mätt Donuts , Apr 14, 2010; 10:32 a.m.

I had both, the Sigma 50-500 is probably the only lens I've ever owned that focused much SLOWER than the 80-400VR and would hunt constantly. It's also not as contrasty, not as well built, and probably 3x bigger than the 80-400VR it is much harder to lug around, find cases and such that fit it well, and absolutely must be used with a big, thick, heavy tripod. It flares bad, so you should keep the hood on the problem of which at 500mm that hood grabs any wind and because it doesn't have VR pictures come out all blurry. I tried shooting some horses with beautiful scenery in the background at 500mm and simply could not do it with the 50-500 the slight wind grabbed it. I was using an 11lb tripod too.

The benefit of the 80-400VR is that you can actually hand hold it in most cases, and on a tripod extended to 400mm on a windy day can engage VR with good results. I found it more contrasty and sharper, and generally a far more useful lens I kept my 50-500 Sigma stored away and eventually sold it. The 50-500 also takes huge filters (I think 86mm) which are rare and very expensive whereas the 80-400VR takes the usual 77mm.

No contest the 80-400VR wins by leaps and bounds.

Long Tin Lo , Apr 14, 2010; 11:16 a.m.

The Sigma lens does not have OS. This may be a problem when zoomed in at 500mm. If i remember well, the Nikon 80-400 does not have a tripod collar, while the Sigma does, and it is quite heavy to carry around. When using the Sigma, u must use it with a tripod/monopod.

Carl Becker , Apr 14, 2010; 11:19 a.m.

Bird photography can get expensive fast. Work on you techinque and get familiar with your subject so you can get closer. You would then be able to use a Nikkor 300mm f4 AF-D. You should probably also get a good tripod if you want sharp pictures. I use a Nikkor 500mm f4 P manual focus after trying a 300mm and 400mm with a TC. It is not cheap but I did save and finally find one, IMHO worth it.

Shun Cheung , Apr 14, 2010; 11:31 a.m.

Nikon's 80-400 VR has a tripod collar, but it is the same poor removable one as that on the 300mm/f4 AF-S. Some of us have been saying for years that Nikon should update the 80-400 to an AF-S, but so far that has not happend yet.

If you can afford a D700, you should be able to afford a used 500mm/f4 P as Carl points out. It is manual focus but AF is fairly useless on the 80-400 anyway. You'll need a good tripod to take full advantage of any 500mm lens, though. Moreover, for bird photography, I prefer the DX format.

Dieter Schaefer , Apr 14, 2010; 12:00 p.m.

Didn't Sigma start shipping a new version of the 50-500 that has OS?
BTW, my interest in bird photography is the main reason I did not get a D700 - I simply need the crop factor that the D300 provides. My longest lens is the "poor man's 500" - the 300/4 AF-S with TC-17EII. I owned a Novoflex rapid-focus 400/5.6 and 600/8 - neither of which worked well with a DSLR (bad CA) - and though these are the fastest focusing MF lenses available, there is no way I would ever return to a manual focus lens for bird photography.
FWIW, I disagree that the AF on the 80-400 is fairly useless - I use the lens regularly and it performs well for me. AF isn't fast, but not much slower than the 300/4 AF-S once the TC-17EII is attached. For low light situations, neither is a good choice though. And both will have problems locking onto fast moving subjects under anything but ideal conditions (clear background and good contrast to the main subject).

M. Hayward , Apr 14, 2010; 03:41 p.m.

I have owned both. The Nikon has better optics, but the extra 100mm on the Sigma is nice. Image quality at 50mm on the Sigma is atrocious. I pretty much only used it in the 300mm-500mm range. Neither of the lenses focuses very quickly, although the Sigma is quieter. The Sigma is also harder to see through at f/6.3 and gives you less shooting time as dusk comes on. I bought the Sigma for the extra range and HSM motor and after having it for years, I was never happy with the optics.

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