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JeffreyK

Zoom lens suggestions

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Hi guys,

I was wondering whether you could give me some advice on telephoto lenses. I've been attending 2-3 air shows a year for several years now and equipment wise I have a Nikon D3000 with a 55-200mm lens. I know it's not top notch gear, but not so bad either. I've been practising my tacking and shooting movements over the years (not just at the air shows) and I'm also getting better at waiting for the right moment. But I think the 200mm lens just isn't "big" enough to do a proper job. No matter how I try, there's always some blur/fuzziness and the colours are often a bit washed out except in the best of sunny conditions with the aircraft flying particularly low.

I've had a look at 400mm lenses, but not only are they beyond my budget, they also seem to be quite heavy and require a tri- or monopod.

Photography isn't really my main hobby and I'm under no illusion that I can match the results of the pros without lots more practise and much more expensive equipment. BUT, is there a suggestion how I can get somewhat better results with some moderate investment?

Would a 55-300mm lens be noticeably better? That would be 50% mode focal length compared to my 200mm, but would it really matter "in the field"?

Cheers

Jeffrey

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I suspect the biggest problem you're having with the 55-200 (which isn't bad for what it is) is that it focusses very slowly, and at f/5.6 on the long end it's also quite slow. I used to have one and I struggled to get high enough shutter speeds for airshows (ditto for wildlife etc). The 55-300 is going to be exactly the same - it's slow (f/5.6 again on the long end) and slow to focus.

My "airshow" setup (on my D7000 body) is a Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR II, which is blazingly fast to focus, and very sharp. But it's also very expensive (I bought a second-hand one and it still took me a long time to save up for). It's also not quite long enough for airshow use, IMO - I usually have to crop a bit. A 300mm f/2.8 would be better, but that's way beyond what I can afford.

Sigma and Tamron have both released highly-regarded 70-200/2.8 lenses in the last couple of years. They're still expensive, but much cheaper than the Nikon. Alternatively, for about the same money, Nikon do a 70-200 f/4. Obviously you're losing a stop at the wide end, but f/4 is still pretty good, and the lens is much lighter than the (huge and heavy) f/2.8. This lens has had rave reviews across the board.

If you want 300mm, I'd go for either the Nikon 70-300 or the Tamron 70-300. Both are pretty good, not too expensive, and will perform much better than either your 55-200 or the equally slow 55-300. The Tamron particularly is meant to be very good at the long end (a bit better than the Nikon, in fact).

Regarding colours being washed out, that's something not so much related to the lens but rather the exposure and your settings/post-production. I tend to dial in a bit of exposure compensation (usually +0.7 or +1) when shooting, and tweak the saturation, contrast and white balance etc. later in Lightroom to get the best out of the image.

Whatever lens you have, for shooting I would aim to have a shutter speed of not less than 1/400, and higher if possible. If you have a slow lens, this might mean boosting your ISO quite a bit on a dull day. Set your frame rate as high as possible, and shoot in short bursts - you will often find that one of the burst "nails it" while the others are slightly out of focus. Oh, and always use your lens hood!

Here's one I took about a month ago, at the Yeovilton show:

15033638941_3d5fa51bba_b.jpgVulcan by pyro-manic, on Flickr

That was shot at f/4, 1/2000 shutter speed at ISO 200, +1EV exposure compensation (because the sky and clouds were so bright). I then adjusted it in Lightroom, and cropped a fair bit of the edges away to fill the frame with the subject. You will find that because airshow lighting is so difficult, a bit of post-processing will be needed on most images. Shooting in RAW (rather than JPG) makes this much easier.

I hope at least some of that is of some use....

Edited by pyro-manic

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Many thanks for your replies and the very detailed run through especially! I had no idea that the f stop numbers with the lens would make such a difference…the Nikon f2.8 is definitely out of my price range, but I'll look into your alternative suggestions.

Thanks again!

Jeffrey

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I don't have any issues with my Sigma 50-500 and focusing. That's an f/4-5.6 lens.

2.8 are faster, but in good weather you should be fine with a 5.6 lens.

few examples from my Sigma, shot around f/11 - f/13

14812837298_f046157e49_b.jpgG-ADMT by Totallyrad.co.uk, on Flickr

14973318542_dc03cd1025_b.jpgG-AIXJ departing Woburn. by Totallyrad.co.uk, on Flickr

14708830881_38771075be_b.jpgUntitled by Totallyrad.co.uk, on Flickr

14696377353_2cff91bebc_b.jpgUntitled by Totallyrad.co.uk, on Flickr

14692358863_ec5fc02fdc_b.jpgUntitled by Totallyrad.co.uk, on Flickr

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Regarding "slowness", I meant specifically the focussing speed, rather than the small max. aperture. The Nikon 55-200 and 55-300 lenses and the like are cheap, low-end "consumer" lenses with rubbish focus motors that take a long time to get from one end of the range to the other. The Nikon 70-300, for example, is also a 5.6 lens but has a much, much better focus motor. f/2.8 is (very) nice to have, but not vital. It just tends to mean the lens is of generally higher spec, including the focus system. I would think the Sigma above would have a good AF drive too, given the intended uses.

Nice pans, by the way. :thumbsup: I'm terrible at those. Is f/11-ish the "sweet spot" for that lens, or was that in order to get the shutter speed down?

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Nice pans, by the way. :thumbsup: I'm terrible at those. Is f/11-ish the "sweet spot" for that lens, or was that in order to get the shutter speed down?

Long story short, I bought this lens cheap and it had front-back focusing issues (common with old Sigma lenses..) I sent it to Sigma, they sent it to Japan as the UK couldn't fix it. I got it back, and now it will only focus at f/11 or smaller, and it's pretty sharp now too. I'm looking at getting a 7D so I can do some micro focus adjustments so I can use it at f/4 and smaller... f/11 is a right PIA when the light is falling!

I tend to use it at f/11 > f/16, it's pretty sharp at anything around that area.

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Thanks a lot again chaps, but I'm now a bit more confused - how do I know that a lens (in the mid-price range) is quick at focussing? Also, Radleigh, on the one hand you say that you don't have any issues with your Sigma lens, but on the other you say that there is a common focussing issue...?

The Tamron 70-300 I've seen seems very cheap - too cheap, I suspect it's the wrong lens..? Also, there seems to be a large spread in prices for a Nikon 70-300. Are there different models? Maybe I should just stick with models :banghead:

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I am a long time Nikon user and would suggest two lenses , firstly a 28-300 vr , it is a later release and has very good glass in it, its fast to focus and the Vibration reduction works very well indeed and its relatively inexpensive as Nikon lenses go, also it is extemely versatile, secondly if you can find the money their new 80-400 afs vr is an amazing piece of kit, fast sharp even right out to 400 i have one and love it

Here is a pic taken with the 28-300 hope this helps

Good Luck

http://12998388224_92658bb04d_b.jpgNWL_632

0 by nikon boy1, on Flickr

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I did, but what I meant was I don't have any problems with focusing speed, it's fast and accurate. The front/back problem only really effects the lens if I use it at f/4 through to f/9, so I shoot at f/11 for safety reasons. Hasn't let me down yet since having it back. But the new Camera body will hopefully sort that issue out. (Plus my lens is well over 10 years old now, the new Bigma 50-500 OS is much better.)

The Tamron 70-300 (this one http://www.jessops.com/online.store/products/77949/Show.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=PLA&utm_term=SP%2070-300mm%20f4-5.6%20Di%20VC%20USD%20Lens%20-%20Nikon%20AF&gclid=Cj0KEQjwspCgBRCiwOjBxeCcm-kBEiQAooz6t9mPltKbDUmbr4ZIau2mSiiq2eYE8-GlxIDkjmrj32IaAuVD8P8HAQ ) is a very good lens, Tamron have made a fast sharp lens at a very low price!

Edited by Radleigh

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FWIW these were taken with a Nikon 70-300 five years ago, the one I got was pretty cheap (400NZD?) and had a really noisy focus motor with a tendency to hunt rather than lock in focus. From what I recall, I did a fair bit of manual focussing or pre-focussing and it was easier since it was mostly slow stuff.

5080263703_81c3a58248_b.jpg

5080263489_b7ac4c34dc_b.jpg

https://www.flickr.com/photos/willvale/5080263703/in/set-72157625036716213

Generally the better lenses have ultrasonic (quiet, fast) focus motors - I think you can look for "USM" or "SilentWave" or some such feature name on the lens.

Will

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I agree with Radleigh, Tamron have come on leaps and bounds since I last used one of there lenses.

Here's another two for thought though:

Sigma 70-300mm Nikon Fit AF (motor in the lens) for £109

Sigma 70-300mm Nikon Fit APO AF for £146

From what I remember from working at Jacobs Digital, the Nikon D3000 do not have a built-in focusing motor in the body so you would need something which has the motor inside the lens in order to Autofocus, so for a lens from Nikon it would need to be AF-S fit. I've added a couple of photo's below taken with the above lens (£109 one) on an old Nikon D40.

2hp3g48.jpg

25jfvq0.jpg

Hope this helps!

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Hi, like some of the posters above, I've been using the tamron sp af 70-300 di vc usd and have had some good results. I think it's great value for money.

Don't forget used lenses can be a good option, I got mine second hand with a 12 month guarantee and it saved about £90 if I remember correctly. Websites like Wex and MPB are worth a look.

Steve

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hi Jeffrey,

My brother has traded all of his DSLR gear in favour of the Nikon 1 V2 system.

From his point of view he now has a lightweight, portable system, and he uses the Nikon 300mm which with the 2.7 crop factor means he is using an equivalent 810mm lens versus a full frame sensor.

The autofocus system is great, and I think it can shoot up to 60 fps in burst mode.

He has just used the system at Payerne and the results were fantastic, (as much as it pains me to admit it!). It really has me thinking about lugging the heavy DSLR stuff about.

I've asked him to send me a couple of shots which I'll add when he sends them,

cheers..

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Thanks...but I don't like thinking about investing in a completely new system - that's out of the question. I'd rather think about a video camera instead...

I think I'll investigate the Tamron lens further...perhaps that's something for Christmas ;)

Cheers

Jeffrey

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I have the Nikon 70-300mm AF-S VR and it's pretty darn good. It's not as fast as an f/2.8 or even an f/4, but it's a fraction of the price and the VR makes up for at least a couple of stops at the wide end. Focus is reasonably swift too. I'd steer clear of the older, cheaper Sigmas. I had the 70-300mm APO and ended up trading it for the Nikon. Focus was very slow with that lens.

The other thing you could think about is trading your D3000 body for a D3200 or D3300. If you just want to create quality images and you aren't too hung up on extra features, the 24mp DX sensor is a real world beater and will give you an awful lot of options if you want to crop.

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Hi Jeffrey

I Have the 70-300mm AF-S VR FX and the 55-300mm AF-S DX and they are worlds apart in IQ - Focus Speed and Build Q, the 70-300mm tops the lot forget the 55-300mm.

I use it on my 2 D300s with grips and 4l-a batt,s and the 70-300mm works fine on them its light also.

I like it better than my Sigma 120-400mm the IQ on the 70-300 is better also i think.

I have not used the 55-300mm since i got the 70-300mm thats over 2 years now its just a spare.

I like Paul A H think a up grade of your body to the 2 bodys he has pointed out is a good idear if you can afford it, and get the Nikon 16-85mm lens and the 70-300mm

and you will have a good set up for not to much cost, it will cover the static 16-85mm and the flying 70-300mm at most airshows, the 16-85mm is a good lens for gen stuff also i used mine all the time till i got my 24-120 f4 FX i still use the 16-85mm on my D90 all the time which now is my spare body.

It all comes down to cost you have to go with what you can afford, i have taken quite a long time to build up my Nikon gear in the next few months i shall finaly be getting a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8

it will be 2nd hand from MPB its taken me a year to save up for one, then on to the next lens 16-35 f4 FX or the 12-24 f4 DX cant make my mind up yet which to get.

Any way Hope christmas brings you the camra that you wish for.

Paul

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Well you might think i am barking mad , but to buy any lens over 200mm with a 2. 8 constant aperture is going to cost you an arm and a leg, far more than I could ever afford , but you can buy the Panasonic Lumix Bridge FZ200 with a 24 to 600 constant 2.8 for around about £ 300, I have just brought the slightly cheaper FZ 70 with a 20 to

1200 mm, and in bright light it will knock spots off my Sigma 70 to 300.

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Now, this is going out of hand... when I asked for suggestions what I really meant was "this xyz is the one and only option you have to buy and it will solve all issues" :winkgrin:

When I have some time I think I'll check out those 70-300 options, Nikon and Tamron.

But thank you all for your help so far!

Jeffrey

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Now whenever i want to buy anything technical i often go on Amazon and look at the reviews,especially with photographic equipment there can be scores on just one item and some can be so contradictory that it can leave me more confused than ever,I used to find this when i read photography mags as well. So now if I find that about 75% of them are favorable then the product must be good.

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Jeffrey,

If you havn't purchased a lens yet, there is a guy on here call PHREAK. He runs a camera shop and has been in the business most of his life. Drop him a PM ...he's good, very good. As Edgar is to spitfire this guy is photography.

HTH

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I have the 70 - 300 and it is a great lens.

I had the 300 f4 , but got rid of it, the 70-300 was far more versatile and a good bit cheaper.

My main aircraft lens is the 70-200 2.8 with the 1.7 x converter - which totally kills it in IQ, but at 3 times the price, it would want to.

The 70 - 300 is excellent for its price, and with the 1.5 crop , will give you a 450 mm on the long end, but the IS can cope quite well.

I see ffordes have one for 279, they were 600 new when they came out first.

This lens is brilliant on a full frame camera, so you will have no problems with an apsa camera.

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