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need a telephoto lens for my Nikon D90: which one to choose ?

Aurore Fourdin , Mar 19, 2011; 10:42 a.m.

Hello everyone,

I am quite new at photography (well, it's been a year that I took it seriously). I owned a D90, a sigma 17-70mm and NIkkor 50mm (as well as the basic kit 18-55 & 55-200mm which I am going to sell soon as I don't use it). Up to now, I am quite happy with it... but now I am more interested in shooting nature, especially animals. I am going on a trip in a few months, so I am looking for a good and not too expensive photo lens. After reading so many review/critics and asking friends, I have to admit that I am even more confused than before...
My two choices were actually between the SIGMA 150-500 (larger range) and the SIGMA 120-400 (quicker). I was looking into the Nikon 80-400, but it is quite pricey here (in Europe).
Now, a friend who is a professional photog, told me to look also into the TOKINA 80-400mm, cheaper and according to him better than the SIGMA.
What are your experiences about TOKINA lenses ? I've never own one, nor use one before.
Thanks a lot !



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JOHN ACEVEDO , Mar 19, 2011; 11:23 a.m.

I own a Tokina 11-17 and it's outstanding....one of the best.......many serious photographers rate Tokina lenses above Sigma and tamron.
I have a Nikkor 18-300 FX which I use with my Nikon D90 and though is a FX, I take great pictures and never have any isssues with it.

Peter Hamm , Mar 19, 2011; 11:28 a.m.

Honestly, the 70-300 VR is a GREAT travel tele zoom. Look into it. The 80-400 is 2 or 3 x the price and if you're printing 8 x 10 or smaller, you can just crop in on the 300mm end of the cheaper lens and get essentially the same picture.

JOHN ACEVEDO , Mar 19, 2011; 11:38 a.m.

Sorry , I meant 28-300 Nikkor lens. !!

Wouter Willemse , Mar 19, 2011; 12:32 p.m.

Agreed with Peter Hamm, I'd recommend looking at the Nikon 70-300VR or Tamron 70-300VC. If you really want/need the extra reach, do consider that all the lenses you mention are considerably larger and heavier. So do visit a shop that has them on stock to see if you are comfortable with that (and whether your bag and tripod like it too).
In terms of build quality, Tokina is top. But what I've read about the 80-400 (having been interested in it), it is slow to AF and not extremely good. The Sigma 120-400 adds an optical stabiliser, which may come in handy when not using a tripod.

If you have the 55-200 VR version, I'd actually give that one a look again. It may be small and unassuming, but results from it look really quite good. Sure it's lacking in reach, though, but it could get you going.

Alan Bessler , Mar 19, 2011; 01:59 p.m.

Keep what you have right now and add to them,you won't get much for those lenses if you try to sell them believe me. The tokina's in my opinion are better than either of the others if you want 3rd party lenses,I prefer Nikons,but thats me. The tokina 80-400 might be a good choice I'm not familar with it. Do some research on it online. Also someone said Nikon 70-300 VR thats a real choice,I have one and recomend it highly.

Andy L , Mar 19, 2011; 02:12 p.m.

I sold a used 18-55 VR on Ebay recently for $129 and a 55-200 VR for $159, which seem like pretty normal prices, so minus fees you could get about $250 which goes a long way toward a 70-300 VR or VC, which is what I'd do.

John Crowe , Mar 19, 2011; 02:24 p.m.

All the superzooms, including Nikon's, have deficiencies, either average image quality and/or slow focusing. I would either add a used Nikon AF 300mm f4 ED to your 55-200 VR or consider either a used Nikon AF 80-200mm f2.8 D ED with TC-14e, or a used Sigma 100-300mm f4. All of these options would be sharper than any of the lenses you are considering and the Nikon 70-300 VR.

Alan Bessler , Mar 19, 2011; 02:31 p.m.

You did good Andy L those prices are slightly less than brand new prices !

Kevin Chow , Mar 19, 2011; 03:40 p.m.

I own both the 70-300 and the sigma 150-500; in my experience the 70-300 VR is a very useful lens in that you can shoot it wide open with excellent results. Autofocus is pretty crisp and in general the lens works well for a general walk-around lens if nature is your thing. It's inexpensive for the performance level of this lens, although you might find the 300mm a bit short given what you already have.
The Sigma 150-500 is a very different beast; whereas the 70-300 was "inexpensive", the 150-500 is "cheap" - cheapest way to get to 500mm, but it does show. I don't shoot it wide open as mine copy tends to work better at f/9, and the autofocus is leisurely. That said, the stabilisation does work very well (as does the VR on the 70-300).
If you can accept having to stop down or ISO up (usually both) by default, then the Sigma can deliver good results. YMMV - if you go down the sigma route, make sure you get it from somewhere that you can return the lens if you find it unsatisfactory.
One alternative possibility favoured around here is using an AF-S 300mm f/4 with a TC-14e, for 420mm @~ f/5.6.

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