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Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 + Nikon TC-20E III Vs Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM

Jastinder Mahal , Feb 06, 2011; 04:41 p.m.

Question time, I have a Nikon D5000 and now also the Nikon D7000, was using the Nikon 70-300mm VR Lens for a super zoom lens.
Recently I've got my paws on a 2nd hand Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 VR I. The problem is I would like to have a zoom lens that does 400mm well and two options I have is either buy the ´╗┐´╗┐Sigma 150-500mm APO DG OS HSM or buy the latest gen 2x Nikon Teleconvertor the TC-20E III to accompany my F2.8.
I was wondering if anyone had a real world experince with either choices and what limitations each have.
From what I've read the 70-200mm F2.8 VT II and the TC-20 III are a match made in heaven and have seen some great shots at 400mm with the combo. Don't know if the union of the original 70-200mm F2.8 VR I would be just as good, I also understannd i'll lose 2 stops making the F2.8 a F5.6 and some sharpness lost.
I've also read good reviews for the Sigma 150-500 buy never really see any tack sharp photos, I understand the sharpness reduces from 400 to 450mm and most of the time you need o be using this lens at a F8..
I'm no pro photographer and at the moment just a hobbist, I usually use the long zooms at zoos, parks etc, haven't ventured into sports but that could happen. My 70-300mm has served me well it alot of zoos but sometimes the 300mm isn't enough to focus past the wired fences. 400mm would be great and 500mm would be nicer but not at the expense of IQ.
The question is which one is better suited for me for now and in the future.
Thanks in advance


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Michael Alger , Feb 06, 2011; 04:55 p.m.

The disadvantage of the Sigma is that you can not remove the extender to get an f/2.8 zoom.

Richard Snow , Feb 06, 2011; 05:05 p.m.

Jas -

I'm not a fan of using any lens that has a maximum aperture smaller than f/5.6. Read your manuals and you will see that Nikon suggests a maximum aperture of f/5.6 or larger for AF to work properly.

As for the 70-300mm not focusing past the wired fences, I'm sure it's a matter of technique, not the lens. I shoot from behind a backstop at baseball games all the time and never have an issue focusing beyond it. It's a matter of practice and understanding Depth of field.

Try the 70-200mm without the TC first. If you need more length, why not spend your money on a 300mm f/4 or 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 and a good tripod. The combination of the 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII and TC-20 III costs around $2600 USD new and you could buy both of the above mentioned lenses for the same price.

Wouter Willemse , Feb 06, 2011; 05:20 p.m.

Michael makes a very strong point. And you already have the 70-200, so trying a TC is a cheaper and easier try than adding the Sigma.
Towards the future, on a "budget" I would more look at the AF-S 300 f/4, and add a TC14 to it (with the TC20, AF would probably become very flacky, being a f/8 combo). If you're getting long zoomlenses to go long, it typically means you'll end up using the long end, so the advantage of a zoom becomes very relative - and the primes start to make more sense (being typically more affordable, smaller).
However, your point regarding focussing beyond the fences... 300mm to 400mm is not an enormous step either (and Richard's point on technique is, I think, spot on - do you use the manual focus override of the 70-300VR to shift the focus a bit further?). Don't expect miracles going this bit longer. The trade-off of weight and price versus the added reach going from 300 to 400 mm is not that easy an equation. 400mm lenses are all significantly larger and heavier than the 70-300VR, and carrying them around is something you have to seriously consider too.

Jastinder Mahal , Feb 06, 2011; 05:48 p.m.

Thanks guys for your responses, so I take it the Sigma's not looking good as a option. In regards to using my 70-300 and not always being able to focus past the fence. I've try manual focus and wider aperture, the actual technique is quite easy but when my lens (and I) struggles is when there is a greater distance between the barrier and the fence(cage) if the distance is close then the lens easily focuses pass the fence regardless of Aperture, infact I've once got the focus pass two meshe cages to taken a shot of a jaguar (see my portfolio), but if the barrier is that much farther then thats were the 70-300mm struggles, as does my 70-200 F2.8.
I don't ever see myself taking wildlife photography seriously enough to buy a prime 300mm or 400mm so the flexibilty of a zoom appeals more to me, although I appreciate that there's going be a trade off in IQ.
I already have the 70-200mm F2.8 VR I (not the latest VR II) so the new teleconvertor will cost me between £450-£500 ($679-$754), whilst the Sigma is £789 ($1191). Just was wondering how does the IQ compare on the two from 300-400mm.

Matt Laur , Feb 06, 2011; 06:25 p.m.

Just as a side note, here, it's not the lens that's having trouble (or not) focusing on one thing or another - it's the camera's AF sensors/computer. The lens only plays a role in the sense that it's got to deliver enough light for the that system to work (hence, the need for f/5.6 or faster), and it has to accurately honor the camera's instructions on how far to travel when it receives the last command to land on the acquired focus position. Hitting on the fence, instead of on what's behind it, is a software-in-the-camera thing.

David Haas , Feb 06, 2011; 10:07 p.m.

Question really is - are you going to be shooting enough in low light that the f2.8 of the 70-200 is going to be handy?

I have both lenses - the 70-200 f2.8 can't be beat for low light sports shooting, but there are times when I can't close enough to the action for it - even on a DX body -

So out comes the Bigma - I mean Sigma -

I've never had a problem getting the AF to work on a D300 or D700 with the Sigma. But as pointed out - you do limit yourself on the Sigma - since there is nothing you can do to make it go shorter than 150mm.


Elliot Bernstein , Feb 07, 2011; 01:40 a.m.

What size prints are you making?

Jastinder Mahal , Feb 07, 2011; 03:16 a.m.

Hi Dave,
At the moment I haven't got into sports so the low light action doesn't affect me, but what do you shoot with the sigma and how soft is the IQ from 400-500, it's a lot of money and a expensive mistake if it's not at good as the Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 with the new TC20E III at 400mm...

Jastinder Mahal , Feb 07, 2011; 03:20 a.m.

Hi Elliot
At the moment i'm only making A4 (21cm x 29cm) size prints but would like the odd A3 (29 x 42cm) and A2 (42 x 59cm) sizes.

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