What you need as glass (Part VI - Tele Zoom)

July 19th, 2011

This is part VI of a series of what glass you will need. Each part will discuss a certain lens type and its applications.

Tele zooms cover the range 70/5omm+. Candid shots, sports, wildlife are typical applications (adding a close-up lens makes most of them as well capable macros).

Almost all tele zooms are actually too short for wildlife. You need at minimum 300mm here + some feature like AF lock are handy.

It is fair to categorize in three groups

  • Consumer tele
  • Pro tele
  • Long tele


Lets subdivide this in two groups: Crap and decent. Sigtaminas under €200 and Superzooms are crap, as is the non VR 70-300 Nikkor. For FX there are thus the stabilized 70-300 lenses left, these are as well a very good choice for DX. The Nikkor DX 55-200/300 are both decent as well. 70mm is quite long on DX, so when AF speed is a lesser concern, these are superior. No consumer lens is capable for indoor sports, you may get lucky, but their AF performance combined with the rather small aperture will not get good results consistently.

Pro Tele

The 70-200/2.8 VR are the kings of the mountain. They are big, heavy, but perform. Sigtamina (Sigma/Tamron/Tokina) -  good, but the same as said for standard zooms applies here: AF, IQ, handling and quality are not there where the Nikkors are. If you can tolerate that cash in the rebate.

Sigma and Tokina made equivalent DX lenses (50-150/135), they are outdated by now. There is a new version or the Sigma annonced, but they always take a lot of time. These lenses play well with a 17-50 zoom, but the 20mm gap is not really relevant. They are much lighter than the FX 70-200 and do well in medium distances indoors.

An interesting lens is the Sigma 100-300/2.8. It seems to perform on the level of a prime. It might be the lens for certain types of sport (cricket) and some not too shy wildlife.

All these tele lenses they are quite suited for portrait photography

Long Tele (>300mm)

The aforementioned Sigma scratches this category, the (outdated)  Nikkor 80-400 takes it further, the Nikkor 200-400 perfects it, the Sigma 200-500/2.8 ridicules it. These are lenses for field sport and wildlife. The 120-300 accepts tele-converters that makes it perhaps the best choice for these applications.

Sigma and Tamron make some less expensive, slower zooms up to 500mm. Some amateurs are really happy with them as there is no alternative in this price-range for primes.

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