Q&A: Which long lens, Nikon, Sigma? Teleconverter, no teleconverter?

Posted Sep. 23rd, 2013 by Daniel J. Cox

Daniel,

I read your article about tele zooms in this month’s Outdoor Photographer magazine. Thanks for writing it, I really enjoyed it.

I am an amateur hobby photographer. I shoot with a Nikon D90. Mostly, I shoot landscapes but we spend a lot of time in Glacier & Yellowstone National Parks – where I like to shoot wildlife. I currently have a Sigma 80 – 400 tele zoom for my long lens. It is f4 – 5.6 – like the Nikon 80 – 400 that you wrote about. I have been considering a faster lens for shooting wildlife in lower light conditions. I have the Nikkor 80 – 200 f2.8 that you also reference. Fast but not long. Sometimes I add a 2X teleconverter to it and feel like I have the same reach & speed of my Sigma.

So, I have been considering a change but don’t know what direction to head to. I would think that the lens that you reviewed is similar (although probably better) than the Sigma I currently use. I was also considering the Sigma 120 – 300 f2.8 as a replacement for both my Nikkor & Sigma. That way I get reach & speed. Adding a 2X would give me even more reach. And, my pack back would be a lot lighter.

I would love to consider the Nikon 200 – 400, but cost & carry weight seem to both be too much.

Can you help me with any advice or direction?

– Marcus

Marcus,

Unfortunately, I’ve never used the Sigma 80-400mm lens nor have  I used the Sigma 120-300mm lens. The second Sigma, the 120-300mm, has a very good reputation for being sharp and optimal quality. One of the best options for comparing sharpness of lenses is the DxOMark website. They do a great job in testing virtually every lens made. Regarding the teleconverters you reference. You don’t mention which brand you’re using. I’ve had great experiences with a couple of the newest Nikon teleconveters which include the 1.4X and 1.7X versions. I’ve never had great luck with any 2X teleconverters, Nikon’s or anyone else’s. So I can’t recommend a 2X teleconverter unless you absolutely can’t afford any other option. Without being able to compare the Sigma and Nikon 80-400s I would have to rely on DxOMark tests. I’m exceptionally happy with the newest 80-400mm Nikkor. Additionally, you can’t go wrong with the 200-400mm either, other than the drain on your bank account. So with all that said, I’m a big fan of the newest Nikkor 80-400mm lens and if you can do it, that is the way I would go. Hope that helps.

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