Sharpest Telephoto Lens Under A Grand?
Mar 21, 2008 at 10:25 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15


Headphoneus Supremus
Dec 11, 2006
The time has come once again - to bore the photo enthusiasts among us with recommendation requests concerning lenses and camera bodies.

In this case, stunned by some of the photography seen in recent threads, I'm most interested in picking up some sort of telephoto lens - be it a zoom or a prime - for under a grand. There are only a few requirements: the lens must be tack sharp; be available new for less than $1000 (or have a market price of less than $1000); utilize a large maximum aperture (read: <f/3.5); and, preferably, have a built-in auto-focus motor, as I'm planning to use a D40 as my main camera.

So far, I've been looking into the Sigma 70-200 HSM, 50-150 HSM, and Nikon 80-200 AF-S (discontinued, but regularly found on E-Bay). Of course, these are only 3 of many - and I'd really like some additional advice concerning these lenses and, notably, fixed focal length variants (I've been considering a 105, 85, or possibly 150).

Your help is much appreciated,
Mar 21, 2008 at 11:35 PM Post #2 of 15
without question......the Nikkor 80-200.

you would be hard pressed to find a professional photog that would claim it to NOT in the top 5 best lenses Nikkor EVER made.

Mar 22, 2008 at 12:57 AM Post #3 of 15
Wow - that's quite a statement. Just out of curiosity, is there any optical difference between the discontinued, AF-S version and the available, AF version? The prices are comparable, but I always try to purchase new when possible.
Mar 22, 2008 at 2:35 AM Post #5 of 15
do a google search on the lens....there are plenty of blogs on it. It's widely used as a journalist lens.

when it's not in use as a lens it can also be used as a weapon.

I wouldn't buy it new. it's built like a brick long as it's got a nice smooth movement and no fungus, you can probably get one cheap.
Mar 22, 2008 at 3:56 PM Post #7 of 15

Originally Posted by jmmtn4aj /img/forum/go_quote.gif
No difference in optical quality. It'll be silent and faster than the AF version, but if you have a pro body (D2 or D3), speed difference won't be noticeable.

That's good to hear. It also helps that I'm on the verge of purchasing a D200 body and grip package, so an auto focus motor isn't a necessity anymore.

Taking the comparison a step further, however, is the optical quality again identical in the push-pull variant? These older versions seem to be much more readily available, and much cheaper than even the standard zoom-ring version.

Thanks for the replies so far,
Mar 22, 2008 at 8:55 PM Post #8 of 15
The 80-200 for sure. The difference in optical quality is minor, but if anything it's better (there are even those who prefer the 80-200 AF-S to the 70-200VR), and the faster focusing speed and ability to use AF-S teleconvertors are more than worth it.
Mar 23, 2008 at 7:49 PM Post #9 of 15
Alright - it's quite clear that the 80-200 seems like the telephoto lens to get these days, but I'm still confused as to the quality of different versions. I suppose it has been established that the 80-200 AF and AF-S are nearly identical optically, but how does the push-pull AF model fair against these alternates?
Mar 26, 2008 at 8:21 PM Post #10 of 15
The push-pull is the zoom not the focus. Basically instead of spinning a ring you "push" or "pull" the lens in and out. It's just something you'd get used to. It's actually quite intuitive. Push it out to zoom in, pull it back to zoom out. That's a pro level lens, and the push-pull feel is quite smooth and nice.

You can usually find them used fairly cheap since people have been replacing them with the 70-200 AF-S VR lens.

If you're using it on the D40, you better get the AF-S version. Zooming and manually focusing is no fun.

The Sigma lens is probably a pretty good bet as well. Their new lenses, the 10-20, 70-200 II, and 18-50 have all been getting very good reviews and I've seen some remarkably sharp shots from them. Seems like they got their lens formula down. I wouldn't hesitate to buy the Sigma if you can't find an AF-S for the price you want.
Mar 26, 2008 at 9:54 PM Post #11 of 15

Originally Posted by M0T0XGUY /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Alright - it's quite clear that the 80-200 seems like the telephoto lens to get these days, but I'm still confused as to the quality of different versions. I suppose it has been established that the 80-200 AF and AF-S are nearly identical optically, but how does the push-pull AF model fair against these alternates?

There are 4 AF versions:

80-200 AF (and limited run of AF-D) push-pull: Oldest. Optics are excellent, focus speed is Decent. NO TRIPOD COLLAR. This cannot be stressed enough. When this lens is on your camera you'll have to be holding it (it being the lens, not the camera) or risk damaging your camera's lens mount. You can't use this lens on a tripod. It's really inconvienient, to be honest.

80-200 AF-D 2-ring: Replaced the Push-pull version; identical optics, slightly faster AF, has tripod collar. Excellent lens. Doesn't focus as fast as the AF-S lenses, doesn't have the instant AF override of the AF-S lenses, and doesn't have the AF Lock buttons which are amazingly convienient) but is a few hundred bucks cheaper.

80-200 AF-S: No longer in production. Excellent lens all around. Possibly the sharpest of the bunch, although it's very, very close to the 70-200 so it's hard to say if either one's dramatically better. Excellent lens in every way except its lack of VR. Focuses instantly, has AF lock buttons and a good tripod collar. If you can find one under $1000, I can't reccomend it highly enough.

70-200 AF-S VR: The king. The VR really helps a lot when hand-holding. Its width gradually expands as it goes out rather than being a long thick barrel, making it much nicer to hold. The AF is near-instantaneous. The AF lock buttons are excellently placed. There's instant MF override of the autofocus. Did I mention the VR? The tripod collar is excellent and easily removable. The overall length doesn't change when zooming or focusing. This lens is one of the best Nikon (or any company) has ever put out. If you can afford it, don't think twice, just get it.
Mar 27, 2008 at 10:01 PM Post #12 of 15
I say get the 80-200 as well.
I have the AF-D 2 ring version (won't work with d40). Optically the 4 versions are almost identical...just different AF or technologies (VR, AF-S, AF-D, push-pull). Just one thing... the 80-200 af-s going to look HUGE on your d40. You'll love the images!!

Mar 27, 2008 at 10:08 PM Post #13 of 15
I had the really old Nikon 80-200 F2.8 (Push-Pull) and it was a great lens. It took extremely sharp photos, but the only problem was that the AF was a bit on the slow side. I think it might be faster with the newer models.

Now I have the Canon 70-200 F4L and it is also an extremely sharp lens. I really can't see much of a difference between the sharpness of the two lenses, this one just focuses faster.
Apr 6, 2008 at 8:17 AM Post #15 of 15

Originally Posted by circuithero /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Where can I still get a new 80-200 af-s version? Thanks.

You might find a few NOS units somewhere. The 80-200 AF-S is no longer in production. Its replacement is the 70-200 AF-S VR lens, which is EXPENSIVE.

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