This discussion is a comparison between two tele lenses, the Sigma 150-500mm F/5-6.3 DG HSM (compared here for the Nikon mount) and the Nikon 300mm f/4. These two lenses although are on the longer focal length range are two completely different lenses. One is a fixed foal length lens and the other has a variable focal length.
The Sigma 150-500mm F/5-6.3 DG HSM satisfies the needs of a Nikon user who cannot hope to afford something like the AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR retailing at $8500 a piece. At $1400 the Sigma 150-500mm F/5-6.3 DG HSM is definitely a bargain, but is it good enough? Let’s find out.
The Sigma 150-500mm lens with a minimum focal length of 150mm and a maximum of 500mm satisfies the needs of a wild life photographer who wants to get up close and personal with his subject in the wild. The lens is compatible with full frame Nikon DSLR cameras and has a respectable f/5-6.3 at the wider end. However the at 500mm the lens is not that sharp. The lens seems to be great up to 400mm where at f/8 sharpness does seem to be the best.
This lens features Sigma’s Optical Stabilization (OS) system for maximum shake free pictures even when hand held fully zoomed in. it also packs in the HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor) for silent auto-focusing. This is a handy thing to have specially when shooting wild life photography.
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4D IF-ED is a part of the f/4 lens range of Nikon. This retails at a price of $1500 and boasts some of Nikon’s state of the art lens technology packed in a FX format lens. The lens is silent while auto-focusing and focuses really faster. In fact the performance is comparable with the much pricier 600mm f/4.0 VR which is of course out of the scope of this discussion. This is a light lens (helps as it has a fixed focal length) and has a relatively wide f/stop (f/4) for shooting wild life in most lighting conditions.
The minimum focusing distance of the AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4D IF-ED is 1.45 meters but it can be further reduced by using a close-up filter. Some purists don’t prefer using a close-up filter. The 300mm lens is also used by portrait shooters for close up tight head shots from a distance. The f/4 gives wonderful bokeh which users can be thrilled about.
A major problem of the AF-S NIKKOR 300mm is the lack of a vibration reduction feature. Hopefully Nikon will work on that and may be come up with a version that has VR in it. This makes the lens some of a frustration to use without using a tripod.
Which one to choose? Cost is a major factor however in this case both the lens are comparable. The 300mm Nikon does not have VR which the Sigma 150-500mm has. However the lack of sharpness of the Sigma beyond 400mm makes it a difficult choice. It all comes down to whether you wish to use a tripod or not and opt for the one that has the best value for money.
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There is no such thing as a best lens under $600 and certainly there is no such thing as a best Canon lens under $600 either. There are several different parameters which determine the choice of lenses for different photographers. If one is passionate about shooting wildlife, then a telephoto lens is what he would be looking for. Again, if someone is interested in architectural photography then a wide angle lens is what he would be looking to buy. So there can be no one best lens, rather many different lenses for different purposes appealing to different photographers. As such we shall look at a few Canon lenses under $600 each belonging to a different segment of the focal length.
Best Canon wide angle lens under $600
The Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM lens is a lot of landscape photographers go to lens. It is great because of several factors. First it has a very wide f-stop. At f/1.8 the lens allows a lot of light in and is thus perfect for shooting stunning landscape shots combined with a fast shutter speed. It utilizes Canon’s ring-type USM and also FTM (full time manual focusing), two technologies that are borrowed from Canon’s premium L series lenses. Incidentally at f/1.8, this lens is Canon’s faster of all the 28mm lenses. The lens will cost a mere $510, well within our target of $600.
Best Canon telephoto lens under $600
The EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II is a great lens to have if you’re starting to show some interest in the longer focal length and is looking for a lens to compliment your 15-55mm Canon kit lens. The EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II retails at only $300 and packs quite a punch even for a non L series lens. For full frame users however, this lens is not for them as the EF-S can be used only with a crop body Canon DSLR.
The build quality of the lens (and for that matter any non-L series lens) is a matter of discontent and the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II is no different. It feels like plastic and in fact contains a lot of the material that is used in building lenses in the lower end. The AF system is powered by MicroMotor and is slow to focus perfectly, living up to their reputation. However focusing, even if it slow would not be a problem. At f/4.5-5.6 this is not exactly a sports photography lens (unless you call shooting chess players as sports photography) and can is more suitable for stationery targets such as a bird perched on a tree at 100 meters or even a deer at 200 meters.
The long focal length is really handy in the field. On a crop body like a rebel T2i (Canon 550D) the lens will have a crop factor of 1.6x. This means the focal length extends to 88mm-400mm. This lens although is a cheap alternative is a real handy lens to have in case you don’t have the budget for a more expensive L series lens and just looking to take advantage of the longer focal length.
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Nikon has an extended its f/4 lens range with the introduction of the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR telezoom lens. This lens will be available in the market from sometime in November this year and will be retailed at an estimated price of $1400.
More about the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR telezoom lens
The Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR telezoom lens is a formidable tool in the hands of a full frame user. Designed for 35mm format DSLR cameras, this lens with an aperture of f/4 across its focal length makes it possible for both portrait and wild life photographers to shoot their hearts content with razor sharp clarity and beautiful detail. This G lens is also the first of its kind that features Nikon’s third generation of Image Stabilization systems that effectively translates into 5 stops of image stabilization. For hand held shooting out in the wild or even in the urban settings, 5 stops of image stabilization is the maximum that one can enjoy from Nikon’s stable.
The constant f/4 aperture
The f/4 aperture combining with the 5 stops Image stabilization ensures that even in low light conditions the photographers can get razor sharp images by reducing the shutter speed and letting in more light than otherwise possible.
70-200mm is a great focal length range or a diverse number of photographers. Although users have been known to experiment and use lenses of different focal length for different needs really this lens can be perfect for the purpose of wedding, portraits and wildlife shots. The focal length of 70mm rules out the effectiveness of the lens as a landscape lens as it is too long for that.
Construction and additional features
Constructed from 20 elements and arranged n 14 groups the Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR telezoom is a lens that is a dream come true for a portrait and wild life photographer. AF system is ultra-quiet and features Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology. The lens can be set into two different focusing modes one is the Manual focusing mode and the other is the Auto-focus with manual over ride mode. This allows the user to switch to manual focusing without having to tweak anything even while the lens is trying to auto-focus. This is the equivalent of Canon’s Full-time Manual focusing (FTM).
Nano crystal coating
The lens features Nikon’s state of the art Nano crystal coating which reduces the possibility of ghosting and flaring. For full frame DSLR’s this is a major issue and that means an added bonus for full frame users.
The lens has a comparable performance to a Nikon f/2.8 300mm and really at less weight and price this lens is a better option for a full frame user compared to some of the pricier Nikkor lenses out there. Unless of course you’re looking for an insanely high tele zoom lens in which case of course this lens would be unsuitable, the 70-200mm should be your go to lens for most wild life photography and even a major chunk of portrait photography requirements.
We start this discussion with the AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens. This is a new lens launched by Nikon and one that should appeal to full frame users because it is tailor made for 35mm formats. A great focal length range that ideally fits any portrait shooter and for that matter any landscape shooter as well, the 24-85mm lens is perfect as a walk around lens as well as it covers the essential focal length range required for most everyday shooting requirements. Although the price of the 24-85mm is not less than $500 (it actually retails at around $600 a piece) it is possible to get one of them at the gray market for less than $500.
More about the AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens
The 24-85mm comes with Nikon’s Vibration Reduction II technology (VRII). This is an improvement over VR I as now it is possible to use a shutter speed which is up to four stops slower while hand holding the camera. Portrait shooters who love shooting outside the studio would love this as it means rock steady super sharp photos every time. Come to think of it wedding photographers will also enjoy using this but the f/3.5 at 24mm might just is a little less bright for dim conditions. Adjustments can be made though as the VR II allows the shutter speed to be slowed down up to four stops and more light can be allowed in as a result. Apart from that the lens also has ED 9Nikon’s Extra Low Dispersion lens elements) and three aspherical lens elements. The lens consists of 16 optical elements in 11 groups. It has a beautiful diaphragm consisting of seven rounded blades.
SWM and internal focusing
The 24-85mm is a great lens for the purpose of precise composing. If you’re into using grad ND filters and circ. polarizers, you will love the fact that the lens has internal focusing, that means the lens barrel does no extend when focusing. Additionally the SWM (Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor) technology ensures that the lens has pretty quiet focusing.
Handling of flares and color saturation
Flaring can be a problem for most full frame lenses and this is the reason why the AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR lens comes with Nikon’s Super Integrated Coating (SIC) technology for better color reproduction and a lot of flare suppression. Even when shooting at wide open apertures at 24mm the lens handles flares beautifully retaining better sharper contrasts and more color saturation across the frame.
Auto-Tripod detection technology
One factor that makes the lens really clever is the Auto-Tripod detection technology. Most of the times when vibration reduction is switched on and the system is mounted on a steady tripod; the lens tries to correct shakes which is non-existent. To correct this Nikon has introduced this technology which ensures that as soon as the camera system is mounted on a tripod the lens can detect it and then adjusts the VR system automatically.
A DSLR zoom lens for less than $100 is a mouth watering proposition for any type of photographer, professional or amateur. However the fact is that there are very few if any DSLR zoom lenses that are available for a price of less than $100 off the shelf. Having said that there are some which are available in the gray market and where the store keeper is willing to knock off a few dollars off the price to get the sale.
Try for the ones that are on the border-line, such as the lenses which usually sell for around $150 or around at a normal store. You can also try for the refurbished lenses. These lenses are those that have been refurbished (and not 100% new). These lenses can give great value for money, but they should be only purchased from trusted retailers only.
The AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II that retails at a price of $120 at the Nikon store. This lens has a reasonable f-stop and is perfect for as a walk around lens for standard shooting requirements. There are advantages of this lens which makes it both a great bargain and a go to lens. The lens is extremely light weighing just about 7.2 ounces. It is built for the DX format lenses and thus caters to the budget constraint users who are looking for something that is tailor made for their needs.
Most of the times users would buy this as a part of their kit, as a standard lens that suffice both the needs of a portrait shooter and that of a landscape enthusiast. This lens has a focal length range that is just perfect for most needs, starting from a wide 18m going all the way to 55mm. However there is going to be a crop factor and the effective focal length of the lens is going to be 27mm to 82.5mm but yet the wide angle is good enough for some breathtaking panorama shots and or tight group shots. The lens is designed for the picture circle of a DX format (1.5x crop) camera but it can also be used on a FX (Nikon full frame or 35mm cameras) albeit with a DX crop.
Close-ups are one of the specialties of this lens. It ensures that the user can go up close to the subject and take stunningly beautiful portraits. The reasonably wide f/3.5 at 18mm is good enough for blurring the background and creating a soft out of focus effect.
This lens has a filter thread specification of 52mm. This is a smallish size and there are plenty of circ. Polarizers, graduated ND filters, UV filters and other adapters available in the market for this thread size.
This lens can be purchased at a great discount if one looks at options other than those which are available at branded stores. This is why this lens is what we consider as the best walk around zoom lens to have for less than $100.
Telephoto lenses are widely used for wildlife photography, sports photography and even for landscape and journalistic photography. Medium range telephoto lenses such as a 200mm lens are routinely used for wedding photography assignments as well. They offer the photographer the convenience to zoom in and capture a moment without ever needing to move closer to the action and thereby reveal himself.
For wildlife photography it is imperative that the photographer knows how to use his tele-lenses in a discreet manner as otherwise he can never hope to capture anything meaningful or of any photographic value. Here we shall be looking at one of the best entry level telephoto lenses, retailing at under $1000. It is very difficult to get reliable telephoto lenses of excellent build quality and performance at these prices and thankfully the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM meets that requirement.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM
Canon’s EF 70-200mm f/4L USM lens carries the L tag which is an indication that the lens is well made. The lens incorporates 16 elements in 13 groups and is one of the best 70-200mm lenses for a telephoto enthusiast. The lens is one of the cheapest of Canon’s premium L series lenses. It has a constant aperture of f/4 across its focal length which means it is possible to properly expose a shot no matter whether you’re zoomed in at 200mm or fully zoomed out at 70mm.
The 8 blade aperture of the EF 70-200mm gives wonderful bokeh at f/4. If a photographer is looking to capture wonderful bokeh, then this lens does that effortlessly. Though not as fast as a lens with a wider f-stop of say f/2 or f/1.8 would be, the lens handles both tricky lighting conditions and lens vignetting well.
Two things make the EF 70-200mm a great lens to use in wildlife photography requirements. First thing is the availability of Canon’s ring-type USM (Ultra-sonic motor) and the second is the availability of FTM (full time manual focusing). There are two different types of USM systems offered by Canon. When selecting a lens, it is best to check the exact type in the lens of your choice. MicroMotor type USM is usually present in the cheaper varieties of Canon lenses and they make an awful amount of noise when focusing. They should not be your ideal lens unless you don’t care or would be shooting in a loud environment anyway. The other is the Ring-Type which is fast, accurate and very very silent.
Full time manual focusing
The presence of full time manual (FTM) focusing allows the photographer to adjust the focusing ring manually even when the lens is trying to auto-focus. This does not require the photographer to flip the AF/MF switch before manually engaging the focusing ring.
The final verdict about the EF 70-200mm f/4L USM lens
Retailing at $710 this lens is much cheaper than our threshold target of $1000 and yet gives everything that a photographer is looking for in a medium range telephoto lens.
This article aims to look at some of the best wide angle lenses which are available for a price of under $300.
The AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G
Nikon’s G series lenses are always known for their superior build and excellent performance in demanding conditions. The AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G is no exception. The lens is built with 8 elements arranged in 6 groups. There are 7 diaphragm blades that open and close with beautiful performance. This is a DX format lens. This means that the lens is optimized for the smaller sensor size of Nikon’s DX format DSLR cameras. Using with a FX format camera will automatically engage the camera’s sensors and only the middle part of the sensor be used for image capturing and processing. The crop factor for a DX format lens is 1.5x and the effective focal length becomes 52.5mm. The wide f/stop makes it a very bright lens to use and is perfect for creating landscape shots and for capturing beautiful bokeh. This lens is available for a price of $200 and comes with both Silent Wave Motor (SWM) and Rear Focusing (RF) technology which means the length of the overall lens does not change when focusing.
The AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D
The AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D is a full frame prime lens designed for Nikon’s full frame range of digital SLR cameras. At 205 grams this is a very lightweight wide angle lens offering an angle of view of 74˚. It has six elements arranged in 6 groups and offers a very wide angle of coverage for any FX format Nikon DSLR camera. The lens has a wide f/stop of f/2.8. however this is not something that is really wide for that matter and users will have a bit of lighting problem to correct to when shooting in really low light conditions. The AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D has a filter thread speciation of 52mm. that is a smallish size and there are many available filters of that size. Retailing at $290, this is a good lens to start with for shooting wide angle shots
The Canon EF 35mm f/2
Next up is the EF 35mm f/2 from Canon. Though this lens is not exactly under $300, a special mention is warranted because this lens has a very wide f/stop of f/2. The EF 35mm f/2 is one of the smallest of the wide angle lens range of Canon. The wide f/stop allows the lens to capture beautiful bokeh (the effect of shallow DOF). Sharpness of the lens is arguably best at f/4 and from there on as the user moves to smaller f/stops there is going to be a certain amount of diffraction affecting the quality of the images. The price is not too much way off and at $320; this should be a good buy for professional as well as amateur DSLR users. This lens can be a great way to start street photography or for using as a general purpose lens on a crop body.
For quite some time Canon ruled the entry level 70-200mm f/4 lens segment. The fact that Nikon did not have an answer meant most semi-professional photo enthusiasts who were looking for a 70-200mm telephoto lens often went for a Canon body because of the availability of proprietary cheaper variety lenses. Starting November this is going to end as Nikon has announced last week, the launch of its own reasonably priced 70-200mm f/4 lens. To be retailed at $1400, a tag higher than the $1200 of the comparable Canon lens, this could be a major reason for a shift in Nikon’s sales. Let’s dig into the specifications of this lens and find out more.
Full frame users of both Nikon and Canon did not always wanted the best quality top end lenses for their cameras. Sure who wouldn’t want to buy the best in the business, but there is a small problem, money. So something which is reasonably good yet not too troublesome on the pocket was a better option. The answer was lenses such as the 70-200mm f/4 which were slightly less bright but did the job. Canon had a few lenses in this segment which the Nikon did not have and thus could not match-up with Canon. Now things are going to change.
Nikon’s entry into this segment is in the form of the 70-200mm f/4 G FX VR ED AF-S NIKKOR. A lot letters and acronyms. Let’s check it out. This is a lens optimized for full frame Nikon DSLR’s and 35mm Nikon SLR cameras.
The fixed aperture throughout the focal length means the lens is just perfect for a photographer who needs something bright even when shooting at 200mm. It also saves a lot of time to adjust the aperture anyways. This lens is much cheaper compared to the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens and as such is one which is going to attract users who are just starting to enjoy a full frame DSLR or a 35mm film SLR camera. Additionally any user who would purchase the newly launched D600 or the D800/800E systems can enjoy the extended telephoto capabilities of the lens with the help of a teleconverter without having to compromise either on the auto-focusing capabilities or the VR
Nikon is stating that the VR system is much improved. In fact they are stating this 3rd generation VR system is having up to five stops of effectiveness. They are stating this is not VRIII but a completely different line of VR system.
The lens is about 850 grams in weight and comes with some of the best technologies that powers Nikkor’s high end DSLR lenses. It comes with a Nano crystal coating that drastically reduces ghosting and flares even when shooting at wide open f/4. It also has full time manual focusing which allows the photographer to allow the lens to auto-focus and then adjust the focusing manually without having to flick a switch.
It takes a pretty big 67mm filter. Though this is not the biggest filter ring diameter, this is certainly a big size.
The Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens is a DX format telephoto lens. Compact, but supremely powerful giving a full frame 35mm equivalent of 27mm – 450mm, the Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens is one that allows a DX format user to wield a powerful tool in his hands unassumingly. It has a bright aperture of f/3.5 – 5.6 across the focal length and a minimum aperture of f/22 – 32. Attached to a crop body this lens is going to have a crop factor of 1.5x.
Full time manual focusing
The lens was launched in June of this year, making it supercede the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II. Like the 18-200mm the 18-300mm also comes with full time annual focusing that allows the photographer to turn the focusing ring even during auto-focusing and adjust it the way he wants. It also has SWM (silent wave motor) which allows for near silent focusing.
Minimum focusing distance
The lens can focus when completely zoomed in to 300mm at a distance of only 1.48’ from the subject. Even at this close distance and at such high focal length the images produced are very sharp.
The beautifully designed 9 blade diaphragm provides a very natural and soft bokeh when shooting at wide apertures. This lens can be used when shooting wedding photos and or portrait shots when the subject is a bit further away. The VR II will provide the stabilization required for compensating the longer shutter speed required for f/3.5 aperture. This is required when shooting in low light wedding conditions.
State of the art VR II systems have been implemented into this lens which was also present in the older 18-200mm. this allows the photographer to use a four stop slower shutter speed than otherwise possible with a non-VR lens. Capturing long exposures without image shake is now four times easier.
There is however a lot of constructional challenges to making a lens that have four stops of VR. The 18-300mm lens thus has a total of 19 elements and 14 groups, a testimony to the complexity of the construction. A lot of advanced technology including ED (for extra low dispersion for correcting chromatic aberrations), aspherical elements and Super Integrated Coating has been used for correcting flaring, ghosting and color fringing.
Filter thread and some interesting features
The 18-300mm uses the largest filter thread size of 77mm. interestingly the lens does not rotate when focusing. This is very handy when using a circ. Polarizer. After having adjusting the polarizer by dialing in at the desired position, if the lens rotates during focusing the whole adjustment has to be redone again. Additional features include a handy zoom lock button that prevents the lens from extending and getting damaged when being transported. Just flick the switch and the lens remains locked at the minimum focal length.
Dimensions of the lens
The 18-300mm has a dimension of 83mm x 120mm. The weight of the lens is a quite heavy though and at 80 grams this can be certainly a lot of weight specially if mounted on the D7000 which itself weighs about 690 grams.
This discussion outlines the available lenses for the Sony NEX-7, a very popular MILC camera system from Sony. The NEX-7 comes with an E-mount 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 lens. This lens has a focal length range of 27mm-82.5mm on a 35mm format equivalent. The camera system is complimented by two Alpha NEX camera mount adapters which are marked at $200 and $400 respectively and allows the NEX-7 to be used with a large variety of third party compatible lenses.
The Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN Sony-e mount lens is yet another great lens to have and is compatible with the NEX-7 meaning auto-focusing is available for the lens. This is s f/2.8 prime lens, fast with good auto-focusing abilities. Prime lenses are often considered by photography enthusiasts as a way to ensure that they can capture moments as they happen. As they are prime lenses, there are less moving parts inside and the lens can quickly focus on a single focal length. Being an APS-C- camera the NEX-7 converts the 19mm prime to 29mm which is pretty wide in terms of the angle of view. At f/2.8 it is very bright and very fast offering quick capture of the moments. The lens is also very light weight and at 139 grams, is complimentary to the lightweight APS-C sensor based camera.
Another prime lens and at 30mm the f/2.8 EX DN Sony-e mount Sigma lens is a great tool to have if someone is looking for a standard prime for the NEX-7. The APS-C sensor gives it a crop factor of 1.5x and converts the focal length to 46mm, just about the same of that of a standard prime. This is a non intimidating lens and makes for the ideal partner for the NEX-7 and can be used effectively for doing street photography. Wide angle lenses are never too great for the purpose of shooting portraits and the 30mm can actually make features such as the nose appear larger than the rest of the face. So a bit of fine calculation is needed for using it for portrait shooting purposes.
Using a non compatible lens on the NEX-7 means losing out on AF abilities. Yet some photographers can use an adapter ring and then use other lenses, even Nikon or Canon ones as well. The Nikkor AF 50mm F/1.8 D is a great lens. It gives a slightly bigger focal length of 75mm for the NEX-7 and offers bright wide f-stop. But AF is not available on the NEX-7.
Even if this discussion is about only compatible Sigma, Canon and Nikon lenses, one lens cannot be ignored and that is the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3. The Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di III VC Sony e-mount lens is one such lens that is ideal as a mid-sized zoom for the NEX-7. This lens is compatible and offers Auto-focusing and has a decent wide aperture throughout the focal length. However this is not as fast a lens as most sports or action photographers would prefer it to be. This lens is suitable for everyday shooting requirements and gives a very good performance with its image stabilization system built-in.