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Old 09-21-2017, 01:55 PM   #3
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Massachusetts
Posts: 2,185

Hi Joseph,

I can't speak for any of the Sigma lenses. All of mine are Nikon, so I can only comment on their product offerings. I have amassed a reasonable collection of Nikon FF lenses, including several telephotos: 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IF-ED VR, 70-200mm f/4G ED VR, 7-200mm f/2.8G ED VR, and 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR.

WRT the Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 IF-ED VR.... This is an old lens offering. A new version has recently been released. More on that in a second.

First and foremost, this is a FF lens, and since you are using a DX body, the effective focal range on your camera would be 105-450mm, which sounds great, but this lens has an older generation of the VR (stabilization) technology and in my opinion, is a bit hard to hand-hold at the long end when shot with a DX body. On FF, hand-holding at 300mm is fine.

Quite honestly, of all of my FF lenses, this is my LEAST favorite, primarily due to the older VR and less than snappy AF. On a FF body, this lens does OK when shot at stationary or slow-moving subjects, but not so well when shot at fast-moving ones. I used to take it to airshows. Now I rarely take it anywhere. Shooting airplanes requires faster AF. I now use the 80-400 mm f/4.5-5.6G VR for airshows, which of course is a pro lens and is more than 4x the price of the lens we are discussing.

If you are interested in a Nikon 70-300mm, get the NEW VERSION, which is the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR. While I don't own one, I think I can safely say that this new lens will be significantly better than the old one. Nikon is in the process of revising many of its lenses because of the newer, higher resolution sensor cameras. The new version is $750 (vs. $500 for the old one), but I think the increase in price will be justified in terms of the image quality and better AF. Read the reviews and decide for yourself. Since glass is something you will probably keep a fair bit longer than a body, I would not spend new money on older technology.

Now, if you think you can scrape together a few more bucks, I have one more recommendation. Nikon's 70-200mm f/4G ED VR lens is a really nice piece of glass. I have both of Nikon's 70-200 G lenses, the f/4 and the f/2.8. In my opinion, the f/4 has the sharpness and the AF speed of the 2.8, but is half the price and half the weight. Yes, it is $1,400, but this lens has internal is not an air-pumper like the 70-300. Although it does not have the weather sealing of the 2.8 version, it has a solid, pro feel, because it is a pro lens (gold ring, nano-crystal coat.) When I travel to shoot trains, this is the lens I take for telephoto shots (vs the heavy 2.8 beast.) I know that Moose Peterson uses this lens for air-to-air (formation) shoots, and he's pretty high on it too. If you are patient, Nikon does occasionally put it on sale, although the current discounts are like $100 vs. $200 when I bought mine. On your camera, this would be a 105-300mm lens, which in my opinion is about as much as you'd normally ever need for shooting trains.

Anyway, good luck with your decision. Bodies and glass are both important, but when shooting on a nice day, I'll take the pro glass on a cheap body over cheap glass on a pro body any day of the week.

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